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California single-payer health care bill stalls in state Senate
Sacramento Bee

California’s “Medicare for all” universal health care legislation fell short of the 21 votes needed to pass the state Senate today.

Senate Bill 810 failed on a 19-15 vote during this morning’s floor session, with four moderate Democrats abstaining and one voting no.

Democratic Sen. Mark Leno, who authored the bill, said the proposal would stabilize health care costs and expand access to coverage.

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California Assembly bills expand health coverage
The Mercury News

The state Assembly on Thursday passed a set of bills intended to broaden the mental health and health care services covered by private insurance plans. Lawmakers approved AB154, which would require insurers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, and AB171 for coverage of developmental disorders such as autism. They also approved legislation to cover oral chemotherapy treatments and mammograms regardless of age.

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Marin links to Sonoma hospitals
San Francisco Business Times

Marin General Hospital is expanding its reach in Sonoma County, with an alliance with two small public district hospitals there. The Greenbrae hospital is providing management services to two North Bay hospitals, 37-bed Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol and 83-bed Sonoma Valley Hospital, as part of a cost-sharing alliance intended to help all three save on back-office costs through economies of scale, group purchasing, coordinated planning and shared services.

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Insurer WellPoint to revamp primary care pay
The Mercury News

Health insurer WellPoint says it plans to improve primary care doctor payments and start reimbursing physicians for some things it doesn’t currently cover as a way boost care quality and save money. WellPoint Inc. operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states and is the largest health insurer based on enrollment, with more than 34 million people covered.

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Assembly passes measures to expand private health insurance
Sacramento Bee

Bills to require private health insurance plans to cover costs of oral chemotherapy and the treatment of mental illness and substance abuse were passed today by the Assembly, largely along party lines.

The lower house also approved Assembly Bill 369, which would bar health plans from requiring a patient to try more than two lower-priced medications before providing access to the product prescribed by the patient’s physician.

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CDC finds cancer screening rates too low; disparities noted
Modern Healthcare

Screening rates for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer fell below government targets in 2010 and were particularly low for Asians and Hispanics, according to a study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For 2010, the overall breast cancer screening rate was 72.4%, well under the HHS Healthy People 2020 target of 81%. The rate for cervical cancer screenings was 83% compared with a 93% target. And the colorectal cancer screening rate was 58.6% (58.5% for men, 58.8% for women), compared with the HHS target of 70.5%.

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Sutter Health chooses president for Sacramento region
Sacramento Business Journal

James Conforti, chief executive officer at Sutter’s Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, has been named regional president for the Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, health system officials announced Thursday. He replaces Sarah Krevans, who became chief operating officer for the entire health system on Jan. 1. Conforti, 49, will start his new job March 1. He will oversee hospitals, doctors’ offices and outpatient centers throughout nine Northern California counties, including Sacramento, Placer and Yolo.

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Prognosis looking good for Biggs-Gridley hospital
Oroville Mercury-Register

David Yarbrough won’t say the path is free of rocks, but he sounds confident Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital is making tracks in the right direction. “We’ve been working really hard,” said Yarbrough, the hospital’s chief executive officer. “The bottom line is we’re on our own, and right now we’re making it.”

Financially, it is a tough time for hospitals, and Yarbrough said Biggs-Gridley remains “fragile.” However, he said, “we’re eking out a small profit line.”

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Universal health care measure stalls in California Senate
Sacramento Bee

Legislation to create a universal health care system in California stalled in the state Senate Thursday ahead of a key legislative deadline, signaling it will likely fail to advance this year.

The so-called “Medicare for all” proposal, Senate Bill 810, fell short of the 21 votes needed to pass the upper house, by a vote of 19-15. Four moderate Democrats abstained and one joined Republicans in voting against the bill.

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Santorum: Romney, Obama healthcare mandates one and the same
Los Angeles Times

Rick Santorum took on Mitt Romney for his embrace of a universal healthcare mandate in Massachusetts, saying Romney would be an ineffective opponent against President Obama because both had backed “government-run, top-down medicine.”

“Those are not the clear contrasts we are going to need if we are going to defeat Barack Obama,” Santorum said.

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Report: Electronic health records still need work
San Francisco Chronicle

America may be a technology-driven nation, but the health care system’s conversion from paper to computerized records needs lots of work to get the bugs out, according to experts who spent months studying the issue. Hospitals and doctors’ offices increasingly are going digital, the Bipartisan Policy Center says in a report being released Friday. But there’s been little progress getting the computer systems to talk to one another, exchanging data the way financial companies do.

