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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Nurses flex their political muscle in Sacramento and across California
Sacramento Bee

Rose Ann DeMoro is always ready for another fight.

And why not? During the past decade, the leader of the California Nurses Association has won so many of her battles.

Largely because of CNA efforts, California is poised to become the first state where registered nurses make an average salary above $100,000.

The union helped defeat gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman in 2010 and has become a political force, throwing financial support behind candidates for offices ranging from Santa Rosa City Council to state attorney general.

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New county program broadens health care access
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Mark Sindel, who suffers from artery disease, learned that a new county-run program will pay for his treatment, including the bills he’s racked up this year for emergency room visits. “My stress level, everything, just went down, man,” said Sindel, 53, who lives in a motor home in Rohnert Park and was completing paperwork for the program last week at the nonprofit Petaluma Health Center.

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Healthcare Continues Strong Job Growth
Health Leaders Media

Job growth in the healthcare sector for the first month of 2012 continued the robust pace that was set throughout 2011, new federal data shows.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data reports that the healthcare sector created 30,900 jobs in January, including 12,900 jobs in ambulatory services, and 12,700 jobs in hospitals.

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Natividad chief sees ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to merge Salinas hospitals
The Californian - Salinas

Harry Weis is hoping Salinas-area medical leaders and voters are ready to seize what he calls a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. With its rare — perhaps unique — combination of a public safety-net hospital (Natividad Medical Center) and a public district hospital (Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System), Monterey County could create a system that will weather coming changes in health care and serve its community very well, said Weis, Natividad’s chief executive officer.

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Groups prepare to care for aging baby boomers
Bakersfield Californian

The items in the geriatric sensitivity toolbox are basic: bulky gloves, dark, obstructed glasses and a pillbox full of M&Ms.

The challenge is for health workers to twist open the jar and pull out one piece of candy while experiencing tunnel vision and a loss of tactile sensation.

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CMS sets new start date for anti-fraud programs
Modern Healthcare

Two CMS anti-fraud programs, whose Jan. 1 launch was scrubbed because of provider concerns, will start in June instead, according to the agency.

A pilot program to require prior authorization for scooters and power wheelchairs prescribed for Medicare beneficiaries was supposed to launch Jan. 1, but the CMS announced shortly before the scheduled start date that it was temporarily suspending the program.

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Cancer Group Backs Down on Cutting Off Planned Parenthood
New York Times

When the nation’s pre-eminent breast cancer advocacy group, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, decided to stop most of its financing of Planned Parenthood in December, Komen’s leaders hoped to quietly distance the foundation from a politically controversial organization that they feared was costing them support and donations, a board member said.

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Healthcare added about 31,000 jobs in January
Modern Healthcare

The healthcare sector added about 31,000 jobs in January, rising about 0.2% to some 14.2 million workers since December, according to new, preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hospitals added about 12,700 jobs (0.26%) to since December, rising to nearly 4.8 million workers.

The ambulatory-services segment saw an increase of about 12,900 jobs (0.2%) to a total of over 6.2 million workers, according to the bureau’s preliminary statistics.

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Doctors say new program’s outreach misleads patients
Ventura County Star

East Ventura County doctors contend efforts to bring Medicare members into a new care program that is part of federal health care reform are confusing and misleading patients.

The issue involves an “accountable care organization” program designed to better coordinate interaction between hospitals and doctors, deliver better care and lower health care costs for the government.

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The cost of dying: It’s hard to reject care even as costs soar
Los Angeles Daily News

Every night before putting on his pajamas, Dad emptied the coins from his pockets. The special ones he placed in an album, but most went into a jar to be saved.

So how could the hospital bill for the final days of this frugal man — with carefully prepared end-of-life instructions — add up to $323,000 in just 10 days?

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Blue Shield retroactively covers autism treatment

Blue Shield of California has reached a deal with the California Department of Insurance to immediately cover the cost of an autism treatment called applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. Per the agreement announced last Tuesday, Blue Shield will stop denying ABA therapy as a non-covered service, challenging its medical necessity or forcing parents to obtain approval from an independent medical reviewer before starting treatment, reported the Los Angeles Times.


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Health Care Reform for Adults with Developmental Disabilities: an update
San Francisco Chronicle

“I recently saw for the first time an 18 year old woman with several severe developmental issues. I am happy to see her, but I have no training in any of the problems that she has, and she has no problems in which I am trained. I am worried that the care she would get from me would not be the highest. None of my colleagues have any more expertise than I do, which is a weakness of our clinical program.”

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‘Medicare for all’ fails again
Colusa Sun Herald

Californians dodged the bullet on universal health care insurance once again when Senate Bill 810 was narrowly defeated last week, falling only two votes short of passage in the state Senate. After the vote, Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he didn’t believe the bill would be approved and signed into law this year.

As bad an idea as the so-called “Medicare for all” legislation is, it is certain to return, as it has, in one form or another, for years, if for no other reason than to keep the issue alive.


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Does Obamacare Limit Profits for Health Insurance Companies in Your State?
The Health Care Blog

One of the provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a ACA, a.k.a. Health Reform, a.k.a. Obamacare) is that it limits the profits of health insurance companies. The ACA imposes a minimum medical loss ratio (MLR) on all insurers. The MLR is the amount of money spent on covered person medical care divided by the total revenue received through premiums. There is some debate of what constitutes ‘medical care’ (e.g., do investments in electronic health records count as medical care?), but insurer profits certainly are non-medical.