- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Covered California Imposes New Quality, Cost Conditions On Plans
- Prices And Health Care Quality: Many Consumers Don’t See A Link
- Covered California & The Health Law 2
- Covered California Board Votes To Allow Immigrants Illegally Here To Buy Insurance
- GAO Finds Significant Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities On California's Exchange
- Health IT 1
- Following High-Profile Cyberattacks On Hospitals, Officials Warn Of Growing Ransomware Threat
Latest From California Healthline:
In a sweeping overhaul of its contracts, the state’s insurance exchange will require health plans to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for quality and cost. (Ana B. Ibarra and David Gorn, 4/8)
A study in the journal Health Affairs found a majority of people don't associate price and quality in health care services. The study provides useful information for health care organizations that are trying to understand how people make choices and developing consumer tools, says the UCSF professor who led the research. (Michelle Andrews, 4/8)
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Summaries Of The News:
Because the move would require federal and state legislation, the vote is largely a symbolic show of support for the idea.
The Sacramento Bee:
Undocumented Could Be Allowed To Buy Covered California Health Policy
In a move called both symbolic and practical, the Covered California board took the first step Thursday toward allowing undocumented residents to purchase health plans – with no state or federal subsidies – through California’s Obamacare marketplace. (Buck, 4/7)
The Modesto Bee:
Should Undocumented Immigrants Be Allowed To Purchase Obamacare Insurance?
Consumer groups and immigration advocates want state and federal government to allow undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance through the Covered California health exchange. Those families and individuals would have to pay full price for the coverage – without a taxpayer subsidy. (Carlson, 4/7)
Officials say their findings in the investigation, which was initially limited to California, Kentucky and Vermont, likely means that other states’ health exchange websites face similar cyber issues. In California, a spokesman for the state's exchange, Roy Kennedy, would not say how Covered California was addressing the problems, citing security concerns.
The Associated Press:
Security Flaws Found In 3 State Health Insurance Websites
Federal investigators found significant cybersecurity weaknesses in the health insurance websites of California, Kentucky and Vermont that could enable hackers to get their hands on sensitive personal information about hundreds of thousands of people, The Associated Press has learned. And some of those flaws have yet to be fixed. The vulnerabilities were discovered by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, and shared with state officials last September. (4/7)
Watchdog: Security Flaws Plague State ObamaCare Exchanges
California’s system, known as Covered California, is the nation’s largest state-run exchange. Both California and Kentucky have been touted as a national model, though Vermont has had a documented history of issues with its exchange. The GAO’s investigation was released in March, but without naming the states. That information was reported Thursday by the Associated Press, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Federal officials said their findings in the investigation, which was initially limited to those three states, likely means that other states’ websites have faced similar cyber issues. (Farris, 4/7)
The move is looked at as a push to persuade skeptics that the troubled blood-testing startup is viable.
Theranos Expands Scientific Board; CEO Says Data Will Be Shared
Theranos Inc., the blood-testing startup facing regulatory scrutiny, added physicians from prominent hospitals to its scientific and medical advisory board in a push to help persuade skeptics that the secretive company’s technology is viable. Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Holmes said the medical board is advising the company as it seeks to become more transparent about how its technology works. Theranos has said it can run a number of tests on just one fingerprick’s worth of blood, at a fraction of the price charged by big laboratory companies like Quest Diagnostics Inc. and Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings. (Chen, 4/7)
Theranos Says New Medical Advisers Will Help Publish Data
Saying Theranos needs to do some damage control is like suggesting Donald Trump may want to take a moment to collect his thoughts before opening his mouth to speak. After damning investigations into the high-flying company’s blood-testing technology by both The Wall Street Journal and the federal government, Theranos, once valued at $9 billion, is now struggling to regain legitimacy. Today, the company announced what appears to be an attempt at rehabilitating its reputation. (Brooks, 4/7)
The incidents reveal a worrisome new weakness as public and private institutions struggle to adapt to the digital era.
Los Angeles Times:
Criminal Hackers Now Target Hospitals, Police Stations And Schools
Three weeks ago, a debilitating digital virus spread quickly in computer networks at three Southern California hospitals owned by Prime Healthcare Services. Using a pop-up window, hackers demanded about $17,000 in the hard-to-trace cybercurrency called Bitcoin to destroy the virus they had implanted. The virus had encrypted medical and other data so it was impossible to access. ... The attempted extortion by criminal hackers was the latest case of what the FBI says is a fast-growing threat to vulnerable individuals, companies and low-profile critical infrastructure, from hospitals and schools to police stations. (Hennigan and Bennett, 4/8)
The analysis found that supervisors, in at least 7 states including California, told their staff to manipulate the times to give the false impression their facilities were meeting VA performance measures for shorter wait times.