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User-friendly health plan summaries at risk
San Francisco Chronicle

One of the most popular provisions of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul — consumer-friendly summaries of what your insurance plan covers — suddenly seems to be at risk. Consumer groups say it’s not Republican opposition they’re worried about, but a White House that doesn’t want to be seen, in an election year, of churning out costly new regulations.

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Sutter Health names new president for Sacramento Sierra Region
Sacramento Bee

Sacramento-based Sutter Health has named a new regional president, promoting the head of its Modesto medical center to the post.

James Conforti is now regional president for the health network’s Sacramento Sierra Region, succeeding Sarah Krevans, who was named Sutter Health’s chief operating officer Jan. 1. Conforti will take on the new role in late March, officials said.

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Home births are making a comeback
Los Angeles Times

Home birth is making a marked resurgence in the United States, according to data released Thursday by the federal government.

A century ago, most births took place at home. But the rate fell steadily and slipped to less than 1% of all births by 1969 and just over 0.5% in 2004. Though still not common, home births have risen 29% from 2004 to 2009, according to the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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State Senate hits stalemate on universal healthcare for California
Los Angeles Times

State lawmakers deadlocked Thursday over a controversial measure that would provide universal healthcare in California.

In a vote in which some Democrats did not participate, the measure received only 19 of the 21 votes needed for passage in the Senate, but it was put over for another possible vote next week.

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State launches Lap-Band investigation
Los Angeles Times

The California Department of Insurance is investigating the business practices of Lap-Band surgery centers affiliated with the 1-800-GET-THIN advertising campaign, according to insurer Aetna Inc.

The insurance giant said in a statement that it was cooperating with the department’s law enforcement branch, which has the power to make arrests and pursue criminal charges, to “investigate alleged fraud against our members by the 1-800-GET-THIN … surgery centers.”

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UCD medical system forms grief support
Sacramento Bee

Grief support groups are typically tailored to children or adults, but the University of California, Davis, Children’s Hospital bereavement program has determined that people at in-between ages sometimes fall through the cracks.

To fill that void, the program partners with UC Davis Hospice to offer eight-week bereavement art groups in the spring and fall for young adults ages 17 to 24 who are coping with a loved one’s recent death.

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Are you obese? Might depend on whether your doctor is, too
Los Angeles Times

Turns out obesity is in the eye of the beholder. Whether you’re diagnosed as obese is supposed to depend on your own body-mass index — but a new study shows that it can also depend on your doctor’s.

Physicians who were overweight or obese were far less likely to diagnose obese patients than physicians at a more normal weight, according to research published this month in the journal Obesity.

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US guidelines on food marketing to kids stalls
California Watch

According to a recent analysis of medical costs in the research journal Obesity, California spends an estimated $15.2 billion on obesity-related health problems each year – the most in the country.

The California Department of Public Health’s Obesity Prevention Plan seeks to reduce obesity rates among Californians, calling for strategies ranging from easing access to fruits and vegetables to building roads and sidewalks to make walking easier.

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Gene test may aid early-stage lung cancer patients
San Francisco Chronicle

In a finding that could improve the survival odds for early-stage lung cancer patients, UCSF researchers have determined a new molecular test can predict more accurately than current diagnostic methods which tumors are more likely to be aggressive and turn deadly. The study results, published Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet, come from the two largest clinical trials ever conducted on the molecular genetics of lung cancer and included early-stage patients from Northern California Kaiser hospitals as well as from China.

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Judge says same-sex health-coverage ban biased
San Francisco Chronicle

A federal judge signaled Thursday that she’s likely to strike down a federal law that denies long-term health coverage to the same-sex domestic partners of state employees in California, saying it appears to be based on prejudice against gays and lesbians. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland said domestic partners could join a lawsuit challenging an aspect of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act – its exclusion of same-sex couples from federal tax benefits that are essential to participation in a long-term health care program for state employees.

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Merced gets failing grade on nursing jobs
Merced Sun-Star

California continues to face a shortage of registered nurses, and Merced gets a failing grade on the number of its nursing jobs. The Merced metropolitan area earned an F in the 2010 California Nursing Jobs Report Card. The recently released report by the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care examined the number of such jobs per capita in the 23 largest counties in the state.

Opinion/Editorial

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Of doctors and drug makers
Los Angeles Times

Did your doctor prescribe that expensive drug solely because you need it, or in part because she has friendly feelings toward the pharmaceutical company that makes it, which treated her to a Hawaiian vacation-cum-”medical conference”? Patients may get some insight into such questions thanks to a lesser-known but important provision of the 2010 healthcare reform law that requires the makers of drugs and medical devices to disclose most payments and gifts to physicians.

  

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