- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Bosses Find Part-Time Workers Can Come With Full-Time Headaches
- Insurance Regulation Shifting Toward Managed Care Agency
- Marketplace 2
- Theranos Gets Extension For Reporting Ways It Will Fix Deficiencies At Lab
- FDA Targets Stem Cell Clinics In California Offering Pricey, But Unproven, Treatments
- Public Health and Education 3
- Local Officials Monitor Zika Cases, Issue Travel Warnings
- After Mild Start To Flu Season, Experts Warn Peak Has Yet To Come
- Porter Ranch Residents' Health Concerns Linger Over Thought Of Returning Home
- Around California 1
- New University Is First For-Profit Traditional Medical School Accredited In U.S.
Latest From California Healthline:
Health law requirements that small employers offer insurance to full-time workers prompted some fast-food restaurants to convert more employees to part time. Now owners are rethinking that approach. (April Dembosky, KQED, 2/8)
The authority of the Department of Managed Health Care in California’s dual-agency system has grown in recent years. The agency now regulates 88 percent of the commercial market. (David Gorn, 2/8)
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More News From Across The State
Gov. Jerry Brown has been negotiating with health plans for months, but lawmakers would have to vote on any agreed-upon proposal.
Capital Public Radio:
Brown Nearing MCO Tax Deal With Health Plans
California lawmakers could vote this week on a proposal to restructure a tax on health care plans in order to avert a potential $1 billion state budget hole. This “managed care organization” (MCO) tax brings in federal funds for Medi-Cal, California’s health care program for the poor. The federal government say the state’s current structure is no longer acceptable – and must be fixed by the end of June for the state to keep getting the money. (Adler, 2/8)
The blood testing startup has hired a new director, and the company has asked for time for him to review its plans to fix the flaws at the Palo Alto lab. In other marketplace news, Cofactor Genomics has acquired Narus Biotechnologies.
Theranos Gets Additional Week To Respond To U.S. Inspection
Blood-testing startup Theranos Inc. said it has been given a one-week extension by U.S. regulators to say how it will fix flaws at a California laboratory. Deficiencies at Theranos’s lab in Newark, California, “pose immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety,” officials at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a Jan. 25 letter. At the time, the agency demanded immediate changes at the lab and threatened the closely held company with sanctions. Theranos, which was given 10 days to respond, has hired a new lab director, Kingshuk Das. (Chen, 2/5)
The San Francisco Business Times:
Cofactor Genomics Acquires S.F. Biotech Narus
San Francisco-based Narus Biotechnologies has been acquired by Cofactor Genomics, a biotech company operating out of the Cortex innovation district in St. Louis, the companies announced Thursday. Cofactor, which provides DNA and RNA sequencing services, acquired Narus Biotechnologies, a biomarker development company focused on creating RNA diagnostic tests for neurological diseases that can help inform therapeutic selection for patients with multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (Feldt, 2/5)
The clinics have largely avoided regulation because they use stem cells from their patients' own bodies, but critics call the therapies dangerous quackery. “It’s a huge, unapproved human experiment,” said Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher at the University of California at Davis.
FDA Crackdown Could Shut Stem Cell Clinics Peddling Unproven Treatments
Federal regulators are preparing to crack down on scores of clinics across the United States that offer pricey stem cell therapies for conditions ranging from autism to multiple sclerosis to erectile dysfunction without any scientific evidence that they work. (McFarling, 2/8)
A jury in October convicted Dr. Hsiu Ying "Lisa" Tseng of three counts of second-degree murder.
California Doctor Gets 30 Years To Life In Landmark Overdose Case
A Southern California doctor was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison on Friday for over-prescribing drugs that caused the fatal overdose of three patients in a murder case capped by the first conviction of its kind in the United States. The case against Dr. Hsiu Ying "Lisa" Tseng, 46, comes amid what public health officials describe as a national epidemic of drug abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the trend is fueling nearly 17,000 overdose deaths annually, as well as a rise in heroin addiction. (Gorman, 2/5)
News outlets in Los Angeles, Fresno, Kern County and Oakland report on the latest developments related to the mosquito-borne virus.
