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- House Passes Bill To Shield Insurers From Paying For Abortions In Largely Symbolic Vote
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- Gene Linked To Alzheimer's Affects Brain Development In Children, Study Finds
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- Following Probe Over Unauthorized Procedures, ME Investigator Shifted To Animal Services
Latest From California Healthline:
California Medical Association President Steven Larson says it’s time to circumvent the state Legislature and go straight to voters with ballot measures that could increase how much Medi-Cal pays physicians. (Emily Bazar, )
More News From Across The State
The measure's author, Assemblyman Adam Gray, noted key findings from the recent news stories: Prosecutors have filed charges in cases totaling $1 billion in alleged fraud and touching on the care of more than 100,000 injured workers.
The Center For Investigative Reporting:
California Bill Could Protect Injured Workers From Convicted Providers
California lawmakers are advancing a bill that would bar medical providers who’ve been convicted of felonies from treating injured workers. The bill would require the state Department of Industrial Relations to ban medical providers who have also been stripped of a medical license or excluded from Medicare or Medi-Cal for a fraud-related offense. Citing a recent investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, bill author Assemblyman Adam Gray, a Merced Democrat, told the Senate labor committee on June 29 that the state needs to stop letting people care for injured workers after they are locked out of other government health programs. (Jewett, 7/13)
Michael Weinstein, the president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is the architect of the two initiatives, one which requires actors in adult films to use condoms and the other which caps the price state health programs pay for prescription drugs.
Sex, Drugs And The Controversial AIDS Activist
As an AIDS activist 30 years ago, Michael Weinstein helped defeat an inflammatory ballot measure that could have quarantined Californians with the disease. Today, Weinstein has turned to the ballot to advance his own controversial vision for public health. President of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has clinics around the world, Weinstein is the architect of two initiatives Californians will vote on in November: Proposition 60, which would require actors in adult films to use condoms, and Proposition 61, which would cap the price state health programs pay for prescription drugs. (Rosenhall, 7/13)
In other news, Cathedral City voters will have to decide on a revision to the city’s medical marijuana tax ordinance —
The Desert Sun:
Cathedral City Puts Medical Pot Tax Expansion On Nov. Ballot
Cathedral City voters will consider a ballot amendment about revising the city’s medical marijuana tax ordinance this November, asking if they want to expand the tax to all legal cannabis businesses at a rate of “$25 per square foot of cultivation space, and $1 for every gram of cannabis concentrate and every unit of cannabis-infused product," in order to fund municipal services including police and fire services and the library. (Kennedy, 7/13)
A California order requiring health insurance companies to pay for elective abortions was upheld by the Obama administration, so it is unlikely the House-passed "Conscience Protection Act" would become law during his presidency.
The Associated Press:
House Bill Allows Companies To Deny Abortion Coverage
The House backed legislation designed to circumvent a California order that requires health insurance companies to pay for elective abortions. The legislation passed 245-182 on a mostly party-line vote on Wednesday. Republicans say the California order upheld by the Obama administration last month would discriminate against companies and employees that oppose abortion on ethical and moral grounds. (7/13)
Federal agencies estimate that 3.6 million Americans miss their doctors’ appointments every year because of transportation problems, and San Diego-based Veyo wants to help change that.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Veyo Brings Ride-Hailing Tech To Health Care
The 335-employee transportation broker thinks it can shake up the non-emergency medical transportation business by bringing modern, app-based technology to the industry. Veyo was spun out of Phoenix-area transportation and taxi operator Total Transit. Veyo also aims to lure more independent drivers — akin to Uber — to supplement the commercial medical transportation fleets that it hires to provide rides. (Freeman, 7/13)
Sutter CEO Chuck Prosper has said Alta Bates would shut down due in part to a 2030 state deadline requiring hospitals to be able to withstand a major earthquake.
Berkeley Council Criticizes Hospital Closure Plans
The City Council on July 12 registered its strong concern over plans to close Alta Bates hospital, calling upon owner Sutter Health to keep it running and possibly seismically retrofit it. A Berkeley institution since 1905, Alta Bates has the only remaining emergency room between Richmond and Oakland since Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo closed last year. The vote followed a 6 p.m.rally in front of Old City Hall staged by the California Nurses Association to protest the planned closing, projected for sometime between 2018 and 2030. (Lochner, 7/13)
Research has found that the rate of suicide among female veterans is nearly six times greater than it is among female civilians, a far greater disparity than is the case for their male counterparts.
