News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Hospital Pharmacies Prep for Drug Takebacks
HealthLeaders Media

Until recently, only police or Federal Drug Administration agents could oversee programs to collect and destroy leftover prescription drugs. Starting Oct. 9, pharmacies — hospital-based and retail — may set up collection sites designed to keep unused drugs away from addicts and out of the water supply. Hospital pharmacies that choose to participate may face some logistical issues. But advocates say the expansion of take-back programs to inpatient facilities makes sense because it will allow people to safely discard pills in a healthcare setting.

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Tax refunds will be cut for ACA recipients
USA Today

A significant benefit of the Affordable Care Act is the opportunity to receive money-saving tax credits up front to cut the overall cost of health insurance, but now hundreds of thousands of consumers could owe back some of that money next April.

Those affected took advance payments of the premium tax credit for health insurance. Some married couples could owe $600 or $1,500 or $2,500 or even more. It might feel like a raw deal for some who are already suffocating under the escalating costs of health insurance.

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Mandatory flu shots ordered for Fresno County hospital workers
Fresno Bee

Hospital workers in Fresno County will roll up their sleeves for flu shots or have to wear face masks this fall to comply with a new public health order.

The county is the first in the central San Joaquin Valley to require an annual influenza vaccination for health-care workers in acute-care hospitals.

But other Valley counties could soon follow.

Madera County is drafting a similar order, Von Do-Reynoso, the county’s health director, said last week.

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A Single Insurer Holds Obamacare’s Fate In 2 States
National Public Radio

Here’s a health law pop quiz: Which two states have the least successful Obamacare exchanges?

You might guess a state in the Deep South where political opposition to the health law has been fierce. Or maybe you’d say Missouri. It passed a state law saying consumer advisers funded by the Affordable Care Act aren’t allowed to give advice about plans to consumers. But those answers would be wrong.

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Who is a full-time employee under the Affordable Care Act? It’s not as simple as you might think
The Business Journal

Many businesses have employees for whom it may be difficult to calculate hours of service or are uncertain how to treat certain categories of employees with regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Paying special attention to these complex employee classification rules can avoid potentially costly mistakes. For the most part, many people understand the definition of a full-time vs. part-time employee. Under the Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obamacare):

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Covered California announces expanded small-biz options for 2015
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California will offer the same six health plans next year in its Small Business Health Options Programs — better known as SHOP — but add flexibility for employers, greater choice for employees and the option of buying adult dental coverage. Health plans in the program include Blue Shield of California, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente and Western Health Advantage. Two other plans not offered in the Sacramento area are the Chinese Community Health Plan and Sharp Health Plan.

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Covered California still struggling with doctor-access issues
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California continues to struggle with problems involving patient access. As the health exchange prepares for its second open enrollment, it is redoubling efforts to ensure that health plans provide accurate doctor lists and sign up enough health-care professionals to see patients in a timely way. Anne Price, director of plan management for the exchange, told Covered California board members last week that all health plans must meet standards set by state regulators.

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Exchange expands small biz plans
Orange County Register

Covered California is offering greater flexibility and a wider choice of health plans this year to small businesses that purchase coverage for their employees, the state-run exchange said Friday. The exchange, which sells health policies to companies with fewer than 51 workers, said starting Oct. 1, they can offer their employees two different levels of coverage, using the exchange’s “metal tier” system. Until now, they have only been able to offer one plan level.

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New study shows that the savings from ‘tort reform’ are mythical
Los Angeles Times

“Tort reform,” which is usually billed as the answer to “frivolous malpractice lawsuits,” has been a central plank in the Republican program for healthcare reform for decades.

The notion has lived on despite copious evidence that that the so-called defensive medicine practiced by doctors merely to stave off lawsuits accounts for, at best, 2% to 3% of U.S. healthcare costs. As for “frivolous lawsuits,” they’re a problem that exists mostly in the minds of conservatives and the medical establishment.

A new study led by Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association aimed to measure how much defensive medicine there is, really, and how much it costs. The researchers’ conclusion is that defensive medicine accounts for about 2.9% of healthcare spending. In other words, out of the estimated $2.7-trillion U.S. healthcare bill, defensive medicine accounts for $78 billion.

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Retirement planning: How to save on health care
USA Today

Survey says: You’re probably worried about how to pay for health care during your retirement.

More people list having good health as their top priority for a happy retirement, over being financially secure and having loved ones around you, according to a survey of 3,300 people over the age of 25 by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, a leading researcher on aging. Despite this, few people—just 15% of retirees, the study said—have taken health care costs into account when planning their retirement.

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Rare respiratory virus confirmed in California
Orange County Register

A rare respiratory virus that has sent at least 153 people to the hospital in 18 states has moved into California, and health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms.

The California Department of Health reported Thursday that four cases of enterovirus-68 have been confirmed in the state – three in San Diego County and one in Ventura County – and health officials are expecting that number to climb.

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NCQA Releases Annual Health Plan Rankings
Health Leaders Media

The National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Health Insurance Plan Rankings 2014-2015 examined nearly 1,400 plans on the commercial, Medicare and Medicaid markets and ranked them based on their combined HEDIS, CAHPS, and NCQA Accreditation standards scores.

The top plans are listed below, details may be viewed here.

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Local law firm announces national settlement with Medtronic over doctor payments
Sacramento Business Journal

Medical device maker Medtronic Inc. will pay $362,662 to be divided by 46 states under a settlement announced Friday by Sacramento law firm Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff LLP, which represented a whistleblower who started the case. “We are very proud to represent individuals who are brave enough to come forward to expose this kind of fraud — and assist the federal government and the states to expose fraud by medical device companies,” said J. R. Parker Jr., a partner at Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff. “This is what drives up the cost of health care.”

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Pan-Dickinson race is a fight over the biggest business of all, health care
Sacramento Bee

Earlier this year, Dave Regan, president of United Healthcare Workers West, urged that I write about the rich pay and perquisites lavished on chief executive officers of nonprofit hospitals.

From what I could see, it’s sweet to be a hospital CEO.

But at the time, United Healthcare Workers, an arm of the Service Employees International Union, was promoting initiatives that took aim at hospitals. The initiatives and story pitch were part of a negotiation strategy to push hospitals into playing nice with union organizers.

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