- California Healthline Original Stories 3
- California's Medical Board Declares Neutrality On Proposed Doctor Disclosure Law
- Sharing Your Doctor With A Group
- Expectant Moms: You Have Nine Months For Delivery Decisions, You Better Shop Around
- Pharmaceuticals 2
- Federal Appeals Court Ruling Could Upend Medical-Marijuana Related Prosecutions
- Medivation Takes Hard Line Against Sanofi's 'Opportunistic' Offer
- Public Health and Education 1
- As Opioid Epidemic Ravages Country, Leaders Begin Turning To Once-Radical Ideas
Latest From California Healthline:
In exchange for steering clear of the fight, the board that oversees California’s physicians requested amendments to a bill that would require doctors and other medical practitioners to inform patients if they are on probation. (Ana B. Ibarra, 5/9)
With “shared appointments,” patients can get more time with less-harried providers, enjoy mutual support and see better outcomes. But the approach has its skeptics. (Anna Gorman, 5/9)
A nonprofit patient safety group devised nationally standardized measures to help pregnant women gauge hospitals on quality of maternity care. (Shefali Luthra, 5/9)
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Summaries Of The News:
The physicians were convicted of falsely certifying that patients were terminally ill and qualified for hospice care.
Two Convicted Of Falsely Certifying Patients As Terminally Ill
Two California doctors were convicted by a federal jury in Los Angeles on Thursday of falsely certifying that Medicare patients were terminally ill and qualified for hospice care as part of an $8.8 million scheme to defraud government health insurance programs. Sri Wijegoonaratna and Boyao Huang both worked at Covina-based California Hospice Care, which federal prosecutors say billed Medicare and California's Medicaid program for unneeded hospice care between March 2009 and June 2013, when it was shut down. (Pierson, 5/6)
Los Angeles Times:
Two Southern California Doctors Convicted In Hospice Scam
Prosecutors said the scheme involved Covina-based California Hospice Care, where employees paid so-called marketers to recruit Medicare and Medi-Cal beneficiaries. The patients were assessed by nurses to determine if they were terminally ill, according to federal prosecutors.Prosecutors argued that regardless of the nurse assessments, Wijegoonaratna and Huang certified that the patients were dying, even though most were not. The false certifications were then used to submit bills for unnecessary hospice-related services, prosecutors said. "In fact, only a small percentage of patients died — notwithstanding the two doctors declaring they needed hospice care," said Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. (Song, 5/6)
“Often times this population is scared to seek out public services because of the idea that they might be deported, or get reported," says Sonya Vasquez with Community Health Councils, a health education and policy group in South Los Angeles.
Advocates Urging Immigrant Parents To Sign Up Children For Medi-Cal
An effort is underway to get the word out that thousands of California kids without legal status will become eligible in less than two weeks for Medi-Cal health coverage under a new state law. About 170,000 children and teens are expected to qualify for coverage when Medi-Cal, California's version of Medicaid, is expanded on May 16. California is the first state in the nation to extend coverage to children in the U.S. illegally. (Rojas, 5/9)
Senate Bill 1189 dictates that only a licensed physician can perform an autopsy -- an issue that was raised recently in Ventura County when an assistant performed postmortem exams while the chief medical examiner was vacationing.
The Ventura County Star:
California Medical Board Unanimously Endorses Autopsy Bill As Practice Of Medicine
The state medical board voted unanimously Friday to support a bill that says only licensed physicians may conduct autopsies. Senate Bill 1189 would make it clear that an autopsy is the practice of medicine, said Jennifer Simoes, the board's legislative chief. (Carlson and Wilson, 5/8)
California's Medical Board Declares Neutrality On Proposed Doctor Disclosure Law
The 15-member board that monitors physicians in California Friday declared its neutrality on pending state legislation that would require doctors to notify their patients if they are put on probation for serious violations, including gross negligence, sexual misconduct and felony convictions related to the care they provide. The decision by the Medical Board of California to steer clear of the fray comes despite fierce opposition to the legislation by physicians and other licensed medical professionals. (Ibarra, 5/9)
State and federal legislative contradictions on medical marijuana have led to charges against people who say they were in compliance with the law. And now a federal appeals court is set to weigh in on the matter.
The Associated Press:
Looming Marijuana Ruling Could Limit Federal Prosecutions
Rolland Gregg and his family have fought federal marijuana charges for more than three years, arguing that the roughly 70 marijuana plants investigators found on their Washington property were for their own medicinal use and fully complied with state law. A federal jury last year convicted Gregg, his mother and his then-wife of growing 50 to 100 marijuana plants -- amounts their attorney said are in compliance with state medical marijuana law. With prison sentences looming, they have now turned to a recent act of Congress that they say should have stopped the U.S. Department of Justice from prosecuting them because they were doing what their state allowed. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and the DOJ disagrees with Gregg's understanding of the new law. (Thanawala, 5/9)
CEO David Hung and and Chief Operating Officer Marion McCourt updated employees following a first-quarter financials conference call last week.
