- California Healthline Original Stories 4
- Protecting California’s Seniors From Surprise Hospital, Nursing Home Bills
- Hospital Surprise: Medicare's Observation Care
- FAQ: Hospital Observation Care Can Be Costly For Medicare Patients
- Doctors Raise Concerns For Small Practices In Medicare’s New Payment System
- Public Health and Education 2
- Pediatricians Push Back Against Rising Tide Of 'Vaccination Hesitancy'
- Vaccination Law Remains Intact After First Challenge
Latest From California Healthline:
Lawmakers approve a bill to help Medicare patients with "observation care” costs. (Susan Jaffe, 8/29)
You're in a hospital and think you're admitted. Maybe not. Many Medicare beneficiaries are surprised to learn that even after spending a couple of days, they are receiving observation care, which Medicare considers an outpatient service, so the seniors' costs can be more than expected. (Francis Ying and Thu Nguyen and Lynne Shallcross, 8/29)
A guide to help Medicare patients receiving observation care. (Susan Jaffe, 8/28)
The government is laying out plans to use payment incentives to promote higher quality care, but physicians say the new system may be hard on solo practices and small groups. (Steven Findlay, 8/29)
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Summaries Of The News:
However, Judge Daniel A. Ottolia is allowing the physicians to continue pursuing their lawsuit concerning the safeguards built into the legislation.
The Associated Press:
California Judge Rejects Request To Suspend Assisted Suicide Law
A California judge has rejected a request by physicians to immediately suspend a new state law allowing terminally ill people to end their lives. Judge Daniel A. Ottolia of Riverside County Superior Court ruled on Friday that the law would remain in effect for now. But he agreed to allow the physicians to pursue their lawsuit claiming that the law lacks safeguards against abuse. The law, which took effect on June 9, allows terminally ill adults to obtain a prescription for life-ending medication if a doctor has determined they have no more than six months to live. Supporters of the law have argued that terminally ill people could face prolonged, painful deaths if it is suspended. (8/27)
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released guidelines for doctors facing parents who are resistant to getting their children vaccinated. A new survey shows that 87 percent of pediatricians have encountered issues with a parent refusing to vaccinate his or her child.
Los Angeles Times:
Pediatricians Urge States To Get Tough On Parents Who Don’t Want To Vaccinate Their Kids
The nation’s pediatricians are pushing back against parents who resist having their children vaccinated against a broad range of dangerous diseases by calling on states to stop offering waivers to those with non-medical objections to the practice. In a policy statement issued Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics also said that if parents continue to refuse vaccinations despite exhaustive efforts to change their minds, it would be “acceptable” for doctors to exclude these families from their practices. (Healy, 8/29)
National Pediatric Report Backs California Vaccination Law
The American Academy of Pediatrics has urged state governments and pediatricians to take a firmer approach in forcing vaccine-hesitant parents to immunize their children.The policy statement released Monday suggests legislators prohibit nonmedical vaccine exemptions for children entering school and day care, as done by California’s Senate Bill 277, which took effect last month. California became one of three states to mandate vaccinations for all children entering public and private school and day care, with the exception of children with specific medical issues. (Caiola, 8/29)
Pediatricians' Group: End Religious, Philosophical Vaccine Exemptions
This year, California became just the third state to say that parents can not opt out of vaccinating their school-aged children for personal or religious reasons. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that the rest of the country follow suit. Other medical groups have already adopted similar positions, but the Academy's policy statement is noteworthy because its 64,000 members work directly with parents as they make vaccination decisions for their infants, children and teenagers. (Plevin, 8/29)
A federal judge declined to approve an injunction request, saying it's not the court's place to decide on the "wisdom" of the legislature.
The Associated Press:
Judge Won't Block California's Strict Child Vaccination Law
A federal judge will not immediately block a California law that requires all schoolchildren to be vaccinated and is one of the strictest in the nation for eliminating exemptions based on religious and personal beliefs. The ruling Friday by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego comes as the law faces its first test with the end of summer break. A lawsuit filed by 17 families and two foundations sought an injunction while the lawsuit works its way through the courts. The law went into effect July 1 and eliminated religious and personal beliefs as reasons for opting out of the state's mandatory immunizations. (Watson, 8/26)
San Diego Union-Tribune:
Judge Denies Injunction Request To Stop California's New Vaccination Law For School-Aged Kids
A federal judge declined to put California’s controversial vaccination law on pause Friday, denying an injunction request that would have allowed families to keep claiming personal-belief exemptions while a legal fight against the new statute continues in court. The ruling, made by U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego, means that all kindergarteners and seventh graders in public and private schools across the state must prove they are fully inoculated against 10 different diseases, from diphtheria to tetanus, unless they have a medical exemption form signed by a licensed doctor. (Sisson, 8/26)
After a Los Angeles Times investigation last month, state lawyers sent a subpoena directing the company to turn over any records related to New Hampshire.
