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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Some delays, but health insurance signups better than last year
San Francisco Chronicle

The health insurance marketplace opened for business Saturday and performed much better than last year, but some consumers reported long, frustrating delays in trying to buy insurance and gain access to their own accounts at HealthCare.gov. Thousands of people attended hundreds of enrollment events around the country at public libraries, churches, shopping malls, community colleges, clinics, hospitals and other sites. Insurance counselors and federal, state and local officials said they were trying to juggle two tasks — enrolling more of the uninsured and renewing coverage for those who already had it.

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CIOs, CMOs Share EHR, Telehealth Adoption Experiences
HealthLeaders Media

It hasn’t been an easy year for Linda Butler, MD, or her colleagues at Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, NC.

As vice president of medical affairs as well as CMO/CMIO, she and her team have had to help manage the hospital’s Magnet status reaccreditation, Ebola preparedness, and its three-year review by The Joint Commission.

They’ve also had to assist with the delicate implementation of Rex’s electronic medical record system, an Epic installation. “You replace an EMR maybe once a decade, you go through Magnet accreditation every four years, and TJC every three years. We did all of that in about six months,” she says.

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Californian State Implemented Sturdy Ebola-Protection Rules for Health Workers
Capital Wired

According to the recent reports revealed, California has implemented some of the nation’s strapping rules to guard doctors, nurses along with other health workers dealing with patients with Ebola. The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the rules on Friday, require approximately state’s 300 acute-care hospitals to supply hazardous material suits, respirators, isolation rooms and extensive training to individuals dealing with patients suspected of getting the Ebola virus.

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HealthCare.gov Head Says Site Is Tested And ‘Ready To Go’
National Public Radio

It’s being challenged in the Supreme Court. Members of the new Republican Congress want to repeal it. But Obamacare will get a second chance on Saturday, when enrollment opens again in the government-sponsored health exchanges.

The Obama administration is expecting over 3 million new enrollees and almost 6 million return customers. And while the system faces some challenges, the government says it’s up to the task.

“We are ready to go,” says Kevin Counihan, the new CEO of HealthCare.gov. Counihan headed Connecticut’s successful Obamacare exchange and was named to head the federal website in August.

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Despite Criticism, Affordable Care Act Soldiers On
National Public Radio

Open enrollment for health insurance plans sold under the Affordable Care Act’s health exchanges begin Saturday. NPR’s Arun Rath speaks with Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News and Jose Plaza of Enroll America. Open enrollment begins today for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. For the next three months, Americans can sign up for insurance through state and federal exchanges. Millions of Americans are still uninsured, so the big challenge for those trying to get people enrolled is just getting the word out.

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California’s Obamacare enrollment window to reopen with new challenges
Los Angeles Times

California’s embrace of Obamacare coverage poses huge new challenges starting Saturday as sign-ups resume for year two of the federal health overhaul.

The state needs to help 1.2 million existing policyholders renew their coverage within the next month and persuade hundreds of thousands more people to sign up by Feb. 15. That’s when the enrollment window closes again.

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Healthcare.gov sign-ups off to a smooth start, officials say
San Francisco Chronicle

As a crucial second sign-up season gears up, the Obama administration said Sunday that HealthCare.gov is stable and working well, a far cry from last year’s frozen computer screens and frustrated customers. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said she expects “strong and healthy growth” for 2015. About 7 million people are signed up, and Burwell expects to grow that by 2 million more or so. The Congressional Budget Office has projected a total of 13 million enrolled for 2015, and some see the administration as trying to lower expectations.

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HealthCare.gov opens without major problems for second enrollment period
Washington Post

HealthCare.gov and online insurance marketplaces in more than a dozen states opened for a second year on Saturday without the widespread computer troubles that frustrated consumers and the Obama administration when the exchanges debuted 13 months ago.

At public libraries, health centers and other community hubs around the country, people shopping for health plans — and a small army of enrollment workers and volunteers — found that the Web site for the federal marketplace generally worked and that a federal call center for advice had little or no waiting time.

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Hopes and fears as health law sign-up season opens
San Francisco Chronicle

The second sign-up season under President Barack Obama’s health overhaul opened, with hopes that this time consumers will have a positive experience. Obama says about a half-million people logged into the federal government’s website on Saturday, the first day of open enrollment. But the fear is that entrenched political opposition and renewed legal challenges may yet collapse the program that’s bringing health care to millions of previously uninsured Americans.

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Open enrollment a big test for Obamacare
San Diego Union-Tribune

Millions signed up for Obamacare health insurance plans this year, but now the Affordable Care Act must prove it has staying power amid a re-escalation of controversy.

Saturday marked the start of a three-month period when current policy holders can make changes and the uninsured can purchase coverage through their state’s health exchange. The Golden State’s exchange is called Covered California.

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Health Plans Braced for Open Enrollment
HealthLeaders Media

For health plans, challenges in the second year of the public insurance exchanges feature something old and something new.

Last fall’s nearly disastrous rollout of the federal government’s exchange website, HealthCare.gov, has carriers casting a wary eye on the 2015 open enrollment period, which is slated to begin Nov. 15 and end Feb. 15.

Chris Johnston, associate VP of new business and consumer solutions at Detroit-based Health Alliance Plan, says that technology remains a top HIX concern on several fronts. The performance of the revamped HealthCare.gov website is a prime worry, he says: “How stable is it?”

