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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Proposed HIX Rules Would Alter PPACA
Health Leaders Media

In a 278-page document released this month, federal officials propose to fine-tune, optimize and strengthen the new public health insurance exchanges, including the creation of new laws to protect federal consumer advisers from state interference in performing their duties.

Titled “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Exchange and Insurance Market Standards for 2015 and Beyond, the document also provides details about innovations set to be introduced to the exchanges in 2015 and 2016 such as an Enrollee Satisfaction Survey to gauge beneficiary opinion about their insurance policies and a Marketplace Survey to help “assess consumer experience” with the exchanges.

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Integrating the Health System Revenue Cycle
Health Leaders Media

Although there has long been a divide between the finance and clinical departments in many hospitals, those days may be coming to an end. As healthcare CFOs work to protect the fiscal strength of their organizations, they are increasingly aware of the need to engage clinicians from across the continuum of care in the revenue cycle process.

In 2012, Southwest General Health Center, a 358-bed institution in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, completed several clinical integration initiatives for a total revenue improvement of $2.8 million. Southwest General reported patient revenues of $291 million that same year.

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Making Vaccination Mandatory for All Children
New York Times

An outbreak of measles in Manhattan showed that even doctors had overlooked the disease as childhood vaccination became widespread. But over the last decade more people have objected to immunization. Along with the religious exemptions that almost all states allow, 19 states allow exemptions for philosophical reasons.

But are broader outbreaks like those in Britain evidence that parents should no longer be allowed to get any exemption from having their children immunized?

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Is Medicine a Big Data Problem?
The Health Care Blog

Human beings are big data. We aren’t just 175 pounds of meat and bone. We aren’t just piles of hydrogen and carbon and oxygen. What makes us all different is how it’s all organized and that is information. We can no longer treat people based on simple numbers like weight, pulse, blood pressure, and temperature. What makes us different is much more complicated than that.

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Obamacare Limits Choices Under Some Plans
BusinessWeek

Ben Rosenthal was treated for prostate cancer four years ago and had gallbladder surgery the year before that. A former manager at a market-research firm in Los Angeles, Rosenthal, 57, paid for his own health insurance. Last fall, when his plan was discontinued because it didn’t meet standards set by the Affordable Care Act, Rosenthal bought the best insurance coverage he could find, a top-tier “platinum” policy from Blue Shield of California that costs $792 a month. He figured it would provide access to top hospitals.

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Obamacare: Asian-Americans sign up in droves; Latinos disproportionately stay away
The Mercury News

You’ve heard about the achievement gap, the wide disparity in educational performance between disadvantaged minorities and the rest of the student population. Now comes the insurance gap, and in California it’s playing out most notably in the number of Latinos and Asian-Americans signing up for private health plans under the new health care law. Of the nearly 700,000 people who enrolled in a health plan as of Feb. 28 through the Covered California health insurance exchange and identified their ethnicity, 23.1 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander. Twenty-two percent were Latino.

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ObamaCare’s Latest Legal Challenge
The Wall Street Journal

A defining feature of President Obama’s second term is his willfulness in defying limits on executive power to suit his political goals, and no more so than with the Affordable Care Act. The judiciary is the last check on those abuses, and this week it will have another opportunity to vindicate the rule of law.

On Tuesday the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear one of the more important legal challenges to ObamaCare’s lawless implementation.

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Obamacare brings hefty fees for some drugs
Manteca Bulletin

Breast cancer survivor Ginny Mason was thrilled to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act despite her pre-existing condition.

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California pitches Obamacare at CVS, Ralphs as deadline nears
Los Angeles Times

Milk, bread and Obamacare. Ahead of the March 31 enrollment deadline, the Covered California exchange said Friday that it reached a deal with pharmacy giant CVS Caremark Corp. and the Ralphs grocery chain to promote the healthcare law inside their stores. The state said it will have health insurance information displays at the front of CVS stores. At Ralphs supermarkets, shoppers can get brochures and other information, hear in-store announcements and see messages on their receipts about health coverage.

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Names of Health Plans Sow Customer Confusion
New York Times

As Americans race to sign up for health insurance in the final days of open enrollment, many consumers and consumer advocates say the names of plans are unhelpful, confusing and in some cases misleading.

A number of insurers sell their plans under names like Select, Preferred, Premier, Exclusive, Enhanced, Essential, Essential Plus, Prime, Ultimate and Deluxe. Multiple offerings from one company may have the same benefits and cover the same share of a consumer’s costs, but go by different names.

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There are bigger stakes in the battle over health care
Sacramento Bee

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. But at the end of this month, the new health care law will get a third chance to make a decent impression – finally.

Everyone who believes that reducing economic insecurity requires a strong government role in guaranteeing health insurance to all Americans should take advantage of this opportunity. This obligation falls on President Barack Obama, but it also encompasses Democratic members of Congress who voted for the law but now fret over the political consequences of a full-hearted embrace of the system they created.

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For some who are married but filing taxes separately, another HealthCare.gov hurdle
Washington Post

In May 2012, when the Internal Revenue Service proposed its rules for Americans to get government subsidies for health insurance, officials acknowledged that a legal quirk needed to be fixed: The Affordable Care Act was written in a way that inadvertently denied such help to some people who live apart from spouses who abuse them, are in prison or are on the cusp of a divorce.

