News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Union ballot measures take aim at hospital costs — but what is real goal?
Sacramento Business Journal

The biggest health-care union in California is putting the squeeze on the hospital industry. Again. It comes with an offer that’s hard to refuse: Help us organize 100,000 nonunion workers around the state or we’ll ask voters to approve a pair of ballot initiatives you hate. One would cut executive pay and the other would limit hospital charges. For a second time in two years, Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West is pushing ballot measures that could cost hospitals a bundle.

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Covered California Closing in on One Million Mark
KQED Radio

Covered California reported Thursday that 923,832 people have signed up for a health insurance plan through its agency through March 9. With 18 days left in open enrollment and an expected surge predicted as the final March 31 deadline comes near, the one million enrollment mark appears within reach. In addition to the enrollment on Covered California, another 1.1 million people who have applied throughout the marketplace were determined likely to be eligible for Medi-Cal.

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Robot is good for both patient and doctor
San Diego Union-Tribune

Police officers and interventional cardiologists have something heavy in common: Both don metal to protect them from the hazards of their professions.

But while cops will wear bulletproof vests as long as crooks carry guns, new technology now in use at UC San Diego’s Thornton Hospital in La Jolla takes docs out of the line of fire.

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Slideshow: Healthcare Leaders Discuss Population Health Management
Health Leaders Media

As they place a greater emphasis on advancing wellness and managing chronic diseases, healthcare organizations are looking to incorporate population health management principles into their processes. Four healthcare leaders share their successes and challenges.

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Why Is Healthcare Price Transparency So Hard?
Health Leaders Media

Many hospital and health system CEOs are embracing the triple aim of improving the patient experience, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita cost of healthcare, an objective popularized by the Institute for Health Improvement.

Of the three legs of that stool, the one on reducing cost is problematic because one person’s (or organization’s) cost is another’s profit.

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Obama: Enough have enrolled for stable health care
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama says enough people have signed up for health care to make his signature law work.

Obama tells medical web site WebMD that the 4.2 million people enrolled for this year, quote, “is already large enough that I’m confident the program will be stable.”

The president acknowledges in an interview posted Friday that the mix of people who sign up is actually more important than the number.

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Step right up folks and get your Obamacare exemption
San Francisco Business Times

Everybody knows there are 50 ways to leave your lover, but did you know there are at least 14 ways to leave Obamacare? The “hardship exemptions” to health care reform’s requirement for individuals to buy insurance range from being homeless to not being able to find an affordable plan to replace a plan that has been canceled. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services listed all 14 of these exemptions at least as far back as December, but House Republicans apparently just learned of No. 14: “You experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance.”

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Obamacare: Number of newly insured still a mystery under nation’s new health law
The Mercury News

Providing coverage to the 47 million uninsured Americans is a central goal of the nation’s new health care law, but just weeks before the enrollment deadline the number of newly insured is still a mystery.

That’s because many health exchanges signing up millions of Americans for health plans didn’t clearly ask: Do you already have insurance?

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Checking the ACA’s Vital Signs
The Health Care Blog

Despite pervasive challenges associated with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the botched launch of HealthCare.gov and the concurrent wave of plan cancellations, the administration remains optimistic about the ACA’s fate. However, critics of the ACA have seized upon these recent mishaps, particularly President Obama’s pledge that “if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan,” as evidence of the inevitable demise of the ACA.

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California health exchange enrolls 900,000 so far
Manteca Bulletin

About 924,000 people have picked insurance plans through California’s health care exchange as the race continues to attract more Latinos and younger people ahead of the enrollment deadline later this month.

“We’ve done a good job in this state, but we are not satisfied. We need to get more people insured,” Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said Thursday during a rally at the historic Olvera Street Mexican marketplace in downtown Los Angeles.

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Covered California says 924,000 have signed up on exchange
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California, the Golden State’s Obamacare exchange, said Thursday that nearly 924,000 Californians have signed up for coverage through March 9, including 880,082 by the end of February, the San Francisco Business Times reports. The exchange has more robust data for the period ending Feb. 28. Sign-ups during the initial open enrollment period end March 31.

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Covered California says 924,000 have signed up on Obamacare exchange
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California, the Golden State’s Obamacare exchange, said Thursday that nearly 924,000 Californians have signed up for coverage through March 9, including 880,082 by the end of February.

The exchange has more robust data for the period ending Feb. 28. Sign-ups during the initial open enrollment period end March 31. The Sacramento-based exchange says the total through February exceeds original expectations as of March 31, but its projections (like those of the Obama administration) have been somewhat fluid over time.

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California health insurance enrollments surpass 923K
Sacramento Bee

The number of Californians enrolling in coverage through the state’s new health insurance marketplace reached 923,832 through Sunday, officials said.

Covered California announced Thursday that 762,174 of the 880,000 residents to select plans through the end of last month were eligible for federal subsidies, surpassing projections for the entire first enrollment period that runs through March 31.

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Covered California enrollment approaches 1 million
San Diego Union-Tribune

Nearly 1 million people signed up for Covered California insurance plans between the program’s inception and March 9, health exchange officials said Thursday.

