California hands down millions in fines to Anthem Blue Cross; “street medicine” aims to bring healthcare to the homeless in Atlanta; Johnson & Johnson claims its baby powder is safe.
Anthem Blue Cross in California was fined almost $9.6 million between January 2014 and November 2019 by the state’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), according to California Healthline, for violations that included not covering out-of-network care that should have been covered and wrongly denying claims. That is close to 44% of all penalties for the period. In 2017 alone, Anthem was fined $5 million for letting customer issues drag on for too long, which was eventually negotiated down to $2.8 million and a promise to use $8.4 million for improvements. In total, DMHC has fined licensed health plans $73 million since 2000, its first year.
Mercy Care in Atlanta, Georgia, brings healthcare to the homeless on a daily basis, Kaiser Health News reports, spending close to $900,000 each year since 2013, when its street medicine program began. Outreach personnel include social workers, mental health specialists, and nursing students on 4-week rotations who strive to gain the trust of their often-stigmatized clientele before offering counseling, blood pressure measurements, and flu shots—among the many services they provide. In a non—Medicaid expansion state, Mercy Care hopes to prevent repeated visits to the emergency department, saving money in the process.
Following a voluntary October recall of 1 lot of its Baby Powder—33,000 bottles in the United States—Johnson & Johnson conducted 155 tests via 4 testing methods at 2 third-party labs, contesting claims by the FDA that the powder contains trace amounts of asbestos, according to Reuters. This follows testing also completed in October, with similar results. J&J states that the FDA’s results may be due to sample contamination or lab analyst error, possibly both. J&J has faced increasing scrutiny over the years from lawsuits over baby powder, opioids, and Risperdal, an antipsychotic, among others.