- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- California's Public Hospitals Face New Medi-Cal Mandate
- Montana's 'Pain Refugees' Travel To California To Get Prescribed Opioids
- Marketplace 1
- Gusto Lifts 'Clinically Infertile' Requirement So LGBT Couples Can Get In Vitro Coverage
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Rush For Louisiana's Medicaid Expansion Signals Broad Health Care Needs
- Public Health and Education 2
- Microbes In Farm Dust May Provide Clue To Why Amish Children Have Fewer Cases Of Asthma
- 2 New Drug And Alcohol Treatment Centers For Native American Youth To Open
Latest From California Healthline:
But the mandate doesn’t go far enough to improve access to care, health advocates say. (Pauline Bartolone, 8/4)
With rising awareness of opioid abuse, some pain patients say doctors are less likely to prescribe them. One Montana sufferer goes to great lengths to get his prescription — he flies to California. (Corin Cates-Carney, Montana Public Radio, 8/4)
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Summaries Of The News:
The measure would require state programs to pay no more for medicines than the prices negotiated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Most Californians Support A Measure To Obtain State Discounts On Drugs
The pharmaceutical industry may be losing a heated battle over drug prices in California. A poll released earlier this week found that two-thirds of Californians support an initiative that would require drug makers to offers discounts to state health programs. And despite differences in age, ethicities, political party affiliation, and regions where they resided, the poll participants had similar responses. The initiative is on the ballot for a vote in November. (Silverman, 8/3)
Nearly four out of five of hospitals reviewed in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties were fined.
Medicare Levies Higher Average Penalties On SoCal Hospitals For High Readmission Rates
Medicare is increasing its penalties against more than 100 hospitals in Southern California for having too many patients readmitted to their facilities within 30 days of discharge, according to federal data. The region's average penalty was just over one-half of 1 percent of total Medicare reimbursements; last year it was one-third of 1 percent. (O'Neill, 8/3)
For more coverage on the issue: Medicare’s Readmission Penalties Hit New High.
The San Francisco-based company is opening up its insurance benefits for fertility treatments by negating the need for a diagnosis of clinical infertility to receive coverage.
San Francisco Business Times:
S.F. Company Becomes First In State To Offer LGBT Fertility Benefits
San Francisco-based human resources company Gusto became the first company in the state to offer health coverage of fertility treatments to LGBT employees and their partners. Fertility treatments are an emotional and physically arduous process that can last for months or years. If not covered by insurance, they can also be prohibitively expensive. (Truong, 8/4)
In other insurance news —
East Bay Times:
Alameda County May Switch Health Care Provider For Jails
Alameda County appears close to cutting ties with Corizon Health, a company that has provided health care services at county jails for about two decades but has been criticized for its handling of medically vulnerable inmates. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday scheduled a special meeting at 10:30 a.m. Friday to vote on a new contract with California Forensics Medical Group, a company favored by the National Union of Healthcare Workers. (DeBolt, 8/3)
A proposed rule would allow highly trained nurses to work independently in an effort to cut long wait times, but doctors are concerned.
The VA Wants To Give Advanced Nurses More Autonomy
Nurses may soon do work doctors normally do at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and that has some physicians concerned. Under a VA proposal, specially trained nurses would be able to perform routine checkups, manage chronic conditions, and administer anesthesia. These would be highly trained nurses – nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified registered nurse anesthetists. Current VA rules require these nurses to be closely supervised by doctors. (Murphy, 8/3)
The outpouring of sign-ups after the state expanded its Medicaid program in June have surprised even the staunchest supporters. Experts say the flood of new, low-income patients shows just how great the need is in Republican-run states that have fought the health law.
Los Angeles Times:
In Louisiana, The Rush To Sign Up For Obamacare Highlights A 'Long Overdue' Demand For Health Insurance
Patients burst into tears at this city’s glistening new charity hospital when they learned they could get Medicaid health insurance. In Baton Rouge, state officials had to bring in extra workers to process the flood of applications for coverage. And at the call center for one of Louisiana’s private Medicaid plans, operators recorded their busiest day on record. The outpouring began in June, when Louisiana became the 31st state to offer expanded Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act, effectively guaranteeing health insurance to its residents for the first time. (Levey, 8/4)
The medical director of Community Hospice of Modesto and four other doctors say the organization has been taken down the wrong path.
