Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Opinion

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Courtesy photo.

Each year, more than 250,000 women in the United States learn that they have breast cancer, and more than 20,000 find out they have ovarian cancer.

While most of these cancers happen randomly, about 5 to 10 percent are hereditary, meaning they are caused by genetic changes (called mutations) which are passed down in families.

Unfortunately, women with these inherited cancers have few treatment options.

That’s why the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently extended Medicare coverage to laboratory diagnostic tests using next-generation sequencing (NGS) for patients with inherited breast or ovarian cancer.

NGS testing gives a more complete profile of cancer cells than is possible with current tests and may help identify proven, targeted treatments.

NGS tests provide the most comprehensive genetic analysis of a patient’s cancer because they can simultaneously detect multiple types of genetic alterations. CMS first began covering laboratory diagnostic tests using NGS in March 2018 for Medicare patients with advanced cancer that met specific criteria. With CMS’ recent coverage decision, more Medicare patients will have access to NGS to assist in managing other types of inherited cancers to reduce mortality and improve health outcomes.

Innovative technologies are transforming American medicine, and CMS is closely monitoring the rapid development of new tests and tools for diagnosing cancer. We want to do everything we can to support women’s health and help patients get the care they need.

In addition to providing access to this testing for women, Medicare also covers testing for prostate cancer.

All men are at risk for prostate cancer. Out of every 100 American men, about 13 will get prostate cancer during their lifetimes, and two or three men will die from it.

The most common risk factor is age. The older a man is, the greater his chance of getting prostate cancer.

Some men are at increased risk for prostate cancer. You’re at increased risk for getting or dying from prostate cancer if you’re African-American or have a family history of prostate cancer.

Medicare Part B covers digital rectal exams and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests once every 12 months for men over 50 (beginning the day after your 50th birthday).

Beneficiaries pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for a yearly digital rectal exam and for physician services related to the exam. The Part B deductible ($198 in 2020) applies. In a hospital outpatient setting, there’s also a copayment.

Beneficiaries pay nothing for a yearly PSA blood test. If you get the test from a doctor who doesn’t accept Medicare payment, you may have to pay an additional fee for the doctor’s services, but not for the test itself.

In 2018, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force made the following recommendations about prostate cancer screening:

Men who are 55 to 69 years old should make individual decisions about being screened for prostate cancer with a PSA test.

Before making a decision, men should talk to their doctor about the benefits and harms of screening for prostate cancer, including the benefits and harms of other tests and treatment.
Men who are 70 years old or older should not be screened for prostate cancer routinely.

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the many preventive screening services that Medicare offers for cancer and other diseases, at https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/preventive-screening-services.

Seema Verma is the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Kelseyville Unified School District Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – If you’ve ever considered running for the school board, now’s your chance.

The Kelseyville Unified School District board has three vacancies and we’re looking for strong, qualified candidates who are passionate about education and willing to volunteer for a four-year term to help students reach their potential. Any registered voter who lives in the district can apply.

The role of a school board member is to set the vision for the school district as well as providing financial oversight for the use of taxpayer dollars.

The California School Board Association names five core responsibilities: Setting direction; establishing an effective and efficient structure; providing support; ensuring accountability; providing community leadership as advocates for children, the school district and public schools.

Authority is granted to the board as a whole, not each member individually. Therefore, board members fulfill these responsibilities by working together as a governance team with the superintendent to make decisions that will best serve all the students in the community.

In Kelseyville, board members meet for regular meetings once a month, but additional meetings are often required as issues arise. Truth is, this is a tough job, but for the right person, it’s a rewarding one.

Although board members do not deal with the daily operations of a school district – things like hiring and firing personnel or creating class schedules – they do set the policies we depend on to make good operational decisions.

It really does take a special person to be a school board member, someone who isn’t afraid to stand up for what they believe and who understands they can’t always please everyone.

Kelseyville is a diverse community; it’s one of our greatest strengths, but it can also make it hard to be an elected official.

If you’re not scared away by now, you might have what it takes. Here are some details.

To get on the ballot, a candidate must submit the filing fee the following completed forms to the Lake County Registrar of Voters through Aug. 7: declaration of candidacy, statement of economic interests and candidate’s statement of qualifications.

The statement of economic Interests discloses a candidate’s investments, interests in real estate and any income received in the last 12 months.

