News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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‘Record day’ as last-minute Obamacare shoppers get a 24-hour buffer
NBC News

More than 850,000 people piled on to the federal health insurance website Monday, the last day to log on and sign up for health insurance coverage that begins Jan. 1, federal officials said.

“As of 2:00 p.m. today, we’ve seen approximately 850,000 visits to – approximately five times higher than the same amount by that time last Monday. This is on top of the more than 1.2 million site visits this weekend,” said Julie Bataille, a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the site.

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Obama Enrolls In Health Care Under Affordable Care Act
The Huffington Post

President Barack Obama has enrolled in a health care plan under the Affordable Care Act, the White House confirmed Monday.

According to a White House official, Obama selected a bronze plan through the District of Columbia’s exchange.

“He was pleased to participate in a plan as a show of support for these marketplaces which are providing quality, affordable health care options to more than a million people,” the official said.

News Headlines Article tops 1 million visitors; deadline extended
USA Today

More than 1 million visitors logged into by late Monday, racing to meet the administration’s new midnight, Christmas Eve deadline to enroll in health insurance.

Officials pushed back the Dec. 23 deadline by a day, acknowledging the site was still having problems signing people up. Earlier Monday, more than 60,000 people hit the landing page when it was too busy to accommodate them and left an email address so they could be alerted when the site wasn’t busy, said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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Insurers Balk at Obamacare Concessions as Health-Risk Pool Thins
San Francisco Chronicle

Americans have more time to pay for their new Obamacare health plans, thanks to the insurance industry. What they don’t have is more time to sign up.

The deadline to enroll in plans that begin Jan. 1 is today for most of the U.S., a cutoff that remains firm even as the Obama administration has urged insurers to allow retroactive sign-ups into next month. The industry also balked at leniency for new customers who go to doctors or refill prescriptions not covered by their plans.

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Implementing Health Reform: Affordable Care Act Round-Up
HealthAffairs Blog

As we reach the end of what has been a very long, exhausting, year for health care reform, one would have hoped that the pace of implementation might slow a little for the holidays. No such luck. December 20 ended the week before Christmas with a number of Affordable Care Act developments. Today, December 23, CMS again extended the deadline for signing up for qualified health plan coverage through the federal exchange for coverage effective January 1, 2014, this time for one day until the end of the day December 24. Julie Bataille released a statement on December 23, saying:

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Obamacare Impacts Local Doctors, Patients As Jan. 1 Launch Date Nears

Whether it’s referred to as Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act or its official name, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s health care initiative affects all Californians, said Covered California spokesman James Scullary.

“Whether or not you are insured through your work or not, they’re are provisions in the Affordable Care Act that protect all of us,” he said.

Open enrollment ends on Monday, Dec. 23 for ACA coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014, and doctors and administrators at local private practices have already started to see the results.

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Latino enrollment needed to keep health care affordable
Sacramento Bee

Whether health insurance offered through Covered California will remain affordable largely depends on Latinos enrolling. Yet several weeks after launching its outreach and enrollment campaign, it is clear Covered California’s efforts are not working in the Latino community. The organization’s executive director, Peter Lee, stated publicly last week it is having a difficult time reaching Latinos.

Lee deserves credit for acknowledging there is a problem. Now he and his organization must aggressively act to come up with a culturally competent solution.

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Last-minute insurance shoppers get 1-day extension
San Francisco Chronicle

Anticipating heavy traffic on the government’s health care website, the Obama administration extended Monday’s deadline for signing up for insurance by a day, giving Americans in 36 states more time to select a plan.

It was the latest in a series of pushed-back deadlines and delays that have marked the rollout of the health care law.

But federal officials urged buyers not to procrastinate.

“You should not wait until tomorrow.

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Obamacare sign-up deadline extended a day
San Francisco Business Times

The Affordable Care Act, which has had about 1 million people enroll since Oct. 1, extended its sign-up deadline for health care coverage by one day. The new deadline is the end of Christmas eve, extended from midnight tonight. The pace of enrollment in Obamacare has fallen far short of the expectations of the Congressional Budget Office, which predicted 7 million by March 2014 and 3.5 million by the end of the year. In addition, the government expected more healthy people to sign up in order to spread the costs of those who are less healthy.

