News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Metrics: Surprisingly, People Who Were Uninsured Last Year Remain Undecided About the ACA
The Health Care Blog

Since mid-December, we’ve brought you the latest data on public opinion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from the RAND Health Reform Opinion Study (RHROS), a new way to measure public opinion of health reform. The RHROS allows us to observe true changes in opinion by surveying the same people over time.

The trend of overall stability masking churn in individual opinion that we discussed last week has continued with our latest data. This week, however, we delve deeper to look at differences in opinion between two groups: those who had insurance in 2013 and those who did not.

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Health officials: Unexplained paralysis cases not epidemic
San Diego Union-Tribune

Recent reports from Stanford University researchers that about 20 Californians have experienced polio-like paralysis in the last 18 months does not have local health officials worried.

This week, Stanford doctors said they had found instances in which children have suffered paralysis of their arms or legs, symptoms similar to those caused by the polio virus. But these children do not test positive for polio.

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Steep Drop Seen in Medically Unnecessary C-Sections
Health Leaders Media

At long last, policy changes made by hospitals have resulted in plummeting numbers of women undergoing medically unnecessary C-sections and inductions before 39 weeks of pregnancy, according to the latest Leapfrog Group survey, released Monday.

In 2010, the first year the watchdog group conducted this survey, 793 hospitals reported rates of early elective deliveries that averaged 17%, although many were more than 50%.

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Fixing the way Medicaid doctors are paid
Los Angeles Times

Republicans and Democrats can’t seem to agree on anything related to the 2010 healthcare law, but they may come together soon on a crucial fix to the nation’s largest federal healthcare program, Medicare. At issue is the “sustainable growth rate,” a mechanism Congress enacted in 1997 to limit Medicare costs. It hasn’t; instead, it has simply threatened physicians with ever-larger and more unreasonable cuts in fees, which Congress has routinely waived.

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ObamaCare mandate winner: Hillary Clinton in 2016
The Hill

The Clinton papers are starting to be released and will dramatize one major point that has been widely known, but not widely understood, for many years.

It was the Republicans during the Clinton years who proposed many of the major provisions of what is now ObamaCare, including the individual mandate, and it was Hillary Clinton who opposed the healthcare mandate in 1993 when the GOP pushed it.

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Obama launches final push for healthcare sign-ups
Los Angeles Times

President Obama is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting with Latinos this week in an attempt to boost enrollment in the healthcare law’s new insurance marketplaces before an end-of-the-month deadline. The meeting set for Thursday is part of a March push by the White House to drive sign-ups. By the end of the month, nearly everyone in the United States will be required to be signed up for health insurance or risk paying a fine.

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GOP’s Obamacare Rewrite Remains Uncertain
Roll Call

House Republican leaders are proceeding cautiously on a rewrite of Democrats’ health care law amid skepticism that any plan can pass muster in a conference with widely differing ideas about how to move forward.

Several members said this week that they realize the public relations problems Republicans have in repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act five years after it was passed. So leaders are building the bill out from the message, in order to convince their members the endeavor is worthwhile and to show the electorate that their ideas merit control of both chambers of Congress.

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Government expands help for buying health insurance
Washington Post

With just a month left for Americans to select health plans this year through new insurance marketplaces, the Obama administration is bending some rules to prevent people from being stranded without coverage because of state-run exchanges riddled with computer problems.

In states with dysfunctional insurance marketplaces, the government will for the first time help pay for certain health plans that consumers buy on their own. And once people in those states are able to sign up through the exchanges, their insurance can be made retroactive.

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New Health Fix Offers Subsidies for Insurance Policies Bought Outside Exchanges
New York Times

The Obama administration said Friday that it would allow some people to receive federal subsidies for health insurance purchased in the private market outside of health insurance exchanges. The sudden shift was the latest in a series of policy changes, extensions and clarifications by federal officials trying to help beneficiaries and minimize political damage to Democrats in this election year.

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Obamacare’s ‘kid glitch’
Sacramento Bee

Now that the Affordable Care Act is in full swing, many Californians are feeling tremendous relief that they have affordable health coverage, some for the first time.

But what Obamacare giveth, it also taketh away.

In July, I wrote about a little-known provision of the new law that could leave some husbands, wives and children of insured workers without affordable health care options.

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Big deadline looms this month for healthcare coverage
Health Leaders Media

Sick of hearing about the health care law? Plenty of people have tuned out after all the political jabber and website woes. But now is the time to tune back in, before it’s too late.The big deadline is coming March 31. By that day, for the first time, nearly everyone in the United States is required to be signed up for health insurance or risk paying a fine. Most people don’t need to do anything. Even before the law was passed in 2010, more than 8 out of 10 U.S. residents had coverage, usually through their workplace plans or Medicare or Medicaid.

