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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Bill would bring state billions in extra federal funds
HealthyCal.org

The Legislature has sent a bill to Gov. Brown that would save hospitals from a major cut in reimbursements for treating disabled people under the Medi-Cal program. In exchange the hospitals have agreed to implement a fee program that will bring the state $2.4 billion a year in federal healthcare funding. SB 239, by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-W Covina, creates a hospital quality assurance fee program imposed by hospitals upon themselves.

That fee will go to the state, which will use the money to receive matching Medicaid funding from the federal government, according to Jan Emerson-Shea, Vice President of External Affairs for the California Hospital Association.

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Healthcare reform at heart of budget stalemate
Modern Healthcare

Congress worked itself into a déjà vu budget stalemate this week with the healthcare reform law at the heart of it. Policy experts, though, said Washington’s current fiscal fights won’t have a significant impact on the healthcare industry this year. Still, they worry about the long-term effects of those financial policy decisions.

The latest congressional budget battle centers on how congressional lawmakers—just back from their five-week summer recess—will agree to continue funding all federal government operations when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

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W.H. rejects labor’s bid for Obamacare exemption
POLITICO

The Obama administration on Friday told labor union leaders that their health plans would not be eligible for tax subsidies under Obamacare next year. A White House official said the Treasury Department has concluded that such an exemption is not possible under the Affordable Care Act. The labor unions have been asking that their union plans, known as Taft-Hartley plans, be eligible for premium subsidies the way plans on the new insurance exchange will be.

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How the Dynamics of Physician Alignment Are Changing
Health Leaders Media

The 2013 Physician-Hospital Alignment Survey demonstrates that healthcare organizations are recasting their priorities to meet the expected requirements of industry reform. And, as the annual HealthLeaders Media survey reveals, not only are there changes in emphasis regarding employment models, but also there is increased pursuit of collaborative relationships and at-risk payment models. Leaders are showing increasing interest in undertaking initiatives in population health and accountable care models.

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UC Davis stem cell researcher warns consumers to beware of unproven or dangerous stem cell treatment
Sacramento Bee

In his day job, UC Davis scientist Paul Knoepfler probes the inner workings of stem cells and cancer cells and what makes them behave the way they do.

On the side, the father of three daughters blogs about costly, unproven stem cell treatments and provides guidance for those seeking experimental therapies.

Knoepfler is a rare stem cell researcher who regularly explores the most problematic aspects of stem cell therapies on the Internet in full public gaze.

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California businesses work to adapt to health care law
Sacramento Bee

Neil Crosby, director of sales for Warner Pacific Insurance Services, had surpassed 500 when he lost track of the number of presentations he has given on the new federal health care law.

Addressing apprehensive audiences, Crosby tests their understanding of the challenges businesses face as they scramble to digest and meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. When he asks whether there is anything that requires them to provide health care for their workers, they reply, “Yes.”

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How Agents, Brokers Can Help Themselves, Clients with Healthcare Reform
Insurance Journal

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has accelerated change and confusion in the health insurance marketplace and businesses and individuals are counting on their insurance agents and brokers to help them understand the nitty-gritty of the ACA requirements. For many property/casualty agencies that also sell health insurance, meeting the challenge has meant investing in new technology, adapting new agency strategies, and bringing in additional resources to wade through all of the regulations and jargon.

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Panel: Health exchange needs participation to succeed
Sacramento Business Journal

A perfect storm could hit California’s new health care exchange if people don’t opt in, starting this year. That’s according to a panel of health care experts at a forum hosted by the Business Journal on Friday.

Nearly 150 attendees attended the forum to hear more about the looming impact of health care reform on business and the medical community. Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals and small businesses can start enrolling in the Covered California health care exchange Oct. 1.

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Insurers limiting doctors, hospitals in health insurance market
Los Angeles Times

The doctor can’t see you now.

Consumers may hear that a lot more often after getting health insurance under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

To hold down premiums, major insurers in California have sharply limited the number of doctors and hospitals available to patients in the state’s new health insurance market opening Oct. 1.

New data reveal the extent of those cuts in California, a crucial test bed for the federal healthcare law.

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Health care reform: A functional and humane marketplace
Capitol Weekly

The Affordable Care Act not only drastically changes how health care is delivered but sharply alters the underpinnings of California’s economy. To get a deeper sense of health care reform’s impact on the Golden State, Capitol Weekly talked to Micah Weinberg, PhD, a senior policy advisor at the Bay Area Council and CEO of Healthy Systems Project, a health care consulting firm based in Sacramento.

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Republican healthcare, purity stances complicate image makeover
Los Angeles Times

Two unrelated occurrences — one in Washington, one in California — conspired this week to reinforce the Republican Party’s struggle to gain the up-and-coming voters it needs for long-term survival. And it also underscored the value Republicans place on purity, often to their electoral detriment.

