- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Olympus Told U.S. Executives No Broad Scope Warning Needed Despite Superbug Outbreaks
- No Primary Care Doc? We’ll Get You One
- Public Health and Education 2
- Inexpensive Visual Training Cuts Likelihood Of Dementia Nearly In Half, Study Finds
- As West Nile Activity Ramps Up, Sacramento-Yolo Officials Consider Aerial Spraying
Latest From California Healthline:
Internal emails show that after the Tokyo-based device maker alerted customers in Europe in 2013, it told its U.S. operation not to widely warn U.S. doctors and hospitals. Since then, at least 35 patients have died after being sickened in outbreaks. (Chad Terhune, 7/24)
Starting next year, Covered California will require health plans to assign a primary care provider to all enrollees who don’t already have one — though the assignments will not be binding. (Pauline Bartolone, 7/25)
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More News From Across The State
Prop 56, which would increase the tax on cigarettes by two dollars a pack, is bringing in millions on both sides of the fight.
Capital Public Radio:
Big Tobacco Raises $17 Million To Oppose California Cigarette Tax Increase
Supporters of California’s cigarette tax on the November ballot say they are bracing for a big money fight with Big Tobacco. Tobacco companies recently raised $17 million to oppose Prop 56. That proposition would increase the tax on cigarettes by two dollars a pack. Proponents such as Jim Knox of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network say they’re preparing for an onslaught of opposition. “This is classic tobacco industry strategy and deception,” Knox said of the cash infusion. “They will spend tens of millions of dollars to confuse and deceive the voters about the deadly nature of their product, as they have been doing for decades.” (Nichols, 7/25)
Sharp HealthCare and Scripps Health are both achieving strong financial performance, but Scripps Health is losing both inpatient and outpatient market share, a new report finds.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Sharp HealthCare Gaining Market Share
From competition to critical care, a new report from the California Health Care Foundation recently took stock of medical resources in San Diego County. The Sacramento-based nonprofit research and advocacy group has released an analysis of the region’s health-care market, its first since 2013. ... The report finds that the “competitive positions” of the county’s two largest health systems are changing, with “Sharp HealthCare gaining and Scripps Health losing both inpatient and outpatient market share” — although “both systems continue to achieve strong financial performance, as has Kaiser Permanente.” UC San Diego Health has also made gains, the researchers noted, while “smaller hospitals have been losing [patient] volume and struggling financially.” (Sisson, 7/22)
The 168-bed, six-story facility will replace patient accommodations in Valley Medical Center's nearby Old Main hospital, which state officials deemed unfit to weather earthquakes.
The Mercury News:
Long-Delayed New Building At Valley Medical Center Set To Open In 2017
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center's new bed building is on track to be completed next June after years of delays and rising costs for which the recently reconciled county and Turner Construction Company both blamed each other. The building will open its doors to patients near the end of 2017, and officials from both sides were eager to put the difficulties behind them during a Friday media tour of the ongoing construction. (Knowles, 7/23)
An investigation found that deficiencies at the nursing home, based in Canoga Park, were determined to have been a direct proximate cause of death of a patient or resident.
LA Daily News:
Canoga Park Nursing Home Fined $75,000 For Resident’s Death
A Canoga Park-based nursing home was fined $75,000 after staff there failed to monitor a resident who kept removing his own breathing tube, resulting in his death, state health officials announced Friday. Topanga Terrace, at 22125 Roscoe Blvd, received the fine because a resident who relied on a tracheostomy tube to breath died after removing the apparatus in 2013. Investigators with the California Department of Public Health also found the patient suffered from multiple illnesses including dementia, chronic respiratory failure and tuberculosis, but a proper plan of treatment to deter the man from removing his own tube was not in place. (Abram, 7/23)
The computerized training is designed to increase the speed at which the brain picks up and processes cues in a person’s field of vision.
Los Angeles Times:
Brain Training May Forestall Dementia Onset For Years, New Study Says
If you’re intent on keeping dementia at bay, new research suggests you’ll need more than crossword puzzles, aerobic exercise and an active social life. In a study released Sunday, researchers found that older adults who did exercises to shore up the speed at which they processed visual information could cut by nearly half their likelihood of cognitive decline or dementia over a 10-year period. The new clinical trial results, presented Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Assn.’s International Conference in Toronto, establish specialized brain training as a potentially powerful strategy to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and other afflictions, including normal aging, that sap memory and reduce function. (Healy, 7/24)
"We are seeing very high levels of West Nile virus activity ... and we are very concerned," says Gary Goodman, of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District.
