- California Healthline Original Stories 4
- President’s Task Force Aims To Help End Discrimination In Mental Health Coverage
- California Senate Committee Approves End-of-Life Help Line
- Tiny Opioid Patients Need Help Easing Into Life
- Do Retail Clinics Save Money?
- Marketplace 3
- California's Workers’ Compensation System Rife With Fraud, Investigation Finds
- House Panel Investigating Fetal Tissue Research Issues Subpoenas
- Zenefits' Value Drops Nearly $3 Billion In Less Than A Year
- Around California 1
- State To Use Blood Tests To Refine Lead Cleanup Efforts, Following Pushback From Lawmakers
- Public Health and Education 2
- Fentanyl Claims Another Victim In Wave Of Overdoses In Sacramento County
- 'A Gradual, Terrible, Horrible Progression'; Dementia Devastates Patients And Their Spouses
- National Roundup 1
- Nation's First Transplant Between HIV-Positive Donor, Recipients Successful, Hopkins Announces
Latest From California Healthline:
Some advocates for mentally ill people say the administration’s action is long overdue. (Jenny Gold, 3/31)
The bill is intended to help people navigate a new law for the terminally ill, but Catholic groups and others are not on board. (Ana B. Ibarra, 3/31)
More babies are being born dependent on opioids. The good news is they can safely be weaned from the drug. But there's little research on which medical treatment is best, or its long-term effects. (Kristin Espeland Gourlay, RINPR, 3/31)
A researcher and MinuteClinic executive discuss the conclusions in a recent study suggesting that the clinics actually add to outpatient costs. (Chad Terhune, 3/31)
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Summaries Of The News:
Injured workers seeking medical care are vulnerable to unchecked profiteering that can put their health and lives at risk, according to a probe by The Center for Investigative Reporting.
Profiteering Masquerades As Medical Care For Injured California Workers
A review of thousands of criminal court records by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting shows a system in which pay-to-play schemes trump patient care, particularly in unregulated treatments rejected by insurers and disputed in obscure courts throughout the state. Prosecutors are beginning to turn the tide, pursuing charges against more than 80 medical professionals who’ve handled more than 100,000 injured-worker cases, most of them originating in Southern California. (Jewett, 3/31)
How California’s Health Care System For Workers Forgot About Fraud
The history of fraud in the California medical system meant to help injured workers goes back decades. And there are strong signs that the latest wave of criminal prosecutions might not mark the final chapter. (Jewett, 3/31)
The congressional committee subpoenaed eight medical organizations -- including San Diego-based Biomed IRB and San Leandro-based Ganogen Inc. -- as part of a probe instigated by videos that purported to capture Planned Parenthood officials trying to profit illegally from the sale of such tissue. Since then, the videographers have been indicted and 20 states have cleared Planned Parenthood or decided not to investigate, but Republican House members have continued with their efforts.
The New York Times:
House Panel Issues Subpoenas In Fetal Tissue Research Inquiry
A special House committee empaneled to investigate fetal tissue research issued subpoenas on Wednesday to eight medical organizations as part of an investigation that has led to charges of intimidation. “The Select Investigative Panel is working in a thoughtful and thorough manner to find the facts about what exactly is going on at these abortion businesses and procurement organizations,” said Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee who leads the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. “Unfortunately, some of these organizations have so redacted documents — even after being subpoenaed — that it is impossible for us to get the complete picture of what is actually going on.” (Harris, 3/30)
The San Diego Union Tribune:
SD Company Subpoenaed On Fetal Tissue Research
A San Diego company was ordered Wednesday to appear before a House committee on April 11th to discuss its involvement in fetal tissue research, one of the most politially charged fields in science. House investigators issued a subpoena to the Biomedical Research Institute of America (BioMed), a non-profit organization that says it advises doctors on how to lawfully and ethically conduct research studies. It is known as an institutional review board, or IRB. (Robbins and Fikes, 3/30)
Since the startup's high point, founder and CEO Parker Conrad has been ousted, former COO David Sacks took over, 250 staffers were laid off and the company has been investigated by state insurance regulators in Washington, California and reportedly other states.