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Insurance Agents Drive High Asian Enrollment on Covered California
KQED Radio

While Latino enrollment has lagged in Covered California enrollments, Asians have signed up on the state’s marketplace in numbers outstripping their representation in the insurance pool. According to new Covered California data, the overwhelming majority of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese enrollments are coming through certified insurance agents as opposed to community groups or the Covered California website.

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Millions on the sidelines for big health care push
San Francisco Chronicle

Alan Thacker wants health coverage, but he can’t get help in his home state of Georgia. Mary Moscarello Gutierrez no longer can afford insurance in New Jersey. Justin Thompson of Utah refuses to be forced into the president’s health law.

Millions of people in the United States will remain uninsured despite this week’s final, frenzied push to sign them up under the health law.

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Deadly flu season winds down in California
Sacramento Bee

The latest weekly report from the California Department of Public Health paints a portrait of a flu season that’s wrapping up, with a total of 342 lab-confirmed influenza deaths of Californians under 65 years old.

Influenza activity in California is decreasing, state officials said, with the number of flu-related deaths dropping in the week ending March 15 from the previous week. Outpatient visits and hospitalizations have decreased, with less than five percent of clinical specimens testing positive for influenza.

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Lawmakers Attack Cost of New Hepatitis Drug
New York Times

A new drug to treat hepatitis C that costs $1,000 a pill has caused rising concern among insurers and state Medicaid programs. It has now also spurred interest from Democratic congressmen whose queries about the drug prompted a sell-off in biotechnology stocks on Friday.

Three Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have demanded that Gilead Sciences, the developer, justify the price of its drug, which is called Sovaldi.

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Data for 55,900 San Francisco public health patients stolen
San Francisco Business Times

Medical records for 55,900 San Francisco public health patients were stolen early last month from a Torrance billings firm, the San Francisco Department of Public Health said Friday. A February 5 break-in at the office of Sutherland Healthcare Solutions put at risk data — including names, billing information, dates of birth and in some cases social security numbers — of nearly 56,000 patients at San Francisco General Hospital and various primary care public health clinics in San Francisco, officials said.

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Effort to avert malpractice cap ballot measure on the ropes
Los Angeles Times

A last-minute effort to forge a legislative deal on medical malpractice damages—and avoid a bruising initiative battle between lawyers and medical providers–has stalled, parties involved in the discussions said Friday. Trial lawyers and consumer groups have squared off against doctors, insurance companies and hospitals over caps on pain and suffering damages in malpractice cases. Those rewards have been capped at $250,000 since 1975, when the state enacted the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA.

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Dental care at free health fair packs them in
San Francisco Chronicle

Health care gets a bad rap for being expensive, but the same can be said about dental work, as demonstrated by the 300 or so people who turned out to get their teeth fixed at a free health clinic in San Francisco’s Western Addition over the weekend.

Among those at the two-day event at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center on McAllister Street was Leticia Brown, a 34-year-old elder-care worker and mother of four.

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Breast cancer research endowment reaches $1.5M goal
Sacramento Business Journal

The nine-year odyssey to fund an endowed chair to research breast cancer reached its goal of $1.5 million Thursday, and now the national search begins to find a researcher and clinician.

The Placer Breast Cancer Endowment in 2005 started raising funds to create an Breast Cancer Endowed Chair at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Donations of about $300,000 raised Thursday at the annual Broker of the Year Awards in Sacramento pushed the effort past its minimum funding level.

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U.S. lawmakers ask Gilead to justify hepatitis C drug’s $84,000 price
Los Angeles Times

U.S. lawmakers have asked Gilead Sciences Inc. to justify the price of its new $84,000 drug for hepatitis C patients amid growing concern about the high cost to taxpayers and consumers. In a letter to the Foster City, Calif., company Thursday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and two other Democratic lawmakers asked Gilead Chief Executive John C. Martin to explain the rationale for selling Sovaldi for $1,000 per pill.

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UC hospital strike averted by tentative contract agreement
Los Angeles Times

A strike planned this week by 13,000 UC hospital technical workers was averted with the announcement Sunday of a tentative four-year contract agreement. The pact between UC and the AFSCME 3299 union concludes more than a year of tense negotiations and means that UC’s five major medical centers and numerous health clinics around the state will operate as normal Monday.

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UC, union reach deal – strike averted at hospitals
San Francisco Chronicle

A planned, five-day strike this week at University of California hospitals was averted Sunday after school officials and the union representing patient care technical workers reached a tentative agreement.

The proposed four-year contract covers 13,000 workers and could end months of tension between the university system and the union, which represents nursing aides, certified nursing assistants, magnetic resonance imaging technologists and other employees. A ratification vote is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

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UC patient care workers strike called off
Sacramento Business Journal

A five-day strike by up to 13,000 patient care technical workers at University of California medical and student health centers was called off Sunday after their union reached a tentative agreement with university management. A ratification vote will be held this week. If approved, the proposed four-year agreement will replace terms imposed by UC last summer and end almost two years of heated contract negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers Local No. 3299.

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$4.1M settlement possible in Stanford medical information breach
The Mercury News

Stanford Hospital & Clinics and one of its former contractors will likely pay more than $4 million to settle a class action claim that they violated a state privacy law by allowing the medical information of 20,000 emergency room patients to be posted online for nearly a year.

The settlement was tentatively approved Wednesday by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle.

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