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Seven seek vacant seats on Palm Drive hospital board
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Seven candidates have applied for two seats on the Palm Drive Health Care District board, which in the next several months will be making decisions that could shape the delivery of health care in west Sonoma County.

The board has been operating with three members since Oct. 6, when Director Dan Smith resigned because of a conflict of interest with a major service provider at Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol. Director Jared Dreyfus died on Sept. 6.

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Rise in Medicare Premium Is Lower Than Predicted
New York Times

Monthly Medicare premiums for most beneficiaries will rise next year by $3.50, to $99.90, a much smaller increase than had been expected, the Obama administration said Thursday. Administration officials rejoiced at the modest increase, which could pay political dividends to President Obama as he tries to win the votes of older Americans in his bid for re-election.

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Hospital projects hit milestones
San Francisco Business Times

The region’s two major academic medical centers — UCSF Medical Center and Stanford Hospital & Clinics /Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital — have hit milestones on $5 billion worth of construction work. Last week, UCSF and DPR Construction “topped out” its $1.5 billion new women’s, children’s and cancer specialty hospital at Mission Bay by placing a 1,600-pound steel beam at the structure’s apex.

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Cigna’s 3Q profit falls 35 pct on charge
San Francisco Chronicle

Cigna Corp. said Friday its third-quarter profit tumbled 35 percent due to a bigger hit from some businesses the managed care company discontinued years ago. The Bloomfield, Conn., health insurer reported its net income fell to $200 million, or 74 cents per share, in the three months that ended Sept. 30, down from $307 million, or $1.13 per share, a year ago.

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Long Beach Memorial, Miller Children’s nurses vote to authorize strike
Long Beach Press-Telegram

If necessary, registered nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital are prepared to go on strike.

Members of the nurses’ bargaining unit at both facilities said tonight that 91 percent of registered nurses voted to authorize a strike.

Bargaining unit members declined to say how many registered nurses cast their votes, which took place Wednesday and tonight.

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Ovarian tumors may develop years after fertility therapy
USA Today

Women who undergo ovarian stimulation to produce extra eggs for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) are at increased risk for a type of growth known as “borderline ovarian tumors,” new research suggests. Borderline ovarian tumors are typically not aggressive, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Even if the tumor does spread, the vast majority of women survive borderline ovarian tumors. Even so, treating borderline ovarian tumors can require extensive surgery, explained lead researcher Flora van Leeuwen, head of the epidemiology department in The Netherlands Cancer Institute.

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Insurance changes impact SVH, patients
Sonoma Index-Tribune

The decision by two major health insurance companies to drop or alter their Medicare Advantage coverage will hit the bottom line at Sonoma Valley Hospital, with further implications for Valley users.

UnitedHealthcare, which merged with Secure Horizons, notified its clients the first week of October that it had canceled its AARP Medicare Complete coverage package, which provides several hundred Valley seniors with affordable health care in Sonoma.

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Wal-Mart offers latest sign that employer-based health coverage is failing
Los Angeles Times

When Wal-Mart, the country’s largest private employer, announced the other day that it’s cutting back on health coverage for workers, it wasn’t just the latest sign that our healthcare system is out of reach for a growing number of people.

It was also the clearest indication to date that our employer-based health insurance system has let us down, saddling millions of families with rising healthcare costs and leaving millions more out in the cold.

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California gets OK for large cuts to Medi-Cal
Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration will allow California to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from Medi-Cal, a move doctors and experts say will make it harder for the poor to get medical treatment.

California plans to reduce rates by 10% to many providers, including physicians, dentists, clinics, pharmacies and most nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday.

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Record Increase in State Medicaid Spending Projected
Health Leaders Media

Continuing economic woes at the state and federal levels, increased Medicaid enrollment, and the end of the federal stimulus program will contribute to a projected 29% increase in states’ spending for the Medicaid program in fiscal year 2012, according to a survey of Medicaid officials in all 50 states, released Thursday from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. That would be the largest increase in Medicaid history.

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Obama administration OKs cuts to California doctors’ reimbursement
Sacramento Bee

The Obama administration approved significant Medi-Cal cuts Thursday that health care providers and patient advocates warn will reduce access for California’s most vulnerable residents.

The decision by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services allows California to cut reimbursement rates by 10 percent for doctors, pharmacists and others who serve the state’s 7.7 million Medi-Cal patients.

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S.F. Mayor Ed Lee vetoes worker health-fund measure
San Francisco Business Times

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee followed through on his earlier threat to veto proposed changes to the Healthy San Francisco employer mandate. Lee overturned a measure approved by the Board of Supervisors Oct. 18 that would have prevented employers from reclaiming money deposited in health savings accounts on behalf of workers. A city study said $50.1 million of $62 million deposited in workers’ accounts each year is not used and returns to employers at the end of the year.

