News Headlines for November 21, 2014

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Republicans File Suit Against Obama Administration Over Health Law
National Public Radio

House Republicans on Friday followed through on a threat to sue President Obama over actions he has taken concerning the Affordable Care Act.

The lawsuit was filed in a federal court against the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Treasury.

“Time after time, the president has chosen to ignore the will of the American people and rewrite federal law on his own without a vote of Congress,” House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said in announcing the lawsuit. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well. The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action.”

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California enrolls 11,357 in first 4 days of Obamacare open enrollment
Los Angeles Times

California’s insurance exchange said 11,357 new people signed up for Obamacare coverage in the first four days of open enrollment. The second year of sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act began Saturday, and the Covered California exchange said it was ahead of last year’s pace. Enrollment runs through Feb. 15. Last year, it took 15 days for the state to reach 11,000 enrollees when the health-law expansion first launched in October 2013.

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Preparing for Updates to the Medicare Shared Savings Program
The Health Care Blog

Later this month – perhaps as early as this week – the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is poised to release a proposed rule to update the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). MSSP is the national program which allows providers to create ACOs, and it is the program under which Aledade ACOs operate. This will be the first update to the program in three years, and we expect there will be a great deal to unwrap once the rule is public (we also acknowledge that we are among the few who await publications of CMS rules with the anticipation of children on Christmas morning).

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Soaring generic drug prices draw Senate scrutiny
San Francisco Chronicle

Some low-cost generic drugs that have helped restrain health care costs for decades are seeing unexpected price spikes of up to 8,000 percent, prompting a backlash from patients, pharmacists and now Washington lawmakers. A Senate panel met Thursday to scrutinize the recent, unexpected trend among generic medicines, which usually cost 30 to 80 percent less than their branded counterparts. Experts said there are multiple, often unrelated, forces behind the price hikes, including drug ingredient shortages, industry consolidation and production slowdowns due to manufacturing problems.

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White House Acknowledges Over-Counting Obamacare Signups
National Public Radio

The White House acknowledged today that it overreported the number of signups under the Affordable Care Act by nearly 400,000 people.

Some people with separate medical and dental plans were counted twice, leading the administration to state erroneously that more than 7 million had enrolled in coverage under ACA, instead of the correct figure of about 6.7 million.

The discrepancy was discovered during an audit by the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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Oops! Administration erred on health law sign-ups
San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration acknowledged Thursday it has been over-reporting the number of people signed up under the health care law, a discrepancy that congressional Republicans seeking to repeal the program say they uncovered. It’s another credibility problem for the administration after video surfaced recently of former White House adviser Jonathan Gruber suggesting that deception was used to pass President Barack Obama’s signature law. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell called the latest lapse “unacceptable.”

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Newly-Protected Immigrants Will Be Eligible for Medi-Cal, Advocates Say
KQED Radio

California undocumented immigrants who are eligible for deferred deportation under President Obama’s executive action are expected to be eligible for Medi-Cal, as long as they meet income guidelines, advocates said Thursday.

Medi-Cal is the state’s health insurance program for people who are low income. Under federal law, these immigrants are not eligible for other benefits of the Affordable Care Act, including subsidies on the Covered California exchange.

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Covered California has strong opening week as thousands pick health insurance plans
Los Angeles Daily News

Almost 70,000 Californians either signed up for or were eligible for health plans or Medi-Cal in the first four days of open enrollment on the state’s insurance exchange, officials said Thursday.

As of Nov. 18, there were 35,877 people who were determined to be eligible for coverage through Covered California. Of those, 11,357 picked a plan, Covered California officials said. In addition, 33,368 applicants were likely to be eligible for Medi-Cal from Nov. 15 to Nov. 18.

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Covered California signs up 11,357 for Obamacare in first 4 days of open enrollment
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California, which enrolled 1.2 million on its Obamacare exchange during its first open enrollment period, says 11,357 people signed up for a private health plan during the first four days this time around. Nearly 36,000 were determined to be eligible for private coverage between Nov. 15 and Nov. 18. During the first enrollment period, which began on Oct. 1, 2013, it took 15 days to reach a lower total of 10,972 people who selected health plans.

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Covered California projects 1.7 million sign-ups
Victorville Daily Press

As officials hit the ground in an effort to attract more Latino sign-ups, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said recently that the health care exchange wants to enroll 1.7 million Californians by Feb. 15, including over a million renewals from last year. “There will be over 200 storefronts open across California and more ways to link people to individual insurance agents and certified counselors,” Lee said last week.

