California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Hospital Roundup

Hospital's Superbug Outbreak Calls Into Question New Prevention Plan

Some wonder if the regulations hospitals have adopted to avoid the outbreaks are actually doing more harm than good.

Los Angeles Times: UCI Doctor’s Plan To Stop Superbugs Is Widely Used. At Her Own Hospital, It Didn’t Work
By the end of December, a lethal bacterium had swept through UC Irvine Medical Center’s intensive care unit, sickening seven infants. Dr. Susan Huang, the hospital’s infection control expert, had a plan. The strategy — which she had promoted so successfully that most U.S. hospitals now use it — included bathing all infants in the ICU with a powerful disinfectant, and swabbing inside their noses with an antibiotic. But this time, the plan failed. (Petersen, 5/16)

In other hospital news —

The Bakersfield Californian: Radiologists Perform First-Of-Its-Kind Liver Cancer Treatment At San Joaquin Community Hospital, Marking A Milestone For Kern County 
Imagine a microcatheter as skinny as a needle. Now imagine threading that through an artery the diameter of a spaghetti noodle. That’s the precision required for a procedure interventional radiologists at San Joaquin Community Hospital performed on a 70-year-old man last week called radioembolization. It’s an intervention treatment for liver cancer that stops or slows the growth of a tumor, buying patients more time to wait on transplant lists, and in some cases, making them candidates for surgery to have the tumor removed entirely.  The procedure has been performed in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other large U.S. cities, but when doctors at San Joaquin Community Hospital finished last week, it marked a milestone for Kern County, hospital officials said. (Pierce, 5/16)

Sacramento Watch

Lawmaker Wants Californians To Take Values 'To The Streets' With Pro-Abortion License Plate

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson's bill to create the license plate is moving through the Legislature. The money from it would raise funds for the Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment Program, which provides family planning services to 1.8 million Californians every year.

The Mercury News: Designs Unveiled For California’s Proposed Pro-Choice License Plate
Incensed by federal anti-abortion policies mapped out by President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress, a California legislator is helping to steer a new course with a proposed “pro-choice” license plate. State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and NARAL Pro-Choice California on Monday unveiled three designs for a “California Trusts Women” plate that could be created through Jackson’s Senate Bill 309, which is now moving through the state Legislature...The license plate would cost $50 in the first year and less in subsequent years. It would raise funds for the Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment Program, which provides family planning services to 1.8 million Californians every year. (Seipel, 5/16)

Public Health and Education

Program Aims To Train Potential Bystanders To Become First Responders In Emergencies

In situations where minutes could make the difference between life and death, there's not always time to wait for the professionals.

The Mercury News: Trauma Packs In Public Places: A Coming Sign Of The Times? 
Minutes matter when someone’s bleeding to death, and Santa Clara County doctors are involved in a national push born from mass casualty events that aim to educate residents on how to best serve as an unexpected first responder. It’s similar to efforts to teach people how to properly use defibrillators or perform CPR, although in blood-loss situations that might make the squeamish blanch. While the genesis of the program was in the shadow of Columbine, Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon bombing, the techniques are also well suited to an accident on the road, at home or in the workplace that has someone losing copious amounts of blood. (Kurhi, 5/16)

Around California

Stomach Bug Outbreak Sweeping Through Area Schools

Dr. George Han, Santa Clara County’s deputy public health director, says the number of affected is higher than usual, but the illness is still mild.

The Mercury News: Santa Clara County Reports Outbreak Of Stomach Flu 
Santa Clara County public health officials on Tuesday confirmed an outbreak of viral gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, in at least a dozen schools around the county, forcing some schools to cancel all non-instructional events this week — and possibly beyond. The outbreak follows outbreaks of a similar illness called norovirus that have occurred recently around the state, including in Northern California’s Yolo County, where at least 1,000 students, teachers and staff were sickened by norovirus this month. Since January, San Mateo County has reported only a handful of norovirus cases. (Seipel, 5/16)

In other news from across the state —

Sacramento Bee: Botulism Outbreak From Gas Station Nacho Cheese Prompts Lawsuit 
Sacramento County health officials have confirmed five cases of botulism in patients who ate at the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station, and are investigating three other probable cases and one suspect case, with all nine patients still hospitalized. Officials believe the outbreak is linked to nacho cheese sauce that was served at the station, but the exact cause of the poisoning is still under investigation, officials said. (Caiola, 5/16)

Orange County Register: Portable Toilets For Homeless Moved To Anaheim Site On Santa Ana River Trail, But Likely To Be Moved Again
Three portable toilets installed without permits for use by homeless people living along the Santa Ana River bike trail are now a health and safety concern for Anaheim and won’t be allowed to remain on city property, a city spokesman said Tuesday, May 16. The toilets, purchased and installed by homeless advocates over the weekend, were initially placed at a spot near Rampart Street and Orangewood Avenue that falls under county jurisdiction, an action that a county spokesperson on Monday, May 15, said was unauthorized. (Walker, 5/16)

KPBS: Many Canned Foods Still Contain Toxic Chemical 
A new report from the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found many canned foods still contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that has been linked to birth defects and cancer. The center tested more than 250 cans of food from major retailers in nine states, including California and New York. (Goldberg, 5/17)

National Roundup

Who's To Blame For Premium Spikes This Year? Well, There's Enough To Go Around

Insurers are still trying to overcome financial difficulties they've had under the Affordable Care Act, but uncertainty on the future of the marketplace due to turmoil in Washington, D.C., hasn't helped either. Meanwhile, even if President Donald Trump follows through on his threats to stop the "insurer bailouts" it could actually make plans more affordable.

