News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California health exchange rolls out coverage options
Sacramento Bee

Millions of uninsured Californians will soon be required to buy health insurance or face a penalty, and Wednesday morning they got a glimpse of what to expect.

Covered California, the organization responsible for implementing the federal health insurance overhaul, released a blueprint for what types of coverage will be available on the state’s insurance marketplace. The Affordable Care Act requires state exchanges to be up and running by 2014.

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New WellPoint CEO gets cool reception on Wall Street
Los Angeles Times

Investors didn’t give a warm welcome to the incoming chief executive of health insurance giant WellPoint Inc.

Shares of the nation’s second-largest health insurer fell $3.01, or nearly 5%, to $63 in trading Wednesday, a day after the company named a veteran hospital executive to be its next CEO.

WellPoint, which runs Anthem Blue Cross in California and health plans in 13 other states, picked Joseph Swedish to lead the company through a tumultuous time in the industry as insurers prepare for drastic changes under the federal healthcare law.

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Healthcare lags in moving to cloud, survey finds
Modern Healthcare

Cloud computing is on the march across multiple business and government sectors, but the healthcare industry and state and local government, while in the cloud parade, are bringing up the rear, a recent survey of technology leaders shows. Technology seller CDW, Vernon Hills, Ill., asked 1,242 information technology professionals about their views and their organizations’ use of cloud computing. The survey also compared cloud adoption rates by industry sector in 2012 with those in 2011.

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Covered California reveals standardized health plans on new website
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California, the state health benefit exchange for individuals and small employers poised to launch Jan. 1, 2014 under federal health reform, announced a new website Wednesday with examples of benefits, their costs and typical premium rates. The website, CoveredCA.com, provides up-to-date information and access to resources during the lead-up to open enrollment, expected to start Oct. 1.

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Covered California unveils benefit plans
HealthyCal.org

California consumers got their first glimpse Wednesday at the insurance coverage that will be available later this year when the state implements the federal health reform known as the Affordable Care Act. The benefit plans and the first-year cost to consumers who will be eligible for federal subsidies were unveiled by Covered California, the agency in charge of implementing the new federal law, which Congress and President Obama adopted nearly three years ago and the US Supreme Court upheld last summer.

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Health Care Exchange Announces Benefit Plan Choices
KPBS

Californians can now get an estimate of what health insurance might cost next year when the affordable care act fully kicks in. The Covered California website offers a wealth of information. The website spells out the copays and deductibles for consumers who will have to buy their own health insurance. These costs and the monthly premiums will vary depending on the type of plan selected. All of the plans have standardized benefits. Covered California’s executive director Peter Lee said that will make it easier for people to compare plans from different insurers.

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California health exchange reveals pricing, benefit designs for new insurance plans
Ventura County Star

Paving the way for the 2014 opening of California’s online insurance marketplace, officials on Wednesday rolled out the standard benefits that must be included in each policy and detailed what policies would cost for all those eligible for federal subsidies.

A married couple with an annual income of $62,040, for instance, would pay $491 a month for a midlevel plan with a $2,000 deductible and $45 copays for doctor’s office visits. Premiums would be much lower for those with less income. A couple with a combined income of $23,265, for example, would pay $78 a month.

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California healthcare exchange sets benefits and costs for plans
Southern California Public Radio

The state’s healthcare exchange, Covered California, began a small revolution Wednesday when standardized benefits and costs were unveiled for insurance plans it will begin selling next year.

The federal government’s Affordable Care Act requires most people to have insurance by January 1, 2014. The law requires insurance companies to offer certain minimum benefits to consumers, but California’s health care exchange — which will offer one-stop shopping for individuals and small business owners — are taking it a step further.

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Calif first to set standard for health benefits
San Luis Obispo Tribune

California’s health benefits exchange became the first in the nation Wednesday to set a standard benefits design to help people comparison shop for insurance under the federal health care overhaul. The move will help consumers more easily determine what kind of coverage they want to buy, said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. “We’re changing the focus of health insurance from being a shell game – hiding from consumers what’s covered and what’s not covered – to being about health insurance providing the best care possible, to help people stay healthy, get care when they need it and lower costs,” Lee said during a news conference at the exchange’s headquarters in the state capital.

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State health care exchange unveils cost estimates
News10.net

California has been the most aggressive state in implementing the 2010 federal health care law, and now is again first at laying out some of the ground rules for insurance companies… and some of the costs for consumers. “We’re starting to educate Californians about the new health insurance world we’ll all be facing,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state health insurance exchange created under the federal law.

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WellPoint shares fall after insurer names new CEO
San Francisco Chronicle

Shares of WellPoint Inc. slipped Wednesday, a day after the nation’s second largest health insurer surprised many analysts by picking a veteran hospital executive to become its next CEO. THE SPARK: The Indianapolis company said Tuesday after markets closed that Trinity Health Corp. CEO Joseph Swedish will take over March 25 the same post at Wellpoint, replacing interim CEO John Cannon. Trinity Health is privately-held.