The statement of qualifications allows candidates to write up to 200 words about their qualifications (note: it must be filed at the same time as the declaration of candidacy).

A handbook with all the details is available from the Lake County Registrar of Voters. If you have specific questions, their helpful clerks can be reached at 707-263-2372.

I’d love to meet with anyone thinking about running to answer any questions you may have and share information about our district. You can schedule an appointment with me by calling the District Office at 707-279-1511.

If you’d like to connect with current Kelseyville Unified board members, you can find their emails on our website.

Dave McQueen is the superintendent of Kelseyville Unified School District.

Seema Verma is the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Courtesy photo.

If you have Medicare and want to be tested for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Trump Administration has good news.

Medicare covers tests with no out-of-pocket costs. You can get tested in your home, doctor’s office, a local pharmacy or hospital, a nursing home, or a drive-through site. Medicare does not require a doctor’s order for you to get tested.

Testing is particularly important for older people and nursing home residents, who are often among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Widespread access to testing is a critical precursor to a safe, gradual reopening of America.

When a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed, Medicare will cover that, too.

For Medicare beneficiaries who are homebound and can’t travel, Medicare will pay for a trained laboratory technician to come to your home or residential nursing home to collect a test sample. (This doesn’t apply to people in a skilled nursing facility on a short-term stay under Medicare Part A, as the costs for this test, including sample collection, are already covered as part of the stay.)

If you receive Medicare home health services, your home health nurse can collect a sample during a visit. Nurses working for rural health clinics and federally qualified health clinics also can collect samples in beneficiaries’ homes under certain conditions.

Or you can go to a “parking lot” test site set up by a pharmacy, hospital, or other entity in your community.

We’re doing similar things in the Medicaid program, giving states flexibility to cover parking-lot tests as well as tests in beneficiaries’ homes and other community settings.

We also implemented the Families First Medicaid eligibility option, which allows states to cover tests for uninsured people with no cost-sharing. Individuals should contact their state Medicaid agency to apply for this coverage.

Both Medicare and Medicaid cover serology or antibody tests for COVID-19. These tests can help identify who has been exposed to the virus.

Medicare generally covers the entire cost of COVID-19 testing for beneficiaries with Original Medicare. If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage health plan, your plan generally can’t charge you cost-sharing (including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance) for COVID-19 tests and the administration of such tests.

In addition, Medicare Advantage plans may not impose prior authorization or other utilization management requirements on the COVID-19 test or specified COVID-19 testing-related services for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

We have also required that private health issuers and employer group health plans cover COVID-19 testing, and certain related items and services, with no cost-sharing during the pandemic. This includes items and services that result in an order for, or administration of, a COVID-19 diagnostic test in a variety of medical settings, including urgent care visits, emergency room visits, and in-person or telehealth visits to the doctor’s office.

From day one, Medicare has worked to ensure that cost is no barrier to being tested for COVID-19, and to make testing as widely and easily available as possible. As a result, we’ve seen a surge in testing among Medicare beneficiaries. Robust and widespread testing is of paramount importance as we begin easing back into normal life.

You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Seema Verma is the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

There is a silent killer stalking the National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands of California. It cares nothing for the fish and wildlife that call it home. It poisons wildlife on a landscape scale, contaminates public water supplies, and if you are not careful, will poison you as well.

Cartel-operated trespass cannabis grows are toxic dumps in remote, pristine habitats. They divert streams to the point of depletion, use EPA-banned pesticides that poison wildlife, water, and soil, and leave tons of trash in sensitive ecosystems. They contain plastic irrigation lines, strewn trash, makeshift water reservoirs, propane tanks, primitive camps, and planted cannabis, especially in burn scars or other exposed habitats.

The issue of trespass grows has flown under the radar for years. Hidden away, illicit growers use banned pesticides to protect their plants, poisoning wildlife and users alike.

The northern population of Pacific fishers, a candidate species for the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, now tests over 80 percent positive for rodenticides (rat poisons) – a poison in heavy use at trespass grows.

Northern Spotted Owls – an ESA-listed species – test 70 percent positive for the same poisons. Even game species have tested positive, including mule deer. Incredibly, trespass growers will even bait fishing hooks with poisoned meat to kill foraging wildlife.

