News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Study Finds Sicklier Enrollees in Earliest Stage of Health Law
New York Times

People who signed up early for insurance through the new marketplaces were more likely to be prescribed drugs to treat pain, depression and H.I.V. and were less likely to need contraceptives, according to a new study that provides a much-anticipated look at the population that signed up for coverage under the new health care law.

The health of those who enrolled in new coverage is being closely watched because many observers have questioned whether the new marketplaces would attract a large share of sick people, which could lead to higher premiums and ultimately doom the new law.

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AMA Urges Caution with Medicare Doctor Data
Health Leaders Media

The American Medical Association is urging members of the public to exercise caution when interpreting the 2012 Medicare payment data for physicians released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services early Wednesday.

Soon after the data was made available on the CMS website, the AMA released its “Guide to Media Reporting on CMS’ Medicare Physician Claims Data,” featuring this stern warning to anyone attempting an analysis: “Medicare claims data is complex and can be confusing and the manner in which CMS is broadly releasing physician claims data, without context, can lead to inaccuracies, misinterpretations and false conclusions.”

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Medical robots debut at Rady Children’s Hospital
CBS News

Robots are the newest high tech tools at Rady Children’s Hospital. Doctors will add a human touch to machines that will help with check-ups and medical diagnoses. In this CBS News 8 video report, Jeff Zevely has more on how they work.

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Sebelius: 7.5 million now signed up
San Francisco Chronicle

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says 7.5 million Americans have now signed up for health coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

That’s a 400,000 increase from the 7.1 million that Obama announced last week at the end of the law’s open enrollment period. The figure exceeded expectations, a surprise election-year success for the law after a disastrous roll-out.

Sebelius disclosed the new figure during a hearing Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee.

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House defeats bipartisan fix to ‘Obamacare’
San Francisco Chronicle

The House on Wednesday rejected a bipartisan fix to the Affordable Care Act that would exempt U.S. health plans sold to expatriate workers from having to comply with the law’s mandates.

The legislation was aimed at helping U.S. insurance companies like Cigna and Metlife that are now at a competitive disadvantage with overseas firms that do not have to comply with mandates such as the so-called Cadillac tax on high-end plans, patient protections and a host of reporting requirements.

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How Obamacare Leaves Some People Without Doctors
The Huffington Post

In January, a doctor told Noam Friedlander, who was suffering from excruciating lower back pain, that she needed surgery to remove part of a severely herniated disc. Friedlander had Blue Shield insurance through Covered California, California’s version of Obamacare, and planned to use it to cover the costs of the operation. But when she started to call surgeons covered by Blue Shield, she ran into a roadblock.

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Measuring the Impact of Health Care Reform on Day-to-Day Physician Practice
The Health Care Blog

With this post, we are pleased to introduce ACAView, a joint initiative between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and athenahealth.

2014 marks the launch of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) most important coverage expansion provisions, designed to dramatically reduce the number of uninsured Americans. Between now and the end of 2016, millions of individuals are expected to sign up for subsidized insurance coverage through newly established health care exchanges, or marketplaces.

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The ObamaCare Debate Is Far From Over
The Wall Street Journal

With the announcement earlier this month that 7.1 million Americans signed up for health insurance through ObamaCare, Democrats think they are over the hump. House Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN’s Candy Crowley that congressional Democrats “are happy to not run away from what we have done. We’re very proud of what we have accomplished.” Democrats at risk in Republican states this November agree. Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu says ObamaCare “holds great promise and is getting stronger every day.”

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Think ACA Exchange Enrollment Is Over Until November? Think Again.
California Healthline

Just more than a week ago, the White House and President Obama took a victory lap after HHS revealed that 7.1 million U.S. residents had signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges.

Considering all the attention around and celebration of the initial enrollment number, some people might think the exchanges are now closed for enrollment this year. For many people, there is a “lock out period,” when they won’t be able to purchase coverage through the exchanges, at least until November.

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Will the Uninsured Become Healthier Once They Receive Health Care Coverage?
The Health Care Blog

The Affordable Care Act might not bend the cost curve or improve the quality of health care, but it will save thousands of lives, as millions of uninsured persons receive the health care they need.

At least that’s the conventional wisdom.

But while observers assume that ACA will improve the health of the uninsured, the link between health insurance and health is not as clear as one may think.

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Covered California Reminds Consumers They Have a Week to Complete Their Applications
Sierra Sun Times

With one week to go before the April 15 deadline for application completion, Covered California™ is urging consumers to contact a certified assister to enroll in time to get health insurance benefits and avoid a tax penalty.

