News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Healthcare is major factor in long-term U.S. budget deficit, CBO says
Modern Healthcare

Despite projecting a short-term decrease in the nation’s budget deficit, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday said it expects budget deficits to rise over the long term, fueled largely by growing spending for the nation’s major healthcare programs and Social Security.

Included in those healthcare programs are Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and federal subsidies for individuals who enroll in the public insurance exchanges under the 2010 healthcare reform law. In its long-term budget outlook, the CBO said the economy’s gradual recovery from the 2007-09 recession, as well as changes to tax and spending policies, have caused the federal deficit to shrink this year to its smallest size in five years—to about 4% of gross domestic product from a peak of 10% in 2009. And if current laws remain unchanged, the deficit would continue to drop to about 2% of GDP in 2015.

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HHS’ new website helps providers, health plans understand privacy information
Modern Healthcare

Patients are about to have more choices about the way their personal health information is used and shared, and HHS has unveiled a new website featuring a host of model documents, educational videos and other tools aimed at the organizations that will be in charge of helping consumers understand those choices: healthcare providers and health plans.

For example, a series of model notices of privacy practices highlight a new right for patients to access information in their electronic health records.

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Smartphones can gather important medical data
San Francisco Chronicle

When Dr. Paul Abramson treats patients, he has the usual assortment of medical tools, tests and protocols. And then there’s the patient-gathered data he reserves for his most confounding cases. Using an iPhone app, Abramson will have a patient with, say, mystifying migraines or seemingly inexplicable stomachaches self-track data such as how much sleep they’re getting or what they’re eating.

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Hospital stays: When less medicine is more
Los Angeles Times

This year, 36.6 million people will be admitted to U.S. hospitals. Each patient will stay an average of 4.8 days, and the cost for all those hospitalizations will reach into the billions.

Is all that time spent in hospitals good for patients?

Hospitals, of course, are vital institutions that save lives. When someone needs intensive, around-the-clock care, there is no substitute. But as physicians and hospital staffs know well, the longer a patient stays in a hospital, the more perilous the hospitalization can become.

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Ready for Health Care Reform? Scammers Are
WebMD

With open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act set to begin Oct. 1, officials at the new health insurance Marketplaces are gearing up to help consumers. Call centers have been launched. “Navigators” to help consumers are being trained. Ad campaigns are under way in the states operating their own Marketplaces. And the crooks are already at work, too, eager to pretend to help people enroll as they steal personal information, money, or both.

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Senate, House ensnared in health care controversy
Sacramento Bee

Implacable Republican opposition to Obamacare has Congress once more veering closer to gridlock. In the House, more than 60 conservatives support tacking a one-year delay in implementing the health care law onto a bill needed to prevent a partial government shutdown on Oct. 1. Senior leaders warn the GOP could suffer significant political reverses if the party goes along with the plan and President Barack Obama and Democrats resist, as they have made clear they will, but it is strongly backed by senators with tea party ties and their influential allies outside Congress.

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Will Your Coverage Be Exempt from Obamacare?
PBS

You’ve probably read a lot about how the Affordable Care Act is going to change health insurance, but does it all apply to you? If you get your insurance from your employer, there’s a very good chance that you are in a “grandfathered plan,” and that means some of the changes do not affect you — yet. Framers of the Affordable Care Act allowed some health plans to be exempt from some of the law’s rules and protections in the interests of a smooth transition and to allow businesses and individuals to keep current policies without having to make substantial changes.

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Health insurers urge renewals ahead of new law
USA Today

Aetna is urging its customers to renew their health insurance policies early “so you won’t have to worry about how the 2014 changes affect you.” Florida insurer AvMed says early renewal will “reduce rate uncertainty and possible disruption” that could occur after the Affordable Care Act takes effect. The insurers are among those using what critics call questionable marketing pitches to get people into plans that are more profitable for them, but could be less beneficial to their customers after the new health law takes effect Jan. 1.

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Reality Check: Obamacare Options – Do You Know What’s Available?
NBC Bay Area

Within California’s health care exchange universe, known simply as ‘Covered California,’ shapes and objects are still forming and pieces moving into place.

We’re getting a clearer picture of what will be available to consumers in 2014, however, as both the state and country prepare for Obamacare’s individual mandate to take effect on January 1st.

In California, the state’s insurance marketplace opens for business in a mere matter of days, on October 1st.

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Percentage of Americans Lacking Health Coverage Falls Again
New York Times

For the second year in a row, the proportion of Americans without health insurance declined in 2012, even though real household income and the poverty rate were not significantly different from their 2011 levels, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. In 2012, the bureau said, 15.4 percent of people were uninsured, down from 15.7 percent in 2011. The number of uninsured people, 48 million, was not statistically different from the estimate of 48.6 million in 2011.

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Study: State’s poor health care affects all income levels
News10.net

High-income people who live in states that generally do poorly in health care are worse off than low-income people in states with high health care scores, according to a Commonwealth Fund study released today.

“In the United States, income is not a guarantee of good healthcare or good health,” said David Blumenthal, president of The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that works to increase access to health care. “Where you live plays a very big part in your experience.

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What’s More Unpopular Than Health Care Reform?
New York Times

A new Pew Research Center / USA Today poll indicates that Americans still haven’t embraced the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature domestic policy measure. Fifty-three percent disapprove of the law, while 42 percent approve. That’s a decline in the level of support since last July, when, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding the law, 43 percent disapproved and 47 percent approved.

