The University of California, San Francisco has won a $7.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help address the shortage of health-care workers in Tanzania, in East Africa. As reported in San Francisco Business Times, The two-year grant will support a collaboration between UCSF Global Health Sciences and Tanzania’s Muhimbili University of Health Allied Sciences, that nation’s only public university of health sciences, to develop and implement strategies for Dar es Salaam-based Muhimbili and other African institutions to meet their countries’ health workforce needs.
Solving sub-Saharan Africa’s health-care worker shortage has long been a priority for governments, universities and international organizations, according to the two universities, who say Tanzania’s leaders recognize the need to educate and train more health-care workers. The partnership aims to develop an “institutional partnership model” that can be replicated in other low-resource settings.
In early December, UCSF announced a $4 million grant from the Gates Foundation to support planning for a potential systemwide UC School of Global Health. The proposed school, which the university envisions as training new leaders to help tackle global health issues, would be UC’s first multicampus, systemwide school, the university said.
More evidence that the medical system in California- and for that matter the entire country, is completely broken. As reported in the Los Angeles Times:
The state’s largest for-profit health insurer is asking California physicians to look for conditions it can use to cancel their new patients’ medical coverage. Blue Cross of California is sending physicians copies of health insurance applications filled out by new patients, along with a letter advising them that the company has a right to drop members who fail to disclose “material medical history,” including “pre-existing pregnancies.”
“Any condition not listed on the application that is discovered to be pre-existing should be reported to Blue Cross immediately,” the letters say. The Times obtained a copy of a letter that was aimed at physicians in large medical groups. The letter wasn’t going down well with physicians. “We’re outraged that they are asking doctors to violate the sacred trust of patients to rat them out for medical information that patients would expect their doctors to handle with the utmost secrecy and confidentiality,” said Dr. Richard Frankenstein, president of the California Medical Assn. Patients “will stop telling their doctors anything they think might be a problem for their insurance and they don’t think matters for their current health situation,” he said. “But they didn’t go to medical school, and there are all kinds of obscure things that could be very helpful to a doctor.”
WellPoint Inc., the Indianapolis-based company that operates Blue Cross of California, said Monday that it was sending out the letters in an effort to hold down costs. “Enrolling an applicant who did not disclose their true condition (and the condition is chronic or acute), will quickly drive increased utilization of services, which drives up costs for all members,” WellPoint spokeswoman Shannon Troughton said in an e-mail.
“Blue Cross feels it is our responsibility to assure all records are accurate and up to date for HMO providers,” she said. “We send these letters to identify members early on in the process who may not have been honest in their application.” Blue Cross is one of several California insurers that have come under fire for issuing policies without checking applications and then canceling coverage after individuals incur major medical costs. The practice of canceling coverage, known in the industry as rescission, is under scrutiny by state regulators, lawmakers and the courts.
Patients in a raft of lawsuits accuse the insurers of canceling coverage over honest mistakes and minor inconsistencies on applications that they contend are purposely confusing. Victims of cancer and other serious medical problems often are unable to get new coverage once their insurance has been rescinded and they may go without treatment when they need it most. Suddenly swamped by medical debt, some people have lost homes and businesses.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will give $5 million to the University of California, San Francisco, to promote and implement promising strategies against global health crises, according to a report in San Francisco Business Times. UCSF Global Health Sciences will use the funds to start an “action tank,” led by Sir Richard Feachem, the former executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. The Global Health Group will first focus on malaria eradication and an enhanced role for the private sector in strengthening health systems in developing countries. “The group’s first project will be an incredibly important one — helping to accelerate progress toward the eradication of malaria, a disease that kills thousands of children in Africa every day,” said Tachi Yamada, M.D., president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program.
As if California Real Estate agents don’t have enough bad news these days, now many of them will be joining the ranks of those in California without health insurance. According to an AP report, a judge has ruled that Blue Shield could cancel coverage for members of the California Association of Realtors because the group’s enrollment fell below a threshold required under its contract with the health care provider. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. declined a request to stop cancellation of the coverage for about 8,000 members and their families. Blue Shield claimed the ruling affirmed it had acted fairly. “The California Association of Realtors simply didn’t meet its contractual obligations,” said Seth Jacobs, Blue Shield’s general counsel.
