News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Report Says Big Changes Are Needed In How Doctors Are Trained
National Public Radio

The way American doctors are trained needs to be overhauled, an expert panel recommended Tuesday, saying the current $15 billion system is failing to produce the medical workforce the nation needs.

“We recognize we are recommending substantial change,” says health economist and former Medicare Administrator Gail Wilensky, co-chairwoman of the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine panel that produced the report. “We think it’s key to justifying the continued use of public funds.”

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Almost no one wants the Obamacare employer mandate now: Here’s why
Los Angeles Times

When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, its requirement that large employers provide health coverage or pay a penalty seemed to many supporters a key pillar of the effort to guarantee health coverage to Americans.

Four years later and after repeated delays, the so-called employer mandate has become something of an orphan, reviled by the law’s opponents and increasingly seen as unnecessary by many of its backers. Twice in the last two years, the Obama administration has put off the penalties, citing difficulties enforcing the mandate.

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California Pharmacists Resist Translating Medicine Labels
National Public Radio

Every Saturday morning, a steady stream of Chinese and Vietnamese patients line up at the Paul Hom Asian Clinic in Sacramento. Most of them speak little or no English. Patient Assistance Director Danny Tao says people come here to get free medical consultations and drug prescriptions. But when patients take those prescriptions to be filled, he says, they don’t understand the instructions on the label. “They go pick them up, and we don’t exactly know if they’re taking it or not — or if they know how to take it,” Tao says.

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The Unfinished Business Of Health Care Reform: Real Access To Innovative Medicines
Forbes

A year ago in this space, I wrote about the importance of adherence – patients taking prescribed medicines as directed. I cited an independent study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, which estimated that non-adherence costs the U.S. health care system $105 billion each year.

Today, I want to address the unfulfilled promise of health care reform for many people with diabetes and cancer – as well as HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, and other chronic diseases – that leaves them without real access to the medicines that can best meet their needs.

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California Obamacare sign-ups soar past expectations
San Francisco Business Times

The Affordable Care Act seems to have caught on in California.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 58 percent of previously uninsured Californians have signed up for medical coverage under the nation’s new health care law, according to a story in the Contra Costa Times. The foundation said 3.4 million of the 6 million adults in California who didn’t have health insurance have signed up since last fall under Obamacare.

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Opposing Obamacare rulings not red and blue: Column
USA Today

When the District of Columbia Circuit ruled last week that the Obama administration was violating the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in authorizing billions in tax credits, it took little time for leading Democrats to respond. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promptly labeled the ruling in Halbig v. Burwell “absurd,” simply the work of “activist Republican judges.” Less than two hours later, Democratically appointed judges across the river in Virginia reached the opposite result in King v. Burwell. The response from the right was equally predictable: The judges were Democratic drones carrying the water for the White House.

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Premium Subsidy Fight Creating Uncertainty for Hospitals, Health Plans
Health Leaders Media

Not-for-profit hospitals and health plans may feel the economic effects of the uncertainty created when two federal appellate courts last week issued conflicting opinions on a key provision of the Patent Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In a 2–1 ruling in Halbig v. Burwell, last week, judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last Tuesday said that specific language in PPACA 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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Uninsured rate drops faster in states that expanded Medicaid
Modern Healthcare

Americans lacking insurance coverage are becoming more concentrated in states that have opted not to expand Medicaid, according to the latest survey data from the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center. Residents of southern states, Spanish-language speakers and high school dropouts are also a growing portion of the uninsured.

As of June, 60.4% of individuals lacking coverage lived in the 25 states that have opted not to expand Medicaid eligibility to residents with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, as encouraged under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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Number of Californians without health insurance drops sharply
Los Angeles Times

Nearly 60% of Californians without health insurance before Obamacare sign-ups began last year now have a medical plan, but the remaining uninsured will present a challenge in the second round of enrollments beginning this fall, according to a new study.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey examining the state’s progress under the federal medical care overhaul said more than 80% of those still uninsured hadn’t had coverage in two or more years, including 37% who reported never having coverage before.

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Study: 3.4 million previously uninsured Californians now covered
Sacramento Business Journal

Nearly six in 10 previously uninsured Californians — about 3.4 million — report getting health insurance since last summer, according to new data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Among the 58 percent newly insured, 44 percent say they gained coverage through Medi-Cal. Another 21 percent now are covered by an employer and 16 percent say they got insurance through Covered California. Eighteen percent say they signed up with other individual market coverage or got it “somewhere else.”

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Survey: In California, more than 3 million newly insured in health coverage
Sacramento Bee

About 3.4 million previously uninsured adults have obtained health insurance coverage in California in the past year, according to a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

It found that nearly 60 percent of residents who lacked coverage reported signing up for health insurance since last summer.

The figures are based on estimates of the state’s uninsured population last year and reflect the experiences of a randomly selected panel of residents without health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act.

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Insurance report shows premiums increased, but ignores policy changes
Los Angeles Times

State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones fired the first shot Tuesday in his campaign for more authority over health insurance premiums, releasing a report that showed a giant increase in premiums from 2013 to 2014 for those not covered by employer-sponsored plans.