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How Will Healthcare Reform Affect Psychiatry Coverage?
Medscape

Hello. This is Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman of Columbia University, speaking to you today for Medscape. I want to talk about something that is very important to our profession of psychiatry and mental health care and that will be happening imminently. It concerns the process of healthcare reform — a legislative process — and the way in which laws, which have been a long time in coming, are going to be implemented.

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Access to healthcare for the poor varies widely among states
Los Angeles Times

Access to affordable, quality healthcare for poor Americans varies dramatically among the states, according to a new study that found a wide disparity in measures of health between states with the best healthcare systems and those with the worst.

In the highest-performing states, low-income, less educated residents are more likely to be covered by health insurance, to have a regular source of medical care and to get recommended preventive care, such as cancer screenings.

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SLIDESHOW: Physician Alignment in the New Shared Risk Environment
Health Leaders Media

Nowhere in the healthcare industry has change been more dramatic than in the often-conflicted relationship between physicians and hospitals. In this Intelligence Report, we analyze the findings of HealthLeaders Media’s Physician-Hospital Alignment Survey.

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53% of Doctors Still Self-Employed
Health Leaders Media

Conventional wisdom says physicians in private practice are a dying breed. The narrative says physicians are flocking to employed arrangements with hospitals and larger physician practices as health reform and compensation models push the healthcare industry away from fee-for-service and toward economies of scale, quality outcomes and population health.

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California Bill Would Add Privacy Option in Health Insurance Paperwork
capital public radio

The measure would allow patients to direct an insurance company to send paperwork dealing with some health services to another address, or by a different means altogether, like a cell phone. poMaggie Crosby of the American Civil Liberties Union says the change could help people feel more comfortable getting reproductive services, mental health or substance abuse treatment.

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Concern Over Drug Costs
New York Times

Among the most troubling questions facing consumers as they shop for insurance under the Obama administration’s new health care law is whether the plans will cover the drugs they take — and how much they will have to pay for them. But with less than two weeks remaining until enrollment opens on Oct. 1, the answers are still elusive and anxiety is growing for consumers whose well-being depends on expensive medications. States running the marketplaces where the plans will be offered have not released details about which drugs will be covered.

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Walgreen Moves 120,000 Employees To Private Health Care Exchange
The Huffington Post

Walgreen Co is moving 120,000 employees to a private health insurance exchange from coverage provided directly from carriers, the company will announce Wednesday.

The pharmacy chain will join 17 other large employers on the Aon Hewitt Corporate Health Exchange as part of a growing movement to offer employees fixed dollar amounts to purchase their own plans on such exchanges.

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Sharp increase in August hospital consumer prices
Modern Healthcare

Hospital consumer prices spiked 1.9% in August, the largest one-month increase since the Bureau of Labor Statistics first collected the data 16 years ago. The sharp increase this year reflects the rate increases hospitals received in July from commercial insurers, said Daniel Ginsburg, a supervisory economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency’s Consumer Price Index does not include rates that hospitals receive from Medicaid or Medicare Part A.

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Reform The Doctor Recertification Process To Create A Better Health Care System
HealthAffairs Blog

There’s a lot of talk about creating a better health care delivery system based on value, not volume. Much of the focus is on insurers rewarding doctors financially for improving patients’ health in a cost-effective way. But there’s more to creating a sustainable model for health care that improves quality and lowers costs, and it’s something we can start right now to see results within the next decade: reform the recertification process for doctors.

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Blue Shield plans to exit Monterey County
The Californian - Salinas

Beginning the first of the year, Blue Shield no longer will write individual health-plan policies in Monterey County. As the health-care insurer transitions to a plan called Exclusive Provider Organization, or EPO, on Jan. 1, 2014 – the same day the Affordable Care Act goes into effect – Monterey County will not be a part of the network. The reason? Not enough providers in Monterey County were willing to be a part of Blue Shield’s new network – no doctors, no hospitals and no clinics – and accept the insurer’s reimbursement rates.

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UC medical workers allege unfair labor practice
KSBY

A complaint has been filed on behalf of thousands of workers at University of California medical centers who allege they were threatened when they went on a two-day strike in May.

The complaint filed by the state Public Employment Relations Board outlined instances when UC administrators questioned workers about their participation in the walkout, told them their absence during the strike would be considered unauthorized and threatened disciplinary action.

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CNA nurses’ union girds for battle with Kaiser Permanente
San Francisco Business Times

The California Nurses Association, already battling Sutter Health hospitals over contracts in San Francisco and the East Bay, is busy painting a target on the biggest fish in the pond: Kaiser Permanente. The Oakland-based nurses’ union said Tuesday morning it’s dispatched a delegation of several dozen RNs to Sacramento to put pressure on the health care giant at a Kaiser Permanente Medical Group recruitment event later in the day.

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Adventist Health CEO plans to retire
Sacramento Business Journal

Robert Carmen, the president and CEO of Adventist Health, a faith-based nonprofit health care system based in Roseville, announced his retirement Tuesday. Carmen, who has served in his current position since 2007, will step down next April. During his tenure, Carmen, 67, led the formation of the system’s physician services organization and expanded out-patient services in the four states where Adventist operates.

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Local store offers help for breastfeeding moms
KSBY

A downtown San Luis Obispo baby store is celebrating 12 years in business. It’s a big accomplishment, but what makes Simply Mama truly unique is what the store owner gives away for free.

Inside Mission Mall, Simply Mama has all the goodies you’d expect in a locally-owned store — strollers, rockers, blankets, and adorable baby clothes. But in the back, you can find owner and registered nurse Kathleen Huggins, who offers a special service, that is not for sale.

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