- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Hospital Honchos Hone New Message In Wake Of Opioid Crisis: Expect Pain
- With CHIP Funds Running Low, Doctors And Parents Scramble To Cover Kids’ Needs
- Spending and Fiscal Battles 1
- Clinics That Rely On Federal Community Health Funding 'Wildly Discouraged' By Congress' Inaction
- Veterans Health Care 1
- As Part Of National Effort, San Diego VA Clinic Slashes Opioid Prescription Rates
- Public Health and Education 2
- Vicious Flu Sweeping State: Death Tolls Are Climbing And Hospitals Are Overwhelmed
- Blood Donations Urgently Needed After Holiday Lag
- Around California 1
- 'We’re Right On The Edge Of A Lot Of Discoveries': Health Organizations Launch New Cancer Partnership
- Quality 1
- Disturbing Video Of Woman Shines Light On Pervasive Problem Of Hospitals 'Dumping Patients'
- National Roundup 2
- Legal Challenge To Medicaid Work Requirements Already Brewing, But CMS Says Law Is On Its Side
- Trump To Undergo First Physical Exam In Office Amid Chatter Over State Of His Cognitive Health
Latest From California Healthline:
"We really do have a lot of responsibility and culpability," says one hospital official who is part of a working group trying to address the opioid epidemic. Patients have to expect more pain after surgery and understand the risk of addiction, says another doctor. (Blake Farmer, Nashville Public Radio, 1/12)
Doctors are advising patients to be sure to fill medication orders now or are giving away drugs to make sure children have enough if their insurance disappears. (Phil Galewitz and Emmarie Huetteman, 1/12)
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Summaries Of The News:
Advocates say that without the federal grants, some clinics — especially struggling rural clinics — will have to lay off staff and cut down on the services they offer.
Capital Public Radio:
California Clinics Fret As Federal Funding Deadline Looms
Congress did not renew the funding last fall. And while there’s a temporary fix until March, the resolution keeping the program alive long-term expires this month. “It feels wildly discouraging," said Andie Martinez-Patterson, director of government affairs for California Health+ Advocates, which represents safety net clinics. (Caiola, 1/11)
“Our providers here for the most part will not start people on opiates for chronic shoulder pain or knee pain, whereas 10 years ago, patients may have been started on that medication," said Dr. James Michelsen, chairman of the San Diego VA’s opiate pain council.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
San Diego VA Cuts Opiate Prescribing Rate From 18% To 10%
San Diego County veterans are receiving fewer prescriptions of addictive painkillers than five years ago — as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs tries to reduce reliance on the opioid drugs blamed for the nation’s current overdose epidemic. The VA on Thursday released the prescription rate of opioid-based drugs at all of its pharmacies. The federal agency becomes the only hospital system in the country to post this information, according to VA Secretary David Shulkin. (Steele, 1/11)
Health officials are still urging residents to get a flu shot.
Los Angeles Daily News:
The H3N2 Flu Virus Is Known As The Hospitalizer. Here's Why.
At a news conference at their downtown Los Angeles office, county public health officials said it was not too late to get the flu vaccine, since they said it perfectly protects against three of four of the strains circulating. They also said that because the flu season started a month earlier than usual and its peak has yet to be identified, the bug could circulate for a longer period of time. (Abram, 1/10)
Ventura County Star:
Ventura County Flu Deaths Rise Again; Officials Urge Vaccination
At least 16 people in Ventura County have died in flu-related deaths this season, public health officials said Thursday as they urged vaccinations. The county’s death total continues to rise, with 11 deaths reported this week by public health officials. The actual dates of the deaths were not available. Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin said the season’s tally now surpasses the 15 deaths during the swine flu outbreak of 2009-2010. (Kisken, 1/11)
San Diego Union-Tribune:
Palomar Health Giving Free Flu Shots, While Supplies Last
Palomar Health is giving away its remaining 150 doses of flu vaccine to anyone, age 9 through adult, who has yet to get this year’s shot. The shots will be distributed on a first-come basis, while supplies last, at its community clinics, officials said. No insurance is required. ...Medical professionals are encouraging anyone 6 months and older who hasn’t had a flu shot to get one. The flu vaccination can help prevent getting the flu or shorten its duration and lessen the severity. It takes two weeks for immunity to develop. (Himchak, 1/11)
The Mercury News:
Which Foods Help You Fight The Flu?