The amount of wildlife poisoned by pesticides shows how it has bioaccumulated through the food web, leading to major ecosystem implications. Furthermore, those toxics are sometimes weaponized by growers to target law enforcement, and can readily poison unsuspecting hikers. Until recently, it was “out of sight, out of mind.” That is now over.

Federal appropriations requests for reclamation and prevention championed by Congressmen Huffman (CD-2) and LaMalfa (CD-1) are now under review in Congress, and will hopefully be approved in the coming months. The requests could mean as much as $25 million a year to address this seemingly intractable problem.

A further request was submitted under the COVID-19 stimulus plan for “shovel ready” projects, which includes reclamation. If approved, the reclamation funding would: (1) provide economic opportunity for Northern California’s rural, economically disadvantaged communities, keeping the funding and jobs local; (2) increase USFS law enforcement on California’s federal lands to preclude new grows from being established, and (3) prioritize tribal reclamation partners, furthering their participation in the management and cleanup of their ancestral territory and protection of cultural resources.

The Cannabis Removal On Public Lands, or CROP Project, working to address this issue since 2017, significantly raised the profile of this issue through national press in 2019 and has been integral to congressional action.

True to its bipartisan nature, CROP is a broad-based coalition of scientists, elected county officials, conservation interests, state and federal agencies, tribes, the legal cannabis industry, and USFS law enforcement.

Now, CROP’s mission to remove and prevent trespass grows is bearing fruit and presenting an opportunity for regional collaboration between diverse, and sometimes polarized, interests to reclaim public lands.

The CROP Project, now expanding out of the Emerald Triangle into Siskiyou, Shasta and Lassen counties, looks forward to working with interests to solve this problem.

In the meantime, hikers and recreational users of California’s public lands need to exercise extreme caution should they come across a trespass grow. Public land users that stumble upon a trespass grow should immediately and discretely leave the scene, preferably going out the same way you came in (most growers are armed).

Remember the location of the site, and immediately report it to 1-888-334-CALTIP (888-334-2258), the anonymous environmental crime tip-line for CDFW.

To learn more about CROP, or how to support us, please visit www.cropproject.org .

Jackee Riccio is the regional field director for the CROP Project, and resides in Humboldt County, California.

For years I have watched some Americans turn a deaf ear to other Americans.

The results are demonstrations in our streets and some cities on fire, as people protest racial inequality, police brutality, low wages, lack of economic opportunities and reduced funding for education.

As most Americans, I watched the video of George Floyd dying on the street in Minneapolis, handcuffed, with four police officers holding him down. I cried because of the racial injustice of it. But this went beyond a white police officer killing a black man. The scene reminded me of Nazi Germany, where soldiers without a conscience casually snuffed out the lives of millions of Jews, Catholics, blacks and homosexuals.

Regardless of race, the murder in Minneapolis was the brazen lack of compassion by one human being for another.

So where does America go from here? What would compassion in our country look like?

When a police officer takes a knee in unity with peace protesters, they are showing compassion, because they are listening. And those officers have my respect.

When our elected federal officials raise taxes on wealthy Americans to provide a living wage for underpaid government workers; to support our education system and combat pollution … they will finally be listening.

When our local government promotes economic development to provide good paying jobs and opportunities for our young people ... they will finally be listening.

When we care enough about health care for others, as we do about such care for ourselves…. we will finally be listening.

When young people, who anxiously observe, how we are “trashing” our oceans, with no plan to address it ... They know we are not listening. Because in order to survive and provide a living planet for their children, they must clean up what irresponsible older generations, so nonchalantly discard.

As young people inherit a warming planet complete with dying animals, they are angry and crying out for action … and who is listening?

When local education officials (school superintendents and school boards), teachers and classified staff ask for more funding for underpaid workers; when school districts ask to hire more teachers, counselors and school nurses to address the pain of school children who cannot learn due to hunger, medical problems and turmoil at home … we need to listen.

When high school students who want to go to college or a vocational school, to further their education and become responsible, financially secure adults, we need to help them attain their dreams with generous grants and low interest loans. Therefore, we need to listen.

When our local government finally makes it a priority to increase taxes a little, to help others obtain a living wage; and be responsible for public services they have not fully provided … We need to listen and engage to support those priorities.

When corporations and small businesses take pride in providing a living wage to their employees (even if it means increasing their prices to do so) then they will finally be listening.

