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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obama seeks to allay healthcare law concerns
Los Angeles Times

President Obama sought to tamp down fears Tuesday that his landmark healthcare law would raise insurance costs and cause other disruptions, saying most Americans were already benefiting from it and others soon would.

“Any time you’re implementing something big, there’s going to be people who are nervous,” the president said at a news conference at which he delivered a new pitch for the 2010 legislation. “For the average American out there, for the 85 and 90% of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing’s already happened.”

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Deadline for state-run exchanges today
Modern Healthcare

Today is the deadline for insurers to apply to offer qualified health plans in state-run exchanges, and the submissions will signal the vigor of competition as the marketplaces begin enrolling members in October.  Late Monday, the CMS said it would extend the deadline for insurers in states with federally run exchanges to submit qualified health plans from today to Friday.

Large carriers have indicated that they will be conservative in choosing where to join the fray. During a conference call Tuesday to discuss first-quarter earnings, Aetna president and CEO Mark Bertolini said the carrier plans on selling insurance in 14 exchanges. And earlier this month, UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Hemsley said, “We will be very selective in where we participate and do not believe the exchanges will be a significant factor for us.”

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‘Person-centered’ care at heart of new reform plan
FierceHealthcare

A new “person-centered” healthcare framework incorporating Medicare, Medicaid and insurance reform could improve care and save $300 billion over the next decade–and more than $1 trillion over 20 years, a new report from the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at The Brookings Institution concludes.

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Healthcare-engagement technology grows
Modern Healthcare

More employers are turning to games and contests, mobile applications and social media to drive health care engagement among their workforces, according to research compiled by New York-based Buck Consultants. However, issues such as lagging support from senior management, privacy concerns and IT infrastructure challenges continue to undermine widespread adoption of emerging health engagement tech solutions, Buck researchers said Monday during a presentation at the WorldatWork Total Rewards 2013 Conference and Exhibition in Philadelphia.

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Two hospital workers fired over ‘dumping’ of Nevada psychiatric patients
Sacramento Bee

Nevada state officials said Monday that two employees at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas have been fired and another three will be disciplined as a result of an internal investigation into the hospital’s practice of busing mentally ill patients to other states. The investigation found that 10 out of roughly 1,500 patients may have been placed on buses during the last five years without “a support system/family/friends/housing at the destination,” according to a statement from Mary Woods, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

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The ‘Obamacare’ Rollout’s ‘Glitches and Bumps’ Won’t Doom Health Reform
Yahoo! News

President Obama acknowledged reality when he said Tuesday that the rollout of the health reform law next year is going to be interrupted by “glitches and bumps.” But if the past is any indication, an initial spate of difficulties or bad headlines won’t alone spell failure. “There will still be stories that will say this will not be working the way it’s supposed to,” Obama said during a 45-minute press conference. “That’s basically been true of every government program that’s ever been set up.”

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Many don’t know status of healthcare reform law: Kaiser survey
Modern Healthcare

More than three years after President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, public confusion about the 2010 healthcare reform law is widespread, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation didn’t know the status of the law, answered incorrectly when asked about PPACA’s status or declined to respond. Some 59% answered correctly that PPACA is the law of the land and is being implemented.

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Simpler forms for health care coverage debut
Boston Globe

After a storm of complaints, the Obama administration on Tuesday unveiled simplified forms to apply for insurance under the president’s new health care law. You won’t have to lay bare your medical history but you will have to detail your finances.

An earlier version of the forms had provoked widespread griping that they were as bad as tax forms and might overwhelm uninsured people, causing them to give up in frustration.

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New forms hope to make it easier to sign up for health insurance
Marketplace

Forms for health care reform are getting reformed. (Try saying that three times fast.) Under the health care reform law, Americans without health insurance will soon be able to buy coverage through a program called a health insurance marketplace, also known as an “exchange.” The federal government will begin accepting applications in October. Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) posted those applications online. It called them “consumer-friendly” and stressed their relative simplicity.

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FDA: Morning-after pill to move over the counter
Modern Healthcare

The government is moving the morning-after pill over the counter but only those 15 and older can buy it — an attempt to find middle ground just days before a court-imposed deadline to lift all age restrictions on the emergency contraceptive. Today, Plan B One-Step is sold behind pharmacy counters, and buyers must prove they’re 17 or older to buy it without a prescription. Tuesday’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration lowers the age limit and will allow the pill to sit on drugstore shelves next to spermicides or other women’s health products and condoms — but anyone who wants to buy it must prove their age at the cash register.

