News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Privacy Ruling Benefits CA Hospitals
Payers and Providers

A state appellate court has provided a key ruling in a privacy case that raises the bar on liability for providers when patient medical records are breached. The court ruled that providers do not necessarily have liability to patients when medical records are stolen or misappropriated unless they are accessed by a third party. The ruling, handed down on Tuesday, arises from a class-action suit filed against the University of California.

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Remote Patient Monitoring Poised for Growth
Health Leaders Media

Remote patient monitoring has been around for nearly a decade, but the practice is beginning to gain more traction on the strength of new technologies and a more urgent need to keep costs down, two factors that are expected to drive growth and generate billions of dollars in cost savings over the next five years.

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Hospital Inspections to Resume In Full
Health Leaders Media

With a temporary federal budget deal Wednesday finally ending the 16-day government shutdown, state and federal officials have some catching up to do to make up for time lost.

At the state level, some health departments will be dealing with a backlog of federal inspections postponed during the shutdown. Some hospital and nursing home inspections by officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and state officials who conduct inspections for CMS could not be conducted.

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Affordable Care Act suffers technology ailments
San Francisco Chronicle

Now that the government has reopened and a debt default averted, the external threats to the Affordable Care Act are over, at least for the time being.

Now onto the internal threats.

Traffic to the federal government’s health exchange,, fell by 88 percent since the first week of its rollout, beginning Oct. 1. Of the 9.5 million people who managed to access the site, less than 1 percent, 36,000, enrolled in the first week, according to an online tracking firm. The numbers haven’t gotten much better.

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Exchange navigators ‘challenged’ by glitches, frustrated consumers
Modern Healthcare

After months spent preparing and training to help people sign up for health coverage, federally funded navigators have found themselves contending with a glitch-ridden federal marketplace website while trying to ease consumers’ frustrations. “We’ve been very challenged,” said Vicki Tucci, lead navigator and an attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach, Fla., which received a federal grant of $446,783 to provide navigator services in four counties.

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Conservative Republicans aren’t done fighting the new health-care law
Washington Post

Fresh off an unsuccessful attempt to block the president’s sweeping Affordable Care Act, several conservative Republicans announced Thursday that they have decided on their next political target: the Affordable Care Act. The temporary resolution of the budget battle is likely to intensify, rather than lessen, public scrutiny of the health-care law, commonly known as Obamacare. Chronic problems with the online enrollment system — which have diminished but not disappeared since its Oct. 1 launch — were largely overshadowed by the 16-day fiscal standoff in Washington.

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Why You Can’t Find A Doctor on State’s Obamacare Site

D’oh! The rollout of Obamacare (which is offered by Covered California here), has been glitchy: First the website couldn’t support all the traffic, now the list of doctors has been taken down after numerous errors were found and some physicians who never signed up were listed as participating providers. The LA Times reports that the doctor directory was taken down on October 9, a little over a week since the site went live. According to the Times, the California Medical Assn. says it found mistakes such as obstetricians labeled as ophthalmologists and the wrong doctors being described as fluent in Russian and Farsi.

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A Pragmatic Fix for & the HIXs
The Health Care Blog

By now even those of us who originally thought that we were seeing minor teething troubles are no longer deluding ourselves., the federal health insurance exchanges (HIXs), and many of the state HIXs are in deep trouble.

One summary of many articles about this is up at ProPublica. But now that the House Republicans have stopped trying to destroy the country and themselves, attention will turn quickly to this problem, and–much worse–beyond the politics, there is now only eight or so weeks to get ready for actual enrollments for Jan 1, once you take out Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday.

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What it takes for true payment reform in healthcare

While the healthcare industry aims to shift away from a fee-for-service payment model that rewards volume over value, real payment reform must retain some elements of fee for service, such as the accounting system that helps payers divide risk-adjusted capitation payments, according to a health policy expert.

“If you abolished all fee-for-service tomorrow, you abolished all those codes, you’d have no clue what’s going on out there,” Len Nichols, Ph.D., said Tuesday during the closing keynote address at the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative Fall Conference, MedPage Today reported.

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My Personal Affordable Care Act–A Manifesto
The Health Care Blog

The Founding Fathers had one. Karl Marx had one. Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein had one. And, now I have one: a manifesto, declaring my intent to live my life with as little interaction as possible with the US health care system by doing what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tells me by omission I do not need to do: take responsibility for myself. This is my Personal Affordable Care Act. My manifesto is an algorithm for thriving in spite of the government’s naked and absurd attempt to define health as something that begins in the clinic.

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Covered California removes glitchy online directory
Fox News

Checking up on a doctor is becoming a major snag for Obamacare shoppers in California. Three weeks into open enrollment, the state’s insurance exchange, Covered California, has pulled its online directory of medical providers after acknowledging there are serious problems with the information. The California Medical Assn. says it found mistakes such as obstetricians labeled as ophthalmologists and the wrong doctors described as fluent in Russian and Farsi.

