News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Medicare to Rework Billions in Payments
The Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration on Monday set an ambitious goal to rework hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals in an effort to reduce waste and make older Americans healthier.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said she wants Medicare to make 50% of its payments to doctors and hospitals on the basis of the quality of care they provide, rather than the quantity, by the end of 2018. Hitting that goal would mark a big change in a program that paid providers $362 billion for their services in 2014.

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Health Care Enrollment Appears to Be Near Goal
New York Times

The Obama administration said Tuesday that 9.5 million people had signed up to receive health coverage through public marketplaces in 2015, with less than a month to go before the enrollment deadline.

At first glance, the report suggests that the administration has achieved its goal of having 9.1 million people enrolled at the end of this year. But in 2014, more than 15 percent of people who selected health plans in the public marketplaces failed to pay their share of premiums and were therefore not on the rolls at the end of the year. Officials said they thought that similar attrition could occur this year.

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Fallout from retiree health plan ruling could send more to exchanges
Modern Healthcare

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case involving healthcare benefits for retirees could potentially have implications for insurers and beneficiaries, experts say.“The implications of this case may well be we are going to see more and more retirees turning to the exchanges for their healthcare coverage,” said Nancy Ross, a partner at the Mayer Brown law firm in Chicago. The court Monday, in a unanimous decision, vacated a lower court’s ruling that allowed M&G Polymers USA’s retirees’ healthcare benefits to continue indefinitely because the duration of the benefits wasn’t explicitly spelled out in a collective-bargaining agreement.

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Exchange enrollment hits 9.5 million
Modern Healthcare

The Obama administration was on course to surpass its 2015 insurance enrollment goal on state and federal exchanges roughly a month before open enrollment ends Feb.15.Nationwide, 9.5 million consumers had selected or were automatically re-enrolled into qualified health plans between Nov. 15 and Jan. 17, according to an HHS report released Tuesday. The total includes more than 7.1 million signing up through HealthCare.gov and 2.4 million gaining coverage through 14 state-based exchanges.

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ACA clear on allowing subsidies, Obama administration tells high court
Modern Healthcare

The nation’s healthcare reform law is clear in allowing Americans in all states to get insurance premium tax credits as Congress intended, the Obama administration argues in its main brief filed with the Supreme Court in the widely watched King v. Burwell case.

“I think it’s a very powerful brief,” said Tim Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and supporter of the law. “I think what the government’s brief does is to say this case is about the text of the statute, but the entire text of the statute, not just four words.”

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The Little Exchange that Could…Transform the U.S. Health Care System
The Health Care Blog

What do the classic children’s’ book “The Little Engine that Could” and federal investment in health information exchanges have in common? More than you’d think. Much has been said about the fragmentation of the U.S. health care system and how this fragmentation can result in higher costs and worse outcomes for patients. Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) – organizations that facilitate the secure sharing of health information – are one effort to improve communication among providers, better coordinate care, boost patient satisfaction, and reduce health care costs.

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Covered California in final push to insure, and avoid tax penalty
Chico Enterprise Record

So far, about 1.1 million to 1.2 million Californians have signed up for Covered California. That means there are another million eligible people who have not signed up. The deadline for 2015 is Feb. 15.

Miss that date, and you’ll face a hefty penalty on your taxes next year.

Dana Howard, deputy director of communications and public relations at Covered California in Sacramento, is making the media rounds, explaining why people should sign up, and what the consequences are if they don’t.

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Kaiser calling parents who refused to vaccinate against measles
Los Angeles Daily News

With the number of measles cases edging closer to 100, at least one health care system is planning to robo-call its members statewide, hoping to persuade families who have decided against vaccinating their children to reconsider.

And local pediatricians and physicians are fielding calls from worried parents who ask if the vaccine will really protect their children. “Our advice center has been handling a huge influx of calls from worried parents, wanting to know about their children’s vaccine status,” said Dr. Margaret Stone, chief of pediatric medicine at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills.

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Anti-vaccine parents boost measles comeback: Our view
USA Today

The outbreak of measles that started at California’s Disneyland last month and spread to 10 other states demonstrates how misinformation, misguided celebrities and lax state laws can have tragic consequences.

