Latest From California Healthline:
Asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America, housed in migrant shelters in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico, are often sick and exhausted from their long journeys. Volunteer health workers from Southern California recently sent a mobile clinic to one of those shelters and spent a day tending to its inhabitants. (Heidi de Marco, 4/22)
Good morning! Republicans are offering preexisting conditions bills that might offer them political coverage—but will they really help patients? More on that below. But first, here are some of your top California health stories for the day.
Proposed Legislation Would Require Medical Professionals To Be Trained To Spot Implicit Bias On The Job: The bill from state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) would create a training program to help perinatal healthcare providers identify and correct their biases, as well as task the state public health department with collecting better data on maternal mortality rates. Meanwhile, under a package of bills by state Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles), doctors, physician assistants and nurses would have to undergo eight hours of implicit bias training and testing within two years of receiving their licenses and every two years thereafter. The dual push is part of a broader effort to address what studies have found to be rampant bias that has been found in the medical field. “No one likes to be told what to do and no one thinks they’re a racist, so the question I hear a lot is, ‘Why do we need this?’ ” said Kamlager-Dove. “The goal is not to have punitive legislation. It is to help people acknowledge they have [implicit biases] and help reduce them.” Read more from the Los Angeles Times.
Medical Providers Scramble To Soothe Immigrants’ Fears Over Potential ‘Public Charge’ Policy Change: The policy change would allow immigration officials to take into account any government assistance—such as Medicaid—that immigrants are receiving when the officials make green card decisions. Medical professionals and public health advocates have been worried since the proposed change came to light that it would have a chilling effect on immigrants seeking health care. They have been trying to get the word out that nothing has changed yet, and that no one should be taking drastic steps like forgoing treatment. “I’m very worried,” said Ilan Shapiro, a pediatrician who is also AltaMed’s managing director for health education and wellness. “A lot of people are not having access to the services they actually need, not because there’s a legal problem with it, but because they’re afraid.” Read more from the California Health Report.
Hospitals Beseech Lawmakers To Reconsider One-Size-Fits-All Approach To Pricey Seismic Retrofit Requirements: Hospitals across the state are facing a looming 2030 deadline to make sure their facilities could withstand an earthquake. But those upgrades are going to cost already struggling hospitals millions of dollars. Facing that steep price tag, some hospitals might just make the decision to close, experts say. Carmela Coyle, the president and CEO of the California Hospital Association, said spending billions to retrofit non-emergency care hospital buildings could further drive up health care costs and further destabilize hospital budgets, especially for smaller rural and district hospitals that are already under great financial strain. “We are about to add $100 billion to the price of health care,” Coyle said. “From a consumer perspective, what is the best way to ensure that care is available and is there a less expensive option for doing that?” Read more from the Press Democrat.
Below, check out the full round-up of California Healthline original stories, state coverage and the best of the rest of the national news for the day. And have a healthy weekend.
