California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Sacramento Watch

Measure To Ensure Access To Abortion Pills On College Campuses Moves Forward

If the legislation passes, California would be the first in the nation to require public universities to provide students with the option to take the pills.

The Mercury News: California Campuses Would Provide Abortion Pills Under Proposal 
There’s a new battleground for the debate over abortion: California’s public universities. The Golden State could become the first in the country to require its public universities to offer abortion pills on campus under a legislative proposal that passed through the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday. ... Reflecting the political chasm between California and Washington, the proposal marks a stark contrast to the ongoing debate in Congress over women’s health — whether to cut federal funding from Planned Parenthood’s massive network of reproductive health clinics, which provide abortion services. While the California bill sailed through the health committee, it is already facing strong opposition from anti-abortion groups such as the California Family Council, which are emphasizing safety concerns and costs. (Murphy, 4/19)

Capital Public Radio: Bill Requiring UCs And CSUs To Provide Abortion Pills Advances 
Cal student Adiba Khan read the letter of a classmate to the Senate Health committee. She described missing class, work and her internship as she searched for an off-campus provider. "I lost about $300 throughout this entire process," Khan read. "I lost days of lecture that could help me get a higher grade. I lost valuable experience from my internship." (Bradford, 4/19)

Hospital Roundup

Patient Files Lawsuit Over Dignity Health Hospital Denying Him Hysterectomy

“It devastated me, and I don’t want it to affect my transgender brothers and sisters the way it affected me,” Evan Michael Minton said Tuesday. “No one should have to go through that.”

Sacramento Bee: Transgender Patient Sues Dignity Health For Discrimination Over Hysterectomy Denial 
More than seven months after a Dignity Health hospital refused a hysterectomy to a Sacramento-area transgender patient, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday on his behalf. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that Dignity discriminated against Evan Michael Minton, 35, a former state Capitol legislative aide, when he sought a hysterectomy as part of his transition from female to male. (Buck and Caiola, 4/20)

In other hospital news —

The Wall Street Journal: Cybersecurity Startup Tanium Exposed California Hospital’s Network In Demos Without Permission
For years, cybersecurity startup Tanium Inc. pitched its software by showing it working in the network of a hospital it said was a client, according to people familiar with the matter and videos of the demonstrations. That and other efforts helped the company grow quickly, notching a valuation of $3.5 billion and a big investment from Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture firms. But Tanium never had permission to present the demos, the hospital said, meaning a company selling security actually was giving outsiders an unauthorized look at information from inside its customer’s system. (Winkler, 4/19)

The San Diego Union-Tribune: One Local Hospital Keeps Getting Top Grade For Patient Safety From National Group 
For the past three years, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla has been the only hospital in San Diego County to consistently receive the top grade for patient safety from the Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit. Leapfrog has become widely recognized for its rankings of medical centers based on factors such as rates of death, infection-control efforts and whether hospital workers follow established standards for everything from washing their hands to preventing surgical mistakes. (Sisson, 4/20)

Los Angeles Times: Mother Of Baby Who Caught Superbug Says UC Irvine Hospital Didn’t Tell Her About The Outbreak
The mother of one of 10 infants hit by a potentially lethal superbug at UC Irvine Medical Center disputed this week the hospital administration’s claim that parents were told about the outbreak. Briana Walker of Mission Viejo said the hospital staff did not explain when her son tested positive for the bacteria last month that other infants were already being treated for the same infections. She had begun to believe, she said, that her husband or another family member had unknowingly brought the superbug into the intensive care unit from outside. (Petersen, 4/19)


Hospitals' Chargemasters Coming Under Increasing Scrutiny As Costs Skyrocket

The chargemaster, a list detailing the official rate charged by a hospital for individual procedures, services and goods, is often kept in relative secrecy and is not regulated.

Modern Healthcare: Stricter Chargemaster Regulations Needed To Rein In Healthcare Costs
After a three-hour visit to the emergency room, a young girl left with a headache and a $4,875 bill. A Southern California hospital charged the girl and her family three times the fair and customary price for a CT scan — about $2,000 — to see if the girl's fall caused head trauma, according to Lisa Berry Blackstock, a patient advocate the family hired to negotiate a lower fee. The family's high-deductible health plan meant they had to cover the entire cost. (Kacik, 4/19)

Health IT

In Ambitious Health Data Project, Researchers Happily Trade 'Moonshots' For Day-To-Day Drudgery

Verily Life Sciences, formerly Google Life Sciences, is launching its initiative to collect information on 10,000 volunteers to create a baseline of health for the population. But, despite the scope of the project, those running it say they have their feet firmly planted on the ground and in reality.

Bloomberg: Google’s Health Moonshot Comes Back To Earth 
Opening on April 19, the study is called Baseline, as in a starting point for what healthy biometric data should look like. It’s the first serious public test for Verily Life Sciences, formerly Google Life Sciences. While Verily has separated from Google’s internet business within the Alphabet Inc. holding company, it’s taking a page from the playbook of its former parent, which aims to collect and organize information online. Verily wants to collect data from our bodies, using it to guide better health decisions. While that sounds ambitious, it’s much more modest than the missions Verily promoted when it was officially part of Google. Years ago, the biotech division promised projects such as glucose-monitoring contact lenses and all-in-one medical scanners; those remain in the lab. (Chen and Bergen, 4/19)

Veterans Health Care

Oxnard VA Clinic's Wait Times Show Improvement

A year ago, the clinic was identified in a congressional hearing by U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) as being one of the worst in the country at making appointments within 30 days.