The flu has hit hard this year with a particularly nasty strain of the virus that has slammed into California without mercy. ...But here are some foods you may not have thought about in terms of helping shield you during what is being called a deadly flu season. (D'Souza, 1/11)
The holidays along with severe weather and a brutal flu season have all combined to diminish the nation's blood supply.
Hospital Patients Need Blood. Where Are The Donors?
The American Red Cross says the need for blood donors is urgent. According to the national relief organization, the severe winter weather this month in much of the nation served to diminish blood donations. (Carlson, 1/11)
In other public health news —
Churches Say Hepatitis A Outbreak Adds Fuel To Opposition Against Meals For Homeless
Local governments and organizations across the county have long been pressuring churches to stop serving meals to people who are homeless. The recent hepatitis A outbreak has become a new source of fuel for opponents of the meals. (Trageser, 1/12)
Los Angeles Times:
Nature Boosts Your Mental Health, And You Don't Even Have To Leave The City To Reap The Benefits
Good news, urbanites! New research suggests that you don't have to leave the city to reap some of the benefits of being in nature. Simply listening to the chirping of birds, glimpsing the sky and even noticing a scrawny city tree can boost your mental well-being, according to a report published Tuesday in the journal Bioscience. (Netburn, 1/11)
Eisenhower Health and UC San Diego Health are joining forces to better improve treatment options for patients.
The Desert Sun:
Eisenhower In Rancho Mirage, UC San Diego Team Up Against Cancer
Eisenhower Health and UC San Diego Health announced a new partnership in cancer treatment on Thursday that officials say will bring more opportunities for clinical trials and more treatment options to the Coachella Valley. “I believe we’re right on the edge of a lot of discoveries … that could really be breakthrough discoveries in cancer care,” said G. Aubrey Serfling, Eisenhower Health CEO and president. Those discoveries, he said, are being made in places like the University of California at San Diego. (Barkas, 1/11)
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
UC San Diego Health Expands Cancer Services In Coachella Valley
A five-year affiliation agreement between the two organizations aims to broaden the range of services that the Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center can offer in Rancho Mirage and in six oncology clinics throughout the valley. It also creates a new “concierge” service for patients who travel to UC San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center in La Jolla when their conditions are severe enough that they can’t be handled in the desert community. As she has in other instances where her organization has brokered allegiances outside the main San Diego market, Patty Maysent, UC San Diego Health’s chief executive officer, was careful to note that this is not a play to transfer lots of cancer patients out of their communities. (Sisson, 1/11)
A video that went viral shows a disoriented woman in Baltimore wearing nothing but a hospital gown and socks discharged out into the cold, dark night. The practice of patient dumping, however, is anything but new, especially in California.
The New York Times:
Baltimore Hospital Patient Discharged At Bus Stop, Stumbling And Cold
A woman who appeared to be wearing nothing but socks and a hospital gown was discharged from a Baltimore hospital on a cold winter night and left alone at a bus stop. A passer-by filmed the woman late Tuesday evening and posted several videos on Facebook shortly after midnight. In them, people in dark uniforms can be seen walking into the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Midtown Campus with an empty wheelchair, leaving the woman alone on the sidewalk. (Fortin, 1/11)
The Baltimore Sun:
University Of Maryland Hospital Apologizes For Its Failure To Discharged Patient Found On Street In Hospital Gown
The issue of people being put out of hospitals is a nationwide problem. The New York Times first began writing about the issues in the 1870s, when private hospitals were sending patients to the city’s public hospital, according to a 2011 report in the American Journal of Public Health. The 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act forbids emergency rooms to deny hospital services if patients can’t pay. Hospitals must transfer patients they can’t stabilize. The Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals, also requires that hospitals have a discharge plan. But the discharge policies can differ by hospital and the practice of hospital dumping persists. The city of Los Angeles began a crackdown on hospital dumping about a decade ago after several incidents there, particularly along Skid Row, where many of the city’s homeless people live. The city has imposed millions of dollars in fines on hospitals for the practice. (McDaniels and Cohn, 1/11)
Critics of the new guidelines that will allow states to impose the requirements on some of their Medicaid enrollees say the policy is a contradiction of the purpose of Medicaid, and thus needs an act of Congress to change it. But CMS Administrator Seema Verma says she thinks the agency acted well within its rights. Meanwhile, outlets offer a look on where state leaders stand on the issue.
