- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- The Pluses And Minuses Of Allowing Medical Marijuana At School
- Marketplace 1
- One Of Nation's Largest Hospital Systems Agrees To $65M Settlement Over Medicare Overbilling Allegations
- Public Health and Education 2
- Fires In California Triggering Mental Health Issues In Survivors Of Last Year's Blazes
- Outreach Teams Painstakingly Work Toward Getting Homeless People Mental Health Help, Medical Care
- The Opioid Crisis 1
- Well-Known Drug Rehab Center's License Suspended Following Death Of Client, Other Violations
- National Roundup 3
- Judge Rejects Trump Administration's Attempts To Shrug Off Responsibility For Finding Deported Parents
- Gubernatorial Candidates Banking On 'Medicare For All' Enthusiasm Instead Of Playing It Safe
- Just Because Extended Short-Term Plans Are Allowed Doesn't Mean Insurers Are Ready To Offer Them
Latest From California Healthline:
As more parents turn to medical marijuana to treat their sick children, a handful of states have changed the rules to allow them to administer the drug on campus. California is considering it — at the possible risk of losing federal funding. (Samantha Young, 8/6)
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More News From Across The State
Prosecutors had alleged that California-based Prime Healthcare Services unnecessarily admitted Medicare patients who were being treated at the emergency rooms of several hospitals in its system. Medicare pays more for patients who are admitted to hospitals than those who are treated as outpatients.
The Associated Press:
Hospital System Pays $65M To Settle Medicare Billing Claims
Prime Healthcare Services, one of the nation’s largest hospital systems, agreed Friday to pay $65 million to settle allegations of Medicare overbilling in California. The company and CEO Prem Reddy agreed to settle a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that 14 of its hospitals unnecessarily admitted patients and also “upcoded” patient diagnoses, exaggerating their illnesses in order to receive more Medicare money. (8/3)
The Wall Street Journal:
Hospital System, CEO To Pay $65 Million To Settle Lawsuit Alleging Medicare Fraud
Prime Healthcare Services Inc. will pay the bulk of the settlement, while Chief Executive Prem Reddy will pay $3.25 million and the system’s nonprofit affiliate will pay an undisclosed small amount, according to the Justice Department and a Prime spokeswoman. Ontario, Calif.-based Prime also agreed to a five-year corporate integrity agreement with the U.S. Health and Human Service Department’s inspector general. The agreement requires Prime to have an “independent review organization” scrutinize its Medicare bills. Under the terms, the settlement resolves allegations against Prime and its nonprofit affiliate Prime Healthcare Foundation without a determination of liability. (Evans, 8/3)
Los Angeles Times:
Whistleblower To Share In $65-Million Settlement From Prime Healthcare In Medicare Overbilling Case
A San Diego whistleblower will receive $17.2 million with the settlement of a 7-year-old false claims lawsuit against Prime Health Care regarding overbilling for Medicare services at 14 California hospitals. The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday that it has reached a $65-million settlement with the Ontario-based healthcare system, resolving allegations that Prime “engaged in a deliberate corporate-driven scheme to increase inpatient admissions of Medicare beneficiaries” and that the company “engaged in up-coding by falsifying information concerning patient diagnoses.” (Sisson, 8/4)
One of the sticking points is that UC Davis Health is offering 2 percent raises, but workers say the average federal cost-of-living adjustment is 4 percent per year. "When are you prepared to give us a fair contract?” physical therapist Rachel Hammond asked.
