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Urgent care clinics offer ER option
Sacramento Bee

When a kid twists her ankle at a Saturday afternoon soccer game, she may wind up in a nearby emergency room sitting next to a stabbing victim.

But if there’s an urgent care clinic in the area, her family has another choice, one that may be a growing force in the debate over health care reform in the next few years.

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Insurer WellPoint to revamp primary care pay
San Francisco Chronicle

Health insurer WellPoint Inc. plans to improve primary care reimbursement and start paying for care management it doesn’t currently cover, changes that could give patients more quality time with their doctors. The Indianapolis company said Friday it will increase the fees it pays to doctor practices, and it will start paying for services like preparing care plans for patients with complex medical problems.

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Study: Workplace wellness programs help cut healthcare costs
USA Today

The real motivator for Americans to get fit at work isn’t smaller jeans – it’s a bigger bank balance. Employees enrolled in workplace wellness programs report reduced personal healthcare costs, most commonly because of fitness center discounts and free preventative screenings, according to the findings of a survey by Principal Financial Group. While the survey does not quantify the dollar amount saved per employee, Principal’s research does attempt to do so on the corporate level.

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HHS says high court can kill insurance provisions of reform law but let others stand
Modern Healthcare

If the Supreme Court decides that it must throw out the healthcare reform law’s requirement that private individuals purchase insurance, then the court should also invalidate two provisions in the law that force insurers to offer coverage to almost anyone who wants to buy it, HHS says in a legal brief. However, HHS argued in a filing with the U.S.

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Kaiser Permanente’s Android app gets more hype than downloads
San Francisco Business Times

Holy high-tech hype, Batman! The other day Kaiser Permanente put out a press release announcing that “9 million Kaiser Permanente patients now can easily access their own medical information anywhere in the world on mobile devices through a mobile-optimized website.” And trillions – well, lots, anyway – of news, tech and news tech sites picked it up and ran with it. But the reality is a bit less heady.

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Long shifts may raise some nurses’ odds for obesity
USA Today

Nurses who work long hours and have less physically demanding jobs are much more likely to be obese than other nurses, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Nursing surveyed about 2,100 female nurses and found that about 55 percent of them were obese. They determined that nursing schedules affect nurses’ health and also the quality of patient care.

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WellPoint to pay doctors more for better care
San Francisco Chronicle

WellPoint Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer by enrollment, will tie the amount of money doctors receive to the quality of care provided, offering more pay for keeping patients healthier and costs down. The program, which increases the payout to primary care doctors by 10 percent, also will try to enhance information sharing and provide support from WellPoint clinical workers, the company said Friday. The change increases WellPoint’s overall medical spending by 1 percent and may help attract new members, said Jill Hummel, the company’s vice president of payment innovation.

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CDC: Too few Americans getting screened for common cancers
USA Today

The number of Americans being screened for colon, breast and cervical cancers still fall below national targets, federal health officials said Thursday. In 2010, 72.4 percent of women were being screened for breast cancer, below the target of 81 percent, for cervical cancer it was 83 percent of women, while the target is 93 percent, and for colon cancer 58.6 percent of Americans were screened, missing the target of 70.5 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Report cites lack of data on docs quitting Medicare
Modern Healthcare

Results released from a report commissioned last year by HHS‘ inspector general’s office found that limited data prevented researchers from drawing any conclusions about why physicians opt out of Medicare. The results from Lack of Data Regarding Physicians Opting Out of Medicare (PDF), show the OIG failed to reach its original goal of finding why doctors chose to not participate in the program. Instead, it calls for more stringent CMS data requirements for physicians and non-physician practitioners who opted out Medicare after Jan. 1, 2009.

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Kaiser ‘tops’ new Redwood City Hospital
San Jose Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente said it plans to “top out” the steel skeleton of its new 280,000-square-foot Redwood City Hospital on Friday. The structure was to be hoisted to the top of the seven-story building, located at Veterans Boulevard and Walnut Street. The thousand-pound framing structure was signed by hospital physicians, staff and dignitaries.

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‘Free’ preventive care can cost patients big money
Ventura County Star

Patients are getting charged as much as $3,000 for screenings they thought would be free under a federal health care reform mandate that promises free preventive care.

The year-old provision compels new insurance policies to cover colonoscopies, mammograms, blood pressure screenings, HIV tests and many other procedures aimed at early detection of health problems, with no co-pays or deductibles.

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Medical lab does first-rate research in second-rate facilities
Los Angeles Times

The longtime researchers like to tell the stories. The raccoon that fell through the lab roof. The buckets put out to collect rain from leaky roofs. The fire — and lack of sprinklers.

Scientists at Los Angeles’ venerable Biomedical Research Institute, a cutting-edge hub of medical invention housed for 60 years in World War II military barracks near Torrance, have grown accustomed to trailblazing through peeling paint, slanted floors, rickety stairs and exposed telephone wires.

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Calif. drugmaker’s HIV prevention pill draws concern
California Watch

Foster City drugmaker Gilead recently updated its application with the federal Food and Drug Administration for approval to market its HIV treatment medication Truvada as a HIV prevention pill.

