News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Federal insurance exchange subsidies cut premiums by average of 76%, HHS reports
Washington Post

The Americans who qualify for tax credits through the new federal insurance exchange are paying an average of $82 a month in premiums for their coverage — about one-fourth the bill they would have faced without such financial help, according to a new government analysis.

But the analysis shows wide variations among states in the premiums that people are paying for their new insurance, the amount the government is picking up and the proportion who qualify for the subsidies.

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$1,000-a-pill Sovaldi jolts US health care system
San Francisco Chronicle

Your money or your life?

Sovaldi, a new pill for hepatitis C, cures the liver-wasting disease in 9 of 10 patients, but treatment can cost more than $90,000.

Leading medical societies recommend the drug as a first-line treatment, and patients are clamoring for it. But insurance companies and state Medicaid programs are gagging on the price. In Oregon, officials propose to limit how many low-income patients can get Sovaldi.

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Engaging the Patient’s Experience
Health Leaders Media

The term patient-centered care has had an unfortunate misinterpretation for many in healthcare. Some providers end up building teams and processes around the patient at the expense of those who work with the patient. The team at Carolinas Medical Center-Mercy understood the relationship between doctor and patient historically has been paternalistic, with the physician as expert directing care based on his or her view of what is best for the patient.

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What a New Benefit From Starbucks Teaches Us About the Future of Employer Provided Health Insurance
The Health Care Blog

Starbucks, which taught America to love lattes, made news this week with the announcement of a new tuition benefit for its partners (Starbucks-speak for employees). At first glance this move seems like simply another benefit in Starbucks relatively (for its industry) generous compensation package. In particular, Starbucks has long been heralded for providing health insurance for all partners working more than 20 hours per week. It is this connection to health insurance that we wish to explore.

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CMS launches campaign to promote O-Care
The Hill

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched a public campaign website Monday to promote benefits under the new healthcare law.

CMS says the campaign titled, “From Coverage to Care,” is meant to answer questions consumers may have about their new health coverage and help them make the most of their new benefits.

The website includes downloadable booklets and YouTube videos in English and Spanish explaining various aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

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Taxpayers subsidizing 76% of premium under health care law
San Francisco Chronicle

People who signed up for coverage under President Obama’s health care law are paying about $80 a month in premiums on average, the administration reported Wednesday.

The new numbers from the Health and Human Services Department cover only the 36 states where the federal government took the lead in setting up new insurance markets, accounting for about 5.4 million of the 8 million people who signed up nationally.

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Covered California board to talk enrollment assistance
Sacramento Business Journal

The board at Covered California will take action on enrollment assistance policies and the agency’s 2014-15 budget at a meeting Thursday in Sacramento.The meeting runs from 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m. It will be held in the East End Complex Auditorium at 1500 Capitol Ave. The session open to the public is expected to start about noon. Also on the agenda is an evaluation of open enrollment and a health plan contracting and planning update.

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Next open enrollment for the individual market set
Sacramento Business Journal

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that changes the open enrollment period for coverage in the individual market next year to Nov. 15, 2014 through Feb. 15, 2015. The first open enrollment for Covered California’s new insurance marketplace for individuals — and the market at a whole — ran from Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Senate Bill 20 by Sen. Ed Hernandez further alters the open enrollment period for 2016 and future years to Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

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State agency providing insurance for people with pre-existing conditions to shut down
Sacramento Business Journal

The the new state budget approved by legislators Sunday quietly pulls the plug on a small state agency established 24 years ago to meet the needs of California residents who could not get health insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions.

The Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board will cease operations June 30. Other programs formerly at the agency have — or are — being taken over by the California Department of Health Care Services, including Healthy Families and Access for Infants and Mothers.

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What Medicare covers in the hospital
The Californian - Salinas

One of Medicare’s most important benefits is helping to cover your expenses if you need to be hospitalized. But what exactly is covered, and how much do you pay?