UCD Health Care Workers Unhappy With Proposed Wage Increase
Dietitians, physical therapists and other health care professionals at UC Davis Health say that, over nearly a year of bargaining, the university’s labor negotiators have been skipping sessions and have not offered raises of more than 2 percent a year. ...Claire Doan, a spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President, confirmed that the university system had offered raises of 2 percent a year over the life of a four-year contract. (Anderson, 8/6)
In other news —
Ventura County Star:
Health Consultant Seeks Seven-Figure Payout Over Lost VCMC Deal
A consultant is seeking seven figures in damages after losing a contract to shore up Ventura County Medical Center’s finances, a setback her attorney pins heavily on the fact that she is the sister of county Chief Financial Officer Catherine Rodriguez. At a rate of $225 per hour, the contract was valued at up to $468,000 a year. Rodriguez’s older sister, Eileen Fisler, filed the claim against the county in June, claiming lost compensation, emotional distress, humiliation and illegal discrimination. County risk managers say she missed the filing deadline and have denied the claim, but she could still contest that decision or sue. (Wilson, 8/4)
"The orange-tinged sky is just enough to set off my anxiety and feelings of fear," Santa Rosa resident Danielle Bryant says. Meanwhile, Dr. Elia Cole, a new resident physician in the area, talks about the resilience she's noticed from those who have experienced the fires.
California Wildfires Bring Fresh Terror To Survivors Of Last Year's Flames
There are 18 wildfires now blazing across California, which means many of the state's residents are waking up to the smell of smoke and hazy skies. The Carr fire near Redding has scorched at least 145,015 acres and killed seven people, and three fires in Mendocino County are all less than an hour away from Santa Rosa — where some neighborhoods burned to the ground last year. (McClurg and Snow, 8/5)
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Kaiser Permanente Launches New Residency Program
[Dr. Elia] Cole is one of six new resident physicians in the fledgling [family medicine residency] program, which received its accreditation in February 2017. The six physicians, three of whom are from California, started the three-year residency program in late June and began seeing patients in July. By 2020, the program will host 18 residents, who upon graduation will be given the option to go wherever they want work. Dr. Tricia Hiserote, a Kaiser family medicine physician and director of the residency program, said a national shortage in primary care physicians will undoubtedly make doctors like Cole a hot commodity. (Espinoza, 8/5)
In other public health news–
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Can Stand-Alone Psychiatric Hospitals Fix San Diego's Treatment Crisis?
[W]ith underfunding and staffing shortages seriously challenging the nation’s remaining psychiatric bed capacity, the idea of consolidating behavioral health units into a larger, more efficient mental hospital is starting to gain traction. Such is the case in San Diego County: Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside recently announced it intends to close its inpatient psychiatric units next month. That has added urgency to an ongoing debate over how best to replace and enhance the region’s supply of beds for those with mental health emergencies. (Sisson, 8/4)
Los Angeles Times:
Oceanside School District Suspends Sex Ed Program For Youngest Students After Parents Complain
Oceanside school officials have shelved a sex education program for the district’s youngest students after parents complained the material was too graphic, undermined their religious values and promoted “premature sexual interest, experimentation, and engagement.” The district suspended the program for elementary school students earlier this summer, and plans to replace it with a new curriculum designed by teachers and school officials, in collaboration with parents. (Sullivan Brennan, 8/5)
San Diego's Health and Human Services Agency is supporting a three-year pilot program, targeting people identified as being chronically homeless and suffering from a severe mental illness, substance abuse disorder or physical illness. It is funded by a $22 million federal grant, which the county is matching.
Easing Unhealthy Homeless People Off Streets Of San Diego Can Be A Daunting Process
The county’s Health and Human Services Agency contracted with PATH and Exodus Recovery to run the three-year pilot program, targeting people identified as being chronically homeless and suffering from a severe mental illness, substance abuse disorder or physical illness. ...During the process, the team of case managers and health workers conduct a comprehensive assessment while connecting people to appropriate medical care, and stability. (Murphy, 8/3)
Stanislaus County Picks Its Spot For Temporary Homeless Shelter
Stanislaus County is proposing to open a temporary shelter in two buildings of its former hospital at its Scenic Drive government center to deal with the growing homelessness crisis. The shelter could be open for about two years until the county is able to open a permanent access center at another location and which would provide comprehensive services for homeless people. (Valine, 8/4)
“I know I’m not missing a limb, but I feel like I’m missing my brain … or at least the good part of my brain,” Army veteran Eli Price says.