“Torture treatment centers across the state are joining to raise awareness about torture survivors living in California. The campaign starts today and will culminate on June 26, the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The U.S. government estimates that 500,000 torture survivors live in the United States. University of the Pacificâ€™s School of International Studies in Stockton, Calif. is in the process of developing baseline population data for torture survivors in California. The research will be conducted under the supervision of Professor Jean-Marie Stratigos, a former United Nations humanitarian affairs officer. ‘Survivors are a hidden population in our state and many obstacles prevent them from receiving adequate healthcare,â€ said Kathi Anderson, executive director of Survivors of Torture, International. â€œWe hope that this campaign will build knowledge among both medical professionals and the general public’. “
“Inogen, Inc., a Santa Barbara-based designer and manufacturer of devices that help people suffering from respiratory illnesses, announced on February 16 that it had secured $22 million from the venture capital arm of the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk to apply toward research and development of new devices. According to Inogen, the money will help popularize the Inogen One, a portable, 10-pound respiratory aid the company says could replace the bulkier models currently used by those who have difficulty breathing.”
Intel Corp. said Tuesday it is partnering with tablet computer maker Motion Computing Inc. to create a notepad-like device that will make it easier for medical personnel to use electronic medical records. Santa Clara-based Intel said Austin, Texas-based Motion Computing will sell the device, which is based on an Intel design and has an Intel processor at its core… Intel said the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center collaborated with privately held Motion Computing on the device’s development.”
“Drug giant Merck & Co. plans to begin selling the three-in-one AIDS pill developed with Gilead Sciences Inc. in poor countries with high rates of HIV infection. Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck will set the price of the pill on a sliding scale based on how poor a country is and how many of its population are infected with HIV. The tablet combines three drugs in one pill — Viread and Emtriva from Gilead, and Sustiva from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. Foster City-based Gilead agreed to the low-cost sales in poor countries in August. Under that deal, Gilead will make the pills, while Merck will distribute them.”
San Francisco Business Times
“A new coalition of organizations representing a broad swath of Californians announced a consumer-based healthcare reform campaign today. Together, the groups, which include AARP California, California ACORN, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Black Health Network, California Council of Churches IMPACT, California Labor Federation, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, CALPIRG, Congress of California Seniors, Consumers Union, Health Access California, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, National Council of La Raza, Service Employees International Union, Greenlining Institute and California Partnership, have more than 8 million California members. ‘Health care reform can only be successful if itâ€™s based on the real life experiences of California families,’ said Betsy Imholz, Special Projects Director for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. ‘We need to hear from consumers to develop a comprehensive plan that meets their needs for affordable, quality heath care’. “
The California Association of Realtors is suing Blue Shield of California, claiming the health insurance provider canceled its members’ coverage without proper cause. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, stems from a dispute that arose in December, when Blue Shield sent the association a letter notifying that it would not renew coverage for about 5,500 realtors and their families – about 8,000 people – after the association’s current contract with the health insurer expires May 31. Blue Shield’s reason for this action was because the number of members signed up for coverage had fallen below a set threshold required under their contract with the association. The association also filed an injunction seeking to stop Blue Shield from dropping coverage for its members. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for next month.
“Health Net Inc. said Monday that it has won a five-year contract worth about $50 million per year to provide counseling to members of the U.S. military and their families.”
The health care plan proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger and similar plans proposed by the legislature will not provide universal health care coverage, according to an analysis in New American Media. “instead of a solution that will really solve the crisis the plan… primarily serves to expand the role of the insurance industry in health care, and would force millions of Californians to accept substandard, unaffordable health plans. With no check on rising premiums… many Californians may end up saddled with bare-bones plans with limited benefits that, Schwarzenegger suggests, include out-of-pocket deductibles of up to $7,500 per individual and $10,000 per family. In other words, the average Californian may well have to pay for all their medical expenses in addition to the premiums the law forces them to buy. Or many could just forgo preventive care and other medical visits, resulting in more pain and suffering and greater costs down the road.