The Los Angeles Daily News:
Local Pregnant Women With Ties To Mexico, Central And South America Urged To Avoid Travel Amid Zika Fears
Three months into her pregnancy, Adilene Benavidez knows just enough about the Zika virus to be concerned, but not enough to be scared. Not yet anyway. (Abram, 2/5)
The Fresno Bee:
With Zika Virus Spreading Internationally, Local Vector Control Districts Brace For Upcoming Mosquito Season
The Zika virus causing worldwide alarm gives central San Joaquin Valley mosquito-abatement leaders new reason to fret about efforts to control the pests. Zika can be spread by the same black and white mosquitoes, known as Aedes aegypti, that are aggressive day-biters and can be carriers for yellow fever and chikungunya. Aedes aegypti were first discovered in Madera and Clovis during the summer of 2013 and have been widening their range ever since. (Syed, 2/5)
Zika Virus Latest, Kern And CA Health Officials Awaiting Further Guidance
Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency Friday due to the ongoing Zika virus outbreak. Officials say 22 people have been infected with the disease in Puerto Rico. In the U.S. 54 people have been infected with the Zika virus, but health officials say all but one of those cases were acquired while out of the country. (Harrington, 2/5)
The San Jose Mercury News:
Pregnant Oakland Woman Tests Negative For Zika Virus
As concerns about the Zika virus grow by the day, Oakland resident Brook Meakins is breathing a huge sigh of relief. Meakins, who is pregnant with her first child, says test results last week confirmed that she does not have the mosquito-borne virus. (Seipel, 2/8)
Although data show fewer flu cases and related deaths, public health officials say it's because last year's flu peaked earlier. This one is likely to reach its height in February.
The Los Angeles Times:
Flu Season Is Starting To Pick Up In California
The flu season is ramping up in California, and public health officials say they only expect it to worsen in the coming weeks. Data released Friday morning shows that cases of the flu are as expected for this time of year. Still, the number of flu hospitalizations and deaths falls far below what California has experienced in recent years. (Karlamangla, 2/5)
The Southern California Gas Co. says the gases being released now will not affect residents' health, but families who were uprooted are not so sure they believe that.
Families Near The Huge Gas Leak Wonder: Is Home A Safe Place To Be?
A major natural gas storage well in Southern California is still leaking, though less so than back in late October, when the giant gas leak was first reported. More than 5,000 families and two schools have been relocated since then, and the local utility that operates the facility is now facing several legal actions. The utility, Southern California Gas Co., now says the leak should be sealed by the end of the month, if not earlier, and also says the gases released will cause no long-term health effects. But some people who live near the leak worry that not enough research has been done to make that claim. (McEvers, 2/5)
The LifeWalker allows users to look straight ahead rather than at the ground, the company says. In other health technology news, more Internet-connected medical devices are coming to the market.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Making Strides With An Upright Walker
From the iconoclastic VW Beetle to the swanky Mercedes-Benz, the vehicle of choice for baby boomers has followed the arc of their lives. As members of that generation edge into elderhood, they’re increasingly adopting another mobility device: a medical walker. Boomers are twice as likely to use walkers and other ambulatory devices than the previous generation -- 6.9 percent versus 3.3 percent -- according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Fikes, 2/5)
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Just What The Doctor Ordered: Connectivity
In a few years, patients with chronic breathing problems will puff on an Internet-connected inhaler that instantly sends data about how often the device is used to the medicine provider and potentially doctors who monitor care. (Freeman, 2/5)
With an inaugural class of 60 students, the California Northstate University College of Medicine in Elk Grove says it hopes to make a dent in the nation’s physician shortage. In other medical education news, USC’s Ostrow School of Dentistry launches its largest-ever mobile dental clinic.