East Bay Times:
Psychological Scars Increase Risk Of Suicide Among Female Vets
Researchers know veteran suicide rates are rising, but until recently, studies haven't factored in gender. Now, research has found that the rate of suicide among female veterans is nearly six times greater than it is among female civilians, a far greater disparity than is the case for their male counterparts. And not only have suicide rates among women vets increased dramatically, but they spike before women leave the military and remain elevated for much longer than male veterans' rates. (Landgraf, 7/13)
The findings, published Wednesday by the journal Neurology, suggest that it may be useful to think of Alzheimer's as a developmental disorder.
Los Angeles Times:
Brain Changes Wrought By Gene Linked To Alzheimer’s May Begin In Childhood, Scientists Say
The gene that makes some people more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease as adults also affects the brain development and mental abilities of children, a new study shows. Researchers who examined brain scans of 1,187 kids and teens found distinct patterns in the size and structure of the cortex, hippocampus and other important structures. These patterns were linked with different versions of a gene known as APOE, which may play a role in up to 25% of Alzheimer’s cases. (Kaplan, 7/13)
In other public health news —
From Paris To Sacramento, Parkour Offers Physical, Mental Conditioning
Small communities throughout California make use of Facebook pages and forums to schedule jams, or meet-ups. Jenks said the Northern Californian parkour community meets once a month, and in June more than 100 local traceurs met with members of other parkour groups from Europe, Asia and South America. In 2011, the San Francisco parkour group hosted the San Francisco National Jam, with others attending satellite jams at UC Berkeley, Oakland and Pleasanton. ... lle Beyer, a co-founder of Free Flow Academy in Roseville, said the only requirement for a traceur is the right conditioning. “It’s a movement community, using parkour as a platform for fitness,” Beyer said. “You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete. Everyone works from the ground up.” (Hice, 7/13)
Jahi McMath's family has filed a lawsuit against UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland and the doctor who performed a complicated tonsil surgery on the 13-year-old girl in December 2013. If the court rules Jahi is alive, the family could sue her surgeon and hospital for millions of dollars.
Jahi McMath: Court Says Family Can Try To Prove She's Alive
Jahi McMath's family cleared another important hurdle in its legal battle when a state appellate court ruled that the child's mother could try to prove the girl is alive. In a brief First Appellate Court ruling Tuesday, the court denied appeals by UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland and Dr. Frederick Rosen that claimed Jahi was declared legally dead in January 2014 and therefore should be recognized as deceased in the civil trial. "Because the trial court found the record at the pleading stage was inadequate (to determine Jahi's death) and 'may require a more developed factual record,' we conclude, under these circumstances, that this matter should not be resolved at the pleading stage," the court ordered. (Gafni, 7/13)
In other health news from across the state —
More Aerial Spraying Contemplated Due To West Nile Virus Activity
The risk of West Nile virus in Sacramento and Yolo counties remains high as more mosquitoes test positive for the virus, officials say. ... Specific areas of concern, where much of the West Nile virus activity is concentrated, include North Highlands, Carmichael, Elk Grove and Fair Oaks. Goodman said the district is closely monitoring those areas to determine the best plan of action. (Locke, 7/13)
Marin Independent Journal:
Bids For Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Barrier Come In Way Over Projections
A potential major stumbling block has developed for the Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier project now that a low bid for the work has come in almost double the construction cost estimate. The bridge district opened two bids for the work at its board meeting Tuesday. The low bid came in at $142 million from the Oakland-based Shimmick/Danny's Joint Venture. (Prado, 7/12)
San Jose Nonprofit's Wig Bank Offers New 'Dos To Cancer Patients
[After] Nine months of chemotherapy [Alicia Owen is] cancer-free but as the treatment is prone to do, it aggressively attacked the long hair she'd sported since a teenager. ... That's where the Wig Bank at Cancer CAREpoint came in. The nonprofit supplies no-cost 'dos to folks like Owen who could use some fake follicles. It's a big deal for those going through treatment, said Carleen Carver, a volunteer at the center on the Good Samaritan Hospital campus in South San Jose, which in addition to the wig program offers services such as counseling, nutrition programs, meditation and massage for those coping with cancer. (Kurhi, 7/14)
Los Angeles Times:
Police Use Pepper Spray And Taser To Subdue Combative Teen; Mother Says She Told Officer Her Son Has Autism
Police used pepper spray and a Taser on a 16-year-old boy who became combative, punching an officer's head and body, during a traffic stop Friday, authorities said. When reached Wednesday evening, the boy’s mother said through tears that she repeatedly warned the officer that her son was autistic while apologizing for his unresponsiveness. (Tchekmedyian, 7/13)
Supervising Investigator Armando Chavez was removed from duty in June 2015 amid an investigation into what were termed "unauthorized postmortem procedures" in the agency. Investigators for the District Attorney's Office subsequently found Chavez performed postmortem procedures without being licensed to do so.
