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California Healthline Original Stories
Feds Say California May Have Spent Nearly $1B On Ineligible Medi-Cal Beneficiaries
The potentially improper payments occurred in 2014 and 2015, when the state says it was under pressure from a massive influx of new applicants due to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. (Barbara Feder Ostrov, 12/13)
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Public Health and Education
Health Officials Pinpoint California Farm That Is Likely Linked To Romaine Lettuce E. Coli Outbreak
Officials said a water reservoir at Adam Bros. Farms in Santa Barbara County tested positive for the bacterial strain and the owners are cooperating with U. S. officials. Officials from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not determined how the water reservoir — which is used to irrigate lettuce — became contaminated.
U. S. health officials have traced a food poisoning outbreak from romaine lettuce to at least one farm in California. But they cautioned Thursday that other farms are likely involved in the E. coli outbreak and consumers should continue checking the label before purchasing romaine lettuce. (Perrone, 12/13)
Adams Bros. Farms, the producer linked to the pre-Thanksgiving outbreak, has not shipped lettuce since Nov. 20 and has cooperated with the investigation, the FDA said in a statement. While this positive sample is a significant development in helping investigators explain the outbreak in part, the FDA said, “The outbreak may not be explained by a single farm, grower, harvester, or distributor. ” In other words, the probe continues. (Santhanam, 12/13)
Data From Camp Fire Deaths Paint Grim Picture Of Age, Sickness And, In Some Instances, Stubbornness
Sixty percent of the Camp Fire victims who have been identified were in their 70s, 80s or 90s.
Rose Farrell is the oldest victim of the devastating Camp fire to be identified so far. She was 99, and she died inside her home on Herman Road in Paradise. Evva Holt, 85, died inside a pickup truck after she was evacuated from Feather Canyon Gracious Retirement Living. She made it only a mile. (Ganga, Newberry, St. John and Lin, 12/13)
Many popular carpet brands, including those widely used in affordable housing projects, contain toxic chemicals that put people’s health at risk while in use and when the carpets are disposed of, according to a new report by three environmental advocacy groups. The findings are particularly worrisome given that babies and children often spend considerable time crawling and playing on carpets, and they are most sensitive to the potential health consequences from the toxins detected, said Monica Wilson, associate director of the Berkeley-based Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, which contributed to the report. Additionally, most carpets in the United States – including in California – are not recycled. That means many carpets end up in landfills and also incinerators, allowing toxins to be released into the air, she said. (Boyd-Barrett, 12/13)
As City Competes For Money To Help Homeless, Leaders Seek Ideas On How To Spend It
The ideas pitched to the Turlock City Council included providing the homeless with bathrooms, housing them in what are called tiny homes, an apprenticeship program to teach them job skills, and more.
The Turlock City Council has declared a shelter crisis, which means the city can compete for some of the $7. 2 million in one-time state money to deal with homelessness in the area. . . . The city’s homeless population is estimated at 250, while there are about 100 emergency shelter beds in Turlock. (Valine, 12/13)
The Los Angeles City Council greenlit the plan this week for a 154-bed bridge housing center, which will be built at a former Metro bus yard on Sunset Avenue between Main Street and Pacific Avenue. Because the construction site is in a coastal zone, the California Coastal Commission also had to sign off, which they did with a unanimous vote on Wednesday. (Fonseca, 12/13)
Ex-Contractor For Contra Costa County Health Plan Who Was Indicted For Fraud Has Hundreds Of Members’ Records
The contractor, Sonja Emery, was indicted in April in Michigan’s Eastern District Court on 11 felony counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, engaging in a corrupt endeavor to obstruct the IRS and tax evasion. The health plan is offering free credit monitoring and identity theft services to members whose information was accessed.
Contra Costa County health officials are urging members of the county’s health plan to beware after learning that a former contractor indicted for fraud had access to hundreds of members’ records. In May, officials at the Contra Costa County Health Plan discovered that a contractor hired in 2014 to provide management assistance and consulting had falsified her identity to get the job, according to the county health department. A forensic audit conducted since then found that she had access to sensitive information about 862 members, but a spokeswoman for the health department said Thursday no evidence has yet been uncovered to indicate the contractor disclosed or used members’ information in an improper way. (Sciacca, 12/13)
AEG announced a partnership with Dignity Health that includes the naming rights to the StubHub Center, home of the Galaxy and Chargers. The partnership is a multi-year agreement. Effective Jan. 1, StubHub Center will be renamed Dignity Health Sports Park. Dignity Health will be the official health-care partner of the Galaxy. Dignity Health, with its headquarters in San Francisco, is one of the nation’s largest health-care systems. (Calhoun, 12/13)
A New York administrator has been named director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency in a reorganization announced this week by county officials. William “Bill” Foley, who oversees 11 acute-care hospitals in New York, replaces Johnson Gill as head of the county agency that provides health care through a network of hospitals, clinics and other programs. Gill is moving to a newly created position of administrator of ambulatory care and population health, areas he is “ideally suited” to manage, County Executive Officer Mike Powers said. (Wilson, 12/12)
‘I Hate To Panic, But . . . ‘: Advocates Eye Tomorrow’s Health Law Enrollment Deadline With Trepidation As Numbers Lag
Some experts, however, say that it’s still too soon to say that fewer sign-ups this year mean fewer people will have insurance coverage in 2019. The unemployment rate fell from 4. 1 percent to 3. 7 percent over the course of 2018, and it’s also hard to know how many people aren’t showing up on enrollment tallies because they are just sticking with the plan they have.
