Delano Regional Medical Center received the lowest score in the state in Consumer Reports' recently released hospital surgery safety ratings.

The Delano hospital received a safety score of 25 out of a possible 100, rating "worse" for avoiding bloodstream infections, communication about hospital discharge and drug information, and for appropriate use of abdominal and chest scanning. Kathie Wright, the hospital's director of marketing, said hospital personnel would not comment on the data.

The ratings were generated from 2009 to 2011 Medicare claims data for patients having 27 common scheduled surgeries, according to Consumer Reports' September issue. The nonprofit's website said Delano Regional Medical Center reported four blood stream infections during 2011. Nearly 80 percent of patients said they were told what to watch for when they left the hospital, and the same amount said that "staff always or usually explained about new medications," according to the site.

Bakersfield Heart and Bakersfield Memorial hospitals rated the highest in Kern County with tied scores of 53. Mercy Hospitals of Bakersfield rated a 51, San Joaquin Community Hospital scored 45 and Kern Medical Center received a 44.

Kern Valley and Tehachapi Valley healthcare districts were not rated.

Statewide, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento ranked the highest with a safety score of 67.

Covered California, the state's health benefits exchange, unveiled its options for small businesses last week.

Small business owners with 50 or fewer employers will be able to buy insurance plans through Covered California when the exchange launches in October with coverage starting in January 2014, according to an exchange fact sheet.

If they decide to check out the exchange, Kern County small business owners will be able to chose from plans from Blue Shield of California, Health Net and Kaiser Permanente. Kern County residents who decide to purchase individual insurance plans on the exchange will have options from those three carriers and Anthem Blue Cross of California as well.

Small business proprietors are not required to get their employees' coverage through the exchange but those who do may be eligible for federal tax credits.

Last week the White House launched a new website to help employers navigate the Affordable Care Act. The site,, includes a search by zip code for the closest experts and events.

-- Californian staff writer Rachel Cook