VA Bosses In 7 States Falsified Vets' Wait Times For Care
Supervisors instructed employees to falsify patient wait times at Veterans Affairs' medical facilities in at least seven states, according to a USA TODAY analysis of more than 70 investigation reports released in recent weeks. Overall, those reports — released after multiple inquiries and a Freedom of Information Act request — reveal for the first time specifics of widespread scheduling manipulation. (Slack, 4/7)
Susan B. Anthony List is calling for the resignation of Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer's seat, after investigators seized videos and other property belonging to David Daleiden.
Los Angeles Times:
Kamala Harris' Support For Planned Parenthood Draws Fire After Raid On Anti-Abortion Activist
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris is drawing fire from supporters of an anti-abortion activist whose undercover videos and identity cards were seized by the state Department of Justice this week after Harris' political campaign sought to drum up support for Planned Parenthood. David Beltran, a spokesman for Harris' Department of Justice, said the agency would have no comment. Nathan Click, spokesman for her political campaign, referred questions to that agency. Harris seeks the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer. Her campaign website includes a page that asked supporters to sign a petition "to defend Planned Parenthood." (St. John, 4/7)
Anti-Abortion Group Calls For Kamala Harris To Drop Senate Bid
A leading anti-abortion group is calling on California Attorney General Kamala Harris to resign and end her Senate campaign after her office raided the home of anti-abortion videomaker David Daleiden. Susan B. Anthony List called on Harris to resign and drop out of the race after Daleiden, the maker of controversial undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood, posted a Facebook message Tuesday saying California authorities had raided his home and seized video footage. (Sullivan, 4/7)
Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno is the only hospital in the central San Joaquin Valley to offer hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, an innovative treatment for patients with few conventional options.
The Fresno Bee:
A Ray Of Hope For Stage 4 Appendix Cancer Patients At Fresno Hospital
A 90-minute chemotherapy bath is giving Agustina Meza-Alfonso a new lease on life. Last week Meza-Alfonso, 48, became the first patient to undergo hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno.Without the complicated, innovative procedure, the Visalia homemaker, diagnosed with stage 4 cancer of the appendix, had few options. She had a 10- to 12-inch tumor growing low in her pelvis and microscopic tumors growing on the walls of her abdomen. When she was referred to Community’s cancer doctors, they found her tumor had grown dangerously close to her kidneys. “We had to do something. We couldn’t let it go any further,” said Dr. Babak “Bobby” Eghbalieh. (Anderson, 4/7)
The Washington Post paints the picture of a school dealing with its "worst fear" and how it emerged from the sleepless, panic-ridden week.
The Washington Post:
‘It’s Everyone’s Worst Fear’: How A Small College Survived An Outbreak
About dawn one Sunday morning, a health official at a small Jesuit college in California got an alarming phone call: A student had been rushed to the hospital. The ER staff quickly suspected meningitis. And while they treated and tested for the highly contagious, often fatal disease, scores of other students were streaming into the emergency room, frightened by their own symptoms. “It’s everyone’s worst fear in college health,” said Joshua M. Sharfstein, associate dean at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Meningitis strikes very quickly. Someone looking well one day could be dead the next.” (Svrluga, 4/7)
And in other public health news —
San Bernardino Sun:
Zika Virus Discussed At World Health Day Talk At Loma Linda
A second traveler has returned to San Bernardino County with the Zika virus, yet even as the number of confirmed cases slowly climbs in California, an infectious disease specialist said Thursday the state may never see the kind of epidemic taking place elsewhere in the Americas. The San Bernardino County resident tested positive for Zika after being infected with the virus while traveling outside the U.S., San Bernardino County Department of Public Health spokeswoman Claudia Doyle said Thursday. (Hurt, 4/7)
A selection of opinions on health care developments from around the state.
