News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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500,000 Californians enrolled into health plans, but many still stay away
Los Angeles Daily News

Half a million people enrolled into private health care plans through Covered California in its first three months, with 85 percent of them receiving tax subsidies to help pay for coverage, according to state data released Tuesday. The latest figures for October through December show about half of all who have enrolled are between the ages of 45 to 64 and are white. The data also show that nearly 28 percent of California residents who identify themselves as Asian also enrolled.

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Will health care law reduce ER visits?
San Diego Union-Tribune

A study out of Oregon suggests that Obamacare’s expansion of the number of Americans eligible for Medicaid is putting a greater burden on emergency rooms. But health officials say they are seeing just the opposite in San Diego County.

Starting Jan. 1, the Affordable Care Act expanded the number of poor and disabled Americans eligible for Medicaid, extending benefits to single men and women who were previously ineligible for benefits.

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Target Cuts Health Coverage for Part-Time Workers
The Wall Street Journal

Target Corp. TGT -1.73% on Tuesday said it would stop offering health coverage for part-time employees, citing insurance options available through public exchanges.

Target will stop covering part-time employees on April 1, the company said in a corporate blog post quoting human resources chief Jodee Kozlak. Less than 10% of Target’s roughly 360,000 employees take part in the plan being discontinued. Those employees will be given $500 due to the coverage being ended.

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Will Physicians Be Dropped From Managed Care Networks?
Health Leaders Media

Insurers are dropping thousands of physicians from their managed care networks in response to growing pressures from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), leaving many doctors to wonder what plans they will still participate in for 2014 and beyond. But that’s not all. If the insurer lets you stay, reimbursement rates may be cut so much that you will wonder whether being dropped was the better outcome.

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Covered California sign ups top 625,000
Silicon Valley Business Journal

The number of Californians who have signed up for Obamacare plans through the Covered California exchange topped 625,000 through Jan. 15, officials said, showing strong momentum in December that tapered off somewhat so far in January. As of year end, 500,108 California residents signed up, a slightly different number than the 498,794 Californians tallied by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services last week.

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Obamacare enrollees in California hit the million mark
The Mercury News

Halfway through the federal health care law’s enrollment period that started Oct. 1, more than a million Californians have signed up for some form of health insurance, according to figures released Tuesday by the state’s new insurance marketplace.

Covered California’s executive director, Peter Lee, said that by mid-January, 625,564 people had enrolled in an insurance plan through the exchange — an increase of almost 127,000 since Dec. 28, when the exchange last reported numbers to the federal government.

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California health exchange enrollment tops 600K
Sacramento Bee

Officials with California’s health insurance exchange Tuesday said about 625,000 people have signed up for an individual or family policy under the federal health care reforms, but enrollments for Latinos and younger people continue to lag expectations.

Younger people are crucial for the private insurance market. Insurers need them to balance out the number of older customers, who are more likely to use health services.

About 25 percent of those choosing an insurance plan are in the 18- to 34-year-old group, below the roughly 36 percent that Covered California, as the exchange is called, eventually wants to see.

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Big surge in statewide health sign-ups
Orange County Register

Health plan signups through Covered California spiked sharply in December as state residents rushed to meet a deadline for Jan. 1 coverage, pushing total enrollment past the half-million mark in the first half of the six-month enrollment period, the state-run insurance exchange said Tuesday. The 400,096 people who chose health plans in December were more than five times the number in November and quadruple the total of October and November combined, the exchange said.

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Early stumbles hamper California’s Latino health care enrollment
Sacramento Bee

California has struggled to enroll Latinos in health insurance coverage through its new exchange, spurring waves of criticism from supporters of the law and potentially jeopardizing the program’s long-term success.

Of the 400,000 customers who responded to a question about their ethnicity, fewer than 20 percent identified as Latino, Hispanic or Spanish over three months of enrollment. Just 5.5 percent of customers, roughly 25,000 people, speak primarily Spanish, according to figures provided by the state exchange Tuesday.

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NPR poll: Latinos identify diabetes as primary health concern
Long Beach Press-Telegram

Luis and Adriana Gonzalez of Sylmar have witnessed the devastating effects of diabetes first hand and are doing all they can to keep it away from them and their four children.

“My mother died of diabetes and (Luis’) mother has it,” said housewife Adriana Gonzalez, 41, following a free Spanish-language class Monday at a “diabetes teaching kitchen” at the San Fernando Community Health Center.

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Fewer Latinos join health exchange than expected
San Diego Union-Tribune

Latinos remain underrepresented among the more than 500,000 Californians who have signed up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to data released Tuesday.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, said that 500,108 Californians had enrolled for coverage from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.

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Covered California faulted for low Latino enrollment
Los Angeles Times

California keeps signing up people for Obamacare policies at a rapid clip, but the state’s struggle to reach uninsured Latinos is drawing more criticism. The Covered California exchange said Tuesday that more than 625,000 people have enrolled statewide in health plans through Jan. 15 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Even though enrollment opened in October, more than 500,000 of those enrollees signed up in just the last six weeks. That surge in volume has often overwhelmed the state exchange and many of its participating health plans.

