News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obamacare: Two Bay Area legislators want to expand law’s subsidies in high-cost areas
Contra Costa Times

Hoping to increase the number of Americans eligible for tax subsidies under the new federal health care law, two Bay Area lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would expand the subsidized income level for those living in high-cost areas of the country.

U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Mike Thompson, D-Napa, say the Fair Access to Health Act ties health insurance subsidies to the cost of living in a geographic area instead of to the national federal poverty level.

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CMS Proposes HIX Guidelines for 2015
Health Leaders Media

In proposed guidelines released Tuesday, CMS is seeking to pry open narrow networks with stricter standards for network adequacy and inclusion of more providers who serve low-income and medically underserved patients.

CMS is working to strengthen the network adequacy requirements that took effect for this year for the first time under the Affordable Care Act,” a CMS spokesperson told HealthLeaders Media on Wednesday.

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ICD-10 Prep Timing is Crucial
Health Leaders Media

The move to ICD-10 threatens to create billing chaos for physicians, which could in turn create serious financial problems for practices. One of the best ways to avoid problems is to make sure your billing staff know the many, many new codes and how they are applied differently than ICD-9 codes, so you need a specific plan for educating staff about ICD-10.

But wait before you get the staff together for a PowerPoint®. Timing will be essential to an effective education program, so you might want to put your plan in place and then wait for the right moment to pull the trigger.

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Surgeon General nominee pledges focus on obesity
Modern Healthcare

The Obama administration’s nominee for surgeon general says his top priorities will be fighting obesity and helping communities promote healthier living.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, a Harvard Medical School physician, told a Senate committee Tuesday that obesity is the defining public health challenge of our time.

Conservatives questioned if Murthy’s main credential is a political one, because he founded a doctors’ organization that has advocated for the Affordable Care Act and he has tweeted about gun control.

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Google Glass: A Paradigm Shift in Assessing Procedure Competency?
The Health Care Blog

I recently had the privilege of becoming a Google Glass Explorer. Basically, this means I walk around with a funky pair of glass frames and look strange – even for an urban hospital setting.

The Glass has a built in camera, and a small display that you can see with numerous apps ranging from GPS navigation to searching the Web. As cool as this the technology is – is there any utility in the healthcare setting?

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Obamacare: The political issue that keeps on giving
Sacramento Bee

Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday engaged in a fierce brawl to define what the Affordable Care Act means to consumers – making it clear that Americans’ qualms about the law will remain a volatile issue throughout the election year.

Top officials from the two parties clashed in the House Budget Committee, on social media and in states with hot political races. They relentlessly attempted to put their own spin on a Tuesday report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that the law will cause people to voluntarily work less.

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State to pay $2.7M in tenant upgrades for Covered California
Sacramento Business Journal

The state of California will pay more than $2.7 million to upgrade and renovate Covered California’s new executive headquarters across the street from Cal Expo.

The eight-year lease, signed Jan. 29 by the California Department of General Services is worth more than $27 million, according to a copy obtained by the Business Journal.

An independent state agency, Covered California is charged with setting up and operating California’s new health benefit exchange.

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CSU will help students enroll in Covered CA as deadline approaches
Daily Sundial

As the deadline for enrolling for healthcare is approaching, the Cal State University system is working to encourage students to sign up. As of Jan. 1 of this year, all American citizens are required to have health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare. Americans must apply for enrollment by March 31 or face a penalty next year.

Since fall 2013, the CSU Health Insurance Education Project (CSU HIEP) has been on an educational campaign to get students to enroll.

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Late health care push to focus on biggest cities
San Francisco Chronicle

With less than two months remaining to enroll in the health care marketplace, the federal government is focusing outreach efforts on areas with the largest concentrations of uninsured, including Texas’ Harris and Dallas counties.

According to a study conducted for The Associated Press, half of the nation’s uninsured live in just 113 of the 3,143 counties. Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the U.S. — about one in four people — and the two biggest concentrations in Texas are Harris and Dallas counties.

