- California Healthline Original Stories 3
- New Law Will Expand Mental Health Services For Low-Income Californians
- Pricey New Treatment Roils Issues Of How To Treat Prostate Cancer
- Health Law Targets Women’s Preventive Services, But It Offers Help To Men, Too
- Public Health and Education 3
- Mom-And-Pop Drug Labs Selling Counterfeit Prescription Pills Are Booming
- Users Suffering Extreme Injuries From Exploding E-Cigarettes
- We've Hit Our Lifespan Ceiling As Humans, Scientists Say
- Around California 1
- Sonoma To Use $850K Grant To Fight Heart Disease With Early Prevention Initiative
Latest From California Healthline:
Legislation recently signed by Gov. Brown will allow about 1,000 clinics statewide to bill Medi-Cal for treatment by marriage and family counselors, deepening the pool of mental health providers. (Anna Gorman, 10/6)
High-intensity focused ultrasound, often not covered by insurance, leads to discussions about which patients benefit in the real world. (Julie Appleby, 10/6)
A number of preventive services used by both men and women are now available at no cost to consumers. (Michelle Andrews, 10/6)
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Summaries Of The News:
“The insurance companies don’t pay (doctors) enough, and the state won’t pay them enough, so they drop it. And we can’t force them to take it. So what are we supposed to do out here?” says one woman who is fighting to keep her disabled son on the Medi-Cal fee-for-service plan.
The Doctor Isn’t In: Medi-Cal Patients Struggle To Find Primary Care
Poe-Barham is elbow-deep in a legal battle with the Department of Health Care Services to keep her 28-year-old son on the Medi-Cal fee-for-service plan that has covered the dozens of surgeries, treatments and medications he has needed since being diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 3. If he moves to managed care – a subset of Medi-Cal that relies on insurance plans to provide reimbursement to doctors – she fears he won’t have access to any of it. (Caiola, 10/6)
Only 16 percent of Californians polled say they'll vote no on the initiative to curb high drug costs, but 34 percent said they are undecided.
LA Daily News:
Will Prop. 61 Drive Prescription Drug Prices Up Or Down?
A closely watched California prescription drug-pricing initiative got off to an early lead in polls, but a third of those surveyed were undecided, setting the stage for a battle to the finish. The California Drug Price Relief Act would require the state to pay no more for prescription drugs than the Department of Veterans Affairs pays for the same medication. ... Proponents say the measure would save California taxpayers about $5.7 billion over 10 years. But DiCamillo points to cautionary words in Proposition 61’s official ballot summary that say the amount of potential savings is unknown, in part because drug companies may decide to hike prices to make up for the lost discounts if the measure becomes law. (Seipel, 10/5)
CEO Elizabeth Holmes announces that about 340 employees will be laid off as the company closes both its clinical labs and its blood collection centers. The company's focus will shift to developing technology for its miniLab, a new blood-testing device.
San Francisco Business Times:
Theranos To Fire 340 As It Closes Labs And Wellness Centers
Theranos will fire 340 employees as it closes its clinical labs and Theranos Wellness Centers, wrote founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes in a blog post Wednesday afternoon. The closing of the labs and wellness centers will affect employees in three states: Arizona, California and Pennsylvania. Theranos employs from 500 to 1,000 workers, according to LinkedIn and Glassdoor. "We will return our undivided attention to our miniLab platform," Holmes said in the post, referring to the 95-pound desktop diagnostic tool presented for the first time at an annual scientific meeting in August. The miniLab platform was met with skepticism by conference attendees, who had been expected the company to provide data that showed its existing technology actually worked. (Procter, 10/5)
The Washington Post:
Theranos Will Close Labs And Walgreens Testing Sites, Laying Off Hundreds Of Employees
Elizabeth Holmes, the embattled founder and chief executive of Theranos, said late Wednesday that the company will close its clinical labs and Walgreens testing centers. The open letter, posted on the company’s website, was essentially an epitaph for the consumer business that was the focus of the once-celebrated Silicon Valley company that Holmes boasted would change the world with its simple and inexpensive pinprick blood test. In magazine interviews, TV appearances and keynote speeches she gave around the world, Holmes said the innovation would empower consumers by giving them the ability to bypass the gatekeepers — their doctors — to get important information about the health of their own bodies. (Cha, 10/5)
Not only do regions with extra beds experience competitive pressures that drive health care systems out of business, but they could also produce an incentive for clinicians to admit more patients and perform more procedures than necessary.
