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CHA Warns Of Rough Times Ahead
Payers and Providers

Despite signs the economy is slowly dragging itself out of the depths of the Great Recession, the California Hospital Association has issued a 2012 forecast mostly pessimistic in regards to smaller facilities and those seeking additional capital. The report, “Environmental Scan and View of the Future,” also raised areas of concern caused by ongoing labor unrest and patients being wrested away by ambulatory care centers and retail clinics.

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Specialized care for inmates at Vacaville’s California Medical Facility
The Reporter

In a long-awaited move to comply with state guidelines, dozens gathered at California Medical Facility on Thursday to celebrate the opening of a new facility on the Vacaville prison’s grounds, a move that officials say will not only increase inmate capacity, but may save a number of jobs. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new mental health care facility, followed by a tour of the pristine 64-bed unit, its dining halls, nurses stations, examination rooms and safety holding cells gave visitors an up-close and personal look of the end result of a $33.7 million project almost two years

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Final Physician Payment Rule Factors in GPCI
Health Leaders Media

The final 2012 Medicare physician payment rule from CMS includes an adjusted fee schedule for the Geographic Practice Cost Index (GPCI) that some industry leaders say is a great deal more fair to many physicians.

As a result of intense lobbying by the California Medical Association (CMA), CMS adjusted the fee schedule so that a larger percentage (3%) of the payments are adjusted for geographic differences in practice costs. This adjustment prevented large cuts in 2012 and will help California physicians in future years.

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Feds Release Final Rules on Health Plan Language
Health Leaders Media

Starting Sept. 23, 150 million private health plan customers will be able to shop for coverage with the use of advertising materials that use the same template, so buyers can get apples to apples comparisons, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services final rule released Thursday.

“For too many Americans today choosing a health plan means reading through a human resources booklet usually the size of a small phonebook,” said Acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner during a news conference.

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Mercy Medical Center doles out $90,000 to Merced groups
Merced Sun-Star

Mercy Medical Center awarded more than $90,000 to support programs aimed at helping to change lifestyles and improving health in the community. This year, the grants focused on health issues caused by obesity and obesity-prevention programs for youth and adults. The funding is a way for Mercy to work with organizations in the community and to provide serv-ices for the underserved, a hospital official said Thursday.

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Fetus, chemo risks explored
Monterey Herald

Researchers have encouraging news for women who find themselves in a very frightening situation: having cancer while pregnant. Studies suggest that these women can be treated almost the same as other cancer patients are, with minimal risk to the fetus.

Only about 1 in 1,000 pregnant women face this dilemma, but doctors fear that more will because the risk of cancer rises with age, and more women are delaying having children until they’re older.

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FDA outlines path for lower-priced biotech drugs
San Francisco Chronicle

The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to review the first lower-cost versions of biotech drugs, expensive medications which have never before faced generic competition. The guidelines issued by the FDA on Thursday are the final step in a decades-long effort to lower the price of biotech drugs, high-tech injectable medications that cost the nation billions of dollars each year.

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New rules for health plans require clear summaries of benefits
Los Angeles Times

Moving to implement a much-anticipated consumer protection in the new healthcare law, the Obama administration issued regulations Thursday requiring health plans to describe what they cover in clear, standardized language that is understandable to consumers.

Starting this fall, insurers and employers that offer health coverage will have to provide a six-page form that summarizes basic plan information, such as deductibles and co-pays, as well as costs for using in-network and out-of-network medical services.

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CEO’s departure may attract suitors for Hill
San Francisco Business Times

When the news broke that Steve McDermott, chief executive officer at Hill Physicians Medical Group, was stepping down, several Bay Area health care insiders’ first reaction was that Hill might be “in play.” Hill Physicians “would be a logical one to buy,” said Wanda Jones, president of San Francisco’s New Century Healthcare Institute.

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Hospital board plans for future
Sonoma Index-Tribune

Sonoma Valley Hospital officials have set their sights on the future, passing a three-year strategic plan, launching construction on a new wing and further developing the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation, all during a series of meetings in the past week.

On Monday, the Sonoma Valley Health Care District board held a joint meeting with the Sonoma City Council to update the council on issues facing the hospital as well as to discuss ways the district and the city could partner to the benefit of both parties.

