News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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New privacy concerns over government’s health care website
San Francisco Chronicle

A little-known side to the government’s health insurance website is prompting renewed concerns about privacy, just as the White House is calling for stronger cybersecurity protections for consumers. It works like this: When you apply for coverage on, dozens of data companies may be able to tell that you are on the site. Some can even glean details such as your age, income, ZIP code, whether you smoke or if you are pregnant. The data firms have embedded connections on the government site. Ever-evolving technology allows for individual Internet users to be tracked, building profiles that are a vital tool for advertisers.

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Narrow Networks at a Flash Point in California
HealthLeaders Media

California insurance officials are drawing the line on health plans with narrow provider networks.

Emergency regulations announced on Jan. 5 by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones “are meant to address the deficiencies in the market we have been seeing,” says Janice Rocco, deputy commissioner for health policy and reform at the state Department of Insurance. “The department received more complaints in 2014 over access to in-network care than in previous years,” says Rocco. In the prepared statement announcing those regulations, DOI officials detailed some of the consumer complaints:

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Deadly flu season spurs some Bay Area hospitals to restrict visitors
Contra Costa Times

The flu season has turned deadly in the Bay Area, with four flu-related fatalities reported so far this month, and now some hospitals are adding precautions to keep the virus from spreading.

As of late last week, two flu deaths were reported in San Mateo County, one in San Francisco and one in Sonoma County.

Nationwide, through Jan. 10, at least 45 flu-related deaths had been reported for the 2014-15 season in 19 states, not including California.

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Pro-Obamacare group maps out next phase of health care reform
Washington Post

A pro-Obamacare nonprofit released a road map Monday for the next steps beyond the president’s health law, including getting every state to sign up for expanded Medicaid and pushing for universal dental coverage.

The move served as a signal that President Obama’s allies don’t just want to play defense against GOP efforts to undercut Obamacare, but want to see it expanded into new areas.

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Agents: More Insurance Options Outside Covered California, But No Subsidies
capital public radio

The California Association of Health Underwriters says you could look in the broader health insurance marketplace if you haven’t found the right plan.

Neil Crosby of the Association says there are more insurance carriers outside of the exchange, and there may be different provider networks and benefits, too.

“Some of the health plans choose not to participate in the exchange in California and across the country, and Covered California also wanted to limit the insurance plans they offered,” says Crosby.

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Fight threatens thousands of Californians’ health coverage
Fresno Bee

A contract dispute between health insurance provider Blue Shield of California and the Sutter Health network of doctors and hospitals is threatening to force nearly 280,000 consumers in Northern and Central California to find new doctors.

Blue Shield notified more than 139,000 customers last week that they should be prepared to leave the Sutter Health network, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday. An additional 140,000 customers are expected to receive the same warning later this month.

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Blue Shield Of California Notifies Thousands Of Clients About Its Contract Dispute
Design & Trend

A contract dispute between Blue Shield of California and the Sutter Health network of hospitals and doctors is now leaving thousands of Californians searching for somewhere else to get health care.

Nearly 280,000 Northern and Central California residents are now searching for new places to receive health care, SFGate reported.

Blue Shield sent out notices to more than 139,000 customers last week. The insurance company plans to notify 140,500 more customers later this month.

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Medicaid expansion is next top healthcare challenge, advocates say
HealthLeaders Media

Medicaid expansion in two dozen states remains one of the biggest hurdles to guaranteeing healthcare coverage after the rollout of ObamaCare, according to a new report from Families USA. Unless the remaining 23 states opt to expand the eligibility for the low-income insurance program, millions of people will continue to lack affordable coverage, the healthcare advocacy group warned. Many of those who remain uninsured fall in a coverage gap, where they make too little to qualify for tax credits but just above the current eligibility for Medicaid — unless they live in the 28 states that have agreed to the ObamaCare provision that brings a windfall of federal dollars to expand coverage.

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Delving into breast cancer: ‘Survival Study’ goal is to ultimately increase survival rates in the county

Two Arcata-based organizations are working together on a study they hope will one day help lower the high breast cancer death rate in Humboldt County. The California Center for Rural Policy at Humboldt State University and the Breast and GYN Health Project recently received a $217,102 grant from the California Breast Cancer Research Program to delve into the differences between breast cancer mortality rates in Humboldt County and the rest of state.

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Kaiser study details vaccine hesitancy in Sonoma County
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

A newly released study of Northern California Kaiser patients confirms Sonoma County’s position in the ranks of California regions with high rates of childhood vaccine refusal and youngsters who are missing one or more of the immunizations recommended by the time they reach age 3.

Amid rising concern among medical professionals about a growing culture of vaccine hesitancy nationwide and the resurgence of health threats such as measles and pertussis, or whooping cough, the study identified five geographic areas in Northern California where parental delay or refusal of immunizations a