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Written by The Business Journal Staff
The Fresno County Department of Public Health has announced it is no longer monitoring individuals believed to have been exposed to measles in Fresno County. Measles was confirmed in a Fresno County adult resident on May 4 and the incubation period ended on May 24.
The individual traveled out of state where infection occurred. After returning to California, symptoms developed. To date, no secondary measles cases have been identified. Active monitoring for symptoms in possibly exposed individuals ended on Tuesday. A second 21-day cycle of watching for the illness in individuals that may have been exposed to undetected or unreported cases is now in effect.
Fresno County Health Officer Ken Bird stressed that vaccination remains the best measure to prevent measles.
“Fresno County’s vaccination rate is quite high, and we are grateful that parents are vaccinating their children against viruses such as measles,” he said.
Measles is a highly contagious disease and is easily contracted by breathing in air, which has been shared by a person infected with measles, Symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, cough, and a rash that usually starts on the face and spreads down the body.
- Donald A. Promnitz
New Medicare cards on their way
The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is mailing new Medicare cards to protect the safety and security of people with Medicare benefits. The new Medicare cards no longer contain a person’s Social Security number, but rather a unique, randomly assigned Medicare number that protects the identities of people with Medicare, reduces fraud, and offers better safeguards of important health and financial information.
“Removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards is one of the many ways CMS is committed to putting patients first and improving the consumer healthcare experience,” said Greg Dill, CMS regional administrator for California. “This change not only protects Medicare patients from fraud, but also safeguards taxpayer dollars by making it harder for criminals to use Social Security numbers to falsely bill Medicare for care services and benefits that were never performed.”
Work on this important initiative was made possible by the enactment of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.
CMS began mailing the new Medicare cards to people who currently have Medicare benefits in California today. Additionally, Californians who are new to Medicare started to receive their new Medicare cards in April along with others across the country when the mailing first began. As soon as people receive their new Medicare card, they should safely and securely destroy their old Medicare card and keep their new Medicare number confidential. Our current mailing strategy allows us to complete the mailings of new cards to all people with Medicare, both new and current enrollees, over the next year.
The new Medicare card will not change any of the program benefits and services that eligible people enrolled in Medicare receive. People with Medicare and their caregivers can visit medicare.gov/newcard to find out when new Medicare cards will be mailed to their area. They can also sign up for email notifications about the new card mailing and check the status in their state.
Health care providers, suppliers, and people with Medicare will be able to use secure look-up tools that allow quick access to the new Medicare numbers when needed. There will be a 21-month transition period for healthcare providers and suppliers to use either the former Social Security-based Medicare number or the new Medicare number to ensure a seamless transition.
- Jack Cheevers
Doctor recognized for vaccination efforts
Several years ago, Dr. Dee Lacy of Kaiser Permanente, Fresno noticed the severe illness of a 33-year-old patient with meningitis and sepsis. Upon doing so, she learned that his spleen had been removed as a child and that there was a gap in his vaccination history.
“People without a functional spleen are at greater risk of life-threatening infections, so it’s important that they get a series of vaccinations,” she said. “Not only is the dosing schedule complex, but because national vaccine recommendations for asplenia have been evolving, many patients — and sometimes physicians themselves — find it challenging to keep track.”
Dr. Lacy decided that there was a need to better track the vaccinations of Kaiser Permanente patients throughout the Northern California region who were missing spleens to ensure they stay as healthy as possible. This prompted her to develop a vaccination program for asplenic patients helping them stay current with their vaccines.
In 2014, she launched an educational program throughout Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California region to encourage physicians, nurses and staff to make sure they were informing asplenic patients about the importance of staying up to date with their vaccinations.
Dr. Lacy also worked with a team to develop a program that scanned the medical records of all members in Northern California and identified those with Asplenia.
“The vaccination program for asplenic patients is a great example of Kaiser Permanente’s mission to prevent severe health care problems,” said Dr. Smita Rouillard, Kaiser Permanente, Fresno’s Physician-in-Chief.
Earlier this month, Dr. Lacy was honored with the 2018 Sidney R. Garfield Exceptional Contribution Award by The Permanente Medical Group for development of systems or programs with a significant impact on patients, colleagues, and the broader community.
— Donald A. Promnitz
Mathis condemns Dems for Tulare vote
Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) has condemned the decision of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services to deny his request for $22 million in emergency funding to reopen Tulare Regional Medical Center.
“Capitol Democrats stated that the hospital is too big of a risk and gamble to bail out. They have concerns regarding the litigation and when the hospital will actually open,” Mathis said in a statement. “There are 70,000 people in Tulare who don’t have access to a hospital, and big city politicians don’t seem to care.”
Mathis added that the state has a “massive budget surplus.”
There will be one other opportunity try and get the request in the final budget, he said. When leadership meets with Gov. Jerry Brown, there is a chance to receive some of the $22 million. However, the majority party expressed to Mathis that it probably wouldn’t be the full amount.
“The hospital’s new management is working night and day to get the doors back open,” Mathis said. “I’ll keep fighting with the same dedication to find a solution that brings health care access back to our community.”
— Donald A. Promnitz