News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Health insurer M&A activity could break 9-year record by end of 2012: analysis
Modern Healthcare

Just two weeks into the final quarter of the year, mergers and acquisitions activity among U.S. health insurers in 2012 could best high-water marks set nearly a decade ago, according to Charlottesville, Va.-based SNL Financial. M&A deals in the managed care sector so far this year already have reached an aggregate value of $13.4 billion, the highest mark recorded since 2007, according to an SNL report released on Friday. By year’s end, the report predicts, M&A deals could top valuations recorded in 2003, a year that included the $16 billion merger between Anthem Health Networks and WellPoint.

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A Trigger for Hospital Readmissions ID’d by Geriatric Experts
Health Leaders Media

A phenomenon in acute care—hospitalization-associated disability—raises an important question. Might providers focus so intently on resolving patients’ acute care issues that they ignore and thereby irrevocably damage patients’ functional abilities in the process?

After discharge, patients’ brains sometimes aren’t working as sharply as they were prior to their admission or patients can’t walk as far or manage steps like they did before, geriatric experts have long observed.

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AHIP cheers release of Medicare health, drug plan ratings
Modern Healthcare

America’s Health Insurance Plans on Friday had reason to celebrate after HHS released the 2013 quality ratings for Medicare’s health and drug plans. “Currently, 37% of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are enrolled in a plan with four or more stars, an increase from 24% in 2011,” Karen Ignagni, president and CEO at AHIP, said in an e-mail. “This increase is indicative of the commitment by Medicare Advantage plans to advance new and innovative strategies to improve healthcare quality and health outcomes.”

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The Impact of Restaurant Employee Insurance Coverage
San Francisco Chronicle

This week, Darden Restaurant Company is testing out a new program for full time employees that make them part time employees in order for Darden Restaurant Company to avoid covering those same employees medical coverage. Darden is taking this prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, scheduled for implementation in January 2014.

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Personal Finance: It’s health insurance enrollment season, so plan ahead
Sacramento Bee

Like a sore tooth, choosing your health care plan can be a real pain. Confusing choices, funny-sounding acronyms and rising premiums are mind-numbing.

But one thing is clear: If you’re fortunate enough to be covered by an employer’s health plan, it’s time to pay attention. Now through December is annual open enrollment season, when employees choose their health care plans for 2013.

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Medicare Part D open enrollment starts Monday
Chico Enterprise Record

Passages Adult Resource Center reminds seniors that Medicare’s Part D open enrollment begins Oct. 15. Medicare beneficiaries can change or enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan known as Part D, Oct. 15- Dec. 7. People will also be able to make changes to their health care coverage, such as enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan. For 2013, there will be 32 Part D plans available, and four to six Medicare Advantage plans in the five-county service area of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Plumas and Tehama counties.

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Tahoe mental health center gets boost
Sacramento Bee

The Placer County Board of Supervisors has allocated $500,000 toward a planned drop-in center for mental health and support services in Kings Beach at Lake Tahoe. The funds will help finance the purchase and renovation of a former motel at 265 Bear St. by the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation. The property, to be called the Community House of Kings Beach, will house the Tahoe Safe Alliance, North Tahoe Family Resource Center and Project MANA.

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Western Health Advantage grows as Sacramento-area HMO
Sacramento Bee

Quick, name a Sacramento-based enterprise that actually grew during the recession and amassed revenue of nearly $450 million last year.

Chances are, Western Health Advantage, the not-for-profit health plan provider, was not at the top of your list.

But 16-year-old WHA is currently on a fast track, poised to spread beyond its Sacramento-Solano area core to form a provider and hospital network in Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties.

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More pieces to the obesity puzzle
Orange County Register

As obesity rates soar worldwide, the antidote may seem obvious: Eat less! Move more! But the common-sense approach hasn’t been terribly effective, prompting some scientists to question the simplicity of the formula. Although personal decisions and self-control certainly play a large role in weight gain, a burgeoning area of research suggests that other factors, from air pollution to sleep deprivation, might be subtly helping humans pack on the pounds.

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How California beat down whooping cough
HealthyCal.org

California government has a reputation, rightly deserved, for being dysfunctional. Voters rank legislators down there with car salesman on the trust scale, and the bureaucracy doesn’t do much better with the public. So it’s worth taking notice when the state does something right, especially when it happens in a matter of life and death. That was the case with California’s response to an epidemic of pertussis, better known as whooping cough.

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HPV shots don’t make girls promiscuous, study says
Monterey Herald

Shots that protect against cervical cancer do not make girls promiscuous, according to the first study to compare medical records for vaccinated and unvaccinated girls.

The researchers didn’t ask girls about having sex, but instead looked at “markers” of sexual activity after vaccination against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV. Specifically, they examined up to three years of records on whether girls had sought birth control advice; tests for sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy; or had become pregnant.

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HPV Vaccine Doesn’t Alter Sexual Behavior, Study Finds
New York Times

Coni Butler, an accountant in Austin, Tex., and a devout Catholic, encourages her three children to remain celibate before marriage. But that did not stop her from getting them vaccinated against human papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that raises the risk of some cancers. Ms. Butler had her son and two daughters vaccinated between ages 12 and 15. She was not deterred by widespread concerns that the vaccine might encourage promiscuity.

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United Healthcare Expands to Brazil
The Health Care Blog

UnitedHealth Group is set to become the controlling owner of the largest healthcare company in Brazil, a country whose health market is rapidly growing, in one of the most high-priced overseas deals by a U.S. private insurance company. The largest American insurer is spending $4.9 billion to acquire 90 percent of Brazil’s Amil Participacoes, which has about 5 million members, a provider network of 3,300 hospitals and 44,000 doctors, and also owns 22 hospitals and about 50 clinics, reported the Associated Press.

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Kaiser Permanente gives nod to Korn/Ferry to find it a new CEO
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente has selected Korn/Ferry International as the executive search firm to help it find a replacement for retiring Chairman and CEO George Halvorson. Halvorson, 65, said last week he will step down at the end of 2013, and wanted to give the organization adequate time to find a replacement. That search is now under way.

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Expect Medicare enrollment blitz as groups push awareness
Sacramento Business Journal

Medicare health plans will strut their stuff and senior, health and consumer groups will hand out leaflets at the K Street Mall and other Sacramento locations Monday as more than 330,000 local seniors will begin open enrollment — the seven-week period when they can make unrestricted changes to their health coverage for next year. The window opens today and closes Dec. 7. Changes will take effect Jan. 1.

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