Ventura County Star: A Year Later, Veterans Wait Less At Oxnard Clinic
Patients wait far less for appointments at an Oxnard Veterans Affairs clinic that a year ago struggled with staffing shortages and was considered among the worst in the nation for wait times, according to new VA records. In February, veterans who were returning patients at the clinic waited an average of six days past the date they requested for primary-care appointments, according to a new online wait time tracker that VA officials cite as a sign of change for the oft-criticized national health system. (Kisken, 4/19)

In other veterans' health care news —

The San Diego Union-Tribune: Paralyzed Vet Gets First 'Robotic Legs' From San Diego VA 
One minute, Lt. j.g. Brandon Myers was a hard-charging Navy officer gunning it through the Naval Special Warfare obstacle course in Coronado. The next minute, he was falling abruptly from from a vertical cargo net. He hasn’t felt his legs or pelvis since that hard landing. Now 28-year-old Myers is the first U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs patient in San Diego County to be issued a pair of robotic legs that allow him to walk fully upright again — if only for a few hours a day. (Steele, 4/19)

Public Health and Education

Protein Found In Umbilical Cord Could Hold Key To Rejuvenating Memory Center In Brain

In a study, cold blood improved the performance of aged mice as they engaged in memory and learning tasks, such as maze-running and fear-conditioning exercises.

Los Angeles Times: Can Scientists Rejuvenate An Aging Brain With A Protein Found In Umbilical Cord Blood?
What old brains need is a shot of young blood — and the younger the better. It may sound like a metaphor employed by a randy octogenarian. But new research on mice suggests it can be taken quite literally. Writing in the journal Nature, Stanford University anti-aging researchers reported Wednesday that they have found a “restorative factor for the aged hippocampus.” It’s a protein called tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 2, or TIMP2, that is found in the blood of young humans — and most copiously in umbilical cord blood. (Healy, 4/19)

'I Changed In A Bad Way': Post-Election Anxiety Hitting Kids Hard

Pediatricians are seeing an uptick of patients with shortness of breath and other psychical symptoms of anxiety.

In other public health news —

The Mercury News: Trump's EPA Cuts Would Hurt Oakland Lead Prevention
Now, the Trump administration is proposing to cut more than $16 million from Environmental Protection Agency efforts to protect kids like Alex from lead paint. If Congress approves the cuts, successful EPA programs that train contractors on the safe way to remove the lead would be axed. (Tolan, 4/19)

National Roundup

Preliminary Filings From Insurers Give Hint Of Things To Come For ACA Marketplaces

As deadlines loom for announcing 2018 plans, all eyes are on which insurers will stay in the exchanges. But, with the fate of subsidies still up in the air and possibly tied to the spending bill, the future is just as uncertain for the companies themselves.

The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Offer Early Sign Of ACA Exchange Plans For 2018
Anthem Inc. made preliminary filings indicating it will offer plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces in Virginia and Kentucky next year, providing an early signal on the insurer’s exchange business. Cigna Corp.and Aetna Inc., which like Anthem have said they are reconsidering their exchange offerings, are among the insurers that made similar filings in Virginia. But one current Virginia ACA insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc., didn’t file 2018 forms, and a spokesman confirmed it would leave the state’s marketplace next year. (Wilde Mathews and Radnofsky, 4/20)

The Washington Post: Trump Must Decide Whether To Support Or Undermine Obamacare
President Trump is pressuring Congress to sink parts of the Affordable Care Act. But now that the first attempt at a GOP health-care overhaul has failed, he must decide whether to throw the law a line. The White House and Republican lawmakers are facing key decisions that could either improve the insurance marketplaces established by the ACA next year or prompt insurers to further hike rates or withdraw from those marketplaces entirely. Republicans had hoped to protect those with marketplace coverage while lawmakers replaced Obamacare. (Winfield Cunningham, 4/19)

Politico: 5 Reasons The Government Might Shut Down
The deadline to keep the federal government open is just about here, but a deal is far from done. With just five workdays left until government funding expires, lawmakers return next week to all the same sticking points that have made full-year funding so elusive and now threaten a government shutdown.  ... Democratic leaders declared that any spending bill must provide money for a key Obamacare subsidy program after Trump threatened to defund the cost-sharing subsidies; the president sees the program as a way to force Democrats to the negotiating table. (Scholtes and Ferris, 4/20)

In other national health care news —

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Signs Legislation Extending Private-Care Program For Veterans
President Donald Trump signed an extension of a Department of Veterans Affairs law on Wednesday to continue a program that helps veterans seek health care outside the VA system. The original legislation, commonly known as the Veterans Choice Act, was slated to expire in August. The measure signed Wednesday by Mr. Trump extends the program until the remaining funds are used, which is expected to happen by the end of the year. (Kesling, 4/19)

Stat: Cancer Doctors To Insurers: Not ‘Fail First,’ But ‘Patients First’
Cancer patients are locked in an intensifying struggle with insurers, who sometimes force them to try less expensive drugs before moving to more expensive ones, even against doctors’ wishes. Now the American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, is deepening its involvement in the fight, issuing a set of recommendations Tuesday that it hopes insurers will follow as they confront a growing lineup of expensive cancer drugs. (Tedeschi, 4/20)