News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medi-Cal Salvation Bill Could Rescue Jobs, Elderly Debts
Pacifica Patch

In a strong display of bipartisan agreement, Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) and Senator Jim Nielsen (R- Gerber) said Thursday that restoring Medi-Cal funding for California’s most vulnerable patients must be a priority when the Legislature returns this month. In the last five years, approximately 40 hospital-based skilled nursing facilities in California (about one-third) have closed due to financial pressures and many more find themselves at the brink of bankruptcy and closure. This is the result of draconian Medi-Cal cuts that were implemented to deal with the budget crisis two years ago.

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Health insurance rates for California’s small businesses unveiled
Los Angeles Times

California’s small businesses next year will have a range of competitively priced options offered by a state government health insurance exchange.

The agency, Covered California, unveiled its portfolio of coverages Thursday afternoon. They include both health maintenance organizations and preferred provider networks and will be available in all parts of the state as of Jan. 1.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees can buy the insurance but are not required to do so under the new federal Affordable Care Act. Californians who are not covered by employer or government programs, however, will be hit with financial penalties if they fail to obtain health insurance.

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CMS to increase Medicare payments to SNFs, inpatient rehab facilities
Modern Healthcare

The nation’s skilled-nursing facilities and inpatient rehabilitation facilities will see their Medicare payments increase in 2014 under two final rules from the CMS this week.

Aggregate payments to skilled-nursing facilities next year are expected to increase by $470 million, or about by 1.3%, compared with payments in 2013, according to estimates from the CMS. That’s slightly below what the agency projected when it released its proposed rule in May, which had called for a 1.4% payment hike that the CMS had projected would increase payments to skilled nursing providers by about $500 million from current payment levels.

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FDA issues warning on popular painkiller
San Diego Union-Tribune

The Food and Drug Administration is urging a bit of caution in the use of acetaminophen, saying that in rare cases the widely used pain and fever reducer can cause serious skin reactions, and that there’s a small chance that some reactions could be fatal. The advisory doesn’t suggest that people stop taking the drug, which is found in such products as Tylenol, Midol, Vicodin, Benadryl, Robitussen and Sudafed.

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UCLA: Great Recession may mean more Californians eligible for Medi-Cal expansion
Southern California Public Radio

The economic recession that began in California in 2008 may have implications for the Medi-Cal expansion scheduled to take place at the beginning of next year under the Affordable Care Act. According to the authors of a new brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, this means the Medi-Cal expansion under the ACA may “encompass a larger number of people than was anticipated” before the law was enacted.

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Obamacare supporters, detractors prepare for PR campaigns before health-care law milestone
Washington Post

The public relations war over Obamacare is set to intensify this month, with groups on both sides planning major campaigns designed to shape opinions just weeks before the law is to hit a critical milestone.

This week, Heritage Action, the political action arm of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, announced plans for a series of town hall meetings across the country. The meetings will feature former senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), another tea party favorite, and will center on efforts to defund the law.

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In 2014, Congress gets Obamacare. Here’s how they’ll pay for it.
Washington Post

Starting in 2014, members of Congress and their staffs will have to get their health insurance through Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces. But according to a regulation that the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management plans to announce on Friday and release next week, the federal government can continue to contribute toward the cost of their health plans.

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Groups go door-to-door to encourage enrollment in Obamacare
Washington Post

Her clipboard said the man who lived in the pink stucco apartment building a few blocks from the hotel-lined beach might not have health insurance. So Laura Botero climbed the darkened staircase to the second floor and knocked on the door.

Eduardo Devine, 49, an unemployed beach waiter in black, square-framed glasses, peeked into the dim hallway. He confirmed he had been without coverage since he was laid off a month ago, and his face lit up when Botero mentioned “Obamacare.”

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Republicans Refuel Effort to Cripple Health Care Law
New York Times

With the House poised to vote Friday on yet another bill to cripple President Obama’s health care law, the question arises: Why do Republicans persist in their so-far futile efforts?

Democrats have many theories. Republicans, they suggest, care little about the uninsured. Many, they say, dislike Mr. Obama and want him to fail. “The health care law has become the Republicans’ great white whale,” Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, said Thursday. “They will stop at nothing to kill it.”

