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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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HealthCare.gov’s problems make reliable enrollment numbers impossible, Sebelius says
Modern Healthcare

One month into open enrollment on the health insurance exchanges, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized for what she described as a “miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans” on the federal online marketplace known as HealthCare.gov.

Appearing Wednesday before the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Obama administration’s top health official spent more than three hours fielding questions about problems with the federal Web portal, decisions that HHS and CMS made before the Oct. 1 launch of open enrollment, privacy and security concerns for consumers, accountability of federal contractors working on the federal system, and President Barack Obama’s earlier promise that Americans who like their health insurance plans can keep them.

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Another Obamacare horror story debunked
Los Angeles Times

Deborah Cavallaro is a hard-working real estate agent in the Westchester suburb of Los Angeles who has been featured prominently on a round of news shows lately, talking about how badly Obamacare is going to cost her when her existing plan gets canceled and she has to find a replacement. She says she’s angry at President Obama for having promised that people who like their health plans could keep them, when hers is getting canceled for not meeting Obamacare’s standards.

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California law: Health workers must sign for kids to skip vaccines
Los Angeles Times

Declining to have a child immunized may become more difficult for Californians in 2014.

Last year Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 2109, which requires parents and a licensed healthcare practitioner to sign a form before a child can be exempted from getting required vaccinations because of personal beliefs. On Wednesday, the state’s Department of Public Health made the new Personal Belief Exemption form available.

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Joint Commission’s ‘Top Performer’ list sees 77% increase
Modern Healthcare

The number of hospitals achieving Joint Commission “Top Performer” status has risen significantly over the past three years, though there may be a dropoff next year when the organization raises its standards for institutions earning that distinction.

The 1,099 hospitals making this year’s list were required to receive a composite score of 95% or above for all accountability measures they reported in 2012. They also had to score at least 95% on all measures associated with 30 or more patient cases. Of the four measure sets they reported, at least one set had to have a composite score of 95% or above and have an individual score of 95% or above for each measure in the set.

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Obama to Dropped Insurance Customers: ‘Just Shop Around in the New Marketplace, That’s What It’s For
National Journal Magazine

President Obama today addressed concerns over people being dropped from their health care insurance plans since the implementation of Obamacare. Certain people who had purchased individual insurance plans, in recent weeks, are finding out that such plans do not comply with the new law. And some of these people will have to pay more for upgraded plans.

Critics of the administration, and fact checkers at publications such as The Washington Post, are saying this is a direct contradiction of the president’s campaign promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep it” under Obamacare.

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Obama’s health-care promise that people can keep their insurance comes back to haunt him
Washington Post

It is a catchy sound bite that has turned around to bite the hand that fed it to the country: If you like the health insurance you have, you can keep it.

President Obama’s credibility has taken a hit over that line, which he tossed off in various versions during countless campaign stops and policy speeches.

The damage comes not just from the fact that it does not happen to be true, which hundreds of thousands who had bought coverage on the individual market are learning as they receive notices of cancellation from their insurers.

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Obamacare hysteria: Don’t believe the canceled insurance hype
Los Angeles Times

Obamacare’s critics are going to town on the cancellation letters millions of Americans are receiving from their health insurers, informing them that their health plans won’t conform to the new federal standards for health coverage as of Jan. 1.

We’re supposed to be scandalized by this, since President Obama himself assured everyone that if they liked their insurance they’d be able to keep it. And people just love plans that in some cases cost just $50 a month. At that price, what’s not to love?

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Obama Says Romney’s Example Shows Health Care Reform Will Work
TIME Swampland

With the problem-plagued roll-out of his health care reform law under growing scrutiny, President Barack Obama said Wednesday that a similar law enacted by his 2012 Republican opponent worked well — and that Obamacare eventually will, too.

“Mitt Romney and I ran a long and spirited campaign against one another, but I’ve always believed that when he was governor here in Massachusetts, he did the right thing on health care,” Obama told supporters at the storied Faneuil Hall, where Romney signed Massachusetts’ universal health care measure into law seven years ago. “It’s because you guys had a proven model that we built the Affordable Care Act on this template of proven bipartisan success. Your law was the model for the nation’s law.

