News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Governor signs continuity-of-care bill
Sacramento Business Journal

Legislation that ensures continuity of care for patients forced to change health insurance plans in the middle of treatment for serious conditions — even if their provider is not in their new health plan’s network — has been signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assembly Bill 369 by Dr. Richard Pan from Sacramento seeks to protect California residents with ongoing health conditions who bought insurance that was cancelled due to stricter rules under federal health reform.

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Californians who used health marketplaces receive voter registration forms
Washington Post

California officials have started sending voter registration forms to 4 million people who shopped on the state’s new online health insurance marketplace, as part of a legal settlement with voting rights groups that are urging states to make it easier for people to sign up to vote as they enroll in coverage.

The groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, had threatened legal action against California, arguing that it did not comply with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.

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Health care law opens opportunities for tech startups
San Francisco Chronicle

The Affordable Care Act’s website started out as a technological disappointment, but digital startups see plenty of opportunities to capitalize on the legislation on the eve of the enrollment deadline. The law has prompted entrepreneurs to launch websites and mobile apps designed to help people sign up. The Obama administration, which took heated criticism for the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov last fall, will enroll as many people as it can by the March 31 deadline.

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Health insurance can be complicated, and not knowing the rules can be expensive
Washington Post

The new health-care law has improved a lot of things about health insurance: You can’t be turned down or charged extra if you have a preexisting condition, all types of basic health services are covered, plans can’t cap annual or lifetime benefits, and most preventive care is free.

But your insurance can still be complicated, and if you don’t follow the rules, you can run into gotchas that can cost you an arm and a leg.

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Health insurance basics stump many Obamacare shoppers, survey finds
Los Angeles Times

Amid the final frenzy for Obamacare enrollment, a new survey shows that many consumers may be ill-equipped to shop for health insurance. A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 42% of people surveyed could not describe a deductible and 39% didn’t understand the relationship between a premium and deductible.

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Latinos being left behind in health care overhaul
San Francisco Chronicle

The nation’s largest minority group risks being left behind by President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Hispanics account for about one-third of the nation’s uninsured, but they seem to be staying on the on the sidelines as the White House races to meet a goal of 6 million sign-ups by March 31.

Latinos are “not at the table,” says Jane Delgado, president of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, a nonpartisan advocacy network. “We are not going to be able to enroll at the levels we should be enrolling at.”

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An Obamacare Fine on Overweight Americans: Discriminatory and Ineffective
The Health Care Blog

Amid the rancorous debates over the Affordable Care Act, one provision deserves to be getting serious discussion. It’s a provision that allows employers to increase the amount that they may fine their employees for “lifestyle” conditions, such as being overweight or having high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Almost 37% of Americans are overweight or obese. The supposed goal is to use financial penalties to reduce obesity, the health costs of which exceed $200 billion per year.

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Covered California mailing voter-registration cards
San Francisco Chronicle

California, which has one of the nation’s lowest voter-registration rates, is mailing voter signup cards to nearly 4 million enrollees in its new health insurance program after being threatened with a lawsuit by voting rights groups.

Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, began the mailings last week and agreed to add voter-registration material to its online, telephone and in-person enrollment procedures by this fall, the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday.

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State to send voter registration cards to Obamacare applicants
Los Angeles Times

Heading off a lawsuit over compliance with a federal voting rights law, California officials have agreed to help millions of state residents register to vote. Under a deal announced Monday by several voting-rights groups, the state will send voter registration cards to nearly 3.8 million Californians who have applied for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

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Neighborhood leaders help communities sign up for health care
Los Angeles Daily News

When Monica Ramirez-Marquez’s mother nearly had a heart attack last November, she knew it was time she and her mother signed up for healthcare. But the expensive cost of coverage and the pressures of daily life deterred her from doing it right away.

With her mother’s condition worsening and needing to pay for medication and appointments, Ramirez-Sanchez and her mother finally decided to make their way over to Arroyo Valley High School Sunday to sign up for health coverage.

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Big California ballot battle looms over malpractice limit
Sacramento Bee

Consumer Watchdog submitted more than 800,000 signatures Monday for a ballot measure that would modify the state’s $250,000 cap on pain and suffering injuries in medical malpractice cases, touching off what promises to be a fierce battle with medical providers and their insurers.