CMS Maintains Medicaid Work Requirements Can Withstand Legal Challenges
The CMS is confident that its decision to approve states' Medicaid work requirement waivers can withstand any litigation challenging the policy shift. On Thursday morning, the CMS issued new guidance intended to help states reshape their Medicaid programs. The agency spelled out criteria for states to follow when applying for waivers to add such things as work requirements for beneficiaries. (Weinstock and Dickson, 1/11)
CMS Pressed To Give More Time For Comment On Medicaid-Work Changes
The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) is pressing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to give the public more time to comment on state proposals to impose work requirements in the Medicaid program. NHeLP sent a letter to the agency just hours after CMS unveiled guidance letting states apply for waivers requiring certain Medicaid enrollees work or participate in community engagement in order to get health coverage. The guidance marked a major policy shift in the joint federal-state health program for low-income and disabled Americans. (Roubein, 1/11)
In other national health care news —
The New York Times:
Health Insurer Centene Is Sued Over Lack Of Medical Coverage
People who bought policies from Centene, a large for-profit health insurance company, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday claiming the company does not provide adequate access to doctors in 15 states. “Members have difficulty finding — and in many cases cannot find — medical providers,” who will accept patients covered under policies sold by Centene, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington State. (Abelson, 1/11)
GOP Chairman Eyes Floor Action For CHIP Next Week
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said on Thursday that he is aiming to bring a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to the floor next week. Speaking to reporters, Walden pointed to new Congressional Budget Office estimates as the catalyst that broke the logjam over funding for the program, which covers 9 million children. (Weixel, 1/11)
The New York Times:
Opioid Addiction Knows No Color, But Its Treatment Does
On a street lined with garbage trucks, in an industrial edge of Brooklyn, dozens of people started filing into an unmarked building before the winter sun rose. Patients gather here every day to visit the Vincent Dole Clinic, where they are promised relief from their cravings and from the constant search for heroin on the streets. Robert Perez exited the clinic on a recent Wednesday and walked toward the subway, along the Gowanus Canal. Within the clinic’s antiseptic blue walls, he had just swallowed a red liquid from a small plastic cup. The daily dose of methadone helps Mr. Perez, 47, manage withdrawal symptoms as he tries to put decades of drug abuse behind him. (del Real, 1/12)
Injection Sites Provide Safe Spots To Shoot Up
In about one hundred locations across Canada, Europe and Australia, supervised drug injection facilities allow visitors to inject heroin and other drugs in a clean, well-lighted space under the watchful eye of trained personnel who can rescue them if they overdose. Tens of thousands of drug users have visited the facilities, thousands have overdosed and, researchers say, no deaths have been reported. Studies show that a substantial number of drug users who visit safe injection sites end up in treatment, which is routinely offered to them. Research also has shown that the facilities help contain hepatitis C and HIV infections and are a cost-effective way to save lives. (Vestal, 1/12)
The Washington Post:
New Study On Abortion Pill Shows High Success, Low Rate Of Complications
Ever since the abortion pill RU-486 began to hit the market in the 1980s, questions have lingered about its safety, especially for women who take it in countries where terminating an unwanted pregnancy is restricted and they cannot openly seek help from a medical professional if something goes wrong. As reports of deaths and injuries grew in the early 2000s and the pill became a big political issue, studies were launched to try to get more data on the safety question. The results are starting to come out. (Cha, 1/11)
President Donald Trump said he would "be surprised" if it didn't go well. Meanwhile, a group of more than 70 psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health professionals urge the physician conducting the exam to assess the president's neurological health.
President Donald Trump To Undergo His First Physical Exam Since Taking Office
President Trump is set Friday to undergo his first physical exam since taking office — a move that could offer a rare public snapshot of the 71-year-old leader's health. "I think it's going to go very well," Trump told reporters Thursday. "I'll be very surprised if it doesn't." The exam will be overseen by Dr. Ronny Jackson, a Navy rear admiral who directs the White House medical unit. Earlier information about Trump's health came from his personal physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, who famously declared in 2015 that Trump would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." (Horsley, 1/12)
Dozens Of Experts Urge Doctor To Examine Trump's Neurological Health During Physical
A group of more than 70 psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health professionals sent a letter to President Donald Trump’s physician on Thursday, imploring him to include an evaluation of the president’s neurological health in a physical examination scheduled for Friday. The White House has said tests of mental fitness will not be part of the president’s physical. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday that the physician, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, would issue a statement following the exam and answer questions from the media next week. (Nussbaum, 1/11)
A selection of opinions on health care developments from around the state.
