News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Health Law Calls For Automatic Enrollment Of Some Workers
National Public Radio

Newly hired employees who don’t sign up for health insurance on the job could have it done for them under a health law provision that may take effect as early as next year.

But the controversial provision is raising questions: Does automatic enrollment help employees help themselves, or does it force them into coverage they don’t want and may not need? A group of employers, many of them retail and hospitality businesses, want the provisions repealed, but some health policy researchers say the practice has advantages and is consistent with the aims of the health law.

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State: Autism Therapy a Medi-Cal Benefit
California Healthline

State officials today said autism therapy clearly is a covered Medicaid benefit, and they hope to submit a state plan amendment by Sept. 30 to start the process to make it a Medi-Cal benefit for those under age 21. According to René Mollow, deputy director of benefits and eligibility at the Department of Health Care Services, Medi-Cal children are entitled to applied behavior analysis — known as ABA therapy.

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Suspicious Use Of AIDS Drugs Costs Medicare $30 Million
National Public Radio

Medicare spent more than $30 million in 2012 on questionable HIV medication costs, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in an investigation published Wednesday.

The possible fraud schemes were all paid for by Medicare’s prescription drug program known as Part D. Among the most egregious:

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Apple envisions wireless wristbands for hospital stays
CNET News.com

The US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday published 58 newly granted Apple patents, but one that envisions communication between a device like the iPhone or iPad and a wireless disposable wristband has received some attention.

The patent, which was earlier reported on by Patently Apple, covers technology for an “autonomous battery-free microwave frequency communication device” that could be embedded on physical objects such as a wristband, flyer, or card.

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Numbers Of Americans With Health Plans Way Up, But States Vary
National Public Radio

A Gallup poll released Tuesday suggests the Affordable Care Act is significantly increasing the number of Americans with health insurance, especially in states that are embracing it. It echoes previous Gallup surveys, and similar findings by the Urban Institute and Rand Corp.

In the latest survey, the percentage of uninsured Americans dropped from 18 in September 2013 to 13.4 in June 2014. States that chose to follow the health law’s provisions most closely, by both expanding Medicaid and establishing their own health insurance marketplaces, saw their uninsured rate drop nearly twice as much (as a group) as states that declined those opportunities.

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Health law reducing uninsured more in states accepting reform
San Francisco Chronicle

President Obama’s health care law has become a tale of two Americas.

States that fully embraced the law’s coverage expansion are experiencing a significant drop in the number of uninsured residents, according to a survey released Tuesday. States whose leaders still object to the law are seeing much less change.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found an overall drop of four percentage points in the share of uninsured residents for states accepting the law’s core coverage provisions.

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Study: Obamacare helping more youth to get mental health treatment
MSNBC

Young adults have a higher risk of mental health problems and substance abuse – both issues that the U.S. health care system traditionally has struggled to treat. But according to a new study, the number of high-risk youth seeking and receiving affordable care is on the rise, thanks to an Obamacare provision that allows young people to stay on their parents’ health plan until they turn 26.

Two million young people now have health care coverage because of the provision, the study notes, but the biggest shift has been with youth demographics that are most at risk.

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Safe harbors help employees afford health care
Redding Record Searchlight

Last week I discussed the ”grandmothering” law that provides employers with 50 or fewer employees the ability to renew their employer-sponsored health insurance policy without requiring them to be comply with some of the new Affordable Care Act provisions. To be eligible, the plan must be in effect as of Dec. 31, 2013, and still in force as of July 7, 2014. This is not a mandate for the carriers, but most are choosing to make the offer.

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Medicare Pays Labs Top Dollars In San Diego County
KPBS

Clinical laboratories were among the top San Diego County recipients of Medicare reimbursements in 2012, according to an inewsource analysis of national reimbursement data.

Four labs were in the top 10, including locally headquartered Millennium Laboratories of California, which made headlines in Florida recently when a jury hit the company with a $15 million judgment in a lawsuit alleging unfair competition.

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Health data exchange a first for California
Sacramento Business Journal

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California will break new ground with their proposed statewide health information exchange — the first in California to share claims data. Health plans and health systems have done this privately, but state health information exchange efforts have focused on information for treatment, said Pam Lane, deputy secretary for health information at the California Health and Human Services Agency.

