News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

News Headlines Article

HHS finalizes ‘program integrity’ rule on ACA
Modern Healthcare

HHS has issued a final rule governing policies of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including those regulating state and federal insurance exchanges. These policies largely are unchanged from previous proposed rules and guidance documents, according to a news release. The 236-page final rule implements provisions of the law, including financial integrity and oversight standards of the exchanges that went live Oct. 1. It also regulates the health plans qualified to be sold through the exchanges, establishing “additional standards for special enrollment periods (and) survey vendors that may conduct enrollee satisfaction surveys” on behalf of the qualified plans.

News Headlines Article

Country is on cusp of ‘remarkable changes’ in care of those with mental illness, Biden says
Modern Healthcare

Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the country is on the cusp of what he called “remarkable changes” in the treatment of mental illness.

Speaking at a forum on mental health to mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s signing of the Community Mental Health Act, Biden said the human brain is the new frontier for exploration in 2013.

News Headlines Article

Would-Be Doctors Raise Enrollment in Face of Obamacare
San Francisco Chronicle

A record number of students applied and enrolled in U.S. medical school this year, bucking predictions that President Barack Obama’s health-care system overhaul would dissuade people from becoming doctors.

Total medical school applications increased 6.1 percent to more than 48,000, breaking a record set in 1996, according to data released today by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

News Headlines Article

Hospitals find ways to navigate homeless into shelters
Los Angeles Daily News

Almost once a week, Guadalupe Tolentino’s liver and bloodstream drown in liquor and sorrow, and that gets him a free ambulance ride to Kaiser Permanente’s Emergency Department. There, doctors and nurses flush the alcohol out of the 55-year-old man’s veins with IV fluids, calm his tremors with vitamins and medications and, if he stays long enough, provide him a meal and clean clothes.

News Headlines Article

FDA wants limits on most prescribed painkillers
Modern Healthcare

The Food and Drug Administration is recommending new restrictions on prescription medicines containing hydrocodone, the highly addictive painkiller that has grown into the most widely prescribed drug in the U.S. In a major policy shift, the agency said in an online notice Thursday that hydrocodone-containing drugs should be subject to the same restrictions as other narcotic drugs like oxycodone and morphine. The move comes more than a decade after the Drug Enforcement Administration first asked the FDA to reclassify hydrocodone so that it would be subject to the same restrictions as other addictive painkilling drugs.

News Headlines Article

Covered California will offer quality ratings for health plans
Sacramento Bee

Consumers shopping for health care on California’s new exchange will see quality ratings for insurance plans as soon as next year. The direction by the Covered California board Thursday came after three large insurers criticized a staff recommendation to delay moving ahead until more information could be gathered about the current plans. Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the agency was concerned that offering ratings information for only a small percentage of the plans would be misinterpreted by consumers and dissuade people from enrolling.

News Headlines Article

Thousands of Health Policies Cancelled Due to ACA Change
New America Media

When Alemaz Belay got a letter from Blue Shield of California last month, notifying her that her health care policy would no longer be effective come Jan. 1, 2014 “due to new requirements for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” and that her premium was going to increase, she was understandably upset.

“I thought the (health reform law) was going to make health care more affordable and not more expensive,” said Belay, 57, an Ethiopian-born single mother of three in the San Francisco Bay area.

News Headlines Article

Affordable Care Act Penalties to Be Delayed
WebMD

The Obama administration said Wednesday that it would delay imposing penalties for six weeks on some consumers who might have been caught in a sticky timing problem for enrolling in coverage through the health law’s new insurance marketplaces. Those marketplaces, also known as exchanges, have come under intense scrutiny since opening on Oct. 1 because the technology has malfunctioned. But the White House is not linking this change of policy to website problems.

News Headlines Article

Contractors Describe Limited Testing of Insurance Web Site
New York Times

Federal officials did not fully test the online health insurance marketplace until two weeks before it opened to the public on Oct. 1, contractors told Congress on Thursday. While individual components of the system were tested earlier, they said, the government did not conduct “end-to-end-testing” of the system until late September.

