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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Blue Shield seeks $10.5 million in damages from O.C. doctor group
Los Angeles Times

Blue Shield of California has demanded $10.5 million in damages from a large Orange County physician group that was recently acquired by rival insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc., a sign of rising tension as insurers and hospitals snap up more medical providers in advance of federal reform.

The nonprofit insurer said Wednesday that it had filed a demand for binding arbitration with Monarch HealthCare of Irvine, the largest physician group in Orange County, which contracts with 2,300 independent doctors and serves 176,000 patients.

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Most Americans like Medicare just the way it is: survey
Modern Healthcare

About 70% of Americans say they favor the Medicare program as it exists today, while 25% say they would support a premium-support model in the federal healthcare program, according to a February survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Among those surveyed, 83% of Democrats said they want to keep Medicare as it is and 14% say they would support the change.

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Tulare Regional Medical Center board to send election measure to voters
Visialia Times-Delta

The Tulare Regional Medical Center committee tasked with reviewing the way the hospital board is elected voted to approve a measure Wednesday night that will ask voters to decide in June.

But with four maps to choose from for by-district elections, the board voted to approve Plan 2, a plan not supported by a citizen action committee that had urged the committee to approve Plan 4 which gives Hispanics a bigger voice.

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SVDH goals outlined by new CEO
Porterville Recorder

Reconnecting with medical staff, developing a new strategic plan and reducing expenses for the 2012-2013 fiscal year — those are just some of the goals Sierra View District Hospital’s new President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Stewart outlined Tuesday morning before the hospital board.

Stewart, who took over the helm of the hospital’s operation on Jan. 3 following the retirement of Dennis Coleman, talked about the importance of communication — important building blocks for reconnecting.

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Reform Law Intensifies Push To Better Coordinate Healthcare
Neon Tommy

One of the worst things a 13-year-old girl who weighs 265 pounds could do is miss a doctor’s appointment. Had her doctor not had a special nurse to reach out to her when she didn’t show up a few weeks ago, she could have easily fell through the cracks until her poor health led to something as serious and expensive as hospitalization. Fixing simple slip ups like this could turn out to be one of the major tests of whether the 2010 healthcare overhaul succeeds in lowering spending on healthcare.

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IT, doc groups offer info-exchange toolkit
Modern Healthcare

Office-based physicians have access to a new online compendium of documents and other presentations gathered as a practitioner’s guide to the benefits and challenges of health information exchange, courtesy of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the MGMA-ACMPE. The Health Information Exchange Toolkit is touted as a comprehensive guide “for physician practices seeking a pathway toward HIE,” according to a joint announcement from the two organizations.

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Hospitals in Santa Cruz County have varying breastfeeding rates
The Californian - Salinas

Citing research that shows breast-feeding gives babies a healthy start in life, advocates issued a report today saying outdated hospital policies such as providing bottled formula “create disparities in health care that are no longer acceptable.”

The California Women Infants Children Association and the UC Davis Human Lactation Center, which prepared the report, “Maternity Care Matters,” noted the lowest performing hospitals are those serving large numbers of low-income women of color.

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Hospital nurses without contract
The Signal

A contract between Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital and its 450 registered nurses has expired, and while nurses staged a demonstration Wednesday, administrators said they were confident an agreement would be reached.

As of midnight Tuesday, nurses were working without a contract.

“The hospital is confident we will reach a mutual advantageous agreement in the near future,” said Mark Puelo, the hospital’s chief human resources officer and central contract negotiator.


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How much care is enough?

California should push ahead with construction of a huge prison hospital in Stockton, but hold back on other improvements to the prison medical system.

That was the recommendation last week from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The LAO questions the need to spend millions more on infrastructure improvements at a time when the state inmate population is declining.

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Medi-Cal needs to move on helping kids
Sacramento Bee

Perhaps the bureaucrats who run the state’s Medi-Cal dental program would move more quickly to improve dental service for Sacramento kids if it were their own children waiting for months for their cavities, broken teeth and abscessed molars to be treated.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is insisting justifiably that Medi-Cal officials act without delay to get taxpayer-funded dental services to kids who need them and are entitled to them.