News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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House Hearing on Insurers’ Mergers Exposes Health Care Industry Divide
New York Times

Doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies clashed Thursday over the merits of mergers planned by four of the five biggest insurers in the United States.

The confrontation came at a hearing of a House Judiciary subcommittee that is investigating competition in the industry and how it would be affected by mergers combining Aetna with Humana and Anthem with Cigna.

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Calif. Lawmakers Approve Bill Requiring Drug Labeling In 5 Foreign Languages
Kaiser Health News

California’s pharmacists would be required to provide prescription drug labels or medication instructions in five languages besides English under a bill passed unanimously Thursday by California lawmakers.

The bill, AB 1073, will be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature and would take effect Jan. 1 if signed into law. Upon request from patients or their caregivers, pharmacists would need to provide medication instructions in Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese or Korean, the most common languages in California after English.

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Pelosi: Judge’s Ruling in Health Care Lawsuit ‘Astounding’
New York Times

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she is astonished by a judge’s ruling that clears the way for a Republican challenge to President Obama’s health care law to move ahead.

Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference she’s confident that Wednesday’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer will be overturned. Collyer said the House can pursue its claim that the Obama administration violated the Constitution when it spent public money not appropriated by Congress.

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Politicians, healthcare leaders spar over extent of ACA-era competition
Modern Healthcare

The Affordable Care Act is a law, and consolidation is increasing throughout healthcare. Those were roughly the only two points that House politicians and healthcare witnesses agreed on Thursday.The House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee held a hearing on the state of competition among hospitals, doctors and insurance companies since the ACA was passed several years ago.

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Why health insurance execs are a stressed-out bunch
Marketplace

Now that a federal judge has ruled the latest challenges to the Affordable Care Act can proceed, it means another round of legal uncertainty that the giant healthcare sector will need to grapple with. Carnegie Mellon economist George Loewenstein, who has spent a lot of time with health insurance executives lately, says they are not a very happy crowd, he says. “To a person, they seem stressed out. Like, severely stressed,” he says. Loewenstein, also a psychology professor, says that makes perfect sense.

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Obama administration likely to appeal preliminary ACA ruling
Modern Healthcare

The White House isn’t likely to wait long to challenge Wednesday’s ruling allowing House Republicans to sue the Obama administration for spending federal funds on the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing assistance.The administration is expected to seek what’s called an interlocutory appeal, which would allow a higher court to consider the issue of whether the House has standing to sue before the lower court addresses the merits of the case.It’s a somewhat rare legal move, but some legal experts say the case might just be unusual enough to warrant it.

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House GOP Scores a Major Win in Obamacare Legal Challenge
The Fiscal Times

The GOP-controlled House scored an important victory on Wednesday in its long-standing complaint about executive overreach by President Obama.

A federal court judge in Washington, D.C., granted the House legal standing to bring a lawsuit against the administration for illegally spending billions of dollars on cost-sharing provisions of the Affordable Care Act without specific congressional authorization.

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Phased-in provisions of ACA could mean higher costs for small firms
Sacramento Business Journal

Key changes taking effect under health care reform during the next few months may bump up insurance costs for many small businesses. By year’s end, older policies that don’t comply with new regulations under the Affordable Care Act will no longer be “grandmothered,” forcing companies to find new and possibly more expensive coverage.

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State legislature approves limiting deductibles for family health plans
Southern California Public Radio

Assembly Bill 1305 won final approval in the legislature Thursday. It would require all family health plans to include a per-individual deductible and a per-individual out-of-pocket limit.

As of now, some family policies require individual family members to reach separate deductibles, while others make individuals reach a much larger family deductible.

Covered California already requires this for plans sold on the state insurance exchange.

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As doctor-assisted suicide bill heads to CA Senate, looking at its odds at becoming law
Southern California Public Radio

After passing the state Assembly Wednesday, a bill that would let doctors prescribe life-ending medications to terminally-ill patients is heading to the Senate. It’s highly likely that the Senate would pass the bill, but it’s another matter whether Governor Jerry Brown would sign it into law.

