News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Insurers Press for Way Around Healthcare.gov
New York Times

Some major health insurers are so worried about the Obama administration’s ability to fix its troubled health care website that they are pushing the government to create a shortcut that would allow them to enroll people entitled to subsidies directly rather than through the federal system. The idea is only one of several being discussed in a frantic effort to find a way around the technological problems that teams of experts are urgently trying to resolve.

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Anthem will be second Golden State insurer to delay Obamacare cancellations
San Francisco Business Times

Anthem Blue Cross is the second major health insurer to delay cancellations of individual coverage in the wake of controversy over Obamacare-related deadlines, Anthem officials confirmed to the San Francisco Business Times late Monday afternoon. The Business Times broke the news of the latest cancellations earlier this afternoon. But the delay will involve 104,000 people, not the 92,000 mentioned Monday afternoon by the California Department of Insurance in a media advisory of a press conference Tuesday morning.

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Medicaid is health overhaul’s early success story
NBC News

The underdog of government health care programs is emerging as the rare early success story of President Barack Obama’s technologically challenged health overhaul.

Often dismissed, Medicaid has signed up 444,000 people in 10 states in the six weeks since open enrollment began, according to Avalere Health, a market analysis firm that compiled data from those states. Twenty-five states are expanding their Medicaid programs, but data for all of them was not available.

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Roughly 40,000 people have signed up for healthcare coverage through Healthcare.gov
salon.com

According to a report in the Washington Post, roughly 40,000 people thus far have signed up for private health insurance through the broken Healthcare.gov website. While there were no official predictions released by the White House as to the number of enrollees expected at this point, the 40,000 figure falls well below the administration’s only known previous projections, taken from internal memos, showing an expectation of 500,000 enrollees for the month of October.

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HealthCare.gov Enrollment Falls Far Short of Target
The Wall Street Journal

Fewer than 50,000 people had successfully navigated the troubled federal health-care website and enrolled in private insurance plans as of last week, two people familiar with the matter said, citing internal government data.

The figure is a fraction of the Obama administration’s target of 500,000 enrollees for October. The early tally for the HealthCare.gov site, which launched Oct. 1, worries health insurers that are counting on higher enrollment to make their plans profitable.

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Obamacare enrollment estimates for 12 states, but not California
San Francisco Business Times

Which two states don’t fit the pattern? Avalere Health, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm that’s closely following the Affordable Care Act rollout, has made estimates for how many people have signed up for 12 of the 15 states (including the District of Columbia) that are running their own Obamacare exchanges.

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Did Obama lie about healthcare reform or just omit a crucial detail?
Los Angeles Times

President Obama apologized last week to people whose health insurance was canceled despite his repeated assurances that if you like your policy, it won’t change.

The charitable way of putting it is that Obama oversold details of the healthcare-reform law in his speeches.

His critics say he flat-out lied. This wouldn’t even be an issue if Obama had qualified his remarks simply by adding that you’d be able to keep your insurance as long as it meets minimum standards for coverage, which is a big part of what Obamacare is all about.

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Debate Over Delaying Individual Mandate Grows Louder
Health Leaders Media

Insurers and actuaries are warning that extending the enrollment period and delaying the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act will create “potentially adverse consequences” for the law. A letter to Congress from the American Academy of Actuaries’ Health Practice Council noted that the individual mandate and limited open enrollment period were included in the law to bring in a broad cross-section of risks—the young and the old, the healthy and the sick—to ensure the markets are viable and premiums are stable.

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Former Romney adviser knows business of health reform
San Diego Union-Tribune

Boston attorney Alden Bianchi advised Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on the creation of the state’s 2006 health care reform bill, which is widely viewed as the precursor to today’s Affordable Care Act. In 2007, Bianchi testified before the Senate Finance Committee on the legality of the employer mandate, originally set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014, but subsequently pushed back to Jan. 1, 2015.

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Yes, health coverage costs less in L.A.
San Francisco Chronicle

Today, I’ll answer questions from readers about why health insurance premiums are so much higher in Northern than Southern California and donating money to charity from an individual retirement account.

But first this news: Covered California, the state’s health care exchange, will shut down temporarily starting at 8 p.m. Saturday to bring a small-business marketplace online and perform other Web site maintenance.

The shutdown could last until 6 a.m. Nov. 19.

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Anthem Blue Cross extends some canceled health insurance policies
Los Angeles Times

Amid an uproar over widespread cancellations of health insurance policies, Anthem Blue Cross of California said it is granting a two-month extension through February to 104,000 customers.

California’s largest for-profit insurer is offering more time to a small portion of its canceled policyholders because the insurance giant didn’t send termination notices in time under state rules.

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Calif. Requires Anthem Blue Cross To Delay Cancellation of Plans
California Healthline

During a press conference on Tuesday, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones (D) is scheduled to announce a required delay in the cancellation of about 104,000 Anthem Blue Cross health plans that do not meet the Affordable Care Act’s requirements, the San Francisco Business Times’ “Bay Area BizTalk” reports (Rauber, “Bay Area BizTalk,” San Francisco Business Times, 11/11). The move follows a similar state order issued to Blue Shield of California last week.

