- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- Health Law Expanded Coverage For Ex-Inmates, But Gaps Remain
- Public Health and Education 3
- Officials: State Needs To Ramp Up Zika Efforts As Federal Funding Lags
- Largely Unregulated Stem Cell Industry Flourishes In San Diego
- Could Standing Desks Be The Low-Cost Solution To The Childhood Obesity Epidemic?
Latest From California Healthline:
The health law’s Medicaid expansion and its requirement that employer medical plans cover dependents up to age 26 had a significant impact on coverage for this population. The portion of young adult ex-inmates without insurance fell from 40 percent to 32 percent. (Jay Hancock, 9/20)
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Summaries Of The News:
The U.S. Department of Justice launched its investigation into the facilities in 2008.
Orange County Register:
Dana Point-Based Company To Pay $28.5 Million To Settle Unnecessary Rehab Claims
Dana Point-based North American Health Care Inc. and two of its executives will pay $30 million in a Justice of Department settlement after they billed government health care programs for unnecessary treatments. According to the DOJ, which launched its probe of NAHC in 2008, the company submitted false claims to Medicare and TRICARE for unnecessary rehabilitation services. The services were provided to residents at the company’s 35 skilled nursing facilities, most of which are in California. (Madans, 9/19)
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Sebastopol, Petaluma Nursing Homes Part Of Federal Fraud Case
Two Sonoma County nursing homes are part of a nursing home chain being ordered to pay the government $30 million after billing it for rehab services patients didn’t need. The case, brought by the Department of Justice against Orange County-based North American Health Care, Inc., alleged the company submitted false claims to the government for “medically unnecessary” therapy services. Announced Monday, the settlement included Petaluma Care and Rehab, known now as Petaluma Post-Acute Rehab, and Sebastopol’s Apple Valley Convalescent, known now as Apple Valley Post-Acute Rehab, among the 35 nursing homes. (Warren, 9/19)
Sharp Grossmont Hospital set up surveillance to determine why sedative drugs were missing from anesthesia carts, but ended up defending itself from privacy concerns after it recorded thousands of surgeries without the patients' knowledge.
Medical Board Drops Drug Charges Against Doctor In Sharp Video Sting
The Medical Board of California has dropped drug theft charges against a physician who appears in controversial surveillance videos that Sharp Grossmont Hospital took in a yearlong effort to nab those taking sedatives from its operating rooms. In a document dated Sept. 15, the board left standing two allegations of unprofessional conduct against Dr. Adam Dorin, who left Sharp in October 2013 for a practice in Palmdale. Those non-drug-related charges allege Dorin sent fraudulent emails to the employer of his girlfriend’s husband, to “gain an advantage in her divorce proceedings.” A hearing on those is scheduled for Oct. 17. Gone are charges that he was seen on camera removing vials of the sedative propofol and other items and placing them in his shirt pocket, and that when he was asked if he took the drugs, he initially denied it. (Clark, 9/19)
In a situation where a minute could mean the difference between life and death, the FDA hopes an app can help get the anti-overdose medication to the patient as quickly as possible.
Los Angeles Times:
FDA Asks Coders To Create An App That Matches Opioid Overdose Victims With Lifesaving Rescue Drug
In a bid to stanch the death toll of the nation’s epidemic of opioid drug use, the Food and Drug Administration is calling for the development of a cellphone app that could quickly bring lifesaving medication to the rescue of a person in the throes of a potentially deadly overdose. The FDA on Monday challenged computer programmers, public health advocates, clinical researchers and entrepreneurs to create an application that can connect opioid users and their friends and loved ones to someone nearby who has a dose of the prescription drug naloxone. (Healy, 9/19)
As the number of Californians testing positive for the virus grows, local leaders push education and prevention efforts. In other news, the American Red Cross is calling for donors in the San Diego area.
