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Health care news from around the state and nation


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To stay fiscally healthy, state’s hospitals want fewer patients
Los Angeles Times

To survive the unprecedented challenges coming with federal healthcare reform, California hospitals are upending their bedrock financial model: They are trying to keep some patients out of their beds.

Hospital executives must adapt rapidly to a new way of doing business that will link finances to maintaining patients’ health and impose penalties for less efficient and lower-quality care.

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Governor says he won’t back UCR medical school
The Press-Enterprise

California Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday he’s not prepared to support funding the UC Riverside medical school at a time when the state still faces a $9 billion deficit. Brown asserted that position during a talk at The Press-Enterprise that ranged from his tax proposal to high-speed rail, pension reform and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. “I’m not ruling it out, but I’m not ruling it in right now,” Brown said of funding for the medical school. “We’ve got to get our house in order before we expand.”

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High-cost patients across the Bay Area get closer care to keep them out of hospitals
The Mercury News

Hospitals have become too familiar to Mary Janelle Granger. She used to rush to the emergency department at least twice a month when troubled breathing panicked her. “Everybody in the emergency room knows me by name,” said the 58-year-old Concord resident, who has a chronic lung disease. Now, a new John Muir Health pilot program is helping to keep her out of the hospital.

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Looming Budget Cuts Make Hospital Belt-Tightening Increasingly Difficult
Health Leaders Media

The economy might be on the rebound, but the nation’s hospitals should still brace for the possibility of $360 billion in cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, and other federally funded healthcare programs and services over the next decade.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a credit outlook that the ongoing reductions in federal funding for healthcare in the fiscal 2013 budget and beyond could make it disproportionately more difficult and more expensive to borrow money for hospitals that rely on Medicare.

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It’s official: Proposal coming to merge Natividad and SVMH
Monterey Herald

At a hastily convened and sparsely attended meeting Friday, county supervisors and Natividad Medical Center trustees unanimously agreed to seek a merger of Natividad and Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital into a single “health system” serving more of Monterey County.

The new system would be under county control and would inherit Natividad’s status as a safety net hospital, a designation that gives it access to federal funds and other financial perks.

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New Santa Maria regional hospital is ready for release
San Luis Obispo Tribune

The newly constructed, $218 million Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria is set to open March 27. However, those wanting a sneak peek can attend a community celebration and dedication in front of the hospital’s new entrance on Palisade Drive at 11 a.m. Wednesday. An open house and public tours will follow the ceremony.

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Stent patients say docs didn’t discuss alternative treatments
Modern Healthcare

A survey of Medicare patients found that most who received stents did not recall that doctors had discussed with them alternative treatment as a “serious option.” The survey, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, asked Medicare prostate surgery patients and stent surgery patients about their treatment conversations with doctors.

Nine out of 10 stent patients said doctors did not seriously discuss alternative treatments, such as medication.

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Obesity prevention efforts in schools yield some success
California Watch

Obesity is still on the rise among California students, but after years of prevention measures in schools, the rate is slowing, new research shows.

More than 35 percent of students were overweight or obese in 2008, up from one-third in 2003. That’s an average annual increase of 0.33 percent, compared with 0.8 to 1.7 percent each year in decades prior.

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AMA airs concerns about changing Medicare drug payment policies
Modern Healthcare

The AMA asked the CMS to withdraw a proposal that would allow Medicare drug plans to deny coverage to beneficiaries if they suspect prescription abuse.

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Blue Shield seeks $10.5M from rival UnitedHealth doc group

Blue Shield of California is seeking $10.5 million in damages from Monarch HealthCare, claiming its contract was violated after rival insurer UnitedHealth purchased the large doctor group. In its complaint announced Wednesday, Blue Shield of California said Monarch violated its contract by agreeing to be acquired without obtaining Blue Shield’s consent, steering Blue Shield members toward rival health plans and declining to treat some Blue Shield members, reported The Wall Street Journal.

