All posts by Open Thread

Consumer Federation: Prop 46 Opponents Are Privacy Hypocrites

(A nice follow-up to my article about this subject recently from our friends at the Consumer Federation.   – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

by Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California

Health care industry-funded ads sounding the Prop 46 privacy alarm flunk the straight face test.

The ads allege Prop 46 sets up a secret medical record database that will be vulnerable to hacking. Not only is this absolutely false, it’s galling when you consider that the hospitals and insurance companies funding the ads have exposed millions of their own patient records through their negligence.

Prop 46 creates no new patient database. It does put to better use a database that has been in place for 17 years. The CURES database (Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System) has never been breached. It is a database of prescriptions for Schedule II, III and IV narcotics. It is encrypted and stored on a server behind the Department of Justice’s firewall. Access is tightly restricted to licensed prescribers, pharmacists and law enforcement.

Overprescribing of prescription narcotics is a national epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control cited 475,000 emergency room visits and 36,000 deaths from prescription narcotic overdoses in a recent year, at a price tag of $72 billion in avoidable health care expenditures.

A big contributor to this epidemic is doctor shopping by drug abusers who go from one physician to the next, getting multiple prescriptions for the same narcotic. CURES is a powerful tool to halt doctor shopping.

But the CURES database is only effective if physicians check it before filling a prescription.

Prop 46 is named the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act in memory of two children who were killed on the sidewalk of their Danville neighborhood by a drugged driver who had been prescribed thousands of painkillers from multiple doctors at the same hospital. These doctors failed to check the CURES database to see whether their colleagues had already written the patient an identical prescription.

It’s estimated that only 8 percent of California doctors check the database before writing a prescription for a controlled substance. New York and Virginia recently required mandatory checks of their CURES-type databases, reducing doctor shopping in those states by 75 percent and 73 percent respectively.

Proposition 46 will require California doctors to follow suit and check the database before they first prescribe to a patient a Schedule II or III drug such as cocaine, methamphetamine, Demerol, OxyContin, anabolic steroids or codeine.

Requiring the check is a life-saving improvement to the law, and a far cry from the new “secret” and insecure database that No on 46 ads claim the measure would create.

The hospital and insurance companies behind the No on 46 ads have a lot of nerve to assume the mantle of privacy protectors. The perfect security record of CURES stands in stark contrast to the failure of these health care corporations to safeguard their own patient records.

According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, from January 2013 through June 2014, hospitals and insurers including No on 46 funders exposed more than 1.5 million California patient records in data breaches.

A few recent careless breaches by Prop 46 opponents include:

  • AHMC Hospitals, Alhambra, 2013: 729,000 patient records breached
  • Anthem Blue Cross, 2012-2013: 57,000 patient records exposed
  • Blue Shield of California, 2013: 18,000 patient and physician records posted online
  • Health Net, 2011: 1,900,000 patient records lost
  • Kaiser Permanente, 2009-2014: 74,000 patient records compromised
  • Sutter Health, 2011: 947,000 patient records exposed
  • No on 46 funders have also worked overtime to weaken patient privacy laws. This year the California Hospital Association pushed amendments to Assembly Bill 1755 that would have ended mandatory patient notification requirements and instead allowed each hospital to decide whether or not to inform patients when its records were negligently released. In 2012, the California Hospital Association supported amendments to AB 439 that would have eliminated the right of most patients to have their day in court when a health care provider exposed their personal records to strangers. The Consumer Federation of California and our privacy allies stopped both health care industry efforts to mug patient privacy rights.

    Hospitals and insurance companies should stop scaring voter about Prop 46, clean up their own negligent security practices, and respect California medical privacy laws.

    – See more at:…

    December 21 Open Thread

    So, you want some links? I’ll give you some links!

    * The staff of the redistricting commission must also meet the conflict rules. In case you thought anybody was going to have some experience in this committee, well, forget about it.

    * Check out this video –>.  You can make of it what you will. Yes, that is Sen. President Pro Tem. Darrel Steinberg and a bunch of former legislative leaders.

    * The SEIU deal is better for workers than the furloughs.

    * Sen George Runner stepped down to take his BOE seat tomorrow. Gov. Elect Brown will set an election to replace him.  

    December 20 Open Thread


    * Mail-in voting increased again in California in the November 2010 election.  Some are worried about that for a number of reasons. Fraud, transience, and other issues still trouble states like Oregon that have gone mail-in entirely.

    * Jerry Brown has decided to shut down Laura Chick’s Inspector General Office that was responsible for watching stimulus dollars.

    * John Wildermuth picks Jerry Brown as “Californian of the year”.

    * The UC Regents passed a plan to deal with the pension problem, which was standing at about $21 Billion.

