Today’s Headlines ▶

Twenty major companies, including American Express, Verizon, Coca-Cola and HCA have joined the newly-launched Health Transformation Alliance to combine data on the population health of their employees, and potentially flex their muscle with insurance companies and big pharma, according to Tevi Troy, president of the American Health Policy Institute. MORE
Peter Lee said UnitedHealth made a series of blunders on rates and networks that led to a $475 million loss last year. MORE
The last-minute surge lifted the total enrollment in Obamacare to 12.7 million this year, accounting for 9.6 million consumers enrolled or re-enrolled for coverage through Healthcare.gov and the 3.1 million people who selected plans through the state-based marketplaces. MORE
Stung by losses under the federal health law, major insurers are seeking to sharply limit how policies are sold to individuals in ways that consumer advocates say seem to illegally discriminate against the sickest and could hold down future enrollment. MORE
Pennsylvania-based Independence Blue Cross' announcement that it will cover a complex type of genetic testing for some cancer patients thrusts the insurer into an ongoing debate about how to handle an increasing array of these expensive tests. MORE
North Carolina's average premium increases on the Obamacare exchange are among the highest in the country, according to federal data. The Obama administration warned this open enrollment period, which closes Jan. 31, could be particularly tough because many of the sickest, and therefore most motivated, people already bought plans. MORE
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has proposed new rules it expects will expand access to analysis and data that helps employers and providers make more informed decisions about care delivery. MORE
For some people -- especially those who are young, healthy and don't qualify for a tax credit from Covered California or other health insurance exchange -- short-term plans might make financial sense, even though they don't shield you from the Obamacare tax penalty. MORE
Health insurer Centene this week said the loss of six hard drives with health information in 950,000 beneficiaries was a result of an employee error. MORE
Hospitals and payers benefit from Medicaid expansion, according to an attorney who formerly directed the Medicaid program for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. MORE
With the final January 31 deadline for open enrollment looming, close to 9 million consumers have signed up for healthcare coverage through the marketplace, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. MORE
A longstanding barrier to improving quality and reducing costs of care for Medicare-Medicaid enrollees has been a lack of alignment and cohesiveness between the two programs, including misaligned incentives for payers and providers, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. MORE
Deficiencies found in an audit of Cigna-HealthSpring operations has prompted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to temporarily bar Cigna from enrolling new customers to its Medicare Advantage and stand-alone prescription drug plans, and from marketing efforts, according to CMS. MORE
Unlike insurance sold to individuals and small businesses through online marketplaces, large employers are not required to offer a list of "essential health benefits."  MORE
Health insurer Centene Corp. on Monday said it has lost six hard drives containing the health information of about 950,000 beneficiaries. MORE
Open enrollment for week 11 ended with close to 400,000 consumers signing up for healthcare coverage, a number four times greater than the week before, according to figures from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. MORE
Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller was the latest state official to propose protections for healthcare consumers against surprise balance bills, when she announced new measures on Tuesday. MORE
Thirty-five percent more people than last year have enrolled for their employer-sponsored healthcare benefits on private online marketplaces, according to a new report from global consulting and technology firm Accenture. MORE
Driven by a $720 million loss on its individual exchange product, UnitedHealth Group on Tuesday reported a $6.8 billion profit in 2015, down $238 million over its 2014 profit. MORE
As the third open enrollment period winds down on the health insurance marketplaces, one thing hasn't changed much since the online exchanges opened: It's still often hard to find out whether a plan covers abortion services. MORE
Even with subsidies to make coverage more affordable, many people who buy health insurance on the marketplaces spend more than 10 percent of their income on premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket payments, a recent study found. Among those hit hardest, the researchers said, are people who spend nearly a quarter of their income on health care expenses. MORE
For people whose income changes shift them above or below the Medicaid threshold during the year, navigating their health insurance coverage can be confusing. Ditto for lower income people who live in states that may expand Medicaid this year. MORE
The rate of Hispanic children without health insurance fell to a historic low in 2014, the first year that key parts of Obamacare took effect, but they still represent a disproportionate share of the nation's uninsured youth, according to a new study. MORE
About 15 state attorneys general have joined the U.S. Department of Justice probe into two large insurance mergers that would reduce the number of big players from five to three, according to Reuters. MORE
