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News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Health Insurance Signups Near 10 Million in Midyear Report
New York Times

About 9.9 million people have signed up and paid for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, the administration said Tuesday, a slight dip from a previous count but on track toward the administration’s year-end goal of 9.1 million. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that 84 percent of those, or more than 8.3 million, were receiving tax subsidies to help with the cost. A Supreme Court decision earlier this summer upheld insurance subsidies in all 50 states, a major victory for the White House.

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California, Other States Will Not Fully Transition to ICD-10 in October
California Healthline

Medi-Cal is one of four state Medicaid programs that will not fully transition to ICD-10 code sets by the Oct. 1 deadline to do so, Modern Healthcare reports.

Medi-Cal instead will use a technique to translate the new codes into the ICD-9 format (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 9/4).

Background
A recent California Medical Association survey found that 21% of California physician practices reported they are not prepared for the Oct. 1 transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 code sets.  In addition, the survey showed that more than half of California physician practices said they are minimally prepared for the new coding sets (California Healthline, 6/15).

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Planned Parenthood Isn’t The Only Health Program At Risk Of Losing Funds
Kaiser Health News

Federal funding for Planned Parenthood will clearly be a flash point when Congress returns this week from its summer break.

But the fate of many other health programs, from the National Institutes of Health to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy, hang in the balance as well, as lawmakers decide whether and how to fund the government after the current fiscal year expires Sept. 30.

The Planned Parenthood fight could figure prominently in the coming legislative negotiation.  Many GOP lawmakers, led by those running for president, have spent the summer pummeling the group for alleged mishandling of fetal tissue for research. They have vowed not to vote for any spending bill that allows federal funding for the organization, even if that means closing down the rest of the federal government. And that is despite the assertion last week from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that there are not enough votes to approve defunding, given a likely veto from President Barack Obama.

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Surgeon general to call for national walking campaign
Washington Post

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will call Wednesday for a national campaign centered on walking, an effort he said is intended to combat chronic disease and obesity, and to surmount obstacles that stand in the way of simply taking a walk. Murthy said the government will partner with schools, nonprofit organizations and the private sector to promote walking at home, at school and in the workplace.

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Nearly 10 million people have paid for Obamacare plan
USA Today

Just under 10 million consumers paid for insurance plans they bought on the federal and state health care exchanges by the end of June, the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday.

HHS estimated it would have 9.1 million people enrolled by the end of this year.

About 84%, or more than 8.3 million consumers, were receiving a tax credit to pay for their premiums.

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Obamacare Marketplace Enrollment Falls to 9.9 Million, U.S. Says
Bloomberg.com

About 9.9 million people got health insurance coverage through the marketplaces set up by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as of June 30, a decline from earlier in the year though still higher than the Obama administration’s target.

About 84 percent got government subsidies to buy the coverage, getting an average of $270 a month, according to data released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Enrollment had been 10.2 million at the end of March.

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About 9.9 Million Enrollees Pay for Health Insurance on State, Federal Sites
The Wall Street Journal

Almost 9.9 million customers selected and paid for health coverage on state and federal marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act as of the end of June, reflecting a drop in overall paid sign-ups.

The number released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows the Obama administration is still on track to meet its goal of 9.1 million to 9.9 million people who have paid for coverage through the insurance exchanges by the end of 2015.

Robust sign-ups and premium payments are critical for the Obama administration because Republicans hoping to repeal the health law

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Coverage in Affordable Care Act health plans wanes since winter
Washington Post

Nearly 1 in 4 of the Americans who picked a health plan this year through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces have dropped or lost their coverage, according to new federal data.

A report, released Tuesday by federal health officials, shows that 9.9 million people were paying, as of the end of June, for health plans they had gotten through the federal and state-run insurance exchanges created under the health-care law.

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Is Obamacare working? Where’s the data?
The Health Care Blog

As President Obama’s healthcare reform unfolds in the last years of his administration, critics and supporters alike are looking for objective data. Meaningful Use is a funding program designed to create health IT systems that, when used in combination, are capable of reporting objective data about the healthcare system as a whole. But the program is floundering. The digital systems created by Meaningful Use are mostly incompatible, and it is unclear whether they will be able to provide the needed insights to evaluate Obamacare.