The Modesto Bee:
Physicians Blast Management As They Split With Community Hospice Of Modesto
Five physicians, including the medical director, have cut ties with Community Hospice of Modesto and are airing their complaints about top management of the organization. The doctors detailed recent contract issues in a June 1 letter addressed to Community Hospice’s “staff and friends” and they leveled criticism at Chief Executive Officer DeSha McLeod. ... In their own contract proposal, the five physicians asked for representation on the board’s executive committee and wanted to see more education provided to nurses. (Carlson, 8/3)
A study in The New England Journal of Medicine finds that close contact with animals may help protect against asthma.
Los Angeles Times:
Amish Kids Help Scientists Understand Why Farm Life Reduces The Risk Of Asthma
The old-fashioned ways of the Amish are helping researchers make new discoveries about the origins of asthma. By studying the blood, genes and environmental dust of 30 Amish children from traditional farming families in Indiana, scientists were able to zero in on the innate immune system as a key player in thwarting asthma and the allergic reactions that can trigger it. Their findings appear in Thursday’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. (Kaplan, 8/3)
"Traditions in certain tribal communities are very important and so those things need to be part and parcel of any treatment that's received in any of our facilities," says Mary Smith, principal deputy director of Indian Health Service.
Capital Public Radio:
California To Open Two Native American Youth Treatment Centers
California will soon have two drug and alcohol treatment centers for Native American youth, including one near Davis. The centers will provide drug and alcohol treatment for 12 to 17 year olds. Indian Health Service, the federal agency that provides health care to Native Americans, will oversee the centers. The center's staff will include teachers, psychiatrists, nurses and cultural advisors. (Johnson, 8/3)
The artificial wetlands at Fairview Park have the potential to be a hotbed of mosquito activity, but officials have a battle plan ready.
Los Angeles Times:
Costa Mesa Unveils Plan To Fight Mosquitoes In Fairview Park Wetlands
Cutting back plants, cleaning storm drains and hiring a staff member to focus on mosquitoes are all part of a strategy to tackle the pests breeding in the artificial wetlands at Fairview Park, Costa Mesa city officials said Tuesday. The battle plan was unveiled a week after a mosquito trapped in Costa Mesa tested positive for West Nile virus — the first positive test in the city this year. (Money, 8/3)
In other health care news from across the state —
The Fresno Bee:
Local Oaxacan Indigenous Communities To Benefit From Grants
Kaiser Permanente Northern California Region awarded the center two grants totaling $54,000 to conduct outreach, education and enrollment in health plans. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center provided a $7,500 grant to develop a texting campaign to reach immigrants with information about resources, events and “culturally competent” domestic violence services. (Panoo, 8/3)
The Bakersfield Californian:
Trustee Says All Kids, Even Of 'Stupid' Anti-Vaxxers, Deserve Schooling
Kern High School District board President Mike Williams called parents who refuse to vaccinate their children for personal belief reasons “strange” and “stupid” Monday, but pushed for policies that would ensure their kids receive an education regardless. Trustees, who were voting on a board policy reflecting changes to state law requiring every student attending public school be immunized, took issue with that legislation, which eliminates personal belief exemptions, and only makes exceptions for those with medical waivers. (Pierce, 8/4)
The Mercury News:
Palo Alto Nonprofit Focuses On Affordable Teen Therapy
The Children's Health Council in Palo Alto launched a Teen Mental Health Initiative this week that will focus on making therapy more affordable for teens as part of an expanded list of services."We feel a very strong calling to do our part to address the significant teen anxiety, depression and suicide that is affecting our local communities," the nonprofit's executive director, Rosalie Whitlock, said in a news release. (Lee, 8/3)
Ventura County Star:
Simi Valley Youngsters Go To The Dentist For Free
Wednesday's event was designed for families who don't have dental insurance or who have Denti-Cal but haven't been able to find a dentist who accepts it, said Catherine Pedrosa, outreach education specialist at the United Way. It was especially targeted to families with a child entering kindergarten. (Doyle, 8/3)
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell sends a letter to lawmakers detailing how the money has been spent, while calling for additional resources. Meanwhile, a Zika vaccine is ready for testing on humans and 33 service members have been infected with Zika since January.
