News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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State lawmaker sues California health exchange over cancellations
Los Angeles Times

A Republican state lawmaker sued California’s health insurance exchange, saying it overstepped its authority by refusing to allow more than 900,000 people to keep their existing health policies.

In his suit, state Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) said the Covered California exchange violated federal and state laws by requiring participating health plans to cancel policies by Dec. 31 that didn’t comply with new requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

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GAO to probe health exchanges
Modern Healthcare

The investigative arm of Congress on Wednesday agreed to look into problems with state health exchange websites around the country.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office accepted an initial request from a group of House Republicans seeking an audit on how $304 million in federal grants were spent on the Cover Oregon website, which has yet to enroll a single person online without special assistance.

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Ruling in Physician Whistle-Blower Case Could Have Far-Reaching Consequences
California Healthline

A California Supreme Court ruling last month in a case involving a Modesto physician who filed a lawsuit challenging the termination of his hospital privileges could have significant long-lasting ramifications, according to some observers.

In Fahlen v. Sutter Central Valley Hospitals, the court upheld a physician’s right to file a whistle-blower lawsuit before exhausting the peer-review process. Some experts contend the case could fundamentally alter hospital-physician relationships in California.

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New study ranks Alzheimer’s as third-leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer
Washington Post

Alzheimer’s disease likely plays a much larger role in the deaths of older Americans than is reported, according to a new study that says the disease may be the third-leading cause of death in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists Alzheimer’s as the sixth-leading cause of death, far below heart disease and cancer. But the new report, published Wednesday in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, suggests that the current system of relying on death certificates for causes misses the complexity of dying for many older people and underestimates the impact of Alzheimer’s.

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Investing in autism: Google takes a lead position
San Francisco Business Times

In Google Inc.’s game of tackling big, knotty problems with data, there are few diseases meatier than autism. The condition has two approved drugs — none of which treat a core symptom — and a wealth of misinformation that scares away some investors. But it also has a huge potential market, with an estimated one in 88 people with autism, and a growing body of data that could lend itself to genetics-based solutions, said Google Ventures partner Krishna Yeshwant.

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Selling Health Care To California’s Latinos Got Lost In Translation
capital public radio

It’s been decades since the advertising industry recognized the need to woo Hispanic consumers. Big companies saw the market potential and sank millions of dollars into ads. The most basic dos and don’ts of marketing to Latinos in the United States have been understood for years.

So when officials started thinking about how to persuade the state’s Spanish speakers, who make up nearly 30 percent of California’s population, to enroll in health care plans, they should have had a blueprint of what to do. Instead, they made a series of mistakes.

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Affordable Care Act tweaked again – and again
San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration changed some Affordable Care Act rules for the second time in less than a week on Wednesday.

The announcements come as procrastinators are scrambling to meet a March 31 deadline for enrolling in health insurance through an exchange for 2014 to avoid a potential tax penalty for being uninsured.

The administration announced Wednesday that it will let an estimated 500,000 Americans who have non-grandfathered individual policies that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act renew them for two additional years.

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Obama administration rewrites some health-care policies
Washington Post

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it has rewritten an array of far-reaching rules under the Affordable Care Act, the most significant of which will let people keep bare-bones health insurance policies for three more years.

The rule changes will touch essentially every sector affected by the 2010 health-care law. It will buffer more health plans in insurance exchanges from high patient costs, give states more time to decide whether to run their own marketplaces, and spare certain unions from a fee they have resented.

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Obama breathes life into canceled health plans — again
Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration wrote a new chapter Wednesday in the “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” chronicles, decreeing that plans it once derided as “junk” or “substandard” can remain in effect until October 2017 — long after the next presidential election. The point, administration officials say, is to help those in the market for individual or small-group plans make a smoother transition into Obamacare.

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House Backs Bill to Delay Health Care Penalty
ABC News

The House on Wednesday backed a one-year delay in the penalty that individuals would have to pay for failing to sign up for health insurance, the 50th time Republicans have forced a vote to repeal, gut or change the law championed by President Barack Obama.

