News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Obamacare subsidy fight doesn’t touch Covered California
Los Angeles Business Journal

A federal appeals court ruling Tuesday morning raises big questions about whether the government can provide premium subsidies to individuals who buy coverage through the federal insurance exchange — but Covered California remains outside the fray. The legal fight doesn’t touch the state-based exchanges, including the one in California. It goes to whether one sentence in the Affordable Care Act that authorizes subsidies applies exclusively to state-based exchanges.

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Agents get subsidized ‘Obamacare’ using fake IDs
San Francisco Chronicle

Undercover investigators using fake identities were able to secure taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional investigators said Wednesday.

The weak link seemed to be call centers that handled applications for frazzled consumers unable to get through online.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office told a House committee that its investigators were able to get subsidized health care under fake names in 11 out of 18 attempts — even after HealthCare.gov’s much maligned online system flagged some applications as problematic.

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Study Puts Spotlight on Preventing Fall-Related Injuries
HealthLeaders Media

An upcoming federal research project to prevent falls in seniors 75 and older may seem to have little relevance for hospital and physician leaders. But the impact its findings may have on hospital costs and reimbursement from payers is potentially enormous. “The reason the industry should be interested in this study is that very soon, if not already, you will be accountable for the care of a defined population of patients, not just those who fall while in the hospital,” says Albert Wu, MD, who directs the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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Many Kids Who Are Obese Or Overweight Don’t Know It
National Public Radio

Kids can be cruel, especially about weight. So you might think overweight or obese children know all too well that they’re heavy — thanks to playground politics. But that’s not necessarily so, according to government data covering about 6,100 kids and teens ages 8-15. About 30 percent “misperceived” their weight status (underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese), according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. (The CDC bases those categories on body mass index, adjusted for gender and age.)

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After Health Law Rulings, Here Are Possible Next Steps
New York Times

We now have two federal appeals courts that have issued conflicting rulings on a major provision of the Affordable Care Act. Those decisions are not the final word on whether residents of some states will be able to continue receiving financial assistance to buy health insurance. Here are some possible next steps:

All the judges on the D.C. Circuit could decide the Halbig v. Burwell case. There is a process called “en banc” review in which the case would be reargued before all of the 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court, and the Obama administration has said it will ask the court for such a review. A majority of the judges would have to agree to rehear the case for it to be reconsidered in this way. Appellate courts rarely accept cases for en banc review, but this is a big one. Many legal experts think that the full court would view the government’s position more favorably than the two judges who ruled against them in the original decision on Tuesday; legal questions don’t necessarily break down along political lines, but Democratic appointees outnumber Republican appointees on the court and include four new judges recently appointed by President Obama.

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Contradictory Obamacare Rulings Issued by Appellate Courts
Health Leaders Media

Two federal appeals courts on Tuesday issued diametrically opposed politically charged rulings on the legality of tax credits for millions of Obamacare enrollees in 34 states who purchased their health insurance through the federal exchange.

In a 2–1 ruling in Halbig v. Burwell, judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said that specific language in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not authorize the Internal Revenue Service to extend tax credits to an estimated 4.7 million people in 34 states who bought coverage through the federally facilitated Healthcare.gov exchange.

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Obama’s Health Care Law Has A Confusing Day In Court
National Public Radio

Another wild legal ride for Obamacare on Tuesday: Two U.S. Court of Appeals panels issued conflicting decisions on an issue with the potential to gut the health care overhaul.

The two rulings could lead to another U.S. Supreme Court showdown over the controversial law, all because of what one of the law’s opponents initially called “a glitch.”

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U.S. Appeals Courts Issue Conflicting Decisions On Obamacare Subsidies
National Public Radio

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday dealt a significant blow to the Affordable Care Act, when it threw out an IRS regulation that governs subsidies. But before the ink dried on that decision, another three-judge panel hearing a similar case issued a decision that was completely opposite.

In essence, the first decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down subsidies in the 36 states that did not set up their own insurance exchanges.

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Obamacare Game Changer: Halbig Win Today Puts Health Care Act At Risk
Forbes

Halbig. Remember that name. It hasn’t gotten a lot of press to date but trust me, it will. A decision today in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Halbig poses one of the greatest challenges to the Obamacare since its inception.

So why did Hobby Lobby and Wheaton garner more attention? Two reasons:

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Appeals Court Strikes Down Subsidies In Federal Health Exchange
National Public Radio

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit threw the fate of an important part of the Affordable Care Act into doubt Tuesday.

In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled that the Internal Revenue Service lacked the authority to allow subsidies to be provided in exchanges not run by the states. The ruling could put at immediate risk the millions of people who bought insurance in the 36 states where these online insurance marketplaces are run by the federal government.

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Judges in health care rulings vote party line
San Francisco Chronicle

In rapid succession, six federal judges on two appeals courts weighed in on a key component of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Their votes lined up precisely with the party of the president who appointed them.

It was the latest illustration that presidents help shape their legacies by stocking the federal bench with judges whose views are more likely to align with their own.

The legal drama played out Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia, on two appeals courts that Obama has transformed through 10 appointments in 5½ years.

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Dueling rulings: Courts split on health law clash
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama’s health care law is snarled in another big legal battle, with two federal appeals courts issuing contradictory rulings on a key financing issue within hours of each other Tuesday.

But the split rulings don’t necessarily mean another trip to the Supreme Court for the Affordable Care Act.

And White House spokesman Josh Earnest immediately announced that millions of consumers will keep getting financial aid for their premiums — billions of dollars in all — as the administration appeals the one adverse decision.