San Diego Union-Tribune:
VA Scandal Hits Home In Painful Fashion
It’s appalling to learn of an internal federal investigation released last week that showed a local veteran attempted suicide in 2014 after repeatedly having his mental health treatments canceled at the last minute by the San Diego Veterans Affairs hospital — especially given that this was part of a bigger pattern of dysfunction at the hospital. The question not just for San Diegans but Americans is this: How can these things keep happening to our veterans? (4/3)
The Sacramento Bee:
Fashion Models Have Rights, Too
Assembly Bill 2539, which is scheduled to be heard before the Assembly Labor and Employment committee on Wednesday, is important and necessary because it has the power to change the lives of thousands of young girls who suffer like I once did. The bill would give models the workplace protections they deserve, protections that actors in California have enjoyed for the past 100 years. Modeling agencies are opposing the bill, mainly because it would require them to be regulated and licensed as talent agencies. But are frustrations over regulations worth sacrificing a young girl’s sanity and potentially her life? (Meredith Hattam, 4/5)
The Los Angeles Times:
Why That Woman Who Yelled At Florida Gov. Rick Scott Should Be Your Hero
The career of Rick Scott, Florida's Republican governor, has long been one of the outstanding mysteries of the nation's statehouses. He won his first race for governor in 2010, even though the hospital company he ran until being forced out in 1997, Columbia/HCA, had been accused of defrauding federal healthcare programs and paid $1.7 billion in fines, damages, and penalties, then the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history. He won reelection in 2014, despite amassing a politically retrograde position on healthcare issues at odds with his supposed expertise in the field. (Michael Hiltzik, 4/6)
Los Angeles Times:
Pfizer Shows That Its Allergan Merger Was Only A Tax Dodge
When it announced its record-setting $160-billion merger with Allergan, the maker of Botox, last November, the giant drug company Pfizer tried valiantly to pretend that the deal wasn't mostly about cutting its tax bill. "We are doing this because of the strategic importance of the franchises, the revenue growth we believe we can get within the U.S. and internationally, and the importance to combine the research approaches," Pfizer CEO Ian Read told investment analysts on Nov. 23, after the merger was announced. He also said, a bit lamely: "I want to stress that we are not doing this transaction simply as a tax transaction." (Michael Hiltzik, 4/6)
The Sacramento Bee:
Lawmakers Should Follow Science On Abortion Drug
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration updated its 16-year-old guidelines for mifepristone, the drug used in medication abortions, to reflect the latest scientific evidence and reduce potential side effects. Medication abortions make up about a quarter of all abortions, and in most states, the new guidelines will have little impact on doctors. They already follow the best science by using the pill off-label – a common and legal practice, given that science often advances faster than the FDA. (Drew Halfmann, 4/6)
Los Angeles Times:
New FDA Abortion Pill Guidelines Could Create Sweeping Changes For Women
The Food and Drug Administration was absolutely right to re-label mifepristone, a drug used to induce abortions, to reflect a regimen already adopted by doctors. The FDA — which hadn't changed its guidelines on the drug since it was approved for medication-induced abortions in 2000 — now calls for a substantially lower dose of the drug to be administered, and extends the time into pregnancy when it can be used. The agency also now suggests that misoprostol — a second drug used along with mifepristone to complete the abortion process — be taken a day or two later by the woman at home rather than in a doctor's office. The new guidelines also recommend that qualified healthcare providers, not just doctors, be allowed to dispense the drugs. (4/1)
Los Angeles Times:
Putting Human Stem Cells In Animal Embryos? The NIH Should Get On Board.
Thirty years ago Paul Simon immortalized one of the first animal-human transplants with the lyrics, “These are the days of miracle and wonder.… Medicine is magical and magical is art. Thinking of the boy in the bubble and the baby with the baboon heart.” Today we face the possibility of babies getting organs grown in human/nonhuman chimeras — beasts that are pigs except for a single human organ. To the uninitiated, this may sound more like the dark arts than modern medicine, but pursuing careful research and potential clinical use of these chimeras is both proper and important. (Henry T. Greely, 4/7)
Los Angeles Times:
Forget Cops. Should Doctors And Teachers Wear Body Cameras?
Consider health care, another interaction which produces potentially life-or-death outcomes. In general, African Americans and other people of color receive inferior medical treatment, leading to higher death rates. David R. Williams, a professor of public health at Harvard, who has researched this issue writes that blacks and other minorities receive fewer diagnostic tests, fewer treatments, and overall poorer-quality care — even after adjusting for variations in insurance, facilities, and seriousness of illness. Leaving aside patient outcomes, there are also highly credible accusations that medical staff have groped and sexually abused sedated patients. Body cameras on doctors and nurses might well prevent such incidents, or provide evidence if they did occur. (Steven Strauss, 4/4)
The Desert Sun:
These Statistics Reflect The Upside Of Aging
Aging is the ultimate universal human experience. And yet, more significantly, it is unique for each of us. ... The 65-plus group scored the highest when responding to the following statements: Having supportive relationships and love in their life. Managing their finances to avoid stress and increase security. Liking where you live and being proud of your community. Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.In other words, the idea that life after a certain age can be filled with positive experiences has its roots in reality. (Nancy Rubin Weil, 4/6)