California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Covered California & The Health Law

ACA Markets Are 'Very Unstable' But Not In A Death Spiral, Kaiser Permanente CEO Says

Bernard Tyson pledged to remain in the health law’s insurance markets in contrast to moves by Aetna and other national insurers that have retreated.

The Wall Street Journal: Kaiser Permanente Chief Pledges To Remain In Affordable Care Act Markets
Kaiser Permanente Chief Executive Bernard Tyson said Thursday that the Affordable Care Act insurance markets are “still very unstable,” but repeated earlier statements that the managed-care system will stick with the markets next year. In remarks at a Wall Street Journal Future of Healthcare event in New York, Mr. Tyson rejected the characterization by Aetna Inc. Chief Executive Mark Bertolini earlier this year that the markets were in a death spiral. “I would not use that term,” Mr. Tyson said, “because we have 20-plus million people getting access to care though the front door. That’s progress.” (Evans, 5/11)

In other news —

The Hill: Trump Threatens To Stop ObamaCare Payments
President Trump on Thursday threatened to withhold key payments to insurance companies made under ObamaCare, a move that could throw the market into chaos. In an interview with The Economist, Trump said he would cut off the cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) — payments that reimburse insurers for providing discounted out-of-pocket costs to help those with low incomes afford insurance. "[T]here is no Obamacare, it’s dead. Plus we’re subsidizing it and we don’t have to subsidize it. You know if I ever stop wanting to pay the subsidies, which I will," Trump said. "Anytime I want." (Weixel, 5/11)

In Presenting Budget, Governor Calls Out Congressional Delegation For Health Law Votes

“They weren’t sent to Congress just to take orders from that crowd, or from Donald Trump,” Gov. Jerry Brown said. “I think they made a mistake, and they’re going to have to do penance for it.”

Los Angeles Times: Gov. Jerry Brown Urges Republican 'Penance' For Healthcare Vote, Warns Of The Impact On California's Budget
Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday presented a slightly sunnier view of California’s economy than he offered just four months ago, but nonetheless delivered one of his vintage sermons on the evils of overspending when outlining a new state spending plan. And this time, the man who once trained to be a Jesuit priest singled out the state’s Republican members of the House for their unanimous vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act — a move that alone would result in California losing $18.6 billion in federal funds a decade from now. (Myers, 5/11)

Meanwhile —

KQED: ‘I’m Andrew Janz And I’m Here To Repeal And Replace Devin Nunes’
Protesters gathered in front of Congressman Devin Nunes’ office in Clovis on Thursday, upset about his vote to support the GOP health care plan and critical of his handling of the investigation into Russian election interference. And, to hear from the first challenger to Nunes in the 2018 midterm election, a 33-year-old Fresno County deputy district attorney making his first run for office. (Rancano, 5/11)

The Desert Sun: Californians See Hope In Single-Payer Health Care Plans As Obamacare Faces Threat
In Sacramento, a proposed bill would create a single-payer health plan to cover all California residents for so-called essential health benefits (a list of services including mental health, maternity care, prescription drugs covered by the Affordable Care Act), plus vision and dental care. A Senate committee approved the bill April 26. “Our constituents shouldn’t have to experience the anxiety of not knowing whether they’ll be covered based on who’s occupying the White House or what party is in the majority in Capitol Hill," state Sen. Toni Atkins of San Diego, one of two Democratic sponsors of the bill, said at the hearing. (Newkirk, 5/11)

Spending and Fiscal Battles

Despite Doctor Shortage, Money For Medical Residencies Not Restored In State Budget

"It was just a question of the affordability," said state Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer, noting that the budget doesn't anticipate enough revenue to fully fund everyone's priorities.

KPCC: Brown Does Not Restore Money For Medical Residencies
Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget plan released Thursday does not restore $33 million for medical residencies in areas facing significant doctor shortages, disappointing state lawmakers and doctors' groups. Last year’s budget added $100 million over three years to the Song-Brown Workforce Training Program, which helps pay for doctor training in underserved areas such as East Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. (Faust, 5/11)

Hospital Roundup

LA-Area Hospitals Partner Up To Reduce Costs, Share Resources

The deal between Cedars-Sinai and Torrance Memorial is not expected to lead to any layoffs or job reductions.

Los Angeles Times: Cedars-Sinai And Torrance Memorial Hospitals Plan To Join Forces
Cedars-Sinai and Torrance Memorial hospitals plan to team up to share resources, collaborate on patient care and provide wider access to clinical trials. Under the proposed partnership, announced this week, the two Los Angeles-area healthcare institutions would keep their separate boards of directors and operate independently under their respective chief executives, each keeping their own employees and making their own staffing decisions. They would, however, affiliate under a new parent organization with a new board of directors. (Easter, 5/11)

Public Health and Education

Report Paints Grim Picture Of Meth-Related Fatalities In San Diego

"The good news is that San Diego is no longer considered the meth capital of the world. But the bad news is the meth is flowing across our borders like never before," said San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

In other news from across the state —

Sacramento Bee: Plumas County Policy Demanded Inmate To Return Dentures Upon Release From Jail 
A failure to provide adequate dental care was one of a number of alleged constitutional shortcomings that inmates’ rights attorneys identified in a 1989 federal class action lawsuit filed in Sacramento that targeted the Plumas County Jail. In addition to dental care, the plaintiffs also charged that the county fell short of meeting Eighth Amendment standards that protect against cruel and unusual punishment on the matters of jail overcrowding and understaffing, inmate access to legal materials, and a lack of medical and mental health care for inmates. (Furillo, 5/12)

Debunking A 19th Century Myth: Humans Actually Have A Great Sense Of Smell

Researchers find that humans' sense of smell is no less than any other mammal.

