California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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California Healthline Original Stories

Tax Day Is Zero Hour For Health Insurance, Too

People who don’t have insurance coverage or get federal assistance to pay their insurance premiums need to take a little extra care when completing their tax forms. (Julie Rovner, 4/17)

Summaries Of The News:

Pharmaceuticals

'My Alternative Is To Do Nothing And Die': A Look At California's Right-To-Try Law

Champions of the legislation see it as a lifeline, but critics say it offers false hope.

Sacramento Bee: Can California’s ‘Right To Try’ Law Help Save Terminal Patients? 
[Shelly] Hoover, an educator and former administrator, plans to take advantage of California’s “right to try” law – a 2017 policy that allows patients with terminal illnesses to request experimental drugs that haven’t finished the Food and Drug Administration’s required trials. Critics say the California law, along with 33 similar laws nationwide, offers patients false hope and undermines the drug-approval process. Still, new federal legislation seeks to bolster the state policies. (Caiola, 4/15)

Women's Health

Before Roe V. Wade, This Woman Strove To Bring Abortions Out Of Back Alleys And Into Living Rooms

Carol Downer wanted to make abortion safer in a time when it was illegal.

KPCC: The Secret Home Abortion Movement That Started In LA Two Years Before Roe V. Wade
[T]wo years prior to the 1973 Supreme Court decision, a woman from Eagle Rock had made it her mission to take abortion from the back alley to the living room. Her name is Carol Downer and she helped create an underground network of unlicensed women who performed home abortions. She wrote books on female anatomy, went to jail, and ran a women’s health and abortion clinic in Hollywood which burned down in 1985. (Greenspon, 4/14)

Public Health and Education

Private Schools Not Reporting Their Vaccination Rates

Recent reports show high vaccination rates throughout the state due to a strict new law, but private schools are not being held accountable for their data.

KPCC: 200 LA County Private Schools Didn't Report Vaccination Data
California public health officials were cheered by data released last week showing that the percentage of fully immunized kindergartners statewide had risen to nearly 96 percent in the current school year. But the picture is not entirely clear in Los Angeles County, where about three out of 10 private schools failed to report their vaccination data, and in Riverside County, where nearly one in four private schools did not report. (Plevin, 4/17)

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Sonoma County Childhood Vaccination Rates Rise As Stricter California Law Kicks In
Broader parental awareness is part of what’s driving increasing rates of immunization for schoolchildren in California, public health officials say. The other major factor is a new state law, now passing its first full year of implementation, which requires nearly all children be vaccinated before entering kindergarten. The law, Senate Bill 277, established the strictest immunization requirements in the nation for kids in public and private school, eliminating exemptions previously granted for personal and religious beliefs. It was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015 and went into effect last year. (Espinoza, 4/14)

Questions Still Surround 23andMe Genetic Testing Kits Even After FDA Approval

There are many factors -- such as the fact that the kits can't predict whether a consumer will actually get a disease -- to keep in mind when it comes to the company's product.

Los Angeles Times: What The New, FDA-Approved 23andMe Genetic Health Risk Reports Can, And Can't, Tell You
Genetic testing firm 23andMe got approval from the Food and Drug Administration last week to sell reports that show customers whether they have an increased genetic risk of developing certain diseases and conditions. The go-ahead is the first time the federal agency has approved such direct-to-consumer genetic tests and comes about three years after the FDA warned Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe to stop marketing its health reports because they lacked agency authorization. (Masunaga, 4/14)

Responders Teach Citizens Triage: 'You Have To Move Past The Fear ... And Get To Work'

Paramedics typically aim to arrive at a scene within eight minutes, but someone who’s been shot can bleed to death sooner. That's why a group of law enforcement officials wants to teach people who could be bystanders to know what to do.

Los Angeles Times: You Know CPR. Now Firefighters Want You To Treat Shooting And Bombing Victims 
For the last year, Rancho Cucamonga’s fire and law enforcement officials have teamed up to teach civilians how to triage and tie tourniquets on shooting victims, in the same way CPR is taught in case of emergencies. They believe that people armed with these skills can save lives because they’re often the first ones at a crime scene. Many of those injured in the Boston Marathon bombing survived in part because bystanders started creating makeshift dressings and tourniquets before paramedics showed up, experts say. (Karlamangla, 4/15)

In other public health news —

Chico Enterprise-Record: Talking About Poop Could Save Your Life, Prevent Colon Cancer
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer affecting both sexes in the U.S., following the no. 1 killers, prostate and breast cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention... Though there are other screenings besides colonoscopies, such as a fecal immunochemical test that examine if there is hidden blood in the stool, Matthews recommends the former. If there are any polyps discovered, they can be removed right away with a colonoscopy, without the patient having to go through another procedure, and stool blood tests “do not catch enough people” who could have serious colon problems. (Scharaga, 4/17)

Around California

Cases Of Babies Born With Drugs In System Skyrocketing In San Diego

The county had 182 cases in 2014 but 289 in 2015 — a 59 percent jump.

inewsource: Babies On Drugs: Another Sad Chapter In The Opioid Saga
Ever so quietly, a California health agency recently uploaded an alarming chart on its website. The graphic shows an especially steep rise in the number of newborns affected by drugs transmitted from their mothers during pregnancy or through breast milk starting in 2008, when the number statewide was 1,862. By 2014, the number rose to 3,007. But the biggest yearly jump came in 2015, when the number of affected babies hit 3,633, a 21 percent climb. (Clark, 4/17)

