- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- Did Blue Shield Of California Short-Change Consumers On Refunds?
- Marketplace 2
- 'Facility Fees' An Extra Sting For Hospital Patients Already Facing High Bills
- Kaiser Permanente's Two Largest Regions Get New Leaders
- Public Health and Education 1
- Food Truck Used To Combat Hunger, Poor Nutrition Among San Diego's Low-Income Seniors
- Around California 2
- Work Piles Up In Los Angeles Coroner's Office Amidst Staff Shortages, Leadership Void
- Surgeon Brothers Offering Transgender Surgery At Thousand Oaks Practice
Latest From California Healthline:
A class-action suit says the state’s third largest insurer owes beneficiaries more than $34 million. Blue Shield says the allegations are “misinformed and incorrect.” (Pauline Bartolone, 7/18)
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More News From Across The State
While many hospitals around the country explain the fees on their websites, lawmakers in Congress and some states have called for greater upfront explanations of billing practices to patients.
The Desert Sun:
Extra Hospital 'Facility Fees' Irk Patients
Facility fees have been part of the complex health-care billing landscape since around 2000, when Medicare introduced new standards, but they've remained controversial while becoming more common. Hospitals say the money helps make up for low Medicare reimbursement rates and pay expenses beyond those directly associated with patient care, ranging from an electric bill to emergency room. Consumer groups, however, say hospitals are charging patients, insurance companies and Medicare more without justification. (Newkirk, 7/15)
Janet Liang was named president of the Northern California region, while Julie Miller-Phipps takes on the same role in Southern California.
San Francisco Business Times:
Kaiser Permanente Promotes 2 Execs To Lead Largest Divisions
Kaiser Permanente, one of the biggest health care systems in the country, has promoted two executives to run its largest regions: Northern California, with roughly 4 million enrollees, and Southern California, with 4.2 million. Together, the two Golden State units cover 77 percent of Kaiser's 10.6 million enrollees nationally. Janet Liang, currently the unit's chief operating officer, was named president of the Northern California region. Kaiser said her current job will be folded into the new one. Julie Miller-Phipps takes on the same role in Southern California. (Rauber, 7/15)
The chips allow scientists to measure how certain body parts react to caffeine, heart medicine or other more dangerous toxins.
Technology Offers Hope For End Of Animal Testing
The "Human on a Chip" program shifts the experiments from living animals to the lab by replicating cells of human organs and tissues, exposing them to chemicals and using electrical signals to measure the response. While labs and university researchers in other parts of the United States are using similar technology to test different organs of the body, scientists at Lawrence Livermore are focusing on four vital body functions: the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, blood-brain barrier and heart. The chips allow scientists, for example, to measure how certain body parts react to caffeine, heart medicine or other more dangerous toxins. (Torres, 7/18)
If it is legalized for the general population, "people who genuinely need it as medicine will be misplaced and thrown to the side," one opponent of the initiative says. Others worry about added regulations and changes to the price of medical marijuana that could follow.
Orange County Register:
What Happens To Medical Marijuana If Proposition 64 Makes Recreational Use Legal?
As she battles symptoms of lupus and depression, Alexandra Rice says she depends on easy access to medical marijuana to control widespread pain and to improve her mood. The 21-year-old resident of Grand Terrace has pictures of cannabis flowers on her Twitter profile and friends whose livelihoods depend on the pot industry. She’s also an unlikely opponent of a November ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana for all adults in California. (Edwards Staggs, 7/16)
A potential partnership between Scripps Health and MD Anderson, one of the nation’s first three federally designated comprehensive cancer centers, could make a big splash in the area. But questions remain about whether it would actually improve quality of care.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Top Cancer Hospital May Enter San Diego Market
A potential partnership between Scripps Health and MD Anderson could bring one of the best-known names in cancer care to San Diego County. Such an alliance would surely make a big splash with patients and their families, but some question whether its strongest impact would be higher medical quality or simply better marketing. Similar debates are taking place across the country as more hospitals, including those in the San Diego region, strike co-branding deals that involve varying levels of staff integration. (Sisson, 7/17)
In more public health news from California, a former pastor with Parkinson's disease now writes a humorous and touching blog about his changed life, toxic algae blooms in state lakes and the Modesto Reservoir gives out life jackets and CPR lessons to decrease drowning cases.
