News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Workflow Changes Could Relieve Primary Care Physician Shortage
Health Leaders Media

Red-flagging and eliminating inefficiencies to improve patient flow may go a long way toward relieving the looming shortage of clinicians in the primary care workforce.

A study in this month’s Health Affairs says easily implemented, system-wide changes that save a few minutes here and there during the workday could yield dramatic gains in physician capacity while reducing physician burnout and improving care.

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More think doctors should try to extend lives, no matter how painful
Los Angeles Times

A growing minority of Americans believes that doctors should do anything possible to save a life, no matter what, instead of saying there are some situations in which a patient should be allowed to pass away, the Pew Research Center found in a survey of nearly 2,000 adults. In addition, an increasing number of people say that even if they were suffering an incurable disease and were in severe pain, they would not ask their doctors to halt treatment.

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Another Law Raising the Cost of Health Care
The Health Care Blog

While there has been much focus lately on the ways in which ObamaCare is chilling the growth of private business, we should not overlook the continuing deleterious effects of the one surviving relic of HillaryCare, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Quietly, September 23 came and went as the compliance effective date for a new rule, expanding the reach of HIPAA, and likely driving many smaller players out of the health care industry.

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Americans agree with rationales for health care law, Gallup finds
Sacramento Bee

Americans see cost as the nation’s more urgent health care issue, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday. In its first survey since the Affordable Care Act’s major provisions were rolled out, it found “two of the main issues the law is designed to address — healthcare access and cost — remain the most vexing to Americans. In particular, the percentage citing cost as the central problem is the highest since 2008.” Disapproval of the act, also known as Obamacare, is up, the Nov. 7-10 poll found.

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Despite more HealthCare.gov problems, smooth operations by Nov. 30 still touted by CMS
Modern Healthcare

Even as the federal Web portal for health plan enrollment under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act continues to sputter, a CMS spokeswoman stuck to the Obama administration’s line that the troubled HealthCare.gov website will be operating smoothly for a “vast majority” of applicants by Nov. 30. The website, which launched Oct. 1 and has been lurching ever since, was down for the count for three hours Wednesday afternoon and crashed for about 5 minutes Tuesday due to problems with “back-end functionality,” according to Julie Bataille, director of the office of communications for the CMS.

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Boehner tries signing up for health care…but can’t
Sacramento Bee

No surprise here….House Speaker John Boehner tried to access the Affordable Care Act web site and got nowhere.

“After putting in my personal information, I received an error message,” he said after trying to access the Washington, D.C. exchange.

“I was able to work past that,” Boehner added, “but when I went to actually sign up for coverage, I got this ‘internal server error’ screen.”

He couldn’t get any further, and he’s now got a call into the help desk.

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Direct enrollment could become ‘Plan B’ for HealthCare.gov
Modern Healthcare

To ease insurance sign-ups that have been slowed by federal website problems, CMS officials have announced that individuals and families now can enroll for exchange health plans directly through insurers and still qualify for a federal premium subsidy. Previously, HHS directed everyone seeking exchange plan coverage and a federal premium subsidy—available to individuals and families earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level—to enroll through a state- or federally operated marketplace.

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Insurance brokers, agents also caught in HealthCare.gov technology woes
Washington Post

Brokers and agents say a host of technological problems is blocking their ability to help consumers sign up for coverage through the federal health insurance Web site. They say it is a particular problem for people with major health issues — those considered high-risk — because they are least able to weather a gap in coverage. Brokers “have hundreds of these [consumer] files sitting on their desks trying to get help for these people,” said Jessica Waltman, senior vice president for governmental affairs at the National Association of Health Underwriters, which represents about 200,000 health insurance agents and brokers.

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Healthcare industry vested in success of Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

President Obama’s healthcare law, struggling to survive its botched rollout, now depends more than ever on insurance companies, doctor groups and hospitals — major forces in the industry that are committed to the law’s success despite persistent tensions with the White House. Many healthcare industry leaders are increasingly frustrated with the Obama administration’s clumsy implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Nearly all harbor reservations about parts of the sweeping law. Some played key roles in killing previous Democratic efforts to widen healthcare coverage.

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Doctors are concerned about pay scales under health care law
Merced Sun-Star

Many doctors are disturbed that they’ll be paid less – often a lot less – to care for the millions of patients who are projected to buy coverage through the health law’s new insurance marketplaces.

Some have complained to medical associations – including those in Texas, California, Georgia, Connecticut and New York – saying the discounted rates could lead to a two-tiered system in which fewer doctors participate, perhaps making it harder for consumers to get the care they need.

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Californians continue to enroll into Obamacare, but thousands will lose policies
Los Angeles Daily News

A majority of those who have applied for health care through Covered California are English speakers, Los Angeles County residents and between ages 55 to 64, who likely qualify for Medi-Cal, according to figures released Thursday.

More than 360,000 people completed applications through Covered California since the state health care exchange opened for business on Oct. 1. Those include residents who qualified for government subsidies.

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Covered CA denies Obama’s request
San Diego Union-Tribune

Despite a request from the president and the state’s insurance commissioner, Covered California declined Thursday to clear the way for insurance companies to continue canceled health policies into 2014.

Board members of the state’s health insurance exchange voted 5-0 to stay its present course and allow an estimated 900,000 health plans to lapse at the end of the year because they do not comply with all of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

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Calif. rejects Obama’s insurance-cancellation fix
Modern Healthcare

The board overseeing California’s health insurance exchange voted unanimously Thursday to stick with its current year-end deadline of phasing out more than 1 million individual health insurance policies that fail to meet requirements of the federal healthcare overhaul, turning aside a plea by President Barack Obama to let those policies continue.

