- California Healthline Original Stories 3
- Health Care For California’s Undocumented Adults: Uncertainty Remains After U.S. Supreme Court Decision
- Many Well-Known Hospitals Fall Short of 5 Stars In Medicare’s New Ratings
- Teaching Future Doctors About Addiction
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Navigating ACA Tax Credits: 'They’ve Had Me Jumping Through Hoops Without Actually Helping Me'
- Hospital Roundup 1
- With Expansion, New UCSF, John Muir Health Network Aims To Compete With Big Calif. Players
- Public Health and Education 1
- LA River's Fecal Bacteria Levels Exceed Federal Standards By As Much As 100%
- Campaign 2016 1
- 'Affordability, Affordability, Affordability': Clinton Allies Eye Health Costs As Top Priority
Latest From California Healthline:
Deportation-relief programs would have meant access to subsidized health care. (Ana B. Ibarra, 7/28)
Nine hospitals in California were among the 102 that did get the highest score. (Jordan Rau, 7/27)
Most medical schools offer very little education on treating opioid addiction. Stanford University's medical school is trying to ramp it up. (Natalie Jacewicz, 7/28)
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More News From Across The State
Some of California's best-known hospitals failed to nab 5 stars. But some in the industry say the ratings are an oversimplified judgment of quality. “Hospitals cannot be rated like movies,” says Dr. Darrell Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
CMS Releases Star Ratings For Hospitals
The CMS published the much-anticipated Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings on Wednesday after industry stakeholders and Congress pressured the agency to continue to delay their release. The ratings are a composite metric of one to five stars, with five being the best. They intend to convey the overall quality of nearly 4,000 hospitals in the U.S and are posted to the CMS' Hospital Compare site. (Whitman, 7/27)
Many Well-Known Hospitals Fail To Score 5 Stars In Medicare’s New Ratings
The federal government released its first overall hospital quality rating on Wednesday, slapping average scores on some of California’s best-known medical centers while awarding top scores to unheralded ones. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rated 3,617 hospitals nationwide on a one- to five-star scale, angering the hospital industry, which has been pressing the Obama administration and Congress to block the ratings. Hospitals argue the ratings will make places that treat the toughest cases look bad, but Medicare has held firm, saying that consumers need a simple way to objectively gauge quality. Medicare does factor in the health of patients when comparing hospitals, though not as much as some hospitals would like. (Rau, 7/27)
The San Diego Union Tribune:
Medicare's Hospital Ratings Pack Surprises, Controversy
Medicare on Wednesday handed out its first-ever set of overall ratings for hospital quality, bestowing a full five stars on only 3 percent of facilities nationwide while scoring many well-known institutions lower than the public might expect...Locally, Scripps Memorial Hospital and Scripps Green Hospital, both in La Jolla, were the only two facilities to get the top rating. Kaiser Permanente and UC San Diego Medical Center earned only three. Paradise Valley Hospital in National City and Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San Diego got four stars apiece despite being much smaller players in the San Diego County market. (Sisson, 7/27)
Santa Ana resident Kevin Foley was in for a surprise when he received an unexpected $800-plus bill from his insurance company. But that was just the start of his headache-inducing experience.
Orange County Register:
Obamacare Credit Turns Into Headache
Last year, Santa Ana resident Kevin Foley successfully enrolled in an Obamacare insurance plan, thanks in part to a popular tax credit that helps low-income earners afford plans through the exchange. The process for Foley, then a college student, appeared to be hurdle-free. But after a sudden increase in income and the arrival of tax season, Foley’s situation began to get messy. ...This marks the second year in which any financial implications of Obamacare have to be figured into your taxes – a meeting of two complicated systems that has produced a host of issues for involved parties, from the IRS to enrollees such as Foley. (Leung, 7/27)
Critics of the legislation say it takes pressure off companies to detect and report drugs flowing to the black market.