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Dignity Health moving on Elk Grove development
Sacramento Business Journal

Dignity Health, parent company to local Mercy hospitals, is quietly proceeding with development plans in Elk Grove. The health system opened a $35 million medical plaza there last fall, the first phase of a 28-acre medical campus where a six-story, 330-bed hospital; another medical office building and five-level parking garage are planned. The project would be built in a total of four or more phases, with the first three associated with the hospital building and the last phase related to the medical office building and parking garage.

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Hospital to explore alternatives before replacing old tower
RecordNet

For years, county officials have put off a decision whether to reduce the number of beds at San Joaquin General Hospital or to spend tens of millions of dollars replacing San Joaquin General Hospital’s Old Tower, an 80-year old building deemed seismically unsound by the state.

On Wednesday, a hospital advisory board stopped short of endorsing a staff recommendation to scrap plans to replace the 1932 building in favor of investing in the hospital’s newer inpatient building while expanding outpatient care.

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Too many mammograms found to be problematic
Monterey Herald

The American Cancer Society advises all women over 40 to get a mammogram once a year to screen for signs of breast cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of experts that advises the federal government on health matters, says most women need to get mammograms only once every two years, and only when they’re between the ages of 50 and 74.

Who’s right? A new study comes down on the side of the task force.

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Medicare Audit Forces San Diego Hospice To Close
KPBS

San Diego Hospice, which has been one of the country’s leading end-of-life care providers for more than 30 years, is closing its doors. The organization’s announcement yesterday came after drastic downsizing, layoffs and finally a bankruptcy filing, all in response to an ongoing federal investigation into patient eligibility. Kathleen Pacurar, president and chief executive officer of San Diego Hospice, said the pressure and uncertainty of an ongoing federal audit made the closing inevitable.

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Feds release latest version of Connect
Modern Healthcare

The federal government has released its latest version of the open source Connect software platform for advanced health information exchange.

Called Connect 4.0, this latest version for the first time incorporates another government-developed interoperability tool, the Direct protocol for encrypted, peer-to-peer communication. Direct can be used for referral letters and patient summaries and other communications between providers.

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Fort Bragg hospital lays off 20 in cost-cutting move
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Mendocino Coast District Hospital has laid off 20 employees in an effort to save $1.5 million per year in wages and benefits.

The action followed losses of nearly $1.9 million during the first six months of the hospital’s fiscal year.

“The reductions will not compromise patient quality and/or safety,” hospital CEO/CFO Wayne Allen said in a statement. “I do not expect additional cuts in the foreseeable future.”

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Health law’s Medicaid expansion moves forward, but with many questions
Sacramento Bee

In the largest one-year enrollment bump in program history, 8 million Americans are expected to gain health insurance in 2014 through Medicaid under the nation’s massive health care overhaul.

The Medicaid expansion is a signature provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and will mark a symbolic turning point in the controversial public and private effort to provide health insurance for all Americans.

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UCSC students oppose health care caps, fear potential fee increase
Santa Cruz Sentinel

The UC Santa Cruz Health center became the site of a “sick picket” Wednesday, as protesters wearing masks over their mouths hobbled on crutches back and forth across the road, receiving honks of support from cars and buses.

The protesters demanded changes to the UC Student Health Insurance Plan, often called UC SHIP, which has recently been criticized for limiting medical benefits enrolled students can receive.

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Why HHS Created Partnership Exchanges and Why More States Are Choosing Them
The Health Care Blog

New Hampshire: We’re in. North Carolina: We’re not. The two states on Tuesday were the latest to announce their intentions on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. States have until Feb. 15 to tell HHS whether they’ll retain even some control over the exchanges, or let the Obama administration run the exchanges for them. And while New Hampshire made clear that it wants to partner with the federal government to launch an insurance exchange, North Carolina backed out of a previous plan to do exactly that.

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“Social Documentation” for Healthcare
The Health Care Blog

Every day CIOs are inundated with buzzword-compliant products – BYOD, Cloud, Instant Messaging, Software as a Service, and Social Networking. In yesterday’s blog post, I suggested that we are about to enter the “post EHR” era in which the management of data gathered via EHRs will become more important than the clinical-facing functions within EHRs.

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Choosing Alternative Medicine
The Health Care Blog

After a terribly painful and debilitating illness, Steve died. He had been treated for Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Disease with a series of intense therapies including German enzymes, American antineoplastins, Mexican naturopathy and Chinese Herbs, complemented by focused meditation, innumerable vitamins, extreme diet modification and acupuncture for severe pain. He fought the cancer with every ounce of his being, doing everything to survive, except the one thing that had an 85% chance of cure; chemotherapy.

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When is a Health Care Facility not a Health Care Facility?
The Health Care Blog

There are 900,000 people in the United States who reside in assisted living settings, at an average age of nearly 87. On average, these individuals pay privately between $3,000-$6,000 per month for services that often include room and board, medication delivery and pill box set-up, supervision, and assistance with activities of daily living. Assisted living facilities are an integral part of the health care delivery system for many of our nation’s frailest older adults.

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