News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Senator sues over health-care subsidy for Congress
CNBC

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging the way President Barack Obama’s healthcare law is being applied to Congress, part of a larger Republican strategy to draw attention to what they see as critical flaws in Obama’s signature domestic policy. Johnson, of Wisconsin, is challenging a U.S. agency decision allowing the federal government to keep paying part of the costs of health insurance for U.S. lawmakers and their staffs who must buy coverage through the Obamacare marketplaces.

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Another Modest Rise for Health Costs
New York Times

National health spending grew slowly for the fourth consecutive year, increasing 3.7 percent in 2012 to $2.8 trillion, the federal government said Monday. But officials disagreed over whether the Affordable Care Act or lingering effects of the recession were primarily responsible for the remarkable trend. As a share of the economy, health spending declined slightly, to 17.2 percent in 2012, from 17.3 percent in the prior year. For decades, health spending has grown faster than the economy, taking a bigger bite out of workers’ wages and the federal budget.

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Americans unlikely to move out of state to get better healthcare coverage
MedCity News

Americans are unlikely to move to another state to obtain better medical coverage, according to a Harvard study released on Monday that debunks fears expanded Medicaid in some states under the U.S. Affordable Care Act will trigger big and costly migrations.

The study could scratch one item off a long list of complications plaguing President Barack Obama’s launch of his sweeping health care law, also known as Obamacare, which kicked in January 1.

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Non-profit health centers enter insurance realm
USA Today

The nation’s 1,200 non-profit community health centers receive strong federal support to treat millions of uninsured residents, but still face financial challenges. Some are responding with an unusual strategy — starting for-profit insurance plans.

In 2008, the Jessie Trice Community Health Center in Miami invested $120,000 to start Prestige Health Choice, a for-profit Medicaid health plan that the state pays a flat monthly fee per enrollee to provide care. Fourteen other community health centers also participated.

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Top Healthcare Quality Issues for 2014, Part 1
Health Leaders Media

With three healthcare reform law financial penalties impacting quality of care starting or increasing this year, and numerous proposals and rules to add more components to each one, hospital and physician leaders may be forgiven if they’re just a bit nervous about how 2014 will affect their operations.

There is no crystal ball. But these healthcare quality issues are certain to influence how hospitals and physicians deliver care in 2014.

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Ron Johnson Sues Obama Administration To Block His Own Health Care
The Huffington Post

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced a lawsuit Monday to bar members of Congress and their employees from getting any employer-sponsored health insurance, saying it’s not fair that the Obama administration is making him decide which of his staffers can keep federal contributions to their plans.

Before the Affordable Care Act took effect, lawmakers and staff got their health coverage from the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. As of Jan. 1, they must get that coverage from the new health care exchanges, but the administration’s Office of Personnel Management decreed in a rule finalized in September that they could still use their pre-tax employer contributions to cover most of the cost.

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Senator sues to block Obamacare subsidies for Congress
Sacramento Business Journal

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., thinks members of Congress should feel the same pain that other Americans who lost their previous health insurance coverage are experiencing. That’s why he has filed a federal lawsuit challenging an Office of Personnel Management rule that allows members of Congress and their staff to receive government subsidies for the health plans they purchase through the insurance exchange created by Washington, D.C., under the Affordable Care Act.

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ObamaCare Is Slowing Health Inflation
The Wall Street Journal

For decades a common refrain was that the rapid rise in health spending hurt the competitiveness of American businesses and ate into workers’ take-home pay. Businesses and politicians from both sides of the aisle agreed that something had to be done to slow the growth of health-care costs. New data Monday from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that we are making important progress.

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U.S. healthcare costs keep rising but at slower pace
Los Angeles Times

The relentless rise in healthcare spending — which had threatened government budgets and helped pave the way for President Obama’s health law — continued to moderate in 2012, the fourth year of a historic slowdown, newly released federal data show. Overall spending on healthcare rose less than 4% in 2012, less than half the rate of a decade ago, independent economists at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services concluded.

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The Recession, Not Obamacare, Is Slowing Health Spending
National Journal Magazine

Growth in national health spending remained low for the fourth consecutive year, an annual federal report says.

Health care spending increased 3.7 percent in 2012 to $2.8 trillion, according to an analysis released Monday by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, marking the fourth consecutive year of the slowest rates recorded in the 53-year history of the National Health Expenditure Accounts.

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Will There Be An Obamacare Death Spiral in 2015? Probably Not.
The Health Care Blog

If the Obamacare health insurance exchanges are not able to get a good spread of risk––many more healthy people than sick––the long-term viability of the program will be placed in great jeopardy. Given the early signs––far fewer people signing up than expected, enormous negative publicity about website problems, rate shock, big average deductibles, narrow provider networks, and a general growing dissatisfaction over the new health law––it is clear to me that this program is in very serious trouble.

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Healthcare reform top issue facing government in 2014, survey says
FierceGovernment

Most Americans think healthcare reform is the top issue facing the federal government this year, a Jan. 2 Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey says. The survey was conducted over two days in December with 1,141 adults across the country. The overall margin of error is 3.7 percentage points. The survey asked respondents to list the top issues that face the government in the coming year to see what issues got repeated the most and how confident they were the government could address those issues.