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More News From Across The State
Sharp HealthCare Sued For Recording 1,800 Surgeries Without Patient Consent
A former patient has sued San Diego, Calif.-based Sharp HealthCare for allegedly violating her and other patients' privacy after one of its hospitals filmed more than 1,800 surgical procedures including births without patient consent. Amber Snodgrass underwent a caesarean section at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, Calif., in December 2012. She claims she was secretly recorded based on a public statement Sharp HealthCare CEO Chris Howard made in which he admits patients who underwent treatment at Sharp Grossmont's Women's Health Center from July 2012 to June 2013 were filmed without their knowledge. (Castellucci, 4/19)
Central Valley Specialty Hospital In Modesto Cited For Deficiencies
The federal government is demanding that a long-term care hospital in Modesto improve practices such as infection control and nursing services, or the facility will be removed from the Medicare program. In a March 5 survey, state health officials found that Central Valley Specialty Hospital had fallen short of meeting the requirements of Medicare, the national health program for almost 50 million seniors and certain disabled people. (Carlson, 4/21)
San Jose Mercury News:
Columbine Anniversary: School Shooting Threats Now Routine
San Jose police Sgt. Sean Morgan, one of SJPD’s chief school liaisons for the 10th largest city in the country, said his department receives reports of threats to schools as frequently as three times a week, and on a few occasions twice in a day. Each must be investigated. (Salonga and Savidge, 4/20)
Discovery Bay Woman Raises Awareness For Rare Brain Disorder
Janet Dominguez was celebrating her daughter’s 21st birthday in Kauai when she suddenly went limp, hit the wall of her condo and slid to the floor, her arms dangling at her side. She was rushed to emergency and 20 minutes later was fine.Doctors saw nothing unusual, suggesting a virus and low blood pressure might have caused the episode, and told her to follow up with her primary care physician when she returned home. Once home, a cardiologist and neurologist gave her a clean bill of health, but over the next six months she would have 25 more mini strokes or, in medical terms, Transient Ischemic Attacks, where blood flow is temporarily blocked to the brain. (Prieve, 4/20)
AARP: Millions Of Family Caregivers Fear They’ll Make Mistake
About a quarter of the nation’s 40 million family caregivers live with the fear that they will make a mistake on vital medical tasks such as giving injections or caring for wounds that could harm their loved ones, according to an AARP report released this week. (Anderson, 4/22)
The Wall Street Journal:
Emergency Rooms Get A Makeover For The Elderly
Marcus Overton isn’t a stranger to emergency rooms—and he doesn’t like them. “They’re chaotic and loud,” says the 75-year-old San Diego resident, who battles diabetes and heart-valve problems. “They usually put you in a bed, pull a curtain around you, and you wait.” But last month, the former actor and arts administrator sought treatment for shortness of breath at an ER designed for elderly patients and their families. It was a wholly different experience. (Howard, 4/21)
Los Angeles Times:
Build 10,000 Houses For Homeless In 10 Years? L.A. Is Closer, But It’ll Have To Stretch Funds
In 2016, Los Angeles voters approved a $1.2-billion bond measure to help fund housing for homeless people, with a goal of 10,000 new units in a decade. Now, after hustling to get as many housing projects started as soon as possible, city officials are coming to the end of the money available through Proposition HHH, and it’s not certain that promise will be kept. The city has committed two-thirds of the bond to secure a little more than half the units the measure was intended to subsidize. (Smith, 4/21)
The New York Times:
Republicans Offer Health Care Bills To Protect Patients (And Themselves)
President Trump and Republicans in Congress say they are committed to protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions. But patients with cancer, diabetes and H.I.V., for example, would have significantly less protection under Republican proposals than under the Affordable Care Act. The proposals may provide some political cover for Republicans on an issue likely to figure prominently in the 2020 elections. But a close inspection of the Republican bills shows that their protections are undercut by a combination of imprecise language, explicit exceptions and “rules of construction” that explain how the legislation is to be interpreted. (Pear, 4/20)
The New York Times:
Hospitals Stand To Lose Billions Under ‘Medicare For All’
For a patient’s knee replacement, Medicare will pay a hospital $17,000. The same hospital can get more than twice as much, or about $37,000, for the same surgery on a patient with private insurance. Or take another example: One hospital would get about $4,200 from Medicare for removing someone’s gallbladder. The same hospital would get $7,400 from commercial insurers. The yawning gap between payments to hospitals by Medicare and by private health insurers for the same medical services may prove the biggest obstacle for advocates of “Medicare for all,” a government-run system. (Ableson, 4/21)
The New York Times:
‘Medicare For All’ Is Hammering Health Care Stocks. For Now.
UnitedHealth Group has been a stock market darling for much of the past decade, dependably churning out earnings increases and rewarding shareholders with staggering returns. Its latest quarterly report, issued on Tuesday, was superb, as expected. Earnings per share jumped 24 percent. Based on the news about the diversified health service company’s fundamental businesses, you might have expected its stock price to rise. Nope. UnitedHealth’s share price dropped 4 percent that day and almost 2 percent the next. And, along with much of the health care sector, it has been on a downward trend for the past few months. (Sommer, 4/19)
State Republicans Challenge Democrats With ‘Born-Alive’ Bills
Republican legislators across the country are rallying behind President Donald Trump's efforts to link Democrats with "infanticide," daring Democratic governors to veto "born alive" bills animating the party's base before the 2020 elections. Bills approved by GOP-run legislatures in Montana and North Carolina this week would penalize health care providers for failing to care for an infant who survives an abortion attempt. The measures, which are also winding through legislatures in Texas and elsewhere, are being pushed by anti-abortion groups that quickly seized on bills in New York and Virginia aimed at loosening restrictions on third-trimester abortions. (Rayasam and Goldberg, 4/20)
The Next E-Cig Battle: Should There Be Ads For Vaping Products?
