- Sacramento Watch 1
- California Lawmakers Deal Blow To Dialysis Industry With Bill To Cap Reimbursement Rates
- Pharmaceuticals 1
- PhRMA's Suit Against California Law Demanding Transparency For Price Increases Dismissed By Judge
- The Opioid Crisis 1
- Medical Board's Initiative To Try To Curb Opioid Epidemic Leaves California Doctors Terrified
- Public Health and Education 1
- Cancer Warning Labels On California Products Are About To Get Big And Bold
- Around California 1
- Bureaucratic Mistakes, Lack Of Cooperation Have Stymied Lead Paint Cleanup Efforts Near LA's Exide Technologies Plant
- National Roundup 1
- All Eyes Are On ACA Lawsuit Slated For Arguments Next Week, As Midterms Inch Ever Closer
Latest From California Healthline:
The Golden State, with the rare support of the Trump administration, is seeking to circumvent a court order that would require cancer warnings in every establishment that sells a hot cup of Joe. (Ana B. Ibarra, 8/31)
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More News From Across The State
If signed by the governor, the bill could serve as the first in a one-two punch followed by a ballot initiative geared toward capping profits for dialysis clinics. Lawmakers also sent bills dealing with mental health treatment and abortion medication to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
Calif. Legislature Passes Bill To Cap Dialysis Reimbursement
In a major blow to dialysis giants DaVita Healthcare Partners and Fresenius Medical Care, the California State Assembly and Senate passed a bill to crack down on third-party premium assistance for dialysis and cap providers' reimbursement to Medicare rates if they don't comply with the mandate. The legislation now has a good chance of getting signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. It would serve as a landmark victory for insurers and unions in the long-brewing battle with the dialysis industry. The bill takes aim at the American Kidney Fund, a not-for-profit that subsidizes individual market premiums for dialysis patients who are covered by Medicare and Medicaid. DaVita and Fresenius are major contributors to the organization, and insurers accuse them of using Obamacare's guaranteed issue provision to game the system and steer patients into plans that will bring in more profits. (Luthi, 8/30)
San Francisco Chronicle:
SF Could Hold More Mentally Ill People For Care Under Bill Headed To Brown
San Francisco officials would have more control over who can be involuntarily held for mental-health treatment, under a bill to expand conservatorship laws that is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown. The state Senate passed SB1045 by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, in a 39-0 vote on Thursday. The Assembly passed it 61-0 on Wednesday. (Gutierrez, 8/30)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Medical Abortions Would Be Offered At CA Public Universities If Brown Signs Bill
California would be the first state to mandate that public universities offer their students medical abortions — pills that women take to end pregnancies — under a bill the Legislature approved and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown. The Senate passed the bill Thursday by 26-13, one day after the Assembly approved it on a 52-25 vote. (Gutierrez and Asimov, 8/30)
The organization's lawsuit claims the legislation is illegally trying to dictate national health policy. Meanwhile, a bill addressing pharmacy benefit managers' role in drug prices heads to the governor.
The Associated Press:
Judge Tosses Lawsuit Against California Drug Price Law
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block a California law requiring pharmaceutical companies to give advance notice before big price increases. U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr., ruled Thursday in Sacramento that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America failed to show that the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. He gave PhRMA 30 days to refile. (8/30)
Capital Public Radio:
Health Plans, Pharmacy Middlemen Push Back Against California Drug Pricing Bill
A bill that aims to regulate drug price negotiations between pharmacies and middlemen working on behalf of health plans in California is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown after a contentious battle and some late-session drama. Asm. Jim Wood’s AB 315 would more heavily regulate pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. These private companies strike deals for cheaper drugs on behalf of health plans. (Caiola, 8/30)
The project takes death certificates in which prescription opioids are listed as a cause, then matches each with the provider who prescribed any controlled substance to that patient within three years of death, regardless of whether the particular drug caused the death or whether that doctor prescribed the lethal dose. After looking at that material, peer reviewers determine which doctors warrant an investigation.
'Death Certificate Project' Terrifies California Doctors
Brian Lenzkes, MD, got a letter last December from the Medical Board of California that left him shocked and scared. The licensing agency told him it had received a "complaint filed against you" regarding a patient who died of a prescription overdose in May 2013 -- four and a half years earlier. (Clark, 8/30)
The signs that are now required on products that contain any of the 900 or so chemicals that the state has listed as carcinogens will include a yellow triangular hazard symbol with an exclamation point. Companies have a two-year grace period to comply.
Los Angeles Times:
Those California Warning Signs About Cancer, Birth Defects Or Other Reproductive Harm Are Now Naming Names
As of Friday, consumers have to be told which of the 900 or so compounds “known to the state of California” to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm is in what they buy, touch, breathe or drink in the course of their day. The familiar and uniquely Californian signs, which hitherto had hinted ominously at “a chemical,” also will include a yellow triangular hazard symbol with an exclamation point, among other requirements that re-define what constitutes a “clear and reasonable” WARNING (written that way) under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, known as Proposition 65. (Mohan, 8/31)
Cancer, Schmancer. In California, Coffee Is King
It turns out that California and the Trump administration do agree on at least one thing: Don’t mess with coffee. Trump’s hand-picked food and drug czar, Scott Gottlieb, said Wednesday that he “strongly supports” a proposal by officials in Sacramento to exempt the morning elixir from the state’s list of known cancer-causing compounds despite a court order to the contrary. (Ibarra, 8/31)
In other public health news —
Deaths Of Homeless People Surge In Sacramento County
The number of people who died homeless in Sacramento County jumped 75 percent last year, a sad reflection of a growing crisis in the region, officials said. According to figures compiled by the coroner’s office, 124 homeless people died in the county in 2017, compared to 71 the previous year. (Hubert, 8/30)
Los Angeles Times:
California Wildfires Fuel A New Push To Ban Smoking At State Parks And Beaches
After more than a decade of attempts to ban smoking at California beaches and parks, environmentalists have advanced new legislation to prevent lighting up in certain public places. ... Supporters feel this year’s devastating wildfires have bolstered their argument and given their proposals new urgency. (McGreevy, 8/30)
The state has staged a massive cleanup of soil near the plant, but lead paint in homes still endangers children in the area. Interviews show failures at multiple levels. The state blamed inaction on limitations in its authority and said other agencies must respond. County health officials cited funding constraints.
