- Public Health and Education 3
- Study: Improving Calif.'s Air Quality Would Save Thousands Of Lives Every Year
- Provocative Billboard Campaign Latest Effort To Push Meningitis Vaccinations
- Merced County Confirms Its Third Travel-Linked Zika Case
- Around California 1
- LA Devotes Another $3M To Initiative Helping HIV-Positive People Who Aren't Receiving Care
- Health Care Personnel 1
- Doctor Who Prescribed Himself Adderall Under Ex-Girlfriends' Names Barred From Medicine
Latest From California Healthline:
A big backlog of applications at the state’s licensing board is holding up hiring by hospitals and making it difficult for recent nurse graduates — and experienced nurses from out of state — to work. (Eryn Brown, 8/11)
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Summaries Of The News:
The pharmaceutical industry, hospitals and tobacco companies are all ponying up for their side of the battle on a variety of issues.
Los Angeles Times:
The Money Is Starting To Roll In On California's 17 Ballot Propositions. A Lot Of It.
The largest single block of campaign cash for November propositions is from the pharmaceutical industry in hopes of defeating Proposition 61. Drug companies, according to campaign records, have contributed more than $50 million this year. Of that amount, more than $35 million have been reported since July 1. Proposition 61 would ban state agencies from paying more for prescription drugs than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (Myers and Bollag, 8/11)
The legislation would monitor doctors who have high prescription rates.
Drugging Our Kids: Legislation To Halt Overmedicating Foster Children Moves Forward
A key piece of legislation that would curb the overprescribing of psychiatric drugs to California foster care youth unanimously passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday morning. Senate Bill 1174, authored by Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, requires annual monitoring of high-prescribing doctors and allows the Medical Board of California to crack down on violators by revoking their licenses. The bill comes as a result of the Bay Area News Group's investigative series "Drugging Our Kids," the last two installments of which were published Sunday and Monday. (Seipel, 8/10)
Media outlets offer a look at how some California hospitals performed under the new federal system to rate the facilities' quality of care.
Capital Public Radio:
Federal Star Ratings Rank Sacramento Hospitals
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released their first ever star ratings for hospitals across the country. Hospitals in Sacramento County were included in the measures, which looked at how facilities performed in 64 different areas, including patient experience, safety, and timely and effective care. Ratings are on a scale of one to five, with one being the lowest. No Sacramento County hospital received five stars. (Johnson, 8/11)
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, 8/10)
How long patients were sitting in traffic just to get to their doctor's appointment was one impetus for the shift to options other than in-person visits.
Skype With Your Doc? 'Telehealth' Shortens Wait Times For Vets In Ventura County
Military veterans in Ventura County needing specialty medical care are increasingly seeing their providers through a Skype-like app. The Department of Veterans Affairs calls it "telehealth." Traffic on the highways between the V.A. outpatient clinic in Oxnard and the veterans hospital in Westwood is a big reason for the change. It simply took too long for many patients to make the drive to West Los Angeles just for a doctor's appointment. (Ismay. 8/10)
In other health technology news —
La Cañada Valley Sun:
New Robot System At USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Uses UV Light To Disinfect Hospital Rooms
A robot that can disinfect a hospital room in a matter of minutes, using UV light to kill bacteria and microorganisms that cause life-threatening infections, is one of several new technologies coming to patients served by USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. The $100,000 portable unit, created by San Antonio-based Xenex Disinfection Services, uses a xenon bulb capable of emitting full-spectrum light rays up to 2,000 times brighter than natural sunlight to genetically destroy 99.9% of all microorganisms, even the ones traditional cleaning methods might miss. (Cardine, 8/10)
Out of everywhere in the country, Southern California has the most to gain from meeting stricter air quality standards.
Los Angeles Times:
Thousands Of Lives Could Be Saved In California By Stricter Air Pollution Limits, Study Finds
More than 2,000 Southern Californians die early each year from polluted air, and the region would benefit the most of anywhere in the country from reducing ozone and fine particle pollution below current federal limits, a new study has found. The analysis by scientists at New York University and the American Thoracic Society, released Wednesday, estimated that more protective air quality standards would prevent 3,632 deaths a year in California, more than one-third of the 9,320 early deaths linked to dirty air nationwide. (Barboza, 8/10)
The Press Enterprise:
Los Angeles Area's Air Quality The Deadliest In The Nation, Researchers Say
As Southern California continues to struggle through this summer’s unrelenting smog, a study released Wednesday gives a stark reminder of why air quality matters. Researchers believe that hundreds of people die each year because of Southern California’s poor air quality. Pollution levels routinely exceed the levels deemed safe by health professionals. (Danelski, 8/10)
In the midst of a meningitis outbreak that is disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men, health officials and other advocates are trying to get the word out to the community to get vaccinated.
