News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California takes down online health insurance exchange for small businesses
Washington Post

The nation’s most populous state has elected to temporarily shutter its new online health insurance marketplace for small business only four months after it launched, dealing yet another blow to a key element of the health care law meant to lower costs for employers.

California officials on Wednesday announced they are suspending online enrollment effective immediately for small businesses on the state’s new health insurance portal, known as Covered California.

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ACA funding for co-ops stirs debate at congressional hearing
Modern Healthcare

“Solyndra” was a frequent topic of conversation during a congressional hearing last week on consumer operated and oriented plans—or co-ops—that have received $2 billion in loans through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

A report by Republican staffers scrutinizing the funding for the not-for-profit insurance plans described it as “eerily similar” to a government loan program that bankrolled the failed solar energy company. “This is no Solyndra,” declared Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) at the outset of the hearing before the House Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care & Entitlements.

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States Struggle to Add Latinos to Health Rolls
New York Times

With an estimated 15 percent of the country’s uninsured population, California is crucial to the success of President Obama’s health care overhaul. Here, that success cannot come without enrolling Latinos, who make up more than half of the state’s uninsured.

But so far, enrollment of Latinos has fallen strikingly below the hopes of the law’s proponents, accounting for 20 percent or fewer of those who had signed up on the state-run health insurance exchange by the end of December.

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State bill would get undocumented immigrants on health-care rolls
Orange County Register

Undocumented immigrants would be eligible for Medi-Cal coverage, and a state-funded health insurance exchange would be created under a bill introduced in Sacramento on Thursday.

The proposal’s potential cost to the state is unclear. State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, plans to outline his proposed law during a news conference in Los Angeles today. The bill includes provisions that would cover the poorest undocumented immigrants and those who are not eligible to participate in the new federal health program because of their immigration status.

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One-Fifth of New Enrollees Under Health Care Law Fail to Pay First Premium
New York Times

One in five people who signed up for health insurance under the new health care law failed to pay their premiums on time and therefore did not receive coverage in January, insurance companies and industry experts say.

Paying the first month’s premium is the final step in completing an enrollment. Under federal rules, people must pay the initial premium to have coverage take effect.

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More Young Adults Enrolling in Obamacare Health Plans, U.S. Says
San Francisco Chronicle

Obamacare health plans enrolled 3.3 million people through January, with young adult participants increasing 65 percent from a month earlier, the U.S. government said.

Private health plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enrolled 807,515 people ages 18 to 34 as of Jan. 31, an increase of 318,055 since December, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said yesterday in a report. The age group made up about 25 percent of those who had signed up for health coverage through January, the report found.

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Obamacare enrollment push for the young enters 11th hour

One of the latest Obamacare pitches to get young adults to sign up for health insurance starts out with a mother’s kitchen note reminding her grown son to enroll.

“Mom, you know I can’t afford it,” the young black man protests, as he sits down at a kitchen table next to a bespectacled woman with a laptop computer linked to the U.S. federal enrollment website,

“But for the first time you can,” she replies reassuringly. “You go to the website, compare quality plans and you could get help paying for it.”

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ObamaCare’s Potemkin Enrollment Figures
Commentary Magazine

Yesterday, mainstream media outlets were trumpeting some good news about President Obama’s embattled signature health-care legislation. More than 1.1 million people enrolled in ObamaCare in January. That was a marked increase over previous months when a dysfunctional website and widespread skepticism about the law kept enrollment numbers down.

While the million new ObamaCare customers were not enough by themselves to offset the dramatic shortfall in the enrollment figures that calls into question the ability of the scheme to pay for itself, the White House and Democrats were encouraged by the fact that a large number of this total were made up of those aged 18-34, who are presumably healthy.

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Obama’s Damage-Control Teams Seek to Calm Health-Law Complainers
San Francisco Chronicle

The day after Addie Wilson was quoted in a newspaper article complaining about her experience with President Barack Obama’s health-care law, her mobile phone rang while she was in the bathroom.

It was an employee from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offering help.

“I was definitely surprised and kind of shocked,” said Wilson, 27, who lives in Fairmont, West Virginia.

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Democrats Run Away From Obamacare
TIME Online Edition

The ad casts the candidate as a crusader to fix a flawed law, invokes the broken promise about keeping health insurance you like, and boasts that he “took the White House to task for the disastrous” website. It swipes at Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment in a manner you might expect from the President’s opponents. The difference is that the commercial was cut by a Democratic group on behalf of an incumbent Democrat.

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Hospitals told to reduce patient readmissions or lose money
Dallas Morning News

Medicare will dock payments this year for hospitals in hopes of spurring them to reduce the number of patients who are re-hospitalized too quickly.

Government and commercial insurers view lower readmissions as a sign of higher-quality care and greater cost consciousness by hospitals.

The pay cuts, coming under the Affordable Care Act, are among the many factors motivating hospitals to spend more time educating patients about their illnesses and partnering with outside caregivers to ensure that treatment doesn’t stop after discharge.

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Few eligible patients can get weight loss surgery
San Francisco Chronicle

Like 78 million other Americans, MaryJane Harrison is obese.

And like many critically overweight Americans, Harrison cannot afford to have weight loss surgery because her health insurance doesn’t cover it. The financial burden makes it nearly impossible for her to follow the advice of three physicians who have prescribed the stomach-shrinking procedure for Harrison, who is four-feet, 10 inches and weighs 265 pounds.

Harrison’s health insurance plan, provided by UnitedHealth, excludes coverage of any surgical procedures for weight loss.

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New billing standards to help patients with debt
San Francisco Chronicle

The last thing anyone wants to deal with after a serious illness or injury is a mountain of debt and repeated calls from bill collectors. Yet that’s the scenario in which many patients find themselves.

Patients can avoid some of those headaches and minimize the risk they’ll need to file for bankruptcy protection. To do that, they must discuss costs and payment options early on with their hospital or medical provider, and be sure that they have tapped into any available discounts and financial assistance.

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CalPERS members pick cheaper health plans, save $21.3M
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System stirred up competition and got a better deal from its HMO partners .

The nation’s second-largest health-benefits purchaser dramatically altered its health plan lineup for 2014, adding four plans to compete with two statewide HMOs — Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California — that have had exclusive contracts since 2009. Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, Sharp Health Plan and UnitedHealthcare are new for 2014.

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Fresno County supervisors must perform due diligence
Fresno Bee

Parents of children with severe mental illness in the Fresno area face the stressful additional burden of sending them at least 100 miles away to receive treatment. Sometimes, the distance is even greater.

“The first time my child was hospitalized, he was 12. He was falling apart — he wanted to kill himself,” Linda Graves of Clovis told Bee reporter Barbara Anderson. “They sent him someplace that was four hours away. I’m trying as a parent to support him, but I’m not close enough.”