News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Get your flu shots early, experts say
Sacramento Bee

Health experts in Sacramento County are urging people to get their flu shots early this season.

Doctor’s offices, retail clinics and hospitals will be well stocked by October, which is when influenza viruses typically start circulating. But because it takes about two weeks for the protective properties of vaccines to take effect, getting shots sooner rather than later is a good idea, experts say.

This year’s flu season should be no worse than last year’s.

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Health-care reform could launch despite a federal shutdown
The Christian Science Monitor

U.S. State officials behind the launch of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform on Oct. 1 say they could weather a federal government shutdown, though the scenario would add new pressure to the political attacks and technical issues that have weighed on the program’s introduction. Several officials running new state-based insurance exchanges that are due to open for enrollment next month said they expected to have access to funds in the case of a shutdown, which if it happens, would also start on Oct. 1, the beginning of the the fiscal year.

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Focus shifts to Senate after House passes spending bill that defunds ACA
Modern Healthcare

All eyes now shift to the U.S. Senate after the House of Representatives on Friday approved a short-term spending bill that would keep the government operating after Sept. 30 and also includes an amendment to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In a vote of 230-189, the lower chamber passed the $986 billion spending bill to continue government programs and services at the current, post-sequestration annual rate until Dec. 15.

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Healthcare reform heats up drugstore battle
Los Angeles Times

Obamacare is driving a transformation in the way pharmacies do business, so get ready.

The healthcare reform law will expand access to medical services for millions of people. That’s going to place added pressure on primary healthcare providers and challenge the system to meet the new demand.

So it may not be surprising that the nation’s three major drugstore chains are gearing up to play a bigger role.

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Ambulatory Revenues Grow as Inpatient Volumes Shrink
Health Leaders Media

Ambulatory surgery centers will continue to record volume growth as hospital inpatient surgery volumes continue to shrink, a report from Moody’s Investors Service shows.

Moody’s senior analyst and vice president Ron Neysmith said in a new study this month that the lower costs for outpatient procedures in ambulatory settings are driving the transition away from hospital-centric care.

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Rand Paul: GOP ‘probably can’t defeat’ Obamacare
POLITICO

Sen. Rand Paul conceded Saturday that congressional Republicans have little chance of stopping Obamacare. “We probably can’t defeat or get rid of Obamacare,” the Kentucky senator told reporters at a gathering of Michigan Republicans, according to the Associated Press. Paul acknowledged that time is running out for Congress to pass a government funding bill, however he said House Republicans’ efforts to defund Obamacare in its government funding bill could lead to a compromise.

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Pelosi: Would “absolutely positively not” accept deal to delay implementing Obamacare
San Francisco Chronicle

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi would “absolutely positively not” accept a deal to delay implementing Obamacare for a year as part of a debt ceiling deal. That sounds like a no —according to what the San Francisco Dem told CNN’s Candy Crowley Sunday morning on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “This isn’t a good faith initiative. This is an excuse to — to, uh, again, hand it all over to their friends, the insurance companies, or, again, not have a public role in this important initiative,” Pelosi said Sunday.

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Affordable Care Act: Reform concerns some business owners
Los Angeles Daily News

Businesses — those with 50 or more workers — scored some additional breathing room this summer in complying with what has become a vexing component of the Affordable Care Act, to offer health care to their employees by Jan. 1.

In July, the White House announced that the employer mandate, which requires business with 50 or more employees to provide health care benefits or pay a penalty, was delayed until Jan. 1, 2015.

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Obama looks to Hollywood to help promote his healthcare law
Los Angeles Times

Wedged into the blotter on Mike Farah’s desk at the Funny or Die studios in Hollywood is an index card with a list — wrangling talent, polishing scripts and arranging shoots — long enough to keep the comedy website executive fully occupied. But these tasks are part of a different quest: the campaign to ensure the success of President Obama’s healthcare law.

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Barack Obama’s health-care conversion
POLITICO

The most important red line of Barack Obama’s presidency was scrawled hastily in January 2007, a few weeks before he even announced he was running for president. Soon-to-be-candidate Obama, then an Illinois senator, was thinking about turning down an invitation to speak at a big health care conference sponsored by the progressive group Families USA, when two aides, Robert Gibbs and Jon Favreau, hit on an idea that would make him appear more prepared and committed than he actually was at the moment.

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Obama must not yield on debt, health care
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Republicans in the House are like a bunch of 3-year-olds playing with matches. Their hapless leaders don’t have the sense to scold them and send them to their rooms — which means President Barack Obama has to be the disciplinarian in this dysfunctional family.

Mature adults in the GOP should have explained reality to these tantrum-throwing tykes long ago: It simply is not within their constitutional power to make Obamacare go away. They can scream at the top of their lungs, roll around on the floor, hold their breath until they turn blue, waste everybody’s time with 41 useless votes — whatever. All they can really do is hurt themselves or others.

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Challenging a health insurer’s decision to deny medical care
Los Angeles Times

Maureen Belle learned the hard way that health insurance has its limits.

Diagnosed six years ago with cancer, the 62-year-old Santa Barbara woman battled for years with her insurance company as she fought for her life.