LA Daily News:
New Billboards In Los Angeles Urge Meningitis Vaccinations
In the latest step against Southern California’s meningitis outbreak, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation will unveil a new billboard campaign today that urges gay and bisexual men to get vaccinated. AHF’s billboard campaign, with the provocative headline “Just a Prick,” features a close-up photo of someone getting a vaccine shot. The URL “www.freeMeningitisVAX.org” appears beneath the headline on the right side of the billboard. Billboards are going up at Vine Street and Santa Monica Boulevard; Sunset Boulevard and Van Ness; Sunset and Cahuenga; and Hollywood Boulevard and Hillhurst Avenue. (8/10)
New Meningitis Billboards Roll Out In Los Angeles, Targeting Gay And Bisexual Men
Giant billboards sprinkled along Sunset Boulevard aren't uncommon, but some that are going up might be a bit different from the usual plastered advertisements. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced a new billboard Wednesday that will be displayed throughout L.A. to encourage the public to receive free meningitis vaccinations. Foundation President Michael Weinstein told KPCC the organization feels Los Angeles County has been slow to acknowledge the issue, glossing over it. The billboards are a response to that, as well as an attempt to spread the word about the disease. (8/10)
All patients have recovered, but officials warn it's good for residents to take precautions.
Third Zika Virus Case Confirmed In Merced County
A third case of the Zika Virus has been confirmed in Merced County by officials at the Merced County Department of Public Health. A little more than a week ago Department of Public Health officials confirmed the first two cases of Zika virus in the county. County public health officials confirmed the third case Wednesday during telephone interviews with the Sun-Star, however they said they became aware of a third patient some time last week. (Velez, 8/10)
In other news —
East Bay Times:
Contra Costa County: More Birds Test Positive For West Nile Virus
Five dead birds and one sentinel chicken in separate communities tested positive for West Nile virus, the Contra Costa County Mosquito and Vector Control District reported Wednesday. The birds were found in Concord, Alamo, Orinda, Brentwood and Antioch. The chicken is from Holland Tract, near Knightsen. County officials currently do not plan to fog for mosquitoes. If they bite humans, infected mosquitoes can pass along the virus, which in some cases can be fatal. (Cameron, 8/10)
Supervisors touted the success of the program while arguing for the merits of its expansion.
LA Supervisors Expand Special HIV Program
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expanding a program that provides a wide array of services to low-income people with HIV. On Tuesday, the supervisors voted to spend up to $3 million to expand the program to about 1,300 patients at seven to nine high-volume HIV clinics. Last year, the initiative served 3,096 patients, according to the Department of Public Health’s Division of HIV and STD programs. (Plevin, 8/10)
In other health care news from across the state —
San Francisco Chronicle:
In New Fairfield, Tensions Over Teachers’ Health Insurance
School district officials have created an advisory committee to address concerns about its health insurance plan and are now recruiting members from other town boards and unions to participate. The move follows repeated requests by the town’s teachers’ union, the New Fairfield Education Association, to switch to the state’s health insurance plan. The union says the state plan would save its members and the district money. (Rigg, 8/10)
LA Daily News:
Dodgers To Observe Autism Awareness Night
The Los Angeles Dodgers will observe Autism Awareness Night at tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium, part of an effort throughout Major League Baseball to raise awareness about the group of complex developmental brain disorders. A public service announcement from Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, will be shown during pregame ceremonies. The Dodgers offered discounted group tickets for the game, with a portion of the proceeds from each ticket sold going to Autism Speaks. (8/9)
South Bay: Pancreatic Cancer Walk Will Honor Couple's Mothers
Leah and Aaron Nichols are pioneering a 5K walk to raise money for pancreatic cancer research after the disease took the lives of both their mothers less than two years apart."I think for us, we're doing this for a lot of reasons," Aaron Nichols said. "One, because we want to keep the memory of our moms alive for our children. But we're also doing this because the incidence of pancreatic cancer is rising so much faster than other cancers, and it needs attention." The walk will be Oct. 1 at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. (Myllenbeck, 8/10)
Head Of California’s Medical Marijuana Bureau Visits Coalinga
The woman spearheading a statewide effort to regulate the booming but controversial medical marijuana industry is traveling across California to learn more about pot – and teach industry insiders about the state’s lawmaking process. Lori Ajax, five months into her position as the chief of the newly formed California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, visited Coalinga last month. Coalinga is the first city in the central San Joaquin Valley to embrace medical cannabis. The city legalized its manufacture and sold a vacant prison to a cannabis oil manufacturer in July. (Appleton, 8/10)
Although researchers didn't see a difference in pregnancy rates, when frozen embryos were used instead of fresh ones, the woman was more likely to give birth.