The Associated Press: More Health Insurance Woes Looming: Blame Trump Or Obama?
Another year of big premium increases and dwindling choice is looking like a distinct possibility for many consumers who buy their own health insurance — but why, and who’s to blame? President Donald Trump has seized on early market rumbles as validation of his claim that “Obamacare” is a disaster, collapsing of its own weight. Democrats, meanwhile, accuse Trump of “sabotage” on a program he’s disparaged and wants to dismantle. It’s more complicated, say some independent experts. As for blame, there’s enough to go around. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 5/17)

NPR: Trump Plan To End Insurance Subsidies Could Lower Costs For Consumers
President Trump has been saying in recent weeks that the Affordable Care act, or Obamacare, is "dead." So he's threatened to cut off crucial payments to health insurance companies that help low-income customers pay day to day health care expenses. That plan, however, may just end up bringing more people into the Affordable Care Act insurance markets. (Kodjak, 5/16)

In other health law news —

The Hill: Study: 6M With Pre-Existing Conditions Could Be Charged More Under GOP Plan
More than 6 million people with pre-existing conditions could face higher insurance premiums under the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill because of gaps in coverage, according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Under the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which narrowly passed the House last month, states would be allowed to waive the community rating provision of ObamaCare, which prevents insurers from charging more for those with pre-existing conditions. (Weixel, 5/17)

Stat: Bill Cassidy Has Moderate Ideas On Health Care Reform. Will Anyone Listen?
Bill Cassidy has taught medical students; led efforts to vaccinate thousands of Louisiana schoolchildren; founded a community clinic that pairs uninsured patients with doctors willing to treat them; and after Hurricane Katrina helped to transform an abandoned KMart in Baton Rouge into a makeshift hospital wing. The first-term Republican has effectively spent his career on health care. Now, for the first time in his political life, with Republicans in control of Washington and intent on replacing Obamacare, he’s in a position to play a pivotal role in reforming the nation’s heath care system. (Facher, 5/17)

The Hill: Durbin Okays Dem Meeting With GOP Centrists On ObamaCare 
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said Tuesday it is alright if Democrats talk with two GOP authors of a more centrist Republican plan on healthcare because the pair is looking “beyond repeal.” Democratic leaders said Republicans must drop their efforts to repeal ObamaCare before any bipartisan talks can happen. Some centrist Democrats, though, met with Republicans in a meeting organized by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Monday night. (Sullivan, 5/16)

Troops Who Have Been Wounded Are Being Discharged For Misconduct At Increasingly High Rate

A Government Accountability Office report finds that the Army often failed to conduct required screenings for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries before discharging soldiers.

The New York Times: Wounded Troops Discharged For Misconduct Often Had PTSD Or T.B.I.
Three-fifths of troops discharged from the military for misconduct in recent years had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or another associated condition, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office. The report, mandated by Congress, for the first time combined military medical and staffing data, as well as data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, to show that tens of thousands of wounded troops were kicked out of the armed forces and severed from benefits designed to ease their transition from service in war. (Philipps, 5/16)

In other national health care news —

The Associated Press: Study: Taking Abortion Pill At Home As Safe As In A Clinic
Medical abortions done at home with online help and pills sent in the mail appear to be just as safe as those done at a clinic, according to a new study. The research tracked the outcomes of 1,000 women in Ireland and Northern Ireland, who used a website run by a group called Women on Web to get abortion pills. The Netherlands-based nonprofit provides advice and pills to women seeking an early abortion in more than 140 countries where access to abortion is restricted. Ireland and Northern Ireland have some of the world's strictest laws, often only granting approval when a woman's life is at risk. (5/16)

The New York Times: Babies From Skin Cells? Prospect Is Unsettling To Some Experts
Nearly 40 years after the world was jolted by the birth of the first test-tube baby, a new revolution in reproductive technology is on the horizon — and it promises to be far more controversial than in vitro fertilization ever was. Within a decade or two, researchers say, scientists will likely be able to create a baby from human skin cells that have been coaxed to grow into eggs and sperm and used to create embryos to implant in a womb. (Lewin, 5/16)

Modern Healthcare: IBM Watson Health, MAP Health Management Join Forces On Addiction Treatment 
IBM Watson Health and MAP Health Management, a population health software maker, have teamed up to create new software that uses cognitive computing to treat long-term addiction and substance abuse. The new version of the MAP Recovery Network platform is driven by IBM's Watson technology, which adds cognitive computing and machine learning to the population health software, allowing it to process unstructured data and to learn as it goes, thereby becoming more and more accurate. (Arndt, 5/16)