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Government health programs pay billions for Gilead’s hepatitis C drug as company tax rate drops
San Francisco Business Times

While Gilead Sciences Inc. reaps a windfall from its game-changing hepatitis C cure — largely thanks to payments from government programs — it garners a lower tax rate. That is not to say that Foster City-based Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) is paying out less in taxes. Its provision for income taxes for the first half of this year was $1.4 billion, for example, or some $300 million more than it planned for all of 2013.

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2015 IPPS Final Rule Detailed
Health Leaders Media

A significant portion of updates in the Fiscal Year 2015 IPPS final rule pertain to the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program, the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, and the Hospital-Acquired Condition (HAC) Reduction Program.

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2 big health insurers aim to create, share huge records database
Southern California Public Radio

Two of California’s largest health insurers are coming together to create a new, massive database of electronic medical records that would be accessible to health providers throughout the state, in an effort to improve patient care and save money.

Competitors Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California on Tuesday announced they’re creating one of the largest non-profit health information exchanges in the nation. They hope to launch the California Integrated Data Exchange, or Cal Index, by the end of the year.

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2 insurance rivals team up for info-sharing network
San Francisco Chronicle

Two of California’s biggest health insurers – rivals Blue Shield of California and Anthem Blue Cross – announced plans Tuesday to create what will likely be the largest health-information sharing network in the country.

The California Integrated Data Exchange, or Cal Index, will seek to do what has largely been elusive in the health care industry: connect electronic medical records from different doctors and hospitals, integrate that part with claims data, and allow the physicians to share information through a secure system.

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California Blues plans put up $80 million to fund new HIE
Modern Healthcare

California’s two Blues insurers are committing $80 million to launch yet another health information exchange in the Golden State, one that its founders claim will initially attract more than 30 of the state’s largest healthcare provider organizations. The California Integrated Data Exchange, a new not-for-profit HIE that goes by the name Cal INDEX, was launched Tuesday by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California.

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Blue Shield, Anthem launch patient-records portal
Los Angeles Daily News

Two California insurers announced Tuesday that they are partnering for an ambitious project to establish one of the nation’s largest health information exchanges, an effort they hope will reduce duplication and improve patient outcomes.

The not-for-profit Blue Shield of California and Anthem Blue Cross, a subsidiary of private insurance giant WellPoint, announced the formation of the California Integrated Data Exchange, a medical-sharing portal covering 9 million plan members.

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Blue Cross, Blue Shield team up to create huge data base
Vallejo Times-Herald

Two of California’s largest health insurers have joined forces to create the most comprehensive electronic medical records network in the state.

Cal INDEX is designed to share patient records electronically among doctors and hospitals in real time.

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Anthem, Blue Shield to invest $80 million in California data exchange
San Francisco Business Times

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California, rivals who are among the state’s largest health plans, have agreed to jointly invest $80 million in a statewide health information exchange or HIE that they say will attract some of California’s largest hospitals, medical groups and health care systems. The new nonprofit data exchange’s formal name is the California Integrated Data Exchange, the two companies said Tuesday morning, but will be nicknamed Cal Index.

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Alameda Health System nets three new senior leaders, including a COO and CFO
San Francisco Business Times

In recent days, the Alameda Health System — an Oakland-based safety net system that hopes to prosper under Obamacare — has named three new senior leaders under CEO Wright Lassiter III. They include new COO Mark Fratzke, who previously held a similar role at a regional unit of the Mayo Clinic; new CFO David Cox, formerly chief financial officer at Marin General Hospital, and new Chief Nurse Executive Kinzi Richholt, who had been filling that role on an interim basis.

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UC Davis nursing school in line for $2.1M to study diabetes care
Sacramento Business Journal

The University of California Davis nursing school has initial approval for a $2.1 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute in Washington, D.C., to study ways to improve health for individuals with diabetes. The three-year project will study whether approaches such as mobile technology and nurse coaching help people with diabetes better manage the chronic disease.

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Merced mothers recognized for commitment to breast-feeding
Sacramento Bee

The Merced County Breastfeeding Coalition recognized 29 mothers who have made the commitment to breast-feeding during its first lactation graduation on Tuesday.

The awards and luncheon event was held in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated Aug. 1-7.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breast-feeding is the optimal source of nutrition through the first year of life. Experts recommend exclusively breast-feeding for the first six months and continued breast-feeding for at least the first year while solid foods are introduced.

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