News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obama hails ‘historic’ launch of health exchanges
San Francisco Chronicle

Hailing it as an “historic day,” President Barack Obama pressed forward his flagship health care program Tuesday, inaugurating new insurance exchanges to expand access for those without coverage despite the shutdown taking hold across much of the government.

Obama said the opportunity to access affordable insurance is life-changing for those who could not do so before the launch of the exchanges, now open for enrollment for six months starting Tuesday. As a sign of how eager Americans were to get started, Obama said more than 1 million people had visited the website before 7 a.m. EDT — exceeding expectations and, in some cases, slowing down the computer systems.

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Government shutdown cuts half of HHS staff as exchanges open
Modern Healthcare

Whatever HHS officials envisioned for the first day of open enrollment on the health insurance exchanges, they surely didn’t expect to face it with more than half of the department’s employees furloughed.

But that scenario began to play out as the complex launch coincided with the nation’s first government shutdown in 17 years after Republicans refused to pass a temporary spending measure without also eliminating or delaying core provisions of the 2010 healthcare law.

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Health-Care Overhaul Pushes Small Firms to Lock in Lower Rates
The Wall Street Journal

With major provisions of the federal health overhaul set to take effect Jan. 1, many U.S. insurers are prodding small-business customers to renew their current coverage early, to lock in lower rates. “With all of the changes coming up in 2014, we want to provide you with options that allow you to make the right decision for you and your employees,” said a recent letter from one major insurer, Blue Shield of California, which has made the pitch to all of its small-business customers, who can keep their 2013 rates if they act to renew existing plans by Oct. 14.

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Why Explaining the Affordable Care Act Turns Out To Be A Lot Harder Than We Thought It Would Be
The Health Care Blog

One of the chief aims of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the expansion of insurance coverage to individuals who at present either cannot afford it or choose not to purchase it. Unfortunately, many Americans lack the financial literacy needed to navigate the numerous and complex options thrust upon them by the ACA. The ACA contains a number of mechanisms through which coverage will be expanded, including the individual mandate, the state insurance exchanges, and the expansion of Medicaid.

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FDA approves first pre-surgical breast cancer drug
Modern Healthcare

A biotech drug from Roche has become the first medicine approved to treat breast cancer before surgery, offering an earlier approach against one of the deadliest forms of the disease. The Food and Drug Administration approved Perjeta for women with a form of early stage breast cancer who face a high risk of having their cancer spread to other parts of the body. Surgery to remove tumors is usually the first step in treating most forms of cancer. Perjeta is the first drug to be approved as a pre-surgical step.

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Obamacare’s Big Debut
Inc.

It’s finally here. Come hell or government shutdown, Tuesday, October 1 is opening day for Obamacare’s central feature: the health-insurance exchanges.

These online marketplaces will allow individuals and small businesses to comparison-shop for health plans from a variety of carriers. Today, business owners finally will get a chance to see their coverage options and premiums under the new health-care law.

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Full steam ahead for Obama healthcare law
Los Angeles Times

Three and a half years after President Obama signed his landmark healthcare law, his administration made its final preparations Monday to begin enrolling millions of Americans in health insurance amid persistent anxiety over possible technical problems and intense opposition from Republican critics.

Administration officials emphasized that a government shutdown would not prevent the federal website for enrolling in health coverage — http://www.healthcare.gov — from going live at 8 a.m Eastern time Tuesday, allowing consumers to begin signing up for plans.

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White House shows off Web site to buy health insurance under Obamacare
Washington Post

The Obama administration on Monday showed off the federal Web site, Healthcare.gov, where millions of Americans starting Tuesday will be able to buy coverage under President Obama’s health-care law, promising it will be open for business despite congressional battling and widespread reports of computer problems. People seeking to buy health insurance on the federal marketplace will be able to enter personal information, including their incomes and Social Security numbers; learn how much government assistance they might qualify for, if any; search for plans by price and coverage level; and then purchase a plan directly from the insurance company.

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Five things to watch for in California’s launch of Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

California raises the curtain on its new health insurance marketplace Tuesday, offering new options for millions of consumers as part of Obamacare.

