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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Health-care law will prompt over 2 million to quit jobs or cut hours, a CBO report says
Washington Post

More than 2 million Americans who would otherwise rely on a job for health insurance will quit working, reduce their hours or stop looking for employment because of new health benefits available under the Affordable Care Act, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday. The findings from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revived a fierce debate about the impact President Obama’s signature health-care program will have on the U.S. economy.

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Finding uninsured Americans by the numbers
San Francisco Chronicle

Wanted: Millions of uninsured Americans willing to give President Barack Obama’s health care law a chance.

With time running out, it may not be so hard for the administration and its allies to find them. A study for The Associated Press finds that the uninsured aren’t scattered evenly across the country: half of them live in just 116 of the nation’s 3,143 counties.

That means outreach targeted to select areas can pay off big, reaching millions of prospective customers needed to stabilize the law’s new insurance markets.

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FDA launching anti-smoking campaign aimed at youth
Sacramento Bee

The Food and Drug Administration is using ads that depict yellow teeth and wrinkled skin to show the nation’s at-risk youth the costs associated with cigarette smoking. The federal agency said Tuesday it is launching a $115 million multimedia education campaign called “The Real Cost” that’s aimed at stopping teenagers from smoking and encouraging them to quit.

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RACs Incentivized to Find Even Smallest Billing Errors
Health Leaders Media

Medicare and Medicaid audits are increasing sharply, notes Stephen M. Azia, JD, an attorney with the law firm of Baker Donelson in Washington, D.C., who focuses on reimbursement, compliance, and appeals. RACs are paid a contingency fee for finding fraud by doing post-payment reviews, so Azia says they act as aggressive bounty hunters who can allege fraud long after you have received payment and thought there was no dispute.

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Hospitals use ‘hot spotting’ to zero in on super-users
San Francisco Chronicle

At San Francisco General Hospital, less than 3 percent of patients who come to its adult medical clinic are responsible for 35 percent of all admissions.

In Oakland, just 5 percent of patients in Alameda Health System’s Highland Hospital account for 50 percent of hospital “days,” meaning a sliver of the population racks up the bulk of the hospital’s long, costly hospitals stays.

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Obamacare and jobs: CBO adds fuel to fire
POLITICO

The Republicans just got a big gift from the Congressional Budget Office: It’s going to be a lot easier for them to call Obamacare a “job killer.” That’s because the budget office’s new economic report, released Tuesday, says the health care law will cause Americans to work fewer hours — enough to be the equivalent of 2 million fewer jobs in 2017.

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Obamacare to cut work hours by equivalent of 2 million jobs: CBO
Reuters

President Barack Obama’s healthcare law will reduce American workforce participation by the equivalent of 2 million full-time jobs in 2017, the Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday, prompting Republicans to paint the law as bad medicine for the U.S. economy.

In its latest U.S. fiscal outlook, the nonpartisan CBO said the health law would lead some workers, particularly those with lower incomes, to limit their hours to avoid losing federal subsidies that Obamacare provides to help pay for health insurance and other healthcare costs.

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Is Obamacare a Job-Killer After All?
The Atlantic

For years, Republicans have insisted that the Affordable Care Act would tank the economy by reducing employment. The idea that Obamacare was a “job killer” was one of Mitt Romney’s favorite 2012 talking points. For just as long, Democrats have been saying that’s false—and they’ve had the experts on their side:

Politifact: “The Republican evidence is extrapolated from a report that was talking about a reduction in the labor supply rather than the loss of jobs, or based on measures that weren’t included in the final health care law. We rate the statement False.”

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CBO: Obamacare will cause some to work less
San Diego Union-Tribune

Incentives brought about by Obamacare will cause the equivalent of 2.3 million workers to cut back their hours or leave their jobs by 2021, according to an estimate Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office.

The Affordable Care Act pays subsidies to individuals and families based on how much money they make, and the nonpartisan budget agency estimated that some people will have less reason to work long hours if increasing income results in the loss, or reduction of government subsidies.

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Obamacare Work Reductions Will Be More Than Expected, CBO Says
San Francisco Chronicle

Obamacare will reduce the hours Americans work by the equivalent of 2 million full-time jobs in 2017, the Congressional Budget Office said, sparking renewed Republican criticism of the law and a fresh defense from the White House.

The total number of hours worked will fall about 1.5 percent to 2 percent from 2017 to 2024 as a result of the health-care overhaul, the CBO said yesterday in a report. The reduction, about twice the agency’s estimates in 2010, is due “almost entirely” to low-wage employees who may choose to give up extra hours of work to avoid losing subsidies or tax advantages under the law, the report said.

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House GOP may try to link debt ceiling approval to changes to health-care law
Washington Post

House Republicans were still struggling Tuesday to find consensus on how to handle their upcoming debt-limit negotiations with the White House, but they seem increasingly determined to avoid any kind of dramatic showdown with the president this time.

“We should bring up a clean debt ceiling, let the Democrats pass it and just move on,” said Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-Idaho). “Our constituents are fed up with the political theater. If we’re not going to fight for something specific, we might as well let the Democrats own it.”

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Obamacare enrollees hit snags at doctor’s offices
Los Angeles Times

After overcoming website glitches and long waits to get Obamacare, some patients are now running into frustrating new roadblocks at the doctor’s office. A month into the most sweeping changes to healthcare in half a century, people are having trouble finding doctors at all, getting faulty information on which ones are covered and receiving little help from insurers swamped by new business.