Enrollment for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal insurance through the Covered California website will not be affected by the deadline, as it continues year-round.

A crush of consumer interest flooded Covered California’s phone lines and online application system in the final days leading up to the March 31 deadline for getting coverage in the state exchange’s first

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Covered CA: Valley residents have one week left to enroll in health plans
Fresno Bee

There’s a week remaining to meet the April 15 deadline to enroll in insurance plans to get health insurance and avoid a tax penalty. Covered California, the state’s health benefit exchange, is encouraging people to contact certified enrollment counselors or insurance agents for help with enrollment. The agency gave the April 15 reprieve to people who were caught in the frenzy to enroll online by the March 31 deadline for the first open enrollment period. High volumes slowed the online application system, preventing thousands from completing — or even starting applications.

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Covered California Not Yet All It Can Be, Consumer Group Says
KPBS

A new report from the nonprofit group Health Access California offers a number of recommendations as Obamacare moves forward.

The report says California’s online health insurance exchange must improve its customer service. It needs to reduce call center wait times and provide a fully functioning search tool for people to see which doctors are covered under which plans.

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Medicare pay data shock and anger many doctors listed as high earners
Los Angeles Times

Newport Beach oncologist Minh Nguyen woke up Wednesday wearing a dubious distinction: Medicare’s highest-paid doctor in California and one of the top physicians nationwide.

Some of his patients and fellow physicians immediately called him wanting an explanation of why newly released federal data show he got paid $11.3 million for treating Medicare patients in 2012.

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Analysis finds a few doctors get millions from Medicare
San Francisco Chronicle

Medicare paid a tiny group of doctors $3 million or more apiece in 2012. One got nearly $21 million.

Those are among the findings of an Associated Press analysis of physician data released Wednesday by the Obama administration, part of a move to open the books on health care financing.

Topping Medicare’s list was Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, whose relationship with Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., made headlines last year after news broke that the lawmaker used the doctor’s personal jet for trips to the Dominican Republic.

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Medicare’s real doctor payment problem
Los Angeles Times

The news that a small percentage of the country’s physicians collected billions of dollars from Medicare in a single year may or may not be a testament to individual greed; some of the top recipients are under investigation for allegedly bilking the system, while others work long hours delivering costly care. But it is a powerful reminder that the program needs to stop rewarding doctors for the quantity of care they deliver rather than the quality.

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CMS Makes Physician Claims Data Public
Health Leaders Media

Early Wednesday morning, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a potential treasure trove of 2012 Medicare physician claim information.

Hours later on a conference call with media, CMS officials presented a spirited defense for making the data public for the first time since 1979, when a US District Court issued an injunction that blocked its release due to privacy concerns. The injunction was lifted last May.

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Slowing health-care costs counteract Fed’s inflationary medicine
San Francisco Chronicle

A welcome relief from rising health-care costs for U.S.

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Hospital promotes new universal handicap icon
San Diego Union-Tribune

The Accessible Icon Project is a worldwide effort to transform the International Symbol of Access for handicapped individuals into a new, active and engaging image.

Tri-City Medical Center has become the first facility in California to adopt this new icon. As opposed to the standard handicap icon, which the project’s website says has arms and legs “drawn like mechanical parts,” the new version features a forward-moving person, whose head and arms are visibly in motion.

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Sacramento City Council OKs residential project to replace Sutter Memorial Hospital
Sacramento Bee

A plan to replace Sutter Memorial Hospital in east Sacramento with a development of up to 120 homes was met with glowing reviews Tuesday night by the Sacramento City Council, which unanimously approved the project after just 20 minutes of debate.

The Sutter Park project will replace the 20-acre hospital surrounded by quiet, tree-lined streets. Sutter Memorial, which will be moved to Sutter’s expanding midtown campus in the coming months, has been the site of thousands of births over the decades and is affectionately known as Sacramento’s “baby hospital.”

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Hoag Hospital moves care out to patients
Orange County Register

The new wing of Hoag Hospital’s outpatient health center in Huntington Beach, which opened for business this week, is a gleaming symbol of what many see as the future of health care. The 50,000-square-foot addition to an existing Hoag site offers a state-of-the-art imaging center, advanced mammography, numerous cardiac services and a pediatric unit – all housed together with 30 Hoag-affiliated doctors, who will offer evening and weekend office hours.

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