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House OKs 40th effort to repeal health law
San Francisco Chronicle

Maybe the 40th vote to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law will be a charm for opponents of the overhaul. House Republicans are scheduled to vote Friday on a bill that would prevent the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or implementing any part of the law they call “Obamacare.” It’ll mark the 40th vote by the Republican-controlled House to repeal some or all of the law. Such measures have died in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

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Online insurance brokers get to play on federally run exchanges
Modern Healthcare

Increasing enrollment in health insurance is one of the primary goals of the health reform law. The CMS took a major step to achieve that this week by signing agreements with five Web-based insurance broker firms to help enroll Americans in the insurance exchanges in the 35 states where the federal government will run them.

The participating Web-based brokers each will set up a website that is linked to the state insurance exchange websites. Individuals will be able to enter information on where they live, age and income to determine plan rates and whether the individual is eligible for subsidies. It will be possible for the Web-based brokers to determine eligibility because their sites will communicate with the federal data hub. If necessary, customers will be able to contact a broker, either online or over the phone, for support.

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Covered California releases small-biz plans, rates
Sacramento Business Journal

The state’s new health insurance exchange on Thursday unveiled how much small businesses in the program will pay for insurance starting this fall — one day after the man tasked with marketing the program to employers announced his resignation.

Covered California released its rates Thursday for the exchange’s Small Business Health Options Program, known as SHOP. The rates, which vary by region, can be found online at the Covered California website. The exchange, in a news release, said SHOP premiums “are generally comparable to 2013 small-group market rates and, in some cases, can save small businesses money on their premiums.”

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Health exchange releases new small business rates
San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego County small businesses will be able to save 12 percent on health insurance premiums for their employees if they buy coverage next year from the state’s newly created health exchange, officials announced Thursday. Covered California, the state agency tasked with creating and running the new health insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act of 2010, released selected rates for many California regions that it says are less expensive than those now available to businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

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Small-business workers’ health care choices, rates
San Francisco Chronicle

California’s health exchange agency revealed Thursday which insurers will be available under the federal health reform law to people employed by small businesses and the rates they will pay.

In San Francisco, businesses with 50 or fewer workers will be able to pick a level of coverage from a standardized set of benefits. Their employees will then select from among four insurers: Blue Shield of California, Chinese Community Health Plan, Health Net and Kaiser.

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Deal Keeps U.S. Health Care Contribution for Congress
New York Times

The Obama administration told Congress on Thursday that it would allow the federal government to continue paying a large share of the cost of health insurance for members of Congress and their aides, averting a problem for many who work on Capitol Hill.

However, under the arrangement, lawmakers and many of their aides will have to get coverage through new health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, being set up in every state.

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Heart disease campaign aims to save lives of local Latinas
Bakersfield Californian

Theresa Camarena wakes up every morning and tells her kids she loves them. She no longer cooks fried food but instead steams a variety of vegetables for dinner every night and uses the oven regularly.

The 46-year-old has suffered two mild heart attacks in the past two years. “I was scared and I was crying but I couldn’t verbally say anything,” Camarena said, describing the last time she was in the hospital a year ago. “All I was thinking was, ‘I’m going to die, I don’t want to die.’”

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SHCHD gets good marks on 2012 audit, employee satisfaction survey starts soon
Redwood Times

The Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District received a mostly glowing audit report for fiscal year 2012 at their most recent board of governors meeting last Thursday, July 25.

As of June 30, 2012, SHCHD had a net income of $176,782 and net assets of more than $2.3 million.

Both revenues and expenses for district operations were up compared to previous years. Expenses exceeded operating revenues (payments for health care services) but property taxes made up the difference, keeping the district in the black.

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Nurses at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center win right to union election
Daily Breeze - Los Angeles

Nurses at a Torrance hospital received word Thursday that the National Labor Relations Board has approved their bid to seek union representation.

The approximately 725 nurses at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance will now have the opportunity to vote on whether or not to unionize in an election that under federal law must be held within 42 days, said David Monkawa, assistant organizing director with the California Nurses Association.

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