California Healthline Daily Edition

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Public Health and Education

An Easy Screening Can Help Defuse 'Ticking Time Bomb' Of Blindness For Diabetics

An initiative in Los Angeles aims to address eye problems in diabetics before they get too bad to treat.

In other news —

The San Diego Union-Tribune: Text Messages Can Help Lower Blood Sugar Levels, Study Finds 
Text messages can help motivate Type 2 diabetics to lower their blood-sugar levels, according to a new paper that involved a researcher at the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute in La Jolla. The study randomly assigned 126 people whose blood-sugar levels were not well controlled to either of two groups — one that received standard care and another that got up to three motivational diabetes-related text messages per day. Both groups were monitored for six months. (Sisson, 6/9)

'Brain Hackers' Turning To Smart Drug To Enhance Cognitive Abilities

These drugs — nootropics — are said to improve memory, attention, creativity and motivation. But researchers say there is no evidence that the drugs help in the long-run.

The Washington Post: Tweaking Brains With ‘Smart Drugs’ To Get Ahead In Silicon Valley
George Burke has a talent for tossing back his daily cocktail — which contains vitamins, minerals, muscle-building compounds, some little-known research drugs and a microdose of LSD — in almost a single gulp. It’s a weird but handy trick for someone who swallows 25 pills a day, most of them purchases off the Internet. Burke credits the regimen with giving him the cognitive edge he needs to thrive in California’s Silicon Valley, where he’s the co-founder of a food service that caters to athletes and fitness devotees. (Solovitch, 6/11)

As Meningitis Outbreak Worsens, Officials Use Pride As Way To Get Vaccination Message Out

Health officials think the current L.A. outbreak is rooted in the gay community because 10 of the 29 infected people in Los Angeles County were either gay or bisexual men.

Los Angeles Times: Health Officials Urge Meningitis Vaccination Amid L.A. Pride Festival
Los Angeles County health officials on Friday again urged gay and bisexual men to get vaccinated against meningitis, as an outbreak that began last year continues to grow. Twenty-nine people in the county have been diagnosed with meningitis since March 2016, with the latest case identified a few weeks ago. Earlier this year, one patient died from the infection. (Karlamangla, 6/9)

In other public health news —

Los Angeles Times: With Opioid Epidemic Raging, Calls Grow For Cheaper Access To Heroin Overdose-Reversing Drug 
When the American Medical Assn.’s annual meeting convenes in Chicago on Sunday, the powerful physicians' lobby could push for government intervention to lower the price of the heroin overdose-reversing drug naloxone. A resolution written by a Michigan doctor and three medical students notes the skyrocketing cost of the drug — a two­-pack of auto-­injecting syringes went from $690 in 2014 to more than $4,000 this year, while other forms of the drug have doubled in price — and calls on lawmakers and regulators to increase public access to affordable naloxone. (Keilman, 6/10)

KPBS: Fighting Obesity: What We Learned From The Battle On Smoking 
Tobacco’s reputation as an appetite suppressant is also well known. One study published in the journal Science found that receptors in nicotine activate neurons, which reduce food intake and body weight... All of this makes anti-smoking advocates nervous, since the message seems to be if you want to lose weight, smoking will help you do it. (Fudge, 6/9)

Hospital Roundup

New $305M Wing For Ventura County Medical Center To Open In July

It includes facilities for general care, intensive care, labor and delivery, imaging, surgery and pediatric intensive care, in addition to an emergency department.

Ventura County Star: Ventura County Medical Center Unveils New Wing
After years of planning and construction, the dream of opening Ventura County Medical Center's new multimillion dollar north tower wing became a reality amid much fanfare Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. More than 150 hospital officials and staff members, law enforcement employees, county supervisors and city officials gathered in front of the 122-bed wing at 300 Hillmont Ave. in Ventura to celebrate the highly anticipated public unveiling of the $305 million project. (Hernandez, 6/9)

Around California

Sonoma County Sees Nearly 20 Percent Spike In Child Abuse And Neglect Cases

Drug and alcohol abuse were a factor in 42 percent of the 2,220 cases investigated last year by the county’s Child Protective Services.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Cases Of Child Abuse And Neglect Up 17 Percent In Sonoma County 
The number of child abuse or neglect cases in Sonoma County rose 17 percent last year, with drug abuse and mental health issues playing an increasing role in destabilizing at-risk families, according to county data. The 569 confirmed cases of abuse or neglect last year — up from 487 in 2015 — nearly matched the county’s five-year high. The number of children removed from their homes and placed into foster care rose from 208 in 2015 to 263 last year. (Espinoza, 6/9)

