- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Officials Alert Seniors They Could Wind Up With Too Much Insurance
- To Curb Unintended Pregnancy, States Turn To IUDs — In The Delivery Room
- Marketplace 1
- Dignity, Catholic Health Mull Megamerger To Become Nation’s Largest Nonprofit Hospital System
- Campaign 2016 1
- Union Officials: What's Stopping Hospitals From Using Prop. 52 To Pad Executives' Pay?
- Public Health and Education 3
- Aliso Canyon Residents Demand Movement On Health Study That May Be Too Late
- When Should Alzheimer's Patients Be Banned From Getting Behind The Wheel?
- Nearly 30 Percent Of Cancer Deaths Linked To Smoking
Latest From California Healthline:
The federal government and the Covered California exchange remind people as they become eligible for Medicare to cancel their Obamacare coverage. (Susan Jaffe, 10/25)
States are contemplating whether access to IUD through post-delivery procedures could be an important step in curbing unintended pregnancies. (Shefali Luthra, 10/25)
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Summaries Of The News:
The deal would combine 103 hospitals owned by Catholic Health Initiatives, based in Englewood, Colo., with 39 hospitals operated by San Francisco-based Dignity Health.
The Wall Street Journal:
Catholic Health Initiatives, Dignity Health In Merger Talks
Hospital operator Catholic Health Initiatives, which has struggled after rapid expansion and a foray into health insurance, is in merger talks with Dignity Health to create one of the nation’s largest nonprofit hospital systems by revenue. Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health said in a statement they are in talks regarding “aligning their organizations.” A person familiar with the matter said the talks involve a merger. (Evans, 10/24)
Dignity Health And Catholic Health Initiatives Are In Merger Talks
Dignity Health and troubled Catholic Health Initiatives are in merger talks, the health systems announced Monday. The not-for-profit giants have signed a nonbinding agreement to evaluate “an alignment” between the systems, according to a release. A full merger would create the nation's largest not-for-profit hospital company with combined revenue of $27.6 billion ahead of the $20.5 billion posted by Catholic-sponsored Ascension. (Barkholz, 10/24)
East Bay Times:
Bay Area: Dignity Health In Merger Talks
San Francisco-based Dignity Health on Monday confirmed it has signed a non-binding letter of intent with Catholic Health Initiatives in Colorado to explore a merger. The letter of intent follows last month’s announcement that the two systems formed a partnership called Precision Medicine Alliance. The union would create one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit hospital companies in the U.S.“Health care is at a turning point in our nation,” Lloyd Dean, Dignity president and CEO said in a statement. (Seipel, 10/24)
San Francisco Business Journal:
Catholic Health Initiatives, Dignity Health Hospital Systems Explore Merger
Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives has signed a non-binding letter of intent to combine with Dignity Health, a merger that would bring together two of the five largest nonprofit health systems in America and create a faith-based health network that has nearly a nationwide reach. The proposed deal, which the two systems described as a potential “aligning” of their organizations, was announced Monday. It comes one month after Arapahoe County-headquartered CHI and San Francisco-based Dignity Health formed a partnership to create the largest community-based precision-medicine organization in the country, Precision Medicine Alliance LLC, to research and implement patient-focused treatments rather than across-the-board care. (Sealover, 10/24)
Although there is no active opposition to the measure, some are worried there’s no requirement that hospitals spend the money on health care for the poor.
Proposition 52: Critical For Medi-Cal Or Perks For Hospital Execs?
Proposition 52 on the November ballot has gotten little attention. Even so, supporters said the measure is crucial to hospitals’ ability to care for Medi-Cal patients. The measure asks voters to lock in a special fee that hospitals pay in order to ensure that California receives billions of dollars in federal matching funds. The state legislature initiated the fee in 2009. ... The Service Employees International Union–United Healthcare Workers West had planned to fight the measure. But it decided to put its resources elsewhere. Still, union officials complain there’s no requirement that hospitals spend the money on health care for the poor. (Goldberg, 10/24)
In other ballot news —
Los Angeles Times:
Vapers Beware: E-Cigarettes In Line For A Big Tax Increase If Proposition 56 Passes
Most of the attention on the Proposition 56 tobacco tax has focused on the potential $2-per-pack increase in the price of cigarettes. Less examined is a provision under which the booming e-cigarette market would be taxed in California for the first time – and the increase will be huge. E-cigarette liquid containing nicotine could be taxed at a rate as high as 67%, according to state estimates, an amount that an e-cigarette trade group believes would boost the price consumers pay for a typical 30-milliliter bottle to about $30 from around $20 today. (Dillon, 10/24)
With the report cards, the state provided an assessment of health plans and medical groups in such areas as effectiveness in diagnosing and treating health conditions, including diabetes, mental health and pediatric care.