Los Angeles Times:
Threatening To Take Away Their Care At Gunpoint Isn't The Way To Get Medicaid Recipients Working
According to the Trump administration, having a job makes you healthier. Most people — especially those who aren't coal miners, air traffic controllers or professional football players — would agree with that. So it's not unreasonable for the federal government to encourage states to try to get more of their able-bodied Medicaid recipients into jobs. In fact, it's something Medicaid has been doing for some time with disabled Americans. The question, though, is how to increase the number of Medicaid recipients who are employed. (Jon Healy, 1/11)
The Mercury News:
GOP Holds CHIP Health Care For Kids Hostage To Other Public Health Cuts
Congress has become so embarrassingly dysfunctional that it can’t find a way to fund one of the most admired, fully bipartisan health care programs of the past 20 years: the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides basic coverage for 9 million kids, including 200,000 in the Bay Area. House Republicans are using children’s health as a pawn in their never-ending quest to cripple the Affordable Care Act. House Speaker Paul Ryan has to end the petty squabbling over how CHIP is funded and demand that Congress reauthorize it for a minimum of five years. (1/11)
The Sacramento Bee:
Congress, Do Your Job And Fund CHIP
It should go without question that health care for children is key to their development and education, and to the well-being of their families. But due to continued and purposeful inaction by Congress, health coverage and care for 9 million children hangs in the balance. This delay in Children’s Health Insurance Program funding unnecessarily places more than 2 million California children and pregnant women in jeopardy and creates uncertainty about $2.7 billion in the state budget. (Dean Blumberg and Peter Manzo, 1/10)
Los Angeles Times:
Will Medicine Be The Next Field To Face A Sexual Harassment Reckoning?
While a revolution against cultures of sexual harassment and inequality has swept through Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and other work environments, one field so far has escaped the reckoning: medicine. Could that be about to change? That's the question pondered by Reshma Jagsi, a professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan and director of its Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences. Jagsi was the lead author of a 2014 survey on sexual harassment and gender bias in academic medicine that is getting new attention today. (Michael Hiltzik, 1/10)
Los Angeles Times:
Orrin Hatch Is Leaving The Senate, But His Deadliest Law Will Live On
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) last made a public splash during the debate over the GOP's tax cut bill in December, when he threw a conniption over the suggestion that the bill would favor the wealthy (who will reap about 80% of its benefits by 2027). Hatch subsequently announced his retirement from the Senate as of the end of this term, writing finis to his 40 years of service. In that time, he has shown himself to be a master of the down-is-up, wrong-is-right method of obfuscating his favors to rich patrons. That was especially the case with his sedulous defense for 20 years of his deadliest legislative achievement. We're talking about the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, or DSHEA (pronounced "D-shay"). Hatch introduced DSHEA in collaboration with then-Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), but there was no doubt that it was chiefly his baby. The act all but eliminated government regulation of the dietary and herbal supplements industry. (Michael Hiltzik, 1/5)
Orange County Register:
Is It An Emotional Support Animal Or Just Someone’s Pet?
Dogs, cats, monkeys, birds, pot-bellied pigs and miniature horses — frequent fliers have seen them all in the passenger cabin of airplanes, due to federal laws intended to protect the right of people with disabilities to reasonable accommodation. These are not service animals trained to perform specific tasks to assist their owners. Pets with no special training are allowed in the cabin at no charge if they are “emotional support animals,” or ESAs. (1/11)
Orange County Register:
Choosing A Better Social Safety Net
This newspaper recently editorialized on the need to get serious about welfare reform. The following proposal would not only address welfare reform, it would also address our broken, unfair and indecipherable income tax system as well as our dire homeless situation. ... What do I believe the safety net should look like? It should combine a Federal Graduated Flat Tax with the “Negative Income Tax” proposed by Dr. Milton Friedman. (James P. Gray, 1/11)
The New York Times:
Why It’s Still Worth Getting A Flu Shot
This year’s flu season is shaping up to be a bad one. Much of the country endured a bitterly cold stretch, causing more people to be crowded together inside. The strain that has been most pervasive, H3N2, is nastier than most. And, we’re being told, the vaccine this year is particularly ineffective. That last fact has had many people wondering if they should still get a flu shot. If you read no further in this column, know this: The answer is yes, you should still get a flu shot. The flu season typically peaks December through February but can last until May, and it usually takes about two weeks for the shot’s immunity to kick in. (Aaron E. Carroll, 1/11)