The only problem is that, unlike the usual analysis from Jones’ office, it didn’t look at how much insurers raised the prices of individual policies. It looked at how much more the most popular policies available in 2014 cost than the most popular ones in 2013, without trying to control for the differences.

Still, Jones’ report seemed to confirm the complaints uttered by Californians who couldn’t renew their policies for 2014 because they didn’t meet the new requirements set by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). The average premiums for policies bought in 2014 were 22% to 88% higher than the most popular ones bought last year, depending on the buyer’s age and location, the report states.

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Survey: Remaining uninsured harder to reach
Sacramento Bee

About 2.5 million California adults remain uninsured after the first open enrollment period for the new federal health law, and the state will face even bigger challenges in reaching those people, particularly Latinos, according to a survey released Tuesday by a national health policy nonprofit.

In a follow-up to its long-term study of California’s uninsured, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 3.4 million previously uninsured adults now have health coverage after the first open enrollment season under President Barack Obama’s health overhaul.

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Narrow Networking
The Health Care Blog

The Affordable Care Act is premised, at least in part, on the notion that competition can be harnessed to reduce healthcare costs and improve quality. This explains why insurance in the individual market has not been nationalized. Instead, consumers go to an online exchange where they customers can easily (at least in theory) compare plans offered by different firms. Unleashing competitive forces should result in lower premiums for these plans. And why not? Over the past two decades, competition has been one of the few success stories in the U.S. health economy.

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Getting Hospice Care Shouldn’t Have To Mean Giving Up
National Public Radio

It’s a painful dilemma for seriously ill Medicare patients: To receive the extra support, counseling and care provided by the program’s hospice benefit, they have to agree to stop receiving curative treatment for their disease.

Faced with that stark either-or choice, many forgo hospice care until the last days of their lives. The median length of time a Medicare patient was in hospice in 2012 was just 19 days, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

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California Pharmacies Urged to Translate Prescription Labels
NBC Bay Area

The push is on to make prescription translations mandatory in California.

According to the United States Pharmacopeial Convention, a lack of universal standards for labeling on dispensed prescription containers is a root cause for patients misunderstanding the drugs they are taking.

“If people can’t read the prescription bottle, it’s a really dangerous situation,” said Dr. David Margolius, who works in internal medicine and has been outspoken when it comes to pushing for mandatory translations for prescriptions. “If a label doesn’t make sense to the people who are taking the medication, they are already at a disadvantage.”

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WellPoint 2Q tops Wall Street expectations
San Francisco Chronicle

WellPoint’s second-quarter profit fell 8.6 percent as expenses tied to changes in the nation’s health care laws climbed.

It still beat Wall Street expectations and the nation’s second-biggest health insurer raised its profit expectations for the year yet again.

Net income declined to $731.1 million, or $2.56 per share, from $800.1 million, or $2.64 per share, in the same quarter a year earlier.

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UCSF, John Muir Health joint venture to broaden their health-care reach
San Francisco Business Times

UCSF Medical Center and John Muir Health have unveiled plans for a joint venture to link San Francisco’s premier academic medical center with the East Bay health-care powerhouse. The two systems announced Tuesday a letter of intent to develop a new company to “serve as the cornerstone of a Bay Area health network.” Representatives said they expect a deal to be finalized by the end of the year. George Sauter, chief strategy officer of John Muir Health, stressed that Muir was not joining UCSF’s existing network, but that the two were jointly forming a new one.

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UCSF joins with John Muir Health
San Francisco Chronicle

UCSF is expanding its Bay Area footprint.

Having absorbed Children’s Hospital Oakland into UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, the medical center is moving into Contra Costa County in a “collaboration” with John Muir Health. A letter of intent was signed today to “develop a company that will serve as the cornerstone of a Bay Area health care network intended to provide patients with high quality care and an exceptional experience at an affordable price,” said the two institutions in a joint statement.

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El Centro Regional Medical Center, Pioneers Memorial Hospital shed light on potential affiliation
Imperial Valley Press Online

El Centro Regional Medical Center and Pioneers Memorial Hospital will operate as one entity, under one board and one budget if their respective governing boards agree on just how to do so. Both boards unanimously approved a letter of intent Monday that broadly outlines the basis on which they will proceed as they negotiate the terms for an affiliation between the two hospitals. The El Centro City Council unanimously approved it Tuesday morning, just minutes before a joint press conference organized by both hospitals.

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Long Beach’s Miller Children’s specialists to provide hospital care at Torrance Memorial
Long Beach Press-Telegram

Miller Children’s Hospital, the nation’s ninth-largest pediatric care center, this week announced an alliance with Torrance Memorial to offer specialty experts and pediatric hospital care in the South Bay.

With the alliance, pediatric specialists from Miller will be able to provide inpatient consultations for children in the Torrance Memorial pediatric unit, so those with serious ailments will no longer need to be sent to other children’s hospitals outside of Torrance.

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