The San Francisco Business Times:
Medivation Appeals To Its 'Great Teams' Of Employees In Sanofi Saga. But How Long Can It Repel Buyer?
Takeover target Medivation Inc. ratcheted up its war of words with suitor Sanofi SA, saying in a letter to employees Thursday that the French drug maker's $9.3 billion "lowball proposal" is "unsolicited" and "opportunistic." (Leuty, 5/8)
In other pharmaceutical news —
The San Francisco Business Times:
East Bay Site Plays Key Role As Diabetes Drug Developer Aims At FDA Approval
Intarcia Therapeutics Inc.'s big push toward a diabetes treatment approval will mean more work for the company's Hayward manufacturing site. (Seiffert, 5/8)
The dip in operating income reflects the gap between costs, which jumped 2.9 percent in first quarter, and premium rates. Kaiser appears to be fine with smaller margins and strong membership growth.
The San Francisco Business Times:
Kaiser Permanente: First Quarter Profits Down, But Revenue And Enrollment Up
Kaiser Permanente's Q1 net income fell just over 50 percent, from $1 billion in 2015 to $504 million this year, even as operating revenue climbed nearly 9 percent. The pressure on profits continued a recent trend at the giant Oakland-based nonprofit, fueled largely by weaker results on Wall Street and other fiscal factors, such as the fact that Kaiser's accounting policy doesn't recognize "unrealized" or paper gains on investments. (Rauber, 5/7)
State lawmakers in California and city officials in San Francisco are part of a growing movement to create supervised heroin injection sites.
The Associated Press:
Once Unthinkable In US, Heroin Shoot-Up Rooms Get Serious Look
Across the United States, heroin users have died in alleys behind convenience stores, on city sidewalks and in the bathrooms of fast-food joints - because no one was around to save them when they overdosed. (Kepper, 5/8)
In other public health news —
The Fresno Bee:
Living With Roaches And Mold In Run-Down Apartments Risks Illness, Injury
Home is not a healthy place for thousands of low-income children and adults who live in substandard apartments in Fresno. Instead of being a sanctuary from day-to-day struggles, their apartments make their lives more stressful and toxic because they have to deal with cockroach and rodent infestations, mold, faulty electrical wiring and windows without screens. (Anderson, 5/8)
An analysis by The Associated Press shows complaints about discharges and evictions are up about 57 percent since 2000.
The New York Times:
Nursing Homes Turn To Eviction To Drop Difficult Patients
Nursing homes are increasingly evicting their most challenging residents, advocates for the aged and disabled say, testing protections for some of society's most vulnerable. Those targeted for eviction are frequently poor and suffering from dementia, according to residents' allies. They often put up little fight, their families unsure what to do. Removing them makes room for less labor-intensive and more profitable patients, critics of the tactic say, noting it can be shattering. (5/8)
In other national health care news —
CMS Provides Lifeline To Co-Ops, Pares Down Special Enrollment Events
The CMS unveiled an interim final rule late Friday that could help the Affordable Care Act's struggling co-op plans. The rule also responds to insurers' complaints that people are abusing special enrollments in the exchanges. The CMS tightened the use of special enrollments, specifically making the rules around moving to a new home more restrictive to avoid any gaming of the system. Co-ops also can seek outside funding from investors to build up their capital, something that was outlawed previously. The policies go into effect May 11, and the CMS will accept comments on the rule through July 5. (Herman and Dickson, 5/6)
The New York Times:
Black Americans See Gains In Life Expectancy
It is a bitter but basic fact in health research: Black Americans die at higher rates than whites from most causes, including AIDS, heart disease, cancer and homicide. But a recent trove of federal data offered some good news. The suicide rate for black men declined from 1999 to 2014, making them the only racial group to experience a drop. Infant mortality is down by more than a fifth among blacks since the late 1990s, double the decline for whites. Births to teenage mothers, which tend to have higher infant mortality rates, have dropped by 64 percent among blacks since 1995, faster than for whites. (Tavernise, 5/8)
Confessions Of An Ex-Regulator: Farzad Mostashari On How Government Should Work
Farzad Mostashari spent two years leading the White House effort to implement electronic health records. Now that he's running his own company — on the other side of those federal regulations — Mostashari sees numerous problems with how government rulemaking works, he told POLITICO this week. "Regulators really, really, really want to get it right," Mostashari said on POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast, but they end up being too cautious and conciliatory. And that's bad for health care, he argues, because it protects underperformers and lets them stick around. (Diamond, 5/6)
Professional 'Guinea Pigs' Can Make A Living Testing Drugs
There are lots of ways to make a buck, but becoming a human guinea pig for drug research has to be one of the oddest. "We are selling our bodies, most definitely," says Paul Clough, who has taken part in more than 80 drug tests in the past 11 years. "Well, renting," might be more accurate, he concedes. Clough, who's 37, also runs a website that helps people find trials to sign up for. Some are like the one he's doing right now, which stretches over three months and involves multiple stints living in a clinic with other volunteers, eating cafeteria food and showing up on time to get his vitals checked or to pop another pill. (Bichell, 5/8)