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Health care news from around the state and nation


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Superbug enters US hospitals through front door: CDC

Many patients infected by the deadly superbug Clostridium difficile, long thought to be contracted mainly during hospital stays, are already exposed when they are admitted to the hospital, U.S. infectious disease experts said on Tuesday. Rates of C. difficile, the most common hospital-based infection in the United States, continue to climb. The infection can cause severe diarrhea, inflammation and bleeding in the colon, and death.

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F.D.A. Backs Respiratory Distress Drug for Babies
New York Times

One of the biotechnology industry’s longest losing streaks ended Tuesday when Discovery Laboratories finally won approval for its first drug, after failing on four previous tries going back to 2004. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, Surfaxin, for the prevention of respiratory distress syndrome, a potentially fatal breathing disorder affecting premature babies.

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Death of single-payer health plan inspires change of thought
Capitol Weekly

California’s so-called “Medicare for all” bill has died. Originally introduced by Senator Sheila Kuehl as SB 840 in 2005, vetoed twice by Governor Schwarzeneggar in 2006 and 2008, and twice resurrected by Senator Mark Leno as SB 810 in 2009 and 2011, the fight for a homegrown single payer health care system appears to be over.

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Oversight of California nursing homes lacking, report finds
California Watch

California nursing home inspectors fall short in following up on their own investigative findings, possibly enabling sustained neglect or lax practices that can injure residents, according to a new federal report.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid, identified shortcomings by the California Department of Public Health, which inspects the state’s 1,150 nursing homes.

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House lawmaker criticizes budget plan; Sebelius says spending is slowing
Modern Healthcare

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee criticized HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the White House for failing to address entitlement reform in the president’s fiscal 2013 budget.

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Worldwide price survey puts U.S. medical, hospital costs at top
Los Angeles Times

A study comparing prices for hospital stays, physician office visits, drugs and other medical procedures in developed countries shows U.S. prices among the most expensive.

The International Federation of Health Plans, a London-based network of 100 insurance companies in 30 developed nations, annually looks at prices, and last week published its 2011 Comparative Price Report on medical and hospital fees by country.

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Survey: 1 in 5 families struggle with medical debt
USA Today

A survey shows 1 in 5 Americans say their families are having trouble paying their medical bills. Worse, half of those who are struggling say they are unable to pay a single dime toward those debts. The survey of 52,000 people was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from January through June of last year. It’s the first time the government agency has looked at the issue in such a comprehensive way.

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UC Davis professor on panel to assess physician pay
Sacramento Business Journal

A University of California Davis professor of internal medicine has been named to a newly formed independent commission that will assess how physicians are paid, university officials announced Tuesday. Dr. Richard Kravitz’s research has focused on the causes and consequences of physician behavior, the doctor-patient relationship and how patients influence the quality of their own care.

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‘Best Care’ may be dying well, say hospice, palliative docs
USA Today

Medical advances help people live longer and longer, but too few physicians help people understand that longer is not always better, according to two new books. Ira Byock says he wants “to raise people’s expectations” about the end of life and to to change the conversation about dying in America about dying. “It’s not easy to die well in modern times,” says Byock, director of palliative medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., and author of The Best Care Possible, a Physician’s Quest to Transform Care Through the End Of Life.

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States Facing ‘Sleeping Cancer’ in 96% Unfunded Retiree Benefits
San Francisco Chronicle

The near-failure by U.S. states to fund rising retiree health-care costs for millions of government workers threatens to produce budget crises similar to the one that pushed Stockton, California, to take a step toward bankruptcy last week. States haven’t financed almost 96 percent of the $627.4 billion they were projected to owe for future retiree benefits in 2010, according to Bloomberg Rankings data.

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Paradise hospital opens new ER
Chico Enterprise Record

The wait is over, but only early risers were there for the official opening of Feather River Hospital’s new emergency department Tuesday morning. At 5 a.m., the emergency department officially opened and at 5:05 a.m. staff saw their first patient, who was moved from the old ER, which was officially closed at 7 a.m. the same day. “Our (old emergency department) had been licensed for seven beds,” said FRH Assistant Vice President Maureen Wisener.

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Estrogen replacement therapy safe for some menopausal women
USA Today

For certain women, taking estrogen supplements for a few years close to menopause appears safe, and may reduce their risk of breast cancer, says a new study from the landmark Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). Those women include only the 30% of menopausal women who’ve had a hysterectomy, or surgery to remove the uterus.

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Supervisors reject $10 million in ‘ObamaCare’ grants
Orange County Register

Orange County’s Board of Supervisors has blocked the county’s Health Care Agency from seeking more than $10 million in federal grants because some board members see the money as tainted by “ObamaCare.” Last week, the Supes smacked down a grant application for $40,000 that the agency wanted to use to create a model workplace wellness policy.

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Voters extend parcel tax to support hospital
Sonoma Valley Sun

Measure A, which extends a parcel tax to raise $2.8 million annually for Sonoma Valley Hospital, has been approved by 73 percent of voters.

The $195 tax, levied on property parcels of all sizes, both commercial and residential, is now in place for another five years. “It feels great,” said Bill Hutchinson, chair of the Yes on A committee, after the results were announced Tuesday night.


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Four Healthcare Trends Hospital Executives Cannot Ignore
The Health Care Blog

Hospital leaders are busy trying to cope with the changes brought on by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the realization that the federal budget deficit translates into less money for all healthcare providers in the future. The seemingly inevitable transition from fee-for-service to global payments creates anxiety about how quickly the financial incentives will shift.