News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Report criticizes California health plans for treatment of chronic ailments
Los Angeles Times

Most California health plans make it hard for patients to get care easily and do a poor job of controlling chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes, a new state report shows. The findings were published Tuesday in the state’s annual report card on California’s 10 largest HMOs, six biggest preferred-provider organization plans and more than 200 medical groups. The scores on clinical performance and patient satisfaction reflect care for about 16 million Californians with private health insurance.

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Don’t Overlook Coding Opportunities For Routine Healthcare Services
Health Leaders Media

Optimizing your revenue is an ongoing challenge for any physician practice, and the task only gets harder as the healthcare industry changes and reimbursement is restructured. But one way to improve your practice revenue can easily be overlooked in all the effort to accommodate the new factors: making sure you are charging fully for each service that you already provide and not missing out on payment for activities you think are not billable.

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Mirkarimi wants to sign up inmates for health coverage
San Francisco Chronicle

Affordable health care is coming to the San Francisco jail system – and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi thinks it will save taxpayers millions of dollars and potentially reduce the number of people behind bars in years to come.

The federal Affordable Care Act may be controversial elsewhere, but city officials have embraced it wholeheartedly, and the sheriff’s move will probably open up free or low-cost medical care to most of the 31,000 people booked into the city’s jails each year once they are released.

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Drug Shows Promise in Advanced Prostate Cancer When Used Before Chemotherapy
New York Times

The prostate cancer drug Xtandi prolonged lives and delayed tumor progression when used before chemotherapy in a study of men with advanced cases of the disease, researchers said on Tuesday.

The study results are expected to open up a broader market for Xtandi, which was developed by Medivation and Astellas Pharma, and open a new front in its competition with Johnson & Johnson’s blockbuster drug Zytiga.

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Obama Links Health Care Reform To Economic Agenda
The Huffington Post

President Barack Obama sought during his State of the Union address Tuesday night to link his 4-year-old health care reform law to his broader agenda to address widening income inequality and promote financial security.

The speech comes nearly four months into the rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges, whose botched start bruised both the president and his namesake reforms. The technological failings of HealthCare.gov, the federal portal to insurance in 36 states, and of several state-run marketplaces combined with a firestorm over millions of Americans’ insurance policies being canceled because they didn’t meet the law’s new standards forced Obama to apologize to the American people on more than one occasion and harmed the law’s already poor public perception. Although the federal website is much improved and more than 3 million people already have signed up for private health insurance through the marketplaces, Obamacare remains on unsteady ground in the near term.

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Undocumented Immigrants Face Limited Health Care Options
The Huffington Post

The Affordable Care Act is meant to expand access to affordable health care coverage, but the law excludes one group from benefiting: the nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Under the federal health care law, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for any assistance. For example, they are excluded from getting federal subsidies to buy health insurance, and they cannot shop for coverage in the health insurance marketplace.

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Senate Republicans Develop The Most Credible Plan Yet To ‘Repeal And Replace’ Obamacare
Forbes

“Repealing and replacing” Obamacare with market-oriented reforms has been the Republican mantra for years now. If you’re a long-time follower of this space, you know that we’re skeptical that Obamacare will ever be repealed, GOP slogans to the contrary. Today, however, a trio of experienced Senate Republicans—Tom Coburn (Okla.), Richard Burr (N.C.), and Orrin Hatch (Utah)—have put forth the most thoughtful and constructive plan yet developed to repeal and replace Obamacare.

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The Dark Side of Health Care Reform
The Daily Beast

There is a dull silence when the subject of health care is broached. Barbara Rosales delivers a weak smile as she begins to detail her struggle over the past few months, since her employers realized they would be forced to pay into their employees health care as part of the national Affordable Care Act. “I have seen my hours go down 10 hours a week at both my jobs,” says Rosales, who works as a line cook at two Bay Area chain restaurants and is originally from El Salvador.

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Covered California offering ratings to most health insurance plans
Sacramento Bee

Most health insurance plans offered on the state exchange will now feature quality ratings, giving consumers a better idea about their past performance.

Covered California, the state exchange, announced Tuesday that it recently incorporated the quality-rating system in its website, with marks ranging from four stars for the highest performers down to one star for the lowest.