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Health Law To Cut Into Labor Force
The Wall Street Journal

The new health law is projected to reduce the total number of hours Americans work by the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time jobs in 2021, a bigger impact on the workforce than previously expected, according to a nonpartisan congressional report.

The analysis, by the Congressional Budget Office, says a key factor is people scaling back how much they work and instead getting health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

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New forecast sharpens Obamacare debate
Los Angeles Times

President Obama’s healthcare law will reduce the ranks of the uninsured by roughly 13 million this year and 25 million once the law is fully phased in, but will also result in the equivalent of 2-million people reducing their work hours because of the availability of insurance subsidies, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday. The latest projections from the nonpartisan budget analysts immediately produced talking points for both sides in the deeply polarized debate over the Affordable Care Act.

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Health care is booming business for lobbyists
Sacramento Business Journal

The Affordable Care Act and the new state health benefit exchange — along with traditional tension over growing mandates and shrinking reimbursement– ramped up state lobby spending in health care by more than 10 percent in 2013. Total spending related to health care jumped to almost $37.7 million last year, according to reports filed with the Secretary of State.

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The cost of dying: It’s hard to reject care even as costs soar
Contra Costa Times

Every night before putting on his pajamas, Dad emptied the coins from his pockets. The special ones he placed in an album, but most went into a jar to be saved.

So how could the hospital bill for the final days of this frugal man — with carefully prepared end-of-life instructions — add up to $323,000 in just 10 days? That’s the price of a home for a struggling family.

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Insurers selling exchange plans would have tougher standards in 2015, CMS proposal says
Modern Healthcare

Insurers that want to sell plans through the federal exchanges for 2015 may have to do more to ensure members have access to adequate networks of providers. Participating health plans would be required to submit a list to the CMS of all in-network providers and medical facilities covered under a plan, according to a proposal detailed in a letter from the CMS on Tuesday. The CMS will review them, in conjunction with state regulators, to ensure that there is “reasonable access” to all types of providers.

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ACA means bigger effect on workforce, costs government $1.48 trillion by 2024, CBO says
Modern Healthcare

The 2010 healthcare reform law will cost the federal government about $1.48 trillion and the nation about 2.5 million full-time workers by 2024, the Congressional Budget Office projected in a new report released Tuesday.

People will opt to work less or not at all as their incomes reach levels where they must pay more for health insurance as their ACA subsidies disappear, the report asserts.

“In particular, the health insurance subsidies that the act provides to some people will be phased out as their income rises—creating an implicit tax on additional earnings—whereas for other people, the act imposes higher taxes on labor from income directly.”

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Measuring What Matters for ACOs
The Health Care Blog

More than 55 percent of the U.S. population now lives in a local area with an accountable care organization (ACO), in which a group of providers is held accountable by a payer for the total cost and quality of care for a defined set of patients. The spread of ACOs, however, by no means ensures their success. Significant questions remain about whether the goals of the model—better care at lower costs—will be achieved.

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Supervisors: health industry power led to CalOptima problems
Orange County Register

The county’s health plan for the poor and elderly fell into turmoil after medical industry leaders made a political power play, critics say, and in the end, patients paid the price. The recriminations at Tuesday’s Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting came in response to a damaging federal audit of CalOptima. County leaders are trying to piece together what happened and how they can prevent it from reoccurring.

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GlaxoSmithKline profits nearly triple in Q4
San Francisco Chronicle

GlaxoSmithKline says fourth-quarter earnings nearly tripled and sales rose 5 percent, even as an ongoing investigation hurt business in China.

Net income rose to 2.5 billion pounds ($4.1 billion) from 848 million pounds a year earlier, thanks partly to profits on the sale of some businesses. Sales grew, particularly in India, despite a 24 percent drop in China.

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WellPoint, a Onetime Critic of Health Law, May Yet Profit
New York Times

In the midst of the sweeping transformation taking place in health insurance, the company that served as an illustration of why an overhaul was necessary could end up benefiting most from the new federal health care law.

Just a few years ago, the health insurer WellPoint outraged its customers — and regulators — by proposing an increase of nearly 40 percent in some of its annual premiums.

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Natividad gets OK to hire 70 workers for trauma center
Monterey Herald

Monterey County supervisors approved a plan Tuesday to hire roughly 70 medical staff for Natividad Medical Center’s new trauma center.

The annual $8.8 million cost for the new workers makes up about a third of the projected $26.9 million yearly cost of the county-owned center.

The center, which hospital officials expect will see an annual profit of $13.6 million, represents a major bet on Natividad’s future even as it projects a loss of up to $9 million this fiscal year.

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John Muir Health and San Ramon Regional team up for new Pleasanton outpatient center
Contra Costa Times

To meet the demands of Tri-Valley growth, San Ramon Regional Medical Center and John Muir Health have acquired a 92,000-square-foot building to create a new outpatient center in Pleasanton. It is expected to open early 2015.

The purchase of the property at 5860 Owens Drive was completed Jan. 31 at a cost of $19 million. The new center is part of a joint venture partnership announced in 2013 between Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., the for-profit parent company of San Ramon Regional Medical Center, and Walnut Creek-based John Muir Health, a not-for-profit health system with hospitals in Walnut Creek and Concord and Contra Costa County’s only trauma center.

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Obamacare coverage expands for Hoag
Orange County Register

Hoag Hospital and Blue Shield of California have struck a deal that greatly expands access to the hospital for consumers buying health plans through the state-run insurance exchange. Beginning March 1, the Newport Beach and Irvine hospitals will be in-network providers for all four coverage levels of the Blue Shield PPO sold on Covered California, the exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

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