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300,000 stopped paying for exchange plans in second quarter
Modern Healthcare

Nearly 300,000 people who obtained coverage though HealthCare.gov and state exchanges stopped paying their premiums between March and June of this year, according to CMS data.

As of June 30, about 9.9 million consumers had paid for coverage—which means they had an active policy. That figure is down from 10.2 million consumers who had indicated they wanted to purchase coverage as of March 31.

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Healthcare consolidation hearings likely to include ACA blame game
Modern Healthcare

Two massive health insurance mergers in the works have reignited a fiery discussion over excessive consolidation. A series of House hearings kicking off this week will look for villains: hospitals, doctors, insurers or, more broadly, the Affordable Care Act.

The American Medical Association has already stoked the flames, releasing an analysis Tuesday that said the pending insurance deals raise antitrust concerns and would lead to higher healthcare costs. Insurers rebuffed the report and called it “fatally flawed.”

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U.S. doctors group says planned health mergers are anti-competitive
Yahoo! News

The leading U.S. physicians’ organization said on Tuesday that two proposed mergers of U.S. health insurers worth tens of billions of dollars could lead to higher prices in 17 states for companies that buy insurance for their workers or people who buy their own insurance.

Aetna Inc announced plans to buy smaller rival Humana Inc in early July and Anthem Inc agreed to buy Cigna Corp later that month. Both mergers are being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice and state insurance officials.

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Docs, hospitals contend insurer mergers will quash competition
Modern Healthcare

If the pending mergers between Anthem and Cigna Corp., and Aetna and Humana are approved by the federal government, major insurance markets in almost half the country would suffer from reduced competition and potentially higher prices, according to a new analysis released by the American Medical Association.

The latest shot from the national doctors lobbying group comes a week after the American Hospital Association blasted the insurance mergers with its own letter.The AMA said both transactions combined would exceed federal antitrust guidelines in 97 metropolitan markets in 17 states.

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Congress Weighs Budget Cuts For Wide Range Of Health Programs
National Public Radio

Federal funding for Planned Parenthood will clearly be a flashpoint when Congress returns this week from its summer break.

But the fate of many other health programs, from the National Institutes of Health to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy, hang in the balance as well, as lawmakers decide whether and how to fund the government after the current fiscal year expires Sept. 30.

The Planned Parenthood fight could figure prominently in the coming legislative negotiation. Many GOP lawmakers, led by those running for president, have spent the summer pummeling the group for alleged mishandling of fetal tissue for research. They have vowed not to vote for any spending bill that allows federal funding for the organization, even if that means closing down the rest of the federal government. And that is despite the assertion last week from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that there aren’t enough votes to approve defunding, given a likely veto from President Barack Obama.

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‘Cadillac’ Health Tax Fight Heats Up
The Wall Street Journal

A looming tax on generous employer health plans could imperil flexible spending accounts, a popular benefit that lets employees set aside tax-free money for certain medical expenses.

The Affordable Care Act’s tax on high-cost employer health insurance is scheduled to start in 2018, when it will impose a 40% levy on benefits that exceed a government-set threshold. Employers already are reviewing or trimming health plans to minimize the effect of this “Cadillac tax,” benefit experts say.

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More babies born at 23 weeks are surviving, study shows
Washington Post

Doctors have made substantial progress in saving the earliest premature babies, with fewer illnesses and disabilities among them, according to a report issued Tuesday by an agency of the National Institutes of Health that looked at two decades of developments in the field.

Babies born between 22 and 28 weeks of gestation and who weighed 400 to 1,500 grams (14.1 to 52.9 ounces) have benefited from new practices instituted between 1993 and 2012, the period of the study, said Rosemary Higgins, program scientist for the neonatal research network at the National Institute of Child Health

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Preemies’ Survival Rates Improve, But Many Challenges Remain
National Public Radio

These are the tiniest babies born. Some weigh only a pound or two. And can fit in the palm of your hand.

Extreme preemies — born somewhere between 22 and 28 weeks — have a better chance of surviving now than they did 20 years ago, doctors report Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. But many of these babies still have severe health problems.

Pediatrician Barbara Stoll and her colleagues at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta looked at medical records for nearly 35,000 extreme preemies born at academic hospitals across the country from 1993 to 2012.

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Retail clinics, apps change doctor-patient relationship
Yahoo! News

Tom Coote suspected the stabbing pain in his abdomen was serious, but the harried doctor at the urgent care center suggested it was merely indigestion.

