Some 10 million Latinos nationally — including nearly 3 million in California — stand to gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and the Spanish-language media network Univision is positioning itself as a direct path to this potentially lucrative market.
WellPoint and other Blue insurers in six states, including California, have signed deals with Univision for undisclosed sums to be the exclusive health insurance sponsor of the network’s Peabody-award winning health initiative, “Salud Es Vida,” which means Health Is Life. WellPoint is the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross in California.
A spokesman for Covered California, confirmed that the agency is finalizing guidelines for “plan-based enrollment.”
The deals include a special plan-sponsored Univision website that will be able to connect Latinos with coverage on the online markets, or exchanges, that will serve individuals beginning in October. But it’s a path that could take a detour around some competitors who are offering plans: Because of a little-known rule proposed by the administration in June, customers will be able to buy their subsidized Obamacare insurance directly from the insurer.
Advocates for the developmentally disabled gathered today at the state Capitol to demand that Gov. Jerry Brown focus his attention on the 1,500 men and women living in California’s troubled board-and-care facilities, described by one resident as “hellholes.”
Waving a thick stack of reports in the air, Jacquie Dillard-Foss, CEO of Strategies to Empower People, which provides services for the disabled to live independently, said cases of patient abuse and neglect at the state’s five institutions had been recorded since the early 1990s, but with little response from the government.
“We know the problem has existed for decades,” Dillard-Foss said. “We are in the midst of a human crisis.”
The event in Sacramento comes a week after the California State Auditor released a scathing report detailing the failures of the Department of Developmental Services to protect the people who reside in its institutions in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sonoma and Tulare counties.
A letter from the advocates in today’s event calls on Brown to appoint an administration official to respond to the audit’s findings. Continue reading →
United Healthcare has more than 4,700 hospitals in its national network.
Valley Health Plan has four, all located in Santa Clara County.
That relative scale is one reason why United’s departure from California’s individual market last week got so many headlines — even though United only covers 8,000 people in the state — while the news of Valley’s inclusion in Covered California last month got almost none.
And on the surface, the thought of losing the nation’s largest health insurer doesn’t seem to augur much good for the Golden State’s health reform efforts. Especially in the wake of Aetna’s similar announcement last month.
But take the glass half-full approach, a handful of experts say: Think about who’s stepping in to fill the void. Continue reading →
California’s insurance commissioner Dave Jones says Anthem Blue Cross shouldn’t be allowed to sell small business health plans on Covered California, the state’s new health insurance marketplace being set up under the requirements of the federal health law. Jones says Anthem, the state’s largest insurer, has been engaging in a “pattern” of “excessive” rate hikes.
“It simply cannot be the case that a health insurer can unreasonably gouge its small business customers and not face any consequences whatsoever,” Jones said.
Under state law, Jones can review health plan rate hikes and declare them unreasonable, but he lacks authority to block them. Continue reading →
A proposed law seeks to close the so-called “Walmart Loophole.” (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
For many businesses Obamacare is downright intimidating. The requirement to provide coverage to full-time employees or potentially face thousands of dollars in fines is what’s really worrying some large companies.
Most employees at large businesses already receive health insurance through their employer. But there are still some exceptions.
Barbara Andridge is a sales associate at a Walmart near Sacramento. She’s not sure if she’s eligible for the company’s health insurance program because her hours are all over the map — from eight hours one week up to 36 hours the next.
To qualify for company benefits she says she’d have to be working at least 30 hours per week.
“We don’t support big companies that can afford health care costs for their employees simply pushing those costs onto taxpayers.”
“I really had to sit down and think about my hours and if I’m going to have enough hours to qualify to have health care all year,” Andridge says.
With no guarantee of hours Andridge decided to enroll her six-year-old son in Medi-Cal, the government health insurance program for low-income Californians. Andridge plans to apply for herself soon as well.
Some health care advocates are concerned there will be even more employees like Andridge applying for Medi-Cal once Obamacare kicks in next year. They fear companies will limit hours for workers just to avoid having to pay for their health insurance.