Fighting Poor Nutrition Among California Seniors – With A Food Truck
California is a leading state in which seniors have become among “the hidden poor,” according to a 2015 study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Nearly 1 in 5, or about 772,000, of California’s adults older than 65 cannot afford basic needs such as food, housing, transportation and health care, but often do not qualify for public assistance, the study found. “If you’re running out of money at the end of the month ... the easiest thing is to cut down on food or eat food that is inexpensive or not nutritious,” said Steven Wallace, associate director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and co-author of the report. (Agha, 7/17)
Former Pastor ‘Searching For Voice’ Stolen By Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease took away Steve La Farge’s calling and career – 35 years as a pastor – but it hasn’t robbed him of one of the things he loved most about being at the pulpit: sharing stories. Today, his outlet for that is a blog titled “Searching for My Voice,” which he began in March. And a sharp left turn in occupations – La Farge now is a full-time driver for Uber and Lyft afternoons and nights after days spent job hunting – provides plenty of material. (Farrow, 7/17)
LA Daily News:
Toxic Algae Is Blooming More Often In Our Lakes, Reservoirs. Does That Threaten Our Drinking Water?
The night of Aug. 1, 2014, Toledo water officials received some troubling news. For the first time in the city’s history, an unsafe amount of a dangerous algae toxin had been detected in its drinking water supply. “We need to take action right now,” Public Utilities Director Ed Moore recalled saying when the city ordered customers not to drink, shower, brush their teeth or wash dishes with the tap water coming from their faucets. (Baer, 7/17)
Keeping Kids Safe On The Water, One Life Vest At A Time
On a typically hot, sunny Central Valley summer day, heads bobbed up and down in Modesto Reservoir as kids sought relief in the water. But on Saturday, more of those heads were being buoyed with the help of brand-new life vests. Safe Kids Stanislaus, a coalition of local health care providers, family service groups and law enforcement agencies, had 200 free life jackets to give away to children Saturday morning. (Rowland, 7/16)
Some progress is being made to tackle the backlog though, according to a report, after improvements were put in place to add criminologists and retain staff.
LA Daily News:
Shortage Of Talent, Strapped Resources, Slow Search For LA County Coroner
Some progress has been made in processing autopsies and toxicology results at the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, where the head of the department abruptly resigned three months ago because of the number of bodies that had piled up, heavy workloads and staff shortages, according to a recent report. The report, presented to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday by the chief executive office, was in response to recommendations made to alleviate the backlog at the coroner’s department. Some improvements so far include adding a few more criminologists, placing some employees on a higher pay scale, and launching a study to learn how to retain staff. (Abram, 7/18)
The brothers are not the only plastic surgeons in Southern California or even Ventura County that perform top surgery. But the number is limited with one doctor citing the small size of the transgender community and another pointing to the behavioral health component of gender procedures.