In other news from across the state —

Modesto Bee: Modesto Doctor Who Treated Premature Infants Surrenders License Over Alcoholism Charge 
Dr. Frederick Mattson Murphy, a former stalwart for Doctors Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit in Modesto, surrendered his medical license in August following a California Medical Board accusation that he suffered from alcoholism, the Modesto Bee has learned... A Medical Board order said Murphy chose to surrender his license rather than going through the expense of contesting the allegations and agreed the factual basis for the charges could be established at a hearing. (Carlson, 6/10)

KPCC: Helping Girls In Juvenile Detention Get Medical, Psychiatric Help
L.A. County is expanding its use of a screening tool designed to identify the most pressing medical and mental health needs of girls in the juvenile justice system... The pilot phase of the program revealed that of the 331 girls screened, 10 percent had experienced sexual assault, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. (Faust, 6/9)

Sacramento Bee: Students Use Art As Activism At California State Capitol 
Members of Brown Issues, Fathers and Family of San Joaquin County, and We’Ced Youth Media painted puzzle pieces of what “We Are All Californians” meant to them and then assembled them Tuesday at the Capitol into the shape of the bear on the California flag. All members are active participants in the California Endowment’s #Health4All campaign that aims to raise awareness that undocumented immigrants lack affordable health care in California. (Marks, 6/9)

Los Angeles Times: County Officials Conducting Health Survey Among Neighbors Of Former Battery-Recycling Plant
Hundreds of Los Angeles County health officials and volunteers went door to door Saturday conducting health surveys of residents who live around a shuttered battery-recycling plant near downtown, which is blamed for decades of lead emissions spread across seven southeast communities. The group’s efforts are focused on residents who live within a 1.7 mile radius of the former Exide Technologies battery plant in Vernon, organizers said. The targeted neighborhoods are in Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood, East Los Angeles, Huntington Park and Vernon. (Khan and Lozano, 6/10)

National Roundup

McConnell's Gloomy Attitude Over Health Law Has Some Wondering If Larger Strategy Is At Play

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been downplaying the chances the Republicans' legislation has of passing the Senate. But some think his reserved comments might be all part of the game. In other news about the efforts: lawmakers begin to see a path they can take; a look at how the measure could affect middle- and working-class Americans; Twitter cheers on Sen. Claire McCaskill and more.

The Wall Street Journal: McConnell’s Reserved Approach On Health Bill Leaves Lawmakers Guessing
Before he began clicking through a PowerPoint presentation on Republican health-care options this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a private warning to his Senate Republicans: If they failed to pass legislation unwinding the Affordable Care Act, Democrats could regain power and establish a single-payer health-care system. Mr. McConnell (R., Ky.) has been nearly as downcast in his public comments about Senate Republicans’ chances of passing sweeping legislation to overhaul the country’s health-care system. (Peterson, Armour and Radnofsky, 6/9)

The Associated Press: GOP's Pursuit Of Health Care Overhaul Comes With Risks
Republicans are taking a big political risk on health care. They're trying to scale back major benefit programs being used by millions of people. And they're trying to do it even though much of the public is leery of drastic changes, and there's no support outside the GOP. It's not stopping them. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 6/12)

The Hill: Senate GOP Sees Path To ObamaCare Repeal
A path is emerging for Senate Republicans to pass their ObamaCare repeal bill, even though there are major obstacles ahead. Critically, Senate moderates are indicating that they can agree to ending the additional federal funds for ObamaCare's expansion of Medicaid, albeit on a slower timetable than other Republicans want. A compromise on Medicaid funding would remove one of the biggest obstacles for the bill. (Sullivan, 6/11)

The New York Times: Flexibility That A.C.A. Lent To Work Force Is Threatened By G.O.P. Plan
In recent years, millions of middle- and working-class Americans have moved from job to job, some staying with one company for shorter stints or shifting careers midstream. The Affordable Care Act has enabled many of those workers to get transitional coverage that provides a bridge to the next phase of their lives — a stopgap to get health insurance if they leave a job, are laid off, start a business or retire early. (Abelson, 6/11)

The Hill: GOP Looks To Blunt Impact Of Health Bill On Older People
GOP senators are trying to strike a balance that’s proving difficult: lowering healthcare insurance premiums for young adults while shielding older people from massive price hikes. At issue is an ObamaCare provision that essentially caps how much insurers can charge older people for premiums. Republicans want to raise that cap, saying it vastly undercharges older people for their healthcare services, creating higher costs for younger, healthier adults. (Hellmann, 6/11)

