California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Sacramento Watch

Governor's Budget Walks Back Deep Cuts To Disabled Program, But Relief Is Temporary

Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget lays out a four-year plan for counties to absorb more of the cost of the program.

KPCC: LA County To Lose Millions In State Funding For Services To The Elderly, Blind, Disabled
Deep cuts in Governor Jerry Brown’s budget would leave California counties on the hook for millions of dollars for programs that benefit low-income disabled people. The governor's revised budget announced this week would some of that funding – but only temporarily. In Los Angeles County, the Coordinated Care Initiative provides in-home care for 215,000 elderly, blind, or disabled citizens who might otherwise be in a nursing facility. (Faust, 5/15)

Capital Public Radio: Governor Says ‘Big Cuts’ Ahead For California’s Budget 
The latest budget proposal from California Governor Jerry Brown does not account for possible changes to federal health care funding. Brown says that’s because it’s impossible to tell whether a replacement by Republicans in Washington will become law and—if it does—how it will differ from the bill that passed Congress. (Adler, Nichols, Potter and Bradford, 5/11)

Bill To Help New Mothers Living In Poverty Working Its Way Through Legislature

Nurses or social workers would make home visits in an effort to improve the health of both mothers and their babies, prevent child abuse and neglect, support positive parenting, and promote healthy child development and school readiness.

Medi-Cal

After Struggling To Find Medi-Cal Doctors, Santa Clara Residents Turning To Expensive Hospital Care

The county's civil grand jury has released a report citing the problems associated with a lack of doctors who accept Medi-Cal.

The Mercury News: Santa Clara County Grand Jury: Family Health Plan Should Verify Patients Have Primary Care Doctors
Medi-Cal enrollees in the Santa Clara Family Health Plan may have trouble finding a primary care doctor willing to treat them, leading many to use high-cost hospital emergency rooms and government-funded free clinics — or defer care altogether, a new report from the county’s civil grand jury says. Compounding the problem — despite a 2015 California law that mandates that all health plans maintain accurate and regularly updated physician directories — the report says the Family Health Plan’s directories are often confusing and out of date. (Seipel, 5/15)

Hospital Roundup

Without Tax To Fund Seismic Retrofitting, Kern's Only Hospital Could Close

County residents will vote on the tax June 6.

The Bakersfield Californian: Tax Would Help Kern River Valley's Only Hospital Avoid Closure 
The Kern River Valley’s only hospital may be shut down in 2030 if voters don’t pass Measure C, a parcel tax on the June ballot that would fund state-required seismic retrofitting, hospital officials say. The tax, which would cost property owners $98 per parcel per year for 40 years and generate about $32 million, would be used to build an expanded emergency room. The election is June 6. The current ER, a cramped, two-room wing that accommodates as many as a dozen patients at once, violates patient privacy laws and cannot withstand an 8.0-magnitude earthquake, which would put it in violation of state law in 2030, said Tim McGlew, CEO of the Kern Valley Healthcare District, which includes Kern Valley Hospital. (Pierce, 5/14)

In other hospital news —

The San Diego Union-Tribune: Should UCSD And Other Hospitals Pay Millions Of Dollars To Sports Teams? 
UC San Diego Health is paying about $1 million per year for the right to call itself the “official health care provider of the San Diego Padres,” according to a sponsorship contract between the baseball team and the university. The deal, which took effect this year, provides a glimpse into the changing role of medical practice in professional sports. Gone are the days when teams simply hired who they liked best to take care of their players. Today, experts said, pro teams of all types know that health providers are willing to write six-zero checks for exclusive marketing rights that have the potential to turn loyal fans into paying patients. (Sisson, 5/15)

The Mercury News: A Peek Inside The New Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital 
Having outgrown its space to accommodate more patients and the latest medical technologies, the hospital in 2007 launched its expansion plans. And in December, the new $1.1 billion building will finally open its doors. The five-story addition more than doubles the size of the hospital to 844,000 square feet, seamlessly linking the original building with the new one. As construction workers put the finishing touches on the hospital, a tour this week of the new building revealed many key elements are already in place. (Seipel, 5/13)

Health Care Personnel

High School Students Get Behind-The-Scenes Looks At Medical Professions For Career Day

In other news, a program to train much-needed medical assistants, ultrasound, X-ray and MRI technnologists launched in Sacramento.

Oakland Tribune: Kaiser Gives Bay Area Students A Peek Into Medical Jobs
In this case, the operating room is a simulated one at Kaiser’s Sidney R. Garfield Health Care Innovation Center, which serves as a training facility for new equipment and building configurations. For two days last week, nearly 300 students from 14 Bay Area schools toured the San Leandro facility near the Oakland airport and got a behind-the-scenes look at how more than three dozen health care professionals perform their duties each day. Back in the operating room, a group of about 20 students gathered around the mannequin on the surgical table to either observe or take part in a simulated laparotomy, a surgical incision made to get to the abdominal cavity. (Moriki, 5/15)

Sacramento Bee: Gurnick Academy To Offer Medical Classes In Sacramento 
That MRI technician handling your ultrasound image or the medical assistant copying your insurance card is holding a job that’s in hot demand. And in the Sacramento area, there aren’t enough well-trained graduates to fill the vacancies. Aiming to heal a “quality-skills gap,” a new campus for training medical assistants, ultrasound, X-ray and MRI technnologists made its debut this week in Sacramento County. (Buck, 5/14)

Around California

Chicken Pox Outbreak Puts Another Spotlight On Vaccination Debate

More than 90 students who were believed to be unvaccinated were sent home for three weeks by public health officials.