Los Angeles Times: The Human Nose Has Been Underrated For 150 Years, But Science Is Setting The Record Straight
We’ve been led to believe that our sense of smell is sadly deficient compared with our mammalian cousins such as rodents and dogs. What does the world smell like to a bloodhound, we might wonder. What scents — glorious or gross — can a twitchy little mouse nose detect that are passing right by us. You can stop wondering because it turns out that our sense of smell is not so bad after all. (Netburn, 5/11)

National Roundup

Senate Task Force Considers Ways To Unravel Obamacare Coverage Rules

Key to this discussion is how to handle regulations that require plans to cover a set of essential health benefits as well as preexisting condition protections. Outlets also cover other news about the American Health Care Act.

The Hill: Senate GOP Examining Ways To Repeal ObamaCare Insurance Rules 
Senate Republicans are looking into repealing ObamaCare regulations on what services an insurance plan must cover, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Thursday. Leaving a meeting of the Senate's healthcare working group, Cornyn was asked if senators are looking at their ability to repeal ObamaCare's essential health benefits. "I'd say yes, we're looking at it," Cornyn replied. (Sullivan, 5/11)

The Associated Press: Senate Conservatives: Ease Obama Health Care Law Protections
Conservative senators are pushing to diminish insurance coverage requirements imposed by President Barack Obama's health care law as Senate Republicans try fashioning legislation overhauling the nation's health care system. Their ideas include erasing Obama consumer protections, such as barring higher premiums for people with pre-existing medical conditions, but allowing states to opt into them. (5/11)

Politico: Tax Credits May Provide Rallying Point For Senate Obamacare Repeal
Senate Republicans are working on a potential breakthrough that could help push through an Obamacare repeal bill – by making insurance subsidies look a lot like Obamacare. There’s growing support for the idea of pegging the tax credits in the House repeal bill to income and making aid more generous for poorer people. But those moves — while they may win consensus among Senate moderates — are unlikely to sit well with House conservatives. (Haberkorn, 5/11)

NPR: House Republicans Defend Health Bill Against Accusations It Hurts Rape Victims
At a town hall meeting in Willingboro, N.J., on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur was confronted by angry constituents who demanded to know how the Republican health care bill that he helped write would affect rape victims. A young man named Joseph said he understood that the bill would allow insurance companies to deem rape a pre-existing condition and deny coverage to people who have been raped. (Kodjak, 5/11)

Politico: Poll: Just 21 Percent Approve Of House’s Obamacare Repeal Bill
Less than a quarter of American voters surveyed in a new poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University approve of the legislation passed last week by the House of Representatives to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Fifty-six percent of those polled said they disapprove of the legislation, dubbed the American Health Care Act, while just 21 percent said they support it. The support for the legislation represents an improvement over the 17 percent who said they supported the iteration of the bill that failed to pass the House in March. (Nelson, 5/11)

In other national health care news —

Politico: Addiction Specialists Blast Price Comment On Opioids
Addiction specialists and public health officials on Thursday chided Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for belittling the use of medications considered the standard of care for the treatment of opioid addiction. The remarks irked specialists already worried by the Trump administration's law-and-order stance on drug control and its tentative plans, leaked to POLITICO last week, to gut the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. And ousted Surgeon General Vivek Murthy — fired by President Donald Trump last month — chimed in about the scientific evidence on Twitter. (Allen, 5/11)

Reuters: U.S. Hepatitis C Cases Soar On Spike In Heroin Use
U.S. health officials said new cases of hepatitis C rose nearly 300 percent from 2010 to 2015, despite the availability of cures for the liver disease, fueled by a spike in the use of heroin and other injection drugs, according to a report released on Thursday. (Berkrot, 5/11)

Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Some Ideas In GOP's Health Plan Are Not Far Removed From Democrats'

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

Los Angeles Times: Where House Republicans And Democrats Might Actually Agree On Preexisting Conditions
House Republicans kicked up a healthcare furor by proposing to let states remove the ironclad protections in Obamacare for millions of Americans with preexisting conditions. But their approach to the issue is, on one level, not far removed from what progressives have long advocated. Stick with me here, it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. No, the Republicans’ repeal-and-replace bill, the American Health Care Act, does not call for a single-payer system, universal coverage or anything so warm and fuzzy. What it does propose, however, is to dun federal taxpayers to make sure the sickest and riskiest Americans can obtain coverage. (Jon Healey, 5/10)