Ventura County Star:
Transgender Surgery In Thousand Oaks Aimed At Confirming Identity
Dr. Gil Kryger and his older brother, Zol, perform about 150 operations a year in which they remove the breasts of patients who were born female but think of themselves as male. Once labeled gender reassignment, doctors and advocates now tag it as gender confirmation. ... From either side of an operating table, the brother plastic surgeons perform an outpatient procedure that takes two hours, leaving a flattened chest, lifelong implications that will always spark debate and, for many, a clearer sense of identity. (Kisken, 7/15)
In other news from across the state —
The Press Democrat:
Sonoma County Mental Health Advocates Watching Federal Bill
According to its supporters, the new legislation — quietly making its way through Congress — would take steps toward bringing some of the nation’s mental health laws in line with current science and medical knowledge. The bill, called the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, would begin to overhaul a mental health system whose services many criticize as being too little too late. (Espinoza, 7/17)
Ventura County Star:
Free Clinic Of Simi Valley Says It Did Nothing Improper With $50K Grant
The Free Clinic of Simi Valley says it did nothing improper with a $50,000 grant that is part of a criminal investigation into possible embezzlement from the Simi Valley Community Foundation's Under One Roof project. In announcing the Ventura County District Attorney's investigation Tuesday, Jarrod DeGonia, chairman of the foundation's board, said the Community Development Block Grant to the clinic "was of concern." (Harris, 7/15)
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Kaiser Grant Promotes Health In Lemon Grove
A group that works to promote healthy eating habits and active living in Lemon Grove has received a $1 million grant from Kaiser Permanente. The nonprofit Community Health Improvement Partners, which collaborates with Lemon Grove’s HEAL Zone, was presented with the check from Kaiser on Thursday to continue the partnership. (Pearlman, 7/15)
South Bay Teens Spent A Week 'Designing The Future'
Four local teens were able to put their problem-solving skills to the test to better the lives of people with physical disabilities. ..."Design the Future is a one-week design thinking program that teaches high school students how to design and solve problems for individuals with physical disabilities," program creator Durell Coleman said. "We tell students that they can change the world all the time, but we don't show them how." The program is in its second year and was held at the Stanford Institute of Design. (Myllenbeck, 7/15)
By picking Mike Pence, Donald Trump adds a social-issues warrior with a very conservative track record to his ticket. But Pence's unbending stance on abortion rights will may hurt Trump's support among women and help with anti-abortion voters.
The New York Times:
How Mike Pence Became A Conservative Hero: Unwavering Opposition To Abortion
One by one, Republican women of the Indiana state legislature rose to describe, in anguished terms, why they could not support an anti-abortion measure hurtling toward passage. They hated abortion, they said, but this bill went too far. It would have prohibited a woman from aborting a fetus because it had a disability, such as Down syndrome. ...Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence, waved off the objections of his fellow Republicans: He signed the legislation into law a few weeks later, enacting what advocates and foes agree was a sweeping and unusual set of restrictions on abortion that went further than any other state in the country and openly clashed with legal precedent. (Davey and Barbaro, 7/16)
The Washington Post:
Mike Pence Has Made No Secret About His Views On Abortion. Will This Help Or Hurt Trump?
Donald Trump just announced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his VP running mate. If the name sounds familiar, even if you haven't been paying attention to the days of speculation about the pick, it's probably because of Pence's work regarding women's reproductive rights. The Republican first made national headlines on this subject in 2011 when, as a representative to Congress from his state's 2nd District, he sought to defund Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions. Until that time, the women's health organization had made it through numerous GOP Congresses and never become such a big target. (Cha, 7/15)
The Washington Post:
Trump Has A Problem With Female Voters. Pence Could Make It Even Worse.