As Zika Spreads In California, Leaders Call For More Money, Education
California needs to be better prepared for the Zika virus and do more to educate people about how it spreads, especially since federal funding has stalled, state and local health officials determined last week. The call for a massive education campaign came during a town hall meeting in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, sponsored by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina. Hernandez said concerns about Zika are growing, especially since the number of people who have it in the Golden State continues to climb. As of Friday, 282 people had tested positive for Zika, or 22 more cases than the week before, according to the California Department of Public Health. (Abram, 9/19)
American Red Cross Seeks Blood Donations Amid National Shortage
The American Red Cross Monday announced a national shortage of blood and platelets, and publicized a series of donation opportunities in San Diego County over the next several weeks. Donations around the U.S. in the first two weeks of September were down more than 10,000 from what is needed to replenish the blood supply and be prepared for emergencies, the Red Cross said. "September is National Preparedness Month and we urge eligible donors to make an appointment now to give blood or platelets," said Nick Gehrig, communications director of Red Cross Blood Services. (9/19)
Meanwhile, the West Nile virus continues to be a problem, with more cases confirmed —
Orange County Register:
West Nile Cases In Orange County Rise To 16
Sixteen Orange County residents have contracted West Nile virus so far this season, and infected mosquitoes have been trapped in 27 local cities. As of Monday, there were 10 cases of West Nile neuroinvasive disease, the most severe form of the illness; three cases of the milder West Nile fever; and three asymptomatic cases, according to the county’s Health Care Agency. Jared Dever, spokesman for Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District, said the district’s lab this year has tested 3,647 mosquito samples and that 338 have come back positive for the virus. Last year at this time, 3,459 samples had been tested, with 318 positives. (Perkes, 9/19)
The expensive treatments in many cases have not been thoroughly tested for their efficacy.
Patients Turn To San Diego Stem Cell Companies For Costly, Unproven Treatments
Jim Gass made sure to record the moment in an iPhone video because he’d paid tens of thousands of dollars and traveled a great distance to get there. In the video, Gass can be seen sitting in his wheelchair in a beige hospital room. He smiles while a doctor injects something into his arm. In case there’s any question about what’s going into Gass’s vein, the doctor points to the syringe and says, “Stem cells.” (Wagner, 9/20)
In other public health news —
Los Angeles Times:
Bright Light Boosts Testosterone In Men With Low Libido, Study Says
For men whose sex drive has stalled, Italian researchers have found in a small study that early morning exposure to bright light – a treatment widely used for seasonal depression -- revs up testosterone production and boosts sexual function and satisfaction. In a pilot trial that recruited 38 men diagnosed with problems of sexual desire and arousal, researchers at Italy’s University of Siena found that after two weeks, participants who spent a half-hour each morning in front of specially designed light box experienced increases in testosterone and a three-fold improvement in sexual satisfaction. (Healy, 9/19)
According to recent research, students who used standing desks experienced a 5.2 percent decrease in their body mass index percentile over those using traditional school desks.
Can Stand-Up Desks Help Kids Avoid Becoming Obese?
The study, published recently in the American Journal of Public Health, covered third- and fourth-grade students at three Texas elementary schools. Some sat at traditional desks, while others used a “stand-biased” desk, which had a footrest and stool so children could get off their feet when needed. After two years, those at standing desks experienced a 5.2 percent decrease in their body mass index percentile than those using traditional school desks. (BMI or body mass index is a measurement of body fat and an indicator of obesity.) The rates were adjusted for grade, race and gender. (Buck, 9/19)
In other news —
Lipedema: The Fat Disorder That Millions Have But No One Has Heard Of
Lipedema is a lymphatic disease that is thought to affect 10 to 17 million people in America each year, mostly women. Exact patient estimates are not available because it’s hard to diagnose. In fact, many lipedema patients don’t even know they have it. Neither do their physicians, who often assume their patients are obese. (McClurg, 9/19)
The center serves about 600 people in the county, and is trying to build awareness about traumatic brain injuries.