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Covered California helping businesses, consumers connect with insurers
Los Angeles Business Journal

Covered California launched a new web page Thursday to help consumers and small-business owners make their first month’s premium payment for coverage.

The program deadline for insurance coverage that begins Jan. 1 is Jan. 6 for both the individual marketplace and the Small Business Health Options Program.

Some plans have indicated a willingness to extend the deadline for members, so enrollees should contact their health plan to see if they have a little more time.

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Hiccups persist in California health insurance exchange
Los Angeles Times

Paperwork and computer glitches are still tripping up some eager consumers who are seeking coverage through California’s insurance exchange and its 11 health plans. On Monday, the Covered California exchange said that all the applications it received online for coverage starting Jan. 1 have been sent to participating insurers, but that it is still sorting through an unspecified number of paper applications for that time period.

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If You Can’t Go to Cedars-Sinai Anymore, Is It Obamacare’s Fault?
New Republic

At Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, originals by Picasso and Warhol hang in the hallways. The deluxe maternity rooms—three-bedroom, two-bath suites with views of the city—rent out at nearly $4,000 a day. It’s the place where Madonna got hernia surgery and Jodie Foster had her baby. The Hollywood Reporter once called it “the medical world’s most glam facility.”

But a group of Angelenos is about to lose access to Cedars, because, starting January 1, their insurance companies will no longer cover treatment at the hospital. Infuriated, some of these people insist that Obamacare is to blame. And the truth is: They’re not exactly wrong.

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Jahi McMath: Family says brain-dead teen’s body may be too deteriorated to save
The Mercury News

A day after winning the three-week battle to take their brain-dead daughter from Children’s Hospital Oakland, the family of Jahi McMath conceded Monday they are losing the ghastly war against nature.

Her body, checked in at an undisclosed care facility Monday morning, has deteriorated so badly, that “Right now, we don’t know if she’s going to make it,” said attorney Christopher Dolan.

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Jahi McMath case muddies an already agonizing subject
Los Angeles Times

The case of the brain-dead 13-year-old girl whose family was embroiled in a legal standoff with Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland seems to be nearing an end. After marathon negotiations with a federal magistrate, Jahi McMath’s family members received approval to remove her body, while attached to a ventilator, from the hospital. On Sunday they quietly did so.

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Fake knee surgery seems as effective as the real thing
Washington Post

One of the most common types of knee surgery performed in the United States is no more effective than fake surgery, at least for the first year, according to a new study.

The new evidence should give doctors pause before they try to repair the meniscus, which cushions the bones of the knee, according to the Finnish doctors behind the research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Healthcare Spending Growth Hits 53-Year Low
Health Leaders Media

Healthcare spending grew 3.7% in 2012 to $2.8 trillion, marking the fourth straight year of relatively slow growth and the slowest sustained period of healthcare cost growth in the 53 years that the statistic has been tracked, the federal government announced on Monday afternoon. An analysis by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services shows that the $2.8 trillion spent on healthcare in the United States in 2012 represented 17.2% of the gross domestic product.

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California Healthcare Pricing Initiative Enters Circulation
Sierra Sun Times

Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announced the proponents of a new initiative may begin collecting petition signatures for their measure.

The Attorney General prepares the legal title and summary that is required to appear on initiative petitions. When the official language is complete, the Attorney General forwards it to the proponents and to the Secretary of State, and the initiative may be circulated for signatures. The Secretary of State then provides calendar deadlines to the proponents and to county elections officials. The Attorney General’s official title and summary for the measure is as follows:

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Top 14 Healthcare Quality Issues for 2014, Part 2
Health Leaders Media

Pressure to reduce medical diagnostic errors and continue cutting healthcare costs will only increase in 2014.These healthcare quality issues and several others (see Part 1) will have a strong influence on how providers deliver healthcare in 2014:

8. Meaningful Use With billions of dollars in meaningful use incentive payments at stake, hospitals and healthcare providers will be working hard to refine their electronic health record systems, transitioning from merely using them to actually exchanging information with other providers within them and sharing information with patients through the “view, download, and transmit” requirements.

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Mayor Ed Lee gets advice on Healthy San Francisco: Stay the course
San Francisco Business Times

The Universal Healthcare Council wants San Francisco to stay in the citywide health reform business, and the mayor agrees with that approach. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has received and supports recommendations from the advisory group suggesting the city stay the course with its Healthy San Francisco initiative, according to City Hall, despite fears from some businesses that they may become liable for duplicate fees and expenses.

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Signature Healthcare Services buys land for psychiatric hospital
Sacramento Business Journal

With development approval under its belt, Signature Healthcare Services Inc. bought the land for its proposed psychiatric hospital on Dec. 23 for $1.5 million. On Dec. 10, the city of Sacramento approved plans for the 120-bed psychiatric hospital on Expo Parkway. The next step will be to proceed with detailed plans for the facility and file them for approval by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, said Ryan Hooper, a Sacramento attorney who represents Signature. Once there is a green light from OSHPD, construction will begin.

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