Former President Barack Obama released a video earlier this week urging people to hurry up and shop for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchange. “This year I’m giving it to you straight,” Obama says in the video. “It’s important to have health insurance in case, God forbid, you get really sick, or hurt yourself next year. ” (Kodjak, 12/14)
A federal appeals court on Thursday narrowed an order that had blocked President Donald Trump’s administration from enforcing new rules that undermine an Obamacare requirement for employers to provide insurance that covers women’s birth control. Last year two federal judges – one in Philadelphia and one in Oakland, California – had blocked the government from enforcing a new guideline allowing businesses or nonprofits to obtain exemptions from the contraception policy on moral or religious grounds. The Justice Department appealed both rulings. (12/13)
Thursday’s ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned changes to birth control coverage requirements under President Barack Obama’s health care law that the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services issued in October 2017. States were likely to succeed on their claim that those changes were made without required notice and public comment, the appeals court panel said in a 2-1 decision. (12/13)
House Hearing On Fetal Tissue Research Gets Heated Amid An Ever-Intensifying Debate Over The Issue
Since September, the Trump administration has been performing an audit on federally funded research that uses fetal tissue, which has reignited a debate on the issue that after simmering quietly on the back burner for months.
House conservatives long opposed to medical research using fetal tissue applied fresh pressure on the Trump administration to end government funding for such work at a hearing Thursday spotlighting antiabortion scientists who contend alternatives exist. The hearing before subcommittees of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee grew testy at times over whether cells from sources other than aborted fetuses are as useful as fetal tissue in advancing therapies and possible cures for diseases from HIV to cancer. (Goldstein, 12/13)
The Food and Drug Administration gave a year-end gift to the generic drug industry by backing off a proposal that would have opened up generic companies to possible product-liability lawsuits over drug safety. The FDA had proposed a new federal rule in 2013 that would have allowed people to hold generic-drug companies legally liable for the side effects of medicines. Thursday’s action by the agency withdrew the proposed rule, and keeps generic companies largely impervious to lawsuits. (Burton, 12/13)
Six months after halting a study of moderate drinking that was underwritten by donations from the alcohol industry, the National Institutes of Health outlined a series of steps to prevent similar conflicts of interest and to safeguard the integrity of its research and its reputation. In a report issued on Thursday, N. I. H. officials said its 27 institutes must evaluate all current research projects that receive private donor support for conflicts of interest of the kind that compromised the alcohol trial. The institute directors are to report their findings to Dr. Francis Collins, director of N. I. H. , early next year. (Rabin, 12/13)
For the past two decades, scientists have been exploring the genetics of schizophrenia, autism and other brain disorders, looking for a path toward causation. If the biological roots of such ailments could be identified, treatments might follow, or at least tests that could reveal a person’s risk level. In the 1990s, researchers focused on genes that might possibly be responsible for mental distress, but then hit a wall. Choosing so-called candidate genes up front proved to be fruitless. In the 2000s, using new techniques to sample the entire genome, scientists hit many walls: Hundreds of common gene variants seemed to contribute some risk, but no subset stood out. (Carey, 12/13)
Access to abortion services is a contentious issue in the United States. Clinics in many states are at risk of shutting down and operate with heightened security. Doctors can be hard to find in states with restrictive laws around abortion clinics, so some doctors travel in from out of state to provide care. (12/11)
Gun deaths in America have reached a record high. Nearly 40,000 people in the United States died by guns last year, marking the highest number of gun deaths in decades, according to a new analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database. A similar analysis was first conducted by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, a non-profit gun policy advocacy group. (Howard, 12/13)
7-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Dies Of Dehydration And Shock After Being Taken Into Border Patrol Custody
The death of the girl comes amid intensifying scrutiny over the quality of care immigrants are getting when they enter into U. S. custody.
A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert, U. S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday. The child’s death is likely to intensify scrutiny of detention conditions at Border Patrol stations and CBP facilities that are increasingly overwhelmed by large numbers of families seeking asylum in the United States. (Miroff and Moore, 12/13)
Nearly 15,000 migrant children are being held at government shelters, putting the facilities nearly at capacity, NPR reported Thursday. The news outlet reported that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said its network of more than 100 shelters is 92 percent full. The influx of migrant children in recent months has prompted the department to weigh options for how to accommodate additional bodies. (Samuels, 12/13)
Editorials and Opinions
Viewpoints: Trump Says He Wants To Keep Preexisting Conditions Protection, But His Actions Show Otherwise
A selection of opinions on health care developments from around the state.
Trump administration officials apparently are prepared to go to their graves insisting that they did everything possible to protect Americans with preexisting medical conditions, even as they pull out the stops to undermine those protections. The latest example of this subterfuge came in late October, when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new rules for states contemplating alterations in the Affordable Care Act. (Michael Hiltzik, 12/11)
While black San Franciscans make up just 5. 5 percent of the city’s general population, more than 40 percent of the city’s homeless population is black. Compare this to the proportion of white San Franciscans in the general population (48 percent) and in the homeless population (44 percent). We know that the black community is not alone in facing inequities in homelessness. (London Breed, 12/12)