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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Supreme Court ruling does little to resolve California Medi-Cal questions
Sacramento Bee

The Supreme Court on Wednesday kept alive the possibility that California doctors, pharmacists and senior citizens can challenge the state’s Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts.

But the closely divided court didn’t definitively side with the doctors. Instead, citing the complexity of the cases and some changed circumstances, justices ordered more arguments before a lower appellate court.

“It may be that not all of the considerations that may bear upon resolution of the issue have been presented,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority.

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Kaiser tops HMOs in state report card
Orange County Register

Among HMOs, only Kaiser Permanente was rated excellent for meeting national health standards, according to a state insurance report card for 2012. Kaiser, in both Northern and Southern California, has consistently achieved the top ranking, although members give lower marks for wait times. “To sustain this level of performance for the past four years is an extraordinary accomplishment by our entire team of health professionals in Orange County,” Dr. Nancy Gin, area medical director, said in a statement.

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Meaningful-use regs arrive Thursday, Mostashari says
Modern Healthcare

Long-awaited proposed regulations for Stage 2 meaningful-use requirements will be out Thursday, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said. The proposed requirements, which will be published as a noticed of proposed rulemaking, were sent to the Office of the Federal Register Wednesday, Mostashari said in a joint CMS-ONC education session at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s 2012 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas.

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Doc-training programs to be judged on outcomes
Modern Healthcare

The nation’s physician-training programs are set to undergo a restructuring, phased in over two years starting in July 2013, which will ultimately result in a system where accreditation is based on educational outcomes. In a special report co-written by Dr.

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Health care education options rise with need

On any given day at Stockton Unified’s Health Careers Academy, high school students wearing medical scrubs study topics such as “health care delivery systems,” “history of health care” and “legal and ethical responsibilities.”

At the same time, students at other schools in Stockton Unified and in other districts in San Joaquin County also are receiving early training to prepare them for possible careers in the health-care industry.

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FDA panel backs previously rejected obesity pill
USA Today

A panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration overwhelmingly backed approval for a highly anticipated anti-obesity pill called Qnexa, a drug which the FDA previously rejected due to safety concerns. The FDA panel of outside physicians voted 20-2 Wednesday in favor of the weight loss drug from Vivus Inc., setting the stage for a potential comeback for a drug that has been plagued by safety questions since it was first submitted to the agency in 2010.

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California health insurers to raise average rates 8% to 14%
Los Angeles Times

California’s largest health insurers are raising average rates by about 8% to 14% for hundreds of thousands of consumers with individual coverage, outpacing the costs of overall medical care.

The cost of goods and services associated with medical care grew just 3.6% over the last 12 months nationally, government figures show. But insurance premiums have kept climbing at a faster pace in California.

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Trouble ahead for state hospitals
Chico News and Review

The financial problems facing many California hospitals will continue in 2012 and likely result in closures, the California Hospital Association predicts. In a report released in January, the association cited “federal and state health-care reform implementation, together with state and federal budget pressures and other environmental market forces” as reasons some rural and urban hospitals will be at high risk of closing in 2012, according to California Healthline.

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Report Affirms Lifesaving Role of Colonoscopy
New York Times

A new study provides what independent researchers call the best evidence yet that colonoscopy — perhaps the most unloved cancer screening test — prevents deaths. Although many people have assumed that colonoscopy must save lives because it is so often recommended, strong evidence has been lacking until now.

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States get $229 million for insurance exchanges
Modern Healthcare

The total number of states receiving grants to establish state health insurance exchanges rose to 33 plus the District of Columbia with the issuance of $229 million in federal funds to 10 states Wednesday. According to officials, the exchange-building grants were the first such federal assistance provided to five of the recipient states: Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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Report: California health plans improve in diabetes, heart care
Los Angeles Business Journal

California health plans have improved on several quality measures, including diabetes care and heart care, according to a new report card released Wednesday by the Office of the Patient Advocate. But health maintenance organization plans and preferred provider plans performed below the national average in a number of areas, including flu shots for adults, treatment for alcohol and drug dependence, testing for lung disease, appropriate treatment for children with throat infections and treatment for children with attention deficit disorder.

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Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones Releases PPO Report Card
insurance newsnet

The California Department of Insurance issued the following news release: Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today released the 2012 Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) quality of care report card (, which is available on the California Department of Insurance Web site.

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U.S. government drafts plan to fight Alzheimer’s disease
USA Today

The Obama administration declared Alzheimer’s disease “one of the most-feared health conditions” on Wednesday as it issued a draft of the nation’s first strategy to fight the devastating disease that is on the rise as the population ages. The top goal: Find some effective treatments by 2025, an ambitious quest. The plan also aims to help overwhelmed families care for affected loved ones in the meantime, and to improve earlier diagnosis so that patients can have a say in choosing their care.


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Seizing the Opportunity in the ICD-10 Delay
The Health Care Blog

Innovative thinkers and influential healthcare leaders aren’t relying on the decisions coming out of HHS to determine their strategy. Despite the fact that many healthcare organizations were on target to transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10, Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would initiate a process to postpone the date by which certain healthcare entities have to comply with ICD-10. The details of the delay have not been revealed, but industry experts are speculating that a one-two year delay is in the works.

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Is Kaiser Permanente planning to outsource a big chunk of its National Facilities work?
San Francisco Business Times

Mum’s the word, but big things are percolating at Kaiser Permanente’s National Facilities Services unit. Kaiser won’t say much, but it’s using consulting biggie Ernst & Young to help it “look for ways to do things more efficiently” when it comes to planning, building, maintaining and running its roughly 1,000 hospitals and medical office buildings in nine states and the District of Columbia.