Ventura County Star: Agoura Hills Chickenpox Scare Shows Vaccine Fear
Kindergartner Cozette DesRoches ... can't go [to school] because of four cases of chickenpox at 400-student Mariposa School of Global Education in Agoura Hills in an outbreak that has made headlines and spawned debate over vaccination compliance. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials mandated earlier this month that more than 90 students believed to be unvaccinated against the disease, including Cozette, be sent home for three weeks to keep the illness from growing. The number of students still away from school had fallen to 68 as of Friday. (Kisken, 5/12)

In other news from across the state —

San Jose Mercury News: Comprehensive Sex-Ed Curriculum Coming To Santa Clara County Schools
In classrooms, district offices and school board rooms around the county, the conversation lately has pivoted to one subject: sex. ... At the center of the controversy is Health Connected, a Redwood City nonprofit that several districts in the region have contracted to teach a sex education program called Teen Talk. The program was updated following passage of the California Healthy Youth Act, which went into effect in January 2016 and requires school districts to provide comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education once in middle school and once in high school. (Sarwari and Myllenbeck, 5/12)

National Roundup

Flickers Of Bipartisanship May Light Way For Plan B In Senate If GOP Legislation Fails

There are signs that moderates are reaching across the aisle to talk about health care. Meanwhile, a controversial provision in the Republican legislation was predicted to die in the upper chamber, but now experts aren't so sure. And The Washington Post fact checks claims about rising premiums — under both Obamacare and the Republican bill.

Politico: Senators Hold Back-Channel Talks On Bipartisan Obamacare Fix
Sen. Bill Cassidy held up bright red posters in a mostly empty Senate chamber Thursday for a presentation on how his ideas would pass the "Jimmy Kimmel Test," by helping people with preexisting conditions. After the speech, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia came to the floor and praised the wonkish Republican doctor from Louisiana. “I do applaud my colleague,” Kaine said. "Amen.” (Everett and Schor, 5/14)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Move To Ease Existing-Condition Health Coverage Mandate Could Endure
One of the most controversial provisions of the House Republican health-care bill had been expected to quietly disappear in the Senate. Now, some government budget experts think it might not. The provision would enable states to obtain waivers to opt out of certain Affordable Care Act regulations, which would let insurers offer skimpier but cheaper health plans. The waivers also would allow insurers to charge more to people with existing health conditions who had let their coverage lapse. (Peterson, 5/12)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Health Insurance Premiums Will Keep Going Up, Under Either ACA Or AHCA
Advocates for the House Republicans’ health-care overhaul plan frequently say or suggest that premiums would go down under the proposal. There is, in fact, a line in the Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act that, at first glance, might suggest premiums will decline by 10 percent. But, as we have frequently explained, the reference in the report is compared to current law — the Affordable Care Act. What CBO does is measure the impact of a proposed law against a current law baseline. So average premiums by 2026 are projected to be rougher 10 percent lower than the baseline for the Affordable Care Act — but they still would go up. (Kessler, 5/15)

In related news —

Roll Call: Republicans‘ Latest Health Care Challenge: Selling Their Bill
With the Republican health care plan continuing to earn negative headlines and unfavorable poll numbers, House GOP lawmakers returning to Washington this week have a public relations challenge of epic political proportions. They succeeded — barely — at passing their health care bill. Now they need to sell it. Some members tried to do that over recess. A handful held in-person town halls, with New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur, the architect of the amendment that resurrected the plan, taking questions for nearly five hours. Others hit the media circuit or wrote op-eds in their local newspapers. (Pathé, 5/15)

The Hill: Trump Health Chief: Senate Will Vote On ObamaCare Repeal By August
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is predicting the Senate will vote on a bill to replace ObamaCare before Congress's August recess, though GOP senators have refused to give a timeline...Asked if senators would be able to vote before they leave Washington, Price added, "I believe so." Lawmakers have roughly two and a half months before they are scheduled to leave on July 31. They will return to Washington in early September, where they will need to work out a deal funding the government and avoiding a shutdown.  (Carney, 5/12)

The Associated Press: Changes In Medicaid Distributions Worry School Districts
For school districts still getting their financial footing after the Great Recession, the Medicaid changes being advanced as part of the health care overhaul are sounding familiar alarms. Administrators say programming and services even beyond those that receive funding from the state-federal health care program could be at risk should Congress follow through with plans to change the way Medicaid is distributed. They say any reduction in the estimated $4 billion schools receive in annual Medicaid reimbursements would be hard to absorb after years of reduced state funding and a weakened tax base. (5/15)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Conservatives Look To Cut Medicaid
Conservative Senate Republicans are weighing faster and steeper cuts to Medicaid that could drop millions of people from coverage and mark the biggest changes to the program in its 52-year history. The plan being pushed by lawmakers such as Mike Lee (R., Utah) is likely to face resistance from centrist GOP senators who are already concerned a health-overhaul bill passed by House Republicans would leave too many people uninsured. But the push for more aggressive Medicaid cutbacks indicates that if a bill ultimately passes both chambers, it could significantly scale back the federal-state insurance program that covers 73 million low-income or disabled Americans. (Armour and Peterson, 5/14)