The Sacramento Bee:
New Medical School In Elk Grove Makes History
The first for-profit traditional medical school accredited in the United States hopes to make a dent in a physician shortage and lack of medical school slots in California and nationwide. (Robertson, 2/6)
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune:
USC Dental School Unveils Biggest-Ever Mobile Dental Clinic In Pasadena
The University of Southern California partnered with a nonprofit organization and donors to unveil what’s billed as the world’s largest mobile dental clinic in Pasadena Friday, offering free dental care to more than 100 area children. (Day, 2/8)
"The insurance companies are getting rich on Obamacare," Donald Trump said while insurers say they are struggling under the Affordable Care Act. The Associated Press looks at this and other claims made by the candidates. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich may not tout his anti-abortion bona fides, but he has shuttered half of his state's clinics. And Hillary Clinton labels Marco Rubio's attacks on her abortion position as "pathetic."
The Associated Press:
Fact Check: Skewed GOP Claims On Taxes, Health Insurance
Viewers of the latest Republican presidential debate didn't get a straight story from the candidates on U.S. taxes vs. the world, the state of the health insurance marketplace under "Obamacare" or what might happen if that law is taken away. ... "We will adopt commonsense reforms, No. 1, we'll allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines," [Ted Cruz said]. Allowing the interstate sale of health insurance policies is not a new idea, and not the straightforward solution that it may sound. This long-standing Republican proposal has previously run into opposition from regulators in many states. State insurance and consumer protection regulators say such an approach could trigger a "race to the bottom," allowing skimpy out-of-state policies to undercut benefits that individual states require. (2/6)
Rubio Comes Under Heavy Fire At Republican Presidential Debate
Rising Republican contender Marco Rubio came under heavy attack in a presidential debate on Saturday from rivals who accused him of being too inexperienced for the White House and walking away from an immigration reform plan he championed. In a fiery debate three days ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump also battled with rival Jeb Bush over the use of eminent domain to seize private property and called for a compassionate approach to those who might lose their health insurance if Republicans repealed Obamacare. (2/6)
On Abortion, Kasich Is No Moderate
John Kasich is hoping for a candidacy-saving showing in New Hampshire on Tuesday by positioning himself as a pragmatic GOP budget-balancer, more moderate than his rivals. But on abortion, the Ohio governor is anything but moderate, signing a slew of restrictive laws that have closed nearly half his state’s clinics. During months of campaigning, Kasich has scarcely talked about that record, however, even though abortion is an issue that drives many Republican primary voters. “He’s the classic under-commit, over-perform guy,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. “Certainly on this issue, it’s hard to find a governor or anyone who has a better record.” (Haberkorn, 2/5)
Hillary Clinton: Rubio's Abortion Attacks "Pathetic"
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Sunday that Marco Rubio's attacks on her beliefs about abortion are "pathetic." Rubio, the Florida senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said during Saturday night's GOP debate that Democrats are the "extremists" on abortion and that Clinton supports the procedure "even on the due date of that unborn child." (Kaplan, 2/7)
In other 2016 election news, emails reveal Hillary Clinton closely followed the Affordable Care Act when it was moving through Congress and Bernie Sanders pushes back against claims that his plans are too radical —
The New York Times:
Hillary Clinton Lobbied On Health Care As Secretary Of State, Emails Show
On Christmas Eve in 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was awake before dawn to personally monitor a critical moment in the nation’s history. But Mrs. Clinton, the country’s top diplomat, was not observing a covert operation in the Middle East or tracking pivotal negotiations with a foreign power. Her television was tuned to C-Span, and she was watching the Senate vote on President Obama’s landmark health care law. Emails released last week by the State Department that were found on Mrs. Clinton’s private server show that she was keenly interested in the administration’s push to win passage of the health care law. (Herszenhorn, 2/5)
The Washington Post:
At N.H. Rally, Sanders Says His Ideas Aren’t As ‘Radical’ As Clinton Camp Suggests