The San Francisco Business Times:
Zenefits Lost Two-Thirds Of Its Value
The valuation of once high-flying technology leader Zenefits is less than $2 billion now, or 65 percent less than its May 2015 high point, following another write down by mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments. The write down, reported Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal, was part of a flurry of valuation drops by Fidelity, reflecting its analysis of what its investments in a number of huge private technology companies were worth at the end of February. (Rauber, 3/30)
The Wall Street Journal:
Fidelity Marks Down Startups Including Dropbox, Zenefits
Mutual-fund giant Fidelity Investments took an ax to the valuations of its private technology shares in February, cutting bellwether software startups like Dropbox Inc., Cloudera Inc. and Zenefits by as much as 38% compared with the prior month. On Wednesday, the Boston-based company released valuation estimates as of Feb. 29 for the holdings in its various mutual funds. The reports are closely watched in Silicon Valley because they offer among the few public gauges for how closely held startup values are trending. (Winkler, 3/30)
In other news —
The Sacramento Business Journal:
Davis Biotech Firm Says Financial Scandal Cost $13M
Davis biotechnology company Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. reported lower losses in 2015 as the company worked through the effects of a major financial setback. But the firm also revealed costs from that setback have reached $13 million. The biopesticide maker's revenue for 2015 was $9.8 million, up from $9.1 million the previous year. The company lost $43.7 million in 2015, compared to a loss of $51.7 million the year earlier. (Anderson, 3/30)
After the Los Angeles Times published an article on the failure of California to use children's blood tests to focus lead-contamination response, a common practice in other states, community groups and legislators reacted in force.
Los Angeles Times:
State To Begin Using Children's Blood Tests To Focus Cleanup Of Vernon Battery Recycling Plant
Under intense criticism from California lawmakers, the state will begin using blood test results from children to help focus its massive cleanup of lead-contaminated homes in southeast Los Angeles County, state officials said Wednesday. Environmental regulators have received a state Department of Public Health analysis of blood lead levels of children living near the closed Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon and will use it "to further refine and target our testing and cleanup," Barbara Lee, director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, told an Assembly subcommittee. (Barboza and Poston, 3/30)
In other news from around the state —
The Modesto Bee:
Assembly Contenders Part Ways On Pot, Rail And Obamacare
Differences between five candidates vying to succeed Kristin Olsen in the 12th Assembly District quickly came into focus Wednesday at their first public debate in Modesto. The three Republican candidates – Heath Flora, Cindy Marks and Ken Vogel – espoused conservative values such as protection of gun ownership and opposing recreational marijuana. On the Democratic side, Virginia Madueño took a centrist view, while Harinder Grewal leaned further left, advocating marijuana legalization, high-speed rail and universal health care. (Stapley, 3/30)
The Press Democrat:
Sonoma County Ranks 5th In State For Women's Well-Being
Women fare better in Sonoma County than in almost any other county in California, according to a new report that examines the lives of women through a prism of 30 different statistical measurements on everything from child care costs to crime. Sonoma County was ranked the fifth-best place in California for women’s well-being, according to an index developed by the California Budget & Policy Center, a Sacramento nonprofit focused on improving the economic and social well-being of low- and middle- income Californians. (Warren, 3/30)
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Flu Kills 9-Year-Old Boy In San Diego Region
The flu killed a 9-year-old boy from San Diego in late March, the county Health and Human Services Agency said Wednesday. The boy, who was said to have underlying medical complications, is the second pediatric patient to die of an influenza infection this season. The county said last week that a 16-year-old girl, who also had complications, died on Mar. 16 after coming down with the viral infection. (Sisson, 3/30)
A recent cyberattack against hospital chain MedStar was just the latest in a series of strikes against health care companies, which included another hospital in Los Angeles. Experts warn that because the information the organizations have is more valuable on the black market than even credit card numbers, and their security measures tend to lag behind other sectors, they are particularly vulnerable.
The Associated Press:
Hospital Cyberattack Highlights Health Care Vulnerabilities
A cyberattack that paralyzed the hospital chain MedStar this week is serving as a fresh reminder of vulnerabilities that exist in systems that protect sensitive patient information. That attack came a month after a Los Angeles hospital paid hackers $17,000 to regain control of its computer system and more than a year after intruders broke into a database containing the records of nearly 80 million people maintained by the health insurer Anthem. (3/30)
One of the regional task forces will be located in the Northern District of California and will include representatives from U.S. attorneys' offices, state Medicaid Fraud Control Units, state and local prosecutors' offices and HHS, among others.