The vote was 250-160, with 27 Democrats joining Republicans on legislation to postpone the individual mandate under the law. The measure stands no chance in the Democratic-led Senate and the White House has threatened a veto.

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Insurers increase ads to get people to sign up for health plans under Affordable Care Act
Washington Post

As the March 31 enrollment deadline approaches, insurers are increasingly urging consumers to sign up for health plans under the Affordable Care Act, even as some take swipes at the law, according to a new analysis of health-care advertising.

Forty-six percent of insurer ad spending during the week of Feb. 24 went to commercials featuring the law, compared with 32 percent the week before, according to the ad tracking group Kantar Media CMAG.

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Obamacare deadline: Just a few weeks remain to sign up for federal healthcare coverage
MedCity News

It’s crunch time for Obamacare: With less than four weeks left to sign up for coverage this year through the health law’s insurance marketplaces, consumer groups, insurers, hospitals and state and federal officials are ratcheting up their enrollment campaigns to deliver more people — particularly young adults.

–Enroll America, a nonprofit group with ties to the Obama administration, is sending buses to Texas and Ohio to talk up new coverage options.
–Tenet Healthcare Corp., a large national hospital chain, is reaching out to people without insurance who frequent their emergency rooms.

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Obamacare’s Payment Pilots Are Struggling To Prove They Work. Here’s Why It’s OK.
The Health Care Blog

When Barack Obama was merely a senator running for the White House, he told one physician association, “I support the concept of a patient-centered medical home” and would encourage the model if he ever became president. Six years later: Mission accomplished. Nearly 7,000 primary care practices have officially been accredited as PCMHs, and thousands of other providers have adopted some features of medical homes, which use a team-based approach to coordinated care.

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What Extending the Obamacare Cancelled Policy Moratorium Really Means
The Health Care Blog

The administration has confirmed that the individual policies that were supposed to be cancelled because of Obamacare can now remain in force another two years. For months I have been saying millions of individual health insurance policies will be cancelled by year-end––most deferred until December because of the carriers’ early renewal programs and because of President Obama’s request the policies be extended in the states that have allowed it.

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Consumers can keep old health plans into 2017, administration says
Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that some Americans with health insurance policies that don’t meet consumer standards set by the Affordable Care Act will be allowed to keep their plans into 2017, three years later than originally envisioned.

Allowing some consumers to keep old insurance plans past the end of the President Obama’s term in office marks the latest effort by the administration to get out from under one of the most damaging controversies shadowing the launch of the healthcare law.

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Sen. Gaines suing Covered California
Sacramento Business Journal

State Sen. State Sen. Ted Gaines is suing Covered California over December cancellation of insurance policies that do not meet federal health reform standards. Urged in November by the Obama Administration to allow a one-year delay in noncompliant plan cancellations, the board at Covered California voted to go ahead.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges more than 900,00 Californians have had their health plans cancelled in violation of California and federal law — and millions more will be affected as noncompliant employer-provided insurance plans face cancellation in the future.

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Bera reverses himself on health care, and GOP rival pounces
Sacramento Bee

Rep.Ami Bera, an Elk Grove Democrat who’s facing a tough re-election in the fall, just gave his Republican opponents a bit more ammunition — by voting with them on health care.

Last summer, Bera voted to delay the mandate for employers to provide insurance, but not for individuals to get insurance. Wednesday, though, he voted for a House Bill to delay the individual mandate, a key component of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

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Ted Gaines sues California insurance exchange over nixed plans
Sacramento Bee

State Sen. Ted Gaines has filed a lawsuit against the state health insurance exchange, claiming agency officials exceeded their power when they instructed participating health insurance companies to terminate existing policies for hundreds of thousands of Californians.

Covered California later declined a presidential offer letting insurance companies extend the canceled policies to roughly 1 million Californians.