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Medi-Cal transition into HMOs trips up patients
Sacramento Business Journal

When Toni Garcia had to pick a new health plan, she went with one that had her lung doctor in its network. She lost access, however, to her spine doctor, eye doctor and a cardiologist she’s gone to for a second opinion. And it took until this week — two months after she picked the new plan — to get scheduled for an MRI authorized by her former doctor before the switch.

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Aspirin may cut colon cancer risk by 60%
USA Today

Taking two aspirins a day reduced the risk of colorectal cancer by more than 60% in people with a family history of the disease, a large study shows. “This is one more piece of evidence that there are some very positive effects of aspirin, and it should be considered very seriously for people who are at risk of colorectal cancer,” says Tim Bishop, one of the authors of the study and a professor of epidemiology at Leeds University in England.

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House votes to trim some health benefits
San Francisco Chronicle

The House has voted to make it harder for hundreds of thousands of people to qualify for Medicaid under the president’s health care overhaul. Lawmakers voted 262-157 to include Social Security and railroad retirement benefits in the formula that determines whether people qualify for the aid.

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Democrats drive drop in support for healthcare law in new poll
Health Leaders Media

Public support for the new healthcare law dropped significantly in October, a new survey shows, dealing a blow to the Obama administration as Republican presidential candidates keep up their pledges to repeal the president’s signature domestic legislative achievement. More than half of Americans now view the law unfavorably, according to tracking poll by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Physician Compensation Incentives Shifting
Health Leaders Media

Changes in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, healthcare reform, and market competition are all driving change not only in how hospitals and health systems approach patient care, but also in how physician compensation models are taking shape, according to a new HealthLeaders Media Intelligence Report, Physician Compensation: Shifting Incentives.

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Hospitals Confront Blood Infections
Payers and Providers

New data posted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that many of California’s major hospitals have blood infection rates multiples higher than the national average, but industry ofcials are questioning its validity. The data, posted earlier this month on the Department of Health and Human Services’s Hospital Compare website for consumers, comes as more than 160 acute care facilities statewide are engaged in an initiative to combat infections stemming from central line catheters inserted into intensive care unit patients.

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HHS: Medicare Part B Costs to Drop in 2012
Health Leaders Media

Revising projections made earlier this year,the Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that most Medicare beneficiaries will pay lower premiums and deductibles under the 2012 Part B fee schedule. “After two years of no increases in Medicare Part B premiums, premiums for most beneficiaries will go up next year by just $3.50 a month, far less than the $10 a month increase that was forecast,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

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Healdsburg-based medical clinic lays off fifth of staff
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Alliance Medical Center of Healdsburg, which primarily serves 15,000 low-income and uninsured patients, has laid off 23 employees, citing uncertainties in healthcare funding and the shaky economy.

The layoffs, which represent about 20 percent of the staff, affect 15 permanent and eight temporary employees.

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Medicare’s 2012 premium increase is less than expected
USA Today

Medicare’s basic monthly premium will rise significantly less than expected next year, the government announced Thursday. The new Part B premium for outpatient care will be $99.90 a month for 2012, or about $7 less than projected as recently as May. So, most seniors will pay an additional $3.50 a month next year, instead of $10.20, as forecast earlier. Medicare’s Part B annual deductible, the amount beneficiaries pay before their coverage begins, will also drop next year to $140, a decrease of $22.

Opinion/Editorial

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Be careful of cuts to hospitals
Los Angeles Times

Since the start of the Great Recession, California has lost 1.3 million jobs and hit unemployment numbers unseen since 1982. But while other sectors struggle to retain workers, healthcare is one of the few sectors actually creating jobs, especially in hospitals.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitals nationwide have added more than 84,000 private-sector jobs over the past year.

Blogs

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No Better Care, Thanks to Tort Reform
The Health Care Blog

In 2006, Dr. Howard Marcus wrote that Texas’ 2003 tort reform statute sparked an “amazing turnaround” in which doctors came to Texas in droves, instead of leaving the state as they had before. He was doubly wrong. Texas neither lost doctors before 2003 nor gained them especially quickly in subsequent years. In fact, according to statistics published by the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), the supply of active, direct patient care (DPC) doctors per capita grew faster from 1996 to 2002 than at any time after 2003.

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Romney: Let the States Decide
The Health Care Blog

Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has pledged to end “Obamacare.” Upon taking office, he would immediately begin the process by granting the states waivers from having to implement it: “I’ll grant a waiver on Day One to get repeal started. On Day One, granting a waiver for all 50 states doesn’t stop it in its tracks entirely. That’s why I also say we have to repeal Obamacare, and I will do that on Day Two, with a reconciliation bill [requiring only 51 votes in the Senate] because as you know, it was passed by reconciliation with 51 votes.”

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