Officials are holding a series of events across the state to promote the start of a six-month enrollment window beginning Oct. 1.

Covered California, the state’s new exchange, is trying to reach more than 5 million people who are uninsured or don’t receive health insurance through work. The rollout in California will be closely watched nationwide as a key barometer of President Obama’s signature law.

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Obamacare and insurance exchange: 10 essential things to know
The Mercury News

It’s new. It’s kind of complicated. It’s often confusing.

And Tuesday is the big day when something called an “insurance exchange” opens in California and every other state because of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare.

We know. Your head’s already hurting.

But listen up. We’ve put together a Top 10 list of things you should know about the new health care reform law. Use it as a primer. And check back for more stories to help you sort it all out.

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Obama Makes Slippery Claims On Health Care Law, Budget: AP Fact Check
The Huffington Post

President Barack Obama is the insurance industry’s most powerful pitchman these days as he drums up interest in the health insurance markets opening for business Tuesday. Whatever the merits of his product, there are reasons for the buyer to beware of his rhetoric.

The president is being a bit slippery on the costs of coverage, in particular.

His opponents are taking their own liberties as they talk up the ills of what they deride as “Obamacare” and defend their approach to the budget impasse that threatens to close parts of the government come Tuesday.

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Consumers denied health insurance look to Obamacare marketplaces
Sacramento Bee

Denise Marshall of Sonoma, Calif., was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2011, and a year later lost her toy company job along with her health insurance benefits.

The good news is that her disease was caught early and she is now in remission. The bad news was her cancer diagnosis made it impossible to buy coverage because insurers thought she was too high of a health risk.

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Enrollment for health insurance through Affordable Care Act begins
Fresno Bee

About 108,000 residents of Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced, Mariposa and Tulare counties are believed to be eligible for subsidized coverage under the federal health law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, which gives people the choice of being insured or paying a tax penalty next year.

Covered California approved four health plans for that region, offered by Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield and Health Net at premiums between $223 and $508 a month for a 40-year-old single adult, depending on level of coverage.

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New health insurance exchanges want young, healthy people
Los Angeles Times

Older and sicker Californians are likely to be first in line for guaranteed health coverage as the state’s new insurance market opens Tuesday as part of the landmark healthcare law.

Like shoppers queuing up for bargains on Black Friday, people such as 52-year-old James Craig, an uninsured day laborer, say they can’t wait to get their insurance cards.

“I think Obamacare is the greatest thing ever,” said the Los Angeles resident, who said he suffers from high blood pressure and hasn’t seen a doctor in years.

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Obamacare not ready for prime time: Opposing view
USA Today

The cascade of delays, missed deadlines and workforce distortions accelerated in the countdown to the launch of the health exchanges.

But they overshadowed the real issue: What will the experience be for the average consumer trying to get coverage? Despite the happy talk from President Obama about enrollment being as easy as online shopping, consumers are in for some big shocks.

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GOP will stop at nothing to deny Obama his due on healthcare reform
Los Angeles Times

“All of this would be funny if it weren’t so crazy.”

That was President Obama commenting the other day about some of the irresponsible, outlandish and just plain idiotic things critics have been saying about the Affordable Care Act.

We’ve now reached an important milestone: Pre-enrollment begins Tuesday for people to sign up for insurance through the online exchanges created by the healthcare reform law. Actual coverage will begin Jan. 1.

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Ready or not: 4 steps to prepare hospitals for healthcare reform
FierceHealthcare

With health insurance exchange opening for enrollment tomorrow, hospitals and health systems should devote sufficient time and energy to this latest healthcare reform change, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported. However, many hospitals are not ready for reform to kick in and have yet to create strategies to identify, educate and help people enroll in coverage through the new online marketplaces, according to a September report from PwC’s Health Research Institute.

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Small employers rush to renew health plans
North Bay Business Journal

With the start of what promises to be a historic enrollment season as 2014 health plans are rolled out in compliance with health care reform, brokers in the North Bay said scores of employers are resorting to early renewal, in an attempt to partially delay possible impacts of ObamaCare for at least a year.