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Second major California insurer will delay Obamacare cancellations
San Francisco Business Times

A second major California health insurer will delay cancellation of individual coverage for policyholders who want to keep the coverage, following in the footsteps of a Blue Shield of California unit last week, according to the Department of Insurance. About 92,000 policyholders could be affected, the agency said Monday afternoon, in announcing a press conference by Commissioner Dave Jones on Tuesday morning.

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Health Insurer Says Individual Plans Will Have Fewer Doctors Next Year
KVPR

California health insurers say people buying coverage for themselves next year should expect a different set of doctors and hospitals than are available this year. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California are the largest issuers of individual health insurance policies in the state. Jeff Smith of Blue Shield said in order to keep its plans affordable next year, it negotiated with doctors and hospitals.

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States make progress in Medicaid parity payments
Modern Healthcare

States are making progress carrying out a provision of the healthcare reform law that calls for increasing Medicaid primary-care payments for 2013 and 2014 to match what Medicare pays. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that few physicians were getting the promised pay bump (though payments for 2013 will be made retroactively to Jan. 1). Because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act relies on states to carry out the provision, it has been difficult to discern how far behind they were. States also argued that, if they were behind, it was at least partially the fault of the CMS, which didn’t issue its final rule on Medicaid parity until last November.

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Union seeks to cut hospital CEO pay, prices
Sacramento Business Journal

A crack in the unlikely alliance between Service Employees International Union and the California Hospital Association surfaced Friday when the union filed statewide initiatives that seek to cut hospital prices and nonprofit hospital CEO compensation. The Fair Healthcare Pricing Act would prohibit hospitals from charging more than 25 percent more than the actual cost of providing care. The Charitable Hospital Executive Compensation Act would prohibit nonprofit hospital executives from receiving more than $450,000 in annual compensation.

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Ballot Measures Filed To Prompt Debate Over Hospital Costs, Salaries
California Healthline

A health care workers’ union in California has filed two ballot initiatives in an effort to engage the state’s hospital industry in a public debate over rising costs and high executive salaries, according to union officials, the Sacramento Bee’s “Capitol Alert” reports. The move comes after similar ballot initiatives introduced by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West last year were dropped when the union and the hospital industry reached an agreement on such issues.

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Ballot Proposals Take Aim at Hospitals
California Healthline

A California union filed paperwork Friday to launch two ballot measures that would curb salaries of hospital executives and impose limits on the prices hospitals charge for care. The proposals were submitted Friday to the state Attorney General’s office in Sacramento by representatives of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West union. It’s the first step in a long process to try to get the measures on the November, 2014 ballot.

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Physicians-for-Hire Must Tread Carefully
Health Leaders Media

Now more than ever before, hospitals are recruiting physicians to leave their private practices and join the hospital as an employee, or merge the entire practice with the hospital. Those offers will only increase as the healthcare industry moves more toward the accountable care organization (ACO) model, so how do you know what to do when the offers come?

And what if you haven’t been asked yet, but you’re interested in making the move?

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Mental Health Parity and the Affordable Care Act
The Health Care Blog

The Obama administration announced on Friday that it will require parity for mental health insurance coverage. That means that health insurers must apply the same copayments, deductibles, and visit limits to mental healthcare as they do for physical health care treatment. Call it fair, call it political, but please don’t call it a good economic or health policy. The story about how this is fair, or at least politically popular goes something like this: Health insurers are evil and powerful firms that can and will do whatever they want.

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AIDS healthcare group takes new approach to city’s health services
Los Angeles Times

A high-profile AIDS healthcare organization is attempting to soften its approach after meeting pitched opposition to a ballot measure that would require the city of Los Angeles to set up its own health department.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation collected enough signatures to qualify a measure for the June 2014 ballot that would force the city to end its health services contracts with Los Angeles County and set up its own municipal health department within 120 days.

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HIMSS, EHRA want changes to how safety regs are imposed on health IT systems
Modern Healthcare

Two linked health information technology associations are looking to limit the scope of proposals to impose safety regulations on health IT systems.

The Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, said “most electronic health records and clinical decision support systems, according to current capabilities, neither fit the definition of, nor would be appropriately regulated as medical devices.”

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KMC loses $3.5 million; supervisors seek oversight options
Bakersfield Californian

Kern County supervisors continued focusing Monday on the complex tangle of financial problems plaguing Kern Medical Center, and began exploring the possibility of another organization running the troubled facility. During their regularly monthly meeting the supervisors heard some good news — KMC has paid down its general fund loan to under $100 million after it had spiked close to the maximum $136.2 million county cap — and some bad news: It lost $3.5 million in September.

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Union covering UC workers calls one-day strike
Sacramento Business Journal

The University of California’s largest union has called one-day unfair labor practice strike of UC campuses and medical centers on Nov. 20. Service and technical workers at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will be joined on the picket lines by members of the California Nurses Association. Both unions are in collective bargaining with UC. The strike stems from what AFSCME calls “a coordinated campaign of illegal intimidation, coercion and threats” against AFSCME members who participated in a two-day walkout in May.

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Napa Valley College must find new provider for health center
Napa Valley Register

Napa Valley College is scrambling to find a new health care provider to operate its Student Health Center before the start of the spring semester in January.

Clinic Ole has operated an outreach clinic at the college for about 12 years, but has to end its services on the college campus to meet federal guidelines.

Clinic Ole serves mostly low-income individuals and families and is a “federally qualified health center” — meaning it qualifies for enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other benefits.

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