News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation


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White House: Health law sign-ups top 11M
Modern Healthcare

More than 11 million people signed up for subsidized private health insurance under President Barack Obama’s law this year, the White House said Tuesday evening.

But that preliminary estimate of 11.4 million people, announced in a video posted on Facebook, comes with a couple of asterisks.

The final number could grow because the administration is offering a grace period for people who started applications — but couldn’t finish them — before last Sunday’s official deadline.  They have until February 22, this coming Sunday. Also, Democratic lawmakers are pressing Obama to grant a second chance to sign up for uninsured people facing tax penalties.

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Lawmakers Should Start Planning in Case of Loss of Kids’ Health Funding, LAO Says
capital public radio

The independent Legislative Analyst’s Office says lawmakers should start preparing for a possible loss of federal funding for low-income children’s health care.

Over a million kids in the Medi-Cal program next fiscal year will have health care partially funded through the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program or CHIP.

But the LAO says that funding is only secure until September of 2015. Even if Congress renews the funding, the program will likely disappear eventually.

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Defining Your Place in the Care Continuum
HealthLeaders Media

What Color is Your Parachute? Most healthcare executives are familiar with the best-selling career advice book and its various updates and spinoffs that have been helping folks since 1970. The level of introspection called for in the book is similar to the introspection healthcare organizations must conduct to find their place in a healthcare service world that’s rapidly changing.

So, what will your organization become as healthcare reform and financial realities make the care continuum and care coordination top strategic priorities?

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The Myth of Doctors Getting Overwhelmed by E-mail
The Health Care Blog

”Email is the killer app of patient portals.”

I heard a variation of that quote when interviewing people for the patient-provider communication chapter of the book I co-wrote (HIMSS 2014 Book of the Year – Engage! Transforming Healthcare Through Digital Patient Engagement). For the organizations who’ve pushed patient portals the furthest into their patient base, email has always been the foundation. In other words, email is the gateway drug for patient engagement which Leonard Kish called the blockbuster “drug” of the century.

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Nearly half a million Californians pick health coverage through Obamacare exchange
Los Angeles Daily News

With the deadline now passed, Covered California signed up nearly a half a million people through its health plan exchange while thousands more who started the application process have until Sunday to complete it.

Peter Lee, the executive director for Covered California, said during a teleconference Tuesday that early figures show that about 474,000 people signed up for health coverage during this second enrollment period, which ended Sunday.

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Covered CA extends deadline again
San Diego Union-Tribune

Mirroring a move made by the federal government, California will grant two additional days of open enrollment for its health insurance exchange, officials announced Tuesday.

Covered California had already extended the deadline from last Sunday to this Friday for anyone who tried to sign up on the last day of open enrollment and was unable to get through.

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Covered California may offer special Obamacare enrollment period
Los Angeles Times

California’s health exchange, after notching 1.4 million in Obamacare enrollment as of Sunday’s deadline, said it may give uninsured people subject to a tax penalty yet another chance to sign up. In addition, the Covered California exchange granted applicants until this Sunday to finish enrolling in case they ran into long lines or computer glitches. That matches what the federal marketplace is doing in 37 other states. California had previously offered an extension till Friday.

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Covered California enrollment falls well short of 2015 goal
Los Angeles Business Journal

Covered California signed up approximately 1.4 million Californians for 2015 coverage on the Obamacare exchange as of Sunday’s open enrollment deadline — well short of its often-stated 1.7 million goal. That includes roughly 944,000 people who have initiated re-enrollment in private health plans on Covered California, and another 474,000 potential new enrollees who signed up and picked a health plan as of the Feb. 15 deadline.

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Covered California Patients File Complaints Against Blue Shield, Anthem Blue Cross
ABC News

On Tuesday, Covered California said it did not meet its goal of signing up 1.7 million people by Sunday’s midnight deadline. They were 300,000 short. And worse, thousands of people who signed up last year still can’t find a doctor to care for them.

Critics claim Covered California does not have enough doctors to care for patients, and they say patients are suffering because of it.

San Francisco resident Bryan Edwards suffers from a chronic sinus infection. He points to all the spots where he feels his head pounding.

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Figuring Out If A Doctor Is In Your Network Can Be Perplexing
National Public Radio

“Is this doctor in my insurance network?” is one of the key questions people ask when considering whether to see a particular doctor. Unfortunately, in some cases the answer may not be a simple yes or no.

