California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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California Healthline Original Stories

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Covered California & The Health Law

Rep. Knight, At Town Hall, Vows To Fight For Coverage Of Preexisting Conditions

Republican Rep. Steve Knight also said he wants to protect Medicare.

Ventura County Star: Knight Town Hall Brings Out Big, Loud Crowd In Simi Valley
In a Rancho Santa Susana Community Center packed to its 338-seat capacity, people shouted out questions and opinions about the environment, Trump’s tax returns, gun control and, more than anything else, health care ... [Steve] Knight, R-Lancaster, said he wanted to keep Medicare strong. He said one of his concerns about the failed Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act was the possibility of increased costs for people ages 50 to 64, not yet qualified for Medicare. During many of his answers to questions about his opposition to the Affordable Care Act and other hot-button issues, the crowd hooted. Some people heckled him. (Kisken and Harris, 4/18)

Hospital Roundup

Safety Report Card Grim For Nearly Half Of California Hospitals

After steady improvement in recent years, California hospitals slipped in last week’s Leapfrog report card, with 46 percent of hospitals earning a C or lower.

California Healthline: California Hospitals Lose Ground In Quality Of Care, Report Card Shows
Nearly half of California hospitals received a grade of C or lower for patient safety on a national report card aimed at prodding medical centers to do more to prevent injuries and deaths. The Leapfrog Group, an employer-backed nonprofit group focused on health care quality, issued its latest scores last week. The report card is part of an effort to make consumers and employers aware of how their hospitals perform on key quality measures, so they can make better-informed health care decisions. The scores are updated twice a year, in spring and fall. (Terhune, 4/18)

In other hospital news —

KBAK: Local Hospitals Work To Fight Human Trafficking 
Three hospitals in Bakersfield are trying to fight human trafficking by watching for possible victims among their patients. The Dignity Health hospital chain is training all their staff on warning signs, officials say. At Memorial Hospital, seven victims have already been identified. "We, as health care providers, are the first line of defense that they come in contact with, and so we are the first line of protection," Jenny Wilson told Eyewitness News. She's the director of nursing operations at Memorial, and she says it's important that health care workers have the education to spot the warning signs and red flags. (Ferguson, 4/18)


Theranos Agrees To Full Refunds For All Of Its Arizona Customers

The settlement, the second in two days to hit the troubled blood-testing startup, will cost the company about $4.65 million.

The Associated Press: Theranos Agrees To Pay $4.65 Million In Arizona Refunds
Embattled blood testing company Theranos, Inc. has agreed to pay $4.65 million to cover full refunds for every Arizona customer who used the company's testing services, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Tuesday. The settlement with the Palo Alto, California-based company covers more than 175,000 Arizonans who paid for blood tests between 2013 and the suspension of Theranos services last year, Brnovich said. (4/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Arizona Attorney General Reaches Settlement With Theranos
The pact is the second legal settlement in two days involving claims that Theranos had faulty blood-testing technology or lab practices. On Monday, Theranos resolved regulatory and legal matters with federal health regulators after the company and its founder Elizabeth Holmes agreed to stay out of the medical-lab business for two years. Theranos has said it has shifted its focus to developing lab equipment to sell to other companies rather than doing tests itself. (Weaver, 4/18)

San Francisco Business Times: Theranos Settles With Government 
Theranos’ value has fallen to almost nothing from a high of $9 billion after a series of Wall Street Journal articles in 2016 detailed how its blood testing equipment — touted to work with just a prick of a finger — was unreliable and produced inaccurate results. (4/18)

Public Health and Education

Agency Needs To Do More To Control Mosquito Population, Grand Jury Finds

Orange County has experienced an epidemic of mosquito-borne illnesses in recent years.

