News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Covered Calif.: Doctor, hospital directory release premature
Sacramento Bee

Officials with the state’s health insurance marketplace acknowledged prematurely releasing an online directory of doctors and hospitals on Tuesday, a week after opening enrollment for its version of the federal health care overhaul. Covered California removed the directory within a day of release after discovering it was plagued by inaccuracies and sluggish performance. The search tool was designed to allow customers to determine whether their providers were included in health plans offered by the exchange.

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Opt-out efforts won’t play in California, insurance chief says
Sacramento Bee

The chief of California’s health insurance marketplace said he has no concerns about advertising campaigns designed to derail the federal health care law, arguing there is no “echo chamber” for such efforts in the Golden State. Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee has been crisscrossing the state for roughly two dozen town hall meetings and said he has been heckled just once – by an individual speaking out against U.S. intervention in Syria.

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Many docs still on the fence about exchange participation
Modern Healthcare

A new Medical Group Management Association survey suggests that insurance coverage does not necessarily mean healthcare access. More than half the physician practices responding to the survey said they had not yet decided whether they will participate in health plans sold on the new state insurance exchanges. Dr. Stephen Brotherton, president of the Texas Medical Association and an orthopedic surgeon practicing in Fort Worth, said physicians in Texas need more information before making up their minds.

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No Easy Fixes for Obamacare Glitches
San Francisco Chronicle

This episode of The Motley Fool’s Market Checkup drills down on the hottest headlines and biggest market movers in the health-care sector along with an important update on the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. In this video, health-care analyst David Williamson discusses how Obamacare’s troubled rollout is potentially even glitchier than feared.

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Obamacare and kids dental, vision coverage
Washington Post

One part of the Affordable Care Act is intended to improve dental coverage for children, prompted by the 2007 death of an uninsured Maryland boy named Deamonte Driver, who was killed by a bacterial infection that spread from an abscessed tooth to his brain. Supporters of better dental care for children successfully pushed to have dental and vision services for children included in the law’s 10 categories of essential benefits.

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Consumers warned of misleading insurance websites
San Francisco Chronicle

Insurance regulators and an industry trade group warn that this month’s rollout of the health insurance marketplaces created by federal law opened the door for bad actors at the same time that it gives brokers and agents a business opportunity.

New Hampshire’s insurance commissioner sent a cease-and-desist letter last week to an Arizona company he accused of building a website that could mislead health care coverage shoppers into thinking it was the official New Hampshire marketplace.

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Why You Shouldn’t Sell Insurers as Obamacare Exchanges Open
San Francisco Chronicle

Washington has created a sea of uncertainty for health care investors, and the latest impasse isn’t likely to add clarity anytime soon. While you can’t control of Washington any more than you can control Mr. Market, you can take steps to position yourself to benefit when markets get back on track. One area that is receiving a lot of attention thanks to Washington is health care insurance. The opening of long-feared health care exchanges is ushering in a seismic shift for the HMO and PPO industry, fueling one of the most significant opportunities since supplemental Medicare.

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Medicare open enrollment brings changes
USA Today

The seven-week enrollment period for next year’s Medicare prescription drug and managed-care plans begins Tuesday but seniors shouldn’t simply renew their policies and assume the current coverage will stay the same. There’s a likely payoff for those who pay close attention to the details. Among the top 10 most popular drug policies, monthly premiums for 2014 are changing dramatically — up 55% for one AARP UnitedHealth plan and dropping 38% for another from Wellcare, according to a recent study by Avalere Health, a Washington, D.C., health research firm.

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Positive Thoughts and a Triumphant Step Forward
Mission & State

An optimistic can-do attitude hovers over me as I continue the quest to discover a list of local doctors and healthcare service providers who take the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California Affordable Care Act and PPO plans. The Anthem Blue Cross sales representative I spoke with on Friday left me a message this morning. “I wanted to let you know we got the provider finder working on the website now,” he says. “It was down Friday and the weekend. It’s up now, I just checked it.” Cool.

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State extends, expands hospital bed tax
Fierce HealthFinance

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law an extension of the hospital bed tax in California that helps to draw down hundreds of millions of dollars in matching funds each year from the Medicaid program, California HealthLine reported. The fee, which was extended for three years, also got expanded significantly. The prior version of the fee drew down $4.6 billion in matching funds over the past three years.

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Managing poverty income to get a health subsidy
San Francisco Chronicle

My Sunday column focused on ways people could lower their 2014 income enough to qualify for tax-subsidized health insurance on a state-run exchange. Today’s column is for people with the opposite issue – their income is too low to buy an exchange policy with a tax subsidy. Unless they increase their income above a certain threshold, their options are to enroll in Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California) or pay full price for health insurance.

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Hospital staff focuses on patients and employees; new retirement plan
Plumas County News

Plumas District Hospital expected to serve about 400 people during its four-day low-cost health screening, which concluded Oct. 10.

Individuals were invited to the North Fork Medical Building for testing that included a comprehensive metabolic panel; thyroid screening; complete blood count; cholesterol; triglycerides; and HDL, direct LDL and ratio.

Hospital Chief Executive Officer Doug Lafferty encouraged the public to take part if possible — whichever day they were able to participate.

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Hospital’s helipad on the move
The Press-Enterprise

Universal Health Services will be moving the location of the helipad at its Temecula Valley Hospital campus because of safety concerns raised by federal and state regulators. The helipad, which is expected to be used about eight times per month, was originally proposed for property on the eastern edge of the campus near the Summerhouse Apartments, a spot northeast of the five-story, 140-bed hospital tower on Temecula Parkway that opens to the public Monday.

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No word yet on UCSF Med Center’s talks with 800-doctor South Bay group
San Francisco Business Times

There’s no word from either side on the fate of affiliation talks between UCSF Medical Center and an 800-physician medical group in the South Bay that began last spring and were expected to conclude over the summer. UCSF Medical Center, Pacific Partners Management Services Inc. and the 803-doctor Individual Practice Association Medical Group of Santa Clara County signed a letter of intent in late March to form an integrated system that would likely compete directly with Stanford Hospital & Clinics in the South Bay.

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Dignity Health, Optum launch joint venture to simplify patient billing
San Francisco Business Times

Dignity Health, which operates dozens of hospitals in California, Arizona and Nevada, and giant tech vendor Optum have formed a joint venture to simplify vexing complexities in the realm of hospital billing and cost transparency. Dignity, based in San Francisco, will be the new venture’s first client, officials said Monday. Optum is a health care IT and technology unit of giant UnitedHealthcare. Both are units of Minneapolis-based UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH).

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