- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- California Doctors And Hospitals Tussle Over Role Of Nurse-Midwives
- A Look At Veep Pick Tim Kaine's Record On Health Care
- Hospital Roundup 2
- Local ERs Struggle From Heavy Influx Of Psychiatric Patients
- Federal Report Cards On Regional Hospitals Raise Questions
- Public Health and Education 2
- A Foster Child Was Put On 23 Different Psychiatric Drugs -- And It Wasn't A Rare Case
- California Researchers See Ray Of Hope In Results From Alzheimer's Trials
Latest From California Healthline:
Legislation that would allow nurse-midwives to practice independently is mired in a dispute about whether hospitals should be allowed to hire them. (Anna Gorman, 8/8)
As a Democratic senator and governor, Tim Kaine has backed the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion and better access to mental health treatment for people in crisis. (Rachel Bluth, 8/5)
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Summaries Of The News:
Health and Human Services Secretary Syliva Mathews Burwell talks with the Los Angeles Times about improving quality of care through a change in payment systems.
Los Angeles Times:
Obama's Health Secretary Wants To Make Patients Healthier By Transforming How Doctors And Hospitals Get Paid
Largely out of the spotlight, Obama administration officials have labored on an equally sweeping project to transform the way America’s doctors, hospitals and other medical providers deliver care. The foundation of this effort involves scrapping the way medicine has traditionally been paid for – a system akin to auto repair in which each service a doctor or hospital provides is billed separately, no matter how well it is performed and what the long-term outcome is.In place of that, the Obama administration is trying to build a system that pays doctors, hospitals and others based on how their patients recover and how much their care costs. (Levey, 8/5)
In other Medicare news —
The New York Times:
New Medicare Law To Notify Patients Of Loophole In Nursing Home Coverage
In November, after a bad fall, 85-year-old Elizabeth Cannon was taken to a hospital outside Philadelphia for six and a half days of “observation,” followed by nearly five months at a nearby nursing home for rehabilitation and skilled nursing care. The cost: more than $40,000.The hospital insisted that Ms. Cannon had never been formally admitted there as an inpatient, so under federal rules, Medicare would not pay for her nursing home stay. The money would have to come from her pocket.The experience of Ms. Cannon and thousands like her inspired a new Medicare law — in force as of Saturday — that requires hospitals to notify patients that they may incur huge out-of-pocket costs if they stay more than 24 hours without being formally admitted. (Pear, 8/6)
The Wall Street Journal:
A New Medicare Charge Is Coming: Here’s How To Lessen The Blow
For high-income Americans covered by Medicare, now is the time to make tax moves to minimize an increase in premium surcharges. These surcharges apply because Congress has decided the top 5% or so of Medicare recipients should contribute more for their coverage than lower earners. Last year, about 3 million Americans owed extra premiums for Part B coverage for medical services, such as doctors, and about 2 million owed them for Part D coverage for drugs. (Saunders, 8/5)
The patients are often held in the ER for days because other facilities are full, creating a shortage of both the doctors' time and the hospitals' resources.
Psychiatric Patients Strain Local ERs
As local emergency rooms try to accommodate more patients every year, hospital workers say their limited time and space is further strained by psychiatric patients who can occupy an ER bed for days. The patients, with limited options, are called 5150s, a reference to the California code that allows health facilities to temporarily keep patients involuntarily if they are considered dangerous to themselves or others. These patients may come to the ER on their own or law enforcement may bring them in. Once medical staff deem them a safety risk, the hospital keeps them and tries to move them to a specialized site, of which there is currently only one in the Coachella Valley. (Newkirk, 8/8)
The Fresno Bee and Desert Sun report on how facilities in the area ranked.
