News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medi-Cal Enrollment Jumps to 11.3 Million
California Healthline

The state Medi-Cal system has taken on 2.7 million more Californians since October 2013. That’s an increase of 31% from the 8.6 million previously enrolled. The jump brings the current number of Californians in the Medi-Cal program to 11.3 million — roughly 30% of the state’s population. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program. Those numbers likely will drop somewhat, as the Medi-Cal renewal process finishes over the coming months. Many Californians will not renew their Medi-Cal benefits for a variety of reasons.

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4 Americans: How health care law affected them
San Francisco Chronicle

More than 7 million people have signed up for private health insurance under the system introduced last year for those who were uninsured or had policies considered substandard. What happened to them since has varied greatly. Many have been happy with their new insurance, according to polls. Others are encountering a variety of snags — high premiums, telephone runarounds or difficulty getting care.

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Why Republicans Will Vote to Repeal Obamacare, but Not on How to Replace It
National Journal Magazine

Republicans’ pledge to “repeal and replace” Obamacare will never die, and yet it is not really alive. It is the undead—and it has risen again.

With the GOP about to take the Senate’s helm, a handful of lawmakers are once again touting plans to replace the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Paul Ryan are reportedly working on a new plan, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, soon to be the chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, used a USA Today op-ed Wednesday to tout a plan he released in January, along with Sens. Tom Coburn and Richard Burr.

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Republican knives out for Obama’s medical devices tax

Republicans in the U.S. Congress will soon move to kill a medical device tax imposed less than two years ago under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, congressional aides and analysts said on Wednesday.

The 2.3-percent excise tax on sales of most medical devices sold in the United States helps fund the law, known as Obamacare, and applies to products ranging from bedpans to heart pacemakers. It took effect in January 2013 and is projected to raise about $30 billion a year in government revenue over 10 years.

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What You Need to Know Before Obamacare Open Enrollment
Fox News

The second open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act begins this weekend. Eight million people signed up for private insurance in the Health Insurance Marketplace this year and current estimates suggest there are still about 32 million uninsured people in the U.S. The ACA improves access to affordable health coverage and the open enrollment period guarantees coverage of pre-existing conditions for all Americans.

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UnitedHealthcare revamps leadership ahead of stepped up plays in ACA marketplaces
Modern Healthcare

Healthcare conglomerate UnitedHealth Group is reconfiguring its executive office, most notably announcing on the eve of open enrollment that insurance division CEO Gail Boudreaux is departing for undisclosed reasons. Boudreaux, 54, said she will leave the company effective Feb. 27. She has served as CEO of UnitedHealthcare—UnitedHealth’s primary subsidiary, which sells medical coverage and is the largest payer in the country—since 2011 and has been with UnitedHealth since 2008. UnitedHealthcare brought in $89.4 billion of revenue in the first nine months of 2014.

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Open Enrollment for Covered California begins Saturday
KESQ News Channel 3

Open enrollment begins Saturday for the Affordable Care Act, the second time Americans will have a chance to sign up for health insurance under what has become known as Obamacare.

President Barack Obama has promised the national health exchange will run a lot smoother this time around, but that won’t affect us here in California, we are on a separate health exchange with Covered California. is already up and running. You can’t sign up until enrollment begins on Saturday, but you can start looking at what plan will be best for you and your family.

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Covered California Works To Insure More Youths, Latinos

Open enrollment in Covered California begins this Saturday. Officials with the online health insurance exchange say they’re trying a variety of approaches to get the word out. About 1.2 million Californians got coverage through the exchange last year. Covered California wants to get 500,000 more signed up.

The exchange’s executive director, Peter Lee, said he wants to get young adults insured. “We are doubling down on our social media outreach,” Lee explained. “This is something that is used extensively by younger people. You can see a huge amount of social media that is out there now, and we’re gonna be pushing that a lot.”

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Covered California urges desert to get enrolled
The Desert Sun

State health leaders and local city officials on Wednesday kicked off a second enrollment period for Covered California, the online marketplace created under law to offer health coverage to all, regardless of employer coverage or pre-existing conditions.

The event, held at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, was one of more than 20 taking place across the state as part of a bus tour to launch the enrollment period, which opens Saturday.

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3 things to know about Enroll America

Hospitals, hospital groups and commercial health insurers are backing a major public exchange market support organization this year.

The organization, Enroll America, revealed the names today when it released a list of the contributors helping to pay for its 2015 public exchange system outreach efforts.

Enroll America focuses mainly on helping nonprofit organizations enroll people in Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange programs in states in which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) runs the exchange program. The group recruits exchange helpers, trains them, helps the volunteers organize events, and provides enrollment information technology support.

