- California Healthline Original Stories 3
- 'Rock Star' Navigator On Mission To Clear Health Insurance Hurdles For Vietnamese
- Your Plumber Offers A Money-Back Guarantee. Should Your Doctor?
- Facebook Live: A Status Check On Obamacare Enrollment
- Health Care Personnel 1
- Second County Pathologist Resigns Citing Sheriff's Interference, 'Total Disregard' Of Proper Procedure
- Medi-Cal 1
- Consultants Sought To Help Settle Fierce Dispute Over Pharmacists' Medi-Cal Reimbursement Rates
- Public Health and Education 2
- Hep A Outbreak Has Been Calming Down, But Officials Don't Want To Get Complacent
- As Flu Season Creeps Closer, Here's What You Need To Know About Staying Healthy
Latest From California Healthline:
In Texas, the uninsured rate among Vietnamese residents is nearly double the national rate of 7.7 percent. By comparison, California's rate is far lower, at 4.2 percent. (Charlotte Huff, 12/6)
Even though consumers don’t expect to pay for faulty service or goods, they are often forced to pay for bad health care. But a small number of hospitals and doctors are seeking to change that practice. (Michelle Andrews, 12/6)
In this chat, KHN’s Julie Appleby offers a progress report on the 2018 sign up season. (12/5)
Sign up to get the daily edition in your inbox
Summaries Of The News:
Dr. Bennet Omalu, who had gained attention after his work was spotlighted in the movie "Concussion," followed in the steps of colleague Susan Parson and offered his resignation as San Joaquin County's chief medical examiner. The pair has been documenting what they call the improper behavior from the sheriff and sent it to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and the county district attorney in a push for a broader investigation.
Hands Removed, Findings Changed: Pathologists Say San Joaquin Sheriff ‘Does Whatever He Feels Like Doing’
Hands chopped off bodies; corpses left to deteriorate; doctors pressured to classify officer-involved deaths as accidents rather than homicides: San Joaquin County’s two forensic pathologists resigned in recent days over what they said was intolerable interference by Sheriff-Coroner Steve Moore. Dr. Bennet Omalu Tuesday announced his resignation as San Joaquin County’s chief medical examiner. Last week, Omalu’s colleague Susan Parson announced her resignation. Under Moore, they said, the county has failed to adequately investigate deaths in the Central Valley. (Egel, Chabria and Garrison, 12/5)
The Associated Press:
Famed 'Concussion' Pathologist Alleges Autopsy Interference
San Joaquin County’s chief medical examiner, known nationally as the doctor depicted in the movie “Concussion” about brain injuries among football players, resigned Tuesday over what he said was interference by the sheriff that has become so invasive that it borders on the unlicensed practice of medicine. Dr. Bennet Omalu accused Sheriff-Coroner Steve Moore of routinely interfering with death investigations to protect law enforcement officers. (Thompson, 12/5)
The hospital serves about 80 patients at a time, focusing on mental health issues.
Los Angeles Times:
Fire Badly Damages Ventura Hospital: 'I Burst Into Tears'
At least two buildings on the campus of Vista Del Mar Hospital burned down as the Thomas fire ravaged the canyons above Ventura. The hospital treats adolescents and adults with mental health issues, and among its specialties is treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. (Hamilton, 12/5)
In other news —
Capital Public Radio:
Proposal: $2,100 For A Sac Fire Ride To The Hospital
The Sacramento City Fire Department has asked permission to increase the cost of a trip to the hospital by $650. Deputy Chief Chad Augustin says that includes a $375 increase for existing services and a new $283 "First Responder Fee." With the additional charges, a trip to the hospital would cost $2,100. (Moffitt, 12/5)
Pharmacists have for months said the new reimbursement rates that were established after OptumRx took over control of reimbursement as the new pharmacy benefit manager for the Gold Coast Health Plan's medication program are far below what they need to stay afloat.
Ventura County Star:
Commissioners Ask For Answers On Pharmacists' Pay Complaints
After another round of pleas from pharmacies claiming low prescription reimbursements could push them out of business, leaders of a Medi-Cal commission said they need outside analysis to get to the bottom of the issue. Members of the Ventura County Medi-Cal Managed Care Commission directed staff Monday to pursue outside consultants to study the repeated complaints of independent pharmacists about a steep drop in reimbursement. Rates fell this summer when OptumRx took over control of reimbursement as the new pharmacy benefit manager for the Gold Coast Health Plan's medication program. (Kisken, 12/5)
There was a similar outbreak in Michigan that experienced a resurgence after weeks of improvement, and San Diego officials don't want to see that happen in California.
San Diego Union-Tribune:
San Diego Continues Hepatitis Emergency With Watchful Eye To The Midwest
Mindful of a concerning development in the Midwest, county supervisors decided Tuesday to continue calling San Diego’s hepatitis A outbreak a public health emergency even though the level of intensity has been falling for weeks. After hearing a presentation that included a note that a similar outbreak underway in Southeast Michigan saw a resurgence in early November, county board chair Dianne Jacob said maintaining the current emergency status, first declared on Sept. 1, is a worthy precaution. (Sisson, 12/5)
In other news —
Los Angeles Times:
L.A. Adds More Public Toilets As Homeless Crisis Grows
Los Angeles officials have debated for decades how best to provide for one of the most basic needs of homeless people. For those camped in the 50-block skid row district, the streets have been an open-air restroom — with only nine toilets available overnight in recent months to as many as 1,800 people camped on sidewalks. (Holland, 12/5)
The Orange County Register offers some quick tips and information on the flu.