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Lawsuit seeks to reinstate canceled health plans
Union Democrat

A state lawmaker who is running for state insurance commissioner said Wednesday that he is suing California’s health benefits exchange for wrongly cutting off more than 1 million insurance policies and for what he called wasting taxpayer money on useless marketing campaigns. Covered California violated federal and state laws by telling insurers that wanted to participate in the exchange that they must eliminate plans that fail to meet the higher standards of the federal Affordable Care Act, Sen.

A state lawmaker who is running for state insurance commissioner said Wednesday that he is suing California’s health benefits exchange for wrongly cutting off more than 1 million insurance policies and for what he called wasting taxpayer money on useless marketing campaigns. Covered California violated federal and state laws by telling insurers that wanted to participate in the exchange that they must eliminate plans that fail to meet the higher standards of the federal Affordable Care Act, Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, alleges in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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2-year extension offered for canceled health plans
San Francisco Chronicle

Warding off the specter of election-year health insurance cancellations, the Obama administration Wednesday announced a two-year extension for individual policies that don’t meet requirements of the new health care law.

The decision helps defuse a political problem for Democrats in tough re-election battles this fall, especially for senators who in 2010 stood with President Barack Obama and voted to pass his health overhaul.

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Covered California begins ad blitz in final enrollment weeks
Los Angeles Times

With less than a month left for enrollment in Obamacare, California’s insurance exchange is applying a major dose of peer pressure.

In a new TV ad blitz, recent enrollees extol the benefits of having coverage for checkups or a serious illness. A man plays soccer with his sons, a musician carries his guitar down the street. “I’m in,” young, fit-looking people say. “Are you in?” the announcer asks.

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O.C. Obamacare signups ahead of plan
Orange County Register

Orange County residents picked up the pace of enrollment in Obamacare health insurance plans early this year, according to the latest figures released by Covered California, the state’s exchange. Between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31, 72,906 county residents signed up, a 46 percent increase from the 50,015 enrollments reported through the end of last year. Most local enrollees, 86.5 percent, were eligible for subsidies.

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Compromise unlikely in fight over medical malpractice cap
Los Angeles Times

You’d think this would be a simple problem to fix: The unfair low limits on pain and suffering awards in California medical malpractice suits. But few things of genuine importance are simple in California’s innately pugnacious Capitol. There’s greed, ill will, stubbornness, hubris, vindictiveness, indifference (doesn’t affect me), cowardice — all the human traits that politicians bring to Sacramento from the citizenry they represent.

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Physicians Take SGR Repeal Message to Washington
Health Leaders Media

With Congress facing an end-of-the-month deadline to repeal the reviled Sustainable Growth Rate, hundreds of the nation’s physician organizations on Wednesday intensified their calls for a permanent fix for the funding formula.

Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, president of the American Medical Association, said that more than 600 state and national physicians’ organizations sent a joint letter to House and Senate leaders on Wednesday asking them to repeal SGR before the latest temporary delay lapses on March 31 and a mandated 24% cut in Medicare reimbursements kicks in.

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HIV disappears in ‘Los Angeles baby,’ doctors say
Los Angeles Times

A baby infected with HIV appears to be free of the virus after doctors at a Long Beach hospital initiated aggressive drug treatment just four hours after birth. A pediatrician at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach and her colleagues disclosed the case Wednesday at a Boston AIDS conference. The newborn girl was initially confirmed to have HIV through blood and spinal fluid tests.

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After hours: Health care reform discussion (Slideshow)
Sacramento Business Journal

Five top Sacramento-area health executives spoke in a panel discussion about the Affordable Care Act and changing workforce needs in the health care industry. More than 350 business leaders attended the Sacramento Business Journal’s breakfast event Friday at the Sheraton Grand.

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Will San Francisco hospitals cut prices, as Seattle’s Swedish did?
San Francisco Business Times

Swedish Health System, one of Seattle’s largest health care providers, is slashing outpatient prices dramatically, but there’s no sign yet that San Francisco hospitals are likely to follow in its footsteps. The Puget Sound Business Journal, an affiliated publication, reported Tuesday that Swedish Health System is cutting outpatient prices by an average of 35 percent, as it works to improve efficiency and adapt to health reform.

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