In voting 5-0, Covered California board members said allowing the older polices to continue would undermine the new insurance marketplaces. Those policies are being ended because they do meet the more extensive requirements for essential benefits under the federal Affordable Care Act.

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California’s health exchange spurns Obama directive
The Mercury News

It’s all systems go for the federal health care law in California after the state on Thursday spurned President Barack Obama’s directive allowing millions of Americans to extend their current health insurance policies through 2014.

In a stunning move that reverberated across the nation, the five-member board of Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, voted unanimously to stay the course and continue building on the exchange’s momentum of successfully enrolling tens of thousands of people in new health care plans.

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California health officials reject Obama’s offer to delay insurance cancellations
Sacramento Bee

California’s health insurance exchange on Thursday declined a presidential invitation permitting insurers to grant extensions to more than 1 million customers with policies set to terminate at year’s end.

Covered California officials said they were reluctant to give insurance companies more time to terminate individual policies that don’t conform to the federal heath care overhaul. The cancellations apply to individual plans purchased after passage of the health law in March 2010.

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Covered California defies feds, won’t extend policies
Sacramento Business Journal

Rejecting an Obama Administration request, Covered California board members on Thursday voted against allowing health plans to extend policies that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act. After lengthy discussion, board members voted unanimously to keep the current policy, which requires health plans that participate in the new insurance marketplace to cancel coverage by the end of the year that doesn’t meet minimum standards.

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California votes against extending canceled health policies
Los Angeles Times

Spurning President Obama’s plan for canceled policies, California’s health insurance exchange voted against any extension for about 1 million policyholders in the state. The five-member board of the exchange voted unanimously to keep its current requirement that insurers terminate most individual policies Dec. 31 because they don’t meet all the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

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California Obamacare enrollment more than doubles to nearly 80,000
San Francisco Business Times

Nearly 80,000 Californians — 79,891 — selected Obamacare plans on the Covered California exchange through Nov. 19, Covered California officials confirmed today. That’s up from about 31,000 at the end of October, and solidifies the Golden State’s status as the leader in the Obamacare sign-up race. Another 135,000 applications through Nov. 19 are likely to result in Medi-Cal coverage for currently uninsured or underinsured Californians, Covered California announced early Thursday afternoon.

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Covered California board says no to President Obama, won’t extend canceled policies
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California’s board of directors has said no to President Barack Obama’s request that states allow individuals and families to keep so-called “non-compliant” health insurance policies through 2014, officials said in a Tweet today. “#CoveredCA board decides to not allow people to stay in non-compliant health insurance plans,” the organization tweeted. More than 1.13 million Californians are enrolled in the controversial plans, according to Covered California.

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California won’t extend canceled health policies
San Francisco Chronicle

Covered California, the state’s health exchange, has rejected President Obama’s request to let insurers extend their current health policies, a decision that affects about 1 million Californians who have coverage that doesn’t comply with the requirements of the federal health law. The unanimous vote came Thursday at a meeting in Sacramento of Covered California’s five-member board of directors. It means that the agency will continue to require the 11 health insurers that sell coverage through the exchange to terminate by Dec. 31 those individual policies that do not meet all the standards of the Affordable Care Act.

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California enrolls 80,000 in health plans; older people lead the way
Los Angeles Times

Nearly 80,000 people have signed up for health insurance in California’s new exchange, another sign of strong enrollment growth in a crucial state for the Obamacare rollout. However, one drawback in the new state figures is the high percentage of enrollees who are 45 to 64 years old. To make the healthcare law work, it’s important for government-run exchanges to recruit enough young and healthy people to offset the higher costs incurred by older, sicker patients.

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Nearly 80,000 Californians sign up for Obamacare plans
Reuters

Nearly 80,000 Californians have enrolled in private health insurance plans through the state’s exchange marketplace created under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, the Covered California exchange said on Thursday.

The latest data, which charts enrollment from the October 1 start through November 19, means that about 20,000 more people signed up for plans since the exchange’s initial update on its enrollment released November 13.

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Obesity rises, but weight-management firms see revenue slimming
Modern Healthcare

As the adult obesity rate in the U.S. continues to rise, revenue for some companies that provide weight-management products and services is doing just the opposite. Gallup-Healthways reported this month that the obesity rate for 2013, based on data gathered between Jan. 1 and Oct. 28, is up to 27.2%, one percentage point higher than it was in 2012. According to Gallup-Healthways, it is likely to surpass all annual average obesity levels since 2008, when the two companies began tracking the statistic.

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Nurses protest outside Sutter Tracy
Tracy Press

A candlelight vigil outside Sutter Tracy Community Hospital on Wednesday, Nov. 20, was designed to call attention to the concerns of local nurses who say the hospital is losing beds and jobs.

The California Nurses Association, which has been negotiating a contract with the hospital since June 2012, organized the event with Tracy nurses. About 30 people, including Sutter Tracy nurses and their families, demonstrated along Tracy Boulevard.

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Covered California’s director visits Bakersfield, encourages enrollment
Bakersfield Californian

Covered California’s executive director stopped by Bakersfield Wednesday afternoon to urge people to seek face-to-face help signing up for insurance.

Peter V. Lee visited the Clinica Sierra Vista East Bakersfield Community Health Center after he opened Covered California’s Fresno call center Wednesday morning. He met privately with Clinica CEO Steve Schilling and other staff before holding a news conference, and then watching Clinica’s staff help people apply for insurance.

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