Donald Trump has already had problems making inroads with female, gay and minority voters. His vice-presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, could make things even worse. Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, has endorsed conservative legislation on abortion, gay rights and immigration both in his home state and while in Congress, where he was consistently ranked as one of the most right-leaning members of the House. He attempted to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding, supported a measure that made English the nation’s official language and signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws earlier this year. (Zezima, 7/16)
Women Are Calling Donald Trump’s Campaign To Report On Their Periods
One Utah woman called Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on Friday with a question: Where should she send her used tampons in case of a miscarriage? An Indiana woman called with a different query: Could she go swimming, or would the chlorine in the water be harmful to her unfertilized eggs? And a Colorado woman had a message for the campaign: She may have lost a couple hundred eggs just today. The flood of calls, reported in comments on Facebook, are part of a social media push started by women in Indiana opposed to a restrictive abortion law passed earlier this year in Indiana that required the remains of a miscarried or aborted fetus to be buried or cremated. In April, women began calling Governor Mike Pence’s office in protest. Now, with Trump’s announcement he has chosen Pence as his running mate, the “Periods for Pence” push is going national. (Robbins, 7/15)
Pence Plugs Enthusiasm Gap For Anti-Abortion Voters
Donald Trump’s selection of Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate could finally make anti-abortion voters excited to vote for the Republican ticket. Pence’s long record of opposition to abortion has energized anti-abortion voters in a way that Trump has not. Pence wrote a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics nearly a decade ago — long before it became a GOP policy staple — and he has signed numerous restrictions into state law. That gives anti-abortion voters confidence that Trump will be a champion of causes that matter most to them. (Haberkorn, 7/15)
Meanwhile, Stat looks at the health topics to watch at the convention —
5 Health And Medicine Issues To Watch For At The GOP Convention
Until now, health care hasn’t been a big part of Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency. But conventions are about more than the nominee, and Republicans are likely to have something to say about issues including Obamacare, abortion, and perhaps even medical research. Here are the five biggest things to watch in health and medicine: (Nather, 7/18)
Four states -- Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming -- have left it up to the federal government to review rate increases. And while offiicals have urged states to take a harsh stance on any unwarranted spikes, it is unclear if they will actually significantly pare back rates themselves. Meanwhile, the calls for "repeal and replace" grow shakier now that so many Americans are covered under the law.
The New York Times:
Insurers, Pushing For Higher Rates, Challenge Key Component Of Health Law
For several years, the Obama administration has urged state insurance regulators to use tools provided by the Affordable Care Act to hold down health care premiums. Now federal officials will have a chance to practice what they preach as they confront big increases proposed in several states where they are responsible for reviewing rates. ederal officials defer to the insurance commissioners in 46 states deemed to have “effective rate review” programs. But in Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming, the federal government is in charge of reviewing rates. (Pear, 7/16)
The Associated Press:
With Millions Covered,' Repeal And Replace' Gets Riskier
Cleveland, we have a problem. As Republicans gather to anoint their presidential ticket, Donald Trump's plan for replacing "Obamacare" appears to be anything but solid. A nonpartisan analysis recently found it would make 18 million people uninsured. Uncompromising opposition to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul has been a winning issue for Republicans, helping them gain control of Congress. Capturing the White House would finally let them make good on "repeal and replace." (7/18)
In other national health care news —
Top U.S. Health Official Highlights Need for Insurer Competition
The Obama administration’s top health official highlighted the importance of competition to insurance markets, as the Justice Department is poised to decide on two massive deals among four of the health-plan industry’s biggest players. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said competition among insurers can reduce costs that consumers face and improve the quality of their health coverage. She declined to comment on her department’s view of Aetna Inc.’s proposed purchase of Humana Inc. or Anthem Inc.’s deal for Cigna Corp. If both mergers are completed, the industry’s five largest companies would be reduced to three. (Tracer, 7/15)
The New York Times:
Makers Of Humira And Enbrel Using New Drug Patents To Delay Generic Versions
The best-selling drugs Humira and Enbrel have a lot in common. They both use biotechnology to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases. And they come with giant price tags approaching $50,000 a year. Now the two companies behind the competing drugs have found common ground in keeping those prices so high: They are deploying new patents to prevent patients and insurers from getting two essentially generic versions of the drugs for less money. (Pollack, 7/15)
The New York Times:
Twist In Zika Outbreak: New York Case Shows Women Can Spread It To Men
The first case of female-to-male sexual transmission of the Zika virus has been documented in New York City, raising the prospect that the disease could spread more widely beyond the countries where it is already endemic and largely transmitted by mosquitoes. For months, there has been growing concern about the dangers of sexual transmission, but until now the virus has been thought to pass only from men to women or between two men. (Santora, 7/15)
Pediatricians Take On New Role: Fighting The Bigotry And Violence That Hurts Kids
America’s pediatricians are tired of watching their patients traumatized by gun violence and racism. Now, they’re launching an effort to do something about it. The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday issued recommendations that children under 6 be shielded from on-screen violence, that video games stop awarding points for shooting living targets, and that the media avoid downplaying the proven link between virtual and real violence. (Weintraub, 7/18)