Asking for a living wage is not socialism. It is not a threat to capitalism. It is simply a request for people to be able to pay their bills and raise their families without living in poverty. And if you cannot hear that message by now … then you are not listening.

My heart is breaking for the many years of pain, racial, economic and educational inequality in America that has brought us to … today.

As Americans, we are faced with a choice. Do we care more about helping other Americans out of poverty, or do we care more about saving money?

Do we continue to turn a blind eye and deny the racial and gender hardships that exist? Or do we engage in the difficult conversations needed to overcome it.

It is not a weakness to communicate with compassion. And we have a growing list of police officers taking a knee, to show us the way.

Anna Rose Ravenwoode is a life-long educator who lives in Kelseyville, California.

Lakeport Police Department personnel. Courtesy photo.

LAKEPORT, Calif. – Like other law enforcement and citizens across this country, we watched the disturbing video where we saw our fellow American George Floyd die during a police use of force after he was taken into custody by Minneapolis Police Officers this past Monday.

Both the actions and inactions we saw are not consistent with the values and principles, policies or training by which law enforcement in this country should operate with our mission of respecting and protecting the rights of all individuals.

We commend Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Hennepin County Prosecutor Mike Freeman for their swift action to investigate, hold officers accountable and ensure that justice is served.

The United States of America, under our Constitution, has a justice system that is designed to ensure the equal protection of all people. While it may not always seem that our system moves fast enough or the right outcome is achieved, it is upon all of us to allow the system a chance to work.

Normally we would not comment on a situation such as this outside of our jurisdiction, but it is evoking actions that are further dividing our country.

Additionally, we are seeing questions from the local community about what policies, procedures or training we have in place to prevent excessive or inappropriate police use of force here and on the other hand preventing violent riots, looting and destruction.

Let us be clear that the Lakeport Police Department has good and appropriate policies, procedures and training in place to ensure that we respect and protect the rights of all people, that excessive force is not used and immediate intervention is taken when necessary.

For decades we have been increasing and adapting our training and policies and using deescalation tactics to ensure that only that amount of force necessary is used to overcome resistance in the interest of protecting ourselves, the public and the person who the force is used upon.

We also support and are happy to help facilitate freedom of speech and the right of the people to peaceably assemble and protest to have their voices heard. This is the way to work together to make changes.

However, the majority of what we have been seeing filling our news feeds and televisions over the past few days and now getting even closer to home have not been protests, but rather riots and flat out criminal behavior that does nothing to honor the memory of American citizen George Floyd or any other person who has suffered an injustice in this nation.

We are seeing disturbing reports in dozens of cities across this land where officers are being assaulted or threatened with death, innocent people being killed and assaulted, businesses, police stations, city halls, police cars, police and military memorials being vandalized, looted, burned and destroyed.

For what purpose? We have already suffered enough and American people are further destroying this land. This is behavior we can never tolerate and is not a way to effect change.

We do not have all the answers but we do know that if we are to survive as the greatest nation on earth we need to find the right way to come together to solve problems and make the right changes for all.

We are proud to lead a team of officers and support personnel who are committed to providing equal protection and protecting and respecting the rights of all persons – the American people.

We are also proud to work in a community where our citizens have chosen to work with us as a team for the betterment of our community. We firmly believe that decades of community policing and partnerships have led to that success and is why we do not see the criminal behavior here that we see in some other places.

We further believe this message we received this week from a local resident says a lot in support of our beliefs:

“Law enforcement everywhere is being confronted by challenging times and troubling circumstances. I wish you and your entire LPD team safety, continued good health and success in maintaining order and keeping the peace here in LC. I think folks here in LC are fortunate to have careful and conscientious peace officers around who think before they act. I hope and pray that your officers continue to be appreciated and are not drawn into any violent or fatal circumstances. No need to respond- just a grateful comment. Thank you.”

If anyone has questions or concerns about our policies, training, or other procedures on how the Lakeport Police Department operates to ensure our interactions with the people are with the utmost professionalism, integrity, dignity, respect and equal protection for all please feel free to contact the chief of police at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 707-263-9650, or for that matter, any of your Lakeport Police team members because we know they have these same commitments.

Chief Brad Rasmussen leads the Lakeport Police Department. Officer Tyler Trouette is president of the Lakeport Police Officers Association.

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