News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Industry Groups Urge Sebelius to Hold Off on MU
Health Leaders Media

A coalition of more than 40 national healthcare organizations is calling for additional time to meet the goals of the Meaningful Use program. In a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Friday, the group asked for “additional time and new flexibility” to implement electronic health record systems.

The letter was released as the 2014 HIMSS conference was about to begin in Orlando, FL.

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Premiums may rise for 11 million small business employees: CMS
Modern Healthcare

The new healthcare law may raise insurance premiums for 11 million small business employees and lower rates for 6 million others.

That’s an estimate from a report by the CMS, part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The report says higher rates are partly due to the law’s requirement that premiums can no longer be based on a person’s age. That has sent premiums higher for younger workers, and lower for older ones.

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Polio-like illness afflicting children a mystery in California
The Mercury News

More than a dozen children in California have developed an extremely rare, polio-like syndrome within the past year that within days paralyzed one or more of the children’s arms or legs, Stanford University researchers say.

The illness is still being investigated and appears to be very unusual, but Dr. Keith Van Haren at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University warned Monday that any child showing a sudden onset of weakness in their limbs or symptoms of paralysis should be immediately seen by a doctor.

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Covered California’s website back after 5-day shutdown
San Francisco Chronicle

The website for Californians looking to buy health insurance under the federal health law went back online Monday after being shut down for five days.

Officials from the state’s health exchange, Covered California, said the online enrollment tool was up and running again by 4 a.m. It had been down since Wednesday afternoon because of software problems.

“Everything is fully operational and looks good now,” said Anne Gonzales, a Covered California spokeswoman.

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Confusion over Covered California networks continues
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California’s enrollment system is back online, after a five-day repair job, but the bigger problem remains the inability of many consumers and doctors to easily determine who’s covered and which medical practices are included in specific Covered California health plan options.

As the Business Times reported late last week, Covered California’s provider directory — a major piece of its original promise for “one-stop shopping” — is offline and not likely to be up again until the fall, at the earliest.

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New Covered California problem: Broker commissions delayed
Sacramento Business Journal

Health insurance brokers, already struggling to work with Covered California, say a new problem has cropped up: slow pay on commissions. Health plans pay commissions, not the state health exchange. But in some cases, broker sales information was stripped out of the data transmitted by Covered California to health plans or vendors, so they didn’t get paid. “I caught it when members started to disappear on my Covered CA dashboard,” Sacramento health insurance broker Bob Elder said.

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75,000 Los Angeles college students targeted as part of massive Covered California campaign
Los Angeles Daily News

A weeklong campaign to enroll thousands of community college students into health plans launched in Los Angeles on Monday to encourage young adults to sign up for Obamacare before March 31, or else face penalties under the federal law.

At least 50 percent of the 150,000 students who attend classes at the nine-campus Los Angeles Community College District are uninsured and would likely qualify for Medi-Cal or a lower tiered health plan, said Mike Eng, a member of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees.

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L.A. community colleges urge students to sign up for Obamacare
Los Angeles Times

Danielle Alberts fell and broke her right ankle in three places in 2012. Alberts, who earns about $9,000 a year, went to the hospital and was charged nearly $4,000 for a shot and some pain medication. Alberts did not have health insurance. She refused a cast because it would have cost $500 more and she didn’t have the money from her jobs as a security guard and caregiver. The ankle healed poorly, leaving her with a limp, and she wears a brace to keep the swelling down.

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Report: 125,000 immigrants given deferred action eligible for Medi-Cal
Los Angeles Times

A new report shows that as many as 125,000 young California immigrants may qualify for an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. The Affordable Care Act bars insurance subsidies and enrollment in the Medicaid expansion for undocumented immigrants, but a wrinkle in California rules does offer coverage for those with “deferred action status.” The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created by President Obama in 2012 to grant immigrants who came to the country illegally as children — sometimes called Dreamers — legal status and work authorization for two-y

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Doctors’ Offices Get Put On Hold Trying to Find Out Who’s Insured
KALW

Sheila Lawless manages a small rheumatology practice in Wichita Falls, Texas, about two hours outside of Dallas. She makes sure everything in the office runs smoothly – scheduling patients, collecting payments, keeping the lights on. Recently she added another duty — incorporating the trickle of patients with insurance plans purchased on the new Affordable Care Act exchanges. Open enrollment doesn’t end until March 31, but people who have already bought Obamacare plans are beginning to use them.

