News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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The CBO report does not show the new health-care law is failing
Washington Post

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was oversold. A brief glance at the Congressional Budget Office’s latest analysis, which is all many observers seem to be giving it, reveals that. But a fair look at what the nonpartisan experts released this week also shows that the law still has a good shot at accomplishing what it was primarily designed to do, and it’s not going to force employers to fire millions of workers in the process. In other words, Obamacare isn’t failing.

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California health exchange pulls doctor directory again
Modern Healthcare

California’s health insurance exchange pulled its online doctor directory again after some physicians were wrongly listed as accepting patients’ coverage plans, spurring a blame game between insurers and providers.

The move Thursday was the second time Covered California took down its list of medical providers after acknowledging problems, the Los Angeles Times reported in Saturday’s editions.

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$128B SGR Repeal Deal Needs a Payment Plan
Health Leaders Media

Analysts, providers, and Medicare patient advocates are cautiously optimistic that the Sustainable Growth Rate formula repeal deal announced Thursday in Congress is a stride forward in the quest to move U.S. healthcare from a fee-for-service model to value-based payment of doctors. Figuring out how to pay for it may be a bigger challenge. Put in place a decade ago, the formula for reducing fee-for-service payments to physicians has never taken effect. Instead, Congress has made postponed it year after year.

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Report Says Not Enough Children Get HPV Vaccine
New York Times

Not enough children in the United States are being vaccinated against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus, or HPV, according to a report issued on Monday by the President’s Cancer Panel. The viruses, transmitted by intimate contact, cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus and penis and areas near the throat. Vaccines can protect against two strains that cause most of the cancers, and a series of three injections is recommended for boys and girls starting at age 11 to 12.

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Flu still kills, but whooping cough is also a concern
Los Angeles Daily News

More than 200 Californians have died of flu-related illnesses so far this season, but state health officials said Friday they are just as concerned about the spread of whooping cough, which has claimed the life of an infant in Riverside County.

The 6-month-old’s recent whooping-cough-related death is the first in California since 2010, when the state experienced an epidemic of the infectious disease, also known as pertussis. At the time, there were more than 9,100 cases, including 10 deaths, the most in more than 60 years and across the nation.

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Administration will allow people to switch health-care plans to a limited degree
Washington Post

The Obama administration has quietly reworked rules and computer code for HealthCare.gov to try to stem an outpouring of discontent by some Americans who have discovered that the health plans they bought do not include their old doctors or allow them to add new babies or spouses.

Under changes that have not been disclosed to the public, the government will temporarily allow consumers who have gotten coverage through the new online insurance marketplace to switch health plans to a limited degree.

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Is Obamacare Unraveling?
The Health Care Blog

Rumors have been circulating in the marketplace all week that the administration was thinking of extending the individual health insurance policies that Obamacare was supposed to have cancelled for as much as three more years. Those rumors have now come out into the open with Tom Murphy’s AP story on Friday That the administration might extend these polices shouldn’t come as a shock.

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Capital Spending Reflects New Era in Healthcare
Health Leaders Media

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a game changer for hospitals and health systems, which are bracing for new reimbursement models based on value, the continued shift in patient volume from the inpatient to the outpatient setting, and the movement toward population health management.

As a result, provider organizations are making major capital investments in their IT capabilities to increase their ability to manage patient records throughout the care continuum and reduce overutilization and duplication of services and in their ambulatory facilities to drive new levels

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They quit their jobs, thanks to health-care law
Washington Post

Count Polly Lower among those who quit their jobs because of the health-care law.

It happened in September, when her boss abruptly changed her job description. She went from doing payroll, which she liked, to working on her boss’s schedule, which she loathed. At another time, she might have had to grit her teeth and accept the new position because she needed the health benefits.

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Calif. health exchange planning for budget deficit
Daily Democrat

Covered California, held up as a jewel in the nation’s up-and-down health care overhaul, is setting aside nearly $200 million to fight off projected budget shortfalls as it prepares for what it says is a challenging financial future without hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid. Officials brimmed with confidence after the agency tallied 625,000 individual or family health care enrollments through mid-January, the most of any state.

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Covered California removes provider directory due to errors
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California has removed the provider directory from its website until further notice after finding errors in the physician lists. While the directory was a useful service for many consumers, some located doctors they thought were in their plan and later discovered were not. Consumers who picked a Covered California plan based on the provider directory on the exchange website should contact the health plan to verify the provider is in the network or ask for a different provider in the area, Covered California officials suggest.

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Covered California yanks doc directory
San Diego Union-Tribune

The state’s health exchange has taken down its problem-plagued doctor directory as many people across the state have continued to struggle with the task of matching preferred physicians with available plans.

Exchange operator Covered California said in a short statement Friday that it removed the resource after finding “some enrollees located physicians thought to be in their plan, and subsequently discovered they were not.”

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Covered California yanks error-filled physician lists
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California may lead the nation in Affordable Care Act health plan signups, but it continues to have problems linking consumers to accurate lists of the physicians participating in those health plans. The Golden State’s Obamacare exchange late Thursday took the provider list off its web site for a second time citing “some errors in the physician lists” for plans that consumers choose between, such as Kaiser Permanente, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Health Net.

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Covered California pulls list of physicians from website
Los Angeles Daily News

A list of physicians included on the Covered California website will be discontinued until further notice after errors were spotted, state officials said.

The directory was pulled because some enrollees who selected a health plan based on the insurance coverage their doctors accepted learned that the information was incorrect, according to a statement from Covered California.

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Family Planning Squeezed in California By Health Law
KRCB

An unexpected quirk in the Affordable Care Act has left birth control clinics struggling to balance their budgets in California.

Clinics that have long enjoyed state support to run as nonprofits are having to rethink how to stay in business.

Take the Planned Parenthood clinic in Concord, about 30 miles east of San Francisco. Priscilla Castillo is surrounded by a rainbow of insurance forms patients fill out when they come to the clinic. They won’t have to much longer, though, because the clinic is moving to a new electronic system.

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California’s death count from flu rises to 202
Sacramento Bee

Statewide tallies put at 202 the number of people under 65 who have died of severe influenza so far this season, and state officials also reported a worrisome uptick in pertussis cases in 2013, including the first death of whooping cough since 2010.

The flu deaths are more than 11 times what California experienced last year at this time – just 18 fatalities – state public health officials said Friday. The toll is almost certain to increase, with another 41 lab-tested cases reported but awaiting confirmation, said Dr. James Watt, epidemiologist for the state Department of Public Health.

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Small-group employers have two options for how long to wait to offer insurance to new hires
Redding Record Searchlight

Small group employers are confused about the new mandatory 60-day waiting period in California. This is how Blue Shield of California is handling it.

California will only allow a maximum waiting period of 60-days. At the next renewal after Dec. 31, 2013, the group will be defaulted to a 30-day waiting period. The effective date of coverage for a newly eligible employee will be the first of the month after 30 days from the date of hire.

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Don’t Be Fooled, Prospects for Long-Term SGR Fix Still Dim
The Health Care Blog

In light of Thursday’s bicameral, bipartisan release of a Medicare physician payment policy to permanently replace the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula – an achievement to be celebrated in its own right – some are seeing momentum toward passage of such a deal before the current doc fix expires on March 31. But the scope of what the committees issued Thursday represents as much of a step back as a step forward, at least relative to their aspirations and timeline for accomplishing them.

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