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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Developing High-Quality Patient-Centered Care
Health Leaders Media

In the mid-2000s, Sharp HealthCare was on two somewhat overlapping journeys, those grand goals that define health system improvement for large organizations.

One was to fulfill its own self-appointed vision of the Sharp Experience, a service mission stated as “Become the best place for employees to work, the best place for physicians to practice medicine, the best place for patients to receive care, and ultimately the best health care system in the universe.” Along the way Sharp also undertook the self-examination and improvement required for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which it eventually achieved in 2007.

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Physician Burnout Pervasive: 1 in 2 Internists Affected
Health Leaders Media

Physicians are more likely to be burned out and dissatisfied with life than workers in other professions, more stressed than other workers of similar education levels, and ED doctors, internal medicine specialists, and neurologists are the most burned out of all. That’s according to a study published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine that is the first to use a recognized scientific survey to compare levels of burnout and exhaustion among 24 physician specialty groups.

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Alameda County Medical Center hires system transformation exec
San Francisco Business Times

Alameda County Medical Center, which runs Highland Hospital and other sites, has hired Varsha Chauhan, M.D., as executive director of its System Transformation Center, a new position responsible for various new federal payment programs. Chauhan reports directly to CEO Wright Lassiter III, and is responsible for overseeing ACMC’s efforts to implement a new federal incentive pay program meant to rapidly increase the quality of health care and customer service at public hospitals nationwide.

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Sutter Neuroscience Institute launching trial of cord blood stem cells in autistic children
Sacramento Bee

The Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento plans to launch groundbreaking research today to discover whether infusing umbilical cord stem cells into the bloodstreams of autistic children will help them overcome debilitating characteristics of the condition.

The clinical trial is the first of its kind to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Dr. Michael Chez, the principal investigator and Sutter’s director of pediatric neurology.

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Doctor burnout: Nearly half of physicians report symptoms
USA Today

A national survey of physicians finds the prevalence of burnout at an “alarming” level, says a study out Monday. While the medical profession prepares for treating millions of patients who will be newly insured under the health care law, the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.) reports nearly 1 in 2 (45.8%) of the nation’s doctors already suffer a symptom of burnout.

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Patients still turning to specialists for primary-care services: study
Modern Healthcare

More than 40% of patient visits for primary-care services took place at a specialist physician’s office, suggesting “current and continued inefficiency in the delivery of primary-care services,” according to a research letter published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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Dense breast tissue doesn’t add cancer risk, study shows
USA Today

Studies have long shown an increased risk of breast cancer in women whose breasts are considered “dense,” or less fatty. So some doctors say they were surprised by new research showing that breast cancer patients with dense breasts were no more likely to die than other patients in the study. Yet women with less dense breasts were more likely to die of their breast cancers if they also were obese, according to the study, involving more than 9,000 women, in today’s Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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Gene Tests in Yeast Aid Work on Cancer
New York Times

People have been searching for new medicines for thousands of years, and yet we have barely explored the universe of possibilities. Recently chemists at the University of Bern in Switzerland tried to estimate how many promising molecules have yet to be tested. In June they published their best guess: over a million billion billion billion billion billion billion. Blindly testing those molecules one at a time is not practical, and most of them will turn out to be useless anyway.

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House leaders press CMS for details on exchange rules
Modern Healthcare

With three months left until states must submit their insurance-exchange applications, House leaders are putting pressure on the CMS for more information about pending regulations related to those insurance marketplaces and Medicaid. Reps.

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Poll Shows Californians’ Support for Health Law Grows, Leaders Respond
Capital Public Radio

More than half of California voters polled said they support the health overhaul. More showed ’strong support’ for the law than in the past two years. Thirty-seven percent of Californians oppose the law. California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley says she was struck by the partisan nature of the findings.

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Self-funded employers will pay billions for high-cost coverage
Modern Healthcare

Self-funded employers will have to fork over billions of dollars to help fund an obscure healthcare reform law-created program that will partially reimburse commercial insurers writing policies for high-cost individuals.

The first-year assessment paid by very large employers—those with at least 100,000 employees—will run into millions of dollars, for which employers will receive no direct benefit.

“It is going to a big number, a lot bigger than some people may have thought,” said Anne Waidmann, a director in Washington for PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P.

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Western Health Advantage expanding?
Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento’s home-grown HMO has filed a bid with state regulators to expand into Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties. Western Health Advantage filed a proposal with the California Department of Managed Health Care in June and has augmented the request since then. The move is part of a strategic plan to expand beyond the company’s current six-county footprint to be more attractive in the changing market.

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Benefits of infant circumcision reconfirmed as rates decline
USA Today

Evidence that male circumcision has health benefits is growing, even as the quick but often-controversial surgery becomes less common in the United States, say medical experts making new efforts to publicize the benefits. In a study out Monday, researchers say falling infant circumcision rates could end up costing billions of U.S. health care dollars when men and their female partners develop AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections and cancers that could have been prevented.

