TOPIC: Dept. of Health & Human Services

Innovative bureaucrats? FDA workaround on livestock antibiotics shows it’s possible

The addition of antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline into animal feed has proven to be a clear threat to human health.  But getting rid of them isn’t easy in today’s regulatory arena.  Gardiner Harris’s article in the New York Times on the FDA’s new attempt to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock feed shows the limits  federal agencies face in making even the most clearly-needed changes. (more…)

Natural foods co-op gets a raw deal

Acting in concert with federal officials, authorities in Los Angeles raided a local natural foods buyers co-op and arrested three people for distributing raw milk and dairy products, reports Ian Lovett of The New York Times and Stuart Pfeifer and P.J. Huffstutter in the Los Angeles Times. Authorities also seized $70,000 worth of inventory from the Venice co-op, Rawsome, on the grounds that the shop was selling unsafe and unlicensed products to consumers and doing so without a business license. Operators of the co-op maintain that the products in question weren’t being sold to unknowing consumers, but distributed to members of a buyers’ club who specifically sought out unadulterated foods and were well aware of the risks. Because the operation wasn’t open to non-members and was run by volunteers, its trustees claim they aren’t required to have a business license. (more…)

What’s wrong with Medicare? Here’s another Prime example

Remember the kwashiorkor plague striking Northern California — where the African childhood disease was spreading like wildfire, but only amongst seniors with Medicare getting treatment at hospitals affiliated with Prime Healthcare?

Well, according to Christina Jewett and Stephen K. Doig of California Watch, in a story published in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, in addition to a chronic case of upcoding, Prime Healthcare is also apparently hospitalizing patients who should be discharged, in an effort to maximize bills to Medicare and various H.M.O.’s. (more…)

Feds block Illinois’ money-saving Medicaid tweak

Here is what looks to be an unintended consequence of the federal health care reform law. The Chicago Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch reports that, “The federal government is refusing to allow a new process passed by bipartisan majorities in Illinois that requires medical patients here to show that they live in Illinois and earn little enough to qualify for Medicaid.” The federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services is saying no because (more…)

Grapes of Wrath? You can’t afford ‘em

Can a California family of three survive on $480 a month? The 1.5 million recipients of CalWORKs, the state’s welfare-to-work program, are about to find out. (more…)

FDA failure in Wisconsin

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Raquel Rutledge and Rick Barrett had an investigative report this weekend on faulty health care products made by the Triad Group, which is based in Hartland, Wisconsin. These faulty products caused grave illnesses in children that Rutledge and Barrett profile. The worst part is that these tragedies were preventable: the Food and Drug Administration knew Triad made faulty products but trusted the company’s assurances that it would make alterations.

An apple a day . . . or not

Almost every day I put an apple in my son’s lunch because it’s one of the few fruits he eats.  While I worry about his limited palate, I’ve always thought, “well, at least he’s eating an apple a day,” as the saying goes.  So the USDA’s announcement that apples contain the highest concentration of pesticide residue of any produce – and are ranked number one on the Environment Working Group’s list of the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables – was a punch to the gut. (more…)

Wisconsin v. Walker

The big news from Wisconsin yesterday was that the state supreme court upheld the law taking away most collective bargaining rights for state public employees who are neither police nor fire fighters. This is obviously a huge, though expected, victory for Gov. Scott Walker and the state Republican party. One thing to note, though, is that Walker’s anti-government employee agenda has recently met resistance among even Republicans in the state legislature. The legislature rejected a plan to significantly roll back the number of state employees who work on behalf of food stamp and Medicaid recipients. The main result of the anti-public employee union bill may be a backlash on other Walker policies as well.

Scott Walker: Affordable Care Act champion

Scott Walker

The political leadership in Illinois says they love the Affordable Care Act, and the political leadership in Wisconsin and other Republican controlled states want the law repealed. Yet Illinois lawmakers punted on starting a state-run health insurance exchange, a central component of the national health care reform law. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has created an entire new state office — funded by an Obama administration “innovator” grant, no less — to establish a health insurance exchange. Walker is one of several prominent Republicans working to implement ACA. (more…)

Scott Walker turned down on privatization

The Wisconsin state legislature did away with two major attempts by Gov. Scott Walker to privatize local administration of federally-funded social services. Jessica Vanegreen of the Madison Capital Times reports that Walker had wanted to use private workers to run Wisconsin’s food stamp program, Food Share, and also to run Medicaid. Walker’s idea was that residents would no longer apply in person for Food Share or Medicaid services, but instead use hotline numbers. The Obama administration threatened to remove federal funding if these proposals got enacted.

But even when Walker loses, he partly wins. The state legislature did agree to consolidate staff at centers that administer food stamp benefits.