Los Angeles Times:
Amid Opioid Epidemic, Rules For Drug Companies Are Loosened
When it comes to combating the nation’s opioid epidemic, politicians of all stripes say they are fully committed. President Obama wants to spend a billion dollars on new treatment programs. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump talk about the ravages of addiction and the need for solutions. And Congress earlier this month passed a package of legislation to prevent overdoses, bolster law enforcement and improve recovery programs. But this spring, with little attention and virtually no public opposition, lawmakers approved and the president signed a new law that makes it more difficult for government to take action against a key player in the crisis: the pharmaceutical industry. (Ryan and Christensen, 7/27)
In other news about the epidemic —
The Fresno Bee:
Fresno Doctor Warns New Fake Norco Drug Can Be Deadly
A dangerous new street drug that combines fentanyl and a new synthetic opioid is masquerading as street “Norco” and is being sold in Central California, a Fresno doctor says. Dr. Patil Armenian said the street drug is almost indistinguishable from brand-name Norco but is much stronger and can be deadly. Armenian, a medical toxicologist and emergency physician at Community Regional Medical Center, said a recent case is the first overdose in Fresno caused by fentanyl and a nonfentanyl-based synthetic opioid known as U-47700. (Anderson, 7/27)
UCSF Health CEO Mark Laret says he hopes the growth spurt is "the beginning of something that could be very big," and potentially be a model for hospitals and medical groups nationally to use as a template.
San Francisco Business Times:
Exclusive: UCSF, John Muir Dramatically Expand, Rename Bay Area Health Network
UCSF Health and John Muir Health have dramatically expanded — and renamed — their year-old Bay Area accountable care network, adding seven new hospitals and three new medical groups to the enterprise. The hope is that the network will be competitive with giants like Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health. The network's new brand name — Canopy Health — is intended to reach out to the broad Bay Area community, network CEO Joel Criste told the Business Times Wednesday. (Rauber, 7/27)
Even coming into limited contact with it could cause ear infections, gastrointestinal illness and more.
Wash Your Hands After Touching LA River Water: There Are High Levels Of Fecal Bacteria
The city of Los Angeles is trying to turn the LA River back into a real waterway with a $1 billion dollar restoration plan – but there’s a hitch. A new report released Wednesday confirms the river has high levels of fecal bacteria and isn’t safe to swim in. Even kayakers should shower with soap after paddling its currents. (Guerin and Bloom, 7/27)
The county's auditor has recommended the panel choosing the company start over again, saying his office's investigation found flaws in cost proposals and the omission of a preference for hiring local companies.
Alameda County: Auditor Recommends Restarting Bid For Jail Health Care Contract
Alameda County is poised to restart the process of selecting a company to provide health care services for its inmates. ... Currently, Corizon provides health care for approximately 2,800 prisoners at the Dublin jail, but in recent years the company has come under scrutiny for inmate deaths and poor mental health treatment. The company, along with the county, settled a landmark lawsuit last year over an in-custody death, agreeing to pay $8.3 million and have only registered nurses -- not licensed vocational nurses -- conduct assessment screenings. Corizon also was sharply criticized by nurses working at the jail after it fired 49 licensed vocational nurses in January and 16 more in February. (DeBolt, 7/27)
In other news from across the state —
Orange County Register:
Terminally Ill Child, 8, At CHOC To Be Named Honorary Marine At Camp Pendleton
A terminally ill 8-year-old’s fighting spirit earned him an honorary place in the United States Marine Corp along with his father. Wyatt Gillette was leaving Children’s Hospital of Orange County today to go home with his parents to Camp Pendleton. He’ll be under hospice care, spending what are expected to be his last days with family. (Winslow, 7/27)
At the Democratic National Convention, some of Hillary Clinton's top supporters are talking about spiking health care costs as the next step in reform. Meanwhile, abortion remains at the forefront of convention conversation, the Los Angeles Times looks at the states where the biggest battles are being fought.
