News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obamacare program for small business will be delayed a month
Sacramento Bee

In the latest setback for the rollout of Obamacare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that small businesses in 36 states can’t enroll their workers into health coverage through the new federally run insurance marketplaces until at least Nov. 1 – one month later than previously announced. The delay appears to be the result of computer and information technology problems in the Small Business Health Option Program, known as SHOP, an online insurance marketplace specifically for small employers.

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Covered California ready for online applications
Sacramento Business Journal

Online enrollment for Covered California is ready to launch on Oct. 1, according to exchange staff members during a Thursday webcast of their new web application process. Staffers took webcast viewers for a virtual test drive of the new online portal, officially scheduled to go live next Tuesday at 8 a.m. with a so-called groundbreaking ceremony at the exchange’s call center in Rancho Cordova.

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California Health Director Apologizes for Lack of Oversight in Medi-Cal Program
capital public radio

Recent media investigations by the Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN brought to light questionable billing practices of dozens of clinics in Medi-Cal’s drug rehabilitation program. They included stories of taxpayer funds being used for counseling sessions that never occurred, for people who, in some cases, were incarcerated or dead. So state lawmakers called for a hearing.

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Will ACA Implementation Lead to a Spike in Demand for Care?
The Health Care Blog

As the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) exchanges open and Medicaid expansion takes effect, millions of uninsured Americans will gain new coverage. This raises a key question: how are we possibly going to meet the demands of all of these new individuals entering the system? The physician workforce is growing slowly, at best, at a time when an aging population is increasing demand for care.

Predictions include long lines for everyone, rising prices and premiums as physicians are able to command greater market power, and reduced quality of care. Some have recommended additional government funding to help train more medical residents as a response.

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Poll: ‘The partisan divide over the health care law is stark’
Sacramento Bee

Americans are divided over whether Obamacare should survive. A new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll found 49 percent thought Congress should not end the program. Those people liked the expanded health insurance protection. But 44 percent thought the law should be repealed because it’s too expensive. The findings in many ways reflect what’s going on at the Capitol — Republicans want to defund Obamacare. Democrats don’t.

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Exchange preparedness varies in GOP-led states
Modern Healthcare

Even as HHS touts broad consumer choice and lower-than-expected premiums for health plans in health insurance exchanges across the country, officials in Republican-led states with federally facilitated exchanges report widely varying levels of competition and preparedness in advance of the Oct. 1 start of open enrollment.

With many Republican leaders in these states opposed to the healthcare reform law and the exchanges, some of these states have been more willing to participate in exchange implementation than others. And that could affect preparedness and enrollment.

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House GOP rants its way past fiscal problem: Our view
USA Today

Normally, big showdowns over budgets and debt limits are fought over spending, taxes and the deficit.

This time, things are different. House Republicans are threatening a government shutdown — and, more ominously, a default of U.S. Treasury debt — over issues that have little to do with the major drivers of spending and borrowing.

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ObamaCare is fiscally irresponsible: Opposing view
USA Today

By Washington standards, the entitlements within ObamaCare start slowly. Next year, the Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies will cost taxpayers $48 billion. Over the next decade, however, the cost of these entitlements will balloon to $1.8 trillion. Simply put, ObamaCare is incompatible with fiscal responsibility. Left in place, Americans should expect these costs to grow.

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Financial reform, ObamaCare: Objections
USA Today

USA Today’s editorial “5 years after Lehman, unfinished business,” misleadingly implied there has been a “deafening silence” from Realtors, bankers and builders regarding the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Contrary to your characterization of a “deafening silence,” we have been aggressively advocating for comprehensive reform of both entities over the past five years, offering written proposals for change.

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Covered California to reveal information on doctors and plans Tuesday
Santa Cruz Sentinel

When you have health insurance, you pay less when you go to a doctor in the network of your plan. But even though the first day to buy health insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act is Tuesday, it’s hard to tell if the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz, the largest doctor group in the county, will be in a network for Santa Cruz County residents.

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Rollout of exchanges marked by glitches
Modern Healthcare

Just as President Barack Obama predicted, the rollout of the new state insurance exchanges is turning out to be bumpy just days before the exchanges open.

HHS announced Thursday that online enrollment of small businesses in federally facilitated health insurance exchanges will be delayed for one month, less than a week before those exchanges were scheduled to begin operating. The White House also announced that HHS’ Spanish-language online enrollment services would be delayed until late October, though Spanish speakers still will be able to enroll starting Oct. 1 through a call center or through navigators.