E-cigarette companies that the FDA has already threatened for appealing to teens may land in more hot water with new campaigns that target older adults, say public health advocates and House Democrats. After the FDA told them to stop pitching in a way that attracted teens, Juul and other companies have begun flooding television, radio and print media with ads that tout their potential to help adults quit traditional cigarettes. But they don’t have the data to back up such claims, say researchers, and the new ads might confuse teens even more. (Owermohle, 4/19)
You Can Help: When A Loved One Shows Signs Of Suicide Risk, Reach Out
If you know someone struggling with despair, depression or thoughts of suicide, you may be wondering how to help. Most Americans say that they understand that suicide is preventable and that they would act to help someone they know who is at risk, according to a national survey conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention in 2018. (Chatterjee, 4/20)
The New York Times:
Wary Of Chinese Espionage, Houston Cancer Center Chose To Fire 3 Scientists
Two tenured scientists at a renowned cancer hospital in Houston have resigned, and the hospital is seeking to fire a third, in connection with an investigation into possible foreign attempts to take advantage of its federally funded research, the authorities said. The departures are one of the first publicly revealed outcomes of dozens of similar investigations nationwide, as federal officials have increasingly warned of foreign exploitation of American-backed research — particularly from the Chinese. (Zaveri, 4/22)
The New York Times:
The Giants At The Heart Of The Opioid Crisis
There are the Sacklers, the family that controls Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. There are the doctors who ran pill mills, and the rogue pharmacists who churned out opioid orders by the thousands. But the daunting financial muscle that has driven the spread of prescription opioids in the United States comes from the distributors — companies that act as middlemen, trucking medications of all kinds from vast warehouses to hospitals, clinics and drugstores. The industry’s giants, Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, are all among the 15 largest American companies by revenue. (Hakim, Rashbaum and Rabin, 4/22)
The Associated Press:
Two-Wave US Flu Season Is Now The Longest In A Decade
Three months ago, this flu season was shaping up to be short and mild in the U.S. But a surprising second viral wave has made it the longest in 10 years. This flu season has been officially going for 21 weeks, according to reports collected through last week and released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That makes it among the longest seen since the government started tracking flu season duration more than 20 years ago. Some experts likened the unusual double waves to having two different flu seasons compressed, back-to-back, into one. (4/19)
Can The Culture Of Overtreatment Be Curbed In Medical Training?
When family physician Jenna Fox signed on for a yearlong advanced obstetrics fellowship after her residency to learn to deliver babies, she knew she'd need to practice as many cesarean sections as possible. The problem was, she also knew C-sections aren't always good for patients. Many women's health experts argue they're often unnecessary and increase health risks for mom and baby. Doctors are working to decrease high C-section rates in hospitals around the country. Fox and her colleagues on the labor and delivery floor at the University of Rochester try hard to prevent them, particularly primary C-sections, when a woman needs one for her first baby. (Gordon, 4/19)
What Are PFAS, And Are They Toxic To Humans And The Environment?
Scientists are ramping up research on the possible health effects of a large group of common but little-understood chemicals used in water-resistant clothing, stain-resistant furniture, nonstick cookware and many other consumer products. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are generally referred to by their plural acronym, PFAS. PFAS are resistant to water, oil and heat, and their use has expanded rapidly since they were developed by companies in the mid-20th century. Today, PFAS' nonstick qualities make them useful in products as diverse as food wrappers, umbrellas, tents, carpets and firefighting foam. The chemicals are also used in the manufacture of plastic and rubber and in insulation for wiring. (Hersher, 4/22)