California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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California Healthline Original Stories

Dentistry Advocates Aim To Fill Medicare Gaps

Brushing aside a political climate that favors federal cuts in health care spending, advocates for oral health are pushing to expand Medicare to provide America’s elderly with dental benefits. (Phil Galewitz, 3/17)

Summaries Of The News:

Spending and Fiscal Battles

Biomedical Research Field 'Dumbfounded' By Trump's Drastic Health Spending Cuts

The president's proposed budget is likely to be rewritten in Congress, though.

Los Angeles Times: 20% Cut To NIH Budget Would Leave Americans More Vulnerable To Cancer And Other Diseases, Experts Warn
A future in which cancers are cured, heart disease prevented and devastating brain disorders reversed may just have gotten a bit more distant, leaders of the nation’s leading biomedical research organizations said Thursday. In a budget blueprint that promises to “make America great again,” the Trump administration has proposed to cut $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health’s budget for fiscal year 2018, reducing its total spending to $25.9 billion. That would represent a roughly 20% decrease from its 2017 spending on biomedical research, which totaled $31.7 billion. (Healy, 3/16)

The San Diego Union-Tribune: San Diego Researchers Condemn Trump's Proposed $5.8B NIH Funding Cut 
San Diego’s huge bioscience industry expressed alarm Thursday about President Donald Trump’s proposed $5.8 billion or 18 percent cut in the National Institutes of Health funding...Researchers have depended on that growing budget, especially in San Diego County. Last year the NIH provided about $850 million to more than 90 institutes in San Diego County. The biggest recipient was UC San Diego, which received $409 million to study and treat everything from cancer and heart disease to lupus and schizophrenia. The Scripps Research Institute received $213.7 million. (Fikes and Robbins, 3/16)

The New York Times: Scientists Bristle At Trump Budget’s Cuts To Research
Before he became president, Donald J. Trump called climate change a hoax, questioned the safety of vaccines and mocked renewable energy as a plaything of “tree-huggers.” So perhaps it is no surprise that Mr. Trump’s first budget took direct aim at basic scientific and medical research. Still, the extent of the cuts in the proposed budget unveiled early Thursday shocked scientists, researchers and program administrators. (Fountain and Schwartz, 3/16)

The Associated Press: Trump Budget Would Force Tough Choices In Disease Research
What goes on the chopping block: Research into cancer or Alzheimer’s? A Zika vaccine or a treatment for superbugs? Health groups say President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash funds for the nation’s engine of biomedical research would be devastating for patients with all kinds of diseases — and for jobs. (Neergaard, 3/16)

Sacramento Watch

Showdown Brewing In Sacramento Over What To Do With Tobacco Tax Money

The governor wants it to go toward boosting Medi-Cal spending, but medical lobbies want higher reimbursement rates.

Los Angeles Times: Dispute Over Tobacco Tax Money Sparks A Budget Brawl Between The Governor And Medical Groups
California voters decisively settled the battle over the tobacco tax at the ballot box last November, overwhelmingly approving a tax hike on cigarettes in order to increase spending on healthcare. But despite that victory, the initiative, Proposition 56, has set off another skirmish — this time in the state budget — over how Gov. Jerry Brown wants to spend an estimated $1.2 billion generated by the tax. (Mason, 3/16)

In other news —

Los Angeles Times: Having Unprotected Sex Without Telling A Partner About HIV-Positive Status Would No Longer Be A Felony Under New Bill
In a test of shifting attitudes about HIV, a group of state lawmakers has proposed that it no longer be a felony for someone to knowingly expose others to the disease by engaging in unprotected sex and not telling the partner about the infection. The measure by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and others would make such acts a misdemeanor, a proposal that has sparked opposition from Republican lawmakers. (McGreevy, 3/17)


California Makes Huge Gains On Health System Scorecard

The Commonwealth Fund credits the Affordable Care Act for the state's higher ranking.

Public Health and Education

After Leak, Some Say It's Not Even Critical To Reopen Aliso Canyon

"We’ve been able to meet demand with no problem by using the mitigation measures that the regulator has put into place. There are a number of them, and they were working beautifully," says Consumer Watchdog’s Liza Tucker. Residents were sickened after a gas leak and had to be evacuated from their homes.