Under ABx2-15, patients would be required to submit three separate requests to a physician — two oral and one written — with at least 15 days between each request.

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The AMA’s Forgotten Fight Against Physician Greed
The Health Care Blog

Perhaps the most well-known part of the 1965 Medicare creation tale is the opposition by the American Medical Association (AMA) to “socialized medicine.” Yet with financial incentives assuming a new prominence for provider and patient alike, we shouldn’t overlook the AMA’s equally unsuccessful battle against the excesses of capitalistic medicine. The forgotten story of the professionalism’s failure to contain physician greed provides an important policy perspective.

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Fraud case highlights hazards for hospitals with insurance plans
Modern Healthcare

A whistle-blower lawsuit accusing two North Carolina hospitals of using their managed-care organization to fraudulently boost Medicare reimbursements shows complications that can arise as hospitals increasingly move into the insurance business.According to the lawsuit, North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte-based Carolinas HealthCare System co-owned a managed-care organization, MedCost, which they used for their self-funded health plans.

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Medical Schools Teach Students To Talk With Patients About Care Costs
Kaiser Health News

Time for a pop quiz: When it comes to health care, what’s the difference between cost, charge and payment?

“Does anyone want to take a stab at it?” Sara-Megumi Naylor asks a group of first-year residents at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Naylor answers her own question with a car metaphor. “Producing the car might be $10,000, but the price on the window might be $20,000, and then you might end up giving them [a deal for] $18,000, so that’s cost versus charge versus payment,” she explains.

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New Hope Beats For Heart Patients And Hospitals
Kaiser Health News

Inch by inch, two doctors working side by side in an operating room guide a long narrow tube through a patient’s femoral artery, from his groin into his beating heart. They often look intently, not down at the 81-year-old patient, but up at a 60-inch monitor above him that’s streaming pictures of his heart made from X-rays and sound waves.

The big moment comes 40 minutes into the procedure at Morton Plant Hospital. Dr. Joshua Rovin unfurls from the catheter a metal stent containing a new aortic valve that is made partly out of a pig’s heart and expands to the width of a quarter outside the catheter. The monitor shows it fits well over the old one. Blood flow is normal again.  “This is pretty glorious,” Rovin said.

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Why Rancho Cordova makes sense for insurance firm TriWest Healthcare Alliance
Sacramento Business Journal

Another federal provider of veterans health-care benefits is moving to Rancho Cordova — joining a peer and former competitor in the same field. TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the first company recruited by the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, announced Thursday it will open an operations center on Zinfandel Drive in Rancho Cordova on Nov. 2 and hire 235 people. The Phoenix-based company is expanding its workforce in a number of cities to meet increasing demand in the so-called Veterans Choice Program.

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Credit rating drops for medical center bonds
The Press-Enterprise

Concerned about the expense of a $1.2 billion expansion, Fitch Ratings has downgraded the rating on $683 million revenue bonds issued on behalf of Loma Linda University Medical Center. It lowered the rating on the California Statewide Communities Development Authority revenue bonds, series 2014A-C to BB-plus from BBB-minus with a negative outlook, according to a news release. Fitch’s highest rating is AAA. Its lowest is D, default.

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Smoke From Rough Fire Causes More Patients At Valley Children’s Hospital
ABC News

As smoke from the Rough Fire continues to settle across the Valley floor, some of the littlest residents are feeling a big impact on their lungs. The National Park Service issued new evacuation orders on Thursday for Grant Grove and Wilsonia because of the fire. The wildfire continues to create hazy skies with thick smoke seen across the Valley.

Doctors and nurses at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera say they’ve seen an increasing number of young patients suffering from respiratory illnesses.

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City’s $500K donation will help pay for hospital project
Camarillo Acorn

The city is making a substantial investment in the new addition at St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo so that those with heart problems can be treated in town rather than being sent to another hospital for medical assistance.

During its Aug. 26 meeting, the Camarillo City Council unanimously approved a motion to provide a $500,000 grant to St. John’s Healthcare Foundation to help pay for equipment in its new catheterization lab.

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