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CMS move boosts for-profit hospital sector
Modern Healthcare

Investor-owned hospital chains continued to report unexceptional first-quarter earnings this week, but good news from the CMS on 2014 Medicare payments renewed investor confidence in the sector. The CMS late Friday proposed a 0.8% increase for inpatient prospective payments, totaling an estimated $27 million. It also cut disproportionate share hospital payments only an overall 0.9%.

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California lawmakers call for probe of Nevada patient busing
Sacramento Bee

Twenty-one California lawmakers today sent a letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Attorney General calling for an investigation into Nevada’s long-standing practice of busing mentally ill patients to other states. The letter, initiated by Rep. Ami Bera, an Elk Grove Democrat, states that “if this practice of shipping patients with a history of mental illness to other states, known colloquially as “Greyhound Therapy,” is occurring, it would not only be unethical and disgraceful, but would also be an illegal attempt by Nevada to evict members of the state’s most vulnerable population to benefit its bottom line.”

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Doctors tout effectiveness of 3D mammography
KTVU.com

While many insurance policies may not cover 3D mammography, some doctors are urging women that the new high-tech mammograms are worth the price. The new procedure is the hottest thing in breast cancer screening. UC Davis Medical Center is among the first to get it. The medical center offered the special mammograms to volunteers for the last month. Nurse Dawn Love is one of those volunteers.

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Tenet Healthcare posts $88M 1Q loss
San Francisco Chronicle

Tenet Healthcare Corp. said Tuesday that it lost $88 million in the first quarter, hurt by hefty charges and a drop in inpatient admissions. The earnings beat Wall Street predictions, while revenue fell slightly short. Its shares rose more than 3 percent. The Dallas-based hospital operator’s loss attributable to common shareholders amounted to 85 cents per share and contrasted with net income of $58 million, or 53 cents per share, in the same quarter of 2012.

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CVS Caremark 1Q profit soars 23 percent
San Francisco Chronicle

CVS Caremark Corp.’s first-quarter earnings jumped 23 percent and topped analyst expectations, as an influx of generic drugs continued to help the drugstore operator and pharmacy benefits manager’s profitability. The Woonsocket, R.I., company said Wednesday a strong flu season, new clients and Medicare prescription drug plans brought more claims to its pharmacy network. But new generic drugs were the main reason its profit climbed.

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Pfizer 1Q profit up, but drugmaker cuts outlook
San Francisco Chronicle

Pfizer Inc.’s first-quarter net income rose 53 percent despite falling sales, mainly because the world’s second-largest drugmaker took big charges a year ago. Pfizer’s results fell short of Wall Street’s expectations, and the company lowered its profit and sales forecasts for the year, blaming sudden worsening of currency exchange rates. Pfizer is struggling because generic competition is reducing revenue for two-thirds of its drugs, more than a dozen of which are former blockbusters that had brought in $1 billion or more annually.

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Generic competition cuts Merck’s Q1 sales, profit
San Francisco Chronicle

Drugmaker Merck & Co. on Wednesday reported lower first-quarter results and cut its 2013 profit forecast by 15 cents a share. Merck tried to reassure investors by announcing a huge share buyback, up to $15 billion worth of its stock, but its share price dropped nearly 3 percent in premarket trading after its revenue missed expectations. Competition from generic versions of its drugs and unfavorable exchange rates — problems hurting most drugmakers these days — hurt Merck.

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Relieving emotional stress for health care providers
The Union

A patient in one of the many cancer support groups Dr. Jeff Kane has facilitated over the years observed that “buried feelings are always buried alive.” That’s just one of the reasons Dr. Kane wanted to introduce Schwartz Center Rounds to doctors, nurses, and others who work with patients at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, where he is director of psychosocial education at the Community Cancer Center.

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Area medical providers brace for health care reform
The Californian - Salinas

With a little more than six months before the most radical upheaval in health care since the advent of Medicare takes effect, Monterey County providers are scrambling to understand and prepare for California’s Jan. 1, 2014 implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

From local hospitals to physician groups, all acknowledge that there will be a tremendous amount of change in store when California’s new insurance exchange, called “Covered California,” goes live on New Year’s Day. But there remain many unanswered questions.

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HMO trade group breaks down health care reform
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Association of Health Plans — the trade group for the HMO industry — is weighing in with its own version of how the Affordable Care Act will affect consumers and change the state’s insurance market. The biggest impact will be in the individual market, where some small businesses and individuals purchase coverage, according to the association’s Affordable Care Act 101 Guide.

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Rescissions and the public opinion problems of health-care reform
Washington Post

The Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare,” has now been with us for three years. It’s gone through Supreme Court tests. It’s gone through efforts to repeal. A huge chunk of it’s already been implemented. And for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they’re already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don’t know it.

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