Health Officials Discourage ‘Measles Parties’

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Julie Schiffman is a mother of two in Marin County. The choice to not vaccinate her kids, now 6 and 8, was a long and difficult one, she said. But deciding whether to intentionally expose them to measles was easy.

“I would never do that to my kid,” she said.

She was approached recently by a friend who knew her kids were unvaccinated. The friend offered to help set up a play date with another child who was sick.

“She said, ‘I know someone who has the measles, would you like to be connected with them?’” Schiffman said.

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Jahi McMath Update: Lawyer Asks Judge to Reverse Finding That Girl is Dead

Jahi McMath, in family photo.

Jahi McMath, in family photo.

Update, 8:45 a.m. Friday: The lawyer representing Jahi McMath and her family invited reporters to his Market Street office on Thursday. The purpose: to see some of the evidence attorney Christopher Dolan says proves “irrefutably” that the Oakland teenager, declared dead last year because doctors said all brain function had ceased, is not in fact brain dead.

Here’s how the Oakland Tribune’s David DeBolt describes Dolan’s presentation:

Two brief videos, shown on TV screens at Dolan’s Market Street office, were filmed within the past month with family, Dolan and neurologists looking on, Dolan said. He insisted they were not doctored in any way and didn’t allow reporters or photographers to videotape the event. …

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UCSF, John Muir Health to Partner, Create Bay Area Health Network

John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, part of John Muir Health, which recently announced voluntary buyouts ahead of full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. (cseeman/Flickr)

John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, part of John Muir Health, which has announced an affiliation with UC San Francisco. (cseeman/Flickr)

UC San Francisco and John Muir Health, which primarily serves patients in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, announced Tuesday that they will form a new company and, in their first joint move, develop a regional health network.

‘We want to offer a Kaiser-like or Sutter-like alternative in the marketplace.’

Both companies will remain independent. The new network will be an accountable care organization (ACO), which will provide patients access to hospitals, doctors and other providers from the two organizations.

An ACO is a formal network of both doctors and hospitals. They share medical responsibility and financial responsibility for patients. The goal is to provide higher quality care at a lower price and limit unnecessary spending. Continue reading

Kaiser, Nurses Union Brace for Upcoming Contract Battle

(April Dembosky/KQED)

Members of the California Nurses Association rallied in Sacramento in May to raise awareness around what they say are patient care concerns in California hospitals. (April Dembosky/KQED)

Going to a nurses union meeting is a little bit like going to an evangelical church service.

Contract talks begin next week on new four-year contract.
“We all have to stand up, and it’s a struggle,” says nurse Veronica Cambra, reporting a grievance at Kaiser Hospital in Fremont as though she’s giving testimony. “And we will overcome this, okay?”

The rest of the nurses respond with the passion of a devout congregation, humming “Mmm hmmm,” and “That’s right,” through the series of speeches.

The union heads at the front of the room interject now and then to rally the group around a unifying message.

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With Lax Oversight, Fraud Flourishes in California’s Drug Rehab Clinics

A receptionist at Pride Health Services in Inglewood, Calif., said there were no counseling sessions on April 3. But the clinic billed taxpayers about $1,600 for serving 60 clients that day, records show. (Photo/CNN)

A receptionist at Pride Health Services in Inglewood, Calif., said there were no counseling sessions on April 3. But the clinic billed taxpayers about $1,600 for serving 60 clients that day, records show. (Photo/CNN)

By Christina Jewett and Will EvansThe Center for Investigative Reporting

Addiction counselor Tamara Askew discovered something wrong soon after she started working at Pride Health Services, an Inglewood rehab clinic.

Askew grabbed a stack of files and began contacting patients to introduce herself. That was harder than she had figured.

Some were in jail, Askew said. Several never showed up. One was dead.

Her boss, she said, wanted to bill the government anyway, for counseling addicts she never saw.

“He basically said, ‘How do you think you’re going to get paid?’ ” Askew said.

They lure patients in from the street by handing out cash, cigarettes and snacks. They have patients sign in for days they aren’t there.
Pride Health Services specializes in billing for “ghost clients,” fabricating paperwork for patients who don’t actually come in, according to former employees and whistle-blower complaints.

