News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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House Republicans won their ACA lawsuit. Here’s what happens next
Modern Healthcare

A federal judge’s decision Thursday that the Obama administration unconstitutionally spent money to pay for part of the Affordable Care Act may not disrupt health plans or beneficiaries right away. But the fresh uncertainty immediately delivered a blow to the share prices of hospitals and health insurers.

House Republicans alleged in a lawsuit that the administration illegally spent money that Congress never appropriated for the ACA’s cost-sharing provisions. Those provisions include reduced deductibles, copayments and coinsurance many Americans receive, depending on income, for plans purchased through the ACA’s insurance exchanges.

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Hospitals use mobile clinics to increase access

There’s been a lot of talk about the mobile health revolution; making it possible to see your doctor from your living room or couch. But this is mobile health that doesn’t fit in a phone. In fact, it’s 40 feet long and looks like a mix between an RV, a school bus and a doctor’s office. It’s a mobile health clinic. People hop on, check in, and get labs drawn just like a normal clinic. Patient Hannah Salam is in the middle of an appointment, getting weighed and then slipping her tattooed arm into the blood pressure cuff.

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Obama administration races to bolster healthcare reform in final days
Becker's Hospital Review

With just months left in office, the Obama administration is flexing its strongest regulatory muscle — the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

This center, created under the Affordable Care Act, is the administration’s control center for regulatory change, and is powered by $10 billion in funds, according to a report from STAT. “It always was known within the department how broad that authority is,” said Kathleen Sebelius, former HHS secretary, according to STAT. “[CMMI] is probably the single most potentially impactful element of the ACA.”

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House GOP wins Obamacare lawsuit

A federal judge on Thursday ruled the Obama administration has been improperly funding an Obamacare subsidy program, a huge win for the House of Representatives in a lawsuit against the White House. Congress authorized the program but never actually provided the money for it, wrote U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer. The program will be allowed to continue, pending appeal. “Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one,” wrote Collyer, a George W. Bush appointee.

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Obama’s Health Law Wrongly Repaying Funds to Insurers, Judge Says
The Wall Street Journal

A federal judge on Thursday dealt a blow to the Obama administration’s health law, ruling the government improperly reimburses insurers to cover discounts to low-income consumers.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer introduces significant new legal uncertainty for the law, President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, just before the heat of the 2016 election season.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by House Republicans challenging the law’s implementation.

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Judge Rules for House GOP in Challenge to Obamacare
NBC News

A federal judge in Washington ruled for House Republicans Thursday in the latest challenge to the Obama health care law. Judge Rosemary Collyer said a provision of the law provides money to insurance companies that was never appropriated by Congress, violating the Constitution’s declaration that “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.” The provision at issue compensates insurance companies when they reduce out-of-pocket expenses for low income people covered under Obamacare.

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Federal judge strikes down Obamacare payments
USA Today

Republicans won the first round Thursday in a separation of powers battle against President Obama that once again focuses on his most prized achievement: Obamacare.

Federal district Judge Rosemary Collyer, a Republican appointee, ruled that the law did not provide for the funds insurers need to make health insurance policies under the program affordable.

While the law provides for tax credits, she said, it does not authorize an appropriation for slashing deductibles and copayments. Without those reductions from insurers, many consumers could not afford to buy insurance.

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Judge strikes down Obama health law insurance subsidy in victory for House GOP
Washington Post

A federal judge struck down a portion of President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act health law Thursday, ruling that Obama exceeded his authority in unilaterally funding a provision that sent billions of dollars in subsidies to health insurers.

In a 38-page decision, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer of the District put her ruling on hold pending the administration’s certain appeal. Her decision sided with the U.S. House of Representatives, which brought the lawsuit challenging more than $175 billion of spending after a party-line vote by House Republicans in July 2014.

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Fact Checking Hillary Clinton’s Medicare Buy-In Proposal
National Public Radio

Hillary Clinton is floating a proposal to let people over the age of 50 “buy in” to Medicare, the federal government’s health insurance for those 65 and older. The Democratic presidential contender mentioned the idea earlier this week at a campaign event in Stone Ridge, Va. She was responding to a woman who said her health insurance premiums – which she bought on the individual market — rose more than $500 last year. “What you’re saying is one of the real worries that we’re facing with the cost of health insurance,” Clinton said. “The costs are going up in many markets.”

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Doctors Agree With Sanders on Universal Health Care

Presidential hopefuls have their own ideas on what to do with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s signature legislation, when they move into the White House.

Sen. Bernie Sanders thinks it should be replaced with a single-payer health plan of the kind Europe and Canada have. This federally administered universal health care program would eliminate copays and deductibles. There’s currently a move afoot in Colorado to have such a plan.

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Health Insurance Exchange Consumers Satisfied with Health Plans
HealthPayer Intelligence

Individuals who purchase plans on the health insurance exchange tend to use online resources to shop for a policy at twice the rate as the average consumer.

