News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Major progress cited in California prison inmate care
Fresno Bee

Nearly two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown essentially declared war on the federal judges overseeing California’s adult prisons, declaring that the state didn’t need outsiders and their “nit-picky” edicts on how the corrections system must be operated. “We can run our own prisons, and, by God, let those judges give us our prisons back,” he declared in a defiant news conference. “We’ll run them right.”

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Sick Boy Donates Toys to UCLA Hospital to Return Cherished Holiday Spirit
NBC Los Angeles

Since he was born, 11-year-old Casey Abrams has been in and out of Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA in Los Angeles to treat a rare intestinal disease. Having spent so many special days — holidays, birthdays — at the hospital, Casey knew five years ago he wanted to spread holiday cheer for the other sick kids. He began collecting toys for them, and he hasn’t stopped.

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ObamaCare sign-ups hit 6.4M
The Hill

A total of 6.4 million customers bought healthcare coverage in the federal marketplace as of Dec. 19, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Tuesday. Out of that total, about 1.9 million people gained coverage for the first time, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a briefing. Many of the customers who are enrolled in ObamaCare for the second year were auto-enrolled in plans. Just under two-thirds of people were auto-enrolled, Burwell said, citing a preliminary estimate.

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Affordable Care Act is good for rural Californians
The Californian - Salinas

Living in a rural community shouldn’t have to come with a hefty price tag for healthcare. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it no longer has to.

The ACA is already making a difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans, including families right here in California. Prior to the ACA, many rural families had a hard time finding affordable insurance coverage, paying an average of nearly half of their costs out of their own pockets.

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89 ACOs will join Medicare Shared Savings Program in January
Modern Healthcare

One of Medicare’s largest attempts to overhaul how hospitals and doctors are paid will expand in January even as federal officials acknowledge the need to modify the program to sustain the interest.

The Medicare Shared Savings Program—a broad test of accountable care launched in 2012 under the health reform law—will add another 89 organizations in January. The additions will bring the total number of organizations in the program to 405 and help boost the number of Medicare enrollees who get care from doctors in ACOs to 7.2 million from 4.9 million.

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Feds pitching easy-to-understand insurance plan summaries
Modern Healthcare

HHS is looking to simplify health benefits information insurers provide to consumers in an effort to help people when they examine plans.

Under federal law, all group, individual and self-insured plans must include a summary of benefits and coverage for their members. These documents describe what the plans cover. They also explain cost-sharing functions, such as deductibles and copays, and special circumstances, such as whether a patient needs a referral to see a specialist.

Together, with the Departments of Labor and Treasury, HHS proposed rules Monday evening to make the summaries more concise and comprehensible for consumers. The new, proposed summaries of benefits and coverage would be only two-and-a-half pages, double-sided (or five pages total), compared with the current four-page double-sided (or eight pages) maximum.

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Startups help consumers navigate insurance exchanges
Modern Healthcare

Health tech startups Gravie and Stride Health, each with a slightly different business model, see money to be made in helping consumers navigate the often non-consumer-friendly new world of online health insurance exchanges. “In other areas, online portals have helped consumers navigate through complicated decisionmaking,” Dr. Mohit Kaushal, a partner with Aberdare Ventures and an investor in Gravie, said. Gravie and Stride Health hope to duplicate that success in health insurance shopping.

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Let’s Have APIs for Those Provider Directories!
The Health Care Blog

Immediately updated provider directories machine readable via APIs should be mandated for health insurers. Finding accurate information about providers is one of the hardest things for consumers to do while interacting with the health care system.

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The Value of Workplace Health Promotion (Wellness) Programs
The Health Care Blog

The recent Health Affairs Blog post by Al Lewis, Vik Khanna, and Shana Montrose titled, “Workplace Wellness Produces No Savings” has triggered much interest and media attention. It highlights the controversy surrounding the value of workplace health promotion programs that 22 authors addressed in an article published in the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine titled, “Do Workplace Health Promotion (Wellness) Programs Work?” That article also inspired several follow-up discussions and media reports, including one published by New York Times columnists Frakt and Carroll who answered the above question with: “usually not.”

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Is Your Heart Doctor In? If Not, You Might Not Be Any Worse Off
National Public Radio

If your cardiologist is away at a conference when you’re having a stabbing feeling in your chest, don’t fret. You may be more likely to live.

A study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found frail patients admitted to teaching hospitals with two common types of heart problems were more likely to survive on days when national cardiology conferences were going on.

The researchers also discovered that heart attack patients who were at higher risk of dying were less likely to undergo angioplasties when conferences were occurring, yet their mortality rates were the same as similar patients admitted at other times. An angioplasty, in which a doctor unblocks an artery with an inflatable balloon inserted by a small tube, is one of the most common medical procedures for cardiac patients.

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To Patients With Heart Conditions, It’s OK For Your Cardiologist To Take Time Off
National Public Radio

A new study says that the mortality risk for patients with certain acute heart conditions was not negatively impacted if they are admitted to the hospital when a cardiologist isn’t there. Robert Siegel talks with Dr. Anupam Jena about the study. Here’s a frightening scenario. You’ve gone into cardiac arrest and you’re rushed to the nearest teaching hospital. But when you get to the ER, most of the cardiologists are out of town.

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Consumer group sues Aetna, alleges discrimination
San Francisco Chronicle

A consumer advocacy group has filed a class-action lawsuit against Aetna Inc. saying a new policy violates the privacy of people with HIV and AIDS by requiring them to get their medications from its mail-order pharmacy. Consumer Watchdog filed the lawsuit Friday in federal court in San Diego. It says sending the drugs through the mail puts privacy at risk because packages could end up at the wrong address or be seen by others. It also says the mail is not a reliable way to ensure people get their medications on time.

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Up To Speed: Aetna faces lawsuit charging mail-order drug delivery is discriminatory (Video)
San Francisco Business Times

Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has filed suit against Aetna claiming that the insurance company violates some patients’ privacy by requiring certain medications be obtained through the mail. Specifically, the suit cites Aetna’s (NYSE: AET) policy for drugs to treat people with HIV and AIDS, saying that requiring mail delivery of those medications heightens the risk of a privacy breach since mail sometimes gets dropped at the wrong address, and that, furthermore, mail delivery is not necessarily reliable enough to get patients their medications on time, according to a report by the

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