News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Study sees modest costs in healthcare for immigrants here illegally
Los Angeles Times

Extending healthcare to people in the country illegally would cost the state a modest amount more but would significantly improve health while potentially saving money for taxpayers down the road, according to a study released Wednesday.

The study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimates that the net increase in state spending would be equivalent to 2% of state Medi-Cal spending, or between $353 million and $369 million next year, while the net increase in spending would be up to $436 million in 2019.

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Insurers Prep 2015 HIX Premium Rates
Health Leaders Media

In at least one state, 2015 health insurance premium increases on the new public exchanges for individuals will be below rate increases experienced in recent years.

Washington State released proposed premium rates last week. The average proposed rate increase for individual health insurance policies offered inside and outside the state’s exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, is 8.25 percent. The average proposed rate increase for the eight insurers operating on the exchange is 5.4 percent.

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Healthcare Cost Growth ‘Slows’ to 5.4%
Health Leaders Media

The 14th annual Milliman Medical Index reports that healthcare cost growth continues a decade-long slowing trend for a family of four enrolled in an employer-sponsored preferred provider plan. Now the bad news. Even with slower growth, healthcare costs for that family will increase 5.4% in 2014, which represents an average bump of $1,185 per family and a total cost of $23,215, with employers paying $13,520 and employees paying $9,695, according to Milliman, the Seattle-based healthcare actuarial firm.

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Study Sees Bigger Role for Placenta in Newborns’ Health
New York Times

The placenta, once thought sterile, actually harbors a world of bacteria that may influence the course of pregnancy and help shape an infant’s health and the bacterial makeup of its gut, a new study has found.

The research is part of a broader scientific effort to explore the microbiome, the trillions of microbes — bacteria, viruses and fungi — that colonize the human body.

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Health care law changes could give ‘bailout’ to insurers
San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration has quietly adjusted key provisions of its signature health care law to potentially make billions of additional taxpayer dollars available to the insurance industry if companies providing coverage through the Affordable Care Act lose money.

The move was buried in hundreds of pages of new regulations issued late last week. It comes as part of an intensive administration effort to hold down premium increases for next year, a top priority for the White House as the rates will be announced ahead of this fall’s congressional elections.

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Could a modest investment expand Medi-Cal to state’s undocumented residents?
U.C. Berkeley News

Approximately 690,000 to 730,000 undocumented Californians could gain access to routine and preventive health care in 2015 with just a 2-percent increase in state Medi-Cal spending – estimated at $353 to $369 million – according to a joint study by UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The study looks at certain provisions of the proposed Health for All Act, or Senate Bill 1005, proposed by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach) and under consideration in the state Legislature.

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CMS, ONC Propose Rule To Extend, Alter Meaningful Use Timeline
California Healthline

On Tuesday, CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT announced a proposed rule that would give providers an additional year to upgrade electronic health record systems to meet reporting requirements for Stage 2 of the Medicare meaningful use program, Modern Healthcare reports (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 5/20).

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

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Final 2015 HIX Rule Includes Measures to Stabilize Premium Rates
Health Leaders Media

Federal officials have released market standards and regulations for the PPACA exchanges. The final 2015 rule, released last week, includes risk program adjustments crafted to ease upward pressure on premium rates, more robust collection of quality information from insurers, and tighter standards for “navigators” who help people pick the HIX health plan that best suits their needs. In addition to those changes, the final rule requires health plans to make coverage decisions within 24 hours on essential prescription drugs that are not covered by the plan.

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A Closer Look at Public Trust In Healthcare
The Health Care Blog

Public trust matters. It’s hard to build and easy to lose. Of late, subpar performance has drawn public attention to a wide variety of industry notables:

  • General Motors this week agreed to a fine for malfunctions resulting in 24 recalls in recent years including 2.6M most recently with faulty ignition switches.
  • Security breaches in customer information at Target, Michaels and other retailers hurt sales and cost at least one CEO his job.
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Choosing a hospital that’s best for you
The Acorn

Have you ever read a restaurant guide before picking a place for a special dinner or a consumer-advice magazine before buying a new car? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a similar guide for looking up the quality of care at hospitals in your area? There is—it’s called Hospital Compare and it’s found it on the Medicare website at

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F.D.A Clears New Drug to Treat Colitis and Crohn’s
New York Times

United States health regulators on Tuesday approved a drug from Takeda Pharmaceutical of Japan to treat the chronic debilitating inflammatory diseases ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

The Food and Drug Administration said it had approved the drug, vedolizumab, which will be sold under the brand name Entyvio, for patients who failed to gain adequate relief from one or more current standard treatments.

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Weigh in: Are you still having trouble reaching Blue Shield?
Southern California Public Radio

Almost nine months after Covered California opened for business, customers are still having a heck of the time reaching their insurance companies. Blue Shield of California is well aware of these issues, company spokesman Sean Barry tells Impatient.

“Some customers haven’t received the service they deserved,” he said.

To remedy this, the company hired more call staff, and made it easier to deal with some issues online, he said.

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CalPERS to Launch Health-Care Transparency Site, Other Innovations
Government Technology

This June, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) will launch a health transparency website where members can login to see current deductibles, copays and other information. Members will also be able to search for facilities or physicians by quality and cost metrics, said CalPERS Center for Innovation Chief David Cowling.

The site, hosted by Castlight will allow members to be smarter about medical choices, said Cowling. “It’s an innovative product in the sense of bringing transparency to the consumer.”

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Infant death rate remains high in Sacramento County
Sacramento Bee

Infants die at a greater rate in Sacramento County than most other places in the state, a long-term pattern that largely largely impacts minority families, the latest state data show.

Almost 110 infants, or 5.6 per 1,000 births, died in 2012, according to the California Department of Public Health. That’s about 25 percent higher than the statewide average of 4.5 infant deaths per 1,000 births.

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Only 2 in 5 L.A. health clinics are ready for Obamacare patients
Los Angeles Times

Just 2 in 5 Los Angeles community health clinics are ready for the impacts of Obamacare, a new study found.

A May brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research examined approximately 40 clinics in the Los Angeles area to determine how prepared they were for an expected increase in new patients because of the Affordable Care Act, the national healthcare law that went into full effect this year.

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Doctors Medical Center unions file civil complaints over hospital’s planned closure
Richmond Standard

Unions representing Doctors Medical Center (DMC) employees have filed a civil complaint over the planned closure of the safety-net hospital.

The unions announced Tuesday they filed charges last week with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights alleging unlawful discrimination by Contra Costa County and the West Contra Costa Healthcare District over the closure plan.

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Twin Cities Community Hospital recognized for elder care

Twin Cities Community Hospital has reason to brag tonight. It just became the first hospital in San Luis Obispo county to be designated for improving care of the elderly.

The hospital received a NICHE designation, which stands for Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders. The designation indicates a hospital’s commitment to elder care nursing excellence through patient-centered approaches that promote better outcomes for older adults.