- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- More Customers Dumped From Covered California Without Notice
- EPA Chief McCarthy: Public Health Is 'What We Do'
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Covered California To Require Plans To Assign Primary Care Doctors To All Patients
- Sacramento Watch 1
- Drugged Driving Test Authorized In Proposed Legislation Criticized As Unreliable, Experimental
- Marketplace 2
- Health Care Providers Seek Better Scheduling Systems To Accommodate Greater Patient Demand
- Depomed: Reincorporation Plan Not In Best Interests, Would Have Been 'Costly,' 'Distracting'
- Health Care Personnel 1
- Pathologist Shortages Lead To Painful Delays, Threat To Accreditation For LA County
- Public Health and Education 2
- Fentanyl Deaths On The Rise In Los Angeles County
- Caring For The Caregivers: Remembering To Ask, 'How Are You Doing?'
Latest From California Healthline:
Nearly 2,000 pregnant women join the ranks of Covered California customers whose health plans have been automatically — and sometimes mysteriously — canceled. (Emily Bazar, 4/18)
Gina McCarthy met with Kaiser Health News to answer a range of questions, including how the agency is involved in efforts to combat Zika and the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. (Julie Appleby, 4/18)
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More News From Across The State
The agency approved the primary physician requirement in its new three-year contract with insurers. Such relationships help consumers "navigate the system," according to Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.
Covered California Acts To Ensure Everyone Gets A Primary Care Doctor
In an attempt to improve patients' decision-making, Covered California is now requiring all types of health plans to assign a primary care doctor to their members. The policy shift is in the agency's new contract with insurers, approved by the Covered California board last week. It will affect preferred provider network plans - PPOs - in particular. A consumer favorite, PPO plans allow members to go to any doctor – specialist or otherwise – without a referral from a primary care physician. (O'Neill, 4/15)
One California lawmaker has responded to an uptick in drugged driving crashes by introducing legislation that would allow police officers to use saliva swab tests, which are widely used in the United Kingdom. But some have misgivings about the tests.
The Orange County Register:
A New Urgency To Find Roadside Test For Drugged Drivers
This year, California could join a parade of states marching toward legalization of adult recreational marijuana use. But here, as in Colorado, Washington and other states that have already taken the leap, many anti-pot cops and a pro-pot advocates agree: No one yet has devised a practical and reliable field test to determine when a driver is under the influence of marijuana. (Staggs, 4/17)
In other news —
The Press Democrat:
North Coast Legislator Seeks New Licensing For Small Medicinal Marijuana Growers
Medical marijuana advocates are hailing a bill that would carve a niche for small-scale growers, known as “cottage cannabis farmers,” in California’s program to regulate the $1 billion medical pot industry. (Kovner, 4/16)
The Associated Press:
Medical Pot Activists Fear Epilepsy Drug Could Undercut Them
An experimental epilepsy drug made from cannabis plants grown in England is complicating the medical marijuana debate in hospitals and statehouses. Epidiolex is a nearly pure extract of cannabidiol, or CBD, with little of the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that gets traditional pot users high. CBD products are the current rage in medicinal pot products, and activists fear that if the maker of Epidiolex manages to get FDA approval it could undercut the political momentum of the medical marijuana movement. (Carr Smyth, 4/17)
Modern Healthcare reports on efforts to use sophisticated algorithms to make appointment scheduling more efficient. LeanTaas, a 6-year-old company based in Santa Clara, Calif., compares the challenge to the computer game Tetris.
Better Scheduling Through Math
The number of people seeking healthcare services is expected to swell as the population ages, more people develop chronic conditions and more people gain insurance coverage. The number of doctor visits could increase as much as 80% over the next 10 to 15 years. But at the same time, growth in the nursing and physician workforce is unlikely to keep pace. That means healthcare providers will need to work more efficiently with the resources they already have. (Kutscher, 4/16)
The East Bay drug company last week withdrew its proposal to reincorporate in Delaware.
The San Francisco Business Times:
East Bay Drug Company Avoids 'Distracting' Shareholder Fight By Withdrawing Reincorporation Plan
Depomed Inc. withdrew a plan to reincorporate in Delaware, potentially heading off a showdown with a New York hedge fund that last week used the proposal to push for board changes and the company's sale. Switching incorporation from California to Delaware "is not in the best interests" of the company and shareholders and "would result in a costly and distracting proxy contest at a time when the company is focused on growing its business and driving shareholder value," the East Bay pain drug company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission statement Thursday. Starboard Value LP, a hedge fund that controls 9.2 percent of Depomed stock, had criticized the plan as a tactic to "entrench" the company's management and board by suppressing shareholder rights. (Leuty, 4/15)
Meanwhile, MedStart has found elusive lab space —
The Sacramento Business Journal:
MedStart Finds 'Vital' Lab Space For Med And Biotech Startups
MedStart has gotten the Sutter Institute for Medical Research to participate in its new laboratory network program. The non-profit program identifies startups in the region’s medical technology and biotechnology industry and offers them support, networking and mentoring. Lately, it's been searching for rare accessible lab space so local companies have a place to work on development, said Matt Phillips, MedStart program manager. (Anderson, 4/15)
A recent resignation put a spotlight on Los Angeles County’s system of investigating deaths.
