News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Supreme Court Agrees To Hear New Health Law Challenge
National Public Radio

In a rare and unexpected move, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new challenge to the Obama health care overhaul, dealing the White House yet another blow this week. Health care experts say an adverse ruling would be catastrophic for the health insurance program that the president has fought to enact and preserve. The case centers on what some opponents of the law once called a “glitch.” They have seized on that glitch to dismantle the heart of the health care law — the tax credits and subsidies that make health insurance affordable for millions of low- and middle-income Americans.

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Obamacare’s early impact on hospital earnings
San Diego Union-Tribune

Obamacare’s insurance mandates are starting to shade the quarterly financial reports of local health providers, but experts say it is too early to see the whole picture with clarity. On Jan. 1, the Affordable Care Act brought the individual mandate, the requirement that most Americans have medical insurance or pay a fine. Layered on top of that broad stroke, and arriving around the new year, was the expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance for its most financially fragile and disadvantaged residents.

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Pay for Engagement: A New Framework for Physician Reimbursement
The Health Care Blog

A thousand channels, and nothing’s on. “Patient engagement” has become an increasingly used buzzword in which healthcare finds itself awash. Yet little around patient engagement has been operationalized into any sort of enduring clinical reality.

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A new Supreme Court challenge for ‘Obamacare’
San Francisco Chronicle

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a new challenge to President Barack Obama’s health care law — a case that threatens subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their health insurance premiums.

The justices said they will review a federal appeals court ruling that upheld IRS regulations that allow health-insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for consumers in all 50 states. Opponents argue that most of the subsidies are illegal.

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Supreme Court to again decide fate of Obama’s healthcare law
Los Angeles Times

The Supreme Court will decide the fate of President Obama’s healthcare law yet again, this time ruling on whether low- and middle-income Americans may receive subsidies in two-thirds of the states to make insurance more affordable.

Currently, about 5 million Americans have subsidized insurance they bought through a healthcare exchange, or online marketplace, run by the federal government.

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In Surprise Move, Supreme Court Takes On Fate Of Obamacare Again
National Public Radio

Once again the Supreme Court will decide whether the Affordable Care Act lives or dies.

Defying expectations, the court announced Friday it has agreed to hear a case that challenges the heart of the law: subsidies that help people pay their insurance premiums. In about three dozen states, the federal government runs the online marketplaces (exchanges) where individuals can find health plans.

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Health Care Reform Imperiled
New York Times

Will five Supreme Court justices eliminate essential health care subsidies for more than four million lower-income Americans, based on a contorted reading of four words?

It sounds inconceivable, but that would be the effect of a ruling in favor of the latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act. On Friday, the justices announced that they would hear that case, King v. Burwell, a dispute over the meaning of a single phrase — “established by the State” — in the 900-page health-care reform law.

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Obama officials work on health site contingency plans as enrollment nears
Washington Post

With the next time to buy health plans under the Affordable Care Act starting in less than a week, the Obama administration is expressing confidence that HealthCare.gov is no longer the rickety online insurance marketplace that exasperated consumers a year ago.

Behind the scenes, however, federal health officials and government contractors are scrambling, according to confidential documents and federal and outside experts familiar with this work.

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U.S. officials hope new HealthCare.gov avoids last year’s problems
Yahoo! News

U.S. officials planned to unveil an improved healthcare insurance website on Sunday they hope will allow the second enrollment period under President Barack Obama’s health reform plan to avoid the technical meltdown that plagued its launch last year.

The reconfigured HealthCare.gov insurance marketplace will go live Sunday night before a three-month open enrollment period that begins Nov. 15, during which existing policyholders can change their coverage.

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Consumers to get peek at 2015 Obamacare premiums
Modern Healthcare

Consumers this week can get an early peek at 2015 premiums and plans on HealthCare.gov before 2015 open enrollment officially begins Saturday, the administration has announced.

HealthCare.gov’s second open enrollment season starts Nov. 15. But spokeswoman Lori Lodes said that consumers will be able to “window shop” for plans before then.