Modesto Veteran Doesn’t Want His ‘Invisible Injuries’ To Be The Death Of Him
When traumatized veterans are returning from duty and reintegrating to civilian life, the military and the VA need to prepare them for a long and challenging road, said Sara Kintzle, a research associate professor with the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Military and Veterans Programs. ...Counseling definitely is not a one-size-fits-all treatment, she said, and it unfortunately can takes years of meeting with one professional after another to find the right match. (Farrow, 8/3)
In other veterans health care news —
Santa Cruz Veterans Ready For VA To Change Stance On Pot
This is the monthly meeting of the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance’s Compassion Program. Veterans gather to learn about local veterans services, talk to others who are self-medicating with marijuana and pick up a voucher for free cannabis at the SCVA’s dispensary. (Almanzan, 8/3)
The rehabilitation center is just one of many in Southern California, an area sometimes referred to as “Rehab Riviera." There is often very little oversight of such facilities by the state.
Pasadena Star News:
State Shuts Down Pasadena-Based ‘Celebrity Rehab’ Center Over Death, Repeated Violations
State health regulators are moving to revoke the license of a well-known Pasadena drug rehabilitation center made famous by the reality television show “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.” The Department of Health Care Services temporarily suspended the Pasadena Recovery Center’s license in June after investigating the death of a client and a series of other violations. The agency now is seeking a permanent revocation to protect the clients of the program, according to records filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings. PRC is now operating as a sober living facility, which does not require a license from the state. (Henry, 8/4)
In other news —
OC Supes Ask Why Needles Should Be Free When Residents Can't Even Get Plastic Bags
At a heated emergency meeting Friday, Orange County Supervisors pledged to fight a needle exchange program intended by the state to stem the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. With the new OC mobile exchange authorized to open as early Monday, the supervisors voted unanimously to begin legal action against the effort. (Mendelson, 8/3)
But U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw also directed the ACLU to create a steering committee to work with the federal government in its efforts to locate the parents. Meanwhile, new numbers show that far fewer parents than the government first reported waived the chance to be back together with their children before being deported.
The Wall Street Journal:
Judge Orders Trump Administration To Find Hundreds Of Deported Parents
A federal judge said the Trump administration is responsible for finding hundreds of immigrant parents deported or released into the U.S. without their children in the wake of the government’s policy of separating families at the Mexican border. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said not finding those parents, as many as 400 who may have been deported primarily to Central America, could leave hundreds of children permanently orphaned. “That is 100% the responsibility of the administration,” Judge Sabraw said during a hearing Friday in San Diego. (Caldwell, 8/3)
The Washington Post:
Government Lowers Number Of Migrant Parents It Says Waived Reunification With Children
The number of migrant parents who have signed away the right to be reunited with their children is significantly lower than the Trump administration has said before, according to fresh information the government filed in a family-separation court case. The latest figures show that 34 parents waived the chance to be back together with their children — compared with the 120 that the government reported a week earlier. Migrants’ advocates and congressional Democrats have challenged the idea that large numbers of parents were signing away those rights, contending that some — traumatized by the separations — were misled, did not understand the form or never signed in the first place. (Goldstein, 8/3)
Although the Democratic party is split on whether to champion a progressive idea that could make candidates vulnerable to attack from Republicans, many on the trail are being vocal about their support for "Medicare for All."