Los Angeles Times:
Purdue Pharma Rejects Request From New Hampshire Attorney General For Information On Suspected Diversion Of OxyContin
The top law enforcement official in New Hampshire, a state ravaged by the opioid epidemic, accused the manufacturer of OxyContin on Friday of stonewalling demands for information the company collects about suspected criminal trafficking of its painkiller. “They are just refusing to turn over documents,” state Atty. Gen. Joseph Foster said of drugmaker Purdue Pharma in an interview. “On one hand, they tell us they have nothing to hide and they are doing everything appropriately, but then why are they fighting so hard not to turn over this information?” (Ryan, 8/26)
Bob Pack lost two of his children to an accident involving a woman under the influence of painkillers. Since then he's made it his life mission to advocate for Senate Bill 482, which would require doctors to check a database for a patient's prescription history before prescribing opioids.
East Bay Times:
Danville's Bob Pack Nears Victory For California Prescription Drug Law
For more than a decade, Bob Pack has been haunting the hallways in and around the state Capitol, knocking on doors of California lawmakers, lobbyists and doctors' groups -- in the hopes that his family's tragic tale would persuade them to pass legislation that might prevent others from having to live through his nightmare. ... Now, Pack is on the verge of victory: Senate Bill 482, which would require doctors to check a database for a patient's prescription history before prescribing opioids and other potentially dangerous drugs, unanimously passed the California Assembly last week and is expected to get final clearance from the state Senate early this week before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. (Seipel, 8/26)
The company announced on Friday that hackers gained access to a small number of Social Security numbers, as well as information about patients' medical conditions.
Hackers Access Personal Data Of SCAN Health Plan Members
Hackers gained access earlier this year to personal data about current and former members of Long Beach-based SCAN Health Plan, the company said Friday. In some cases the intruders were able to view information about individuals' medical conditions and medication, and "a small number" of people's Social Security numbers may have been compromised, it said. Company spokesman Ross Goldberg said he doesn't know how many people's information was accessed by the hackers. SCAN has 170,000 members, he said, adding that the intruders also gained access to personal data about non-members who had provided information to company sales representatives. (O'Neill, 8/26)
Sacramento-based PSO Services wants to help physicians stay current on the most efficient billing and reimbursement systems.
Sacramento Business Journal:
Sacramento-Based Company Is Led By Medical Association Executives From Three States
A new Sacramento-based company led by medical association executives in three states raised $1 million recently, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company, PSO Services LLC, has its address listed at 1201 J St., Suite 200, which is the address of the California Medical Association. PSO Services is a new company – in the beginning stages of formation – that aims to help physicians deliver efficient, high-quality health care by helping them keep current and work with new billing systems for reimbursement, said Laura Braden Quigley, vice president of communications with the California Medical Association. (Anderson, 8/26)
The city attorney’s office has been asked to draft an ordinance that would ban the synthetic drug "spice."
Los Angeles Times:
L.A. City Council Asks City Attorney To Draft Ordinance To Ban Synthetic Drug 'Spice'
The Los Angeles City Council on Friday approved an emergency motion directing the city attorney’s office to draft an ordinance that would ban the manufacture and sale of a synthetic drug that may be linked to dozens of overdoses in downtown’s skid row. The motion, submitted by council members Mitchell Englander and Jose Huizar, asks the city attorney to work with police and fire officials to write the ordinance and to work on strategies to crack down on manufacturers and dealers of the synthetic drug “spice.” Those who make the drug “are taking advantage of those most vulnerable in society,” Englander said. “It’s wreaking havoc in our communities.” (Poston, 8/26)
In other news from across the state —
Los Angeles Times:
After Court Rules Against Parents, Toddler Is Taken Off Life Support
Two-year-old Israel Stinson, the curly-haired, angelic-looking toddler whose fight for life gained international attention, died Thursday after he was removed from a breathing ventilator against his parents wishes. Now, supporters of the family are questioning why a Los Angeles hospital moved so quickly to remove him from life support immediately after a judge upheld the decision. Israel’s parents, Jonee Fonseca and Nathaniel Stinson, sought an injunction Aug. 18 to prevent Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles from taking action while they rushed to make arrangements to put him in home care. (Evans, 8/26)
San Diego Union-Tribune:
New Wave Of Scientists Join San Diego Universities
They’re trying to land humans on Mars, design robots to serve the sick and elderly and identify which areas of Earth will be damaged most by climate change. ...A fifth recruit, bioengineer Shawn O’Connor, will work in SDSU’s new Smart Health Institute, which specializes in wearable health sensors. O’Connor was a postdoctoral fellow at UC San Diego, where he explored the issues of balance and mobility, especially in older people. (Robbins, 8/27)
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Teen Birth Rates Tumble In Sonoma County, But Cultural Disparities Persist
Lost in the recent good news about declining birth rates among California teens is a Sonoma County statistic that has some local health experts scratching their heads. In the past 15 years, the county’s overall teen birth rate has been cut in half, declining to 13.9 births for every 1,000 teens. But a wide disparity remains for birth rates for white teens and Latina teens. For white teens, the birth rate is only 4.5 births per 1,000 teens, far lower than the state’s rate of 8.4 births for white teens. In contrast, the birth rate for local Latina teens is 27.7 births per 1,000 teens, very close to the state average of 31.3 births for Latina teens. (Espinoza, 8/26)
Orange County To Open Short-Term Psychiatric Crisis Centers
Orange County’s plans to open two crisis centers for people experiencing acute mental health symptoms that should shorten wait times for treatment. The state of California awarded $3 million to Orange County to open the crisis stabilization units. The facilities will be able to triage up to 22 patients a day, usually short stays, before being discharged or referred to a longer term treatment option. (Aguilar, 8/29)
Hillary Clinton also is promising to create a national initiative for suicide prevention, hold a mental health conference within her first year in office, enforce mental health parity laws and prioritize training for law enforcement officers.