West Nile Virus Activity May Prompt Aerial Spraying In Woodland
A decision whether to conduct aerial spraying for mosquitoes in Woodland to control West Nile virus will be made next week, according to the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District. West Nile virus activity throughout Yolo County has intensified in the past couple of weeks, with widespread activity in Woodland, Davis, Knights Landing and Dunnigan, officials said Friday. To date, 52 mosquito samples and 20 dead birds have tested positive for the virus in Yolo County. ...Aerial spraying may be necessary next week in Woodland, he said. A decision will be based on continued surveillance over the weekend and lab testing results that will be available Monday. (Locke, 7/22)
East County Mosquitoes Test Positive For West Nile
Two groups of mosquitoes in separate East Contra Costa County communities tested positive for West Nile virus, the Contra Costa County Mosquito and Vector Control District reported Friday. One group was found near Knightsen and the other was discovered in Antioch. If they bite humans, the infected mosquitoes can pass along the virus. West Nile virus can cause death. (Cameron, 7/23)
In other public health news —
San Gabriel Valley Tribune:
Sand Fire In Santa Clarita Creates Unhealthy Air Throughout LA County
As residents throughout Los Angeles County awoke to an ash-covered Southland, public health officials warned that the 11,000-acre Sand fire burning in Santa Clarita had created unhealthy air quality in much of Los Angeles County. The Santa Clarita Valley, the San Gabriel Mountains, the West San Gabriel Valley, Pomona, the San Fernando and the Central Los Angeles area were all seeing “poor air quality” as a result of the Sand fire, which broke out Friday, as measured by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. (Day, 7/23)
East Bay Times:
Algae In Drinking Water Causes Santa Clara Valley Water Officials To Scramble
Normally at this time of year, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a government agency that provides drinking water and flood protection to 1.9 million people in Santa Clara County, relies heavily on water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for its supplies. But this year, high levels of algae in the Delta, and also in San Luis Reservoir, a massive lake near Los Banos from which the water district draws some of its supply, began giving the water an earthy taste and smell in late June. So the district essentially closed off the pipe from San Luis, and began taking more drinking water from Coyote Lake and Anderson Reservoir instead. (Rogers, 7/24)
Ventura County Star:
The Old School Farm Serves Up Healthy Meals In Ventura
The proprietor of Salad Bar Farms has neither a salad nor a bar, and not much of a farm, as he stands in the midst of his "back 40" — a fifth of an acre, actually, in a corner of a Ventura school playground...The [pilot project at Balboa Middle School, developed in conjunction with Ventura Unified School District] will kick into higher gear when school begins, with kids involved, quite literally, from the ground up — planting, maintaining, harvesting and packaging organically grown vegetables and fruits for their own school cafeteria. (Nelson, 7/23)
Along with the sponsorship deal, Republic FC -- a professional soccer team -- and UC Davis Health will also work together on a “Built for Health” initiative, which focuses on improving children's health through exercise, nutrition and mental health programs.
Sacramento Business Journal:
Sacramento Republic Extends, Broadens Uniform Deal With UC Davis Health
In announcing an extended and potentially expanded “kit” deal with UC Davis Health System on Friday, Sacramento Republic FC checked off what team officials called one of if not the most important steps to securing Major League Soccer’s expansion approval. The deal would put the health care provider's name on team uniforms, not only for ongoing seasons in the United Soccer League Pro, but if the team joins the MLS as well. (van der Meer, 7/22)
Although Hillary Clinton's running mate Tim Kaine says "the right role for government is to let women make their own decisions," he has some history with supporting anti-abortion programs that could make the topic a vulnerable spot for the Democrat in his debates with Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.
The Associated Press:
Kaine Liberal Appeal Muted By Energy Ties, Abortion Concerns
Hillary Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine are closely aligned on many issues, but Kaine's cautious, left-leaning political profile in a closely contested state is blurred by his ties to energy industry interests and his personal qualms over abortion. ... Clinton and Kaine are avowed champions of women's reproductive rights. But as a self-described "traditional Catholic," Kaine has long said he personally opposes abortion, a stance that drew criticism from women's groups. His personal qualms could cause complications later in the campaign when he debates Republican rival Mike Pence, an anti-abortion crusader. (7/23)
The New York Times:
How Tim Kaine And Hillary Clinton Compare On The Issues
As governor of Virginia, Mr. Kaine supported some restrictions on abortion and said as a “traditional Catholic” that he was personally against abortion but supported abortion rights. As a senator, Mr. Kaine has voted in favor of funding Planned Parenthood and against attempts to restrict access to legal abortions. But he has also sought to reduce the number of abortions through education programs advocating adoption and abstinence. (Shepherd and Rappeport, 7/22)
Clinton's VP Pick Kaine Is A Strong Backer Of Improving And Expanding The ACA
The man selected by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as her vice presidential running mate is a strong ally of Clinton's in her push for improving the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid to more states.Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, whom Clinton named Friday as her running mate, has sponsored several bills to fix gaps and glitches in the ACA and to encourage more states to extend Medicaid to low-income adults. (Meyer, 7/22)
In other 2016 election news —
5 Health And Medicine Issues To Watch For At The Democratic Convention
Hillary Clinton led a health care reform effort in the 1990s, promoted medical research as a senator, and has been bashing price-hiking drug companies on the campaign trail and in TV ads. So there’s every reason to expect her to make health care a major theme when she accepts the Democratic presidential nomination in Philadelphia on Thursday night. (Nather, 7/25)
What Will Happen With Healthcare Policy Under President Trump ... Or ... Clinton
The November elections surely won't end the nonstop, eight-year political war over the shape of the U.S. healthcare system. But the ballot results likely will determine whether the changes driven by the Affordable Care Act continue in the same direction or the system returns to its less-regulated, pre-ACA contours. (Meyer, 7/23)
Clinton Medicare Buy-In Plan May Appeal To Insurers, Employers
Employers and insurers might benefit if Democrat Hillary Clinton were to win the presidency and persuade Congress to expand Medicare, policy experts say. Clinton supports allowing people to buy into the federal health program for senior citizens and those with disabilities at age 55, a decade earlier than usual. The potential for corporate backing for a Medicare expansion likely would depend on how a future president and Congress shaped such a proposal. Clinton’s platform doesn’t spell out the details. America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group for the health insurance industry, declined to comment, saying officials are waiting for more information. (Young, 7/22)
Medicare's catastrophic coverage was originally designed to protect seniors with multiple chronic conditions from the cumulatively high costs of taking many different pills, with the government paying 80 percent of the cost of drugs above a catastrophic threshold. But pricey drugs are stressing the system to its limits.