KQED News: As Regulators Weigh Reopening Aliso Canyon, Critics Ask: Is It Necessary? 
As state regulators weigh the immediate question about whether the Aliso Canyon gas field is safe to reopen, a longer-term debate is also emerging: Is the storage field even necessary to power the grid and keep the lights on? Engineers plugged the largest gas leak and methane release in U.S. history about a year ago, after evacuations forced thousands of people from their homes in nearby Porter Ranch in north Los Angeles County. Citing health concerns, some of those residents say the field remains too risky to reopen. (Peterson, 3/16)

Around California

Kern Has Some Of Worst Health Stats In The State -- And Officials Are Trying To Change That

“The reality is, we have levels of obesity and chronic disease that are not only epidemic, but are still on the rise. Compared to much of the state, Kern County bears a heavy and disproportionate burden of poor health,” Public Health Officer Claudia Jonah said.

The Bakersfield Californian: Health Director: Reversing Alarming County Health Risks Requires Community Involvement 
Kern County doesn’t have the best health.In fact, in some cases, it has the worst. When it comes to some ailments — like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and chronic lower respiratory disease — Kern residents suffer more than those living in almost any other county in the state, according to 2016 data released this week. Kern County Public Health Services Department officials pointed to those figures during a summit Thursday that called on communities to make necessary changes to reverse trends. (Pierce, 3/16)

In other news from across the state —

San Francisco Chronicle: The Best Bay Area Dispensaries For Seniors 
Finding and acquiring medical cannabis in the Bay Area can be a daunting task for atypical users like seniors. They’re not familiar with dispensary locator sites, and they often have limited mobility and are easily intimidated by the kinds of rougher neighborhoods that city officials have been shunting dispensaries into. Below the Chronicle reviews the best dispensaries for seniors in the Bay Area — places where the parking is easy, the atmosphere is inviting, and the service and products are top-notch. (Downs, 3/16)

The Mercury News: San Carlos: Alleged Fake Dentist Tied To Drugs, Weapons
A felon has been arrested after purportedly working as an unlicensed dentist and cooking meth at his “crude” San Carlos office, authorities say. Joseph Hirsch, 59, is being held in San Mateo County jail on $500,000 bail on suspicion of offenses that include possessing and manufacturing controlled substances, possessing brass knuckles, and possessing ammunition as a felon. (Salonga, 3/16)

National Roundup

'It’s Not Herding Cats. It’s Herding Ravenous Tigers': Trump, Ryan Work To Corral Reluctant Members

As resistance mounts on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) try to ensure passage of the American Health Care Act. However, the tension may be putting a strain on an already fragile relationship between the two.

The New York Times: Trump And G.O.P. Work To Win Repeal Of Obama’s Health Act
President Trump and House Republican leaders worked Thursday to win conservative support for legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, offering concessions to speed cutbacks in Medicaid and dismantle more of President Barack Obama’s signature health law. But in a bid to ensure passage of the Republican health care bill in the House, White House and Republican leaders risked losing support in more moderate quarters of their party — not only in the narrowly divided Senate, but in an increasingly nervous House. (Pear and Martin, 3/16)

The New York Times: Trump And Ryan: Health Bill May Test Marriage Of Convenience
President Trump, once the master pitchman for namesake vodka, steaks and now-moldering casinos, seems disinclined to attach his surname to the health care bill some allies have derided as “Ryancare.” He assured Americans on Thursday of the “improvements being made” to legislation that Speaker Paul D. Ryan initially suggested would scarcely change, amid grumblings that the White House is fuming over the plan’s star-crossed rollout. (Flegenheimer and Haberman, 3/17)

Los Angeles Times: Paul Ryan's Make-Or-Break Moment On Obamacare Will Test His Power, Legacy And Relationship With Trump
It’s a make-or-break moment in House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s crusade to pass the GOP’s Obamacare replacement amid growing opposition from critics in his own party who see a chance to topple not only the bill but perhaps his young speakership as well. No other Republican has staked his political capital on passage of the House GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act as much as Ryan. (Mascaro, 3/17)

The Wall Street Journal: House Republican Health Plan Advances In Congress
House Republican leaders on Thursday moved one step closer to passing legislation replacing much of the Affordable Care Act, as the House Budget Committee approved the bill despite opposition from the panel’s most conservative members. The 19-17 committee vote moved the bill closer to debate in the full House, which could begin as early as next week. But the “no’’ votes from three conservative Republicans signaled that the bill still faces challenges in the chamber. (Hackman, Peterson and Armour, 3/16)

KBAK: McCarthy Makes Pitch For American Health Care Act 
Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy on Thursday pitched the American Health Care Act as a way to lower insurance premiums, help small business and put Medicaid on a path to sustainability.The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office this week issued a report about the Obamacare replacement. In its summary, the CBO forecasts that the Republican plan will help lower the federal budget deficit and lower the average cost of health insurance, but would also result in millions more Americans going without health insurance. (Harvey, 3/16)

Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Tucked In Behind Eye-Popping 24M Number Are Ways GOP Plan Would Hurt Health System

A selection of opinions on health care developments from around the state.

