California Healthline Daily Edition

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Sacramento Watch

Groups Press Governor To Use Tobacco Tax Funds To Increase Medicaid Reimbursement Rates

The budget released by Gov. Jerry Brown in January instead directs the money to shore up the program as a whole.

KPCC: Doctors And Dentists Say Brown's Budget Misuses Tobacco Tax Funds 
Groups representing California's doctors and dentists joined with Planned Parenthood Wednesday to call on Gov. Brown to use most of the revenue from the new statewide tobacco tax to increase reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal providers. The California Medical Association, the California Dental Association and Planned Parenthood of California say that's the intention of Prop. 56, the measure approved by voters last November. (Faust, 5/10)

In other news from Sacramento —

KQED: Soda Industry Targeted Legislature’s Latino Caucus
As California lawmakers continue to kill soda tax proposals, a new analysis found that the industry has disproportionately directed campaign contributions to members of the Latino Caucus in Sacramento., a nonprofit that tracks campaign spending, found that the soda industry gave, on average, twice as much campaign cash to members of the Latino Caucus as to the average member of the state Legislature in recent years. (Lagos, 5/11)

Health Care Personnel

San Diego Nurses To U.S. Senate: Look At California To See Benefits Of Setting Patient-To-Staff Ratios

“When I was in nursing school you could have up to 14 patients,” Rebecca Wells said. “You can’t even keep your patients straight. And I hear horror stories of the nurses who would cry — just drive home in tears like, ‘Did I do harm?’”

In more news on health care personnel —

Los Angeles Times: L.A. City Attorney Accuses Home Healthcare Firm Of Stealing Workers' Wages
The Los Angeles city attorney filed suit Wednesday against a home healthcare business operator, accusing her companies of bilking hundreds of mostly immigrant workers out of their pay while violating minimum wage and overtime laws. "Stealing wages from hardworking men and women is reprehensible,” Mike Feuer said. “No worker should be forced into poverty because an employer denies them their basic rights to a minimum wage and overtime. My office will aggressively combat wage theft and fight to ensure all workers are paid what the law demands.” (Winton, 5/10)

East Bay Times: Doctor Suspected Of Sexual Assault On Patient Arrested At Walnut Creek Outpatient Center
A physician at a John Muir outpatient center was arrested Monday on suspicion of sexual assault on a female patient, according to the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office. Rajesh Kumar Singla, 36, of Milpitas, was arrested by sheriff’s Special Victims Unit detectives on multiple counts of sexual assault. Singla is a family medicine doctor who works for the John Muir Health outpatient office at 1450 Treat Blvd. in unincorporated Contra Costa County. (Kirkwood, 5/9)

Orange County Register: Chinese Caregivers Sue Alleged California Birth Tourism Center, Citing Low Wages And Unpaid Overtime
Workers hired to care for pregnant Chinese women who traveled to give birth on American soil are suing an alleged birth tourism center, citing unfair wages and working conditions. In a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court, six Chinese immigrant caregivers, including two from Orange County, say the Xin Xi Du Month Center forced them to work more than 70 hours a week while paying less than minimum wage and withholding overtime. (Puente, 5/9)


Kaiser Permanente Eyes Expansion With $4.4B Raised From Bond Offerings

The bond market is white-hot for hospital debt offerings.

Modern Healthcare: Kaiser Raises Record $4.4 Billion In White-Hot Hospital Bond Market
Kaiser Permanente raised $4.4 billion through a series of three bond offerings this month. That's a record for the Oakland, Calif.-based health plan and hospital giant, which plans to use the proceeds to fuel expansion, said Chief Financial Officer Kathy Lancaster. The aggregate interest rate on the A+-rated bonds was a stellar 3.8%. (Barkholz, 5/10)

Public Health and Education

As STD Rates Skyrocket, Kaiser Helps Reach Teenagers On Their Own Level

Kaiser Permanente offers to help school districts put on a play about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases but in a way to which teenagers can relate.

The Bakersfield Californian: Kaiser Permanente To KHSD: Please, Let Us Teach Your Kids About STDs 
Kaiser Permanente spent months working to bring to Kern County a special production of “What Goes Around,” a play that teaches kids about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases that 10,000 students at schools across Southern California see each year. It’s a curriculum that health practitioners say communicates the dangers of STDs in a hip, casual way that gets to the point with teens – and Kaiser offers it to school districts for free. Although about 50 invited VIPs attended the special showing of the educational play at Cal State Bakersfield’s Dore Theatre Wednesday, just a handful of those people were truly Kaiser's targeted audience: Kern High School District board trustees and administrators, the people who could actually bring the program to the KHSD's 37,000 students. (Pierce, 5/11)