If the FDA approves Truvada for preventive use, it “would be the first agent indicated for uninfected individuals to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV through sex,” according to a company statement at the time of the filing last month.

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Health care payment bill fails
Sacramento Business Journal

A bill that aimed to create a government-run health care payment system fell short of votes needed to pass the California Senate on Thursday. Senate Bill 810, proposed by Democrat Mark Leno of San Francisco, failed to pass on a vote of 19-15, with some members of both parties in opposition. The proposal aimed to create a premium structure by 2014 and would’ve prohibited the sale of any private health care insurance.

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Kaiser workers plan 1-day strike Tuesday
San Francisco Chronicle

Thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers are expected to walk off the job Tuesday over contract disputes involving the health maintenance organization’s mental health and optical employees. Their union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, expects the one-day strike to be one of the largest in the HMO’s history. It would involve not just the 4,000 members involved in negotiations, but also two unions that have agreed to strike in sympathy and bring the total to more than 22,000 employees.

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HPV study finds 7% of U.S. teens, adults carry virus in mouths
Los Angeles Times

A new study showing an estimated 7% of American teens and adults carry the human papillomavirus in their mouths may help health experts finally understand why rates of mouth and throat cancer have been climbing for nearly 25 years. The evidence makes it clear that oral sex practices play a key role in transmission.

The new data, published online Thursday by the Journal of the American Medical Assn., are the first to assess the prevalence of oral HPV infection in the U.S. population.

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Robotic technology to treat lung cancer
Los Angeles Times

The da Vinci robotic technology allows doctors to perform more precise surgeries. The technique also enables patients to recover more quickly with fewer complications in many cases. The technique is used to perform many different types of surgeries. Dr. Gavin Henry, program director of the surgical residency at Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, uses it over traditional lobectomy surgery to treat patients with lung cancer.

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GOP lawmakers request information about Medicare innovation center, Energy Department unit
Modern Healthcare

House Republican healthcare leaders have written the Obama administration (PDF) seeking details on the available funding and activities of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation at the CMS, established by the 2010 federal healthcare overhaul. In particular, information was sought about the activities that an Energy Department entity has undertaken for the CMS office.

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Strike should have little impact on local Kaiser sites
Ventura County Star

A one-day strike of Kaiser Permanente workers Tuesday morning that may draw 21,000 protesters statewide is expected to have little impact on the health system’s offices in Ventura County.

The strike is being called by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents about 4,000 Kaiser workers including mental health professionals, dietitians, health educators and speech pathologists.

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Stanford hospital enters NorCal medical alliance
The Stanford Daily

Stanford Hospital & Clinics has partnered with several Bay Area medical practices to form the University HealthCare Alliance (UHA), a not-for-profit medical foundation that manages medical groups. UHA was founded on Jan. 1, 2011, and is co-sponsored by Stanford Hospital & Clinics and the Stanford University School of Medicine. According to the medical foundation model, UHA owns, operates and provides staff to medical clinics in Northern California.

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CMS seeks savings through changes in Medicaid drug payments
Modern Healthcare

The CMS said the federal and state governments would save about $17.7 billion over five years with adjustments to the way Medicaid pays for prescription drugs. A proposed rule, which implements provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, seeks to make Medicaid reimbursement for medications more transparent and more closely aligned with what pharmacies pay for the drugs, according to a CMS news release.

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Kaiser health employees plan to strike
Orange County Register

Kaiser Permanente employees represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers plan a 24-hour strike Tuesday to protest proposed cuts to benefits and inadequate staffing levels. In Orange County, the union represents roughly 250 social workers, therapists, health educators, dietitians, speech pathologists and audiologists. They make up about 4 percent of the local Kaiser workforce.

Blogs

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Medical Records Supporting San Francisco’s Universal Care Add Millions to Official Cost
The Health Care Blog

The San Francisco Department of Public Health says it is ahead of the curve in rolling out databases that keep tabs on tens of thousands of patients across a citywide network of clinics and hospitals. The rollout is needed not just to make a local form of “universal health care” work, but also to meet a 2014 deadline under national health reform. And the city says it spent just $3.4 million on new patient-tracking technology. Not bad for an unprecedented charity care initiative whose total budget has grown to $177 million just this past year.

Opinion/Editorial

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Health 411: Lab fee differences; dental implant coverage
Los Angeles Times

My wife required blood hormone tests every two weeks for a while. One lab cost $30 but another charged $145 for the same test. Both were listed in our Blue Shield PPO insurance information.

When we inquired about the higher bill, the lab that charged $145 said it was simply a more expensive lab. Is there any recourse?

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SVMH missing the message on openness
Monterey Herald

As much as we like it when folks buy ads in this paper, we’re not at all pleased with Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital’s plan to buy ads instead of properly responding to a legitimate Public Records Act request from the Salinas Californian.

The Salinas newspaper requested detailed information on retirement benefits being paid to a group of senior officials who are leaving the hospital, presumably as part of a cost-cutting effort.

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