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As critical phase near, Obama stumps for healthcare law
Reuters

President Barack Obama visits a local college on Thursday to promote his signature healthcare program as it nears a critical enrollment phase, even as the law faces stiff political opposition and a wary public.

In remarks at Prince George’s Community College in suburban Maryland, Obama will seek to focus attention on the sign-up period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, popularly called “Obamacare.”

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Healthcare reform funding saved by the vote
FierceHealthcare

In a 100-0 vote, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday cleared the way to debate the House-passed stopgap bill that would fund government operations but cut off funds to the Affordable Care Act, USA Today reported. The vote followed an overnight floor speech by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) intended to drum up opposition against restored healthcare reform funding. But after speaking for more than 21 hours, Cruz ended up voting with the other 99 senators to open the spending bill to revisions by the Democratic-led Senate, CNN reported.

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US Health Coverage Rebounds—For Now
Health Leaders Media

After two decades of mostly declines, the percentage of Americans with health insurance inched up between 2011 and 2012, according to a new study from the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute. The study also found that a downward trend in employer-based coverage since 2000 leveled off between 2011 and 2012. But with the advent of health insurance exchanges, the future level of insured people is impossible to know.

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As Some Companies Turn to Health Exchanges, G.E. Seeks a New Path
New York Times

Although the new federal health care law is designed to help people buying individual policies, even people with employer-provided policies are beginning to see changes in their coverage as companies rethink health care for their workers, discontinuing it in a few cases and redesigning it in many others. They are motivated by a need to rein in health care costs, which continue to rise faster than overall inflation, but the federal health care law is also changing how some view their obligations to their employees.

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Bay Area doctors making fertility treatments more effective
San Francisco Business Times

People say raising a baby is expensive, but making one can be, too. Fertility procedures known as assisted reproductive technologies often cost several thousands of dollars out of pocket, but that area of medicine is growing significantly. While procedures like in vitro fertilization, or IVF, in which egg and sperm are combined in a lab dish and implanted in the mother’s body, have been around for more than a decade, a relatively new phenomenon of women freezing their eggs for non-medical purposes is catching on.

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Changes could mean loss of health insurance for Sacramento County’s poor
Sacramento Bee

More than 13,000 low-income people face the possibility of losing their health insurance under a policy approved by Sacramento County supervisors this week, although county officials say very few will reach that point.

Supervisors voted 5-0 to remove people from the County Medically Indigent Services Program, or CMISP, if they are eligible for other coverage and don’t apply for it. No one spoke against the proposal at Tuesday’s board meeting.

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Sierra Health Foundation dedicates $3 million to beef up region’s community clinics
Sacramento Bee

On any given day, nearly half the people in Sacramento’s emergency rooms have no urgent care needs and should be seeing a regular doctor instead.

But a constellation of factors – a shortage of primary care doctors, physicians shunning Medi-Cal reimbursement, a lack of access to clinics, a lack of health insurance – has pushed more and more people into hospital emergency departments.

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Solano County hospitals make final push for Level II trauma center
The Reporter

In less than two weeks, one of two Solano County hospitals will receive the highly coveted designation of being a Level II trauma center. While residents have been inundated with advertisements on which hospital is the best for trauma care in print media, via the mail, on the radio and on billboards, the decision is solely in the hands of the Solano Emergency Medical Services Cooperative board.

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Medicare regional chief talks to Manteca seniors about health program’s future
Manteca Bulletin

Regional administrator at the centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in San Francisco, David Sayen, spoke to Manteca seniors Monday on the future of medical care for the aged. The talk took place at the Manteca Senior Center. “No one really knows what’s going to happen when we uncork Obama Care,” he quipped. He noted that the Medicare Advantage plans get more procedures covered and more pre-services provided within the health care system.

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Memorial Hospital unveils new emergency room
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

When you walk into the new entrance of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, you feel a little like you’ve just stepped into a nice hotel lobby, with an open reception area, spacious waiting room and even an adjacent garden patio.

Gone are the drab, heavily windowed check-in stations that were akin to something you’d find at a county jail, an urban DMV office or a check-cashing outlet.

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Tulare patients should stay here
Visialia Times-Delta

Doctors in Tulare are referring their patients to Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia, according to community members and Tulare Regional Medical Center chairwoman Sherrie Bell.

During Wednesday’s TRMC board of directors meeting Wednesday, former Tulare City Councilman Mark Watte spoke during public comments and brought up the situation.

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