Medicare helps cover certain services and supplies in hospitals. To get the full range of benefits, you must have both Medicare Part A, which is hospital insurance, and Part B, which is medical insurance.

What you pay depends on whether you’re an inpatient or an outpatient. Staying overnight in a hospital doesn’t always mean you’re an inpatient.

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New healthcare rankings put U.S. dead last, despite being most expensive
New York Daily News

A new report from the Commonwealth Fund ranks the U.S. healthcare system as the most expensive in the world — and the worst performing.

Compared with Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, the U.S. was last or near-last in categories of health access, efficiency and equity, according to the report. Especially in equity, America showed the biggest difference in care for high-income and low-income patients.

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Health survey ranks U.S. last among rich peers
USA Today

For the fifth time in a decade, the United States is the sick man of the rich world. But recent health reforms and increased health technology spending may provide a cure in the coming years.

That’s according to the latest Commonwealth Fund survey of 11 nations, which ranked the world’s most expensive health care system dead last on measures of “efficiency, equity, and outcomes.” So too in 2010, 2007, 2006 and 2004. The United Kingdom got the golden apple for 2014, with Switzerland a close second.

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New technique could heal teeth painlessly, avoid cavities
Los Angeles Times

Instead of having to drill and fill cavities, dentists could head them off at the pass with a new technique that accelerates a tooth’s natural healing, King’s College London announced this week.

The technique, called electrically accelerated and enhanced remineralization, is being developed by Reminova Ltd., a spinoff of King’s College London. It is painless and could be brought to market within three years, the college said in a statement.

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Small increase expected in CalPERS rates; huge swings between plans
Sacramento Business Journal

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is poised to raise HMO premiums for state employees an average of almost 4 percent in 2015 — a slight uptick from 3.81 in 2014 — but retirees on Medicare face an average rate increase of almost 6 percent. These figures are somewhat misleading, however.

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CalPERS health premiums for 2015 a mix of hikes, cuts
Fresno Bee

CalPERS’ health care premiums are going up again for hundreds of thousands of public employees and their families, although 40 percent of CalPERS members will see their rates decline.

The 2015 CalPERS premiums, closely watched in the health care industry because of the pension fund’s size and clout, will be a decidedly mixed bag. Blue Shield of California HMO subscribers will be hit with rate hikes of 9.6 percent to 16.4 percent, depending on the specific plan. But Kaiser HMO members’ rates will fall 4.3 percent.

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Anthem, HealthCare Partners ACO Saves $4.7 Million
Health Leaders Media

Anthem Blue Cross and HealthCare Partners Medical Group have announced that their ACO generated an estimated $4.7 million in savings in the first six months of 2013 by shortening hospital stays and reducing the incidence of ED visits among participants.

The ACO involves more than 52,000 Anthem PPO patients in Southern California cared for by HealthCare Partners, a medical group with more than 6,300 primary care physicians and specialists.

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UCI receives $3.4M to study kidney disease
Orange County Register

UC Irvine has been awarded a five-year, $3.4 million grant to study treatment outcomes for chronic kidney disease patients who need dialysis or a transplant. The award comes from the National Institutes of Health and UCI is one of three recipients nationwide. The project will be conducted at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach.

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NorCal hospital to get $6M loan

A California hospital may remain open with a bridge loan of $6 million after county officials approved the plan.

The Contra Costa Times reports that Contra Costa County supervisors voted 4-to-1 to transfer $6 million in property tax revenue to Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo so that it can stay open for the next few months while hospital officials come up with a more permanent rescue plan.

The loan represents a third of the hospital’s $18 million deficit, the Times reports.

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UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco Win Awards for Environmental
UCSF Today

The green building and sustainability efforts at UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals have garnered three environmental excellence awards from Practice Greenhealth, a not-for-profit group that promotes environmental sustainability in health care.

UCSF won the Emerald Award for overall performance in the nine categories of judging, the Climate award for reporting and setting emission goals at the Medical Center and the Green Building award for the sustainable design of the new hospitals opening next year at Mission Bay.