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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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CMS Updates Hospital Compare Website
Health Leaders Media

Healthcare payers, providers and consumers may view an expanded and more current array of quality measures with a major update posted Thursday on two Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services websites, Hospital Compare and Nursing Home Compare. The agency also refreshed annual readmissions and mortality rate data, with new spreadsheets showing those hospitals that are better or worse than national averages during a three-year period.

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Panelists outline decline of small doc practices
Modern Healthcare

In Capitol Hill testimony Thursday, the head of physician-recruitment firm Merritt Hawkins said that if current trends continue, in two years about 75% of his firm’s physician placements will be as hospital employees, up from 11% in 2004. At a hearing of the House Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations, a panel of experts explained to lawmakers how—and why—small and solo U.S. medical practices have declined in recent years.

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St. Luke’s fiercely loyal S.F. clientele
San Francisco Chronicle

Oui Lee is 90 years old and doesn’t relish long drives on the highway, but she says when it comes to leaving her Berkeley home to come to San Francisco’s timeworn St. Luke’s Hospital, the decision is a snap. “I love this place, I love our doctor and I will not change,” the retired bank teller said this week as she sat waiting for a blood pressure test in a St. Luke’s waiting room. “The hospitals near my house are nice, but there’s just nothing like this place. It’s the best.”

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Children’s Hospital Central California names new CEO
Fresno Bee

Children’s Hospital Central California has named Todd Suntrapak, a familiar face at the hospital, as its new president and chief executive officer. Suntrapak, 45, whose appointment was effective Thursday, has been serving as the hospital’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. The hospital in Madera County has been without a president and CEO since Gordon Alexander left last November after serving only a year and a half. He and the hospital “mutually agreed to end their association,” according to a hospital statement at the time.

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New health care groups look to cut costs and improve quality
California Watch

Across the country, doctors, hospitals and insurers are forming new health care entities to increase the efficiency and quality of health care, and lower the cost of it. Called accountable care organizations, these groups are gaining ground, even though critics consider them a repackaging of HMOs – some of which have given managed care a bad name. An ACO is a group of health care providers such as doctors, hospitals and others, including insurance companies, who agree to work together to provide overall care to their patients.

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CMS updates Hospital Compare, Nursing Home Compare websites
Modern Healthcare

The CMS announced it has updated its Hospital Compare and Nursing Home Compare consumer websites with new quality measures, easier-to-use navigation and mobile-ready capabilities.

Hospital Compare, which the CMS says has drawn more than 1.2 million visitors so far this year, now includes hospital-specific data on two new quality measures related to hospitals’ use of imaging: outpatients who received cardiac imaging stress tests before low-risk outpatient surgery, and outpatients with brain CT scans who got a sinus CT scan at the same time.

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Prostate surgery fails to save lives
San Francisco Chronicle

Surgery for prostate cancer was no better in saving lives than observation over a 10-year period, according to one of the first rigorous studies to compare the two approaches in American men with early-stage disease.

The U.S.-funded study assigned 731 men across the country with early prostate cancer to have the gland surgically removed or be observed without any attempt at curative treatment.

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Hospital’s heavy lifting lightens load on nurses
USA Today

Nurses, nursing aides and orderlies have borne the weight of the nation’s obesity epidemic and suffered the consequences. They have gone home with aching backs and, in worst-case scenarios, ended up in hospitals themselves. “In the course of an eight-hour day, a nurse will typically lift 1.8 tons, which is pretty astronomical,” said Amy Williamson, a workplace safety coordinator for Baptist Hospital here.

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CDC: Whooping cough rising at alarming rate in US
San Francisco Chronicle

The U.S. appears headed for its worst year for whooping cough in more than five decades, with the number of cases rising at an epidemic rate that experts say may reflect a problem with the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Nearly 18,000 cases have been reported so far — more than twice the number seen at this point last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. At this pace, the number for the entire year will be the highest since 1959, when 40,000 illnesses were reported.

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UnitedHealth posts 6% higher profit, raises outlook for year
Los Angeles Times

UnitedHealth Group Inc. reported a 6% increase in second-quarter profit and raised its full-year outlook, but the nation’s largest health insurer warned about a tough environment for its Medicare and Medicaid plans as governments face more financial strain.

UnitedHealth Chief Executive Stephen Hemsley, in a conference call with analysts and investors, said that “there continues to be more downward than upward pressure across the healthcare landscape…. State budgets are clearly constrained for Medicaid.”

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Los Robles owner moves to buy only other hospital in Thousand Oaks
Ventura County Star

A surgical hospital launched seven years ago to inject health care choices into the Conejo Valley might soon be owned by the corporation that operates the only other hospital in the area.

Doctors who own nearly half of Thousand Oaks Surgical Hospital say negotiations are proceeding over the sale of the boutique hospital, which boasts hotel-like rooms and an array of elective surgeries, to the Hospital Corporation of America.

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Reform may spur more small firms to self-insure: report
Modern Healthcare

Small employers with fewer than 100 workers could see incentives to self-insure under the healthcare reform law, a paper by the Center for Studying Health System Change says. Self-insured employers, which accept the risk of workers’ healthcare costs, are exempt from new rules under health reform for fully insured products, including state review of premium rate increases, community rating for premiums and essential health benefits, according to the report.

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HHS Issues Final Rule on Benchmarking EHBs for Insurance Exchanges
Health Leaders Media

The nearly final rule for identifying potential benchmark plans to support the definition of essential health benefits as well the process for recognizing accrediting entities to certify qualified health plans for state health insurance exchanges, was quietly released earlier this week by the Department of Health and Human Services.

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How to cure U.S. healthcare
Los Angeles Times

When it comes to healthcare, Americans are not getting a lot of value for their money. The United States spends 17.6% of its gross domestic product, nearly twice the average of the nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But life expectancy in the United States in 2010, at 78.7 years, is below the OECD average of 79.8 years. The U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than in most developed countries — it is higher than the rates in Greece, Hungary and Slovakia.

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How I Lost My Fear of Universal Health Care
The Health Care Blog

When I moved to Canada in 2008, I was a die-hard conservative Republican. So when I found out that we were going to be covered by Canada’s Universal Health Care, I was somewhat disgusted. This meant we couldn’t choose our own health coverage, or even opt out if we wanted too. It also meant that abortion was covered by our taxes, something I had always believed was horrible. I believed based on my politics that government mandated health care was a violation of my freedom.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Nursing Shortages
The Health Care Blog

Not so long ago, the air was filled with dire warnings of an impending nursing shortage. By 2020, according to one widely-cited analysis, demand might exceed supply by as many as 800,000 nurses. That analysis was made in good faith, and it was based on not-crazy extrapolations from thirty years’ worth of economic data.

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Doctors ponder next step with Anthem
Sacramento Business Journal

Some medical providers are wondering what to do next after state regulators on Monday ordered Anthem Blue Cross to stop trying to collect millions from providers for old medical claims the health plan thinks were overpaid. The Department of Managed Health Care simply ordered Anthem to stop. The agency is continuing to look into the issue and may consider other remedies, spokeswoman Marta Green said.

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