The Fresno Bee:
Federal Ratings For Valley Hospitals Range From One Star To Five
The federal government has released new hospital quality ratings, and the news is good and bad in the central San Joaquin Valley. The region has a top-rated hospital – and one of the lowest-scoring. Fresno Surgical Hospital earned a five-star score from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which rated more than 3,500 hospitals nationwide on a one-to-five-star system, with five stars the highest rating. (Anderson, 8/6)
Desert Regional Questions Low Grade On National Scorecard
New report cards from the federal government place Coachella Valley hospitals among the best and worst performers in the country. But the one to five-star assessment is drawing criticism, as hospital groups have roundly blasted the ratings as misleading and unfair to locations that serve more low-income patients or provide a wider range of services. In the valley, Eisenhower Medical Center scored high while Desert Regional Medical Center and JFK Memorial Hospital scored low. (Newkirk, 8/5)
Previous Coverage On California Healthline: Many Well-Known Hospitals Fall Short of 5 Stars In Medicare’s New Ratings (July 27)
The Board of Supervisors votes to award the three-year, $135 million contract to California Forensic Medical Group instead. Corizon Health has been the county's medical provider for 28 years but has faced allegations of shoddy care.
Inmate Health Care Provider Dumped By Alameda County
Alameda County cut ties with its longtime health care provider for county jail inmates, the Board of Supervisors voted Friday. In a special meeting, the board voted 4-0, with Supervisor Keith Carson abstaining, to award a three-year, $135 million contract to California Forensic Medical Group, despite protests and a veiled threat of legal action from the company that has held the lucrative contract for decades. Former inmates, doctors and representatives spoke in favor of keeping Corizon Health, which has provided medical care for Alameda County jails for 28 years, and has been the subject of criticism for its handling of inmates. (DeBolt, 8/5)
San Francisco Chronicle:
After Deaths, Alameda County Replaces Jail Inmate Health Provider
Alameda County will sever ties with its longtime jail health care contractor after grappling with allegations that the company provided inadequate care that may have led to inmate deaths.The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Friday voted 4-0 to award the three-year, $135 million contract to California Forensic Medical Group instead of Corizon Health Inc., following a vigorous debate among nurses, former inmates and representatives from the two companies — both of which are giants in prison health care. Supervisor Keith Carson abstained from the vote. (Swan, 8/5)
The latest installment of “Drugging Our Kids,” the Bay Area News Group’s ongoing investigative series, tells Tasia Wright's story.
California Foster Child Wanted Love; Instead She Got Powerful Antipsychotic Drugs
Growing up in foster care in Southern California Tasia Wright remembers there were frequent visits with psychiatrists, and when she met with Dr. Eliot Moon, she remembers getting a sweet, a prescription for drugs to deal with her "bad behavior" and being sent on her way. Now 27, Tasia is sharing the story of her emotionally fragile childhood under the care of one of California's highest prescribers of antipsychotic medications to foster children - the latest installment of the Bay Area News Group's ongoing investigative series "Drugging Our Kids." (de Sa, 8/8)
“We’re entering a new era where we are very close to having the first proven disease-modifying therapy," says Dr. John Olichney of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center. "It’s taken an awful lot of work for the last decade, but we think it’s slowing down the progression of the disease."
New Hope For Alzheimer’s? Researchers See First Promising Therapies In Decades
For decades, Alzheimer’s has been silently ravaging brains, stealing memories and shortening the lives of millions of Americans. Now, researchers say they may be on the brink of tantalizing treatment breakthroughs that could for the first time at least slow the disease’s deadly progression. ...Amyloid, the sticky protein that attaches to brain cells and causes Alzheimer’s, is at the forefront of new therapies. (Buck, 8/7)
In other public health news —
Los Angeles Times:
Will The Next Generation Of Cellphone Service Pose Health Risks?
Concerns about the potential harmful effects of radiofrequency radiation have dogged mobile technology since the first brick-sized cellphones hit the market in the 1980s. Industry and federal officials have largely dismissed those fears, saying the radiation exposure is minimal and that the devices are safe. ... But the launch of super-fast 5G technology over the next several years will dramatically increase the number of transmitters sending signals to cellphones and a host of new Internet-enabled devices, including smart appliances and autonomous vehicles. (Puzzanghera, 8/8)
Among other regulations, California requires a signed contract before the process begins – with separate lawyers representing surrogates and intended parents.
Booming Demand, State Protections Attract Commercial Surrogate Birthing
Surrogacy has been done privately for years, often with a family member or friend willing to carry the baby. But the practice is quietly growing commercially as modern families change and more gay and foreign couples look to the U.S. for help. California is attractive for commercial surrogacy because the state offers some legal protection for surrogates and intended parents. (Kathy Roberson, 8/5)
Officials have warned that this year the state is experiencing a particularly active season for the virus.