Los Angeles Times:
In IVF, Frozen Embryos May Lead To More Live Births Than Fresh Embryos
Most women who do IVF are impregnated with a fresh embryo. However, a new study suggests that using a previously frozen and then thawed embryo may have a better success rate. In a randomized trial of 1,508 women undergoing IVF for the first time, the researchers found that 49.3% of those who used frozen embryos gave birth to a baby, compared with 42% of those who used fresh embryos. (Netburn, 8/10)
Dr. Brian Michael Swan had agreed to five-years probation, but the California Medical Board took further action after he failed to undergo drug testing.
The Orange County Register:
Santa Ana Doctor Barred From Practice In Drug Case
A Santa Ana doctor who was convicted of writing 22 prescriptions for Adderall in the names of ex-girlfriends for his own use, has been barred from practicing medicine after he failed to undergo required drug testing. Dr. Brian Michael Swan was issued a cease practice order by the California Medical Board on Monday. In 2013, Swan pleaded guilty to six misdeamenors. (Perkes, 8/11)
The later trial date means a ruling isn't likely to come down until January. The companies have an agreement that if the merger isn't approved by Dec. 31, Humana has the option to walk away from the deal.
The Wall Street Journal:
Judge To Start Aetna-Humana Merger Trial Dec. 5
A federal judge said Wednesday that he would begin trial proceedings on Dec. 5 in the Justice Department’s antitrust challenge to the proposed merger of Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. The start date is a compromise between the proposals of the two sides, but it also amounted to a setback for the insurance companies. When he opened a scheduling hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John Bates said he was leaning toward an early November trial, which would have allowed him to decide the case before the end of the year. (Kendall, 8/10)
In other national health care news —
The Wall Street Journal:
Valeant Under Criminal Investigation
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. defrauded insurers by shrouding its ties to a mail-order pharmacy that boosted sales of its drugs, people familiar with the matter said. The lawyers, in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, are pursuing an unusual legal theory, previously unreported, that Valeant and a closely linked mail-order-pharmacy, Philidor Rx Services LLC, allegedly defrauded insurers by hiding their close relationship, the people familiar with the matter said. (McNish and Matthews, 8/10)
Next President Faces Possible ObamaCare Meltdown
The next president could be dealing with an ObamaCare insurer meltdown in their very first month. The incoming administration will take office just as the latest ObamaCare enrollment tally comes in, delivering a potentially crucial verdict about the still-shaky healthcare marketplaces. (Ferris, 8/11)
Marilyn Tavenner On Implementing Obamacare — And Then Lobbying To Change It
At the start of 2015, Marilyn Tavenner held one of the most important jobs in health care: Implementing Obamacare, as the head of CMS. Six months later, she'd swapped it for a completely different major role: Lobbying to change Obamacare, as the head of America's Health Insurance Plans. It's an unusual career shift, and it's given Tavenner — a long-time government official turned top lobbyist — a rare perspective on the changes unfolding in the industry. (Diamond, 8/10)
Alive But Ruled Dead By Social Security 'Data Entry Error'
A few months ago, when Dr. Thomas Lee logged in to his patients' electronic medical records to renew a prescription, something unexpected popped up. It was a notice that one of them had died. Lee, a primary care doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, was scheduled to see the patient in three days."I was horrified," he says. ... He wanted to know what had happened, but he couldn't find anything in the medical records or in a Web search. "I just felt really guilty that I had not pushed harder to get him in sooner," says Lee. When he couldn't find out anything, he decided to phone the man's house to offer condolences — maybe even to apologize. "So I called, and to my shock he answered," says Lee. (Bichell, 8/10)