Acting Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Andy Slavitt on Tuesday shocked many in healthcare when he laid out an aggressive timeline to replace the meaningful use program, a electronic health records mandate and incentive program that healthcare providers put millions into. MORE
Louisiana has adopted Medicaid expansion, making it the 32nd state, including the District of Columbia, to take on the Affordable Care Act initiative. MORE
The momentum of open enrollment continued to wind down, with growth of less than 75,000 consumers in week 10, from January 3 to January 9, 2016. MORE
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday announced the 21 health systems that are participating in the Next Generation Accountable Care Organization model, some having defected from the controversial Pioneer ACO program. MORE
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center was surprisingly not among the list of 21 health systems joining the Next Generation Accountable Care Organization model released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday. MORE
For decades, if someone on Medicaid wanted to get treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, they almost always had to rely solely on money from state and local sources. Now the federal government is considering chipping in, too. The agency that governs Medicaid is proposing to cover 15 days of inpatient rehab per month for anyone enrolled in a Medicaid managed care plan, but critics say 15 days isn't long enough. MORE
Investors are gathering in San Francisco this week for the annual J.P. Morgan healthcare conference, the sector's biggest financial event and one where many biotech deals are expected to be announced. MORE
Standard & Poor's has warned Anthem, Cigna and Aetna that the substantial debt needed to finance the proposed mergers between them may cause their credit ratings to fall. MORE
Aetna will leave America's Health Insurance Plans, becoming the second major insurer to leave the industry's largest trade group, according to a statement from the insurer. MORE
From Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, 83,297 consumers made plan selections, according to CMS. MORE
West Virginia hospitals are savings millions annually thanks to declines in uncompensated care due to Medicaid expansion, according to figures released by advocacy group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. MORE
Health insurers in several big cities will take some pain out of doctor visits this year -- the financial kind. They'll offer free visits to primary care doctors in their networks. You read that right. Doctor visits without copays. Or coinsurance. And no expensive deductible to pay off first. Free. MORE
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and other organizations representing Medicare Advantage plans that serve low income and disabled populations say two options for interim relief on star quality ratings do not go far enough to address how socioeconomics affect scores. MORE
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and Tenet Healthcare have come to a four-year deal that allows Carondelet Health Network and Abrazo Community Health Network to remain part of the local network in 2016, according to the local Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. MORE
Health plans reimbursed customers approximately $478 million in 2014, translating to about $129 per family receiving a refund, according to data aggregation firm Mark Farrah Associates. MORE
Six million renew plans while 2.5 million are newly insured through marketplace. MORE
A pre-authorization process for certain medical supplies has worked to bring down costs in sample studies and will help prevent questionable billing practices.  MORE
The state of Maryland is proposing significant changes to how its Medicaid system doles out cash to methadone treatment clinics.  MORE
Saint Peter's sued Horizon over what it said was its wrongful exclusion. MORE
The Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, which was recently passed, will hold Medicare reimbursement rates steady for freestanding radiation oncology centers. Additionally, two providers listed as B3 stable, 21st Century Oncology and Vantage Oncology, will see their 2016 rates hold steady for 2017-18, according to a report from Moody's Investor Service. MORE
Men are getting more screening colonoscopies since the health law reduced how much Medicare beneficiaries pay out of pocket for the preventive tests, a recent study found. The change, however, didn't affect women's rates. MORE
Close to 6 million people selected plans through HealthCare.gov, a marked increase over last year when an estimated 3.4 million signed up, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That includes a notable uptick in enrollment for those under 35. MORE
UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum will buy the administrative support services for ProHealth Physicians, one of Connecticut's largest independent physician groups. MORE
Two professional organizations representing emergency doctors warn that a new federal rule could lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for consumers when they need emergency care outside their health plan's network of providers. But consumer advocates and health policy experts say the groups' proposed solution doesn't adequately protect consumers. MORE
Despite advice to shop around before selecting a plan, consumers may find that getting answers about drug coverage can be an exercise in frustration, despite a federal health law requirement that insurers provide lists of the prescription medications included in their plans. MORE
As prescription drugs prices continue to drive up healthcare spending, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is creating a new online dashboard to increase transparency and address affordability. MORE

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