News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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California’s Medi-Cal explosion
Los Angeles Times

California is coming face to face with the reality of one of its biggest Obamacare successes: the explosion in Medi-Cal enrollment.

The numbers — 2.2 million enrollees since January — surprised healthcare experts and created unforeseen challenges for state officials. Altogether, there are now about 11 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries, constituting nearly 30% of the state’s population.

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MinuteClinic opens its first walk-in health care clinics in Sacramento area
Sacramento Bee

Increasingly, a trip to the local drugstore offers another option besides buying cold remedies, hair care products or energy drinks.

Add medical care to the list.

On Wednesday, Rhode Island-based MinuteClinic opened its first two walk-in medical clinics in the Sacramento region, both inside CVS pharmacies. Patients can see a licensed nurse practitioner for treatment of minor ailments, aches and pains; get a vaccination; have their blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes checked; or complete their child’s school, camp or sports-required physicals.

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Many Big Employers Plan To Offer Skimpy Health Options Despite Law
National Public Radio

Nearly 1 in 6 companies plans to offer health coverage that doesn’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s requirements for value and affordability, a national survey of employers finds.

Many thought such skimpy coverage would be history once the health law was fully implemented this year. Instead, 16 percent of large employers in a survey released Wednesday by the National Business Group on Health said they will offer in 2015 these so-called skinny plans along with at least one insurance option that does qualify under ACA standards.

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310,000 healthcare consumers could lose coverage come September if they don’t prove eligibility

Over 300,000 individuals who enrolled in a healthcare plan through the Affordable Care Act could lose their coverage come the end of September if they fail to provide the proper documentation demonstrating legal residency, according to the Obama administration.

The issue at hand is not necessarily an immigration status problem, but a data-matching issue. The cases refer to individuals who have inconsistencies in the information they provided when they initially enrolled in a healthcare plan.

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Health care costs hit Wal-Mart profit

Wal-Mart Stores says far more of its workers are signing up for its health care coverage than it expected. Because of that, the world’s largest retailer will earn less in the current fiscal year than it had previously promised investors.

While the requirement that employers provide health coverage has yet to take effect under Obamacare, the requirement that individuals have coverage has prompted people to compare plans available to them at work with plans offered on government exchanges.

Wal-Mart (WMT) workers can pay as little as $18 per paycheck to be covered by the lowest priced company plan.

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Most Insurance Exchanges Just Got Bigger. Covered California Is Getting Smaller.
California Healthline

Kynect. Maryland Health Connection. The Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Every one of those state insurance exchanges added new carriers in preparation for Obamacare’s second open enrollment period this fall. Covered California did not. Instead, the Golden State took a different approach: Its exchange is getting smaller.

When Covered California unveiled its initial slate of 13 carriers last year, their low rates got some attention — but so did their mix.

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California launches new public health data portal
Sacramento Business Journal

State public health officials have launched an internet portal that provides access to data it collects about important public health issues.

Accessible from the website for the California Department of Public Health, the portal seeks to improve access to information so researchers, policy makers, technology experts and others can create mobile applications to solve local challenges. The first data sets include birth profiles, popular baby names, poverty rates, health care facilities data, surveillance for West Nile virus and asthma — and the location of vendors who accept vouchers from the Women, Infants and Children program.

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Viewpoints: Medication rules are a pain
Sacramento Bee

The fifth time shouldn’t be the charm when it comes to obtaining safe and proven medications to fight debilitating pain from arthritis or other diseases. Yet, it is currently state policy that, to lower costs, some health care plans can deny patients as many as five times before the patient is allowed to receive the recommended pain medication from their doctors.

The Legislature is considering Assembly Bill 889 by Assemblyman Jim Frazier that would limit and regulate this prescription drug protocol known as “step therapy.”

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Who Gets First Dibs On Transplanted Liver? Rules May Change
National Public Radio

Vicki Hornbuckle used to play the piano at her church. But that was before her liver started failing.

“I had to give it up because I couldn’t keep up,” says Hornbuckle, 54, of Snellville, Georgia. “I didn’t have the energy to do three services on Sunday. You’re just too tired to deal with anything. And so, it’s not a life that you want to live.” But Hornbuckle hasn’t given up. She’s fighting to stay alive long enough to get a liver transplant.

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Valley fever research moves forward at UC Merced
Sacramento Bee

Researchers at UC Merced are moving forward with two research projects that aim to better understand Valley fever in the San Joaquin Valley. The university’s Health Sciences Research Institute recently received approval and funding to conduct patient studies at Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera. Researchers will study the blood of 30 pediatric patients with Valley fever to understand the immune system’s response to the disease. David Ojcius, a professor of molecular biology at UC Merced, said the long-term goal is to develop a vaccine.

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San Clemente hospital may shed beds, ER
Orange County Register

MemorialCare Health System, a major player in Orange and Los Angeles counties, is laying the foundation for what many in the medical industry believe is the fast-approaching future of health care: the bedless hospital.

MemorialCare said Wednesday it is drawing up a plan to convert its small community hospital in San Clemente into a comprehensive outpatient health center that would offer all the services hospitals provide – except the beds and the emergency room.

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St. Helena Hospital’s affiliated physician clinics join Anthem Blue Cross network for Covered California members
Napa Valley Register

Adventist Health’s St. Helena Hospital and its affiliated physician clinics have reached a new multi-year agreement with Anthem Blue Cross to serve Anthem’s individual members who purchased their plans through Covered California.

With the new agreement, affiliated physician clinics of St. Helena Hospital can accept Anthem Blue Cross Individual Pathway PPO sold via Covered California. This includes physician offices in the Napa Valley: Adventist Heart Institute, St. Helena Medical Specialties Clinics, St. Helena Coon Joint Replacement Institute, Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center, St. Helena General, Bariatric & Metabolic Center, St. Helena Women’s Center and Center for Health. This also includes physician offices in Vallejo and Santa Rosa.