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Fewer than 2 million signed up for Medicaid under the health law, report says
Washington Post

Between 1 million and 2 million Americans signed up for Medicaid last year because of the health-care law, according to a new report suggesting that many of the people who have joined the program since the initiative’s rollout in October would have done so absent the law.

The Obama administration has said that 6.3 million people were determined to be eligible for Medicaid between October and December.

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Millions still without health insurance as deadline looms
San Francisco Chronicle

Wanted: Millions of uninsured Americans willing to give President 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 by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota 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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Sacramento County updates flu death toll to 24 this season
Sacramento Bee

Sacramento County public health officials today updated the number of flu fatalities in the county to 24 residents, three more than were reported on Monday. Thirteen of the victims were women and 11 were men.

A total of 98 patients have been hospitalized in intensive care units throughout the county during the 2013-2014 flu season.

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Flu deaths continue to mount
San Diego Union-Tribune

A 27-year-old woman is among nine new flu-related deaths reported Wednesday by the county public health department. Public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said the woman had underlying health problems that contributed to her death, but said privacy laws prevent her from sharing the specifics.

“Generally the types of contributing conditions are things like heart disease, respiratory disease, even cancer,” Wooten said.

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With the death toll rising, hundreds flock to Sacramento-area flu shot clinics
Sacramento Bee

By the hundreds, the capital region’s residents flocked to free flu shot clinics this week, voluntarily submitting themselves to the sting of vaccines offered by health care entities confronting a particularly deadly flu season.

Sacramento County officials, meanwhile, increased the official flu fatality count Wednesday from 21 to 24. Thirteen of the dead were women and 11 were men.

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Hoag to accept Blue Shield PPO
Daily Pilot

Those who selected Blue Shield of California PPO plans through Covered California will soon be covered for treatment at Hoag Hospital.

Hoag will start accepting Blue Shield’s individual and family plan options March 1. The plans can be purchased directly or through the Covered California exchange.

Hoag’s inclusion allows for greater access for patients with coverage purchased through Covered California, which stemmed from the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare.

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Promising cancer therapy treatment: Vitamin C
Los Angeles Times

Scientists have identified a simple, inexpensive compound that made cancer drugs more effective in mice and helped human patients weather the toxic side effects of chemotherapy.

But even as they touted their experimental results, they acknowledged that their remedy was unlikely to inspire the vigorous — and expensive — research necessary to win regulatory approval and join the ranks of mainstream medicine.

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Aetna’s 4Q profit jumps 94 pct, misses forecasts
San Francisco Chronicle

Aetna Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit nearly doubled, thanks in part to a $6.9 billion acquisition, but the nation’s third largest health insurer missed Wall Street’s earnings expectations.

The Hartford, Conn., company also reaffirmed a 2014 forecast for earnings that could fall below analyst predictions. Its shares were little changed in premarket trading Thursday.

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ObamaCare’s New Theory of Employment
The Wall Street Journal

The Congressional Budget Office report estimating that ObamaCare will cause the economy to lose the equivalent of 2.5 million workers is remarkable on its own. But the reaction from the left—giddy celebration—is another order of magnitude.

U.S. politics used to have enough of a center that politicians could agree that fewer Americans working and others working less as a result of qualifying for a new taxpayer-funded benefit wasn’t desirable. But liberals are now actively glorifying another political incentive not to contribute to U.S. economic life.

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What If EMRs Worked Like Wikipedia?
The Health Care Blog

I’ve been thinking about EMRs, electronic medical records, lately. It’s a subject, despite some professional experience, I don’t feel particularly close to. In fact, if anything, they are a source of consternation.

As an industry insider, I see them as an expensive albatross around our collective neck. As a human centered design advisor, I see them as an encumbrance for both providers and patients.

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UCSF doc’s role in CVS decision to stop selling tobacco
San Francisco Business Times

CVS Caremark, one of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains, says it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by Oct. 1 at all of its 7,600 stores nationwide, including 848 in California and roughly 150 in the Bay Area.

The voluntary move is the first by a major U.S. pharmacy, CVS said early Wednesday, and could cost it up to $2 billion in annual sales. Since California accounts for 11 percent of CVS pharmacies nationwide, forgone sales in the Golden State could easily surpass $200 million.