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Baby Boomers’ demand, expectations for new knees soar
USA Today

A soaring demand for new knees from aging Baby Boomers wanting to dance through Zumba workouts or zip down ski slopes is likely to lead to additional, more costly surgeries, according to a new report. Boomers’ expectations of knee replacements are high; their parents were content to be rid of the pain and to be relatively sedentary, says Elena Losina, lead author of a study to be presented today in San Francisco at the annual conference of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

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Inmate advocates question state’s commitment to prison healthcare
Los Angeles Times

Fifteen years ago, Jackie Clark was so disgusted with the healthcare at San Quentin prison that she quit her job there as a nurse consultant.

“We didn’t have sinks. We didn’t have appropriate medical equipment,” she recalled recently. “We were in converted offices and converted cells.”

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UCSF still may do Jesus Navarro kidney transplant
San Francisco Chronicle

UCSF Medical Center officials on Thursday said they would perform a kidney transplant operation on an Oakland man who had accused the medical center of denying him a kidney transplant because of his immigration status. But the hospital said Jesus Navarro must prove he can pay for his medications and follow-up care after surgery.

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Cost hike blamed for immigrant kids losing public health insurance
Los Angeles Times

About 20% of low-income immigrant children in a public health insurance program in Los Angeles County lost coverage between 2009 and 2011 because of a premium increase, according to a study that appeared this week in the journal Health Affairs.

Nearly 4,500 low-income immigrant children dropped out of Healthy Kids, which was launched in 2003 and run by L.A. Care Health Plan.

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Feds require consumer-friendly health plan briefs
San Francisco Chronicle

Don’t have the slightest clue what your health insurance covers? The Obama administration says that’s going to change. Officials announced Thursday that starting later this year private health plans will have to provide consumers with a user-friendly summary of what’s covered, along with key cost details such as copays and deductibles. Just six pages long. No fine print.

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Health insurance firm is expanding Fontana office
Fontana Herald News

Business is booming for Henry Romero, president of HR Benefits Consulting, Inc., an inland company that provides health care insurance plans to small and large companies, individuals and seniors on Medicare. As health insurance laws become more complex, industry experts are needed to explain what are the best kind of healthcare plans for members of the public, Romero said.

Opinion/Editorial

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Vision plans should be included in proposed health care exchanges
Sacramento Bee

National health care reform is scheduled to begin offering benefits through state insurance exchanges in 24 months. The insurance exchanges that are being set up in each state will act as a marketplace for health benefits and will initially be offered to individuals, small employers and the uninsured. The way things are currently defined, only qualified health plans and stand-alone dental plans will be able to offer coverage through the state exchanges.

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Paging Dr. Frischer – “Computer Hospital Intensive Care Operator”
The Downey Patriot

The doctor was controlled by a joystick, moved on three wheels, had a built-in stethoscope, and a flat screen as a face. Chico (a far more manageable name than “Computer Hospital Intensive Care Operator”) allowed doctors and other medical workers at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital to virtually examine patients, speak to them, and access their digital files – even from miles away. As our population ages, and the healthcare professional shortage becomes even more serious, video-conferencing robots like Chico may represent one face of medicine’s future.

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Elected officials shouldn’t accept health coverage
The Desert Sun

The Desert Sun admires the elected officials who serve on the myriad boards that lead our public agencies.

The work often requires long hours in tedious meetings, study time with complex reports and difficult decisions on what best serves the public good.

They earn their stipends. But they don’t deserve health insurance for part-time service.

Blogs

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Obama’s Broken Promises
The Health Care Blog

I didn’t vote for Barack Obama. But like a lot of Americans, I was hopeful about his presidency. Just as it took a Republican to thaw our relationship with China, it will probably take a Democrat to reform our entitlement programs. Again and again, Obama promised to step up to the challenge. Then he left the country at the altar and pursued partisan politics instead.

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FDA panel recommends agency reject NeurogesX HIV pain patch
San Francisco Business Times

An FDA advisory panel unanimously recommended Thursday that the agency reject an HIV pain patch from NeurogesX Inc. not be approved. Qutenza, the patch from the San Mateo-based company (NASDAQ: NGSX), already is used for pain related to shingles, but NeurogesX is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval for its use in nerve damage associated with the AIDS virus.

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Dismantling the Affordable Care Act
The Health Care Blog

I have no idea which way the Supreme Court will rule this year on the Affordable Care Act. Let me go out on a limb and predict a 5-4 vote on the question of whether the individual mandate is Constitutional. Just don’t ask me which way the vote goes. I found the recent Obama administration brief submitted to the Court on the mandate question somewhat ironic.

  

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