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Covered California rates plans it sells
San Diego Union-Tribune

In addition to providing information on price and provider networks, the state’s health insurance exchange now lists quality ratings for the health plans it sells. Two local carriers, Sharp HealthCare and Kaiser Permanente, got the highest ranking.

Exchange operator Covered California added the ratings last week. Now, when consumers enter their income, family size and age, they get not just a price estimate but also a “overall quality” rating for each plan listed.

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Covered California offers health plan ratings
Sacramento Business Journal

California consumers can now get patient quality ratings for health plans in Covered California, but the information does not reflect care provided through the new health benefit exchange. The scores are from of the California data collected by the nationally recognized Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. The program asks plan members about access to care, including ease in getting doctor appointments, tests and treatment, as well as customer service and medical care.

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California health care report card offer mixed grades
Los Angeles Daily News

Patients with chronic illnesses from heart disease to diabetes still face a disparity in quality care from health insurance providers and medical groups across the state, according to a study released Tuesday.

The web-based 2014 Health Care Quality Report Card on the largest HMOs, PPOs and medical groups rated a gamut of health care categories for 16 million insured Californians, while dishing out high marks overall but low ratings for some chronic illnesses.

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Health center sees influx of patients
Petaluma360.com

After fielding phone calls, emails and face-to-face meetings with 3,997 people, the Petaluma Health Center is welcoming a slew of newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act this month.

Of the nearly 4,000 who spoke with the health center’s certified enrollment counselors about health insurance options, 558 local residents signed up for a plan using the state’s health insurance marketplace, Covered California, between October and December.

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Free dental care offered through Indian health group
Sacramento Bee

Uninsured children ages 1-17 can get free preventative and/or restorative dental treatment at the Northern Valley Indian Health clinics in Woodland and Red Bluff Saturday Feb. 1. The free care, part of the annual Give Kids A Smile Campaign, is hosted by Northern Valley Indian Health, a private non-profit tribal corporation founded by several Northern California tribes in 1971 to provide health services for Native Americans. Saturday’s events are open to all children in need, said spokesman Doug Elmets.

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Influenza visits plague local hospitals
The Press-Enterprise

Some Southern California hospitals trying to halt the spread of flu are banning young visitors, requiring everyone to wear surgical masks and turning non-patients away if they appear sick. Flu season kicked in early this year, and flu deaths are up dramatically, public health officials said. As of Friday, Jan. 24, the state reported that 95 people had died in California of flu-related causes since October, compared to nine at the same point in the previous flu season.

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Insurer WellPoint’s 4Q profit drops 68 percent
San Francisco Chronicle

WellPoint’s fourth-quarter earnings tumbled 68 percent, as customers of the nation’s second largest health insurer raced to use their coverage last fall before it lapsed due to the health care overhaul.

The Indianapolis company said Wednesday that its medical expenses spiked 18 percent to $14.58 billion due in part to higher use of individual policies in advance of the overhaul’s coverage expansions, which unfolded this year.

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Kaiser Permanente earns highest rating for quality of care
Sacramento Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente is the only health plan in California to earn a four-star rating — the highest possible — for meeting standards of quality care in the annual quality report card released Tuesday by the California Office of the Patient Advocate. All of the other health plans that do business in the Sacramento area received three stars, including Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, CIGNA, Health Net, UnitedHealthcare and Western Health Advantage.

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Kaiser invests in big data company Health Catalyst
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente Ventures, the venture arm of the Oakland-based health care giant, is one of the big investors in a $41 million Series C round at big data company Health Catalyst. Others investing in the new round at the Salt Lake City-based data warehousing and analytical software firm included Sequoia Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, Sorenson Capital, CHV Capital and Partners Healthcare, according to published reports in TechCrunch and Forbes.

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Natividad plan for trauma center gets a thumbs up
Monterey Herald

After impassioned pleas from Natividad Medical Center supporters, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to support the hospital’s plan for the area’s first trauma center, despite questions about the financial impact.

By a 4-0 vote, the board approved Natividad’s plan for offering advanced trauma care despite conflicting information regarding whether the county-owned hospital would be able to earn a profit on the new program. There was also a late push by Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital officials to tie an affiliation with Natividad to the trauma center approval.

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