The Associated Press:
Clinton Proposes Plan To Address Mental Health Treatment
Hillary Clinton is rolling out a comprehensive plan to address millions of Americans coping with mental illness, pointing to the need to fully integrate mental health services into the nation's health care system. Clinton's campaign released a multi-pronged approach to mental health care on Monday, aimed at ensuring that Americans would no longer separate mental health from physical health in terms of access, care and quality of treatment. (Thomas, 8/29)
In other 2016 election news, Clinton is facing turbulent waters in terms of the health law if she's elected —
The Associated Press:
Clinton Could Face Mounting Problem With Health Overhaul
With the hourglass running out for his administration, President Barack Obama's health care law is struggling in many parts of the country. Double-digit premium increases and exits by big-name insurers have caused some to wonder whether "Obamacare" will go down as a failed experiment. If Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the White House, expect her to mount a rescue effort. But how much Clinton could do depends on finding willing partners in Congress and among Republican governors, a real political challenge. "There are turbulent waters," said Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's first secretary of Health and Human Services. "But do I see this as a death knell? No." (8/29)
More than 60 percent of counties in the United States could have only one or two options for coverage in 2017, according to a new analysis. Meanwhile, enrollment numbers are significantly lower than predicted.
The Wall Street Journal:
Health Insurers’ Pullback Threatens To Create Monopolies
Nearly a third of the nation’s counties look likely to have just a single insurer offering health plans on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges next year, according to a new analysis, an industry pullback that adds to the challenges facing the law. The new study, by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, suggests there could be just one option for coverage in 31% of counties in 2017, and there might be only two in another 31%. That would give exchange customers in large swaths of the U.S. far less choice than they had this year, when 7% of counties had one insurer and 29% had two. (Wilde Mathews and Armour, 8/28)
The Washington Post:
Health-Care Exchange Sign-Ups Fall Far Short Of Forecasts
Enrollment in the insurance exchanges for President Obama’s signature health-care law is at less than half the initial forecast, pushing several major insurance companies to stop offering health plans in certain markets because of significant financial losses. As a result, the administration’s promise of a menu of health-plan choices has been replaced by a grim, though preliminary, forecast: Next year, more than 1 in 4 counties are at risk of having a single insurer on its exchange, said Cynthia Cox, who studies health reform for the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Johnson, 8/27)
In other national health law news —
NPR/Center For Public Integrity:
Audits Of Some Medicare Advantage Plans Reveal Pervasive Overcharging
More than three dozen just-released audits reveal how some private Medicare plans overcharged the government for the majority of elderly patients they treated, often by overstating the severity of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and depression. The Center for Public Integrity recently obtained, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the federal audits of 37 Medicare Advantage programs. These audits have never before been made public, and though they reveal overpayments from 2007 — money that has since been paid back — many plans are still appealing the findings. (Schulte, 8/29)
The New York Times:
All Donated Blood In U.S. Should Be Tested For Zika, F.D.A. Says
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday took steps to safeguard the nation’s blood supply from the Zika virus, calling for all blood banks to screen donations for the infection even in states where the virus is not circulating. The recommendations are an acknowledgment that sexual transmission may facilitate the spread of Zika even in areas where mosquitoes carrying the virus are not present. Officials also want to prepare for the possibility that clusters of local infection will continue to pop up in parts of the United States for years to come. (Saint Louis, 8/26)
The Washington Post:
Cancer Researchers: It’s Time To Pay More Attention To ‘Miracle’ Patients
Call it luck — or a medical miracle. During clinical trials for experimental cancer drugs, some patients simply respond better than others. And a tiny fraction of patients see dramatic results, responding so well to treatment that they survive forms of cancers that quickly kill their counterparts. Stories about people like Emily Whitehead, the then-6-year-old who was enrolled in a clinical trial that saved her life, make headlines. But statistically speaking, they’re insignificant, mere outliers. Because they deviate so far from the norm, these “exceptional responders” are often overlooked by researchers. Not so fast, says Eric Perakslis. (Blakemore, 8/26)