Ventura County Star:
Brain Injury Center Helps Those 'Lucky To Have Lived'
There are an estimated 16,000 people in Ventura County with traumatic brain injury, said Chrissy Stamegna, the center's program coordinator. Many more have brain injuries caused by stroke. The center, located in Camarillo, serves more than 600 people each year. "That includes survivors and their family members,” Stamegna said. “Many people still don't know about BIC or brain injury in general. The Evening of Magical Memories is one of the events that helps BIC spread awareness about brain injury and let people know about our organization.” A member of the center for 13 years, Prewitt initially didn’t want anything to do with the organization. (Doyle, 9/19)
In other news from across the state —
Tuberculosis Case Reported At Skyline High School
The Alameda County Public Health Department informed Oakland Unified School District that a person at the school was recently diagnosed with tuberculosis disease, said district spokesman John Sasaki. District and school staff are working closely with the health department to investigate the case and identify who may have been exposed to tuberculosis. Those who may have been exposed will be offered free testing and followed up with current public health guidelines. (Cameron, 9/19)
Alice’s Embrace Envelops Alzheimer’s Patients With A Blanket Of Comfort
It’s long been known that tactile textures can ease anxiety for some Alzheimer’s patients. Known as fidget quilts, sensory blankets or “busy blankets,” they’re sold on craft sites such as Etsy and Pinterest. All are designed to keep fidgety fingers busy, and some come with contrasting fabric (i.e. corduroy, fake fur, suede) or attached objects such as buttons, pockets or zippers. Others are weighted to provide a firm presence on a lap or shoulders, based on therapy studies that show heavier blankets – up to 30 pounds – can be a quieting, self-soothing tool for patients with mental health disorders. (Buck, 9/19)
The Desert Sun:
Flying Doctors Return To Thermal On Oct. 1
Hundreds of people who struggle to obtain routine and sometimes lifesaving medical care are expected to get help soon when Flying Doctors returns for its annual free clinic in Thermal. The volunteer group, known as Los Médicos Voladores in Spanish, has been coming to the Coachella Valley at least once a year since 1995 to provide free doctor and dental checkups, plus preventative services like flu shots, breast exams, hearing checks and blood pressure monitoring. (Newkirk, 9/19)
The Washington Post reports that Republicans are highlighting the withdrawal of several major insurers from health law online marketplaces and premium increases that will likely be announced just days before Election Day, especially in states with competitive Senate races. Also, a new study from the Urban Institute finds that unsubsidized policies in those online marketplaces are still cheaper than the full cost of employer-provided coverage.
The Washington Post:
Republicans Seize On Obamacare Woes To Help Save Congressional Majority
Republicans have found an issue on which they can play a rare bit of offense in their quest to hang on to their Senate and House majorities: Obamacare.Criticism of the landmark health-care law has been a staple of GOP campaigns since its party-line passage in 2010. But unlike six years ago, in the first election after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans aren’t running a national campaign against federal government overreach. Instead, they’re lobbing localized attacks in key states on issues plaguing the state insurance exchanges mandated by the law. (DeBonis and Weigel, 9/19)
The Washington Post:
Skyrocketing Obamacare Premiums Still Lower Than Employer-Sponsored Insurance
People who warn that President Obama's health-care law is in dire straits often point to rising health insurance premiums as proof. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called premium increases on Affordable Care Act exchanges "astronomically high." Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) says premiums have "skyrocketed." But are these growing premiums actually high? (Johnson, 9/19)
In other national health care news —
The New York Times:
F.D.A. Approves Muscular Dystrophy Drug That Patients Lobbied For
The Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug to treat patients with the most common childhood form of muscular dystrophy, a vivid example of the growing power that patients and their advocates wield over the federal government’s evaluation of drugs. The agency’s approval went against the recommendation of its experts. The main clinical trial of the drug was small, involving only 12 boys with the disease known as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and did not have an adequate control group of boys who had the disease but did not take the drug. A group of independent experts convened by the agency this spring said there was not enough evidence that it was effective. (Tavernise, 9/19)
The Wall Street Journal:
CDC Study Finds Increased Use Of Powerful Antibiotics At U.S. Hospitals
A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more widespread use by U.S. hospitals of powerful antibiotics designed to fight infections when less-robust antibiotics fail, a “worrisome” development as bacteria grow increasingly immune to treatment, the researchers said. Medical experts said the study, which examined prescribing between 2006 and 2012, appeared to be the first national, multiyear estimate of U.S. hospital antibiotic use. The results underscore other studies that point to the rising use of antibiotics once considered a last resort, even as calls for cautious prescribing grow more urgent. Antibiotic overuse gives evolving bacteria more opportunities to adapt and develop drug resistance. (Evans, 9/19)
The Wall Street Journal:
Study Raises New Questions About Fetal Ultrasounds
A new study suggesting that first-trimester fetal ultrasound may contribute to the severity of autism symptoms heightens a dilemma facing obstetricians: How to halt the widespread overuse of fetal ultrasound without scaring women away from this important medical procedure. The study, published Sept. 1 in the journal Autism Research, is the latest in a series of highly limited studies that raise questions about the safety of fetal ultrasound. (Helliker, 9/19)