News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Feds Ask California For Plan To Fix Medi-Cal Backlog

The Obama administration has asked California and five other states to submit plans to resolve their backlog of Medicaid applications.

In California, Medi-Cal applications are supposed to be processed within 45 days. But Medi-Cal officials say since Obamacare was introduced last fall, they’ve been inundated with requests for coverage.

Norman William, spokesman for the California Department of Healthcare Services, said his agency has reduced the backlog by 300,000 people since May.

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UnitedHealth Group sues California over fine
Los Angeles Times

Setting up a major legal fight, UnitedHealth Group Inc. has sued California’s insurance commissioner to block his attempt to fine the insurer $173.6 million for violations during a botched 2005 acquisition.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Orange County Superior Court, is the latest twist in a long-running political drama. Four years ago, California sought a jaw-dropping fine of nearly $10 billion against UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurer.

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Hospitals Tops in Physician Benefits
Health Leaders Media

Physicians working in physician-owned practices are most satisfied with their compensation packages when compared with colleagues working for universities or hospitals, a survey shows.

However, the 2014 Physician Compensation, Benefits and Recruitment Incentives Report from the St. Paul, MN-based Association of Staff Physician Recruiters also found that hospitals generally offer better benefits and recruiting incentives.

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‘Most Wired’ 2014 hospitals big on data
Healthcare IT News

This year’s class of ‘Most Wired’ hospitals are diving “deeper into data analytics and population health management,” according to Hospitals & Health Networks.

The 16th annual survey, conducted by H&HN in partnership with the American Hospital Association, CHIME, McKesson and AT&T, finds that these 375 organizations are also using information technology to bridge gaps to outpatient providers, the report finds. In addition to highlighting the Most Wired, HHN also recognized hospitals in the ‘Most Improved,’ ‘Small and Rural’ and ‘Most Wired Advanced’ categories.

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Early Returns on Health Care Reform
New York Times

It will take a while to understand fully how the Affordable Care Act affects the quality of health care and access to doctors in this country. But a new survey offers encouraging reviews from people who signed up for private plans or Medicaid during the first enrollment period from October 2013 through March 2014.

The survey, sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund, a research group that tracks health care reform, conducted phone interviews with some 4,400 working-age adults around the country from April 9 to June 2, shortly after the first open enrollment period ended. It found that 78 percent of the newly insured were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their new insurance. That included 73 percent of those who bought private health plans and 84 percent who signed up for Medicaid.

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A Minimally Invasive Approach to Health-Care Reform
The Wall Street Journal

Minimally invasive surgery using a fiber-optic camera and small incisions rather than traditional “open” surgery significantly reduces costly surgical complications. That’s been known for some time. But a study that my Johns Hopkins University colleagues and I recently conducted has found that it is still surprisingly common for patients in the U.S. not to be given that surgical option.

Our team examined four common procedures—appendectomy, hysterectomy, colectomy and lung lobectomy—at more than 1,000 hospitals.

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Obamacare: Little-known provision allows Californians stuck in bad plans to switch
The Mercury News

Furious after discovering that their longtime doctors weren’t part of their new Anthem Blue Cross plans under the federal health care law, many Bay Area residents didn’t just get mad. They got even.

They called the Covered California health insurance exchange and switched to plans that accept their physicians.

Exchange officials say it’s possible to change plans even after the mid-April open-enrollment deadline because of a little-known provision under the “qualifying life events” section for special enrollment.

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California’s uninsured cut in half under Obamacare, survey finds
Southern California Public Radio

The percentage of uninsured Californians has been cut in half since the federal health law began expanding coverage nine months ago, according to a new national survey.

In September of 2013, 22 percent of California adults were uninsured. By last month, that number had fallen to just 11 percent, the biggest drop among the nation’s six largest states.

The survey of more than 4,400 people by the Commonwealth Fund, a national healthcare foundation, also found that nationwide, the uninsured rate fell from 20 percent to 15 percent during the same period.

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Covered Calif. Releases Draft List of Essential Community Providers
California Healthline

Covered California has released a draft list of “essential community providers” that are available to treat a large number of exchange enrollees, Payers & Providers reports.

