News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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House Committee Spars Over Employer Mandate
Health Leaders Media

The Obama administration continues to face the ire of Congress as questions about implications of the delay in the enforcement of the employer mandate have opened the door, for the 38th time, for the House to push for the complete repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In the first of what is expected to be several congressional hearings on the subject, the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Health met Wednesday to hear testimony about the anticipated impact of the delay from members of the business and healthcare policy communities.

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Tavenner rips ‘myths’ surrounding ACA
Modern Healthcare

After remaining largely silent following last week’s Obama administration decision to delay for one year the healthcare reform law’s employer mandate, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on Tuesday issued what she called a “reality check” in the form of a blog post titled “Myth vs. Fact: Health Insurance Marketplace on Track.” “Unfortunately, there have been some mischaracterizations of these regulations and confusion about how the Marketplace will work when it opens later this year,” Tavenner wrote. “Let’s do a reality check on some of the myths that have been circulating.”

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Community health centers receive $150M in grants to help enroll uninsured
Modern Healthcare

More than 1,000 of the nation’s federally qualified community health centers have received a total of $150 million in grants to enroll uninsured Americans in coverage under the health reform law, HHS announced Wednesday. The funding to community health centers had been expected this month, and is supposed to go toward helping consumers learn about options available to them in the state health insurance exchanges, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

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Gut bacteria may boost HIV-related inflammation, lead to chronic diseases, say UCSF researchers
San Francisco Business Times

Morphing gut bacteria in HIV patients may trigger ongoing inflammation, even in people successfully treated for the AIDS virus, causing patients to die years earlier than uninfected people from common chronic diseases like heart disease, dementia and obesity. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, senior author Dr. Joseph “Mike” McCune and other researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, said that changes in bacteria in human microbiomes may perpetuate inflammation initially triggered by the body’s immune response to HIV.

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60% of Docs Wouldn’t Recommend Their Profession as a Career
Health Leaders Media

Nearly 60% of physicians wouldn’t recommend the profession to young people, a survey shows. The various sources of the doctors’ discontent include decreased autonomy, lower reimbursements, administrative and regulatory hassles, corporate medicine, litigation fears, and longer work hours, much of which has meant that they’re spending too much time away from patients.

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Getting Obamacare’s Messaging Right
The Health Care Blog

Recently, there was a bit of a dust-up over whether it was appropriate for the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to engage the National Football League (NFL) to help HHS with the process of drumming-up enrollment for health insurance exchanges. In the end, the NFL and other sports leagues decided they were not going to be involved fearing the appearance of taking political sides. In our view HHS is better off with this outcome. To our way of thinking the exercise would not have delivered the desired results and would have left individuals confused and created a political distraction.

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Employers react to health-care delay
San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego employers on Wednesday expressed a mixture of confusion and relief about a recent delay on the federal requirement that businesses with 50 or more workers provide health insurance to employees.

For business owners who were just beginning to understand and comply with the provision, a White House decision to postpone it to 2015 is cause for frustration.

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Region health centers get grants to help people get health insurance
Sacramento Business Journal

Five Sacramento-area health centers will receive a total of $443,818 in federal grants to hire additional workers to help people enroll in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The five local centers are among 129 centers poised to collect $21.9 million in federal grants statewide. Health centers will help consumers understand coverage options available through Covered California, the state health benefit exchange, and determine eligibility for Medi-Cal and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

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Feds grant $21.9 million to California health centers to help enroll uninsured
San Francisco Business Times

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $21.9 million to 129 California health centers to help enroll uninsured residents in the Covered California health benefits exchange or determine their eligibility for Medi-Cal and other programs, officials said Wednesday. Those health centers, which cumulatively operate more than 1,200 clinics statewide, saw nearly 3.3 million patients last year, HHS said, 42 percent of whom were uninsured.

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Clinics get millions for health outreach
San Diego Union-Tribune

Eight local community clinics received a total of $2.7 million in grants Wednesday to hire workers who will help San Diego County residents understand their options when the state’s new health insurance exchange opens Oct. 1.

The grants were part of a $150 million funding package announced by Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that pays for increased outreach at 1,159 health centers nationwide.

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Insurance exchanges in line of fire
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Senate’s HHS appropriations bill that started to advance this week, which includes much of the healthcare funding sought by the Obama administration, is likely headed for a series of partisan political battles, including over funding for the new state health insurance exchanges.

The bill was approved Tuesday by the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. The full Appropriations Committee will consider it Thursday.

