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New hospital project moves forward
Tehachapi News

Tehachapi’s new hospital moved a step closer to ground-breaking with the adoption of a resolution by the board of directors of the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District on Oct. 19.

To meet requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, the district needed to do an environmental review of the proposed construction project.

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Insurer Aetna’s 3Q profit slips, outlook rises
San Francisco Chronicle

Aetna Inc.’s third-quarter net income slipped 1 percent on a charge for an early retirement program, but the performance trumped expectations and the health insurer raised its 2011 earnings forecast. The Hartford, Conn., company said Thursday that lower-than-expected use of health care continued to help its performance, along with disciplined pricing and medical cost management.

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Sacramento’s Mercy Hospital leading the way in heart care

Mercy General Hospital performs the most heart bypass surgeries in California. The success of those surgeries put Mercy in the top 5% of California hospitals, according to latest report from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD).

OSHPD also reports Mercy’s mortality rate of cardiac bypass surgery of 0.97% was considerably lower than the statewide average of 2.35%.

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WellPoint profit drops even as revenue grows
Los Angeles Times

Health insurance giant WellPoint Inc.’s profit dropped 7.6% in the third quarter compared with the same period last year even though enrollments and revenues rose.

The nation’s largest insurer by membership and parent of Anthem Blue Cross in California earned $683.2 million in the three months that ended Sept. 30, down from $739.1 million in the year-earlier period.

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Community leaders celebrate opening of Kaiser Permanente Ontario hospital
Contra Costa Times

With amenities such as private bedrooms, wireless Internet and meals that can be ordered room service-style, Kaiser Permanente’s full-service hospital recently drew comparisons to a five-star hotel. From senators to county supervisors, Inland Empire politicians noted the differences in the new facility when they were given a tour of the 386,000-square-foot hospital in the south part of town.

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Committee questions unspent HHS funds
Modern Healthcare

In its push to eliminate wasteful government spending, an influential House panel has requested that HHS provide information to account for billions of unspent dollars that the agency will carry over into the next fiscal year. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is reviewing the funds of four government agencies—HHS, the Energy and Commerce departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency—because, the committee reported, total unexpended balances across the federal government are estimated to exceed $2 trillion (PDF) by the end of fiscal 2012.

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Tulare Regional Medical Center prepares for its first robotic surgery
Visialia Times-Delta

Offering shorter hospital stays and less pain, robotic surgery is on the rise in Tulare County. Tulare Regional Medical Center is preparing for its first such surgery Nov. 4 and Kaweah Delta Medical Center has been using this technology for just more than a year, performing about 150 surgeries with it.

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Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital partners with Blue Shield
The Stanford Daily

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital recently announced the finalization of a new health insurance provider agreement with Blue Shield of California. The terms of the agreement were put into effect on Oct. 20. As a result of the new agreement, Blue Shield of California will list Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital as an in-network provider for its patients. The agreement ends negotiations that have been ongoing since the end of August.

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More companies investing in employee fitness
San Diego Union-Tribune

In today’s rocky economy, employee perks like hefty bonuses, lavish retreats and limitless expense accounts are a faint memory. However, one benefit that employers seem increasingly willing to invest in is the wellness of their staff.

Corporate wellness programs, which encourage people to take steps to prevent the onset or worsening of a health condition and to adopt healthier lifestyles, have steadily grown in the past few years, according to the latest MetLife Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study.

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Lung cancer screening with X-rays isn’t beneficial
USA Today

Routine chest X-rays do not prevent lung cancer deaths, not even in smokers or former smokers, according to a big government study challenging a once common type of screening. In the study of more than 150,000 older Americans, those who had four annual chest X-ray screenings were just as likely to die of lung cancer as participants who didn’t have those tests.

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To ACO or not to ACO, that is the Bay Area question
San Francisco Business Times

Bay Area health care organizations that have been sitting on the fence may be more likely to explore starting an ACO, now that the feds have loosened rules and time lines, and enhanced financial incentives. Accountable care organizations, a key part of President Barack Obama’s health reform package, are in effect an experimental Medicare pilot designed to control costs while improving quality, although other forms of ACOs are being explored outside that government framework.

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Free Health Clinics Highlight Growing Desperation

The crowds lining up alongside the Quadrangle building on the campus of Riverside Community College Saturday weren’t there for a rock concert or basketball game. They came to see a doctor or dentist for free – more than a year after Congress passed health care reform. Diabetic Carla Matson lost her job along with her medical and dental insurance. Maggie Feingold works as a cook but can’t afford health insurance for her hypertension.

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Fresno hospital tops in state in bariatric surgeries
Fresno Bee

Obese Californians increasingly are turning to surgery to lose weight, and many of them wind up in a Fresno hospital that leads the state in performing the procedures, according to a report released Wednesday. The central San Joaquin Valley’s high obesity rates contribute to the full hospital beds. But the Fresno area also has a reputation for weight-loss surgery.

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Insurers Weigh In on Health Care Law
New York Times

The health insurance industry is urging the Supreme Court to decide as quickly as it can whether the federal health care law is, in fact, constitutional and to consider what other parts of the law should be struck down if the individual mandate does not pass muster.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, a Washington, D.C., trade group, filed its supporting brief on Tuesday about the case. The group represents the nation’s health insurance companies, many of which oppose crucial provisions of the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama last year.

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Long Beach Memorial, Miller nurses may go on strike
Long Beach Press-Telegram

Hundreds of registered nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital may go on strike over stalled contract talks.

Nearly 2,000 registered nurses from both Long Beach care facilities cast votes today and will continue voting until late Thursday to decide whether to authorize a strike.

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Justices could talk health care cases on Nov. 10
San Francisco Chronicle

The Supreme Court could decide as early as Nov. 10 whether to hear a challenge to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul this term. Federal appeals court rulings on health care from Atlanta, Cincinnati and Richmond are on the agenda for the justices’ private conference on Nov. 10. If they agree then to hear any or all of those cases, the decision would be announced that day or when the court meets in public session the following Monday.


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A Vision for Health Care: Put the States in Charge
The Health Care Blog

In an ideal world, all our doctors would have the wisdom of Marcus Welby, and all our nurses the compassion of Florence Nightingale. This medical world would be populated with doctors who all graduated No. 1 in their classes, who perform only necessary surgery — and without complications. These doctors would always wash their hands between patients to minimize the spread of infection. All medical research would be funded by nonprofit foundations to preclude bias. And, of course, all doctors would be salaried to avoid perverse incentives to do too much to too many.

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Another Look at Health Insurance Exchanges
The Health Care Blog

Of all the provisions of the ACA, probably none has received greater attention from health insurers than the exchanges. Though the exchanges are expected to be the conduit for just a small fraction of all the insured at their start in 2014, they will be where most of the growth in health insurance lies. Given the rule that the individual exchanges must be integrated with Medicaid, their role will be critical for any insurer that wants to compete and grow in the individual or Medicaid markets.

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CMS’ Opportunity: A Lawsuit Offers A Chance To Reform Physician Payment
The Health Care Blog

By mid-November, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must respond to the legal complaint filed in a Maryland federal court by six Augusta, Georgia family physicians. These doctors are not asking for money, but for relief from the negative effects brought about by CMS’ twenty year reliance on the American Medical Association’s Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC) for valuing doctors’ work.