The cap (known as MICRA) was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1975, during the first year of his first governorship, and has been the subject of political maneuvering ever since between the medical industry and Consumer Attorneys of California, whose members file and pursue personal injury cases.

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Advocates fight to raise $250,000 cap for medical malpractice damages
Los Angeles Daily News

Thousands of signatures on a controversial ballot initiative that would raise the malpractice cap on California’s negligent doctors were delivered to the Los Angeles County Clerk’s Office Monday. Standing behind piles of boxes filled with signature slips outside the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk building in Norwalk, families who said their loved ones had died due to a negligent or intoxicated doctor held photographs of sons and daughters, sisters and fathers, and shared why they supported the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act.

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Backers of malpractice cap ballot measure submit signatures
Los Angeles Times

Proponents of a measure to raise the cap on some medical malpractice damages submitted signatures Monday afternoon to qualify for the November ballot, paving the way for a costly initiative fight. The measure would change a 1975 California law that has limited pain and suffering damages in malpractice cases to $250,000. The law “has been a true hardship for victims and their surviving families,” Bob Pack, an Internet executive from Danville, said at a news conference Monday morning.

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Old battle over medical-malpractice damages flares again
Sacramento Bee

The first serious kerfuffle to confront a newly inaugurated Gov. Jerry Brown in 1975 was a crisis – whether real or contrived is still being debated – over medical malpractice insurance. Doctors and insurers complained that outrageously high damage awards, especially in obstetrics cases, were making insurance unaffordable and demanded relief. There was even, in the spirit of the times, a sleep-in demonstration in Brown’s outer office by doctors’ wives, albeit with down sleeping bags and catered dinners.

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Medicaid Expansion, Payer Oversight Seen as Vital to Healthcare Reform
Health Leaders Media

“In states choosing not to expand Medicaid, more than 15 million underinsured and uninsured people have incomes below poverty—earning less than $23,550 a year for a family of four,” the Commonwealth Fund report released this morning says. “Unless their states expand Medicaid, there will be no new coverage options—either Medicaid or premium assistance—available to them.”

On a teleconference call to present the findings Monday, the lead author of the report said the resister states are taking a high-risk gamble. “There’s a lot at stake when we exclude those under 65 from having insurance,” said Commonwealth Fund Senior VP Cathy Schoen. “It’s a very valued good. It’s something people want and they want better health.”

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Organ Recovery Centers Reduce Transplant Costs 37%
Health Leaders Media

Pittsburgh’s organ procurement organization (OPO) plans to revolutionize the life-saving transplant process in eastern Pennsylvania, making it faster cheaper, and safer for medical transplant teams and organ recipients.

Here’s how it works: Staff members from the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, will travel to any of 150 area hospitals where a donor has been declared brain-dead. If the family agrees, CORE workers will transport the body to a newly remodeled surgical facility northeast of the city. All the while, skilled teams will maintain the donor’s heart rhythm so the organs remain viable for transplant.

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Feeling ill-effects of private long-term care insurance
Los Angeles Times

Critics of safety-net programs such as Social Security and Medicare are fond of saying that the private sector would do a much better job of protecting people thanks to the magic of the marketplace. Mike and Judy Holtzman of Laguna Woods are now experiencing the magic of the marketplace for long-term care insurance. And it stings.

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California doctors speed up Valley fever diagnosis
The Mercury News

California doctors have found a way to diagnose the fungal disease Valley fever through DNA testing, allowing treatment of patients to begin almost immediately, officials said Monday. Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno is performing the DNA test that can identify the disease in as few as five hours, rather than waiting more than two weeks for the results of blood tests, officials said.

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University of California hospital strike averted with last-minute talks
San Francisco Business Times

A planned five-day strike by University of California hospital workers has been canceled, after a tentative labor agreement was reached during last-minute negotiations.

The new four-year deal between the UC and AFSCME 3299 was reached Sunday morning following bargaining sessions over the weekend, the Contra Costa Times reports.

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Alta Bates Summit, RNs await ruling by outside arbitrator on 300+ layoffs
San Francisco Business Times

The California Nurses Association and Alta Bates Summit Medical Center are awaiting a decision by an outside arbitrator on whether the East Bay hospital system can proceed with layoffs and a restructuring of its 1,700-member nursing staff.

Late last month, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg blocked Alta Bates Summit’s plans to implement those plans on March 2. Alta Bates Summit, part of Sutter Health, has hospital campuses in Berkeley and Oakland.

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