News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Key part of health exchange site down for repairs
KCRA

A key part of California’s online marketplace to shop for health insurance has been offline since it began malfunctioning Wednesday. The exchange, known as Covered California, issued a news release Thursday saying the enrollment function on its website, www.coveredca.com, was taken offline Wednesday afternoon to address what it described as a software malfunction. It said repair work was going on around the clock and that engineers hoped to restore functionality by Friday morning.

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Loophole in healthcare law may put Medi-Cal patients’ assets at risk
Los Angeles Times

Luis Rios, who lost his job at a filling station in December at the age of 56, is newly eligible for Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor. Following the advice of state-trained medical insurance enrollment workers, he filled out the paperwork required to get coverage — but has a nagging fear that he may have put his family’s financial assets at risk. That’s because, in certain cases, Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, will be able to collect repayment for healthcare services from the estate after a recipient dies, including placing government liens on property.

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HPV Vaccine Prevents Cancer, Yet Parents Slow To Make Sure Kids Get It
KQED Radio

You would think that a vaccine that could prevent cancer would be an easy sell, but that’s hasn’t proven to be true so far with the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.

Just 33 percent of girls and less than 7 percent of boys in the U.S. have gotten all three recommended doses of the vaccine to protect against the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical and other cancers. Compare that to the tiny African nation of Rwanda, where more than 90 percent of sixth-grade girls were vaccinated in 2011, or Australia, where 73 percent of 12- and 13-year-old girls have gotten all three vaccines.

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Doctors learn from other M.D.s: Opposing view
USA Today

Change in medicine is relentless. New drugs and devices, new indications for old ones and newly recognized safety issues are hard for busy M.D.s to keep up with.

One way to manage all this innovation has been for medical product companies to pay physicians to speak to their colleagues about products, usually at evening events in restaurants. This is one of many industry-sponsored educational activities attacked by critics who want strict apartheid between M.D.s and medical products companies.

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Maybe there are no genuine Obamacare horror stories
Los Angeles Times

Kevin Drum wonders whether there’s a single genuine Obamacare horror story out there, given that virtually every yarn promoted by Republicans or conservatives about people hurt by the Affordable Care Act has deflated like a pricked balloon on the merest examination. It’s a very good question, inspired by the latest horror story bloomer — the tale of one Julia Boonstra of Michigan, wholesaled by the Koch-founded conservative organization Americans for Prosperity.

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More than 12,000 Congressional staffers have enrolled in health plans through Obamacare
Washington Post

Thousands of people have purchased health coverage through the District of Columbia’s new small-business insurance marketplace, but only a tiny fraction of them actually own or work for a small business.

The rest are members of or work for a single large organization — Congress. Starting this year, new rules require federal lawmakers and their staffers to enroll in health-care plans through the small-business exchange on the city’s new insurance marketplace, known as DC Health Link.

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Sick software hits health exchange
San Diego Union-Tribune

Intermittent errors forced the state’s health insurance exchange to take the enrollment portions of its website offline Wednesday afternoon, and the site remained on hiatus all day Thursday despite a promise that it would return by 1 p.m.

Exchange operator Covered California issued a brief statement Thursday evening that said its engineers were “working around the clock to resolve the issue and hope to restore the website functionality by Friday.”

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California’s enrollment website for Obamacare goes down
Los Angeles Times

Amid a big marketing push, California’s enrollment website for Obamacare coverage has suffered an unexpected outage due to software glitches. The website problems come at a crucial time as the Covered California exchange tries to persuade more uninsured people to sign up ahead of a March 31 deadline. The state exchange unveiled new TV commercials and radio ads this week aimed in particular at Latinos, who have been slow to enroll so far.

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Covered California Enrollment Hits 1.6 Million
Insurance NETWORKING.COM

More than 820,000 people have selected a Covered California health insurance plan through the Golden State’s public marketplace through the first two weeks of February, exceeding the state’s open enrollment goal through March 31 of 700,000 enrollees for 2014, officials said Wednesday.

The data released by Covered California also updated the total number of enrollees as of Jan. 31. More than 1.6 million Californians selected a plan including those who enrolled in low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid expansion.

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Covered California: Pick a number, any number
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California had new “enrollment” numbers to brag about this week, with nearly 829,000 folks signing up for private insurance on the Obamacare exchange through Feb. 15. Of that number, which leads the nation, 728,410 had signed on for private coverage as of Jan. 31. But only 80 percent had paid up through January, officials said, so the actual enrollment for Covered California’s first four months is closer to 583,000.

