- California Healthline Original Stories 4
- Congressman Decries Olympus' Failure To Warn U.S. Hospitals About Tainted Scopes
- Warning: Government Listing Of Clinical Trials Doesn't Disclose Costs To Patients
- Your ZIP Code And Your Health Plan Determine Your Care, New Data Show
- Gov’t Task Force Finds Evidence Lacking to Support Visual Skin Cancer Screenings
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Study: Doctors Reject Those With Covered California Plans More Often
- Public Health and Education 3
- Officials Expand Meningitis Vaccination Recommendations To All Gay, Bisexual Men
- Task Force: There's Insufficient Evidence To Recommend Routine Skin Cancer Screenings
- Second Mosquito Species Identified As Carrying Zika Common In California
Latest From California Healthline:
U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) renews his call for tightened laws that would force manufacturers to notify the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when they issue safety warnings in other countries related to the design and cleaning of their devices. (Chad Terhune, 7/27)
Some clinics on NIH's website charge people to participate in testing of unproven treatments — and it can come as a surprise to unsuspecting patients. (Emily Bazar, 7/26)
A new online “atlas” reveals big differences in the cost and quality of care across California and across health plans. (Ana B. Ibarra, 7/27)
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that insufficient evidence exists regarding the benefits and harms of visual skin cancer exams. (Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, 7/26)
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Summaries Of The News:
Secret shoppers called for appointments around the state trying once with a Covered California plan and a second time with its non-exchange counterpart. The gap in access was stark in some places.
Los Angeles Times:
Study: Covered California Health Insurance Coverage Doesn't Guarantee Doctor Access
The recent announcement that Covered California premiums will rise by double digits in 2017 is only part of the challenge for the nation’s largest health exchange. A newly released study found that 4.38% of Covered California policyholders enrolled in Blue Shield or Blue Cross plans were rejected by doctors who were supposedly accepting their insurance, compared with 1.41% for people with the same plans purchased outside the exchange. (Sisson, 7/27)
They agreed with defense attorneys that the grand jury exceeded its authority by investigating the activists after clearing Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.
Charges Dropped Against Anti-Abortion Activists For Texas Video
Houston-area prosecutors dropped charges on Tuesday against two anti-abortion activists indicted for using illegal government identifications to secretly film a Texas Planned Parenthood facility, saying they could not adequately investigate the case. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were indicted by a grand jury in January and faced up to 20 years in prison after being charged with tampering with a governmental record. Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement her office was limited in what it can investigate under Texas law due to procedural matters with the grand jury process. (Herskovitz, 7/26)
An outbreak of the disease has swept Los Angeles and Orange counties, and officials are unsure why gay men are being disproportionately affected by this outbreak.
Los Angeles Times:
Amid Outbreak, Health Officials Want More Gay Men Vaccinated For Meningitis
Health officials in Los Angeles and Orange counties are recommending that all gay and bisexual men receive meningitis vaccinations, amid an outbreak of the potentially fatal disease disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men. Local health departments were previously recommending vaccinations only for people considered high-risk, such as men who are HIV positive. “We acknowledge this broadens our prior recommendations, but, after careful consultation with the CDC and health officers in other affected jurisdictions, we consider that this expansion of the vaccination recommendations is a necessary step to suppress this outbreak,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, L.A. County Interim Health Officer, in a statement Tuesday. (Karlamangla, 7/26)
There was immediate push back following the announcement. "Dermatologists know that skin cancer screenings can save lives," said Abel Torres, president of American Academy of Dermatology.
Los Angeles Times:
Visual Checks For Melanoma Get A Shrug
A federal task force that assesses the value of medical screening tests says it can't judge whether skin-cancer checks by dermatologists are worth the trouble for healthy Americans because good research on the practice is lacking. The finding of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is not a repudiation of the practice recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology, in which a medical professional inspects a patient’s skin for moles, thickening, discoloration or tags that might be cancerous. But the task force does say there are not enough well-conducted studies to establish the practice saves lives without incurring undue risks for patients. And it could influence health insurers not to cover skin-cancer screenings for people who have no history of the disease. (Healy, 7/26)
Gov’t Task Force Finds Evidence Lacking To Support Visual Skin Cancer Screenings
Dr. Michael Pignone, a task force member and chair at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, emphasized that this finding does not mean screenings have no benefit and no harm. “It’s a statement that the evidence isn’t good enough,” he said. The task force, an independent volunteer panel of medical experts, reviews current scientific evidence for specific preventive services and makes recommendations about that services’ effectiveness for patients who don’t have obvious symptoms or aren’t at high risk. (Heredia Rodriguez, 7/26)
There isn't enough evidence to show that the culex mosquito can transfer the virus to humans, but the possibility remains. And that could be bad news for California, where it is much more common than the aedes mosquito.
