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Legislature passes Medi-Cal expansion bills

March 7, 2013

By Daniel Weintraub

The Legislature today took a major step toward approving a massive expansion of the state’s Medi-Cal program as part of the federal health reform known as the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate and Assembly each passed similar versions of legislation that would extend Medi-Cal benefits to more than 1 million low-income Californians, at least half of whom have no reliable coverage today.

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Court ruling opens door to big changes in health care

July 1, 2012
By Daniel Weintraub The Supreme Court decision last week upholding President Barack Obama's health reform law clears the way for a transformation in the way millions of Californians will get their health insurance, and, ultimately, their care. For the shrinking number of people who still receive insurance coverage as a benefit from their employers – mostly at big companies – the changes will be gradual at first, though still significant. And despite assurances from Obama, it is still not clear that most people will be able to keep the coverage they have today. But for individuals who do not have insurance because they are unemployed, self-employed or working in places that do not offer health benefits, the change will be dramatic, fast and probably to their liking.

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UnitedHealth pledges to keep some reforms in place

June 11, 2012
For all the angst over the federal health reform that has come to be known as "ObamaCare," many of its provisions are hardly controversial, and some are quite popular. The idea of federal intervention in health care scares people a lot more than the specifics that are in law. Thus it should not be much of a surprise that UnitedHealth Group -- the nation's largest health insurer -- announced today that it will keep several of those provisions in place even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the law later this month. Taking them away from consumers who have them now would be a major public relations headache.

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Clinics Prepare for Onslaught of Patients

June 6, 2012
Clinics Prepare for Onslaught of Patients By Genevieve Bookwalter As federal health care reform promises insurance for tens of thousands of Santa Clara County residents, local health clinics are scrambling to prepare for the expected onslaught in demand.

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Little Clinic, Huge Heart

May 10, 2012
By Jessica Portner Dr. Dimitri Sirakoff, the founder and medical director of Serve the People Health Center, rushed around his small, bright clinic tucked into an office complex in Santa Ana one recent afternoon. Whipping around in his white-coat and clutching charts in hand, the doctor has the impatient demeanor of a man on a mission. Sirakoff started this clinic with a skeleton staff because he saw in his own private practice a great need to serve the community of poor, low-income, and primarily Latino patients in Santa Ana who could not afford health care.

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Low-income Californians fear health reform won’t deliver for them

August 16, 2011
As President Barack Obama struggles to implement -- and defend -- the health care reform he signed last year, he is finding that the public does not understand how the program is supposed to work, and based on what they do know, many voters doubt the overhaul will help them in the end. It turns out this is true not only for middle class voters who already have insurance but, at least in California, also for low-income, uninsured people for whom the new law holds the most promise. Many of them are confused about the law's details and fear it could make their ability to access care, often portrayed as desperate, even worse. And the centerpiece of the law -- the so-called "individual mandate" requiring everyone to obtain insurance coverage, seems to be no less controversial among the poor than it is among middle-income and affluent people.

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3.4 million Californians would get coverage through federal reform

January 5, 2011
About 3.4 million Californians who would otherwise be without health insurance will have coverage by 2016 if the federal health reform approved last year is implemented on schedule, according to new research published in the journal Health Affairs. The boost in coverage would mean that 96 percent of Californians under age 65 who are legal residents in the U.S. would have some form of private or public health insurance, according to the article, by Peter Long, president and chief executive officer of the Blue Shield of California Foundation, and Jonathan Gruber, a health economics expert and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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New rules require insurers to justify rate increases

December 21, 2010
The Obama Administration has rolled out new rules requiring health insurers to justify any annual rate increases of more than 10 percent. The proposed regulations, unveiled Tuesday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, represent an escalation of federal involvement in a field historically left to the states.

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Republicans will find it harder to repeal health reform than it was to campaign against it

November 3, 2010
Newly ascended Republicans in Congress say one of their first goals will be to repeal the health care reform law Democrats in Congress and President Barack Obama enacted in March. But that task is likely to prove more difficult than they believe, or at least harder than Republican politicians are letting on to their supporters. The bill's parts, it appears, are far more popular than the idea of a big, federally engineered overhaul of health care. See Daniel Weintraub's analysis.

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State opens new plan for people denied health coverage

October 25, 2010
California opened the doors Monday on the first major piece of federal health reform to roll out here, a new state-run insurance pool for people who have been denied or priced out of private coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.

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