The Washington Post:
Obama Administration Is Rapidly Running Out Of Money To Fight Zika
Money set aside to fight the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus is running low, and some funds could run out by the end of August, according to a letter to House Democrats from Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services shifted $374 million from other programs to fight Zika in the U.S., with $222 million allocated to the Centers for Disease Control. The funds have rapidly been depleted during the summer mosquito season. The National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority are both expected to run out of funds by the end of the month, and other funds will be depleted by the end of the year, Burwell said. (Snell, 8/3)
U.S. Health Researchers Test Zika Vaccine As Funds Run Low
U.S. government researchers said on Wednesday they have begun their first clinical trial of a Zika vaccine while the Obama administration told lawmakers funds to fight the virus would run out in the coming weeks due to congressional inaction. U.S. concerns over Zika, which is spreading rapidly in the Americas and has hit Brazil the hardest, have risen since Florida authorities last week reported the first signs of local transmission in the continental United States in a Miami neighborhood. (Dunham, 8/3)
The New York Times:
33 U.S. Service Members Have Contracted Zika, Pentagon Says
More than 30 active-duty American service members — including a pregnant woman — have contracted the mosquito-borne Zika virus in countries where the disease has been identified, Pentagon officials said on Wednesday. Maj. Ben Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department has been tracking Zika in servicemen and women abroad since January, and that the number had reached 33 this month. (Cooper, 8/3)
In other national health care news —
Gilead Fires Back At Medical Journal Report Critical Of Its Pricing
After getting beaten up last week over the pricing of its hepatitis C treatments in the United Kingdom, Gilead Sciences is going on the offensive. The drug maker, which has sustained intense criticism over complaints that its prices have strained payer budgets, fired back at a report in an influential medical journal and declared that “we stand behind our pricing.” Although Gilead has never been entirely mute when confronted with criticism, the drug maker is generally circumspect about addressing specific developments. But the report in BMJ seems to have hit a nerve, since the journal wrote that England’s National Health Service was forced to take several controversial steps to delay coverage of Gilead’s medicines, and it came at the expense of patients. (Silverman, 8/3)
The Washington Post:
Sickle Cell Trait May Not Increase The Risk Of Death
People who carry a gene for sickle cell disease might not have an elevated mortality risk, according to a study released today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Sickle cell disease occurs in 1 out of every 365 black people born in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They carry two copies of a gene for sickle cell disease. Those who carry only one copy of the gene are said to have sickle cell trait. About 1 in 13 black Americans have sickle cell trait. An earlier study found that sickle cell trait may lead to an increased risk of sudden death, but the new study comes to a different conclusion. (Beachum, 8/3)
In Cancer, It’s Back To The Future As Old Treatments Make Cutting-Edge Ones More Effective
New cancer drugs that unleash the immune system on tumors are all the rage, getting credit for curing former President Jimmy Carter’s advanced melanoma and inspiring tech billionaire Sean Parker to pledge $250 million to cancer research. Behind the excitement, however, is the hard truth that these therapies work in only a minority of patients. Now scientists are finding hints of a solution in an unexpected place: Older, out-of-favor cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation may make the cutting-edge immune-based drugs effective against more cancers — even hard-to-treat ovarian and pancreatic tumors. (Begley, 8/4)
Does A Psychopath Who Kills Get To Use The Insanity Defense?
In December 2012, Jerrod Murray decided he wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone. So the freshman at East Central University in Ada, Okla., offered another freshman, Generro Sanchez, $20 for a ride to Wal-Mart. After climbing into Sanchez's truck, Murray made the freshman drive into the remote countryside at gunpoint. Then Murray shot and killed Sanchez, leaving his body in a ditch. States go decades without updating their definition of insanity. When they do change their definitions, it's often in reaction to an unpopular verdict in a high-profile case. (Jacewicz, 8/3)