Bloomberg: Cruz Goes From ‘Lucifer’ To Dealmaker In Health-Care Overhaul 
The first-term senator from Texas is seeking to unite warring wings of the Republican Party around an effort to kill Obamacare and is showing a new willingness to compromise with colleagues to devise a replacement plan. It’s a significant departure for the formerly obstructionist [Ted] Cruz, who lost the Republican presidential contest to Donald Trump and has long had icy relations with other lawmakers. Cruz once called Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor, and former Republican House Speaker John Boehner once called Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh” and the most “miserable son of a bitch” he had ever worked with. His most notable legislative accomplishment so far has been to help force a shutdown of the government for 16 days in 2013 in an unsuccessful effort to strip funding from Obamacare. (Dennis, 6/12)

Kansas City Star: Twitter Reacts To Claire McCaskill Tirade About GOP Health Plan
In a three-minute scolding during a Senate Finance Committee meeting, McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, dressed down committee chairman Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, for what McCaskill called a legislative process even more partisan than what transpired during passage of the Affordable Care Act. ... By mid-morning Friday her remarks had triggered more than 12,000 retweets on Twitter. (Montgomery, 6/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate GOP Plans To Strip Planned Parenthood Funding In Health Bill
Senate Republicans plan to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood Federation of America and add several other abortion restrictions to their health-insurance overhaul bill, creating another potential concern for centrist GOP senators who are considering whether to back the legislation. Republican leaders believe they have the votes to keep the defunding measure in any final Senate bill, people familiar with the discussions said, though they still could remove it should that be the deciding factor in the bill’s passage. (Hackman, 6/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Opioid Crisis Complicates GOP’s Health-Law Push
The nation’s worsening opioid crisis has become another sticking point in Republican plans to dismantle major portions of the Affordable Care Act, with key GOP senators hesitating to support a bill that could threaten addiction treatment for millions of people. Several provisions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, allowed millions of Americans seeking substance-abuse treatment to gain coverage, including through an expansion of the Medicaid health program for the poor. But the House bill repealing the ACA, passed in early May, would roll back that Medicaid expansion beginning in 2020 and allow insurance companies to charge some people with drug addictions higher premiums or deny them substance-abuse coverage. (Nunn, 6/11)

During Its Move To Electronic Records, Medicare Erroneously Paid $729M To Health Professionals

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should review its incentive payments, recoup any money erroneously paid and do more to scrutinize spending, the inspector general audit recommended.

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Erroneously Paid Millions In Electronic Records Push, Audit Finds
Medicare erroneously paid an estimated $729 million to doctors and other health professionals under a multibillion-dollar federal initiative designed to shift the health-care system from paper records to computer files, according to a new federal audit. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, which conducted the audit, said Medicare, over a three-year period, improperly paid health professionals who vouched they earned bonus payments under the initiative, but who either lacked required proof or failed to meet bonus criteria. (Evans, 6/12)

In other national health care news —

The New York Times: States Lead The Fight Against Trump’s Birth Control Rollback
Not long after President Trump took the oath of office, a busload of women’s health advocates made the first of a series of 860-mile round trips from Las Vegas to the Nevada capital, Carson City. Their mission: to push state legislators to expand insurance coverage for contraception. It worked. On Saturday, Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada, a Republican, signed a measure requiring insurers to cover 12 months of birth control at a time, with no co-payment. (Stolberg, 6/9)

The New York Times: Seizing On Opioid Crisis, A Drug Maker Lobbies Hard For Its Product
The ads have been popping up on billboards, buses and subways and in glossy magazines, with portraits of attractive men and women and a simple question in bold letters: What is Vivitrol? Five years ago, Vivitrol was a treatment for opioid addiction that was struggling to find a market. Now, its sales and profile are rising fast, thanks to its manufacturers’ shrewd use of political connections, and despite scant science to prove the drug’s efficacy. (Goodnough and Zernike, 6/11)

Modern Healthcare: Amazon Poised To Deliver Disruption In Medical Supply Industry 
Amazon is on the healthcare industry's doorstep. The e-commerce giant continues to transform virtually every segment of the economy as it leverages its massive distribution network to deliver logistical harmony. With a stronghold on the consumer market, Amazon is eying the business-to-business segment as it builds its seller base. Soon, that familiar smiling brown box will make its way from porches to providers' front doors and that may make for some disgruntled medical supply distributors. Since launching two years ago, more than 45,000 sellers have signed on to the Amazon Business platform, which essentially serves as the middleman for third-party vendors. (Kacik, 6/10)

NPR: Will Baby Boxes Really Keep Children Safer?
When Maisha Watson heard about baby boxes, her first reaction was: "Why would I want to put my baby in a box?" She was talking with Marcia Virgil — "Miss Marcia" to her clients — a family support worker with the Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative. True, it's a cardboard box, Miss Marcia told her. But it's also a safe place for a baby to sleep: It comes with a firm mattress and a snug sheet, in line with American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations meant to protect against sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. (Pao, 6/12)