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Paid family leave coverage extended

Beginning on July 1, California's paid family leave (PFL) program will be expanded to provide benefits to workers who take time off of work to care for a seriously ill parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild or sibling. This change was prompted by the passage of Senate Bill 770, which was signed into law by Governor Brown on September 24, 2013.   Currently, PFL is only available to workers who take time off of work to care for a seriously ill child, parent, spouse or registered domestic partner, or to bond with a minor ...

House passes year-long SGR patch, includes California GPCI fix

This morning the U.S. House of Representatives passed a year-long patch to stop the Medicare 24 percent sustainable growth rate (SGR) cut on an unusual 30-second voice vote. Unable to come to an agreement on how to fund a permanent repeal of the badly broken formula, despite a bill with bipartisan, bicameral support, Congress appears poised to kick the can down the road for the 17th time in just 10 years. The California Medical Association (CMA) is extremely disappointed that Congress has been unable to find bipartisan funding sources ...

Deadline for 2013 Medi-Cal EHR incentive payments extended

The deadline for providers to apply for Medi-Cal electronic health records (EHR) incentive payments for the 2013 program year has been extended by one month to April 30, 2014. After that date, the State Level Registry (SLR) will no longer accept 2013 applications.   For the 2014 program year, providers who are attesting to adopting, implementing or upgrading certified EHRs can currently apply to the SLR for 2014 program year incentive payments. However, the SLR is currently unable to accept applications from providers attesting to meaningful use for 2014. The SLR ...

HHS develops toolkit to help physicians prepare for online communication with patients

The California Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) has developed a toolkit to help medical practices prepare for online patient communications through an electronic health record (EHR) portal, personal health record, mobile app, secure messaging or other electronic means.   Data indicates that patients who use health information technologies may be more efficient users of health care resources, better managers of their health behaviors and feel more satisfied with the health care system.   The free toolkit, "Preparing for Online Communication with Your Patients," provides checklists and worksheets to help offices collect and ...

Anti-MICRA signatures to be submitted today

Today, Consumer Watchdog and the state’s trial attorneys announced that by the end of the day they will be submitting signatures in county registrar of voters offices across the state, setting in motion a validation process that will likely land an initiative aimed at gutting California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) on the November ballot.   Under California’s constitution, parties seeking to place an initiative on the 2014 statewide ballot are required to submit slightly more than 500,000 valid signatures to registrars of voters in the counties where those signatures ...

Blue Cross experiencing problems with electronic eligibility and benefits information

The California Medical Association (CMA) has received several reports of physician offices being unable to electronically verify eligibility and benefits for Anthem Blue Cross patients. When attempting such verification, the Anthem system returned a message asking the practice to call to obtain the information. However, practices report significant hold times of one hour or more when calling for this information.   Anthem has acknowledged a system problem affected the ability of practices to electronically verify eligibility and benefits information for patients with coverage issued on or after January 1, 2014, which ...

DHCS to automate Medi-Cal provider enrollment

The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) will soon be automating its Medi-Cal provider enrollment processes. The hope is that the new system, expected to go live this fall, will improve the provider enrollment experience by minimizing errors in the application process and significantly reducing the time required to process provider enrollments.   The new enrollment system, called the Provider Application and Validation for Enrollment (PAVE) system, will be a web-based portal that providers can use to submit application and verifications and report changes.   Initially, PAVE will only be available for ...

Covered California patients have until March 31 to switch plans

Covered California patients have until March 31 to switch exchange plans if they made selections based on an inaccurate provider directory. On February 7, following numerous complaints about accuracy from both enrollees and providers, Covered California removed its provider directory from the exchange website. However, some patients had already selected plans based on inaccurate provider directory information.   CMA has received multiple inquiries from practices asking whether these patients have any options. The answer is yes. Patients can contact the Covered California’s Service Center at (800) 300-1506 to switch to a ...

CMA sponsors bill to increase primary care residency slots in California

Today is National Match Day, the day when thousands of California medical students learn whether they can begin their practice of medicine here or must move to training programs in other states. National Match Day is the day graduating medical students nationwide learn the location of their residency programs, the next step in training after four years of medical school.   Because of funding constraints, California – where significant areas of the state already face physician shortages, especially in primary care – lacks a sufficient number of primary care residency opportunities ...

Aetna seeks to terminate its proposed $120 million class settlement over use of Ingenix to underpay out-of-network claims

Late last year, Aetna, Inc. announced a proposed class settlement of up to $120 million over its use of the flawed Ingenix database. The nationwide settlement would have required Aetna to reimburse providers and Aetna PPO subscribers for losses arising from Aetna's underpayment for out-of-network medical care. A hearing had been scheduled for March 18, 2014, in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey for the court to determine whether final approval of the settlement should be granted. Less than a week before the hearing, however, Aetna notified the ...