Orange County Register: Zika Virus Could Be ‘Major Concern’ In Orange County In 5-8 Years Without Proper Mosquito Abatement, Grand Jury Says 
The spread of the Zika virus, which can cause birth defects, could be a “major concern” within five to eight years in Orange County, according to an Orange County grand jury report published Tuesday, April 18. To make sure that doesn’t happen, the report noted, the government agency charged with mosquito abatement needs to do more to help quash breeding grounds to prevent future Zika transmission. (Graham, 4/18)

In other public health news —

Sacramento Bee: Disabled Placards For Thousands Of Dead Californians Part Of Program Abuse 
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles needs to significantly beef up efforts to prevent fraud and abuse in the state’s disabled person placard program, a new state audit recommends, noting that officials accept applications lacking required medical documentation, issue too many duplicates, and fail to cancel the placards of people who have died. Almost 3 million people had disabled placards or special license plates as of June 2016, according to Tuesday’s Bureau of State Audits report. (Miller, 4/18)

Around California

Dental Clinic At Heart Of Bacterial Outbreak Gets Permission To Reopen

The clinic will no longer use tap water when performing the procedure, which led to nearly 70 children being hospitalized. It will instead use bottled, sterile water.

In other news from across the state —

National Roundup

Insurers Press CMS For Reassurance On Subsidies, But Leave Meeting Empty-Handed

The "insurer bailouts" have been a Republican target for years, but their future has become even more uncertain after President Donald Trump said he may use them as a bargaining chip to get Democrats to the table to negotiate over health care. Meanwhile, Trump continues to take an optimistic tone over Republican health care efforts, and UnitedHealth, a bellwether for the industry, reports a rise in profits after cutting back on Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

Politico: Trump Issues Bold New Promises On Health Care, Tax, Infrastructure
President Donald Trump on Tuesday promised big wins in the next stretch of his administration, glossing past the reality that the political newcomer will celebrate his first 100 days without a major legislative victory. In a speech that could be seen as a messaging test for that milestone, Trump hailed the opening days of his administration as a wild success and pledged to quickly deliver on health care, tax reform and infrastructure. (McCaskill, 4/18)

The Associated Press: UnitedHealth 1Q Profit Soars As ACA Business Shrinks
UnitedHealth's first-quarter profit soared 35 percent as the nation's biggest health insurer slashed participation in Affordable Care Act exchanges but grew just about every other part of its business. The insurer also hiked its 2017 earnings forecast on Tuesday, and company shares started climbing shortly after it detailed results. (4/18)

In other national health care news —

The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Latest Pick For Mental-Health Post Has Helped Prosecutors Secure Convictions
The Trump administration is struggling to fill a top mental-health post, a job created last year to coordinate the efforts of far-flung federal agencies. The assistant secretary position in the Department of Health and Human Services was first offered to a Florida judge, but the offer was withdrawn due to his lack of a medical background, according to people familiar with the matter. A second candidate had broad support but pulled out. Now a leading contender is Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who has testified for the prosecution in numerous high-profile criminal cases, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the process including Dr. Welner himself. He faces opposition for some controversial positions. (Hackman, 4/18)

ProPublica: Secret Hospital Inspections May Become Public At Last
The public could soon get a look at confidential reports about errors, mishaps and mix-ups in the nation's hospitals that put patients' health and safety at risk, under a groundbreaking proposal from federal health officials. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants to require that private health care accreditors publicly detail problems they find during inspections of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as the steps being taken to fix them. Nearly nine in 10 hospitals are directly overseen by those accreditors, not the government. (Ornstein, 4/18)

Stat: How Drug Use Changes The Brain — And Makes Relapse All Too Common
The opioid epidemic ravaging the United States has brought new impetus to understanding how addiction hijacks the brain. More and more, scientists are shifting their focus to what’s going on in the brain after people like Mooney go off drugs. Their quest has unveiled a troubling picture: Repeated drug use leads to long-term changes to the brain. Some of those changes, new research suggests, might be hard to reverse and might even intensify right after withdrawal, explaining why it is so hard to stay off drugs. (Wesphal, 4/19)

Stat: Deterring Drug Abuse, Starting With The Vial
In a summit full of addiction experts, each looking for the next big solution to curb opioid abuse, everything from treatment policies to the containers holding prescription pills are being considered. Owners of several drug supply companies say prescription vials holding drugs have done little to slow the nation’s epidemic. With seven out of 10 people who abuse prescription opioids getting drugs from a friend or family member’s medicine cabinet, some medical entrepreneurs are pushing security measures from locks to iPhone alerts as a way to deter drug abuse. (Blau, 4/19)