In other public health news —

San Jose Mercury News: Allergies Stuffing Up Bay Area, As Rainy Winter Fuels Revenge Of The Pollen
This year’s bountiful rain is responsible for beautiful blooms and teeming plants and pollen counts that are three to four times higher than normal, experts say — which explains the long lines at the pharmacy and long waits to see an allergist... Just how bad is it? The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology National Allergy Bureau pollen counting station in Pleasanton — one of three in the Bay Area — counted 1,000 pollen grains per cubic meter of oak pollen in April, according to Jacobs, around three to four times higher than normal this time of year. (Saplakoglu, 5/10)

National Roundup

Alliances Cropping Up In Senate, Where Almost Every Vote Holds The Power To Destroy A Deal

Leadership can only lose two Republican votes to pass a health care plan through the upper chamber, giving each senator a great deal of bargaining power.

Politico: 52 Ways To Repeal Obamacare
Senate Republicans want to do their own Obamacare repeal plan — but nearly all 52 Republicans have their own ideas about how it should look. With his razor-thin majority, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can afford to lose only two GOP votes. That turns each senator into a de facto powerbroker with the ability to shape — or kill — legislation simply by aligning with two other members. (Haberkorn, 5/11)

The Washington Post: CBO To Issue Cost Estimate Of House Health-Care Bill Within Two Weeks
The Congressional Budget Office is planning to release the week of May 22 an assessment of how the health-care legislation that the House just passed will impact federal spending. In a blog post on Wednesday, the CBO said that its staff and Congress’s nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation expect to issue the cost estimates early that week. The notice did not say whether the analysis of the Republicans’ Affordable Health Care Act will include a forecast of how the bill would affect the number of Americans with health insurance, and a spokeswoman for the office said she did not have that information. (Goldstein, 5/10)

The Hill: GOP On Tightrope With Planned Parenthood 
Senate Republicans are treading a narrow path as they seek to defund Planned Parenthood through passage of a healthcare bill. Cutting off federal funds because of the abortion services provided by the organization is a goal of most congressional Republicans and the Trump administration. And with majorities in the House and Senate and control of the White House, the goal seems within reach after years of the party being thwarted by Senate Democrats and former President Barack Obama. (Carney, 5/10)

Politico: Republicans Flub Defense Of Health Care Vote
House Republicans celebrated passing legislation to repeal Obamacare last week — but apparently forgot to figure out how to talk about the feat back home. The result has been a messaging mess, as lawmakers returned to their districts for a weeklong recess to face furious Obamacare defenders. (Cheney, 5/11)

McClatchy: Comey Firing Trouble For Trump's Health Care, Tax Plans
Already in a struggle to find enough votes to back President Donald Trump’s agenda, Republicans are about to find the going even tougher after the firing of James Comey as FBI director... In the coming months, the Senate faces already-contentious Trump initiatives on overhauling the nation’s health care system, revamping the tax code and, more immediately, crafting a budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. (Tate and Wise, 5/10)

The Washington Post: Aetna Exiting All ACA Insurance Marketplaces In 2018
Aetna will complete its withdrawal from Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges for 2018, announcing on Wednesday that lingering financial losses and uncertainty about the marketplaces’ future was prompting it to exit two final states. According to an Aetna spokesman, the insurer will not sell individual health plans next year in Delaware or Nebraska. Its announcement came a week after the company said it would stop offering ACA health plans in Virginia in 2018 and a month after it said it would leave Iowa. (Goldstein, 5/10)

'Change-Agent' Tapped To Head HHS Mental Health Office, And Even Some Liberal-Leaning Psychiatrists Are Cheering

Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Trump's pick to lead the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is a proponent of shifting away from education-based approaches to aggressive treatment.

Stat: Trump's Pick To Run Mental Health Agency Is Poised To Shake Things Up
President Trump’s pick to run federal mental health services has called for a bold reordering of priorities — shifting money away from education and support services and toward a more aggressive treatment of patients with severe psychiatric disorders. The proposal has some psychiatrists — a generally liberal bunch — cheering despite their distrust of the Trump administration. But it’s also sparked concern among other health professionals, who worry that the administration will put too much emphasis on medicating and hospitalizing patients, and remove supports that might help them integrate successfully into society. (Keshavan, 5/11)

Los Angeles Times: Four Things Americans Should Know About Dr. Scott Gottlieb, The New Head Of The FDA
America, you have a new commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a 44-year-old physician, was confirmed by the Senate this week in a 57-42 vote. Many Democrats expressed concern about Gottlieb’s financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chaired the panel that forwarded the nomination to the Senate floor, countered that Gottlieb’s extensive experience in the drug industry would be an asset in his regulatory role. Here are four things you’ll want to know about Gottlieb. (Healy, 5/10)