Los Angeles Times: Seven New Ways The GOP's Obamacare Repeal Bill Would Wreck Your Healthcare
The headline findings in the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Obamacare repeal bill produced by House Republicans are brutal enough: 24 million Americans losing their health coverage, healthcare costs soaring for many millions more, and the evisceration of Medicaid, all while handing the richest Americans a handsome tax cut. But in its fine print, the CBO report identified at least seven other ways the GOP proposal would damage the U.S. healthcare system. Some would have effects reaching far beyond the middle- and low-income buyers of insurance on the individual market who are the Affordable Care Act’s chief beneficiaries. (Michael Hiltzik, 3/14)

Los Angeles Times: Every Single False Republican Criticism Of Obamacare Applies Perfectly To Trumpcare
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Monday released its analysis of the House GOP’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The result is about as damning as it gets. ... I served on President Obama's healthcare reform team and worked on the Hill to get the legislation passed. It was apparent to me then that many of the Republicans’ criticisms of the ACA were wrong, and yet they now apply to the House GOP bill that Speaker Paul Ryan introduced last week. (Neera Tanden, 3/15)

Sacramento Bee: Republicans’ Health Plan Will Begin A New Era Of American Carnage
Say what you will about the Affordable Care Act – it is by no means perfect and does not cover everyone – but it has drastically increased the number of Americans with health insurance. Which means that I can at least get my patients on treatment for their diseases, and their families won’t be bankrupted by a trip to the emergency room. (Anthony Bhe, 3/10)

San Francisco Chronicle: Don’t Repeal And Displace Affordable Care Act
Congressional Republicans need to put an immediate halt to their rush to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has given the Trump administration and House Republicans all the warning they need that they are inviting disaster if they charge ahead with a health care overhaul that would cause 24 million Americans to lose insurance in a decade — and raise premiums for those who are covered in individual markets. (3/13)

Los Angeles Times: Trumpcare: Is This What Populism Looks Like?
The battle in Congress over how to replace former President Obama’s healthcare law is about much more than health insurance. It’s the first legislative skirmish in a larger struggle over what Trumpism, Donald Trump’s presidential agenda, will turn out to be in practice. (Doyle McManus, 3/12)

San Jose Mercury News: How Health Care Is Done In America
When it comes to saving money on health care, it is so true that you can save a bundle by eliminating the sick. They’re tiresome, always complaining, they smell bad, and they’re ruining it for the rest of us. Put the seriously ill out of their misery, get them to die 10 days earlier than they normally would, you can run the system at a profit. Simple as that. (Garrison Keillor, 3/16)

Sacramento Bee: Trumpcare: What If Health Care Were Really Market-Based?
Markets don’t work unless consumers can compare prices. A health care plan built around free-market principles would force hospitals and doctors to disclose – publicly and clearly – their going rates for that heart bypass, knee replacement, IV drip or Caesarian section. That’s how you know House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Speaker Paul Ryan and other pushers of Trumpcare have zero interest in promoting free markets. (3/15)

Los Angeles Times: How The GOP Healthcare Plan Would Worsen The Opioid Crisis
A drug epidemic is ravaging the United States, and it’s getting worse, not better. More than 52,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015, more than died from automobile accidents or firearms. That’s far more than died from overdoses in any year during the crack epidemic of the 1980s. (Doyle McManus, 3/15)

Sacramento Bee: Republican ‘Health’ Bill Cruelly Takes Aim At Mentally Ill
A mere four months ago, in December, Republicans were patting themselves on the back for approving what they called major mental health care legislation, the 21st Century Cures Act, a measure to increase funding for mental health care and ensure more treatment for severely mentally ill people. ... But with the bait set comes the switch. The American Health Care Act, the slick handiwork of House Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other congressional Republicans, would eliminate much of the Medicaid coverage guaranteed under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act for mental health care and addiction services. (3/11)