In Washington, concern deepened about a threat by conservative Republicans in the House to shut down the government — in defiance even of their leaders’ desires — unless Congress explicitly cuts off funding for the nation’s new healthcare law.

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Health care law faces difficult future
USA Today

Republican lawmakers have failed in dozens of attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but a new USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll shows just how difficult they have made it for President Obama’s signature legislative achievement to succeed.

As the health care exchanges at the heart of the law open for enrollment in two weeks, the public’s views of it are as negative as they have ever been, and disapproval of the president’s handling of health care has hit a new high. Confusion and misinformation about the law haven’t significantly abated, especially among the law’s main targets.

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Health Law Faces Skepticism
The Wall Street Journal

New poll results show the depth of the Obama administration’s challenge on the eve of the rollout of the federal health law’s core provisions, as many Americans say they don’t understand the law and don’t think it will help them.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that even those lacking health insurance, who are supposed to be the law’s biggest beneficiaries, generally believe it wouldn’t do them much good.

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California exchange sets dental menu
Benefits Pro

Covered California will start off offering small-group, child-only dental coverage from seven carriers.

Managers of California’s public exchange said the small-group dental menu will include products from the giants, including Blue Shield of California, Delta Dental, Guardian and MetLife.

Another big player, WellPoint’s Anthem unit, will sell child-only dental coverage through the individual exchange but not the small-group one.

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Affordable Care Act arrives in Mendocino County
Willits News

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), often referred to as “Obamacare,” has already produced tremendous benefits for people, although the political rhetoric in the media has many people confused.

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What Trader Joe’s teaches us about Obamacare
Washington Post

Trader Joe’s made a very big announcement this week, one that had nothing to do with Two-Buck Chuck. The grocery chain, in a memo obtained by the Huffington Post, told part-time employees that it would end their health insurance benefits for employees who work less than 30 hours a week, sending them instead to the new public insurance marketplaces with an extra $500 to help purchase coverage.

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Budget cuts to Medi-Cal impact non-emergency medical transportation in Butte County
Oroville Mercury-Register

With assistance from Medi-Cal, Nathan Libert, 24, was able to get rides from his home in Palermo to his doctor’s office in Chico for dialysis. Libert, who has had cerebral palsy since birth, called Merit Medi Trans for a ride in August and was notified the non-emergency medical transportation company no longer bills Medi-Cal for rides to doctor’s appointments.

Now his mother, Judy Libert, drives him to his doctor’s appointments in the family’s van, which accommodates his wheelchair.

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States find it hard to pull plug on managed care providers
Washington Post

In Florida, a national managed-care company’s former top executives were convicted in a scheme to rip off Medicaid. In Illinois, a state official concluded two Medicaid plans were providing “abysmal” care. In Ohio, a nonprofit paid millions to settle civil fraud allegations that it failed to screen special needs children and faked data.

Despite these problems, state health agencies in these and other states continued to contract with the companies to provide services to patients on Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled.

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Doc: Med students should study own DNA
San Diego Union-Tribune

Studying one’s own DNA should be part of medical school, according to one of San Diego’s most forward-looking physicians. In an editorial published last week in the journal Science Translational Medicine, Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, makes the case that medical schools would do well to have each of their students’ DNA sequenced. It would then be made available on an iPad so the students could study their own genome as a regular part of the curriculum.

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More than 70 percent of Sacramento-area boomers are overweight or obese
Sacramento Bee

In her professional life, Sacramento public relations executive Kassy Perry has long represented health organizations trying to combat California’s obesity problem. In her personal life, she has struggled with weight loss, trying with little success to drop the 30 pounds she gained after age 50. Today, at 52, she’s active and athletic. But the weight won’t melt away.

She feels embarrassed that she hasn’t lost the weight, she said, and she’s frustrated with the often simplistic approach weight-loss advocates take.

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California’s first outpatient palliative care center opens in San Jose
The Mercury News

Striving to treat not just a disease, but the entire person, a new medical facility for the seriously ill has opened in San Jose.

The first free-standing outpatient center of its kind in California, Palliative Care Center Silicon Valley aims to treat often overlooked aspects of major illness: pain, other types of discomfort, emotional distress and anxiety of families facing difficult decisions.

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UC Davis hopes to become genomics leader with new testing center
Sacramento Bee

The University of California, Davis’ three-year effort to establish itself and the Sacramento region as a hub for genetic testing on the West Coast took a step forward last week with the opening of university’s new genomic testing facility in Sacramento.

Once it’s fully operational, the center is expected to conduct high-level genetic sequencing to advance the university’s research in the realms of medicine and agricultural science.

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