Does San Diego County Have Enough Patients For Its New Hospital Beds?
A potential threat to the San Diego region’s health and its ability to control medical costs might come as a surprise: a glut of hospital beds. The region's acute care bed count as of 2013 numbered 5,824, which was 2,284 more beds than the region's population will need by 2020, and 1,577 more than needed by 2030, according to the California Health Care Foundation's report "Beds for Boomers" issued last year. Not until 2040 would demand for beds come close to matching the region's supply.But an inewsource analysis shows the gap is even greater than the report’s chart suggests. (Clark, 10/6)
A California couple is one example of the latest trend of small drug labs being run out of apartments and homes, "Breaking Bad" style.
The Wall Street Journal:
The Pill Makers Next Door: How America’s Opioid Crisis Is Spreading
The married couple living in the third-floor, ocean-view apartment were friendly and ambitious. She explored the city, posting selfies on Facebook. He started a small music label at home. “They were nice people,” said Ann McGlenon, their former landlady. “She’s very sweet. He’s a go-getter.” Authorities say Candelaria Vazquez and Kia Zolfaghari had darker aspirations. (Kamp and Campo-Flores, 10/5)
The Modesto Bee:
Stronger Heroin Laced With Fentanyl Prompts FDA Panel To Call For Larger Naloxone Doses
A rise in overdose deaths from heroin laced with fentanyl and other powerful additives prompted two federal advisory committees on Wednesday to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration authorize stronger minimum dosages of naloxone, the lifesaving drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose. The FDA’s Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee and Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee voted 15-13 to recommend increasing the minimum amount for an injectable and intravenous dose of naloxone – currently 0.4 milligram – when considering approval of new naloxone products for use outside of a hospital or medical setting. (Pugh, 10/5)
Hospitals are seeing a growing increase of these traumatic injuries.
Los Angeles Times:
This Is What Can Happen If An E-Cigarette Blows Up While You’re Using It
It was an injury unlike any Dr. Elisha Brownson had seen — a young man whose teeth were blown out when his electronic cigarette exploded in his mouth. His injuries were so severe he was admitted to the trauma intensive care unit.“I had never heard of an injury mechanism like this before,” said Brownson, a surgeon who specializes in treating people with burns. The patient “left a gruesome impression on me.” (Kaplan, 10/5)
A new study claims that humans' biological limit on how long our lives can reach is 115 years.
Los Angeles Times:
When, And Why, Must We Die?
Life-extension zealots have championed many strategies aimed at prolonging our days here on Earth, and not all sound like much fun (I’m thinking specifically about caloric restriction). Super-centenarians — those rare humans who live beyond the age of 110 — by contrast seem to embrace much more appealing life-extension strategies: They routinely endorse regular naps, consumption of large quantities of chocolate, and a daily nip of strong drink, for instance. (Healy, 10/5)
The project looks to bring together a broad range of people -- health care providers and local agencies -- to attack heart disease on the community level.
