- California Healthline Original Stories 3
- Renewed Cleaning Efforts For Scopes Not Enough To Vanquish Bacteria
- Headaches Persist As Covered California Enrollment Nears End
- Medicare’s Coverage Of Therapy Services Again Is In Center Of Court Dispute
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Are Californians Willing To Pay To Keep ACA-Like Coverage For All Residents?
- Public Health and Education 2
- Nimble Bike Units Help Provide Quick, Life-Saving Emergency Aid
- Patients With Dementia Particularly Susceptible To Ill-Effects From Cold Medicines
Latest From California Healthline:
A new study, though small, finds extensive damage to commonly used medical scopes that could trap dangerous bacteria. That raises concerns about the potential for more outbreaks. (Chad Terhune, 1/31)
Thousands of consumers have faced higher-than-expected premiums or lost their tax credits, at least temporarily, because of errors by the state’s health insurance exchange. (1/31)
According to a settlement four years ago, Medicare was supposed to make clear to therapists that their services are covered even if beneficiaries are not improving. But that is not yet widely accepted. (Susan Jaffe, 1/30)
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Summaries Of The News:
If federal funds are cut off through a potential repeal of the health law, Californians would have to make up the difference to keep people covered. Meanwhile, the enrollment deadline has arrived, and despite uncertainty around Obamacare's future, the numbers show that people are still signing up.
The Mercury News:
Could California Go It Alone With Obamacare? How Much Are You Willing To Pay?
One GOP-generated proposal would allow individual states to keep Obamacare-style health insurance — for a price. And that ultimately could force California voters to decide whether they’d be willing to pay more in taxes to continue providing subsidized insurance coverage for at least 5 million residents...“The big issue with California is the federal in-flow of dollars,’’ said Christine Eibner, a senior economist at RAND Corporation. That amounts each year to $22.5 billion in federal funds — more than $17 billion of that to add millions of uninsured low-income adults to Medi-Cal, the state’s health program for the disabled and poor. The rest of that money provides subsidies to lower the cost of health plans for most of the 1.3 million who buy their insurance through the state’s health exchange. (Seipel, 1/30)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Covered California Signups Continue Amid Talk Of Obamacare Repeal
Californians are continuing to sign up for health insurance through the state-run marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act, despite uncertainty over the future of the federal health care law. Some 327,000 new people, about the same number as last year, have signed up for insurance plans during open enrollment, which runs from Nov. 1 to Tuesday, according to figures from Covered California. The figure represents the number of new signups through Jan. 24. (Ho, 1/30)
Covered California Deadline Looms Amidst Uncertainty About Health Law
The deadline to enroll in Covered California is Tuesday at midnight. And despite the uncertainty swirling around the future of the Affordable Care Act, policymakers and experts say people should sign up for health insurance – and people appear to be listening. As of last Monday, more than 320,000 people had newly enrolled in insurance through the state exchange since Nov. 1. The rate at which people are enrolling in coverage for the first time is on pace with last year, Covered California officials said. (Plevin, 1/31)
Headaches Persist As Covered California Enrollment Nears End
Covered California’s fourth annual open enrollment period, set to end Tuesday, has been rocky for many consumers. During this period, two Covered California errors have affected roughly 50,000 policy holders, leading to higher-than-expected premiums or the potential loss of their tax credits. (1/31)
When the Los Angeles bike unit made its debut patrolling a triathlon in 2004, it had 20 cyclists. The team is now one of the largest in the U.S.
Bike Medics Bring Speedy Emergency Care To Patients
When the Los Angeles bike unit made its debut patrolling a triathlon in 2004, it had 20 cyclists. The team is now one of the largest in the U.S., with 120 cyclists on the roster and 60 bikes. ... Across the country, bike medics patrol airports, sports arenas, downtown entertainment areas and special events such as festivals, concerts and marathons. They are especially useful when roads are closed or congested, said Mike Touchstone, past president of the National EMS Management Association, a professional association of EMS managers. Medics on bikes can navigate crowded streets and sidewalks swiftly and go up and down stairs, escalators and elevators. (Bergal, 1/30)
Experts say they should be only used in low doses.
KPBS Public Media:
Cold Meds, Dementia Can Be A Dangerous Mix
Studies show long-term use of over-the-counter cold medicines that contain antihistamines can increase the risk of developing dementia. These medications can also be dangerous for people who already have dementia. That's because antihistamines interfere with a chemical in the brain called acetylcholine. That chemical acts as a neurotransmitter that serves a vital role in memory. (Goldberg, 1/30)
NPR reports that the hiring pace has not gone up and that new hires are not made at facilities with the longest wait times, such as San Diego's.
Veterans Choice Act Not Helping Staffing Or Wait Time Problems At VA Hospitals
Before they get to work on reforming the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress and the White House might want to take a closer look at the last time they tried it – a $16 billion dollar fix called the Veterans Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, designed to get veterans medical care more quickly. NPR and local member stations have been following that money – including the $10 billion dollars for vets to get care outside the VA system. The Choice Act also channeled about $2.5 billion for hiring more doctors, nurses and other medical staff at VA medical centers. (Walsh, Murphy, Bisaha and Lawrence, 1/31)
Lori Diane Fiorentino's lawyer says she had no authority to make her patient accept care.