New Report Cards Grade California Health Plans And Medical Groups
Some health plans and medical groups received grades you wouldn't want to bring home to your parents. The poor grades are found in this year's edition of the annual report cards from the California Office of the Patient Advocate. The 2016 report cards rate California’s 10 biggest HMOs and five largest PPOs in the areas of clinical performance and patient experience. Both the Sharp Health plan and Kaiser Permanente earned high marks this year. In contrast, Aetna got the worst marks of any HMO. (Goldberg, 10/24)
California Office Of Patient Advocate Offers Online Ratings Of Health Plans
Health consumers in the central San Joaquin Valley will choose health plans during open enrollment season this fall, and California’s Office of the Patient Advocate has an online ratings tool that can help them make the best decisions. The state rated the 10 largest health maintenance organizations (HMO), five largest preferred provider organizations (PPO) and more than 200 commercial medical groups. The Health Care Quality Report Card offers a side-by-side comparison of health plans on quality and patient experience. The tool also provides medical group cost ratings. (Anderson, 10/24)
California Releases Latest ‘Report Cards’ On Health Plans, Doctor Groups
“Health care is complicated, but it’s important,” said Elizabeth Abbott, director of the OPA. “A lot of consumers are afraid to pick health plans; it’s intimidating.” The goal of the agency’s report cards, she said, is to make that process less daunting. (Ibarra, 10/24)
It's been a year since a natural gas leak started causing nosebleeds for those around Porter Ranch. But a major health study has never gotten off the ground, and some worry the sides have missed their opportunity for accurate results.
Los Angeles Daily News:
Aliso Canyon 1 Year Later: Health Study Stuck In Limbo Amid Cancer Fears
One year after a massive natural gas leak above Porter Ranch sickened thousands of people, forcing them to temporarily leave their homes in the northwestern San Fernando Valley, no deep health study has been started to answer their lingering questions: What will the chemicals they were exposed to do to them? What are the long-term health effects of the 100,000 metric tons of methane that spewed from one of 115 aged, natural gas wells in Aliso Canyon, just above their homes. Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and researchers say Southern California Gas Co., which owns and operates the natural gas facility, won’t release a list of chemicals used to store the gas or that are in the mud mixture used in attempts to plug the leak. Officials with SoCalGas, however, say they have complied with all requests. (Abram, 10/24)
In other news —
Exide, State Fight Over Lead Contamination Data
Exide Technologies is suing the California Department of Public Health to obtain more data about the sources of lead contamination around its former battery recycling plant in Vernon. The state is pushing back, arguing that releasing the information would threaten the privacy rights of lead-poisoned children. Exide says it's seeking the data so it can more accurately evaluate lead contamination in the community and its potential sources. Critics suggest the suit is an attempt by Exide to dodge financial responsibility for the lead cleanup around its facility. (Plevin, 10/24)
California's DMV took action against the licenses of 4,388 to 6,389 drivers with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia each year over the past decade, which is far fewer than the estimated 50,000 people who develop the disease in the state annually.
When Doctors And The DMV Decide It’s Time For You To Stop Driving
Doctors must report patients diagnosed with any condition marked by a lapse of consciousness, specifically Alzheimer’s disease, so the California Department of Motor Vehicles can check their ability to drive safely. That’s California law. After all, Alzheimer’s cases are exploding, with an estimated 500,000 new cases a year in the nation. ... DMV statistics reveal the agency took action against the licenses of 4,388 to 6,389 drivers with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia each year over the last decade, far fewer than the estimated 50,000 people who develop the disease in California annually. (Clark, 10/24)
Virtual Dementia Tour Offers A Glimpse Into The World Of Those With Alzheimer's
Most of us will never truly know what it’s like inside the mind of someone afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s. But there are ways to get a glimpse. On a recent afternoon at Atria El Camino Gardens, a senior living and memory care facility in Carmichael, staffers and family members took a “virtual dementia tour” to experience what those brain impairments can feel like. (Buck, 10/24)
The report offers suggestions -- such as implementing a higher cigarette tax -- "to avert many more premature deaths."
Los Angeles Times:
You Can Blame Cigarettes For Nearly 3 In 10 Cancer Deaths In The U.S., Study Says
Cigarette smoking can be blamed for at least 167,133 cancer deaths in the U.S. in a single year, according to a new report. That’s more than the total number of people who will attend the first four games of the World Series in Cleveland and Chicago. It’s also more than the entire population of Salem, Ore. (Kaplan, 10/24)
In other news —
Capital Public Radio:
CDC Announces Changes To HPV Vaccine Dose Recommendation
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that nine to 14-year-olds need only two doses of the HPV vaccine, instead of the three doses that have traditionally been administered. Studies show that two doses within that age group is just as effective as three doses in older teens and young adults. The change may increase the number of kids who actually complete the series of shots. (Johnson, 10/24)
Authorities believe Hong “recruited” Medicare beneficiaries for massage and acupuncture treatments, even though those treatments aren't eligible for reimbursement. Prosecutors allege that Hong’s clinics falsely claimed that the patients had received physical therapy.