“All the way through the process,” Belle said, she and her insurer disagreed over the what was covered and what was not.

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Covered California board approves last-minute regulations
Los Angeles Business Journal

Covered California received a green light for several last-minute regulations at a board meeting Thursday just a couple of weeks before online open enrollment begins Oct. 1. Board members approved four resolutions on various topics including eligibility and enrollment, the Small Business Health Options Program, insurance agent rules and guidelines for plan-based enrollment.

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Personal Finance: New federal health care mandates kick in starting Oct. 1
Sacramento Bee

Love it or hate it, the launch date for the country’s sweeping new health care mandates is just around the corner. In 10 days, the essential piece of the federal government’s Affordable Care Act kicks in, allowing everyone across the country to sign up for health care coverage.

Starting Oct. 1, you’ll need to make some choices, whether you’re currently covered at work, have been buying health insurance on your own, or never had it in the first place.

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Part-Timers Losing Health Insurance May Want To Thank Their Companies
Yahoo Finance

How terrible. Home Depot (HD) and Trader Joe’s have decided to stop offering health insurance for part-time employees, moving them over to Obamacare instead. More companies seem sure to follow. And more wailing about greedy, heartless corporations is sure to follow that. Some workers may start to drop dead from sheer anxiety before Obamacare even goes into effect on January 1.

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CMS outlines Basic Health Program standards
Modern Healthcare

The CMS on Friday laid out the standards for the healthcare reform law’s Basic Health Program, which gives states the option to establish a health benefits program for low-income individuals who otherwise would be eligible to buy coverage in the health insurance exchanges.

Effective after Jan. 1, 2015, this program would affect individuals whose incomes are between 133% and 200% of the federal poverty level.

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Lower Health Insurance Premiums to Come at Cost of Fewer Choices
New York Times

Federal officials often say that health insurance will cost consumers less than expected under President Obama’s health care law. But they rarely mention one big reason: many insurers are significantly limiting the choices of doctors and hospitals available to consumers. From California to Illinois to New Hampshire, and in many states in between, insurers are driving down premiums by restricting the number of providers who will treat patients in their new health plans.

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Medicaid expansion panel working on recommendation
Modern Healthcare

After spending weeks gathering information, a panel charged with recommending whether New Hampshire expands its Medicaid program is running out of time to make a decision.

At its last meeting, six of the panel’s nine members said they supported accepting federal Medicaid funding to pay for health coverage for an estimated 49,000 poor adults. The panel did not resolve what an expanded program would look like, which is key to a majority recommending going forward.

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Judge rules retiree health protected like pension
Calpensions

A superior court judge overturned a freeze on retiree health care for Los Angeles city attorneys this month, citing some of the same case law that made public pensions a vested right that can only be cut if offset by a new benefit.

The court ruling is a blow to the view that state and local governments, when looking for cost savings, may be able to make cuts in promised retiree health care that are not allowed for tamper-proof pensions.

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Future of cancer treatment, or a pricey mistake?
Yahoo Finance

If you build it, will they pay? Plans to build a $235 million facility in New York City to treat cancer with proton-beam therapy are still proceeding-as are projects for new proton-beam centers around the country-even as some insurers balk at covering the pricier therapy for prostate cancers because of cost-versus-benefit concerns. But the New York Proton Center project, which is being backed by a consortium of five leading hospitals in the city, has yet to finalize financing for the Manhattan building, which would use proton-based radiation instead of more traditional treatments.

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Santa Rosa’s Direct Flow Medical a little player with big idea
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Direct Flow Medical is taking the next step in its attempt to show it has a better system for replacing heart valves without surgery.

The Santa Rosa company, which is competing with such medical device giants as Medtronic and Edwards Lifesciences, this month began a U.S. trial for its transcatheter aortic heart valve system. Earlier this year, the device was approved for use in Europe.

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Monterey County stymied by health exchange delays, official says
Monterey Herald

With less than two weeks to go before people can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Monterey County officials have no idea how it is going to go.

That is because the state’s efforts to prepare for implementation of the health reform law have lagged in public outreach, staff training, policy development and the automated systems essential to managing the workload, according to a report from county social services director Elliott Robinson to the Board of Supervisors.

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700 CNA nurses reach accord at John Muir in Concord
San Francisco Business Times

More than 700 RNs employed at John Muir Health’s Concord campus have reached a tentative three-year contract with the Walnut Creek hospital system. The California Nurses Association, which represents the nurses at John Muir’s Concord campus, announced the tentative deal Friday morning. The settlement will go to union members for a ratification vote on Oct. 1, the union said.

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Affordable Care Act: Inland Empire clinics gear up for reform
San Bernardino Sun

Community clinics across the Inland Empire are scrambling to get ready for the nearly 300,000 newly insured patients who under the Affordable Care Act could potentially flood their offices in early 2014.

Enrollment for the historic program will begin Oct. 1.

“We believe community clinics and health centers will play a seminal role in the success of the Affordable Care Act nationwide,” said Carmela Castellano-Garcia, president and chief executive officer for the California Primary Care Association, which represents 900 not-for-profit community clinics and health centers statewide.

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