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Consumers now able to window-shop for insurance on HealthCare.gov
Washington Post

Federal officials Sunday night turned on a portion of HealthCare.gov to allow consumers to explore the benefits and prices of health plans that will be sold for 2015 through the federal health insurance exchange.

The window-shopping period is beginning several days before the Nov. 15 official start of the sign-up period for people in the three dozen states that rely on the federal exchange to renew their coverage or buy insurance for the first time.

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Covered California predicts Obamacare exchange will enroll 1.7 million in second year
San Francisco Business Times

Covered California, the Obamacare exchange that led the nation during its first year with about 1.2 million enrollees, predicts the tally will jump to 1.7 million in year two — a 500,000 increase, more than many states netted in total last time around.

Exchange officials, presumably using rounded figures, say the projected increase is a 43 percent jump from the first year of open enrollment in the ACA exchange, which ended in April. The second round begins November 15 and is shorter than last enrollment period, ending Feb. 15.

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Health care sign-ups wrap up fall’s event list
Sacramento Bee

The clocks have changed, the World Series has ended, the election is over. Before everyone’s attention gets consumed by the holidays, there’s one other major event on everyone’s to-do list: health care sign-ups.

In this year’s second round of the Affordable Care Act, the open enrollment season for health care coverage starts on Saturday. That may be news to lots of folks.

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Higher bar for health law in second sign-up season
Modern Healthcare

With a bright look to its rebuilt website, version 2.0 of President Barack Obama’s health insurance overhaul represents another chance to win over a skeptical public. But more than possible computer woes lurk as HealthCare.gov’s second open enrollment season begins Nov. 15.

The risks include an unproven system for those renewing coverage and a tax hit that could sting millions of people.

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Nurse Who Survived Ebola Says More Training Needed
Insurance Journal

A nurse who was infected with Ebola after treating a sick patient said she didn’t have enough training beforehand on how to protect herself.

“The first time that I put on the protective equipment, I was heading in to take care of the patient,” Amber Vinson told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview broadcast last Thursday. Vinson was one of the more than 70 medical personnel who were involved in the care of Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

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Health Insurance Regulators In California Not Awarded More Power
Live Insurance News

Voters in California have decided to deny the passage of Proposition 45, which would have provided the state’s Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones, and the state’s Department of Insurance, with the power to review health insurance rate increases. Under current law, state regulators cannot reject rate increases coming from insurers before these increases have been implemented. Commissioner Jones has been advocating for more regulatory power for some time, claiming that tougher regulations would be a benefit to consumers.

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San Fernando Valley to open homeless patient recuperative care center
Contra Costa Times

The homeless who are rushed to a hospital’s emergency department come with broken bones, heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver or other life-threatening illnesses.

But after the surgeries are done and the casts hardened, they go back to the streets to recuperate in emergency shelters, bus benches or sidewalks. Many return to hospitals. It’s a cycle that troubles Ken Craft, president of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission.

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Memorial’s emergency department expansion will fast-track patients with less serious medical issues
Modesto Bee

Memorial Medical Center of Modesto has expanded its emergency department with a goal of fast-tracking patients with less serious illness while increasing capacity for those with true emergencies.

The 5,300-square-foot expansion almost doubles the seating in the lobby and aims to reduce the time before patients see a doctor. The new facility opens Monday. Walk-in patients will use the former main entrance to the hospital off Coffee Road.

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Lawmaker Seeks Better Access to Medi-Cal Care for Former Foster Kids
California Healthline

State Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) has asked for a change in the state’s approach to providing Medi-Cal coverage for foster care children ages 18 to 26. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program.

At a Senate Committee on Health hearing Oct. 30, Beall pointed out that under the Affordable Care Act, Medi-Cal benefits have been extended to age 26 for those who have been in California’s foster care system.

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Childhood stress leads to adult health problems
San Diego Union-Tribune

Nearly two-thirds of Californians have experienced the kinds of childhood trauma shown to cause health problems such as heart disease and cancer later in life, according to a report released this week.