Despite the fact that the House of Representatives and the Senate attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act at the end of 2015, consumers seem to be satisfied with their healthcare coverage options after purchasing health plans on the health insurance exchange, according to a new study from Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Additionally, the report found that more consumers are ready to take on future medical costs and are more confident about accessing affordable healthcare services than in 2015. It was also uncovered that consumers who purchase plans on the health insurance exchange tend to use online resources to shop for a policy at twice the rate as the average consumer who obtains employer coverage.

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Health Coverage Rates For Lower Income Children Improving
Kaiser Health News

Bolstered by the federal health care law, the number of lower income kids getting health coverage continues to improve, a recent study found.

During 2014, the first full year of the law’s implementation, 91 percent of children who were eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program were enrolled, according to the study by researchers at the Urban Institute. In 2013, that figure was 88.7 percent and only 81.7 percent in 2008. Medicaid and CHIP are both federal-state health coverage programs for lower-income residents, but CHIP provides coverage for kids whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

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Doctors’ single-payer prescription for health care reform
The Huffington Post

Many months before Bernie Sanders entered the presidential race, we (along with Dr. Adam Gaffney, an energetic younger colleague, and Dr. Marcia Angell, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine) convened a nonpartisan group of 39 leading physicians to envision health care reforms that would fix the glaring problems that remain despite the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

After the Supreme Court removed the final roadblock to the law in 2015, President Obama declared that at last “in America, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for all.”

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MACRA struggles in evaluating long-term care
Modern Healthcare

Treatment for elderly patients and those with chronic conditions may not be well accounted for in the new Medicare system for reimbursing providers.Some regulations for the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, which replaced the disliked sustainable growth rate formula for Medicare payment, were released this week. Most providers and advocates laud the attempt to move toward value-based payment, but some of those who deal with patients who need long-term or end-of-life care are concerned the system won’t be rewarding good performance in those fields.

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Complex surgeries go better when doctors, hospitals have experience
Calaveras Enterprise

If you need a risky, complicated surgery, would you go to a hospital or surgeon who had performed the procedure only a time or two before? Most people would say no, but the evidence indicates otherwise. Patients do go to doctors and hospitals that have seldom performed the procedures they need. Yet for almost 40 years, study after study has shown that patients’ death rates were significantly lower for surgeries done at hospitals that were experienced in the procedures.

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Fixing ‘biggest mistake in modern medicine’
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

David A. Kessler, a former director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, doesn’t mince words about assurances from pharmaceutical manufacturers that opioid painkillers wouldn’t be addictive.

“It has proved to be one of the biggest mistakes in modern medicine,” Kessler wrote this week in the New York Times.

Opioid use quadrupled between 1999 and 2013, and millions of Americans are now hooked on Percocet, Vicodin and other brand-name versions of oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone and fentanyl.

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Healthcare a top target for data breaches
Silicon Valley Business Ink

No company or industry is safe from the rise of data breaches and other cybersecurity problems.

In the sixth annual Benchmark Study on Privacy & Security of Healthcare Data by the Ponemon Institute paints a bleak picture for healthcare organizations.

The institute, which studies information and privacy management, spoke to senior level health care executives and health care vendors to compile this year’s report. The study was paid for by Tigard-based ID Experts, which helps clients identify and manage data breaches.

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Scripps begins to stabilize as it undertakes restructuring
Modern Healthcare

Scripps Health’s operating performance is starting to stabilize as the San Diego-based system takes steps to get its costs under control. The four-hospital group is restructuring and plans to eliminate about 100 jobs.

Scripps CEO Chris Van Gorder notified employees in a memo earlier this year that the job cuts will come mostly from management and administration. The system spent nearly $2.4 million on restructuring costs in the quarter ended March 31, according to its quarterly earnings report.

Even still, Scripps’ costs are rising faster than revenue. Salary and benefit costs increased 7.4% year over year with costs coming from merit increases and an expanded full-time employee headcount, the earnings report said.

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UC San Francisco Drops Plans to Close Mission Clinic
KQED Radio

A reproductive health clinic serving San Francisco’s Mission District that is threatened with closure will stay open another year, UCSF officials say.

The New Generation Health Center serves primarily low-income teens and young adults, and the announcement came after patients, neighbors and health providers expressed concern and anger over UCSF’s plans to shut it down this summer.

For weeks, university officials had insisted that New Generation must close because of an annual budget deficit of more than $400,000. They said the clinic’s financial troubles stemmed from a decline in both patients and grant revenue over the last five years.

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Sutter ER doctors: Wear those bike helmets
Davis Enterprise

Dr. Deven Merchant and his colleagues in the emergency department at Sutter Davis Hospital have a message for the bicycle-loving population of Davis:

“Helmets, helmets, helmets,” said Merchant, the department’s medical director.

“Just because it’s not the law for people over 18, it’s still just common sense,” he added. Merchant was surprised when he arrived at Sutter Davis from his previous position with Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento to see so many cycling-related injuries being treated in the emergency room here.