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Covered CA provider directory taken offline to address errors
Los Angeles Daily News

A directory of physicians on the Covered California website was taken offline because of errors, and it won’t be back up until next week, state officials said Thursday. Officials for the state-run online market exchange that lists 12 health-insurance plans said the provider directory was taken down temporarily to make improvements to the system, including speed, navigation and search functions.

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Doctor search tool still not working on Covered California website
Southern California Public Radio

A highly-touted doctor search tool on the Covered California health insurance website has so far proven to be nothing but headaches for consumers and for officials of the state run insurance marketplace, who have taken the feature offline for repairs.

During the first week of enrollment that started Oct. 1, the doctor search didn’t work at all. Top officials touted it on opening day as an important tool for consumers who want to confirm that their doctor is included in any new health plan they may buy.

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Medicare had a messy start, too
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

There are rumblings that the glitches attending the rollout of the Affordable Care Act — along with the relentless campaign to sabotage or delay it in numerous states — mean the program is dead on arrival. But the history of an equally controversial and vast government effort, Medicare, indicates that predictions of Obamacare’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

Medicare became law July 30, 1965, after a decades-long legislative struggle to create government-sponsored health care for all Americans 65 and older. Like the Affordable Health Care Act, Medicare required that people register for it. Then, as now, problems immediately surfaced, threatening to imperil the program.

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HCA shows improved earnings for 2nd straight quarter
Modern Healthcare

In spite of a shaky start to 2013, the country’s largest hospital chain will report an improvement in its year-over-year earnings results for the second consecutive quarter. In an earnings preview, Nashville-based HCA said same-facility admissions increased 0.7% in the quarter ended Sept. 30, while same-facility equivalent admissions increased 1.1%.

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California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Guidelines on Medical Identity Theft
Sierra Sun Times

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today released guidelines on preventing and remedying medical identity theft, including best practice recommendations for the health care industry and tips for consumers. The guidelines are part of a report, Medical Identity Theft: Recommendations for the Age of Electronic Medical Records, which frames the escalated migration to electronic medical records as an opportunity for the healthcare industry to address this problem.

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Anthem policy on propofol for colonoscopies may be shortsighted
Los Angeles Times

There is perhaps no better metaphor for the painful relationship between patients and our for-profit healthcare system than the fact that Anthem Blue Cross thinks you don’t need anesthesia for a colonoscopy.

It’s not “medically necessary,” the insurer says.

Anyone who has experienced this most invasive of medical procedures might think otherwise.

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UnitedHealth earnings up but forecast narrows
Modern Healthcare

UnitedHealth Group third-quarter earnings inched up 1% in a rare performance that failed to trump Wall Street expectations, and the nation’s largest health insurer gave a less-than-reassuring vibe to investors by narrowing its 2013 forecast instead of raising it.

The Minnetonka, Minn.-based company said Thursday that it raised the bottom end of its previous forecast for 2013 earnings by a nickel to $5.40 to $5.50 per share. UnitedHealth hasn’t changed the top end of that forecast since it made its first prediction for the year last November. Analysts polled by FactSet expect $5.52 per share for 2013.

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CVS opens 7 walk-in clinics in Bay Area
The Mercury News

National drugstore chain CVS has opened its first walk-in medical clinics in the Bay Area, beginning with seven locations in San Jose and the Peninsula.

MinuteClinic, the walk-in clinics housed inside CVS stores, are now open in San Jose, Foster City and Sunnyvale. Clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners, open seven days a week — including holidays — and customers don’t need an appointment. Patients can received treatment and prescriptions for common illnesses such as strep throat and ear, eye, sinus, bladder and bronchial infections.

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Dignity Health’s profits soar to $812M in fiscal 2013
Sacramento Business Journal

Net income at Dignity Health, the San Francisco-based nonprofit hospital system that is parent to local Mercy hospitals, soared to $812 million in fiscal 2013, up from just $135 million a year earlier, the San Francisco Business Times reported. But profits have been on a roller coaster ride recently, soaring in 2013 after plunging a year earlier, in part due to wild swings in its investment portfolio.

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Seniors review their options at Medicare workshop in Modesto
Merced Sun-Star

About 200 seniors attending a workshop Thursday in Modesto reviewed the costs and benefits of the Medicare Advantage plans available in Stanislaus County.

This fall, Humana became the eighth insurer to offer Medicare managed-care plans in the county for people age 65 and older. It rolled out a basic plan with no monthly premium and a $42-a-month plan covering medical services, prescription drugs in Medicare’s coverage gap and routine dental.