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Medicare Patients Given Fewer Treatment Options
Health Leaders Media

More than one-third of Medicare patients who underwent a prostatectomy, and 90% who had elective insertion of a coronary stent, said their physicians gave them no advance information about more conservative options that produce similar survival outcomes, says a survey conducted by the Dartmouth Institute’s Informed Medical Decisions Foundation.

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Foundation in works to boost San Joaquin hospital
Modesto Bee

California’s oldest public hospital is embarking on a new venture: creating a nonprofit, independent foundation to increase community awareness of its services and raise funds to support its mission.

Part of that mission for San Joaquin General Hospital is “the delivery of community-oriented, culturally sensitive and affordable health care throughout San Joaquin County.”

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More Barstow moms breast-feeding, hospital says
Desert Dispatch

Before 19-year-old Ashley Russell became pregnant she knew she wanted to breast-feed her children. Her baby girl “Bella” has eaten only breast milk since she was born Thursday at Barstow Community Hospital.

“I wanted to breast-feed her. I wanted her to be healthy and strong,” Russell said.

She said she learned from skimming through baby books that formula was not as healthy for a newborn’s system as breast milk.

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Older downtown hospital to focus on baby business
North County Times

The stork will not be a regular visitor to North County’s newest hospital when it opens in August in western Escondido —- instead, women and babies will become the centerpiece of the existing Palomar Medical Center building four miles away. Palomar Pomerado Health decided to delay building a women and children’s wing at the new hospital —- dubbed Palomar West Medical Center —- because of ever-increasing construction costs, and an agreement with the city of Escondido to conduct renovations downtown.

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Finding unseen damage of traumatic brain injury
USA Today

The soldier on the fringes of an explosion. The survivor of a car wreck. The football player who took yet another skull-rattling hit. Too often, only time can tell when a traumatic brain injury will leave lasting harm — there’s no good way to diagnose the damage. Now scientists are testing a tool that lights up the breaks these injuries leave deep in the brain’s wiring, much like X-rays show broken bones. Research is just beginning in civilian and military patients to learn if this new kind of MRI-based test really could pinpoint their injuries and one day guide rehabilitation.

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Doctors perform 33 surgeries for free on uninsured patients

Surgeons at Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco sewed up the muscles of one patient’s abdomen after performing a hernia surgery that could cost than $10,000 for someone without insurance, but it was free Saturday.

This surgery was one of 33 performed Saturday for free as part of a program called Operation Access.

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Medical bills can ruin credit, even when paid off
Monterey Herald

Mike and Laura Park thought their credit record was spotless. The Texas couple wanted to take advantage of low interest rates, so they put their house on the market and talked to a lender about a mortgage on a bigger home in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs. Their credit report contained a shocker: A $200 medical bill had been sent to a collection agency. Although since paid, it still lowered their credit scores by about 100 points, and it means they’ll have to pay a discount point to get the best interest rate. Cost to them: $2,500.

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Medical society launches panel on doc-payment reform
Modern Healthcare

The Society of General Internal Medicine has launched the National Commission on Physician Payment Reform, a panel investigating how physicians are paid and how financial incentives affect patient care.

The effort will be led by Dr. Steven Schroeder, former president of the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, with former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist, serving as honorary chair.

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Execs say health care reform inevitable
Sacramento Business Journal

Health care reform will happen in California regardless of whether the federal Affordable Care Act is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Sacramento-area health care leaders said Friday. “We believe we need to drive health care reform whether it’s legislated or not,” said Michael Taylor, senior vice president of operations for Dignity Health’s Greater Sacramento-San Joaquin Area. “Health care costs are out of control and we need to bend the curve.”


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Healthcare Reform’s Missing Link — Nurse Practitioners
The Health Care Blog

Within the next two years, if federal healthcare reforms proceed as expected, roughly 30 million of the estimated 50 million uninsured people in the United States — 6.9 million in California — will be trying to find new healthcare providers. It won’t be easy. Primary care providers are already in short supply, both in California and nationwide. That’s because doctors are increasingly leaving primary care for other types of practices, including higher paid specialties.