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As Deadline Nears, State Insurance Exchanges Still A Mixed Bag
capital public radio

With a bit more than a month left for people to sign up for health insurance plans set up under the Affordable Care Act, the federal website known as HealthCare.gov finally seems to be working smoothly — in 36 states.

But what’s happening in the 14 states that are running their own exchanges?

Some are doing quite well, thank you. California, for example, said Wednesday that enrollment has already exceeded its projection for the entire enrollment period, which ends March 31.

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Public Sector Cuts Part-Time Shifts to Bypass Insurance Law
New York Times

Cities, counties, public schools and community colleges around the country have limited or reduced the work hours of part-time employees to avoid having to provide them with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, state and local officials say.

The cuts to public sector employment, which has failed to rebound since the recession, could serve as a powerful political weapon for Republican critics of the health care law, who claim that it is creating a drain on the economy.

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CDC urges flu vaccinations amid mounting H1N1 illnesses
Los Angeles Times

With several weeks or more remaining in a particularly deadly influenza season, U.S. health officials on Thursday urged flu vaccinations for everyone over the age of 6 months, including pregnant women. “Influenza can make anyone very sick, very fast and it can kill,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Vaccination is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself.”

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Assembly Democrats seek to restore cuts to Medi-Cal funding
Los Angeles Times

Two Assembly Democrats want to restore funding for California’s healthcare program for the poor, laying the groundwork for another debate over how to make the best use of the state’s financial recovery. The proposal, AB 1805, would reverse a 10% cut to reimbursements to doctors and other healthcare providers who treat Medi-Cal patients. The reduction was made when the state faced gaping budget deficits, and Gov. Jerry Brown plans on keeping it in place even though a surplus is expected.

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Calif. Unions Seek To Limit Health Care Costs Two Ballot Measures
capital public radio

UCLA health care economist Dylan Roby says the charge cap would only help the uninsured, because insurers typically negotiate charges down. “The ability to have more transparency in pricing will be much better,” Roby says. “But it still won’t reign in any other part of health care spending because typically that 25 percent cushion they’re getting is more than Medicare, Medi-Cal and private insurers are paying in the first place.”

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Health law to help foster youth to age 26
Vallejo Times-Herald

Growing up in foster care, some children and teens don’t get the kind of medical attention they need, while some may have suffered from abuse and neglect and have lingering health problems, advocates said.

One provision of the Affordable Care Act could help foster youth get medical attention they need after they are emancipated from the system at age 21.

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Is your doctor on a drug maker’s payroll? Our view
USA Today

Doctors have long gotten small favors from drug makers: pads with logos, a deli tray sent to the office, tickets to sporting events and free drug samples.

But in recent years, those trinkets have evolved into big money for doctors paid to speak to other doctors about new drugs, often using canned scripts provided by the pharmaceutical companies.

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Rural California getting new trauma centers
Capitol Weekly

In rural California, traumatic injuries often happen hours away from medical services.

Rescuers scramble helicopters or ground ambulances to rush victims of car crashes, major accidents or violence to hospitals outside of the region. Occasionally, those expensive trips to life saving aid are waylaid by weather or traffic.

It can take as long as three hours to get the injured to a trauma center, even by air. Access to centers along the north and central coasts and the East Sierra is most limited.

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UCSF ranks 4th nationally on MD-residency survey
San Francisco Business Times

UC San Francisco’s medical residency program ranked 4th on a first-ever survey of doctors to name the nation’s top training programs for internal medicine specialists, according to U.S. News and Doximity, which conducted the survey. UCSF and the other top four schools — leader Massachusetts General Hospital, No. 2 Johns Hopkins University, and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital — each had about twice as many nominations from M.D.s and program directors as other U.S. medical residency programs.

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Cottage Health System CEO Commended for Commitment to Medi-Cal Program
Santa Barbara Independent

The California Hospital Association (CHA) has awarded the 2013 Award of Merit to Ronald C. Werft, President/CEO of Cottage Health System in Santa Barbara. The Award of Merit is CHA’s highest honor and is given to a CHA member for outstanding contribution to the California health care community.

Werft, who served as CHA Board Chair in 2011, has worked tirelessly to improve the Medi-Cal program. California’s Medi-Cal program ranks last in the nation when it comes to funding health care for Medicaid patients.

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