While the numbers best even the health exchange’s most optimistic first-year estimates, the new marketplace continues to enroll fewer Latinos and younger residents than initially projected.

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Covered California enrolls nearly 1 million in health plans
Los Angeles Times

California is nearing 1 million people enrolled in Obamacare coverage, but the state’s insurance exchange is still running behind in signing up Latinos and young people. In figures released Thursday, the state said 923,832 people had picked a health plan through March 9, and about 1.5 million people have enrolled or been deemed eligible for an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor.

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Nearly 1 million residents sign up with Covered California as health care deadline looms
Los Angeles Daily News

With a March 31 deadline approaching and $100 million already spent on marketing, Covered California officials announced Thursday that more than 900,000 state residents have enrolled in health plans through the exchange since October.

The figure was more than projected but officials said it still wasn’t good enough.

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More than 3M Californians sign up for health coverage
Monterey Herald

With less than three weeks left before open enrollment ends under the new federal health care law, more than 3 million Californians have signed up for health coverage since Oct. 1, according to officials with the state’s insurance exchange.

Through March 9, the number of people who signed up for a private insurance plan through the Covered California marketplace soared to 923,832. At least 762,174 of the enrollees are eligible for subsidies.

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Covered California: Signups picking up as deadline nears
Southern California Public Radio

About 44,000 Californians signed up for health plans through the state’s insurance marketplace, Covered California, during the first nine days of March, a slightly faster pace of signups than during the second half of February. The new figures released by Covered California on Thursday suggest that after a slowdown during the first two months of the year, the pace of enrollments is picking up again as the final signup deadline approaches March 31.

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Health-Care Enrollment Assistance Available at Local Libraries
Noozhawk

The Santa Barbara Public Library System is partnering with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department to help residents apply for and enroll in health care coverage through Medi-Cal or Covered California.

The enrollment period for 2014 coverage ends March 31.

As part of its campaign to increase enrollment in affordable health insurance for the uninsured, the Public Health Department is continuing expanding its countywide outreach campaign.

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New health site lets the crowd rate treatment effectiveness
CNET News.com

You have a back ache. Like millions of others in your situation, you open your browser and search for “back pain.” The various health sites in the search results instruct you to apply ice, to apply heat, to rest it, and not to rest it. They advise you that the pain should go away on its own within 72 hours, while simultaneously informing you that your achy back could be a symptom of a serious, even life-threatening illness, so you should make an appointment to see your doctor right away.

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FDA puts brakes on Geron blood treatment
San Francisco Business Times

Geron Corp.’s imetelstat — an experimental blood treatment on which the company is staking a turnaround — was placed in a full clinical hold Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration. The stock of the Menlo Park company (NASDAQ: GERN) fell 68 percent Wednesday from Tuesday’s close, from $4.52 to as low as $1.39, but gained more than 5.6 percent Thursday to close at $1.79 per share.

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Misunderstanding Narrow Networks
The Health Care Blog

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Obama advisor Ezekiel Emanuel attempts to ease the minds of millions of Americans who may be selecting narrow network plans in the exchanges. In defending narrow networks, Emanuel cites the well-known example of Kaiser, which has for decades required enrollees to choose among only Kaiser-owned hospitals and Kaiser-employed physicians.

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Positive review for hospital in Jahi McMath case
San Francisco Chronicle

A state review of Children’s Hospital Oakland found it followed government standards in its treatment of patients including Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl who was declared brain-dead in December after undergoing a tonsillectomy and other surgical procedures for her sleep apnea.

The review by the California Department of Public Health, which stepped in after the case generated controversy, looked at a sampling of 29 recent patients at the hospital. Inspectors found the facility was in “substantial compliance,” though it cited minor problems with record-keeping in multiple cases.

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Inland Healthcare Providers Seek to Cap Costs
PalmDesertPatch

“This is about making sure the healthcare system works as it should … and people are receiving the right care at the right time,” a spokeswoman for Blue Shield said. Blue Shield is partnering with Redlands-based healthcare consulting firm Epic Management LP to create an Accountable Care Organization that will focus on identifying ways to optimize outpatient treatment programs to rein in health maintenance organization, or HMO, costs, according to a joint statement released by Epic and Blue Shield.

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New surgery in Santa Rosa for heart patients
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

It took only moments for Dr. Peter Chang-Sing to insert the world’s smallest wireless heart monitor just under the skin and to the left of 83-year-old Eric Leber’s sternum.

When the outpatient operation was over, Chang-Sing said, “Shall we get started then?”

He was, of course, joking. The procedure, performed with local anesthesia Thursday morning at the Advanced Surgery Institute in Santa Rosa, took less than three minutes.

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Medicare a big money-loser for El Camino
Mountain View VOICE

El Camino Hospital is losing much more money from low Medicare reimbursements than similar hospitals in the Central Valley and Southern California, a study shows.

According to a recent report released by the California Hospital Association, El Camino isn’t alone. Many hospitals in the Bay Area are losing more money on Medicare patients than comparable hospitals elsewhere in the state.

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