Los Angeles Times: Two GOP Governors Already Are Thinking Of Killing Protections For Preexisting Conditions In Their States
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus tried to reassure America over the weekend that the most horrific provisions of the Republican Obamacare repeal bill were so horrific that no politicians in their right mind would even contemplate implementing them. The issue is protection for people with preexisting medical conditions. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers aren’t allowed to charge those customers more for coverage just because of their health profile. The repeal bill passed by House Republicans last week allows states to obtain waivers to cut that safeguard way back, potentially allowing insurers to charge sky-high surcharges to make coverage unaffordable for those patients. (Michael Hiltzik, 5/8)

The San Diego Union-Tribune: A Health Care Idea: Start From Scratch, Look To Other Nations 
The state has hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities and in unfunded infrastructure needs and among the nation’s highest taxes. Even so, a state Senate committee has already given its blessing to a bill creating a state single-player health care system that could double the size of the state budget — or worse. But the measure co-authored by state Sens. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, does have an upside: It may prompt people to consider the idea that when it comes to health care, Americans need dramatic change. (5/5)

Los Angeles Times: Senate Republicans Couldn't Bother To Find A Single Woman To Help Overhaul Health Care
I know there aren’t that many women in the U.S. Senate. Just 21 of the 100 U.S. senators are female, and probably some of them had other plans. But still, couldn’t Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) find one woman to join the 13 men on his Obamacare overhaul posse? Just one? True, most of the women in the Senate are Democrats and would probably be annoying about pap smears, mammograms and Planned Parenthood. They might also point out that the [Republicans'] plan to replace the Affordable Care Act will invariably affect women. Women have a higher rate of poverty than men. (Mariel Garza, 5/9)

San Francisco Chronicle: GOP Health Plan’s Assault On Choice 
Of all the insidious elements of the House Republican health care plan — and the list is long indeed — one takes particular aim at California and New York. It would deny federal tax credits to help modest-income individuals buy health insurance in any state that requires insurers to cover elective abortions. Exactly two states fit into that category: California and New York. (5/5)

Los Angeles Times: Another Little-Mentioned Benefit Of Obamacare: It Has Reduced Medical Bankruptcies
Here’s another benefit of the Affordable Care Act you may not have read much about, but is profoundly threatened by the Republican repeal effort: It has reduced the tide of healthcare-related personal bankruptcies. That’s the finding of a recent survey published by Consumer Reports, based on a poll of 2,000 consumers conducted this year and statistics showing that personal bankruptcy filings have fallen from more than 1.5 million in 2010 to 770,846 last year. (Michael Hiltzik, 5/9)

Orange County Register: Governor’s Revised Budget Provides Relief From Potential County Service Cuts 
A program to provide in-home care for elderly and disabled Californians is at the center of a budget issue that nearly threatened to reduce health and law enforcement services across the state, including here in Orange County. The In-Home Supportive Services Program, or IHSS, allows elderly and disabled low-income residents to stay in their homes by providing pay for their in-home caregivers. (Jennifer Muir Beuthin, 5/12)

Orange County Register: State Must Not Siphon Off Developmental Services Funding 
An idea floating around the Capitol deserves the full support of legislators and the governor: that savings from the upcoming closures of California’s three remaining developmental centers should be used to sustain developmental services, and not be swept into the state’s general fund. ... Developmental funding should continue to rise within each year’s state budget, as does state support for other priorities. And a good way to give that funding the shot in the arm that it needs is simply not to siphon off the operational savings that will result from closing the centers. (5/10)

Orange County Register: Start State Secondary Schools Later In The Morning For Better Student Health 
A new bill requiring later secondary school start times in California by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, might seem at first blush to be a case of Sacramento overreach. But Portantino — who during his time in the Assembly made creative bills on health care a hallmark of his terms, including one establishing an umbilical blood cord collection program key to future medical advances — comes at this from a strictly biological position. (5/9)

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Yes On E: Keeping Sonoma’s Hospital Healthy 
Hospitals in 80 rural communities across the country have shut their doors since 2010, and almost 700 others are reported to be teetering on the edge. The most common issue, of course, is finances. In its most recent brush with insolvency, Sonoma West Medical Center in Sebastopol apparently came within a day or two of ceasing operations. The longtime operator of Petaluma Valley Hospital announced plans to leave last summer, and the Petaluma health care district is still trying to work out a deal with a new management company. (5/6)

Sacramento Bee: How California Should Spend Its Cigarette Tax
Between Congress and Sacramento, it is now clear that the capacity to play politics with health insurance is boundless. Not so the resilience of those who most need coverage. A week-and-a-half ago – as Washington plotted another cruel shot at the Affordable Care Act and state lawmakers fought over a cigarette tax windfall – a clinic that for 30 years had been a refuge for Sacramento-area women quietly closed, thanks to a scenario that is all too familiar to Medi-Cal providers. (5/5)