News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Steinberg wants legislative openings filled by appointment
San Francisco Chronicle

Following a year of legislative musical chairs, state Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers when lawmakers leave office before their term expires.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is proposing to give the governor the authority to fill vacant seats in the Legislature through an appointment process, which he acknowledges could be a difficult sell. “I don’t know how this will go over,” Steinberg said Thursday. “I just am frustrated with the amount of money spent on special elections and the fact that we have these gaping vacancies for a long period of time.”

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More than 50K Californians enroll in Obamacare in three-day period
Sacramento Bee

Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, is experiencing a significant surge in enrollment, officials said Thursday.

More than 53,500 customers selected health coverage plans in the last three days – about 60 percent more than the entire month of October when the exchange opened for business.

That includes 20,506 customers Wednesday, 19,351 Tuesday and 13,653 Monday, Executive Director Peter V. Lee told reporters.

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Health Care Rules Relaxed Again, ‘Backlash’ Follows
capital public radio

Word from the Obama administration that Americans who recently had their health insurance canceled will be allowed to buy “catastrophic policies” mostly intended for young adults has upset the insurance industry, NPR’s Julie Rovner tells our Newscast desk. The Washington Post goes a bit further, saying that the administration’s decision to once again relax some of the rules of the new federal health care law sparked “an immediate backlash from the health insurance industry and raised fairness questions about a law intended to promote affordable and comprehensive coverage on a widespread basis.”

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Healthcare Innovation Is Not Just About Cutting Costs
The Health Care Blog

Aspiring healthcare entrepreneurs could be forgiven for assuming our most significant challenge is the need to reduce the cost of care. Investors and policy wonks alike seem to agree on the overriding need to focus on innovations that will improve efficiency and take costs out of the system. The appeal of this approach is easy to understand: rising healthcare costs are a real problem, and business process improvement feels like something we already know how to do. Large companies like GE and Oracle are thrilled by the opportunity to apply their process methodologies to healthcare.

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Obama administration relaxes rules of health-care law four days before deadline
Washington Post

The Obama administration on Thursday night significantly relaxed the rules of the federal health-care law for millions of consumers whose individual insurance policies have been canceled, saying they can buy bare-bones plans or entirely avoid a requirement that most Americans have health coverage.

The surprise announcement, days before the Dec. 23 deadline for people to choose plans that will begin Jan. 1, triggered an immediate backlash from the health insurance industry and raised fairness questions about a law intended to promote affordable and comprehensive coverage on a widespread basis.

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Obama Exempts Canceled Policyholders from Individual Mandate
Insurance Journal

Americans whose health plans are being canceled because their coverage doesn’t meet Obamacare rules will be exempt from the mandate that they carry insurance, under a change announced by the Obama administration.

Officials estimated the change will affect fewer than 500,000 people as a Dec. 23 deadline looms to purchase health policies to be eligible for coverage beginning Jan. 1. People losing coverage also will be eligible to buy high-deductible “catastrophic” insurance the law usually limits to those younger than age 30.

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Insurers extend premium deadline amid ObamaCare problems
Fox News

Consumers worried that tight deadlines around the holidays and lingering computer problems could thwart their efforts to secure coverage under President Barack Obama’s health overhaul will get extra time to pay, the health insurance industry said Wednesday.

The board of the industry’s biggest trade group — America’s Health Insurance Plans — said consumers who select a plan by Dec. 23 will now have until Jan. 10 to pay their first month’s premium, instead of a previous New Year’s Eve deadline set by the government.

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Putting Health Care Reform In Perspective
Forbes

Health care policy junkies held their breath on Dec. 1, the date President Barack Obama promised the government-run exchange web site would be fixed. They followed the early returns on Dec. 15, the deadline to enroll for health insurance coverage. And, of course, they are on the edge of their seats waiting for coverage to take effect in January so they can compare the enrollee count to the president’s projections.

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Options set for those lacking new health coverage
San Francisco Chronicle

People whose existing health care insurance has been canceled because of the Affordable Care Act will not be hit with tax penalties for failing to line up new coverage as required under the law.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she will use authorities in the law to issue a “temporary hardship exemption” from those penalties.

Under another stopgap option Sebelius announced Thursday, those whose plans were canceled will be able to buy a bare-bones catastrophic plan regardless of their age. Such plans had been intended for those under 30.

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Covered California signs up 50K people in three days
Sacramento Business Journal

It’s almost deadline time, and in the last three days, more than 53,000 people have signed up for health insurance through Covered California. In comparison, about 30,000 completed enrollment during October, the first month the health exchange was open, according to Covered California. On Wednesday alone, 20,506 people enrolled in a health insurance plan, compared to Tueesday, when 19,351 enrolled.

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State seeing enrollment boost as first health insurance deadline nears
Sacramento Bee

The number of Californians getting coverage under the new federal health care law has surged this week, just days before the first key deadline for the program, officials from Covered California said Thursday.

More than 53,500 customers selected health coverage plans in a three-day period this week – about 60 percent more than in the entire month of October, when the exchange opened for business.

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Officials: Fewer than 500,000 have lost healthcare coverage
News10.net

Officials expect that fewer than 500,000 people may not have insurance come Jan. 1 after they received cancellation notices in October because their plans did not meet the specifications of the Affordable Care Act, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The four officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said they expect the number to be much lower by Jan. 1.

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Employees will pay more for health care in 2014
USA Today

If you’re one of the 150 million Americans who get health insurance through your job, prepare to pay more. The new year will likely bring higher deductibles and copayments, penalties for not joining wellness programs and smaller employer contributions toward family coverage.

While some workers and employers blame the Affordable Care Act for those changes, benefit experts say the law is mainly accelerating trends that predate it. “Employers are experimenting” with ways to control costs, said Paul Fronstin, at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a non-partisan think tank in Washington.

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New studies detail how HIV affects immune system, claim drug exists to block virus
Washington Post

In a last-ditch effort to rid the body of HIV, droves of white bloods cells self-destruct in an explosive mass suicide that drives the progression toward AIDS, a pair of new studies has found.

These fiery deaths attract more unsuspecting cells to come over and help, initiating a domino effect of immune system destruction. The discovery of these mechanisms of cell death has solved a decades-long mystery that has plagued HIV researchers since the emergence of the disease. And researchers claim an existing drug may be able to halt this suicide cascade in its tracks.

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How Max Baucus, the Next Ambassador to China, Killed Progressive Health Care Reform
The Huffington Post

Let’s concede that President Barack Obama’s decision to appoint Senator Max Baucus as his ambassador to China is a clever political ploy. Baucus had already announced he wasn’t going to seek re-election next year, but if he leaves the Senate now, Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock can appoint a replacement who can run next year as the incumbent, increasing the odds that the Democrats will hold onto that seat.

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Premier: ACOs Poised for Growth
Health Leaders Media

Payers and providers have been more reticent about creating accountable care organizations than their enthusiasm projected 18 months ago, according to a recent survey of senior hospital executives.

Asked ACO creation in the spring of 2012, nearly 5% of these leaders said they were part of an ACO. An additional 47% were confident they’d have one in place by the end of 2013. In reality, only 18.3% of these respondents had an ACO in place in August of 2013.

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