New Federally Led Task Forces To Crack Down On Nursing Home Abuses
Federal, state and local authorities will collaborate in 10 new regional task forces across the country to toughen enforcement against nursing homes accused of providing grossly substandard care to patients and residents, the the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday. “We expect to share information and concerns much more quickly and to take action in a more coordinated and timely manner,” Benjamin Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said in a call with reporters Wednesday. (Schencker, 3/30)
The private donation is the largest in St. John's Pleasant Valley Hospital's history and will help fund an addition.
The Ventura County Star:
Former Patient Gives $5M For Camarillo Hospital Project
St. John's Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo has been given $5 million from an unnamed philanthropist to fund a new surgical center that is part of an $80 million addition. Officials said the donation is the largest in the hospital's 42-year history. It comes from a former patient who asked for anonymity and gave the money in memory of her late father, a surgeon in another state, said Debi Klein of St. John's Healthcare Foundation. (Kisken, 3/30)
UCSF researchers found that, though the law created financial and emotional hardships for women, those seeking the abortions had made up their mind and were not swayed during the waiting period. In other news, Alaska passes a bill that focuses on the viability of a fetus, but Planned Parenthood says the terminology in the legislation is confusing.
Study: Mandatory Waiting Period Stopped Few Abortions
Most women seeking an abortion were not deterred by a Utah law requiring a 72-hour waiting period before having the procedure, according to a recent study by the University of California, San Francisco. (Fine, 3/30)
Jerome Butler was taken off life support Wednesday. "This is a real public safety issue. We have lost so many of our kids behind this pill," his mother, Natasha Butler, said. "All the parents that [have] lost their kids behind this, we have to stand together. We have to get it stopped.”
The Sacramento Bee:
Deadly Street Drug Fentanyl Kills Again In Sacramento
A young father of three children has become the first publicly known victim in an alarming wave of Sacramento County overdoses involving the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Family members of Jerome Butler, 28, said doctors removed him from life support systems on Wednesday afternoon, a few days after he took a pill that is believed to have been laced with fentanyl. Similar overdoses have killed six other people and sent 21 more to area hospitals. (Buck and Hubert, 3/30)
Four Californians open up to The Desert Sun about how they coped as their husband's or wife's disease progressed.
The Desert Sun:
When Dementia Upends A Marriage: Inside The Emotional Journey
The car was already packed for Park City when Dick Marks asked his wife a question that brought their summer plans to an urgent halt and further tested the strength of their 26-year marriage. Driving 10 hours from Rancho Mirage to northern Utah was already a much simpler journey than the worldwide touring they’d continued together even after Dick suffered a major stroke a decade earlier. Dick’s walker hadn’t stopped him, with Barbara by his side, from seeing the palaces of St. Petersburg and the grasslands of Africa. Now Barbara had decided that Dick’s worsening health made those trips impractical. Then finally, impossible. (Newkirk, 3/30)
Johns Hopkins University says the patients are recovering after receiving a kidney and a liver, respectively, from a deceased donor who was HIV-positive. HIV-positive patients already are eligible to receive transplants from HIV-negative donors, just like anyone else, but the waiting list is long and thousands die waiting for an organ.
The Los Angeles Times:
In A First, Liver And Kidney From HIV-Infected Donor Are Transplanted Into HIV-Positive Patients
In a first that gives HIV-infected patients yet another chance for long lives, surgeons at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center have transplanted a kidney and a liver from a dead donor who was HIV-positive into two HIV-positive recipients. (Healy, 3/30)
The Associated Press:
Hopkins Begins Nation’s First HIV-Positive Organ Transplants
Surgeons in Baltimore for the first time have transplanted organs between an HIV-positive donor and HIV-positive recipients, a long-awaited new option for patients with the AIDS virus whose kidneys or livers also are failing. Johns Hopkins University announced Wednesday that both recipients are recovering well after one received a kidney and the other a liver from a deceased donor — organs that ordinarily would have been thrown away because of the HIV infection. (Neergaard, 3/30)
After his comments provoked an outcry from both sides, the Republican front-runner quickly walked back his statement to say the doctor performing the procedure should be penalized instead.