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Health care reform insurance info site launched
The Mercury News

HealthCare.gov has launched its consumer website for people and businesses seeking information on the new state health-insurance marketplaces. The marketplaces are where consumers seeking individual and employee health insurance can easily comparison shop for the basic plans offered by companies registered with the state. Subsidies will be available to those who meet income guidelines.

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UC Davis study finds link between maternal antibodies and autism
Sacramento Bee

As much as 23 percent of autism cases may be linked to antibodies in some mothers that attack proteins that are critical to fetal brain development, according to a landmark UC Davis study.

Scientists at the UC Davis MIND Institute have identified specific antibodies linked to “maternal autoantibody-related” (MAR) autism, according to a study published this week in a scientific journal.

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We’re exercising more but still fighting obesity, study shows
Los Angeles Times

Americans are exercising more, but that has not done much to slim their waistlines, underscoring the immense challenge confronting doctors and health advocates fighting the nation’s obesity crisis.

In more than two-thirds of the nation’s counties — including some of the unhealthiest — men and women became more physically active over the last decade, according to data published Wednesday in the online journal Population Health Metrics.

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UnitedHealthcare to expand accountable care contracts
Sacramento Business Journal

UnitedHealthcare will significantly expand its accountable care contracts over the next five years in an effort to transform the way health care is delivered, paid for and rewarded, the company announced Wednesday. The Minnesota-based health plan has 40 million members, including more than 95,000 in the Sacramento region. More than $20 billion of the company’s payments to hospitals, doctors and other providers already links a portion of the reimbursement to quality and cost-efficiency measures.

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Quest, CDC team up on hepatitis C research program
Modern Healthcare

In an unusual collaboration, laboratory services provider Quest Diagnostics is opening up its database of lab results to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a research program on hepatitis C focused on baby boomers, whose members account for roughly two-thirds of the 3.2 million Americans infected with the disease. The goal is to increase diagnosis and treatment of the disease, which many people don’t know they have. Last August, the CDC recommended that all Americans born in the years 1945 through 1964 be tested for hepatitis C.

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Aetna and United Are Out of California. Who’s Moving In?
California Healthline

United Healthcare has more than 4,700 hospitals in its national network. Valley Health Plan has four. That relative scale is one reason why United’s departure from California’s individual market last week got so many headlines — even though the health plan only covers 8,000 people — while the news of Valley’s inclusion in Covered California last month got almost none. And on the surface, the thought of losing the nation’s largest health insurer doesn’t seem to augur much good for the Golden State’s health reform efforts. Especially in the wake of Aetna’s similar announcement last month.

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Walgreens, Blues team up on exchange campaign
Modern Healthcare

Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, is teaming up with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association on a national campaign to educate the public about new state health insurance exchanges and opportunities to sign up for expanded coverage starting Oct. 1. Through LearnAboutReform.com, a website launched by the two organizations, consumers have access to information about eligibility, enrollment and benefits under the new healthcare reform law.

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Walgreen, Blue Cross Want You to Join Obamacare
Bloomberg.com

As the White House scrambles to get all the Obamacare pieces in place by October and to hold off those who would repeal the law, two big health-care companies have given their support to the rollout. Walgreen (WAG) and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association—both of which stand to profit from more people getting insurance—have launched a website to explain “how the new health care law affects you.” Walgreen will also provide information to shoppers in its 8,000 stores, Bloomberg News reports.

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Sale of Turlock’s Emanuel Medical Center must clear FTC
Modesto Bee

The sale of Turlock’s Emanuel Medical Center to Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. will have to clear a review by a federal consumer protection agency. The parties had expected the deal would receive approval from the California Attorney General’s Office by last Friday, but officials extended the review for an unspecified time period, an AG spokeswoman said this week. John Sigsbury, chief executive officer for Emanuel, confirmed Wednesday that a possible reason for the delay is that the Federal Trade Commission is reviewing the proposed agreement to merge Tenet-owned Doctors Medical Center of Modesto with Emanuel.

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Conflicts of interest complicate San Leandro Hospital deal
The Mercury News

Eden Township Healthcare District’s plan to give up to $20 million to troubled San Leandro Hospital may conflict with state conflict-of-interest laws aimed at preventing what is known as “self-dealing” by public officials, some experts say. Three out of five board members voted late last month in favor of raising the money for the hospital, ceding to the requests of other public officials and community members who said the hospital’s doors would close without Eden’s support.

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