The Los Angeles Daily News:
Shortage Of Autopsy Doctors Is A ‘Crisis In Near Future’
The abrupt resignation last month of Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Mark Fajardo revealed flaws in Los Angeles County’s system of death investigations, through which some 8,500 autopsies are performed each year. Delayed medical examinations, overdue toxicology tests and slow response times were becoming an unacceptable norm, Fajardo said, noting he’d not been given the resources to alleviate many of the strains on the department. (Favot, 4/16)
National Nurses United, a union representing some 185,00 nurses, has spent $2.6 million supporting presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Now it is turning its focus on California.
The Sacramento Bee:
California Nurses ‘Feel The Bern’
The “Bernie Bus” is coming. A bright red charter bus plastered with an image of the Vermont senator among a sea of nurses is expected to cross the California state line in early May. The billboards are already here. Drivers see a silhouette of Bernie Sanders’ unkempt white head of hair and glasses with a checklist of his stances on jumbo-sized ads along Auburn Boulevard outside Carmichael, Highway 50 and Interstate 80. Both types of political advertisements bear the name of the same sponsor: National Nurses United. (Luna, 4/15)
La Jolla-based Scripps Health is set to announce a partnership with Sistemas Medicos Nacionales S.A. to build a $120-million full-service facility that will try to capitalize on growth in the “transitory medicine” market that spans the U.S.-Mexico border.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
New Tijuana Hospital To Have Binational Focus
Scripps Health and a binational company will announce today that they’re partnering to establish a hospital aimed at serving the growing number of Southern Californians who prefer to get medical care south of the border. (Sisson, 4/18)
LA law enforcement officials see an uptick in overdoses due to the powerful painkiller. Fentanyl has also been tied to at least 11 fatalities in Sacramento County last month.
Los Angeles Times:
Deaths From Powerful Opiate Fentanyl Rise In Los Angeles County
There are signs that deaths connected to fentanyl, a powerful painkiller tied to a string of fatal overdoses in Northern California, are on the rise in the Los Angeles area, law enforcement and health officials said this week. The drug, an opiate used on patients after surgery that’s up to 100 times stronger than morphine, is appearing now more than ever in overdoses in California as a prescription drug abuse epidemic evolves nationwide. (Serna, 4/16)
Although many people focus on how Alzheimer's patients are doing, advocates say it's important to check in on the caregivers as well.
The Los Angeles Times:
You're Taking Care Of Someone With Alzheimer's, But Who Is Taking Care Of You?
After Ronald Reagan became America's most recognizable Alzheimer's patient, well-meaning friends, relatives and even strangers would routinely stop his daughter, Patti Davis, to ask: "How is he doing?" Only occasionally would someone ask, "And how are you doing?" (Lynch, 4/15)
In other public health news from across the state —
The Ventura County Star:
Shifts Uncovered By Crisis Counselors Amid Bumpy Transition
A mobile crisis team that aids suicidal children has stopped answering calls on several overnight weekend shifts amid a bumpy changeover to Ventura County's behavioral health agency. (Wilson, 4/16)
The Ventura County Star:
Push For Living Wills Places Focus On End-Of-Life Desires
Edgardo Ramirez doesn't want his life prolonged by a machine. The Oxnard College computer science student lost two aunts to cancer over the past two years. A uncle died several years earlier after an accident involving a driver who was under the influence. (Kisken, 4/15)
The New York Times offers analysis of coverage gains under the Affordable Care Act.
The New York Times:
Immigrants, The Poor And Minorities Gain Sharply Under Health Act
The first full year of the Affordable Care Act brought historic increases in coverage for low-wage workers and others who have long been left out of the health care system, a New York Times analysis has found. Immigrants of all backgrounds — including more than a million legal residents who are not citizens — had the sharpest rise in coverage rates. Hispanics, a coveted group of voters this election year, accounted for nearly a third of the increase in adults with insurance. That was the single largest share of any racial or ethnic group, far greater than their 17 percent share of the population. (Tavernise and Gebeloff, 4/17)
In other national health care news —
The Associated Press:
'Innovation Center' Tries To Reinvent Medicare
They work for the government and even their closest relatives have no idea what they do. It's not because they're spies or nuclear scientists, but because their jobs are so arcane: trying to reinvent Medicare to improve it, and maybe save taxpayers money. In a sprawling, nondescript office park near Baltimore, some 360 people at the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation are trying to change the health care system, using the government's premier insurance program as leverage. (4/18)
The Washington Post:
Long-Term Survival Rates Double For Melanoma Patients Getting Immunotherapy
More than a third of advanced-melanoma patients who received one of the new immunotherapy drugs in an early trial were alive five years after starting treatment -- double the survival rate typical of the disease, according to a new study. The data, released Sunday at a cancer conference, showed that 34 percent of patients with metastatic melanoma who received Opdivo, an immunotherapy drug also known as nivolumab, have survived. The five-year survival rate for patients with advanced melanoma who got other treatments was 16.6 percent between 2005 and 2011, according to the National Cancer Institute. (McGinley, 4/17)