News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Few have sought exemption from health-care mandate that they have insurance or pay fine
Washington Post

The government left the door wide open for millions of Americans to be excused from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most people must carry health insurance or pay a fine, but so far relatively few have asked for such a pardon.

About 77,000 families and individuals have requested exemptions from the health-care law’s so-called individual mandate, according to internal government documents obtained by The Washington Post.

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California Lawmakers to Consider Bill About Health Care For Undocumented Immigrants

California lawmakers will hear a bill this week that would give unauthorized immigrants the ability to buy health insurance and enroll in Medi-Cal. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

The Affordable Care Act specifically excludes undocumented immigrants from new health coverage options. In California, undocumented immigrants can receive emergency health services and some counties offer other care to people regardless of status.

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Obamacare deals blow to one-doctor medicine
San Diego Union-Tribune

Despite the predictions of fortune tellers in politics and think tanks, we won’t know for years whether the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, will ultimately leave people sicker or healthier, richer or poorer.

Yet already the law is speeding the demise of an American small-business institution; the one-doctor medical practice.

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Affordable Care Act plans pose actuarial and rate challenges for insurers
Washington Post

With the results sure to affect politics as well as pocketbooks, health insurers are preparing to raise rates next year for plans issued under the Affordable Care Act.

But how much depends on their ability to predict how newly enrolled customers — for whom little is known regarding health status and medical needs — will affect 2015 costs.

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Yes, California Leads in Obamacare — But the Marathon is Just Beginning
KQED Radio

Joel Ario says he meant it as a compliment.

It was January 2011, and Ario — the White House’s point man on exchanges at the time — was having dinner with Diana Dooley, California’s newly installed HHS secretary. And seeking to praise California, Ario told Dooley that her state had emerged as one of the nation’s “pace cars” when it came to implementing the Affordable Care Act.

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Covered California executive director says improving health care literacy is state’s primary task
The Mercury News

The only thing harder than rolling out President Barack Obama’s health care law is changing the health care industry culture, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said Thursday night at the Barbara Lee & Elihu Harris Lecture at Merritt College.

Despite exceeding expectations by enrolling 3.3 million Californians in Covered California’s marketplace of insurance programs or Medi-Cal during its first six months, he said the initiative was “relatively succeeding” and “only just beginning.”

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Health Plans Scramble To Calculate 2015 Rates

With the results sure to affect politics as well as pocketbooks, health insurers are already preparing to raise rates next year for plans issued under the Affordable Care Act.

But their calculation about how much depends on their ability to predict how newly enrolled customers – for whom little is known regarding health status and medical needs — will affect 2015 costs.

“We’re working with about a third of the information that we usually have,” said Brian Lobley, senior vice president of marketing and consumer business at Pennsylvania’s Independence Blue Cr

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State Medical Malpractice Caps Under Fire
Health Leaders Media

The Florida Supreme Court’s ruling this spring invalidating that state’s 11-year-old cap on damages in medical malpractice suits marks the latest successful challenge to state laws across the nation that critics say enrich insurance companies but deny due process to grievously injured people.

“It is unfortunately a constant battle for victims of malpractice. This seems to go on in just about every state,” says Richard Levin, a medical malpractice attorney with the Chicago-based firm of Levin, Riback Law Group.

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Henry T. Perea’s caucus of moderate Democrats gains influence with big business
Fresno Bee

They are Democrats, yet their votes in the Capitol have helped big business continue fracking in California and defeat a bill dictating pay and benefit levels for Walmart workers.

As California’s Republican Party shrinks, the influence of moderate Democrats in the Capitol is growing. But pinning down exactly who belongs to the group is not easy.

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Patent-reform legislation spurs controversy among universities
The Daily Californian

In 1994, Michael Doyle, then the director of a computer lab at UCSF, patented software that allowed doctors to view embryos online — the first “interactive” application on the web.

A few years later, the University of California licensed a patent to a company Doyle created called Eolas, which, claiming rights to the idea of embedding interactive content on web pages, sued Microsoft in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.

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Why BioMarin’s gene therapy initially targets one type of hemophilia instead of another
San Francisco Business Times

When researchers at University College London used a gene therapy to effectively cure six patients of hemophilia B, BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. took notice.

But the San Rafael company (NASDAQ: BMRN), which licensed in the therapy in February 2013 from the college and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, hasn’t stuck to the script. Instead of targeting hemophilia B, BioMarin scientists focused on hemophilia A — and the reasons cut across business and science.

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Smaller hospitals innovate to avoid Palm Drive fate
North Bay Business Journal

With the closure of long-struggling Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol all but assured, hospital executives and health care experts are pointing to the failed facility as perhaps the most vivid example of the myriad challenges facing the hospital industry as a whole.

Despite countless last-ditch efforts to save 37-bed Palm Drive, the district board that oversees Sonoma County’s smallest hospital last week voted to go ahead with a planned closure of all operations, including emergency care, on Monday, shortly after declaring Chapter 9 bankrupting for the

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Alta Bates Summit cuts 139 jobs, 219 in limbo
Sacramento Business Journal

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, which has hospitals in Berkeley and Oakland, has cut 139 jobs in recent months, but 219 jobs remain on the chopping block, officials confirmed late Thursday.

Earlier this year, the Sutter Health affiliate, led by CEO Chuck Prosper, posted a layoff notice for 358 jobs on the state’s WARN web site, but the California Nurses Association challenged the RN-related layoffs, and that portion of the planned staff reduction remains in limbo, awaiting a decision from an outside arbitrator.

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Cost of new Marin General now pegged at $650 million
North Bay Business Journal

Marin General Hospital has made several adjustments to its plan to rebuild the facility, with a price tag now estimated at nearly $650 million for what the administration describes as “a natural evolution” in the planning process for such a large-scale project. Jon Friedenberg, chief fund and business development officer, said the apparent increase in cost is the result of moving the entire emergency department from one side of a proposed building to another, along with an altered square-footage imprint and other changes.

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Class Sues Blue Shield for Denying Surgeries
Courthouse News Service

Blue Shield of California refuses to cover reconstructive surgeries despite “normal appearance” tests that permit the procedures, a woman seeking breast and eyelid treatment claims in a federal class action. Lisa Burton claims California Physicians’ Service dba Blue Shield of California violates California Health & Safety Code section 1367.63 by refusing to cover surgeries to return disfigured patients to a normal appearance.