The disclosure came at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating problems plaguing the federal marketplace, or exchange, a central pillar of President Obama’s health care overhaul.

News Headlines Article

HealthCare.gov contractors blame feds — and each other — for site’s problems
Sacramento Business Journal

Chuck Berry could have provided the soundtrack for Thursday’s House hearing with HealthCare.gov contractors on who should be blamed for the botched federal health insurance exchange. “It wasn’t me,” Berry sings, “no it wasn’t me. It must have been some other body, uh uh, baby, it wasn’t me.” That song’s on my mind, not only because I heard George Thorogood’s version while stuck in traffic this morning, but also because that’s the message delivered by the two main contractors for the HealthCare.gov web site.

News Headlines Article

Obamacare healthcare coverage applications near 700,000
MedCity News

About 700,000 applications have been submitted for U.S. healthcare coverage being offered through new exchanges created by President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, a U.S. official said on Thursday.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the number during an update for journalists about the healthcare marketplace, which has had a rocky rollout since enrollment in the new plans began on Oct 1.

News Headlines Article

The Sequestration Cuts That Are Harming Health Care
The Health Care Blog

Between October 1 and 17, the federal government ceased all nonessential operations because of a partisan stalemate over Obamacare. Although it is premature to declare this the greatest example of misgovernance in modern U.S. Congressional history, this impasse ranks highly. One casualty of the showdown was any consideration of changes to lessen the impact of the across-the-board sequestration cuts that began on March 1.

News Headlines Article

Obamacare call centers overwhelmed by healthcare coverage questions
MedCity News

An elderly man calls to ask if the land he owns will count as income to qualify for health coverage through Medicaid. A legal immigrant asks if she can sign up for a health plan through the state’s online insurance marketplace. A broker wants help to become certified to start selling coverage. It’s 10 a.m. Monday inside the call center of Connecticut’s new insurance exchange established under the federal health law.

News Headlines Article

Full testing of HealthCare.gov began too late, contractors say
Washington Post

Private contractors in charge of building the federal online health insurance marketplace testified Thursday that the administration went ahead with the Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov despite insufficient testing.

In their first public remarks since the debut of the problem-ridden insurance exchange, executives of the main IT companies told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that full tests of the Web site that should have been carried out months in advance, but began just two weeks before its rollout.

News Headlines Article

HealthCare.gov wasn’t tested enough, CMS says
Modern Healthcare

The massive federal online system designed to enroll Americans in private health plans in 36 states was not tested enough before the Oct. 1 launch of the health insurance marketplaces, the CMS communications chief told reporters Thursday.

Shortly after the House Energy and Commerce Committee grilled the lead contractors working on the federal exchange about the host of problems associated with the Web portal for Americans to buy health insurance, the CMS held a teleconference with reporters to provide what the agency called an “operational update” on the health insurance exchanges. At the House hearing Thursday morning, some of the contractors said they had expressed concerns about a lack of sufficient testing well before the go-live date three weeks ago.

News Headlines Article

Obamacare call centers have limitations
San Francisco Chronicle

An elderly man calls to ask if the land he owns will count as income to qualify for health coverage through Medicaid. A legal immigrant asks if she can sign up for a health plan through the state’s online insurance marketplace. A broker wants help to become certified to start selling coverage.

It’s 10 a.m. Monday inside the call center of Connecticut’s new insurance exchange established under the federal health law.

News Headlines Article

Hearing with HealthCare.gov contractors reveals last-minute changes, late testing
Modern Healthcare

A representative for CGI Federal, the prime contractor working on the federal government’s trouble-plagued insurance exchange website, told federal lawmakers Thursday that she was confident consumers will be able to successfully enroll for coverage on the HealthCare.gov website by the key Dec. 15 deadline. But Rep. Eliot Engel (R-N.Y.) asked that representative, “How soon will it be before the average American can go to HealthCare.gov and get right in?” He was told, “I cannot give you an exact date.”

