News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Commander In Chief, Explainer-In-Chief Tout Health Care Law
National Public Radio

President Obama’s health care law has so far survived challenges in Congress and the courts. But its biggest test could begin next week. That’s when the online marketplaces offering health care coverage to the uninsured are set to start signing people up. The question is, will they come? Of the uninsured surveyed by NBC and the Wall Street Journal this month, only about one in three said they’re likely to use the exchanges.

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Most federally run exchanges will offer more plans, lower premiums than expected, HHS report shows
Modern Healthcare

An eagerly awaited report by HHS released Wednesday on health plan premiums and participation in the 36 states where the federal government is fully or partly running the new insurance exchanges shows that consumers in most of those states will have many plans to choose from and that premiums will be significantly lower than expected in 2014.

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Valley fever clinical trial announced in Calif.
SF Gate

California prison officials said Tuesday they have met a federal judge’s order to transfer nearly 2,000 prisoners prone to valley fever from two Central Valley prisons in areas particularly hard-hit by the potentially deadly fungal infection. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it met the judge’s goal a day after federal government scientists announced they were launching a major medical experiment in search of a treatment for valley fever, which is prevalent in California and Arizona.

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New Interventions Needed to Halt the Growth of “Superbugs”
The Health Care Blog

How do you tell the family members of a critically ill patient that their loved one is going to die because there are no antibiotics left to treat the patient’s infection? In the 21st century, doctors are not supposed to have to say things like this to patients or their families.

Ever since the discovery of penicillin in 1940, patients have expected a pill or an intravenous injection to cure their infections.

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Moving Beyond the Sick Care Model
The Health Care Blog

How does a corporate behemoth heavily invested in the transaction-based health care system of today make the shift to engaging with its 20 million+ customers about their health in new and deeper ways? Humana’s new CEO Bruce Broussard sees technology as key to successfully meeting this challenge. The company does a good part of its $39 million annual business in one of the health system’s status quo areas: providing medical benefit plans to employer groups.

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With Bill Clinton at his side, Obama sells healthcare law
Los Angeles Times

President Obama accused foes of his healthcare law of trying to sabotage it for political gain, saying opposition has become a “litmus test” for Republicans.

The result, Obama said Tuesday evening, is that the law is mired in partisan politics in state legislatures and Congress.

“Normally this would be pretty straightforward. A lot of people don’t have health insurance, a lot of people realize they should get health insurance,” he said.

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Obama touts ACA benefits at Clinton forum
Modern Healthcare

One week before open enrollment begins on the health insurance exchanges, President Barack Obama promoted the benefits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a conversation with former President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.

Clinton established the Clinton Global Initiative, which is part of the Clinton Foundation, eight years ago to bring together global leaders to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. The Obama administration has a significant one ahead of it.

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Obama, Clinton promote healthcare reform ahead of October 1 start
Reuters

President Barack Obama teamed up with his one-time rivals Bill and Hillary Clinton on Tuesday to highlight the benefits of U.S. healthcare reform, a week before one of the controversial law’s key elements, new insurance exchanges, go live.

Obama, who was in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, joined the former president for a talk-show-like session at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference and urged Americans to become informed about measures designed to ensure millions of uninsured Americans get coverage.

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Despite Cruz, Senate heads toward vote
San Francisco Chronicle

The Democratic-controlled Senate is on a path toward defeating tea party attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law, despite an overnight talkathon on the chamber’s floor led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. The freshman Cruz and other conservative Republicans were trying to delay a must-pass spending bill, but were virtually sure to lose a test vote on that legislation planned for later Wednesday.

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Health Insurance to Cost Less Under Obama Care
JD Journal

Though it is true that health insurance premiums will cost less under President Obama’s health care plan, it is also true that there will be fewer choices and that insurers will limit the choice of doctors and hospitals available to consumers, according to the NY Times.

Across the country, from California to Maine and the midwest in-between, insurance companies are lowering premiums but are along with it “restricting the number of providers who will treat patients in their new health plans.”

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Report: Obamacare health insurance will have affordable rates
McClatchy

In spite of concerns about “sticker shock,” rates for individual coverage on the new health insurance marketplaces appear to be lower than expected in most states due mainly to robust competition among insurers, the Obama administration reported Wednesday.

With prices all but finalized in most states, a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that monthly premiums in 47 states and the District of Columbia, on average, will be 16 percent lower next year than the Congressional Budget Office projected they would be in 2016 – when the marketplaces are at full capacity.

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Obamacare: Cheaper Costs May Mean Fewer Options
Wall St. CheatSheet

If the rollout of the insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act proves anything, it is that creating a sustainable system to provide affordable health insurance to the majority of the nation’s uninsured is the equivalent of building a carefully balanced house of cards. As with a house of cards, not all the necessary supports of the Obamacare insurance exchanges are visible upon first glance.

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Online Obamacare marketplaces offer ample options, report says
Los Angeles Times

Most Americans who shop for health insurance on new online marketplaces set up under President Obama’s health law will have a wide variety of choices, a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services indicates.

And many young consumers will be able to select health plans that cost $100 a month or less, according to the report, which is based on a preliminary analysis of premiums that insurers will charge when the insurance becomes available Jan. 1 in 36 states.

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How much will Obamacare premiums cost? Depends on where you live.
Washington Post

A 27-year-old in Austin who earns $25,000 could pay $85 per month for health insurance next year, and a family of four in St. Louis with income of $50,000 might face a $32 monthly premium, according to new federal data on health insurance rates under the Affordable Care Act. The report, released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, showed significant variation in the insurance premiums that Americans shopping on the individual market could pay under the president’s health-care overhaul.