Ventura County Star:
Medical Examiner Investigator Keeps Job But Is Reassigned To Animal Cases
Supervising Investigator Armando Chavez returned to the county government workforce this week after a probe of his actions in the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office found no grounds for firing him. County Health Care Agency chief Barry Fisher said Wednesday that he reassigned Chavez to work for Ventura County Animal Services as a staff trainer and investigator of animal-related crime...Fisher removed Chavez from duty in June 2015 amid an investigation into what were termed "unauthorized postmortem procedures" in the agency. (Wilson, 7/13)
CMS estimates that the 5.5 percent increase in 2015 totals $3.2 trillion. After several years of lower growth, the acceleration is largely attributed to a stronger economy, faster growth in medical prices and an aging baby boomers, as well as specialty drug costs.
The New York Times:
National Health Spending To Surpass $10,000 A Person In 2016
National health spending will average more than $10,000 a person this year for the first time, the Obama administration said Wednesday, a milestone that heralds somewhat faster growth in health spending after several years of exceptionally low growth. By 2025, the administration reported, health care will represent 20 percent of the total economy, up from 17.8 percent last year. By 2025, one of every five Americans will be on Medicare, and the program will spend an average of nearly $18,000 a year for each beneficiary. Medicare spent about $12,000 per beneficiary in 2015. (Pear, 7/13)
The Associated Press:
New Peak For US Health Care Spending: $10,345 Per Person
A stronger economy, faster growth in medical prices and an aging population are driving the trend. Medicare and Medicaid are expected to grow more rapidly than private insurance as the baby-boom generation ages. By 2025, government at all levels will account for nearly half of health care spending, 47 percent. (7/14)
The Washington Post:
Health Care Spending Is Projected To Grow Much Faster Than The Economy
The report, compiled by a team of government actuaries, shows overall health spending picking up after a historic slowdown, but the growth remains lower than the nearly 8 percent annual growth in the two decades before the Great Recession. The Obama administration — including the president himself in a recent essay — has credited the Affordable Care Act with keeping health expenditures in check. But economists remain uncertain whether the slowdown in spending is because of provisions of the law or might be explained by other factors. (Johnson, 7/13)
The legislation, which passed the Senate 92-2, focuses on treatment and recovery efforts but the authorized spending has not been appropriated. This is "the first time that we’ve treated addiction like the disease that it is," says Sen. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio.
The New York Times:
Senate Approves Bill To Combat Opioid Addiction Crisis
The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to tackle the nation’s opioid crisis, sending to the president’s desk the most sweeping drug legislation in years in a rare instance of consensus in Congress. The measure, which passed, 92 to 2, would strengthen prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, largely by empowering medical professionals and law enforcement officials with more tools to help drug addicts. It would also expand access to a drug that emergency medical workers could use to help reverse overdoses and improve treatment for the incarcerated. (Huetteman, 7/13)
The Associated Press:
Congress Sends Obama Compromise Drug-Abuse Bill
In a statement, the White House said Obama would sign the bill while expressing disappointment that it failed to provide significant money to deal with the epidemic. "Some action is better than none," the White House said, but Obama "won't stop fighting to secure the resources this public health crisis demands. Congressional Republicans have not done their jobs until they provide the funding for treatment that communities need to combat this epidemic." (7/13)
The Wall Street Journal:
Congress Passes Bill To Fight Opioid Abuse, But Funding Clash Continues
The legislation will authorize almost $900 million over five years for prevention, treatment and law enforcement efforts to fight the health crisis. “This is a historic moment, the first time in decades that Congress has passed comprehensive addiction legislation, and the first time Congress has ever supported long-term addiction recovery,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), who along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) introduced the Senate version of the bill. (O'Keeffe, 7/13)