The Associated Press:
Pricey Drugs Overwhelm Medicare Safeguard
A safeguard for Medicare beneficiaries has become a way for drugmakers to get paid billions of dollars for pricey medications at taxpayer expense, government numbers show. The cost of Medicare's "catastrophic" prescription coverage jumped by 85 percent in three years, from $27.7 billion in 2013 to $51.3 billion in 2015, according to the program's number-crunching Office of the Actuary. Out of some 2,750 drugs covered by Medicare's Part D benefit, two pills for hepatitis C infection — Harvoni and Sovaldi — accounted for nearly $7.5 billion in catastrophic drug costs in 2015. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/25)
The Associated Press:
What Are The Top 20 Priciest Medicare Prescription Drugs?
A look at Medicare's top 20 priciest prescription drugs in 2015, ranked by their cost above the program's "catastrophic" coverage threshold. Medicare's catastrophic protection kicks in after a beneficiary has spent a given amount of their own money, $4,850 this year. The beneficiary pays only 5 percent, while their insurer pays 15 percent, and taxpayers cover 80 percent. Catastrophic spending is a large and growing share of total costs, threatening to make Medicare's popular prescription plan financially unsustainable. (7/25)
In other national health care news —
The New York Times:
U.S. Says Florida Network Defrauded Medicare And Medicaid Of Over $1 Billion
In the biggest health care fraud case the Justice Department has ever brought, prosecutors charged on Friday that the owner of a network of Florida nursing facilities orchestrated an elaborate scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid of more than $1 billion over the last 14 years. The case, featuring allegations of bribes to Miami doctors, hush money to witnesses, and laundering of huge profits through shell companies, shone a light on a lucrative Medicare black market that has surfaced in the last decade. (Lichtblau, 7/22)
Insurers Will Consolidate Even If Mega-Mergers Fail
But even if the federal government buries Anthem's $53 billion acquisition and Aetna's $37 billion purchase, the big five health insurers (which also include UnitedHealth Group) are likely to forge new transactions to scale up and improve their position at the bargaining table with consolidating hospitals and health systems. ... Centene Corp., Molina Healthcare and WellCare Health Plans, all publicly traded insurers, are logical targets because of their relatively smaller size. (Herman, 7/23)
Obama Signs Opioid Bil
President Obama signed a bill aimed at addressing opioid addiction Friday, though he called out Republicans for the measure’s shortcomings. Lawmakers in both parties reached a compromise over the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, though Senate Democrats held out hope until the final hour that they could win more funding for treatment. (Neidig, 7/22)
The Washington Post:
Lifelong Care, Heartaches Ahead For Babies Born With Zika In The U.S.
At least 12 babies in the United States have already been born with the heartbreaking brain damage caused by the Zika virus. And with that number expected to multiply, public health and pediatric specialists are scrambling as they have rarely done to prepare for the lifelong implications of each case. Many of Zika’s littlest victims, diagnosed with microcephaly and other serious birth defects that might not immediately be apparent, could require care estimated at more than $10 million through adulthood. Officials who have been concentrating on measures to control and prevent transmission of the virus are now confronting a new challenge, seeking to provide guidance for doctors and others who work with young children with developmental problems. (Sun, 7/24)
The New York Times:
Uncle Sam Wants You — Or At Least Your Genetic And Lifestyle Information
Government scientists are seeking a million volunteers willing to share the innermost secrets of their genes and daily lives as part of an ambitious 10-year research project to understand the causes and cures of disease. Those selected to be members of the “precision medicine cohort” will be asked to provide a detailed medical history and blood samples so researchers can extract DNA. They will also be asked to report information about themselves — including their age, race, income, education, sexual orientation and gender identity, officials said. (Pear, 7/23)