Orange County Register:
Brea Man Convicted Of Multimillion-Dollar Medicare Fraud
A Brea man faces decades behind bars after being convicted of using his rehabilitation clinics to submit millions of dollars in false Medicare claims. A jury at the U.S. District Courthouse on Wednesday convicted Simon Hong, 54, of 19 felonies, including healthcare fraud, making illegal kickbacks and identity theft. Hong, who is also known as Seong Wook Hong, ran several medical clinics in Los Angeles County, including Hong’s Medical Management, Inc., CMH Practice Solution and Solution Inc. (Emery, 10/24)
In other news from across the state —
Teal Pumpkins Steer Food Alergic Trick-Or-Treaters To Houses Handing Out Non-Edible Treats
Scattered among the scarecrows and gourds in front of the Sorrells’ south Arden home is a bright turquoise pumpkin, an out-of-place item that pops out among the fall colors and catches the attention of passers-by. To explain the odd detail, Kitty Sorrells has posted a turquoise sign declaring, “We are allergy friendly!” The sign and the pumpkin signal her participation in the Teal Pumpkin Project, a national effort by nonprofit organization Food Allergy Research and Education to get people to hand out allergy-safe candy alternatives such as glow sticks and bouncy balls this Halloween. (Caiola, 10/24)
The Obama administration says customers buying insurance from the exchanges will still be able to find plans for less than $100 a month with help from federal subsidies.
The New York Times:
Some Health Plan Costs To Increase By An Average Of 25 Percent, U.S. Says
Premiums for midlevel health plans under the Affordable Care Act will increase by an average of 25 percent next year, while consumers in some states will find significantly fewer insurance companies offering coverage, the federal government said Monday. (Pear, 10/24)
In other national health care news —
The New York Times:
AARP Sues U.S. Over Rules For Wellness Programs
Employers have raced to offer workers a hefty financial incentive to sign up for programs meant to improve their health, submitting personal medical details in the process. But as these programs have spread, so has resistance from employees dubious about sharing that information with employers. On Monday, that tension erupted in a federal lawsuit against the government agency that handles the rules on these so-called wellness programs. (Abelson, 10/24)
CMS Halts Auto-Enrollment Proposals From Medicare Advantage Plans
The CMS has temporarily stopped accepting new proposals from health insurance companies seeking to automatically enroll their commercial or Medicaid patients into their Medicare Advantage plans. The federal agency also disclosed that 29 Medicare Advantage companies—including Aetna, UnitedHealth Group and several Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurers—can move consumers who had been enrolled in a regular plan into their Medicare Advantage products once the consumers turn 65 years old. (Herman and Livingston, 10/24)
The Washington Post:
Newt Gingrich Is The New Face Of A Controversial Opioid Addiction Therapy
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be joining former Obama adviser Anthony Kapel “Van” Jones on stage on Monday in Washington to discuss a topic that they've not spoken much about in the past: the nation's opioid addiction crisis. The two men — along with former U.S. representative Patrick Kennedy, who has written a memoir about his struggles with cocaine, painkillers and alcohol — are “founding advisers” of a nonprofit that popped up in the summer called Advocates for Opioid Recovery. Its mission is “advancing a science-based, evidence-based treatment system that can reduce death and suffering from opioid addiction. (Cha, 10/24)
The Washington Post:
What You Need To Know About Those New, Deadly Heart-Surgery Infections
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned open-heart surgery patients recently that they were at risk of a deadly infection linked to a medical device used during their operations. Now, worried consumers say they are having a hard time getting information from hospitals and doctors about what they should do. (Sun, 10/24)
How Hospital Sinks Became A Health Problem
In a devilish case of unintended consequences, sinks have been linked to a number of outbreaks of serious infections in hospitals from Baltimore to Shanghai and many places in between in recent years. In one notable case, a hospital in the Netherlands took sinks out of the patient rooms in its intensive care unit in a bid to slow the spread of bacteria. (It worked.) At a time when concern is mounting about antibiotic resistance, and when the specter of untreatable infections threatens the advances of modern medicine, finding ways to slow the development and spread of drug-resistant bacteria is a major preoccupation of infection control teams. As a result, evidence that hospital sinks could exacerbate the problem presents health care specialists with a quandary. (Branswell, 10/25)