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Some insurance plans don’t cover medical costs related to suicide, despite federal rules
Washington Post

Dealing with a suicide or attempted suicide is stressful enough. Some health plans make the experience worse by refusing to cover medical costs for injuries that are related to suicide or an attempt — even though experts say that in many cases such exclusions aren’t permitted under federal law.

When a 24-year-old woman with bipolar disorder attempted suicide last year by taking an overdose of an anti-anxiety medication, her mother assumed that her employer plan covering them both would pay the bills for her daughter’s hospital care. But the insurer declined to pay the $6,600 charge, citing an exclusion for care related to suicide.

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Retail Medicine Syncs with High-Deductible Health Plans
Health Leaders Media

Some analysts believe that the greatest fundamental changes to traditional healthcare delivery will come from without, not from within.

The rise of high-deductible health plans means more consumers will be on the hook for much of their medical costs, with their coverage mainly providing protection against catastrophic injury or illness. As these high-deductible plans become more common, traditional retailers such as CVS Caremark, are taking a greater interest in expanding their healthcare provider capacities.

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Acetaminophen in pregnancy linked to ADHD in kids, study finds
Los Angeles Times

Pregnant women have long been assured that acetaminophen can treat their aches, pains and fevers without bringing harm to the babies they carry. Now researchers say they have found a strong link between prenatal use of the medication and cases of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. The results, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, add to growing evidence that the active ingredient in Tylenol may influence brain development in utero.

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Group wants heart attack warning on testosterone
San Francisco Chronicle

A consumer advocacy group is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to add a bold warning label to popular testosterone drugs for men in light of growing evidence that the hormone treatments can increase the risk of heart attack.

The group Public Citizen says the agency should immediately add a “black box” warning — the most serious type — to all testosterone medications and require manufacturers to warn physicians about a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and death with the treatments.

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San Diego patient among first to get tiny heart monitor
San Diego Union-Tribune

An out-of-sync heartbeat has sent retired funny car racer Chuck Beal to the hospital twice, but the 71-year-old speedster is hoping that a recent upgrade will keep him out of the pits in the future.

Beal is among the first in the nation to have a tiny heart monitor that is smaller than a AAA battery implanted under his skin to help detect potentially deadly heart muscle misfires, known as atrial fibrillation, before they become serious.

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Centralizing organ removal may benefit transplants
San Francisco Chronicle

For decades, surgeons have traveled to far-off hospitals to remove organs from brain-dead donors and then rushed back to transplant them. Now an experiment in the Midwest suggests there may be a better way: Bring the donors to the doctors instead.

A study out Tuesday reports on liver transplants from the nation’s first free-standing organ retrieval center. Nearly all organ donors now are transported to Mid-America Transplant Services in St. Louis from a region including parts of Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas.

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Doctors Without State Borders: Practicing Across State Lines
The Health Care Blog

In the United States, a tangled web of federal and state regulations controls physician licensing. Although federal standards govern medical training and testing, each state has its own licensing board, and doctors must procure a license for every state in which they practice medicine (with some limited exceptions for physicians from bordering states, for consultations, and during emergencies). This bifurcated system makes it difficult for physicians to care for patients in other states, and in particular impedes the practice of telemedicine.

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Medical Board tries to tame overuse, overprescription of painkillers
Sacramento Business Journal

The biggest drug problem in the U.S. is in the home medicine a cabinet, and the Medical Board of California is trying to change that. Nearly 7 million Americans are abusing prescription painkillers, more than the number of people using cocaine and heroin combined, federal statistics from 2012 show. And that figure had jumped 80 percent in six years. After consumers mobbed a March 2013 legislative hearing with complaints about California doctors who overprescribe opiates for pain, the state agency that oversees doctors created a prescribing task force to address the problem.

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A morbidly obese patient tests the limits of a doctor’s compassion
Washington Post

The patient is large. Very large. At more than 600 pounds, he is a mountain of flesh.

“My stomach hurts,” he says, his voice surprisingly high and childlike. It is 10 p.m. in the emergency room, and I am already swamped with patients I’m trying to move through the ER before my shift is over.

Asked if he’s ever felt this kind of pain before, he says, “No, never. At least, not like this.”

“Well, what’d you expect?” the unit secretary mutters, only half to herself.

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Who really cost Mrs. Blackwood her cancer medicine?
Los Angeles Times

Stephen J. Blackwood is utterly, unalterably convinced that his mother has lost access to her cancer medicine because of Obamacare. That’s the theme of his passionate op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal. The piece currently tops the most-read list over at the Journal website and has shot around conservative websites with the speed of a measles virus in an unvaccinated population.

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