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Sonoma County Receives $850,000 For Heart Disease Prevention
Sonoma County health officials are taking the fight against cardiovascular disease to the next level, one that focuses on early prevention and involves broad participation from, among others, local government, educators, residents, community groups and health care professionals. The initiative is an extension of health care strategies developed through the county’s Health Action partnership, which seeks to improve public health and reduce health care disparities. To that end, the county’s Department of Health Services and the collaborative partnership of community leaders and organizations known as Health Action recently were awarded an $850,000 grant to establish an Accountable Community of Health. (Espinoza, 10/5)
In other news from across the state —
Parents, City Reach $15 Million Settlement In Girl’s Death At Camp Sacramento
Natalie Giorgi’s parents say a powerful message lives in their daughter’s sudden death three years ago from an allergic reaction to peanuts at a signature Sacramento-run campground. Food allergies are real, and they can kill. On the day the Giorgis’ attorneys announced that the city reached a $15 million wrongful-death settlement with the family in the 13-year-old girl’s death at Camp Sacramento in July 2013, parents Joanne and Louis Giorgi vowed Natalie’s death would not be in vain, while chastened city officials promised changes within the next 12 months to ensure the safety of future campers. (Smith, 10/5)
San Diego Union-Tribune:
New Clinic Takes Bite Out Of Seniors' Dental Problems
Sitting in a dentist’s chair, Avelina Greeno put her hands over her mouth, demonstrating how she used to hide her smile...The National City resident is one of the first patients to experience the new dental clinic on the second floor of the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego. The program had a soft opening on June 1 and plans to celebrate its grand opening Wednesday. The milestone comes in the same year that the Gary and Mary West Foundation, which is funding the clinic, marks its 10th anniversary. The program is designed to serve low-income seniors living on less than $850 per month. In cases where the government-funded Denti-Cal program doesn’t cover the entire bill, the clinic’s seniors are charged on a sliding fee scale. (Sisson, 10/5)
Can A Play Change Attitudes About Depression?
"The One With Friends" features two characters living with depression. It gives a stark depiction of what it's like to live with the condition, as they struggle with a host of challenges affecting their friendships and work, including the general public's misperceptions about depression. "In the play I show how much support someone needs," says playwright Joseph Mango, who wrote the piece to educate people about depression – a condition he, too, has struggled with. (O'Neill, 10/6)
Some consumer advocates say the government assistance on choosing coverage will benefit people whose plans have exited the health law's exchanges, but insurers worry that it could create confusion.
The Associated Press:
Government To Pick Plans For Displaced Health Law Customers
The Obama administration is worried that insurers bailing out of the health care law's markets may prompt their customers to drop out, too.So administration officials have come up with a strategy to steer affected consumers to plans from remaining insurance companies. (10/6)
In other national health care news —
The Wall Street Journal:
Lawmakers Accuse Mylan Of Overcharging Government For EpiPen
The federal government says that Mylan NV has overcharged the federal-state Medicaid program by millions of dollars over five years for its emergency auto-injector product called the EpiPen. In a letter Wednesday, Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said Mylan wrongly classified the emergency epinephrine product as a generic, when it should have been classified as a brand-name product. In doing so, Mr. Slavitt wrote, Mylan paid a smaller rebate of 13%, or about $163 million, when it should have been paying a rebate of 23.1% or more. (Burton, 10/5)
Hospitals Tell CMS To Slow Flood Of New Alternative Payment Models
Providers are pleading with the CMS to slow its flood of new payment models in the effort to move from fee-for-service to value-based care. Since the start of the year, the agency has introduced or expanded nine pay models and announced selected markets for another three. In comments on a July proposed rule that would make 98 markets financially accountable for the cost and quality of all care associated with bypass surgery and heart attacks, industry stakeholders ask the agency to step on the brakes. (Dickson, 10/5)
The New York Times:
How Much Is It Worth To Hold Your Newborn? $40, Apparently
After holding his newborn son for the first time at a Utah hospital last month, a man found a strange charge on his bill: $39.35.The man, Ryan Grassley, thought the charge, which appeared to be for holding his baby to his wife’s chest, was a bit of a joke. (The charge was listed as “skin to skin after C-sec.”) So he didn’t take it too seriously when he posted a picture of the bill on Reddit. ... The Reddit post touched a nerve with people because it seemed to underscore a national frustration with unexpected hospital fees and arcane medical billing. (Bromwich, 10/5)