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Courts issue conflicting rulings on health care tax subsidies
Sacramento Business Journal

Two appeals courts on Tuesday reached radically different conclusions about whether millions of consumers in 36 states can use tax credits to help buy health coverage on the federal health insurance marketplace.

The conflicting rulings, combined with two other pending challenges still awaiting decisions, potentially tee up for the Supreme Court its next landmark health care case and leave one of the Affordable Care Act’s signature provisions in a state of legal limbo.

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Halbig Decision Puts Obamacare Back on the Front Burner and Will Give GOP a Massive Political Headache
The Health Care Blog

Today’s 2-1 decision by the DC Court of Appeals striking down federal premium subsidies, in at least the 27 states that opted for the feds to run their Obamacare insurance exchanges, has the potential to strike a devastating blow to the new health law.The law says that individuals can get subsidies to buy health insurance in the states that set up insurance exchanges. That appears to exclude the states that do not set up exchanges––at least the 27 states that completely opted out of Obamacare. Another nine states set up partnership exchanges with the feds and the impact on those states is not clear.

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White House says health care tax credits to continue for now
Sacramento Bee

President Barack Obama on Tuesday sought to downplay dueling court rulings over the validity of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, but Republicans on Capitol Hill seized on the latest news as another reason the federal health care law should be scrapped.

Two appeals courts reached different conclusions on whether policyholders may use tax credits to buy coverage in the 36 states that use the federal health insurance marketplace.

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A victory for the rule of law: Opposing view
USA Today

The D.C. Circuit’s decision Tuesday morning in Halbig v. Burwell is a major victory for the rule of law. And correspondingly, the Fourth Circuit’s contrary ruling hours later, in King v. Burwell, is a loss.

Under the Constitution, Congress is responsible for making the law while the president must faithfully execute it. With a statute as complex as the Affordable Care Act, it’s tempting for the administration to bend it for policy reasons. But, as the D.C. Circuit ruled, this is flatly illegal.

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Obamacare ruling ignores Congress’ intent: Our view
USA Today

Obamacare supporters should hope the law has nine lives, because it may have used up another one Tuesday. A panel from the second most powerful court in the country ruled, in effect, that nearly 5 million people who got their health insurance through the federal insurance exchanges this year weren’t entitled to subsidies.

Obamacare’s subsidies are what make coverage affordable for many of the people the law requires to buy health insurance — hence the law’s name: the Affordable Care Act. Taking those subsidies away could make insurance too expensive for millions of low- and middle-income people, crippling a crucial part of the law.

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Excerpts from conflicting health law rulings
San Francisco Chronicle

Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday in a dispute involving crucial financing for President Barack Obama’s health care law.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court in Washington said the plain language of the law states that financial aid to help people pay insurance premiums can be provided only in states that have set up their own insurance exchanges.

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Undercover probe finds health law failings
San Francisco Chronicle

Congressional investigators using fake identities were able to obtain taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under President Barack Obama’s law, according to testimony to be delivered Wednesday.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says its undercover investigators were able to get subsidized health care under fake names in 11 out of 18 attempts. The GAO is still paying premiums for the policies, even as the Obama administration attempts to verify phony documentation.

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Many dual-eligibles opt out of care coordination
Modern Healthcare

People who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid are opting out at high rates from voluntary state initiatives aimed at better coordinating their care.

So-called dual-eligibles often have a difficult time navigating the policies of both programs to get the services they need. Caring for them is also significantly more expensive than for other beneficiaries in the programs, costing the state and federal programs about $350 billion a year.

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California whooping cough epidemic: Latinos vigilant about vaccinating children
The Mercury News

They are often poor, undocumented and find it harder than most Californians to access health care.

But Latinos who live in southern Santa Cruz County have higher vaccination rates and a dramatically lower incidence of whooping cough than the more affluent white population in the northern end of the county, according to data reported by schools and the county health department.

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Attorneys seek state Supreme Court review of Sutter data breach case
Sacramento Business Journal

Plaintiffs’ attorneys in a data theft class action against Sutter Health say they will petition for California Supreme Court review of the case dismissed by an appeals court Monday.

The Third District Court of Appeals dismissed 13 coordinated lawsuits filed after a computer with personal data on 4.24 million patients was stolen from a local office in October 2011. The reason: There’s no proof anybody actually looked at the stolen information following the theft.

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Programs for healthy living benefit from 55 grants by Kaiser Permanente
Sacramento Bee

Kaiser Permanente is spreading $1.4 million around the four-county capital region in the form of 55 grants for local nonprofit organizations that support healthy living.

The community benefit grants range in individual amounts from from $7,590 to $99,000 and focus on the topics of access to care, healthy eating, active living, safety and mental health. So far this year, Kaiser Permanente’s grants include:

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Dignity Health-Anthem talks leave uncertainty for Merced’s insured
Sacramento Bee

Negotiations involving the parent company of Merced’s only hospital and an insurance provider have left some wondering if they’ll need to travel out of town for hospital visits.

Anthem Blue Cross, which covers hundreds if not thousands of government and school district employees in the area, sent a letter to its insured members that stated the provider was preparing contract terminations as of last week.

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Marin County melanoma risk 60 percent higher than state total
San Francisco Chronicle

For decades Marin County has been considered a hot spot for breast cancer.

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California Nurses Union Braces For Contract Battle
National Public Radio

Going to a union meeting of nurses is a little bit like going to an evangelical church service.

“We all have to stand up, and it’s a struggle,” says Veronica Cambra, a nurse reporting a grievance at Kaiser Hospital in Fremont, Calif., as though she’s giving testimony. “And we will overcome this, OK?”

The rest of the nurses respond with the passion of a devout congregation, humming “Mmm hmmm,” and “That’s right,” through the series of speeches.

Commands