Coote also suspected that his recently retired family physician would have taken more time to diagnose what turned out to be appendicitis.

“Even when he was busy, he took his time,” the 40-year-old Staten Island man recalled. “There was a relationship there … he was very thorough.”

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Providers and payers pushed to pay for prevention in diabetes fight
Modern Healthcare

While recent studies suggest that the rates of diabetes and obesity in the U.S. have finally plateaued, experts say reversing the twin epidemics will require widespread adoption of lifestyle intervention techniques that have been proven to reverse obesity, the cause of most Type 2 diabetes.

Yet bipartisan legislation that would invest heavily in the diabetes prevention program languishes in Congress with zero chance of passage, according to the website www.govtrack.us. An analysis of the bill said its $7.7 billion in spending would be more than offset by the estimated $9.1 billion in savings from having fewer diabetic Medicare beneficiaries over the next 10 years, according to an analysis by Avalere Health.

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When The Hospital Is Boss, That’s Where Doctors’ Patients Go
National Public Radio

Why did hospitals binge-buy doctor practices in recent years?

To improve the coordination of care, lower costs and upgrade patient experiences, say hospitals. To raise costs, gain pricing power and steer patient referrals, say skeptics.

Researchers at Stanford University tested those opposing arguments by comparing referral patterns between independent doctors and those working for hospitals.

Ownership by a hospital “dramatically increases” odds that a doctor will admit patients there instead of another, nearby hospital, they found.

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Alzheimer’s startup snags yet another top Genentech exec
San Francisco Business Times

Startup Denali Therapeutics Inc. already has grabbed bright R&D and deal-making minds from biotech powerhouse Genentech Inc. So why not a financial whiz as well? The South San Francisco company, which is focusing on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, said it will bring Genentech Chief Financial Officer Steve Krognes aboard Oct. 1.

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Kaiser Permanente launches 12th year of $50 million+ Thrive ad campaign
San Francisco Business Times

Kaiser Permanente is launching a 12th year of its acclaimed and long-running “Thrive” ad campaign today, which in past years has had a price tag of $50 million or more. The latest incarnation debuts today on TV, radio, online, print and outdoor platforms, officials at the Oakland-based health giant said. The ads will appear in English and Spanish in markets where Kaiser has enrollees: California, Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and the District of Columbia. Roughly three-quarters of its nearly 10 million enrollees live in California.

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UCLA Medical Center pilot programs to enhance emergency services
UCLA Daily-Bruin

The UCLA Center for Prehospital Care is launching two pilot programs Tuesday in Los Angeles that aim to reduce overcrowding in emergency rooms and hospitals.

The programs will be launched at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica and four Glendale clinics, said Cathy Chidester, director of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services.

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USC Norris Cancer Center earns best-ever rating from National Cancer Institute
USC Annenberg

The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center has received an elite score from the National Cancer Institute as part of its five-year core grant renewal process.

The June site review produced the best result ever for the prestigious medical facility situated on USC’s Health Sciences Campus, earning an “outstanding” distinction from the NCI reviewers.

“This highly laudatory review is a validation by the nation’s cancer experts of all the considerable effort and talent of the Norris Cancer Center senior leaders, program and core directors and administration,” said Stephen Gruber, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer.

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Seton Medical Center names new CEO
Modern Healthcare

Seton Medical Center, a part of the Los Altos Hills, Calif-based Daughters of Charity Health System, will soon have a new CEO.

John Ferrelli, 58, has been named president and CEO of the hospital in Daly City, Calif., as well as Seton Coastside, an affiliated skilled-nursing facility in Moss Beach, Calif. He’ll replace Joanne Allen on Sept. 18, as she retires after 19 years with the health system.

Most recently, Ferrelli served as chief administrative officer at University of Southern California Norris Cancer Hospital in Los Angeles.

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Rady Children’s receives grant for KD research
San Diego Union-Tribune

Administrators at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego announced last month that the facility received a $2.5 million challenge grant from the Gordon and Marilyn Macklin Foundation to support Kawasaki disease research.

Located in Great Falls, Va., the foundation will match gifts dollar for dollar for the next five years.

Kawasaki disease, also known as KD, is a severe childhood disease that’s commonly mistaken for an inconsequential viral infection. However, if not diagnosed or treated properly, it can lead to irreversible heart damage.

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