In other news from across California —

San Francisco Chronicle: Hawaii Accused Of Downplaying Parasite That Struck SF Couple 
Health officials in tourist-friendly Hawaii are defending themselves from criticism that they have for years downplayed the severity of a rare, brain-invading parasite that has infected dozens on the islands, including a San Francisco couple stricken by the disease on a recent honeymoon. A cluster of rat lungworm cases in Maui caught widespread attention last week when Eliza Lape of San Francisco and her husband, UC Berkeley journalism professor Ben Manilla, revealed they had become severely ill in January after they eloped on the island. (Lyons, 4/14)

East Bay Times: Konrad & Carew: How An NFL Player’s Donated Heart Saved Life Of A Baseball Hall Of Famer 
Konrad Reuland spent the last day of his life in a coma as his mother, resigned to her son’s fate, curled up close, rested her head on his broad chest and listened to his heartbeat for as long as she could. Reuland’s heart, strengthened by his days as a football player at Stanford and in the NFL, sounded as mighty as ever. And Mary lay there from sunrise to sundown savoring the pulsing rhythm. ... Reuland died of a brain aneurysm Dec. 12 and his organs were donated, ... By the time of the funeral, friends who had read about Rod Carew’s recent heart transplant in Los Angeles were putting two and two together. (Brown, 4/14)

KQED: Casualties In Big Sur Blaze Point To Hazards Of ‘Wildfire Gig Economy’ 
The agencies that battle California wildfires every year rely on an army of private contractors for key firefighting roles. But two incidents during last year’s Soberanes Fire in Big Sur — one that killed a bulldozer operator and another that seriously injured a water tender driver — reveal that many of those involved in what amounts to a wildfire gig economy regularly face potentially deadly conditions with little or no guarantee of basic protections. (Goldberg, 4/17)

National Roundup

GOP Plan Targets 'Frivolous' Malpractice Suits As Way To Reduce Health Spending

Democrats, however, say limiting patients' ability to litigate removes rights from those harmed by horrific medical mistakes.

In other news —

The Associated Press: How Trump Insurance Changes Could Affect Coverage Next Year
A much tighter sign-up deadline and coverage delays will be waiting for some health insurance customers now that President Donald Trump's administration has finished a plan designed to stabilize shaky insurance markets. Shoppers will have a shorter time period to choose a 2018 plan and a harder time enrolling outside that window if they lose a job or have some other special circumstance that affects their coverage. (Murphy, 4/14)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Do Members Of Congress Pay For 100 Percent Of Their Health Insurance?
The Fact Checker has been receiving lots of fact-check suggestions from readers who attended district town halls, in response to our new initiative to fact-check what members of Congress tell constituents during the April recess. Not surprisingly, some of the most heated exchanges at many of the town halls involved health care and the failed GOP replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. (Lee, 4/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Renewed Focus On Health Bill Vexes GOP Tax Overhaul Strategy
President Donald Trump’s revived enthusiasm for tackling health-care legislation before tax policy has highlighted the complicated interplay between Republicans’ health-care overhaul and their planned tax bill. Mr. Trump signaled last week that one of the reasons he has reprioritized health care is that he was relying on savings from the health bill to bolster the tax plan. (Rubin, 4/16)

Many Desperate To Find Alternative To Opioids, But Pain Is A Pain To Research

As the opioid crisis rages on, there's a rush to figure out ways to treat pain that doesn't involve traditional painkillers. But it turns out that's pretty hard.

The Associated Press: Overcoming Opioids: The Quest For Less Addictive Drugs
Tummy tucks really hurt. Doctors carve from hip to hip, slicing off skin, tightening muscles, tugging at innards. Patients often need strong painkillers for days or even weeks, but Mary Hernandez went home on just over-the-counter ibuprofen. The reason may be the yellowish goo smeared on her 18-inch wound as she lay on the operating table. The Houston woman was helping test a novel medicine aimed at avoiding opioids, potent pain relievers fueling an epidemic of overuse and addiction. (Marchione, 4/17)

In other national health care news —

Stat: Former CDC Head: Outbreaks ‘Tremendous Threats To Business’
The world has faced a string of infectious disease threats in the past dozen or so years, with SARS, bird flu, swine flu, MERS, and Ebola wreaking havoc. Yet despite the abundance of evidence that microbes pose major threats, both to human health and economies, global preparedness is not where it needs to be, Dr. Julie Gerberding warned this week. Gerberding was a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a post she held during the 2003 SARS outbreak. She is now Merck’s executive vice-president for strategic communications, global health policy and population health. (Branswell, 4/14)

The Washington Post: Giving Young Blood To Older Animals Raises Tantalizing Possibilities For People
Dracula may have been onto something. It wasn’t just blood, but the blood of youth that was the secret to staying alive for centuries. The rejuvenating effect of young blood has been demonstrated in strange, draculoid experiments first done 150 years ago. Two genetically compatible animals, one young and one old, are sewn together. With their circulatory systems connected, the old animal gains access not only to the younger animal’s blood but also to the detoxifying and metabolizing function of its organs. The state is known as heterochronic parabiosis. (Brown, 4/14)