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Anthem Blue Cross scores highest Covered California enrollment
Sacramento Business Journal

Anthem Blue Cross continues to score the highest enrollment in Covered California halfway through the enrollment period for coverage in 2014. A total of 155,146 individuals signed up for coverage with Anthem from October through December, according to new data released Tuesday by the state health benefit exchange. That’s 31 percent of total enrollment of 500,108 in the program for the same period.

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Anthem still tops California exchange enrollment; Kaiser drops back
Los Angeles Times

At the halfway mark, industry giant Anthem Blue Cross is holding on to a slim lead among health insurance providers with a 31% share of California’s exchange market. The Covered California exchange released enrollment figures Tuesday for its 11 health plans from Oct. 1 to the end of December. Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act runs through March 31. Anthem, the state’s largest for-profit health insurer and a unit of WellPoint Inc., has signed up 155,146 people.

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Health care politics beyond Obamacare
Ventura County Star

Health care reform is certain to become a dominant political issue in California this fall, as special interests are gearing up to engage voters in a spirited debate about access to doctors and hospitals, health insurance costs, and taxes to fund government programs.

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Insurance through work? Health law affects you too
Sacramento Bee

The health care overhaul’s reach stretches far beyond the millions of uninsured Americans it is expected to help. It also could touch everything from the drug choices to doctor bills of people who have insurance through work.

The law isn’t expected to prompt sudden, radical changes for workers. So you probably won’t lose your job due to the overhaul, despite claims by the law’s opponents. But benefits experts say there are several other ways the law can leave fingerprints on the benefits of the roughly 149 million people who are covered through their jobs.

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The ACA: When Insurance Isn’t Insurance
The Health Care Blog

We will be blunt. Hidden under the cloak of expanding health insurance, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has fostered a massive subsidization of healthcare goods and services.

These subsidies often have little or anything to do with what economists would consider the “insurance” part of health insurance – providing protection against financial catastrophe.

Perhaps more troubling, if the past is prologue these subsidies will continue to grow, transferring huge amounts of money to politically favored groups and doing very little to decrease aggregate health spending – a presumed goal of health reform.

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Covered California to talk pediatric dental policy, elect board chair
Sacramento Business Journal

The board at Covered California will take action on its pediatric dental policy, adopt regulations on navigators and certified enrollment entities and counselors — and elect a new board chair at its monthly meeting in Sacramento on Thursday. The board will meet from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the East End Complex Auditorium at 1500 Capitol Ave. The public portion of the meeting will begin about noon. Executive director Peter Lee will provide an update on operations, legislative matters and federal rules.

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Boutique Spine Practices: An Answer to Healthcare Reform?
Becker's Spine Review

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act set in motion several challenges for independent physicians wishing to maintain their autonomy, and in response Texas Back Institute has launched a concierge practice to serve a select group of patients with boutique services and care.

“American medicine is rapidly heading to a two-tier system similar to many other countries, like England and Australia,” says Scott Blumenthal, MD, Co-Director of the Boutique Spine Program at Texas Back Institute. “We see a coming demand for something above and beyond what the evolving payer system will offer.”

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Target announces it will drop part-time employees from its healthcare plan
The Hill

Target Corp. announced on Tuesday it would no longer offer healthcare coverage to its part-time employees.

In a blog post on the company’s website, Jodee Kozlak, the executive vice president of human resources, framed it as a positive development for part-time employees of the company.

“The Health Insurance Marketplaces provides new options for healthcare coverage that we believe our part-time members may prefer,” she wrote.

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Target to stop healthcare coverage for part-time workers

Target Corp said it will stop offering health coverage to part-time workers, citing new public insurance exchanges floated by the U.S. government.

Less than 10 percent of the company’s 361,000 employees currently participate in the insurance plan that is being discontinued, Target said in a company blog post on Tuesday.

“By offering them insurance, we could actually disqualify many of them from being eligible for newly available subsidies that could reduce their overall health insurance expense,” Target said.

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Stanislaus County escaping statewide increase in whooping cough
Modesto Bee

Once thought to be nearly eradicated, pertussis, the highly contagious respiratory disease also known as whooping cough, surged last year in many areas of California, with hundreds more cases reported in 2013 than in the previous year, state figures show. But while many counties are dealing with dozens of cases, Stanislaus County health officials report the disease appears to be under control here, with just a handful of people ill last year. In the greater Sacramento region, the largest bump in pertussis cases occurred in Placer County, which reported 79 cases in 2013, up from 11 cases in 2012.

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New management takes reins at TRMC
Visialia Times-Delta

The chief restructuring officer in charge of operations and the turnaround of Tulare Regional Medical Center arrived Monday night, and he says it’s been “a wonderful experience right out of the chute.”

Tuesday was the first day Anthony Jones of HealthCare Conglomerate Associates officially spent as the onsite chief restructuring officer.

“I would describe it as a very good day. It’s been extremely rewarding as far as working with the leadership team,” he said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us and it’s going to be difficult, but at the same time with the support of the community, the medical staff, the board and the employees, we’ll be heading in the right direction.”