Employers with 50 or fewer workers who enroll before 2014 can expect less significant changes in their rates, which by some estimates could increase between 5 percent and 30 percent, versus around 10 percent for those who enroll with carriers earlier for plans that take effect on Dec. 1, rather than Jan. 1, according to Victor McKnight, principle with EPIC Insurance Brokers in Petaluma.

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Health Care’s Knowledge Problem
National Journal Magazine

White Sox fans leaving Yankee Stadium on Sept. 3 may have been briefly convinced that the Yankees were the Evil Empire no longer. What kind of intergalactic despot offers free prostate cancer screening to men over 40, anyway? While it seemed like a nice gesture, it’s likely counterproductive. Regarding the prostate-specific antigen screening, the evidence from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is clear: The PSA tests don’t work, and lead to overdiagnosis of prostate tumors and unnecessary treatment, with a high cost to health and finances. Yet they continue to be used.

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Act makes health care a right – starting now
San Francisco Chronicle

For decades, Social Security and Medicare have stood as pillars of our families’ health and economic security, as transformative initiatives in the lives of the American people. In our time, we have added a third pillar: the Affordable Care Act – to make health care a right, not a privilege, for all Americans.

This law, like its predecessors, honors the vow of our founders, of the guarantee in our Declaration of Independence to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

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Mend Obamacare, don’t end it: Our view
USA Today

From all indications, Tuesday’s ObamaCare rollout will be bumpy.

Despite a three-year run-up, none of the dozens of new health insurance exchanges appears entirely ready for their opening. In some parts of the country, people shopping for insurance will have many plans from which to choose. In others, choice will be scant and and doctor networks cramped.

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Beware ObamaCare: Column
USA Today

Today begins the first phase of ObamaCare’s big test. The Obama administration has spent months and millions of dollars promising people great benefits from the new government-run health insurance exchanges. Now Americans will see for themselves. Just last week, the president promised to give Americans “high quality health insurance for less than the cost of your cellphone bill.” By the way, the average monthly cell phone bill is $71.

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North Coast providers eager for Obamacare
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

With the launch of Covered California — the state’s health insurance marketplace — tens of thousands of uninsured North Coast residents will be able to enroll in either low-cost health insurance or an expanded Medicaid program, the two main components of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Even as the GOP continues to seek to de-fund or delay Obamacare, its main components are expected to go live Tuesday as scheduled.

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Obamacare signups begin in Solano County
The Reporter

Today is the first day some 48,500 Solano County residents can apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Staff is on hand at the new Solano Center for Healthcare Options and Insurance Coverage Enrollment (CHOICE) Call Center, according to a press release issued by the county Monday. The enrollment for new health insurance offerings is part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

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Blues wins first federal contract to offer multistate plans on insurance exchanges
Modern Healthcare

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is the first insurer to receive a federal contract to offer individual insurance coverage options across a majority of state insurance exchanges in 2014, as part of a program to boost competition and consumer choice under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In a Monday announcement, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which will administer the multistate plan program, said the Blues will offer more than 150 plan options in 30 states as well as in the District of Columbia.

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It’s a ‘rehab reunion’ at El Camino Hospital
The Mercury News

When Saratoga resident Chuck Hamilton went to El Camino Hospital Los Gatos for a knee replacement last December, the fit-looking 70-year-old expected he’d be in and out in a matter of days.

Rehabilitating his knee had to wait, however, because a blood clot caused Hamilton to have a stroke, so the focus of his rehab shifted. Hamilton finally went home in March, but returned to El Camino recently for a “rehab reunion” that celebrated the milestones former patients have achieved.

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Trauma center rating upgraded
The Press-Enterprise

As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, Inland Valley Medical Center’s trauma center is officially a Level II facility. The Wildomar hospital can now treat any kind of emergency, including those involving serious or life-threatening injuries, said Trauma Program Manager Maureen Bowlin. “There’s an organizational structure in place to assist trauma patients in a timely manner,” Bowlin said.

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