    December 16 Open Thread


    * John Howard takes a look at the anti-consumer MICRA legislation that Jerry Brown signed back in 1975.  The measure capped pain and suffering damages at non-inflation adjusted $250K and protected insurance companies over the rights of patients.  Victims of medical malpractice in the state are left to virtually fend for themselves as it just doesn’t make economic sense for talented attorneys.

    * The California Supreme Court is going to let the top-2 election litigation go through the normal appeals process rather than dealing with it directly.

    * The Bay Area Council has a report out on Clean Tech and entreupeneurialism.  

    * Capitol Weekly takes a look at the “rookie class” of legislators.

    * One South Carolina man is thankful for what the State of California did for him decades ago.

    December 9 Open Thread

    Some links in no particular order:

    * The crime victims fund, started under Pat Brown, has now been around for 45 years, with a total payout of over two billion dollars.

    * In theory, when you don’t pay the sales tax for an online purchase, you are supposed to pay the use tax.  Unfortunately, not enough Californians are actually doing that, and we’re losing over a billion dollars per year. George Skelton wants California to get serious about collecting, working through our own state measures and/or working with the federal government to end the sales tax moratorium.

    * CTA’s David Sanchez has some advice for Gov.-elect Brown: focus on funding and the State Board of Education.

    * The rough census total from California? About 39 million people in the nation’s largest state.  If we were a nation, that would make us roughly the world’s 30th largest country.

    * Worker’s compensation? Yeah, it’s supposed to be about helping injured workers. Sure would be nice if it actually did that.

    December 6 Open Thread

    Some other news:

    * Senator Mark Leno will be the next Senate Budget Chair, replacing the termed out Sen. Denise Ducheny.

    * Speaker Perez wants to strip Vernon of its status as a city.  The City of Vernon has been plagued by corruption issues.

    * The Mayor of Santa Ana would get a big finders’ fee if state buildings are sold, as the Governor has been pushing.

    * Joel Fox remembers Joe Cerrell, an LA political powerhouse for many years.

    November 22, Open Thread

    Ok, we’re going to try to get back into the habit of doing these.  Feel free to chat about whatever passes through your ears…


    * Republicans are looking to take away $2B of stimulus money intended for California HSR in the next session.  Look for more on this here tomorrow.

    * Steve Cooley beat Meg Whitman in absolute votes.  This isn’t much consolation, as he is running over 40,000 votes behind Kamala Harris, but it has to be something.  Typically there is a big dropoff after the top of the ticket, and this year is no exception. But Whitman did that poorly.  Cooley spent about $1.55/vote, while Whitman spent about $36.63.  Wow. That’s going to leave a mark of Grif’s inheritance.

    *  Former Dept. of Finance director Mike Genest’s firm picked up two new hires: two long-time (and influential) Assembly budget staffers.

    * Peter Schrag has a great column on gridlock and the two santa clause theory.

    September 30 Open Thread


    * A judge ruled that the Governor can’t unilaterally cancel holidays for state workers.

    * Apparently Jerry Brown’s campaign knew a couple of weeks ago about “housekeeper” problems for Meg Whitman. So, that makes what kind of case exactly?

    * Two very different polls. CNN shows the big lead for Dems, while PPIC shows a near dead heat.

    * PPIC also showed 52% of likely voters support Prop 19 for controlling and taxing cannabis.

    September 27 Open Thread


    * Beer brewers are going all in on the “wreck the state” initiatives. CalWatch has a report on their spending for the 2/3 fee measure (Prop 26) and against the majority vote budget (Prop 25).

    * CalBuzz tears apart the GOP logic on the LA Times poll. Both Whitman and Fiorina didn’t like the way the results were, but pretty much ignored facts that they had in their spin releases.

    * Treasurer Lockyer is seeking a bridge loan for $5 Billion for the period after the budget is enacted.

    * The Governor delayed the first execution in years until after his appeals are exhausted on September 30.

    September 23 Open Thread


    * Meg thinks Fresno is awful! Worse than Detroit apparently.  I’m sure when she’s running on Romney’s ticket, the people of Michigan are going to love that just as much as the people of Fresno liked it.

    * CalBuzz analyzes just how wrong AP’s story on Jerry Brown and the death penalty really was.  And by wrong, they mean totally out of the ballpark, nowhere near the truth, zero research wrong.  AP edited and reissued the story, but they owe not only Brown, but the truth and the people of California, an apology.

    * Stephen Colbert is going to testify on a UFW and Farm Bureau bill. He interviewed Zoe Lofgren about the bill for last night’s show.  For tonight, they’ll air a segment of Colbert working on a farm.

    * Jerry Brown challenges Meg Whitman to support climate change regulation, and back off her pledge to suspend AB 32.