News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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FDA: Unapproved Duodenoscope OK to Use
HealthLeaders Media

Although one of the duodenal endoscopes implicated in recent “superbug” infections was never cleared by the FDA, the agency said Wednesday that physicians should continue to use it because otherwise there wouldn’t be enough devices available to meet patient needs.

Also, the FDA pointed out that infections have occurred with other duodenoscopes that had been approved, reiterating that the designs of all these devices made them hard to disinfect thoroughly after use.

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Hospitals struggle to plan during King v. Burwell wait
Modern Healthcare

Hospitals are just beginning to hash out contingency plans as the waiting begins for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether to end insurance subsidies in most of the country. Some of the financial gains that hospitals have experienced from having a greater number of insured patients may be erased if the court rejects the use of subsidies for individuals who purchase health plans from the federal exchange.

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New legislation seeks Medi-Cal rate hike to Medicare levels
Sacramento Business Journal

Medi-Cal paid $12 for a basic primary-care visit by an established patient in 2014. Medicare paid $21.20 for the same thing.

The difference is bigger for new patients. Medi-Cal paid $22.90 for a basic primary-care appointment for a new patient in 2014, but Medicare paid $45.30. Medi-Cal is the state’s version of the government health-care program for the poor. Medicare is the government heath-care program for seniors.

With one in three Californians now covered by Medi-Cal, payment reform was touted at a Capitol rally Wednesday as the most important health-care issue facing California in 2015. A coalition of health plans, providers, trade groups and unions participated in the event to herald new legislation that seeks to roll back Medi-Cal provider cuts — and, ultimately, increase rates to the same level as Medicare.

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Few states likely to set up exchanges to save subsidies
Modern Healthcare

During oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday in King v. Burwell, Justice Samuel Alito suggested that there is a relatively simple fix to the problem of residents in up to 37 states that haven’t established their own exchanges potentially losing access to premium subsidies.

“It’s not too late for a state to establish an exchange,” Alito said. “So going forward, there would be no harm.”

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State Lawmakers Keep Busy While Supreme Court Weighs Obamacare
National Public Radio

As the nation awaits a Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, lawmakers in many states are moving ahead with a range of Affordable Care Act bills, some of which seek to bolster the law and others that are bent on derailing it.

The Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell, focuses on subsidies paid to millions of Americans who bought health insurance through exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act. At issue: whether subsidies issued through exchanges operated by the federal government are legal. By the end of June, the justices are expected to issue a ruling, which could either uphold the law as it now operates or strike down those subsidies for good.

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CA: Covered California Open Enrollment Report
State of Reform

Covered California presented its initial open enrollment report to its board Thursday. Significant increases in coverage for Californians were noted by Peter V. Lee, Executive Director at Covered California, in the agency’s executive report:

New Enrollment
495,073 new Qualified Health Plan enrollees and over 779,000 new Medi-Cal enrollees

High Renewal Rate
944,000 Covered California consumers renewed (for a rate of 92%)

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Covered California enrollment numbers hit 1.4 million, lower than target
Los Angeles Business Journal

Nearly 500,000 new consumers signed up for insurance and picked a health plan through Covered California through Feb. 22, executive director Peter Lee announced at the exchange board meeting Thursday. Another 944,000 renewed coverage for 2015 before the end of last year for total enrollment in the individual marketplace of more than 1.4 million. That’s lower than the program target of 1.7 million, but more sign-ups are expected in the current special enrollment period through April 30 for people who claim they were unaware of the new tax penalty for foregoing insurance.

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State sees higher minority, youth sign-ups for health plan
Sacramento Bee

California did a better job of enrolling more minorities and young people for health care coverage during the second year of expansion, but a shortfall in overall enrollment could lead to increased fees in the future, according to new state data released Thursday.

Covered California released enrollment figures showing the percentage of Latinos and African-American enrollees increased from last year. The state also reported a younger mix of new enrollees, which ensures a good risk pool for insurers.

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Kaiser Permanente gains ground in Covered California enrollment
Sacramento Business Journal

The majority of enrollment in Covered California remains in four major heath plans, but the standout for 2015 is Kaiser Permanente. While Kaiser was fourth in the pack for new plan selections in 2014, with 17 percent of the market, but it’s tied with Anthem for top spot this year, with 28 percent of the market. With renewals, Kaiser was edged out to No. 3 behind Anthem and Blue Shield of California, but the company appears to have made up significant ground, according to data announced at Covered California’s board meeting in Sacramento Thursday.

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How Hospitals Continue to Zap Waste
HealthLeaders Media

The management principals behind a car maker’s success can drive down long wait times in hospitals, revving patient satisfaction rates and HCAHPS scores in the process.

A discussion paper published by the Institute of Medicine suggests that patient wait times can be decreased and patient satisfaction improved by using well-known continuous-improvement approaches frequently found in industrial engineering and manufacturing trades.

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Sharing Patient Records Is Still A Digital Dilemma For Doctors
National Public Radio

Technology entrepreneur Jonathan Bush says he was recently watching a patient move from a hospital to a nursing home. The patient’s information was in an electronic medical record, or EMR. And getting the patient’s records from the hospital to the nursing home, Bush says, wasn’t exactly drag and drop. “These two guys then type — I kid you not — the printout from the brand new EMR into their EMR, so that their fax server can fax it to the bloody nursing home,” Bush says.

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He’s back: Marty Morgenstern named to health board
Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed longtime adviser Marty Morgenstern to the board of California’s health exchange, as two former Schwarzenegger administration officials’ terms expire, Brown’s office said Thursday. Morgenstern and Genoveva Islas, a public health advocate from Tulare, replace Susan Kennedy and Kim Belshé. The five-member board is charged with implementing the federal health care overhaul in California. Morgenstern, 80, retired in 2013 as secretary of the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency but stayed on as an unpaid adviser to Brown.

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Governor names two new Covered California board members
Sacramento Business Journal

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a Latino health activist and long-time labor leader who’s worked at top levels of state government to the board at Covered California, the state health benefit exchange. Genoveva Islas and Marty Morgenstern replace Kim Belshe and Susan Kennedy, whose terms expired Dec. 31. Islas, 46, is from Tulare. She’s been program director at the Public Health Institute’s regional obesity prevention program since 2006 and was an area field representative for the California Diabetes Program at the California Department of Public Health from 2004 to 2005.

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Local health leaders call for increase in Medi-Cal rates during forum
Sacramento Business Journal

Three million more Californians have insurance today than a year ago, but many of them are covered by Medi-Cal — and that’s putting financial challenges on local providers, said speakers at a Business Journal breakfast forum in Sacramento on Thursday. The other challenge is who will care for these people. There’s been a surprise rise in emergency-room use due to poor access to primary care doctors. Many physicians worked at capacity before launch of the Affordable Care Act, and low reimbursement by the Medi-Cal program has prompted some to stop taking new patients.

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FDA says benefits outweigh risks of endoscope use tied to superbug infections
Modern Healthcare

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday advised health providers not to cancel surgical procedures involving the use of medical endoscopes. Endoscopes have been linked to drug-resistant superbug outbreaks at two California hospitals in recent months, but the FDA said the benefits of performing such procedures still outweigh the potential risks.The FDA stated Wednesday that it was not recommending hospitals begin canceling endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP, for patients who need the procedure.

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