That’s what Hannah Morgan learned when her husband needed surgery last fall to remove his appendix. When they met with the surgeon at the hospital emergency department near their Lexington, Ky., home, Morgan asked whether he was in the provider network for her husband’s individual policy, which he bought on the Kentucky health insurance exchange.

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Pregnant And Uninsured? Don’t Count On Obamacare Coverage
National Public Radio

The Obama administration often touts the health benefits women have gained under the Affordable Care Act, including the option to sign up for coverage outside of open enrollment periods if they’re “having a baby.”

But advocates complain that the special insurance enrollment period begins only after a birth. As a result, uninsured women who learn they are pregnant outside of the regular three-month open enrollment period, which this year ended Sunday, can get stuck paying thousands of dollars for prenatal care and delivery — or worse, going without care.

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CMS, states ponder special enrollment for those facing tax penalties
Modern Healthcare

CMS officials have yet to say if the agency will implement an open-enrollment extension for people facing tax penalties who don’t have coverage, an extension several states also are considering after Washington state enacted one.

Some Congressional Democrats have been urging the Obama administration to implement a special-enrollment period for tax filers facing penalties. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and 10 other senators who caucus with the Democrats, on Monday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell calling for additional time to sign up for coverage.

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Teen Cancer Center Bridges Treatment Age Gap
NBC Los Angeles

Teenagers don’t expect to be diagnosed with cancer. But when they are, finding the right place for treatment can be difficult. They are often too old for a children’s hospital but too young for an adult medical center. Drugmaker Resubmits Women’s Sex Pill to FDA To bridge this gap, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center created the Daltrey/Townshend Teen Cancer Program, a sanctuary for teenagers and young adults battling cancer.

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Doctors Strive to Do Less Harm by Inattentive Care
New York Times

Suffering. The very word made doctors uncomfortable. Medical journals avoided it, instructing authors to say that patients “ ‘have’ a disease or complications or side effects rather than ‘suffer’ or ‘suffer from’ them,” said Dr. Thomas H. Lee, the chief medical officer of Press Ganey, a company that surveys hospital patients.

But now, reducing patient suffering — the kind caused not by disease but by medical care itself — has become a medical goal.

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My Doctor Just Gave Me His Cell Phone Number …
The Health Care Blog

That’s right…it really happened. At the conclusion of a recent doctor visit, he gave me his cell phone number saying, “Call me anytime if you need anything or have questions.” In disbelief, I wondered if this was a generational thing – and whether physicians in their late thirties had now ‘gone digital’. My only other data point was our family pediatrician, who is also in her late thirties.

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Dignity boosts operating surplus, thanks largely to provider fee revenue
Modern Healthcare

Additional revenue from the California provider fee program helped San Francisco-based Dignity Health report a more than 300% increase in its operating surplus for its fiscal second quarter.

The system also said higher volume, a shift from self-pay to Medicaid coverage and better reimbursement rates from insurers contributed to its higher surplus. Without the impact of the provider fee payments, revenue nevertheless increased 10.7% in the second quarter compared with the prior-year period.

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SF hospital to open largest burn unit in Northern California
San Francisco Examiner

St. Francis Memorial Hospital in Nob Hill is set to open the largest burn unit in Northern California early next year, a facility more than twice the size of its current burn center.

Crews in October broke ground for the new Bothin Burn Center on the fifth floor of St. Francis Memorial Hospital, which will include modern medical technology and equipment, including state-of-the-art life support, monitoring equipment and ultrasonic hydrotherapy for bathing wounds, hospital officials said Tuesday.

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SF General Hospital seeks solutions to parking headache
San Francisco Examiner

San Francisco General Hospital has a parking problem, and without intervention it may only get worse.

That was the message at a Health Commission meeting Tuesday, where officials said new construction projects at San Francisco General may need as many as 500 new parking spaces by 2020, or a resulting car crisis may drive patients to competing hospitals.

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Doctors Medical Center board discusses San Pablo’s offer to purchase hospital
Contra Costa Times

The board of Doctors Medical Center, in a special closed session Tuesday afternoon, discussed an offer from the city of San Pablo to buy the hospital and its 10-acre campus.

The board had no announcement to make when it adjourned shortly before 4 p.m.

Colin Coffey, counsel for the hospital’s owner, West Contra Costa Healthcare District would say only that “we gave direction to our negotiators.”

Later on Tuesday, the San Pablo City Council discussed “price and terms of payment” in connection with the hospital property in closed session.