Los Angeles Times: Trump Sells A Bill Of Goods To Obamacare 'Victims'
Not long after the Congressional Budget Office reported Monday that the House GOP leadership’s proposal to “repeal and replace” Obamacare would nearly double the number of uninsured Americans, President Trump held a meeting in the White House with about a dozen people he described as “victims” of President Obama’s 2010 healthcare law. ... what Trump apparently didn’t tell his visitors was that the House GOP bill that he’s pushing wouldn’t solve their problems. It might even make them worse. (3/14)

Orange County Register: Preventive Care Must Remain A Priority 
While many in my profession have debated the merits of the ACA and its changes to how we as physicians and surgeons practice medicine, most doctors do believe the law improved health care for women, particularly in providing incentives for preventive screenings. The law made it affordable for Orange County women (and men) to get preventive tests, such as mammography or colonoscopies. (Michele Carpenter, 3/11)

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: GOP Health Plan Fails Its Basic Test: Do No Harm
There isn’t an official calculation — because the sponsors didn’t submit their bill to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for review — but health policy experts across the political spectrum concur that millions of people would lose their insurance if the House bill is enacted. No state would be as hard hit as California, where the uninsured rate has fallen to a record low of 7.1 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (3/10)

Los Angeles Times: CBO Shows How Trumpcare Would Save Billions: By Leaving Millions Uninsured
The analysis of the new House GOP bill was written by the Congressional Budget Office with help from the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation. And though a top Trump administration official blasted the report as “just not believable,” some of its findings should actually help House leaders sell the bill to skeptical conservatives. In particular, Republicans will welcome estimates that the measure would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over 10 years and, after initially driving up insurance premiums faster than current law, would lead to slower increases in later years. (Jon Healey, 3/13)

Los Angeles Times: A Horrific CBO Report Paints The GOP's Obamacare Repeal As A Monstrosity Placing 24 Million At Risk
For anyone believing in the principle that the goal of government healthcare reform should be decreasing the ranks of the uninsured, this report looks devastating. The American Health Care Act, which is the GOP’s moniker for its repeal plan, would reduce insurance coverage sharply and drive up costs. Although the CBO says premiums would moderate after a few years, it explains that would happen only because insurance benefits would shrink and deductibles and co-pays would rise. (Michael Hiltzik, 3/13)

Los Angeles Times: Farewell To Drug Regulation? Trump Nominates A 'Bona-Fide Pharma Shill' To Head The FDA
Lots of people in the healthcare field heaved a sigh of relief last week when President Trump nominated Scott Gottlieb, a physician, venture investor and former official of the Food and Drug Administration, to be the FDA’s next commissioner. Some healthcare experts were relieved that, whatever Gottlieb’s particular qualities, at least he wasn’t someone from the camp of “we-have-to-destroy-the-agency-to-save-it” species of Trump appointee like, say, Environmental Protection Agency boss Scott Pruitt. (Michael Hiltzik, 3/16)

San Francisco Chronicle: Single-Payer Health Care Returns To Sacramento
Does it qualify as news when legislators file a bill that aims to do a lot but tells us very little about how? Yes, when the issue is single-payer health care and the state is California. There’s been no such proposal entertained in Sacramento for the past four years, and under normal circumstances, there probably wouldn’t have been this year either. But then came Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. (Tom Gallagher, 3/14)

Orange County Register: FDA Regulations On E-Cigarettes Harmful To Jobs, Public Health 
California passed a law last year treating e-cigarettes as tobacco products. But it’s important to note that despite the state’s and FDA’s claims, e-cigarettes and e-liquids are not tobacco products. They do not contain the tobacco, tar or smoke of traditional cigarettes. And yet, essentially every product in the vape industry is now being required to navigate the FDA’s burdensome and costly tobacco product approval process, which the agencies own estimates say could cost companies anywhere from $12,000 to $400,000 for each product application. (Brian Fojtik, 3/11)

The Cannifornian: Sessions Rips Medical Marijuana As Opioid-Addiction Fix: 'How Stupid Is That?' 
Attorney General Jeff Sessions once again took aim at marijuana in remarks Wednesday, forcefully attacking the idea of recreational use and even deriding the growing consensus around the possible use of marijuana to counter America’s rapidly-growing opioid crisis. Speaking before law enforcement officials in Richmond, Va., Sessions said that “we need to focus on … preventing people from ever taking drugs in the first place,” according to prepared remarks provided by the Department of Justice. (Daniel M. Jimenez, 3/15)