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Health care bills may be higher than we think
USA Today

How much are you really spending on health care? Probably more than you — or the government — anticipates.

Americans spend nearly $2.8 trillion a year on medical services, prescription drugs, long-term care and other health needs, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ 2012 National Health Expenditures report.

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They Paid How Much? How Negotiated Deals Hide Health Care’s Cost
National Public Radio

As Americans begin shopping again for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act on Saturday, they’ll be wrestling with premiums, deductibles, out-of-pocket costs and other vague and confusing insurance-speak.

Believe it or not, that’s the easy part compared to figuring out what health care actually costs. Sal Morales of Miami bought insurance in March during the ACA’s first enrollment period on the HealthCare.gov website.

It felt amazing, he says, to get that insurance card in the mail — “like if I got an American Express Platinum card. That’s how I felt.”

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Post analysis: Health plan choices and premiums increase on HealthCare.gov
Washington Post

People shopping on the HealthCare.gov marketplace that reopened Saturday have more options this year than they did last year, but the options usually will be costlier.

Twenty-five states using the federal enrollment portal on average have higher premiums this year for the most popular level of health insurance plans — called “silver” plans — while nine states on average have lower prices this year for that level of coverage, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal data.

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Obama: We didn’t mislead on health care
POLITICO

President Barack Obama denied Sunday that his signature health care reform law was deceptively marketed, rejecting statements by a consultant on the plan who said aspects of Obamacare were designed to take advantage of the “stupidity” of voters. “The fact that an adviser who was never on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is not a reflection on the actual process that was run,” Obama declared at a press conference here, speaking for the first time about the comments by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber.

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Covered California says website will work as open enrollment begins
Sacramento Business Journal

Covered California is poised for a boom in new business, starting Saturday. Open enrollment for insurance coverage in 2015 kicks off at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15, 2015. Benefits will begin Jan. 1 for those who sign up by Dec. 15. The state health benefit exchange website has been upgraded, more workers are available to answer call-center phones and brokers are geared up to help. Program officials hope to add more than 500,000 new members in 2015.

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Covered California urges non-insured to sign up for health care coverage
Oroville Mercury-Register

After initial missteps caused a choppy start, California health care officials are betting that an upgraded website, more help and better Spanish-language outreach will result in a smoother and bigger second open enrollment season under the Affordable Care Act this year.

Starting Saturday, Californians who don’t have access to health plans through their employer can obtain coverage for 2015 through the state’s insurance marketplace known as Covered California.

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Covered California bus tour set to make stop on Central Coast
KSBY

The Covered California Bus Tour is set to make a stop in San Luis Obispo on Monday.

The tour aims to raise awareness about the open enrollment period which started over the weekend. Organizers also want to promote a culture of coverage in the community and want to encourage enrollment in Covered California.

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Regulators reportedly concerned over health data security
Silicon Valley Business Journal

Apple Inc. representatives reportedly had talks in recent months with Federal Trade Commission officials to make clear that the Cupertino company will prevent the sale of its users’ health information to third parties, such as insurers.

Two people familiar with the FTC’s thinking told Reuters Thursday that the agency is concerned about the protection of users’ sensitive health data, eyeing Apple Watch and other mobile devices designed to collect and track such information.

Though there is no sign that the FTC will formally probe Apple over any potential collection of health data, the anonymous sources told Reuters that the agency has made it a priority to investigate whether mobile health developers who sell apps for mobile operating systems are taking precautions to safeguard user privacy.

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CMS’ health exchange rates show modest increases
Modern Healthcare

The federal government released a trove of public files Friday, the day before Obamacare’s second open-enrollment period begins, outlining the premiums, cost-sharing requirements, provider networks and other pertinent details of every plan that will be sold on the health insurance exchanges next year.“CMS just dropped the mother lode of data,” said Katherine Hempstead, a director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation who oversees health insurance research.

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Your Kaiser Permanente doctor will see you now – at Target
MedCity News

In a move that reflects the increasing wave of consumer-driven healthcare, Target Corporation is teaming up with Kaiser Permanente to open four in-store Target Clinics in Southern California, taking a host of services directly to thousands of customers.

The clinics opened at Target stores in Vista, San Diego and Fontana, and a fourth clinic will open in West Fullerton Dec. 6. They will be staffed by nurse practitioners from Kaiser.

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Sharp HealthCare Hasn’t Abandoned Accountable Care, Just Pioneer
AIS Health

Amid growing questions about the short- and long-term viability of the federal Medicare Pioneer initiative and Medicare Shared Savings Programs (MSSP) (ABN 10/14, p. 1), Sharp HealthCare stands out as a company that’s making accountable care work — but couldn’t make it work in the federal programs.

Sharp’s results in Pioneer were good — excellent, in fact, says Alison Fleury, the provider’s vice president of business development. Sharp was cutting inpatient days by double-digit percentages and moving the needle on readmissions.

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Hospitals cash in Premier shares
Modern Healthcare

About one-fifth of the hospitals, health systems and purchasing groups that own the Premier healthcare alliance made nearly $120 million by selling shares in a secondary offering underway this month.

Premier, a Charlotte, N.C.-based group purchasing organization and data and analytics provider, filed an initial public offering last year, making it one of two publicly traded GPOs.

Premier’s restructuring included an option for the 177 organizations that are both members and owners of Premier to convert their Class B shares for Class A public shares and sell one-seventh of those shares each year for seven years. Doing this allows the member-owners to make money off their ownership in Premier for the first time.

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