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The ObamaCare Wars Are Just Starting
The Wall Street Journal

The ObamaCare fight is turning hot and heavy. House Republicans have made an implausible threat to shut down the government to defund ObamaCare, but a plausible motive is to create fear, uncertainty and doubt (which already exists in abundance regarding ObamaCare) during the crucial sign-up period that begins next month. On the flip side, the administration’s last-minute decision not to require income documentation in the first year can only do wonders for enrollment.

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Here’s why Obama won’t delay the individual mandate
Washington Post

The White House is no stranger to Obamacare delays. Over the last three years, it has held off on multiple health law provisions as it races to get the Affordable Care Act off the ground. Don’t expect it to happen during this round of budget negotiations. Congress needs to pass a new continuing resolution to fund the government by Oct. 1 in order to avert a government shutdown.

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Stay uninsured on purpose? That’s a bad idea
Consumer Reports

Opponents of the new health care law have been vigorously urging healthy, uninsured young adults to refuse to comply with the new requirement to get covered as of 2014. “Burn your Obamacare card” in protest, advises FreedomWorks, an anti-reform group based in Washington, D.C. “After all, you can sign up for coverage after you get sick,” wrote a FreedomWorks official in an editorial in the Washington Times.

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Premiums unveiled for health overhaul plans
San Francisco Chronicle

With new health insurance markets launching next week, the Obama administration is unveiling premiums and plan choices for 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead to cover uninsured residents.

Before tax credits that work like an upfront discount for most consumers, sticker-price premiums for a mid-range benchmark plan will average $328 a month nationally for an individual, comparable to payments for a new car.

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California insurance chief warns about fraudulent sellers of health care policies
Sacramento Bee

With sales of the first Affordable Care Act policies just a week away, state officials are warning consumers of rip-off artists using scare tactics and phony websites.

“Unfortunately, as with any new program, there are those who will use the new system to take advantage of or rip off consumers,” said state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones in a statement Tuesday.

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More than 100 House members ask CMS to delay ‘two midnight’ rule
Modern Healthcare

Just days before a controversial rule on outpatient observation care goes into effect, more than 100 members of the U.S. House have signed a letter asking CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to put the brakes on the policy.

Led by U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), the bipartisan group of lawmakers say the so-called “two midnight” rule will subject many Medicare patients to higher out-of-pocket costs for hospitalization and post-acute skilled-nursing care because the rule presumes that patients expected to be in the hospital for fewer than two days should have been admitted to observation, not inpatient care.

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Valley fever symposium ends, but questions remain
Fresno Bee

Many questions about Valley fever remained unanswered Tuesday afternoon as public health officials, physicians and politicians finished a two-day symposium on the disease, but officials and doctors alike were hopeful that the summit will be a turning point in the fight against Valley fever.

Two of the country’s top public health officials said they were leaving Bakersfield with a greater understanding of the disease’s burden and a renewed commitment to solving its mysteries.

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Valley fever treatment trials announced by federal officials
Los Angeles Times

Federal health officials have announced they are planning clinical trials of two common treatments for valley fever.

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who has worked for several years to increase federal response to valley fever, says the clinical trials will raise awareness of the fungal disease and inch it closer to being combated with a vaccine. “That is our ultimate goal,” he told a packed meeting hall of valley fever victims and survivors Monday evening in Bakersfield.

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Regular breast self-exams can detect cancer
San Francisco Chronicle

A few years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a painful left breast and two lumps. The lumps were firm, yet mobile, like two tiny peas next to each other. I admit I panicked a little. My first thought was that breast cancer surgeons are not supposed to get breast cancer. This is obviously not true, since my risk is 12 percent, the same as every other average woman. I called a radiologist friend at 2 a.m. to meet me for an ultrasound. The result: two benign-appearing cysts. This was later confirmed by a professional breast exam and another ultrasound.

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Gene disorder link to autism questioned
San Francisco Chronicle

Children with a genetic disorder known as 22q11.2 deletion syndrome are often also diagnosed with autism at rates of up to 50 percent. But those children may not be autistic, according to a new study from the UC Davis MIND Institute.

The disorder is caused by the deletion of a small part of the 22nd chromosome, resulting in widely varying symptoms, such as heart abnormalities or a cleft palate.

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Insurers Enter HIXs Despite Gaping Uncertainty
Health Leaders Media

Nearly 70% of health insurance executives responding in a study released today say they will take part in health insurance exchanges despite widespread concerns about how the programs will function, stubborn technical barriers, and the health status of the people they will be covering.

The PwC study, titled Health Exchanges: Open for Business, found that the access to potentially millions of new customers on the individual market and a fear of being left behind if these exchanges succeed are overcoming the reservations that many health insurance executives have expressed.

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McClatchy to end retiree health care for 51 people
Sacramento Bee

The McClatchy Co., owner of The Bee, said Tuesday it will end subsidized health care for retirees at the end of 2014.

Sacramento-based McClatchy said the decision will affect a total of 51 employees. Almost all of those retirees worked for the former Knight Ridder Inc. newspapers and had subsidized coverage “grandfathered” in after McClatchy acquired Knight Ridder in 2006, said McClatchy spokesman Peter Tira.

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UC Davis names new medical school dean
Daily Democrat

Julie Freischlag, currently the William Stewart Halsted professor and department director and surgeon-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, has been named the UC Davis vice chancellor for human health sciences and dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi announced today. “When Dr. Freischlag became surgeon-in-chief at Johns Hopkins, she became the first woman to hold this position.

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Lake County Supervisors receive healthcare reform presentations
Lake County Record-Bee

Healthcare departments preparing for the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act in January made presentations on just how they will deal with the mandatory changes at the regular county supervisors meeting Tuesday.

“Regardless of what you think about it, it’s here,” Social Services Director Carol Huchingson said about the controversial act also referred to as Obamacare.

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