In Philly, Clinton Allies Say Healthcare Costs Are Next Big Battle
After six years of rock-solid defense, top healthcare advocates in the Democratic Party are now willing to acknowledge that the Affordable Care Act has fallen flat on affordability. At the Democratic National Convention this week, some of Hillary Clinton’s closest allies on healthcare are setting her up for a major battle to lower the cost of care, an issue they said needs to top her agenda as president. (Ferris, 7/27)
Los Angeles Times:
A Woman At The DNC Just Discussed Her Abortion. Here's Where The Battle Over Abortion Rights Is Being Fought.
Abortion continues to be an important issue in the 2016 presidential election and has been referenced several times at the DNC so far, including today, when Ilyse Hogue, the president of a national pro-choice organization, discussed her own abortion in front of the convention. The next president’s Supreme Court nominee could tip the scales when it comes to decisions similar to the one made in June striking down Texas restrictions on doctors and clinics who perform abortions. (Rañoa, 7/27)
The insurance giant tops analysts' expectations for the second quarter. It says that the planned $45 billion merger with Cigna is needed to help provide leverage to negotiate better prices for consumers and make it easier for the company to keep selling plans on the health law's online marketplaces.
The Wall Street Journal:
Anthem: Getting Past Cigna Merger Blues
Anthem hasn’t given up on its merger with Cigna just yet. But second-quarter results suggest the backup plan isn’t a bad alternative. Anthem, the second-largest U.S. health insurer by membership, reported sales of $19.9 billion and adjusted earnings of $3.33 a share on Wednesday morning. That topped analyst estimates, but the stock traded lower. Higher-than-expected medical expenses were to blame. Those amounted to 84.2% of premium revenues, more than 2 percentage points higher than a year ago. Anthem blamed the squeeze in part on margin pressure in its Medicaid business, which is Anthem’s fastest-growing membership segment. (Grant, 7/27)
In other national health care news —
The Washington Post:
A New Formula For Exercise? Study Suggests 1 Hour Of Activity Per 8 Hours Of Sitting
If you fear you're doing irreparable damage to your body because your white-collar job keeps you sitting at your desk from 9 to 5, or you regularly spend entire weekends sprawled out on your couch binge-watching Netflix, there's some good news just out from sports medicine researchers. According to a study published in The Lancet, all is not lost. You may be able to "make up" for your increased risk of death due to a sedentary lifestyle by engaging in enough physical activity. So just how much is enough? (Cha, 7/28)
The New York Times:
Alzheimer’s Drug LMTX Falters In Final Stage Of Trials
A new type of drug for Alzheimer’s disease failed to slow the rate of decline in mental ability and daily functioning in its first large clinical trial. There was a hint, though, that it might be effective for certain patients. The drug, called LMTX, is the first one with its mode of action — trying to undo so-called tau tangles in the brain — to reach the final stage of clinical trials. So the results of the study were eagerly awaited. The initial reaction to the outcome was disappointment, with perhaps a glimmer of hopefulness. (Pollack, 7/27)
The Wall Street Journal:
Vertex Pharma Loss Narrows As Cystic Fibrosis Drug Sales Grow
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. said its second-quarter loss narrowed, as sales of its cystic fibrosis drugs continued to grow. The Boston-based biopharmaceutical company’s top- and bottom-line results beat expectations. Its drug Orkambi, which received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval roughly a year ago, treats patients with a genetic mutation that is the leading cause of the disease. The drug combines Vertex’s Kalydeco, which treats a different genetic type of cystic fibrosis, with another Vertex compound. (Stynes, 7/27)
The New York Times:
The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ Helped Scientists Discover A New Gene Tied To A.L.S.
It turns out those much-mocked Ice Bucket Challenge videos helped do a lot of good. Two summers ago, the challenge, designed to raise money for research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, took the internet by storm. Supporters ended up raising over $115 million for the A.L.S. Association. Over two years, money from the challenge has helped fund the research and development of treatment drugs and has been used as prize money to entice people to design technology for people living with the disease, which causes a rapid breakdown in a person’s ability to control muscle movement. (Roger, 7/27)