Capital Public Radio:
First West Nile Death Of The Year Occurs In Sacramento County
A senior citizen in Sacramento County is the first person to die of West Nile virus this year.The Public Health Department and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith released a statement Friday morning:“West Nile virus can cause a deadly infection in humans, and the elderly are particularly susceptible, as this unfortunate fatality illustrates,” said Dr. Smith. “West Nile virus activity in the state is increasing, so I urge Californians to take every possible precaution to protect themselves against mosquito bites.” (8/5)
In other health care news from across the state —
The Press Democrat:
Sonoma County Grapples With Rush Of Retirements In Wake Of Settlement Talks On Health Benefits
The sudden retirement of nearly four dozen Sonoma County government employees earlier this summer on a rumored change in retiree medical benefits has left county officials scrambling to stave off gaps in services and backfill staffing shortages among road maintenance crews, public health nurses and county planners. The retirements — 47 in June alone — represent a roughly 175 percent increase from the monthly average for the year prior. Most of the former employees — many of them already close to retirement age, according to the county — acted on a feared change in benefits stemming from settlement talks in an eight-year legal battle over the county’s cut in retiree health benefits. (Hart, 8/7)
Marin Independent Journal:
Marin Electronic Medical Record System Hacked, Ransom Paid
Marin Medical Practices Concepts, a Novato company that provides medical billing and electronic medical records services to many Marin physicians, had its computer system hacked and paid a ransom to regain access to its own data. There is "no evidence" that any patient data were compromised, according to a company official. As a result of the security breach, many Marin doctors have been unable to access patients' electronic medical records for more than a week. (Halstead, 8/5)
The New York Times breaks down the law and examines if it was successful. For the most part, it hasn't been.
The New York Times:
Did Obama’s Bill Fix Veterans’ Health Care? Still Waiting.
When President Obama signed a sweeping $15 billion bill to end delays at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals two years ago, lawmakers standing with him applauded the legislation as a bold response that would finally break the logjam. It has not quite worked out that way. Although veterans say they have seen improvement under the bill, it has often fallen short of expectations. (Philipps, 8/5)
Fixes To Obamacare Insurance Exchanges Appear Inevitable
Like basketball players who are sick of losing a game, many health insurers who ventured into the new marketplaces are sending a clear message: We're taking our ball and going home.And if the government wants them to play again, they want more of the rules changed.The large publicly traded insurers wrapped up second-quarter results last week. Adverse selection continued to weigh down the finances of health plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. (Herman, 8/6)
The New York Times:
Mike Pence’s Response To H.I.V. Outbreak: Prayer, Then A Change Of Heart
On the evening of March 24, 2015, Sheriff Dan McClain got an unexpected voice mail: “This is Gov. Mike Pence calling. I would welcome the opportunity to get your counsel on what’s going on in Scott County.”What was going on was unprecedented in Indiana and rare in the United States: H.I.V. was spreading with terrifying speed among intravenous drug users in this rural community near the Kentucky border. Local, state and federal health officials were urging the governor to allow clean needles to be distributed to slow the outbreak. (Twohey, 8/7)
The New York Times:
Immunotherapy Drug Opdivo Fails Clinical Trial To Expand Use
The hot new field of immunotherapy got a shock on Friday when a best-selling new drug failed as an initial treatment for lung cancer in a clinical trial.Bristol-Myers Squibb said Friday that the drug, Opdivo, had not slowed the progression of advanced lung cancer in the clinical trial, which compared it with conventional chemotherapy. That is likely to crimp the overall sales of the drug by a significant amount. (Pollack, 8/5)
Anti-Abortion Advocates Seek Fresh Ammunition To Justify Restrictions
Seeking to arm themselves with new ammunition after losing a major Supreme Court battle, the anti-abortion movement is calling for a national database for abortion statistics and increased state reporting — moves likely to raise patient privacy concerns. The high court’s June decision in favor of Texas abortion providers in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is expected to have a chilling effect on state abortion restrictions, which had closed clinics in Texas and other parts of the country. (Haberkorn and Pradhan, 8/8)