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Obama praises Mass. for reform’s template
Modern Healthcare

Speaking Wednesday in Boston, President Barack Obama praised Massachusetts leaders for creating what he called a “template” for healthcare reform that was the foundation for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And, following in their footsteps, the president vowed that the nation will overcome the problems with the law’s rollout and ultimately “see it through.”

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Obama: GOP critics of Obamacare should follow Romney example
Los Angeles Times

President Obama said the buck stops with him on the failures of healthcare.gov but accused Republican governors of working against the success of the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking to a crowd in Boston, at the historic hall where onetime Republican Gov. Mitt Romney signed that state’s 2006 healthcare reform into law, Obama pointed to his former rival as an example of bipartisan cooperation.

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Obama: ‘Keep it’ didn’t mean what you thought when it comes to health insurance
San Francisco Business Times

President Barack Obama traveled to Boston to tout health care reform as Republicans pummeled its botched rollout on Capitol Hill.

He thought he’d get a friendly reception at Fanueil Hall, because that’s where Massachusetts’ health care reform law was signed seven years ago.

“We built the Affordable Care Act on the template of this proven, bipartisan success,” Obama said. “Your law was the model.”

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Obamacare’s split-screen day
POLITICO

President Barack Obama’s prescription for health care law critics: Take a deep breath — and move on. Never mind that House Republicans have beaten up on two of his top health officials on consecutive days; that one of them, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, faces new calls to resign seemingly every day; or that the Obamacare website crashed while Sebelius was testifying on the Hill Wednesday.

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President Obama tries to sell Obamacare: Can you hear me now?
Los Angeles Times

As he tried to reframe the national discussion about healthcare reform on Wednesday, President Obama uttered an outright fib: “This debate has never been about right or left,” he said of the ceaseless fighting over his healthcare plan.

Oh, yes, it has. And is.

Faced with a blizzard of bad PR as a result of a faltering website that had been designed as the main portal for those seeking insurance under the plan, Obama went to Boston to park himself in the place where Republicans and Democrats passed a state health program that served as a model for the national one.

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Obamacare: Unfair to the young middle class, punished enough already
Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration came out with a report Monday arguing that 1 million single adults between the ages of 18 and 35 will be eligible for an Obamacare insurance plan costing less than $50 a month.

That’s news to me.

I’m a healthy 34-year-old with a taxable income hovering right around the Obamacare subsidy level who, for the last several years, has purchased a relatively inexpensive catastrophic health insurance plan from Blue Shield. I get to see the doctor four times a year for a $30 co-pay, and I won’t have to spend the rest of my life working off the debt if I get hit by a bus.

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Sebelius on health-care law rollout: ‘Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.
Washington Post

The battle over the government’s problem-plagued health-care Web site escalated on Wednesday as Republicans attacked the Obama administration over an array of emerging issues involving the health law, including potential security vulnerabilities on the site and complaints from Americans facing cancellations of existing policies.

At a congressional hearing, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized for the flaws of HealthCare.gov, which was not functioning for most of the day.

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Sebelius shoulders blame for flawed health care website
Sacramento Bee

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius threw herself on a live political grenade Wednesday, taking full responsibility for the problem-riddled rollout of the federal health insurance marketplace and the decision not to delay the Oct. 1 launch of its troubled website.

“Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible,” Sebelius testified at a packed hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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5 takeaways from Kathleen Sebelius’ turn in the HealthCare.gov hot seat (Video)
Sacramento Business Journal

Kathleen Sebelius took her turn in the hot seat Wednesday over the failed rollout of HealthCare.gov, the federal government’s health insurance exchange.

For three-and-a-half hours, the secretary of Health and Human Services answered questions from members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Here are five takeaways from Sebelius’ hearing: Sebelius apologized for the “miserably frustrating experience” Americans have had while trying to use the HealthCare.gov website.

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Some Factories Stick With Old Health Plans
The Wall Street Journal

Some small manufacturers facing soaring costs for employee health insurance say they are likely to continue coverage for their workers, even though they won’t be required to under the Affordable Care Act.

They are wary of discontinuing coverage and sending their employees to new insurance exchanges to obtain their own insurance. They say the problem-filled rollout of the federal government’s online insurance market has raised further doubts about whether their employees would have access to sufficient coverage at lower costs.