The Washington Post:
Tossing Aside Skepticism, Democratic Candidates For Governor Push For State-Based Universal Health Care
Wherever he takes his campaign for governor, Abdul El-Sayed is followed by activists handing out information about “Medicare for all.” When he grabs the microphone, El-Sayed makes a promise: He’ll bring universal health care to Michigan. “Why can the CEOs of big insurance corporations take home $13 million a year when 600,000 Michiganders still don’t have access to health care?” asked El-Sayed, who is a doctor, at a campaign stop last week in one of the state’s poorest cities. “When are we going to have leadership that stands up for statewide Medicare for all?” (Weigel, 8/5)
Single-Payer, Once Shunned, Makes A Comeback In Colorado Governor's Race
Two years ago, 79 percent of Colorado voters rejected a ballot initiative to create a single-payer health system. Today, the idea — rechristened "Medicare for all" — has become a raison d’etre for Democratic candidates such as five-term Rep. Jared Polis, who recently beat back a crowded gubernatorial primary field in the purple state to take on Republican nominee Walker Stapleton. (Haberkorn, 8/3)
The Washington Post Fact Checker:
Do Democrats Have A ‘Plan’ To Cut Medicare Spending By $800 Billion?
When the chips are down, you can always count on either political party to run Medicare attack ads. Polls indicate a neck-and-neck race in Ohio’s special election on Aug. 7 pitting Danny O’Connor, a Democrat, against Republican Troy Balderson to fill the state’s vacant seat in the 12th Congressional District. O’Connor has made headway by charging that Balderson’s support of President Trump’s debt-financed tax cut will lead to reductions in Social Security and Medicare spending, such as by raising the retirement age. In one ad, O’Connor says he stands “against any cuts to Social Security and Medicare” — potentially an unrealistic pledge, given the burdens placed on old-age programs by the retirement of the baby-boom generation. (Kessler, 8/4)
With such short notice for the upcoming year, experts predict consumers will see more changes in insurers' plans in 2019 rather than an immediate rush to make sweeping changes.
The Associated Press:
Insurance Companies Approach Trump Health Plans Cautiously
President Donald Trump says insurers are "going wild" about his new health care options and "millions and millions" of people will be signing up. But insurance companies say it will take time to design new plans and get approval from state regulators, and two major industry groups have actually expressed concern about potential downsides for consumers. (8/6)
In other national health care news —
The New York Times:
The Age That Women Have Babies: How A Gap Divides America
Becoming a mother used to be seen as a unifying milestone for women in the United States. But a new analysis of four decades of births shows that the age that women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education. The result is that children are born into very different family lives, heading for diverging economic futures. First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South. In New York and San Francisco, their average age is 31 and 32. (Bui and Miller, 8/4)
Gawande Calls His Venture A 'Nonproft.' But Whose Bottom Line Will Benefit?
Dr. Atul Gawande has described his new health care company as a “nonprofit” that will operate independently from the three massive corporations providing its funding — a firewall he said is crucial to ensuring its mission stays focused on the needs of patients. ...A person familiar with the inner-workings of the enterprise told STAT that its corporate creators view it as a non-profit-seeking internal unit “that serves the three founding companies.” This person stressed that the new entity, even though designed to accomplish public good, is a private organization that is accountable to its funders, not to people in need of health care solutions outside it walls. (Ross, 8/6)
The Washington Post:
Since The Darkest Days Of AIDS, These Men Have Offered Succor To The Sick
For Les Ralston, 1991 was a dark time. The AIDS crisis had ravaged the gay community, and many of his friends were dead or dying. No effective treatment had been found for HIV, and many people were afraid to go near those with the disease. “A lot of people were dying at home without any food,” Ralston recalled. So when he saw a note on a billboard seeking volunteers to help a D.C. organization, Food & Friends, deliver meals to people with AIDS, Ralston, a systems analyst for the IRS, signed on. By 1995, he had quit his government job and was working full-time for the organization. (Bahrampour, 8/4)
The Washington Post:
Demi Lovato Breaks Silence After Apparent Drug Overdose: ‘I Will Keep Fighting’
In Demi Lovato’s first public statement since being hospitalized for an apparent drug overdose, the pop star says she is focused on her sobriety and “road to recovery.” “I have always been transparent about my journey with addiction,” Lovato wrote in a letter posted on her Instagram. “What I’ve learned is that this illness is not something that disappears or fades with time. It is something I must continue to overcome and have not done yet.” (Schmidt, 8/6)