Appearing at a boisterous rally here, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday repeatedly pushed back against claims that his agenda is too ambitious and that he lacks the chops to be commander in chief. ...Turning to his plan to move to a single-payer, “Medicare for all” health-care system, Sanders was equally dismissive of concerns that Clinton has raised about a new congressional battle that would be necessary to replace the Affordable Care Act championed by President Obama. “For the benefit of my critics, let me say it as loudly and clearly as I can: Health care is a right, not a privilege,” Sanders said, noting that 29 million Americans remain without health insurance. (Wagner, 2/7)
The Associated Press:
Sanders Campaign Plans Clash With Political Realities
Bernie Sanders promises voters a "political revolution" that will fundamentally remake the American economy and its education and health care systems. Often left unsaid by Sanders, but increasingly at the center of Hillary Clinton's arguments against her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, is that the political reality of achieving such goals is likely to be a whole lot more complicated. ... Clinton's advisers often point out how difficult it was for President Barack Obama to convince a Democratic-led Congress to support the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Sanders' plan — called "Medicare for All" — would go significantly further by establishing a national health care system run entirely by the government. (2/7)
And The New York Times looks at Sanders' response to reports of trouble at the VA —
The New York Times:
Faith In Agency Clouded Bernie Sanders’s V.A. Response
There were reports of secret waiting lists to hide long delays in care. Whistle-blowers said as many as 40 veterans had died waiting for appointments. And Congress was demanding answers. Despite mounting evidence of trouble at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Senator Bernie Sanders, then the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, initially regarded the complaints as overblown, and as a play by conservatives to weaken one of the country’s largest social welfare institutions. (Eder and Philipps, 2/6)
Many of the ads, aimed at lawmakers and other influencers, feature patients who have been helped by new medicines and company scientists working on drug development. In other national news, as millennials become a larger percentage of patients, the "instant gratification generation" could change everything about health care, and the Los Angeles Times looks at why it took so long for the FDA to warn the public about the dirty scopes that caused dozens of patients to get sick.
The Wall Street Journal:
Drug Industry Launches Ad Campaign Aimed At Lawmakers
The pharmaceutical industry, under fire this election season for rising drug prices, is ramping up a new advertising campaign designed to improve its reputation with lawmakers as it lobbies against any effort to rein in prescription costs. The sector’s largest trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, says it intends to spend several million dollars this year, and 10% more than in 2015, on digital, radio and print ads that emphasize the industry’s role in developing new drugs and advancing medical science. (Walker, 2/7)
USA Today/Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal:
Here's How Millennials Could Change Health Care
With a presidential election fast approaching, healthcare is an issue that’s getting plenty of traction on both sides of the political aisle. For Republicans, taking down President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act remains a red meat issue. Republican presidential candidates are also trotting out an ACA repeal as a key incentive for voting a member of the party into the Oval Office. Healthcare has been a key issue in the Democratic debates as well, with Hillary Clinton pushing back on rival Bernie Sanders’ plan for universal health care. Amid all the debate, however, one group could prove to be the wild card. As more millennials interact with the healthcare system, the industry will find itself facing a more sophisticated and demanding group that won’t stand for its inefficiencies with the same begrudging acceptance of previous generations, said Kathy Hempstead, director of insurance coverage for the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. (Hidalgo, 2/7)
Los Angeles Times:
Why It Took Years For The FDA To Warn About Infections Tied To Medical Scopes
An outbreak at a Pennsylvania hospital in late 2012 should have been an early warning that a reusable medical scope was spreading deadly infections and nearly impossible to disinfect. But staff at the federal Food and Drug Administration lost the report, one of multiple missteps that allowed doctors and hospitals to continue using the scope for three more years even as dozens of patients were sickened. The missing paperwork, revealed in a recent Senate inquiry, underscores the serious shortcomings in the antiquated national database used to monitor the safety of medical devices, which even the FDA has long admitted is flawed. (Peterson, 2/8)