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130 nonprofit hospital and health system CEOs to know
Becker's Hospital Review

Becker’s Hospital Review has named the following hospital and health system leaders to its list of “130 nonprofit hospital and health system CEOs to know.” The leaders on this list lead some of the largest and most prominent hospitals and health systems in the nation. They were selected to this list based on their experience, professional achievement and involvement in their communities.

Note: This list is not an endorsement of included hospitals, health systems or associated providers, and leaders could not pay for their inclusion on this list. Presidents and CEOs are presented in alphabetical order.

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A Worry In Theory, Medical Data Privacy Draws A Yawn In Practice
National Public Radio

When it comes to health records, how concerned are Americans about what happens to their personal information?

We asked in the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll. And, in a bit of surprise to me, the responses showed that, in general, worries don’t run very high.

First, we learned that nearly three-quarters of people see doctors who use electronic medical records.

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C-sections can be dangerous and costly. So why are numbers rising?
Sacramento Business Journal

One in three babies is born by Caesarean section — often without good reason. And employers who foot the bill are taking notice. Surgical delivery generally puts the mother and baby at greater risk and cranks up health-care costs. Despite a national focus on quality care and cutting costs, C-section rates are going up. Nationally and in California, the rate of Caesarean births was 6 percent in 1970. It was 33 percent in 2013. Experts think the rate should be no higher than 15 percent.

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What Diabetes Costs You, Even If You Don’t Have The Disease
National Public Radio

Diabetes is an expensive disease to treat, costing the United States $244 billion in 2012, according to an analysis of the disease’s economic burden.

When the loss of productivity due to illness and disability is added in, the bill comes to $322 billion, or $1,000 a year for each American, including those without diabetes. That’s 48 percent higher than the same benchmark in 2007; not a healthy trend.

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Debate: Should Physician-Assisted Suicide Be Legal?
National Public Radio

Since Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill in 1997, more than 700 people have taken their lives with prescribed medication — including Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with an incurable brain tumor, who ended her life earlier this month.

Advocates of assisted-suicide laws believe that mentally competent people who are suffering and have no chance of long-term survival, should have the right to die if and when they choose.

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Rep. Huffman Applauds California Regulators for Investigating Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield for Misleading Provider Networks
insurance newsnet

Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today applauded the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) for finding Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California in violation of state law for drastically overstating the availability of health providers on their new Affordable Care Act policies. According to the DMHC report, more than 25% of physicians listed by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California were not taking Covered California patients or were no longer at the location listed by the companies. Anthem and Blue Shield account for nearly 60% of enrollment in Covered California, including a significant market-share in Rep. Huffman’s district.

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Kaiser expands clinic services to Target stores
Modern Healthcare

Kaiser Permanente is moving into the retail clinic business, teaming up with big-box retailer Target Corp. to open four store-based locations in California that will use telemedicine to go beyond traditional in-store clinic services. Three Kaiser clinics opened this month in San Diego, Vista and Fontana, Calif., and a fourth will open in West Fullerton in December, serving both Kaiser health plan members and non-members.

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Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital takes part in statewide medical drill
KION

This is just a drill! At 7:57 a.m. Thursday morning staff at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital got the message via emergency text. The scenario was a male patient showing symptoms of Ebola. He was in close contact with his cousin who was fresh off the plane from an Ebola-affected area in West Africa, and both of them were sick and exhibiting systems consistent with Ebola,” said RN and clinical manager Jeremy Hadland. This was all part of a statewide medical health exercise. The theme this year is ‘Emerging Infectious Disease,’ and Monterey County focused on Ebola.

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Simi Valley Hospital receives top honor for home care
Simi Valley Acorn

Simi Valley Hospital’s Home Care Services has been named to the 2014 HomeCare Elite list compiled by Outcome Concept Systems Inc., a Seattle based company providing data products and benchmark services for home health, hospice and private duty agencies.

The listing of the top tier U.S. home health care agencies honors those that rank in the top 25 percent in their region based upon quality of care, quality improvement and financial performance.

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Los Banos hospital recognized for patient care
Los Banos Enterprise

Sutter Health announced last week that Memorial Hospital, Los Banos, was among its facilities that recently received special recognition from the leading accreditor of health care organizations in the country.

The hospital, along with Memorial Medical Center in Modesto and Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, has been recognized in the Joint Commission’s 2014 report “America’s Hospitals: Improving Quality and Safety.”

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Sierra View hospital on an impressive run
Porterville Recorder

A new name, new accreditation, new health initiatives, new honors, new construction. Sierra View Medical Center has been busy and continues to make substantial advancements in what health care it offers local residents. Last week, officials reviewed a busy year at the hospital, a year of achievements and advancements, and laid the groundwork for an ambitious plan for the future. Bottom line, the offering of health care locally is improving.

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