It is part of a rehab racket – a pattern of fraud by rehabilitation clinics that collect government funding to help the poor and addicted, a yearlong investigation by The Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN has found.

Thousands of pages of government records and dozens of interviews with counselors, patients and regulators reveal a widespread scheme – concentrated in the Los Angeles region – to bilk the state’s Medicaid system. Continue reading

Boston ER Doctor Finds Marathon Memories Hard to Shake

By Leana Wen, for NPR

(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

I have a recurring nightmare where I am performing CPR on a patient who turns out to be my husband.

Last Monday, my nightmare nearly came true.

It was 2:50 p.m., and the Massachusetts General Hospital ER was filled to capacity.

In the section where I was working, my patients were critically ill, with strokes, heart attacks and overwhelming infections. Even the hallways were packed with patients receiving emergency treatments.

A call over the loudspeakers announced that there had been two explosions. Many people were injured. That’s all we knew.

Screams mixed with ambulance sirens. The loudspeaker sounded again and again, announcing that more patients were on their way.
Doctors, nurses and transporters disconnected monitors and rushed to send every patient to other areas of the hospital.

As we cleared the emergency room, there was a second call. These were bombings. There were fatalities and dozens, maybe hundreds, of injured. How many were coming to Mass General? Nobody knew.

Three minutes later, the doors flew open. Stretchers came, one after the other. Some victims had no pulse and weren’t breathing. Others had legs blown to shreds. All were covered with blood and soot.

The ER smelled of burnt flesh, and each stretcher left behind a fresh trail of blood. Continue reading

Sacramento Native and Her Husband Face Amputation, Rehab Together After Boston Bombings

Patrick and Jessica Kensky Downes, newlyweds, who each lost their lower left leg in the Boston bombings. (Photo from Jessica's Facebook page)

Patrick and Jessica Kensky Downes, newlyweds, who each lost their lower left leg in the Boston bombings. (Photo from Jessica’s Facebook page)

A week after the Boston Marathon bombing, only the most seriously injured are still hospitalized. Sacramento native Jessica Kensky Downes and her husband Patrick are among them. As Martha Bebinger of WBUR reports, the couple were at the finish line when the explosions ripped through the crowd. Patrick and Jessica both each lost the lower part of their left legs.

From WBUR:

Friends are having a hard time reconciling this news with memories of the joyful pair who married just last August.  Smiles in photos of Jessica and Patrick jump off the screen.

“But that’s not just a photograph,” says Leslie Kelly, who watched Jessica grow up just outside Sacramento, Calif.  “Those two are the happiest, most optimistic, wonderful people,” continues Kelly, which provides “a real good foundation for both of them going forward.” Continue reading

Supreme Court Watch: Decision on Health Care Expected Shortly

We’re closely monitoring the events at the Supreme Court. The Justices will enter the courtroom momentarily. The health care decision will likely be the last of those issued today, according to

Someone asked the moderators there why healthcare is being decided on the last day of the term. The answer:

For one thing, it was only argued in late March and it often takes several months to write opinions in complicated cases. In addition, in big cases where there are multiple opinions, it takes a while for the dissents and concurrences to get written. Finally, the Justices often just take as much time as is available to polish their opinions in big cases.

For more on the possible implications for California see this excellent post by KQED’s Jon Brooks and Mina Kim.

Court Considers Whether Entire Health Care Law Should Be Struck Down

By: KQED News Staff and Wires

(Jessica Marcy: KHN)

(Jessica Marcy: Kaiser Health News)

The Supreme Court signaled Wednesday that it could throw out other key parts of the Affordable Care Act if it first finds the individual insurance requirement unconstitutional.

On the third and last day of arguments, the justices appeared to accept the administration’s argument that at least two important insurance changes are so closely tied to the insurance requirement that they could not survive without it. Those two changes are the popular provisions that both require insurers to offer insurance to applicants with pre-existing conditions and also requires insurers to charge the same rates to people who are roughly the same age, regardless of their health.

Those changes should go, the Obama Administration argued, because without the individual mandate, people might wait until they’re sick before they signed up for coverage. Not enough people would be in the health insurance pool to spread risk. Ruin could come to the insurance market.

In short the Court faces three scenarios if it strikes down the individual mandate: Continue reading