“Employers should not be able to skirt their responsibility simply by exploiting a vulnerability in the law,” says Steve Smith with the California Labor Federation. Continue reading →
A federal appeals court on Friday denied a second request by California doctors, pharmacists and hospitals seeking to undo the state’s 10 percent provider rate cut for treating the poor.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal from medical providers to rehear their case, which allows Gov. Jerry Brown to begin implementing the cuts retroactively. A three-judge panel had ruled against them in December on the grounds that trial courts cannot block the state from making cuts that were approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Health providers vowed they will continue to press lawmakers to restore the 10 percent reimbursement rate cut to the state’s Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal. Continue reading →
Every 10 minutes, someone’s name is added to a waiting list — a waiting list for a new kidney, heart, lung or other organ. And every day, about 18 people die waiting.
Starting today, San Francisco’s Link TV is screening a remarkable documentary, “The Power of Two.” Twin sisters with fatal cystic fibrosis each received a double lung transplant. In the clip below, they travel to the National Donor Memorial in Richmond, VA.”In a way it was like a pilgrimage to a Mecca,” says Ana, one of the twins. “Because this is the place where our country pays tribute to all the people who have said ‘yes’ to organ donation.”
Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, announced the recipients of $37 million in education and outreach grants on Tuesday. It’s a critical step in the drive toward the full implementation of the federal health law on Jan. 1. “This program now belongs to California … and to Californians, and we have to make it work,” said Dr. Robert Ross, a Covered California board member.
The grants were awarded to 48 lead organizations, which will be supported by 226 community partner groups. They will focus on education and outreach to the 5.3 million Californians the exchange seeks to enroll, with an estimated 2.6 million of those people eligible for subsidies to help them afford insurance. Five of the recipients will target their outreach to small businesses.
Californians will be able to shop for insurance on the new marketplace starting Oct. 1, with coverage going into effect on Jan. 1. Most people must have insurance or pay a penalty. In 2014 the penalty is $95 per person or 1 percent of income (whichever is greater), and the penalty rises to $695 or 2.5 percent of income (again, whichever is greater) by 2016. Continue reading →
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been granting parents on human genes for nearly 30 years. This is the first case questioning that premise to reach the Supreme Court. At the heart of the case are two genes associated with breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA 2. People with certain mutations in these genes have a significantly higher risk for breast, ovarian and other cancers.
Opponents of patenting human genes say genes are products of nature and therefore cannot be patented. Myriad Genetics, which holds the patent on the genes, say that once genes are isolated from the body and processed they are no longer a product of nature.
The Associated Press captured the back and forth:
Justices attempted to break the argument down to an everyday level by discussing things like chocolate chip cookies, baseball bats and jungle plants.
[Gregory A.] Castanias, the Myriad lawyer, argued that the justices could think about the gene question like a baseball bat. “A baseball bat doesn’t exist until it’s isolated from a tree. But that’s still the product of human invention to decide where to begin the bat and where to end the bat,” he said.
It was four years ago this month that a new strain of flu virus was reported in Mexico and captured global attention. Ultimately, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. More than 18,000 people died in 2009 from the virus.
Now, in China, global influenza experts are watching another novel virus, H7N9. So far, nine people are sick, and three are dead. As Helen Branswell at The Canadian Press (and self-described “flu freak“) reports “those first three sick people and the genetic sequences of the flu viruses that infected them were enough to make the hairs on the backs of knowledgeable necks stand on end.”
Branswell also tweeted that case “numbers are a moving target” right now.
She lays out why flu experts are racing to determine if we’re on the brink of the second pandemic in five years in this report:
Influenza scientists always pay attention when animal flu viruses start making people sick. There is a rich soup of flu viruses in nature, most of which human immune systems have never seen. Many of those viruses, at least in theory, have the potential to trigger pandemics.
So when China notified the World Health Organization over the weekend that it had found three cases of infection with H7N9 viruses, there was immediate concern. Continue reading →