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White House extends healthcare signup deadline by one day
Los Angeles Times

Federal officials said Monday they would extend by 24 hours — to midnight Tuesday — the deadline to sign up to receive healthcare coverage beginning Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act. The announcement came as President Obama, in an effort to show confidence in his signature program, symbolically signed up for a healthcare plan over the weekend. The deadline change will allow Americans to get coverage at the beginning of the year if they enroll before 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

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California health exchange struggles with heavy volume at deadline
Daily Bulletin

The agency overseeing California’s health insurance exchange offered a bit of breathing room for consumers who tried but failed to meet Monday’s deadline for coverage starting in the new year, as its website and call centers were overwhelmed by last-minute demand.

It did not formally extend the sign-up deadline beyond Monday, as the Obama administration did for the 36 states using the federal health insurance exchange.

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Sign-up volume high for California health exchange as deadline looms
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Californians were responding to Monday’s deadline for gaining health insurance with heavy activity on the marketplace’s website and call centers.

Covered California, the agency operating the exchange, had no current plans to extend the deadline by another day, as the Obama administration announced it was doing for the 36 states using the federal health insurance exchange. California runs its own exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act.

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Health insurance deadline extended, but not in California
The Mercury News

Anticipating heavy traffic on the government’s health care website, the Obama administration effectively extended Monday’s deadline for signing up for insurance by a day, giving people in 36 states more time to select a plan.

While the extension applies to the states served by the federal government’s website, the reprieve does not include all states with their own exchanges.

In California, the deadline continues to be midnight Monday, according to a spokesman for Covered California, the state’s health care insurance exchange.

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California’s Uninsured: By the Numbers
California HealthCare Foundation

California had the greatest number of uninsured residents of any state, seven million, and the seventh largest percentage of uninsured under 65 in the country. Many of the state’s uninsured are employed, however the percentage of residents who receive coverage through their jobs has declined dramatically, dropping from 63% in 1988 to 54% in 2012. While public insurance has mostly offset this gap, one in five remains uninsured.

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Last-minute health-care signups tax system
Orange County Register

Last-minute consumers signing up for Obamacare on Monday jammed phone lines, the state’s website and local enrollment centers as they sought to beat a midnight deadline for insurance coverage starting Jan. 1. To meet demand, the federal government extended the deadline by a day. But California’s insurance marketplace, Covered California, said state residents would only have that grace period if they experienced difficulty enrolling Monday.

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Fewer California residents are receiving health insurance from their employers, report says
Modesto Bee

A much smaller percentage of California residents receive health insurance through an employer than was the case 25 years ago, a report said. Data compiled by the California Healthcare Foundation showed that 54 percent of residents received coverage through their jobs last year. That’s down from 63 percent in 1988. Despite its reputation for sunny beaches and affluent lifestyles, California has more residents than any other state who live without insurance to pay for medical bills, which restricts their access to doctors and makes them vulnerable to financial ruin if they get sick.

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Study: Testosterone might make men more likely to get flu

Testosterone: it’s the hormone doctors say makes men feel like tough guys, but according to a new study it might make men more vulnerable than women to at least one outside threat. Researchers at Stanford University now say men with higher levels of testosterone produce lower numbers of antibodies in response to the flu vaccine and tend to suffer more when they have the flu. The study looked at 90 men and women. After each was given the flu shot their blood was tested for antibodies to the flu.

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CDC says Valley Fever is a chief concern nationwide
Sacramento Bee

California’s Central Valley, the southern part of New Mexico, and southwest Texas all have been hit heavily by Valley Fever in the past year. The disease is caused by Coccidioides fungus – or “cocci” – found in the soil of warm, dry regions with low annual rainfall, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention. In that respect, the respiratory disease may be affected and spread by climate change in regions receiving less precipitation than before.

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What Exactly Are Insurers Canceling? And Why?
The Health Care Blog

There is one aspect of the ACA that isn’t being discussed a lot, but is pertinent to the future landscape of health care in this country — the extent to which the ACA is causing a sort of reset, or wiping of the slate, when it comes to insurance policies and procedures. Previously, there were multiple insurers and multiple policies, many of which had been around for a long time.

If an insurer wanted to suddenly change providers in its network, ratchet down provider reimbursement, alter covered procedures or make other adjustments, this was feasible, but too much of a change would entail an outcry limiting insurers’ freedom of action.