In the 1960s, measles killed about 450 people a year and disabled many more. By 2000, it was virtually eliminated in the United States, thanks to almost universal use of an effective vaccine. But last year, the U.S. saw 644 cases of measles and now, less than a month into 2015, more than 70 cases have been linked to the Disneyland outbreak.

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Let parents make informed choices: Opposing view
USA Today

While vaccines are promoted as safe and effective, this is not true for everyone. Vaccine risks are different for each child because we are not all the same, and doctors cannot predict which child will be harmed. Inflexible vaccine mandates threaten the health of those children.

The federally recommended childhood vaccine schedule has exploded to 69 doses of 16 vaccines with hundreds of new vaccines in development. A baby today receives more vaccines by six months old than her mother did by high school graduation. Yet, there is incomplete testing of the safety of the current child vaccine schedule.

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Supervisors support Laura’s Law
San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has taken a significant step toward implementing a law that could give local courts power to order treatment for mentally ill people who may be a threat to themselves or others.

The board on Tuesday voted 4-1 to authorize the director of the Health and Human Services Agency to convene a team from various county agencies to prepare a plan to implement what is known as “Laura’s Law.”

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Americans want Congress to restore subsidies if Supreme Court nixes them
Modern Healthcare

Nearly two-thirds of adults want Congress to take action to allow all low- and middle-income Americans to access insurance subsidies if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down financial assistance in states that don’t operate their own exchanges, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. In addition, 59% of respondents in states that don’t operate their own exchanges indicated support for their state establishing an insurance marketplace if the Supreme Court invalidates subsidies.

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Prosper buys American Healthcare Lending to expand into financing medical procedures
Silicon Valley Business Journal

San Francisco-based Prosper Marketplace said Tuesday it purchased American Healthcare Lending for $21 million in cash to expand into the burgeoning business of financing elective medical services. The Salt Lake City company finances a variety of elective procedures often not fully covered by insurance, such as cosmetic dentistry, bariatric surgery, fertility treatments and plastic surgery. American Healthcare Lending has pioneered a cloud-based financing service that cuts costs for providers while giving patients online access in the provider’s office, at home or on mobile devices.

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Anthem’s quarterly earnings soar, expects strong 2015
Modern Healthcare

Health insurance giant Anthem, formerly known as WellPoint, closed its 2014 books with fourth-quarter earnings more than tripled those in the same period the prior year.Additionally, 2015 is expected to be a record-setting year for profitability as medical cost trends remain favorable and self-funded enrollments rise, the company indicated in financial results Wednesday morning.Anthem’s net income in the fourth quarter soared 242% to $506.7 million. That equaled $1.73 in adjusted earnings per share, 2 cents higher than what analysts predicted.

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Anthem raises dividend almost 43 pct, tops 4Q forecasts
San Francisco Chronicle

Anthem has hiked the quarterly dividend it pays shareholders nearly 43 percent after reporting fourth-quarter results that topped Wall Street expectations. The nation’s second-largest health insurer said Wednesday that it will start offering in March a payout of 62.5 cents per share, up from its previous dividend of 43.75 cents per share. The new total helps the yield from the quarterly payout keep up with Anthem’s rising stock price.

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Most children with Santé HMO plans can be seen at Valley Children’s Hospital
Fresno Bee

Most children who have been caught in a contract dispute between Santé Community Physicians and Valley Children’s Hospital can continue going to the hospital and to doctors who work there, a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The hospital and Specialty Medical Group Central California have arrangements with three insurance companies — Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and United Healthcare — to see children who have HMO health plans through Santé, said Valley Children’s spokeswoman Zara Arboleda.

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Dignity Health Woodland Healthcare hosts Covered California enrollment event
Daily Democrat

To learn more about your options under the Affordable Care Act, Dignity Health Woodland Healthcare will be hosting two Covered California enrollment events at the Woodland Community & Senior Center, 2001 East St., Thursday, Jan. 29 from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

According to Gennie James of Woodland Healthcare, the event is free to attend and will include refreshments and hourly raffle drawings.

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