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AMA Calls for Coverage Expansion, SGR Repeal
HealthLeaders Media

The American Medical Association is calling for expansion of health insurance coverage for adults in states that rejected Medicaid expansion under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and renewing the call for repeal of the sustainable growth rate formula.

The policy statement emerged this week from the AMA’s annual House of Delegates meeting in Dallas, TX just days after Republican victories in the Nov. 4 midterm elections.  Republicans flogged Obamacare for months on end during the campaign season, and many elected officials and pundits believe the PPACA may be in for more turbulence now that Republicans control the House and Senate.

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Hospitals ask feds to help pay for their role in Ebola fight
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals and lawmakers are asking why the $6.2 billion the Obama administration requested for battling Ebola doesn’t include any money to reimburse hospitals for the high cost of treating patients with the virus or preparing for the possibility of more cases.U.S. hospitals have seen nine cases of Ebola in the past four months. Most of the patients were healthcare workers who had traveled to Africa to help treat victims at the source of the outbreak.

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In push to keep mentally ill out of jail, county to expand crisis centers
Los Angeles Times

At the urging of Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and others lobbying to keep mentally ill people from being locked up in county jails, Los Angeles County supervisors voted Wednesday to fund several programs for people undergoing psychiatric crises.

The supervisors voted to use $40.9 million in state funding for opening three new 24-hour psychiatric urgent care centers, where police can bring people undergoing mental health crises instead of taking them to overcrowded emergency rooms or jail.

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New law requires California schools to stock epinephrine injectors for allergic children
Sacramento Bee

Cathy Owens was a nurse at Murrieta Valley High School in 1997 when she encountered a student in the throes of a severe allergic reaction, unable to breathe and fading fast. Owens called for an ambulance, but the teen was deteriorating too quickly. She made a split-second decision to use another student’s prescription epinephrine injector.

Her action was a breach of federal law, but a necessary one under the circumstances, she said. “That’s not a choice anyone should have to make, but I had to make it,” Owens said. “We didn’t want a child to die.”

Now, with the passage of a new law in September, all schools in California will be required to stock at least one injector that is prescribed to the school or district, rather than a specific person, and to train at least one staff member on how to use it.

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Population Health Risks and Rewards
HealthLeaders Media

Population health management has earned the industry’s attention. A combined 80% of healthcare leaders participating in our survey are underway with such programs; nearly half are fully committed and underway in improving the overall health of a defined population (49%), while another 31% are underway with a pilot program to do so.

But with so many saying they are pursuing population health, we have to wonder to what extent. Seeing a relatively small percentage (10%) with actuaries on staff could indicate that not many are developing the skills necessary to assess exposure to risk, which will be a necessity as population health management matures. Among the investments that will be required are elements such as care coordination, team-based care delivery, and IT infrastructure. Although survey respondents tell us in their comments that the lack of funding is holding back their population health developments, pilot programs are likely to remain small unless providers develop a level of comfort with financial risk to match their emerging command over the clinical aspects of population health management.

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PriceCheck: Insurer Payments for IUDs Vary by $500 in California
KQED Radio

Earlier this year, KQED launched PriceCheck, our crowdsourcing project on health costs. We’re working in collaboration with KPCC public media in Los Angeles and, a New York City startup looking at health costs.

On PriceCheck we’re shining a light on the opaque world of health care costs. We’ve asked what you, the members of our audience, have been charged for common medical tests and services, including mammograms and lower-back MRIs.

Now a PriceCheck update on IUDs, the long-acting contraceptive. (And it’s really long-acting — up to seven years for the hormonal type; up to 12 years for the copper IUD). You told us what you were charged and what your insurers paid for an IUD.

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Anthem Blue Cross augments ACO network
Los Angeles Business Journal

Anthem Blue Cross unveiled several enhancements to its statewide Accountable Care Organization network, adding Hill Physicians Medical Group and several Bay Area entities that are part of Sutter Health.

Hill Physicians, a 3,800-provider independent practice association based in San Ramon, said the new agreement adds about 65,000 potential customers to the medical group, which cares for HMO and ACO patients in much of the Bay Area, Sacramento and the Central Valley. The group is led by CEO Darryl Cardoza.

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Community Hospital Monterey Peninsula given ‘A’ grade for safety

Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula has been honored for the second time this year with an ‘A’ grade in the Hospital Safety Score, which rates how well hospitals protect patients from errors, injuries, and infections.

The top grade was compiled under the guidance of experts on patient safety and is administered by the Leapfrog Group, an independent industry watchdog. This is the only hospital safety rating to be peer-reviewed in the Journal of Patient Safety, the score is designed to give consumers information they can use to protect themselves and their families when facing a hospital stay.