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Covered California software glitch affects 37,000 health care applicants
Sacramento Bee

Computer problems that darkened Covered California’s website last week will force as many as 14,500 customers with partially completed applications to either resubmit the changes or begin a new request, officials at the health exchange said Friday.

Overall, about 37,000 Californians were affected by a software malfunction that led officials to ground the enrollment portal for five days. Those who submitted updates between Feb. 17 and Feb. 19 may have to start over.

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California says 14,500 must redo Obamacare applications after glitch
Los Angeles Times

California’s health insurance exchange said about 14,500 people have to redo their online applications for Obamacare coverage because of a software error. The state’s announcement late Friday comes shortly after a five-day outage of the Covered California enrollment website. About 14,500 people who partially completed applications or updated them Feb. 17-19 — just before the website went down — have to either start over or resubmit any changes they made, the exchange said.

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Long waits frustrate callers to health exchanges
San Francisco Chronicle

For those trying to enroll through online health exchanges, help has long been advertised as just a phone call away.

Yet the challenge in some states has been trying to get a call through at all, never mind the multiple transfers once contact has been made.

Long wait times of an hour or more have been commonplace in some states, primarily those running their own health care exchanges.

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Health insurance enrollment efforts enter their final month
Sacramento Bee

After an horrendous start and months of playing catch-up against a barrage of political attacks, Affordable Care Act supporters have hit the homestretch in their six-month effort to educate and enroll millions of Americans in health insurance. March 31 is the last day to buy health insurance for this year that meets the law’s mandatory coverage requirement for most Americans.

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Open enrollment for Covered California plods along
Redding Record Searchlight

Insurers still are behind on processing, and Covered California is not particularly speedy in uploading information. The Covered CA system was down for five days last week, which certainly didn’t help matters.

As we are enrolling more folks in the new individual plans, I expect we will be facing a game of chicken as described in a recent article by Tracy Seipel in the San Jose Mercury News.

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What you need to know about March health deadline
San Francisco Chronicle

Sick of hearing about the health care law?

Plenty of people have tuned out after all the political jabber and website woes.

But now is the time to tune back in, before it’s too late.

The big deadline is coming March 31.

By that day, for the first time, nearly everyone in the United States is required to be signed up for health insurance or risk paying a fine.

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Same health plan, different costs in Los Angeles, San Bernardino counties
Los Angeles Daily News

While Californians may grumble about high health care premiums, consumers pay less through the Affordable Care Act in the Golden State compared with half the nation, according to a national analysis.

Even so, slight variations exist in Los Angeles County, where some pay more than others for the same insurance plan.

Data studied by Digital First Media show that the benchmark health plan for a 50-year-old Sacramento woman who makes $40,215 annually and who chooses a low-cost silver-level health plan through Covered California will spend $3,619 on health insur

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State flu deaths up to 302, but new cases tapering off
Sacramento Business Journal

The number of flu deaths in California since the start of the season is up to 302, but the rate of new cases continues to drop. State health officials have confirmed a total of 24 new deaths since previous data was released Feb. 21. There were 35 that week and 41 the week before. The 302 confirmed deaths include six children. Two of the deaths were in El Dorado County. Another 25 occurred in Sacramento County, according to the California Department of Public Health. An additional 19 deaths are still under investigation.

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Flu deaths in California rise to 302, but appear to be slowing
Los Angeles Times

The total confirmed deaths from the flu in California rose to 302 this week, as this year’s flu season continues to wane. Twenty-four flu deaths were confirmed Friday, a drop from late January and early February when an average 50 people died each week. This year’s flu season struck early, and appears to be on the decline. Outpatient visits continued to drop this week, according to the state.

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Two-Midnight Rule Must be Fixed or Replaced, Say Providers
Health Leaders Media

A top policy official at the American Hospital Association says last week’s Two Midnight Rule guidance letter from federal officials provides welcomed clarifications but leaves the policy fundamentally flawed.

“This is guidance that hospitals have been waiting for,” said Priya Bathija, senior associate director of policy at the AHA. “It’s been very hard for hospitals to operationalize Two Midnights without the guidance.”

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Quitting has become costly for taxpayers
Bakersfield Californian

Maybe years of pay and benefits cuts have made it a lousy job. Or maybe the term limits voters passed decades ago are causing the now epidemic job-jumping.

For whatever reason, an increasing number of state legislators are thumbing their noses at voters, quitting their jobs mid-term to seek other elective offices or taking lucrative private-sector jobs. Every time a legislator quits mid-term, a special election must be held, with taxpayers getting stuck with about $1 million in costs.

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Removing healthy breast saves lives of women with mutation, study says
Monterey Herald

Women considering a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer often face a difficult decision: whether to remove their healthy breast as well.

A new study should make it easier for some of these women to make up their minds. It concludes that patients with a dangerous mutation in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene were able to cut their risk of dying from breast cancer nearly in half by opting to remove both breasts.

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