The Affordable Care Act requires exchanges to provide a list of ECPs to address disparities in health care stemming from geography, income and other metrics (Payers & Providers, 7/10).

Covered California previously provided five separate lists of contact information for ECPs. The newly released draft list includes consolidated information from all five of the former lists.

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Ranks of the uninsured fall sharply in California
Orange County Register

New health insurance options made available by the Affordable Care Act have cut the percentage of uninsured Californians by half – the sharpest reduction by far among the six largest U.S. states, according to a survey released Thursday.

The survey, conducted by the New York-based Commonwealth Fund, shows that California’s uninsured rate dropped from 22 percent last summer to 11 percent as of early last month. Driving the change were higher-than-expected enrollment in subsidized health plans through Covered California, the state-run insurance exchange, and an expansion of Medicaid, the government insurance program for low-income people.

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Girl who was declared ‘functionally cured’ of HIV now has active virus
Los Angeles Times

A girl who was seemingly cured of HIV following aggressive drug therapy just hours after her birth was recently discovered to be infected with the virus that causes AIDS after all, doctors announced Thursday.

The so-called Mississippi baby, now nearly 4 years old, had raised hopes of a potential cure for babies infected with HIV when it was first described at an AIDS conference last year. The girl’s case also provided the foundation for an upcoming clinical trial.

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Adventist Health delays HMO launch until 2016
Sacramento Business Journal

Roseville-based Adventist Health has decided to delay its launch into the HMO business until 2016. In February, the health care system got approval from state regulators to offer Medicare Advantage plans in Tuolumne, Mendocino and Kings counties and initially planned to kick off coverage in 2015. “We’ve made a strategic decision to wait a year,” CEO Scott Reiner said earlier this month.

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WellPoint CEO: Insurer readies for technology wave
Modern Healthcare

WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish says that when people ask what a doctor’s appointment will be like in the future, they assume that patients will physically have to visit an office.

They’re wrong, the insurance executive told The Associated Press during an interview at its New York headquarters.

“I would argue that will no longer be necessary in the not too distant future,” Swedish said after pulling out a smartphone to show how it can be used to help remotely diagnose problems like ear infections.

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Blue Shield, state regulators release 18,000 California doctors’ private data
San Francisco Business Times

Blue Shield of California and the state Department of Managed Health Care managed to accidentally release social security numbers of 18,000 California doctors, the San Francisco-based health insurer confirmed Thursday. Blue Shield included the social security numbers in mandatory monthly filings to the DMHC in the late winter and spring of 2013, along with information such as business addresses, business phone numbers, names and medical group monikers.

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UnitedHealth sues California over $173M fine
Los Angeles Business Journal

UnitedHealth Group Inc. on Thursday sued California, saying the state’s insurance commissioner abused his power when he issued a $173 million fine against the insurer for a troubled acquisition nearly a decade ago.

The Los Angeles Times has a report on the lawsuit, as well as the backstory that led up to it.

And there’s a lot of backstory. This case goes back to UnitedHealth’s (NYSE: UNH) multibillion-dollar purchase of Cypress’ PacifiCare in 2005.

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Stanford Hospital & Clinics announces new brand name
San Francisco Business Times

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but Shakespeare wasn’t in the hospital branding business, where new names are often where it’s at. Just ask CEO Marc Benioff. The latest to hop on the new brand bandwagon is Stanford Hospital & Clinics, which said late Thursday it’s officially redubbing itself “Stanford Health Care” to better reflect the depth and breadth of its growing system, which includes adult inpatient care and clinics, specialty and outpatient centers, affiliated physician practices, virtual care and patient navigation services, and health plan and

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Fresno Surgical Hospital honored by publication
The Business Journal

Fresno Surgical Hospital has been named one of this year’s 82 “Physician-Owned Hospitals to Know” by Becker’s Hospital Review, an industry-leading publication that reports on business and legal news and analysis relating to hospitals and health systems.

The 82 hospitals on this year’s list have earned recognition from various reputable sources, including Truven Health Analytics, Healthgrades, The Joint Commission, Press Ganey and CareChex.