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Contrite White House Spurns Health Law’s Critics
New York Times

The White House on Wednesday blended expressions of contrition for the troubled rollout of its health care law with an aggressive rejection of Republican criticism of it, as the administration sought a political strategy to blunt the fallout from weeks of technical failures and negative coverage.

While Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, apologized profusely during a politically charged hearing on Capitol Hill, President Obama traveled to Massachusetts to argue forcefully that the Affordable Care Act will eventually be just as successful as the similar plan pioneered by Mitt Romney, his onetime rival and a former governor of the state.

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Politics aside, policy experts agree on health reform, authors say
Modern Healthcare

Given the fierce debate in Washington, D.C., over healthcare reform, here’s a surprising statement: There is broad consensus on how the nation should fix U.S. healthcare, according to an article published by policy experts in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Policymakers strongly agree on what does not work—fee-for-service, or paying hospitals and doctors by volume for clinic visits, test and procedures, wrote authors Dr. John Lewin and Larry McNeely of the NCHC and Lawrence Atkins of the NASI, who reached that conclusion after reviewing recent healthcare reform policy papers by organizations including the Bipartisan Policy Center, Brookings Institution, Commonwealth Fund, National Coalition on Health Care, Partnership for Sustainable Health Care and Urban Institute.

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Insurance reforms do change health plans, for the better
Sacramento Bee

“If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.” That’s what President Barack Obama has said many times since 2009. It was a stupid thing to say, much less to repeat. The market changes all the time. Americans who get their health insurance coverage through their employers have witnessed the changes, year after year, long before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

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Why Isn’t there a Healthcare.gov App?
The Health Care Blog

A THCB reader who asked that we not identify him because his company does unrelated contracting work with the government writes in to ask: “Why isn’t there a Healthcare.gov app? If the problem is that the system is failing because the poorly designed Healthcare.gov web site is being crashed by monster waves of traffic, wouldn’t putting out an app help? I mean, ‘cmon guys. It’s 2013. Millions of Americans have iPhones, iPads, Androids and god knows what other mobile devices.

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More healthcare sticker shock as 1 million Californians face policy cancellations
San Francisco Business Times

As a national debate rages over individual health policy cancellations because their coverage doesn’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s requirements, another shoe is likely to drop very soon in California. That’s because, so far, there’s been no word on how the changes will affect enrollees in individual and family plans at Anthem Blue Cross, which rivals say is by far the biggest player in the Golden State’s individual market, with about 760,000 enrollees.

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Consumer prices for hospital services up 0.7% in September
Modern Healthcare

Consumer prices for hospital services increased 0.7% last month after a record spike in August of 1.9%, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The September increase in the Consumer Price Index was more in line with a 0.5% average one-month change to the index, which reflects the prices paid to hospitals by commercial insurers. In September 2012, the Consumer Price Index for hospital services was 0.5%.

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HIPAA framework could be expanded, privacy expert says
Modern Healthcare

The HIPAA privacy and security framework could be broadened as Congress and several federal regulatory agencies outside of healthcare grapple with privacy and security concerns created by mobile and other newer technologies, a Washington privacy expert told members of the American Health Information Management Association on Wednesday. “There are all kinds of companies gathering all kinds of health information and not having anything to do with HIPAA,” said Kirk Nahra, a lawyer with Wiley Rein, during a session on “Next Generation Privacy and Security Issues” at the AHIMA convention in Atlanta. “This is now the biggest hotspot for the government on privacy and security.”

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Eleven local hospitals named top performers
San Diego Union-Tribune

The nation’s largest accreditor of health care facilities named 11 local hospitals “top performers” Wednesday for their performance on key quality measures in 2012.

The Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies more than 20,000 health care organizations and programs nationwide, published the list, which includes 1,099 hospitals throughout the United States, on Wednesday as part of its annual “Improving America’s Hospitals” report.

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Monterey County trauma center recommendation was made by panel from Iowa
Monterey Herald

It was a panel of trauma experts from Des Moines, Iowa, who recommended Natividad Medical Center be given the first shot at negotiating a deal with the county to become the area’s trauma center.

According to a review of county records by The Herald, the panelists were paid up to $6,000 each for reviewing the proposals of Natividad and Salinas Valley Memorial hospitals. They were in the area for nearly a week and weren’t paid expenses. They visited the hospitals and produced a strictly numerical rating based on the hospitals’ capacity for meeting a range of trauma center criteria.

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