Orange County Register:
Here’s A Look At The Stats Around Flu Season, Plus Tips To Avoid Getting Sick
Influenza activity is rising across the U.S. with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting recent widespread activity in several states. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. The CDC and the California Department of Public Health are recommending everyone over six months old get vaccinated. (Snibbe and Goertzen, 12/4)
In other public health news —
San Jose Mercury News:
Project To Add Fluoride To East San Jose Drinking Water Gains Approval
In the latest step toward the effort by dentists and health officials to end San Jose’s status as the largest city in America without fluoride in its drinking water, Santa Clara County has contributed $1 million to add fluoride for the first time to drinking water from wells operated by the San Jose Water Company. On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to spend $1,027,713 from the county general fund to help install fluoridation equipment on six new wells being constructed by San Jose Water Company for customers of East San Jose. (Rogers, 12/6)
San Diego Union-Times:
New Crisis Team To Focus On Alzheimer's, Dementia Patients
Though Alzheimer’s disease usually progresses slowly, sometimes it can cause the kinds of sudden emergencies that lead to emergency room visits or even arrest. But a new pilot program approved Tuesday by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors aims to prevent these dire situations by helping medical experts work more closely and immediately with the first responders who often get called to the scene when neurodegenerative disease causes residents to become violent or disruptive. (Sisson, 12/5)
“It crushes me to think we’re in an environment where kids’ health is up for debate," said Dr. Todd Wolynn, a pediatrician in Pittsburgh. Although the program has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the past, Congress has been dawdling on renewing funding for the program.
The New York Times:
The CHIP Program Is Beloved. Why Is Its Funding In Danger?
Laquita Gardner, a sales manager at a furniture rental store here, was happy to get a raise recently except for one problem. It lifted her income just enough to disqualify her and her two young sons from Medicaid, the free health insurance program for the poor. She was relieved to find another option was available for the boys: the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, that covers nearly nine million children whose parents earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford other coverage. (Goodnough and Pear, 12/5)
In other national health care news —
The Wall Street Journal:
Support Wavers For Senate Bill To Shore Up Health-Insurance Markets
Republicans appear to be on the brink of striking down the Affordable Care Act’s health-insurance requirement, an ardently sought goal of the law’s opponents. But the fate of a bipartisan bill that centrist Republicans hoped would offset some of the fallout remains uncertain. Some key GOP centrists supported a Senate tax overhaul that repeals the requirement that most people have health insurance, a move experts say will likely drive up premiums, on the condition that it be swiftly accompanied by a bipartisan measure that aims to lower premiums. (Armour and Peterson, 12/5)
Ryan's Office Warning He Wasn't Part Of Deal On ObamaCare: Source
Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) office told a meeting of congressional leadership offices on Monday that the Speaker is not part of a deal to get ObamaCare fixes passed before the end of the year, according to a source familiar with the meeting. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a commitment to Sen Susan Collins (R-Maine) that he would support passage of two bipartisan ObamaCare bills before the end of the year, a promise that helped win her vote for tax reform. (Sullivan, 12/5)
Los Angeles Times:
FDA's Program To Speed Up Drug Approval Shaved Nearly A Year Off The Process
Speeding the pace at which potentially lifesaving drugs are brought to market was a rallying cry for Donald Trump as a candidate, and is a stated priority of his Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. But a new study finds that programs already in place were routinely shortening the drug development process by close to a year, and sometimes much more. (Healy, 12/5)
Temporary Doctors Are No Worse For Patients' Health, Study Finds
Doctors who are employed under short-term contracts — called locum tenens (Latin for “to hold a place”) — provided a similar level of care as staff doctors, a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found. Researchers came to that conclusion after analyzing 1.8 million Medicare patients hospitalized between 2009 and 2014 who were treated by general internists. No significant difference in 30-day mortality rates was seen between patients treated by temp physicians compared to those treated by staff physicians. That finding could help dispel the stigma that temp doctors have long faced, researchers said. (Blau, 12/5)
But they also say CVS's plan to buy Aetna is "eminently approvable" by either agency because critics would be unable to come up with a convincing theory to show the deal will harm consumers. Meanwhile, a House Democrat is already calling for a probe of the merger.
CVS Likely Wants FTC Antitrust Review, Not Justice Department, Of Aetna Deal
It is uncertain who in the U.S. government will carry out an antitrust review of CVS Health Corp's deal to buy health insurer Aetna Inc, but the drugstore company is likely hoping the potentially more lenient Federal Trade Commission gets the nod, antitrust experts say. The Justice Department's Antitrust Division and Federal Trade Commission share the job of reviewing mergers to make sure they don't hurt consumers, but sometimes it comes down to a coin toss as to who reviews a deal that involves both agencies' areas of expertise. (Bartz, 12/5)
Top House Dem Calls For Probe Into CVS-Aetna Merger
A top House Democrat is calling for a hearing to examine the merger between CVS and Aetna. In a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the committee’s ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) asked for a hearing on the merger as soon as possible. (Weixel, 12/5)
The Wall Street Journal:
CVS Boss Larry Merlo’s Path From Corner Pharmacy To C-Suite
The architect of the year’s biggest and arguably most surprising health-care deal is a former pharmacist from rural Pennsylvania who won over Wall Street with a reboot of CVS Health Corp. Larry Merlo, CVS’s chief executive since 2011, impressed skeptics with his turnaround of Caremark, the pharmacy-benefits manager that CVS bought four years before he took over. (Terlep, 12/5)