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Ex-Fort Bragg Caregiver To Be Tried For Elder Abuse In ‘Mummy’ Case
A former caregiver arrested after the mummified remains of her client were found hidden among piles of debris in a senior housing apartment they shared has been ordered to stand trial for elder abuse. Lori Diane Fiorentino, 56, is charged in connection with the death of Arlene Potts, 66, at the Duncan Place apartment complex in Fort Bragg, where Potts’ emaciated, decaying body was found clad in nothing but layers of feces-laden diapers on Dec. 14, according to testimony by Fort Bragg Police Officer Joseph Breyer. Fiorentino faces a maximum of four years in jail if convicted of the charge at trial. An autopsy found severe muscle atrophy, emaciation and ulcerated lesions on Potts’ body, but was inconclusive on cause of death, limiting the charging opportunities, said Deputy District Attorney Kevin Davenport. (Anderson, 1/30)
In other news from across the state —
KPBS Public Media:
San Diego City Council Considers Ban On Marijuana 'Supply Chain'
San Diego would allow recreational marijuana sales, but would prohibit commercial cultivation of the plant and testing for its safety and potency, under a proposal that goes before the City Council on Tuesday. City staffers are recommending San Diego apply mostly the same regulations to recreational marijuana shops as currently exist for medical marijuana consumer cooperatives. The practical effect would be that the city's licensed medical marijuana dispensaries could begin selling their products to people 21 and older who don't have a doctor's recommendation. (Bowen, 1/30)
The president has mandated that for every regulation an agency adopts it must get rid of two. Although the industry is praising the move, its consequences on Americans' health could be far reaching.
Healthcare Industry Celebrates 'One-In, Two-Out' Executive Order Despite Unknowns
Healthcare industry stakeholders are lauding President Donald Trump's latest executive order which requires executive departments or agencies to remove at least two previously implemented regulations for every new one issued. The order could have major ramifications for healthcare, one of the most regulated industries in the U.S. economy. Providers and vendors face a myriad of rules drafted by numerous agencies and departments, including the CMS, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. (Rubenfire, 1/30)
Trump Order On Regulations May Create Hurdles For FDA, Cures Act
President Trump on Monday signed an executive order directing federal agencies to cut two regulations for every new one that they adopt, a move that could have significant implications for the Food and Drug Administration. Trump, who vowed throughout his campaign to ease the burden of government regulations in order to promote innovation, pledged at the signing ceremony that the order would be “the biggest such act our country has ever seen.” “There will be regulation, there will be control, but it will be normalized control,” he said. (Kaplan, 1/30)
In other administration news —
US Health Care, Reliant On Foreign Workers, Struggles With Trump's Ban
President Trump’s temporary immigration ban could quickly undermine American health care, which relies heavily on foreign-born labor — including many workers from the Middle East — to fill critical gaps in care, industry specialists say. As many as 25 percent of physicians practicing in the US were born in another country. Rural clinics and public safety-net hospitals, in particular, rely on foreign medical school graduates to take care of isolated and vulnerable populations. (Ross and Blau, 1/30)
The Wall Street Journal:
Rep. Tom Price Got Privileged, Discounted Offer On Biomedical Stock, Company Says
Rep. Tom Price got a privileged offer to buy a biomedical stock at a discount, the company’s officials said, contrary to his congressional testimony this month. The Georgia Republican tapped by President Donald Trump to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services testified in his Senate confirmation hearings on Jan. 18 and 24 that the discounted shares he bought in Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd., an Australian medical biotechnology company, “were available to every single individual that was an investor at the time.” (Grimaldi, 1/30)
While they scramble to dismantle and replace the health law, Republican lawmakers are taking a piecemeal approach to rolling back some regulations that insurers claim have driven up premiums. Advocates, however, say the rules protect customers and create better quality of coverage.
House Republicans Offer Bills To Stabilize The Individual Insurance Market
House Republicans have filed four separate bills intended to stabilize the individual insurance market while they pursue their strategy of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. The bills, to be discussed at an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday, address issues that insurers say have increased their costs and unbalanced the risk pool, thus driving up premiums and making the individual market a less viable business for them. But consumer advocates caution that these measures could make coverage and care less accessible and affordable for lower-income, older, and sicker people. (Meyer, 1/30)
In other health law repeal news —
The Associated Press:
Chair Says GOP Doesn't Want To Rush Health Care Overhaul
A leader of the Republican effort to revamp President Barack Obama's health care law says the message from GOP lawmakers at last week's private strategy session was for "a very deliberate, thoughtful approach." ... Texas GOP Rep. Kevin Brady chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. He says lawmakers told leaders: "Let's not rush. Let's get it right." (1/30)
Prevention Benefits At Risk With An Obamacare Repeal
The Affordable Care Act extended 100% coverage for a range of preventive healthcare services, including some types of cancer screening, to seniors on Medicare. That first-dollar coverage likely saved lives by increasing diagnoses of early-stage colorectal cancer by 8% among Medicare beneficiaries during the first three years it was in effect, a new study in Health Affairs reported. Now experts fear Republicans will eliminate the law's mandate for full coverage of recommended preventive services in taxpayer-financed and employer-based health plans. The GOP proposals also would erase the requirement that individual plans offer minimum essential benefits in 10 categories, including mental health and substance abuse, maternity care and prescription drugs. (Meyer, 1/28)
Patients Brace For Post-Obamacare Out-Of-Pocket Health Costs
A lack of clarity into what the Trump administration will do about the Affordable Care Act and drug prices is unnerving many patients with cancer and other chronic diseases, who worry that the alternative to high premiums and deductibles could lead to worse solutions than the high out-of-pocket costs they have now. Assurances that people with pre-existing health conditions will still be able to get insurance through any ACA replacement plan offers only partial solace to many cancer and heart patients. They know the details of any plan will determine whether they are better or worse off financially. (O'Donnell, 1/31)
Sanctuary City Funding Cuts Less Of A Concern Than Medicaid: Fitch
President Donald Trump's executive order last week to cut federal funding to self-proclaimed sanctuary cities would likely not result in an impact to cities' bond ratings, Fitch Ratings reported on Monday. Instead, a push to convert Medicaid to a block grant would likely result in a more significant effect on state and local government finances, Fitch noted. (Respaut, 1/30)