News Headlines Article

ObamaCare Takes On Water
The Wall Street Journal

We should not lose The Headline in the day-to-day headlines. This is big history, not small. The ObamaCare rollout is a disaster for the White House, not a problem or a challenge or an embarrassment, not a gaffe or a bad few weeks. It is a political disaster, and the only question is whether it is partially recoverable, meaning the system can be made to work in a generally satisfactory way in the next few weeks.

News Headlines Article

Health IT takes hold around the world
Healthcare IT News

Every country, every government, every population is a participant in a global trial and error. Each one faces different circumstances and, therefore, approaches healthcare differently. But, as world health leaders see it, everyone can learn from others’ struggles and successes to improve and simplify their respective strategies. Health information technology is at the core.

Finding the global lessons from local healthcare strategies facilitates progress toward Universal Health Coverage, or UHC, a public health concept championed notably by the World Health Organization and it’s director, Margaret Chan.

News Headlines Article

Most Low-Income Calif. Residents Want More Health Information
California Healthline

More than half of low-income California residents want to have more information to help them make health care decisions, according to a study by the Blue Shield of California Foundation, Kaiser Health News’ “Capsules” reports. The figure increases to 71% if the information is clear and accessible, the study found. There are nearly seven million uninsured individuals in California, accounting for 15% of the uninsured population nationally. About three million earn 138% or less of the federal poverty level, qualifying them for Medi-Cal.

News Headlines Article

Healthcare ETFs: 4 Things To Consider
Yahoo! News

The healthcare industry has been one of the fastest growing segments in the market, with the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Healthcare ETF (IYH, A) outperforming the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY, A) over the past 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year periods. By enabling investors to purchase diversified exposure in a single security, exchange-traded funds represent a great way to efficiently and cost-effectively build healthcare exposure into a portfolio [see Select Sector SPDR ETFs Head-To-Head].

What’s the Appeal? The rapid growth in the healthcare industry is being driven by several factors. According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, the U.S. population will have about 72.1 million persons over the age of 65 by 2030, which is more than twice the number in 2000, helping to justify the rapid expansion. New medical devices, pharmaceuticals and treatment options will also help extend the average lifespan–and lifetime healthcare spending–of these citizens.

News Headlines Article

F.D.A. Urging a Tighter Rein on Painkillers
New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended tighter controls on how doctors prescribe the most commonly used narcotic painkillers, changes that are expected to take place as early as next year. The move, which represents a major policy shift, follows a decade-long debate over whether the widely abused drugs, which contain the narcotic hydrocodone, should be controlled as tightly as more powerful painkillers like OxyContin. The drugs at issue contain a combination of hydrocodone and an over-the-counter painkiller like acetaminophen or aspirin and are sold either as generics or under brand names like Vicodin or Lortab.

News Headlines Article

Tulare hospital’s potential partner list shrinks
Visialia Times-Delta

The Tulare Local Health Care District’s value will be determined by the end of November, allowing its board of directors to move forward with finding a potential partner for alignment.

The seven health care organizations interested in exploring an affiliation with the hospital district has shrunk to four.

Once a business valuation is completed, CEO Shawn Bolouki said the board will get into serious discussions to see who the right partner for the district is.

News Headlines Article

Woodland Healthcare names vice president for philanthropy
Daily Democrat

Woodland Healthcare Foundation has named Jon Parro vice president of philanthropy. The position took effect as of Monday.

Parro will be responsible for the cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of prospective and current donors for Woodland Healthcare Foundation.

“We are pleased to have Jon Parro help lead Woodland Healthcare Foundation in its service to the community,” says Vicki Faye, chairwoman of the Woodland Healthcare Foundation Board of Trustees.

Commands