The findings are the latest evidence in a line of inquiry pioneered in San Diego — one that links early exposure to abusive behavior with lasting health consequences.

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Sen. Boxer visits O.C. to discuss medical errors
Orange County Register

Ask the guy next door what the three leading causes of death in America are, and he will likely nail the first two: heart disease and cancer.

But for the third, “They’ll say something that’s so far off,” Sen. Barbara Boxer said Friday, speaking to reporters during a tour of Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Santa Ana.

The third cause: medical errors. Largely preventable, such hospital errors as infections, injuries from falls and bedsores are estimated to kill as many as 440,000 people per year – more than strokes and accidents combined.

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Many Latinos shun Obamacare for fear of getting relatives deported
Los Angeles Times

Lilian Saldana turned down Obamacare coverage once, and she might do it again.

With sign-ups set to resume Saturday, the 23-year-old Covina resident and her younger sister are hesitant to enroll because their parents are immigrants who are not citizens and therefore ineligible for benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

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Local hospitals get kudos for work on pressure ulcers
Sacramento Bee

Sometimes, an innovative surgery is only the first step in saving a patient. The second might be something as basic as changing their mattress material or the way they sit, to prevent the formation of a life-threatening bedsore.

Bedsores – also known as pressure ulcers – are lesions caused by unrelieved pressure, often over a part of the body where the bone lies directly beneath the skin, such as in the heel, sacrum or head.

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Medical device company NeoTract gets a bureaucratic lift
San Francisco Business Times

A Pleasanton company whose implanted medical device opens the urinary tract for men with an enlarged prostate won a key government payment decision, the company said Monday.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved so-called terminology codes for UroLift, a system developed by privately held NeoTract Inc. that is designed to treat a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH.

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Doctors to sell offices around Memorial
North Bay Business Journal

A group of physicians formerly connected to Redwood Regional Medical Group, which merged with St. Joseph Health earlier this year, are selling 61,500 square feet of medical office buildings, mostly next to the care provider’s Memorial Hospital.

The doctors are offering eight buildings on Sotoyome Street next to the hospital, plus a building each in Petaluma and Ukiah. The buildings are 95 percent leased.

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Kaiser Permanente adds 422,000 enrollees year to date, as profits soar
San Francisco Business Times

Profits at the giant Kaiser Permanente nonprofit health-care system jumped 41 percent through 2014’s first three quarters to $3.1 billion, and soared 57 percent in Q3 to nearly $1 billion, Kaiser’s hospital and health plan subsidiaries said Friday, in large part because of strong enrollment growth linked to the Affordable Care Act.

The Oakland-based health behemoth also added 422,000 new enrollees through the year’s first nine months, ending Sept. 30. It now has a total of to 9.5 million enrollees in eight states and the District of Columbia.

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Santa Ana summit focuses on women’s health
Orange County Register

More than 100 health care providers – physicians, nurses, hospitals and community health centers – as well as educators, activists and community members attended the third annual Orange County Women’s Health Policy Summit recently at the Delhi Center in Santa Ana, hosted by the Orange County Women’s Health Project.

OCWHP is a nonprofit collaborative launched to address the lack of coordination and focused attention on women’s health issues in Orange County.

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Electronic Medical Records, Built For Efficiency, Often Backfire
National Public Radio

Electronic medical records were supposed to usher in the future of medicine.

Prescriptions would be beamed to the pharmacy. A doctor could call up patients’ medical histories anywhere, anytime. Nurses and doctors could easily find patients’ old lab results or last X-rays to see what how they’re doing. The computer system could warn doctors about dangerous drug combinations before it was too late.

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New health mandates pose problems in the field
Cabinet Report

As school district officials work to comply with the Legislature’s annual onslaught of new education laws, two health-related mandates are causing particular concerns for those charged with carrying out new eye testing and issuing protocols for anaphylactic shock treatment.

At issue with SB 1172 is language suggesting that the electronic photo screening equipment used to detect near-vision issues be used under the supervision of an eye doctor.

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