California Household Mosquito Could Amplify Zika Virus Spread
A mosquito that’s common in California has become the latest identified carrier of the Zika virus, potentially multiplying the population of vectors capable of spreading the disease. Until last week, researchers believed the virus could only be spread by two types of aedes mosquito much rarer in California and the U.S. But new research by a UC Davis ecologist and a top Brazilian science institution pins the southern variety of the culex mosquito – known as the southern house mosquito – as a potential vector of the disease, which can only be transmitted when a mosquito bites an infected person and then bites someone else. (Caiola, 7/26)
Leaders in San Diego’s veterans' circles describe Dr. Robert Smith as a straight shooter, a good listener and an intellectual.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
New Director Named For San Diego VA Medicine
Dr. Robert Smith has been named to perhaps one of the most hot-button jobs in America these days — director of a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. Smith is a 61-year-old career VA doctor in San Diego, which makes him an insider at a time of controversy and upheaval at the massive federal agency. In response to scandals over veterans waiting too long for medical care, a congressional commission wants to expand a program that allows veterans to get treatment in the private sector — possibly splintering the venerable VA medical system, said critics of the strategy. (Steele, 7/26)
In other news from across the state —
The Desert Sun:
Desert Healthcare District Backs Coachella Valley Expansion Bill
Following months of talks, board members of the Desert Healthcare District on Tuesday officially backed a legislative plan to expand the public agency to cover the entire Coachella Valley. The vote wasn't unanimous and came with a request that one sentence in the bill be changed slightly to address the district's ability to seek a public vote and make it clear no expansion will occur without a proposed source of money to pay for the public district's larger role. (Newkirk, 7/26)
Tim Kaine's personal beliefs on abortion are in contrast with Hillary Clinton's and the Democratic Platform. But it's his actions that have assuaged any fears from abortion rights groups. “He’s been not only a solid vote but really an ally," Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards says.
The Washington Post:
Why Tim Kaine Can Oppose Abortion And Still Run With Hillary Clinton
Eleven years ago, as he ran for governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine made clear his stance on abortion: “I have a faith-based opposition,” he wrote on his campaign’s website. “I will work in good faith to reduce abortions.” Kaine went on to laud adoption as the best solution to an unwanted pregnancy. He promoted abstinence-only sex education (and later slashed funding to the program, citing research that found it wasn’t effective). He authorized the sale of “Choose Life” license plates to fund religious counseling clinics that discouraged abortion. He backed Virginia’s “informed consent” law, which requires women seeking the procedure to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds. In short, he was conservative on reproductive issues, by his party's standards. (Paquette, 7/26)
After VP Selection, Kaine Endorses Repeal Of Hyde Amendment On Abortion
Democratic vice presidential pick Tim Kaine has privately told nominee Hillary Clinton he will support repeal of the Hyde Amendment, a 1976 provision that bans the use of federal dollars for abortion services, Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson and Kaine spokeswoman Amy Dudley said Tuesday. The position is a reversal for Kaine, who earlier this month told The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, that he's "traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment." (Kapur, 7/26)
In other news, the opioid epidemic is put in the spotlight at both parties' conventions and a look at where they stand on health care and abortion —
The Washington Post:
The Nation’s Opioid Crisis Garners Attention At Party Conventions
The nation’s epidemic of opioid abuse, which has killed thousands of people over the past decade through powerful prescription painkillers and heroin, has taken on a prominent role at the Democratic National Convention — a sign of the issue’s growing importance in both parties. On Monday night, a woman whose daughter has struggled with addiction gave a prime-time speech, followed by the former governor of New Hampshire, where more than 400 people died of drug overdoses last year. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, people packed into a Quaker conference center in Philadelphia to hear delegates, elected officials and others talk about recovering from substance abuse and what needs to be done to combat it. A similar forum was held at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. Both conventions featured a recovery and wellness room for those suffering from addiction. (Zezima, 7/26)
Los Angeles Times:
How The Democratic And Republican Party Platforms Stack Up On The Issues
The party platforms of Democrats and Republicans, finalized ahead of their respective conventions this month, reflect the stark divide between the parties, on both foreign affairs and domestic social issues. Here’s a rundown of where the parties land on key topics. (Mason and Megerian, 7/27)
Meanwhile, 43 states got failing grades, according to the 2016 Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws.
Price Transparency Eludes Consumers In 43 States
Just seven states achieved a passing grade for making usable healthcare price information available to consumers, a new study finds. The other 43 states failed at price transparency because they didn't collect claims data from all payers or they failed to make the data accessible to the public through a website, according to the 2016 Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws. (Barkholz, 7/26)
In other national health care news —
U.S. Opens Door To A Change In Blood Donation Policy For Gay Men
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration opened the door on Tuesday to a change in its blood donor deferral recommendations, which currently prohibit donations from gay men for a year following their last sexual encounter in order to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In December the FDA overturned a 30-year ban on all blood donations from men who have sex with men, saying the change was based on science showing an indefinite ban was not necessary to prevent transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus. The FDA is now signaling it may go further. (Clarke, 7/26)
As Opioid Epidemic Surges, Medical Schools Must Change To Keep Pace
Jonathan Goodman can recall most of the lectures he's attended at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He can recite detailed instructions given more than a year ago about how to conduct a physical. But at the end of his second year, the 27-year-old M.D.-Ph.D. student could not remember any class dedicated to addiction medicine. Then he recalled skipping class months earlier. Reviewing his syllabus, he realized he had missed the sole lecture dedicated to that topic. "I wasn't tested on it," Goodman says, with a note of surprise. (Jacewicz, 7/27)
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR:
KHN, which publishes California Healthline, will have a new editor-in-chief starting in September, Kaiser Family Foundation president and CEO Drew Altman announced yesterday. Longtime New York Times reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal will succeed John Fairhall, who is stepping down after nearly five years. Rosenthal is an award-winning journalist with deep experience in health policy reporting.