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Study: Early heart death raises disease risk for family
USA Today

Paul Ryan works out and watches his diet, but a new study shows that clean living can only go so far to help people like the vice presidential candidate overcome a strong family history of heart disease. The study of 4 million people — the largest ever on heart risks that run in families — found that having a close relative die young of cardiovascular disease doubles a person’s odds of developing it by age 50.

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Supplemental Medicaid payments jump: GAO
Modern Healthcare

Extra payments to Medicaid providers jumped by at least $9 billion from fiscal 2006-2010, with new types of hospital payments leading the increase, according to a government audit. State Medicaid programs spent at least $32 billion in supplemental payments—or funds not directly tied to a healthcare service—in fiscal 2010, compared with at least $23 billion in fiscal 2006, according to a report issued Monday by the Government Accountability Office.

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Boisterous Medicare debate dominates House races
Modern Healthcare

Freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth offers no apologies for embracing fellow Republican Paul Ryan’s blueprint for Medicare and government spending.

“When I was a candidate in the 2010 election, I did endorse the Ryan roadmap even when some folks on the Republican side said, ‘I don’t know, I kind of distance myself from that,’” Hayworth said recently as she campaigned in New York’s Hudson Valley. “We have to have a commonsense plan, and we have to have a mature discussion of these things. And I felt and continue to feel that Paul Ryan’s ideas are sound.

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Aetna Buys Coventry for $5.6 Billion to Add Government Plans
San Francisco Chronicle

Aetna Inc., the third-biggest U.S. health plan, agreed to buy Coventry Health Care Inc. for $5.6 billion, in the latest bid by an insurer to boost government business under President Barack Obama’s health overhaul. Aetna will pay $42.08 a share for Bethesda, Maryland-based Coventry, the best performer in New York trading among medical insurers this year. That represents a 20 percent premium over Coventry’s closing price of $34.94 on Aug. 17, which gave the company a market value of $4.68 billion.

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Veteran Sacramento health exec retires
Sacramento Business Journal

Marty Keale, executive director of the Capitol Health Network for the past four years, retired Friday. He plans to stick around during a search for his replacement, though. Keale, 70, is credited with strengthening the nonprofit, Sacramento-based advocacy organization for community clinics, federally qualified health centers and health education agencies serving uninsured and underinsured folks in the region.

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Health reform provision will affect technology benefit providers
Modern Healthcare

Although middle-market employers will be responsible for complying with the auto-enrollment provision in the healthcare reform law, technology providers also will have a major role to play.

Doug Hammond, vice president of sales and business development at Arlington Heights, Ill.-based benefits administration software provider Benefit Express Services L.L.C., has put a premium on ease of use when it comes to employee benefit administration systems.

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Hayward: St. Rose Hospital starts lung disease support group
The Mercury News

St. Rose Hospital is teaming up with the American Lung Association to create a support group for those with chronic lung disease, beginning Wednesday. St. Rose respiratory therapists Adam Loomis and John Basile will lead the monthly meetings of the Better Breathers Club. They will give an overview of lung disease at Wednesday’s group session. “Our class will be aimed at chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients and asthmatic patients,” Basile said. COPD has been listed as the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

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Romney misleads on $716 billion ‘cut’ to Medicare
Sacramento Bee

The deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression hit young adults ages 18 to 34 particular hard, with the highest levels of unemployment and underemployment since the government began tracking in 1948.

Yet the biggest debate on the presidential campaign trail today is about benefits for the older generation – a sign of who votes. In particular, the debate is about Medicare, the government-financed health insurance system that covers Americans age 65 or older, paying doctors and hospitals out of payroll taxes on working Americans.

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The disabled may be hurt most by Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan
Los Angeles Times

Amid all the chatter about whether Paul D. Ryan’s proposed changes would, as Democrats say, “end Medicare as we know it,” one group has been largely overlooked: disabled people.

The vast majority of Medicare’s roughly 48 million beneficiaries are seniors over the age of 65. But about 8 million are disabled people of all ages. The federal program was expanded in 1972 to include those with permanent disabilities.

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Profits, Quality, and U.S. Hospitals
The Health Care Blog

The recent articles in the New York Times about the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) have once again raised important questions about the role of for-profit hospitals in the U.S. healthcare system. For-profits make up about 20% of all hospitals and many of them are part of large chains (such as HCA). Critics of for-profit hospitals have argued that these institutions sacrifice good patient care in their search for better financial returns.

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Dems, Reps agree on Medicare
San Francisco Chronicle

After decades of bickering, Democrats and Republicans now agree that a reduction in the rate of growth in spending is not a cut. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat who has long attacked previous GOP “cuts” in social programs, today re-issued an analysis from Politifact rebutting the claim by Mitt Romney and congressional Republican charges that the Affordable Care Act cut $716 billion from Medicare.

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Field Poll: Strong Statewide Support for Health Care Law
KQED Radio

While Americans as a whole remain sharply divided over the Affordable Care Act, a majority of California voters — 54 percent — support the federal health care overhaul, a new Field Poll shows. Just over a third of Californians — 37 percent — oppose the law. This strong support is not terribly surprising in a heavily Democratic state.

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