Los Angeles Times:
Lead Paint Threatens To Undo California's Biggest Residential Cleanup, Officials Warn. But They're Doing Little To Fix It
Officials have long known that children across a swath of southeast Los Angeles County are exposed to brain-damaging lead from two distinct sources: pollution from a now-shuttered battery recycling plant and lead paint in the walls of their homes. The state has begun cleaning soil contamination from yards near the Exide Technologies plant in California’s biggest-ever lead cleanup. But bureaucratic mistakes and a lack of cooperation between state and local agencies have blocked efforts to fix lead house paint, state records reviewed by The Times and interviews show. (Barboza, 8/31)
In other news from across the state —
Ventura County Star:
State OK Allows CMH To Move Into New Hospital
Seven years after construction started on a new Community Memorial Hospital and three years after it was once projected to be finished, state inspectors have declared the work virtually complete. The go-ahead on Wednesday allows leaders of the Ventura hospital to start training staff in the 250-bed, six-story hospital and stocking it with beds, desks and other equipment. Hospital leaders say they hope to open the facility to the public by the end of the year. (Kisken, 8/30)
Cuts To Oakland Free Dinner Program Felt By Thousands Of Students As School Resumes
Cuts to Oakland Unified high school sports have riled up district parents and raised legal questions, but the elimination of a dinner program that serves low-income kids has gotten far less attention. The cuts to the dinner program impact at least 3,000 students, according to program staff, while the sports cuts initially affected about 500 students. (Rancano, 8/30)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Essential Clinic For Low-Income Women, Teens Gets Back On Its Feet
On Wednesday, the fear of permanent closure was put to rest for good when New Generation officially opened at a new location in the cavernous headquarters of the Homeless Prenatal Program at 2500 18th St. As city leaders, including Supervisor Hillary Ronen and medical professionals, hailed it as a new day, the clinic’s counselors saw a bright future. New Generation actually began its relocation a couple of months ago, slowly taking in patients, and by the time the ribbon cutting and speeches happened, its teams were already seeing about 40 young people a week, most of them women and girls. (Fagan, 8/30)
Doctors who are frustrated with the health system's current model are turning to other options such as apps that allow patients to schedule house calls.
Sacramento Doctors Making House Calls With New Technology
New technology is getting Sacramento doctors back into the business of making old-fashioned house calls, employing a mobile application in an attempt to extend the amount of time they can spend on interviewing and bonding with their patients. Sacramento residents can schedule a doctor’s visit at their homes within two hours, using the Heal app or website. (Anderson, 8/30)
The lawsuit will be heard starting next Wednesday. The case is providing Democrats with talking points on the campaign trail over a potential threat to preexisting conditions protections.
Washington's Fall Agenda: Pre-Existing Conditions Fight Takes Center Stage In Midterms
Health care is one of the issues taking center stage in this November’s midterm elections as Democrats press Republicans on preserving protections for pre-existing conditions under ObamaCare. But there is also plenty of unfinished work for Congress and the administration this fall, from passing opioid legislation to tackling drug costs. (Hellmann and Sullivan, 8/30)
In other national health care news —
The New York Times:
How Modern Medicine Has Changed The Supreme Court
Two related health trends mean that each Supreme Court nomination now has the potential to shape the nation’s highest court for far longer than in the past. One is that Americans live decades longer than they did when the country was founded. At the same time, medical and public health advances have changed the dominant causes of death from infectious to chronic diseases. Infectious diseases typically kill fast, while chronic ones have a longer course. This shift toward a longer and slower decline, as opposed to more rapid death, means that justices are more able to select the administrations and political environments in which to end their terms — to, in effect, pass the baton. (Khullar and Jena, 8/31)
Technology Is Changing The Way You See A Doctor, But Is That Good For Your Health?
One morning, Charlie Latuske woke up feverish and somewhat delirious in his home in Surrey in the UK, leaving him unable to function and in need of a doctor. He'd endured a sore throat and general malaise for a few days, believing it would get better, but that morning in August 2017, he knew that he had to do something about it."I was quite out of it," said 27-year old Latuske, who was also due to go on vacation with his wife in just three days. (Senthilingam, 8/30)
The Wall Street Journal:
Crispr Used To Repair Gene Mutation In Dogs With Muscular Dystrophy
Researchers used a gene-editing tool to repair a gene mutation in dogs with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an important step in efforts to someday use the tool to edit DNA in people with the same fatal disease. In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and the Royal Veterinary College in London reported that they used the Crispr gene-editing system in four dogs to restore production of dystrophin, a protein crucial for healthy muscle function. (Marcus, 8/30)
Medicare ACOs Saved CMS $314 Million In 2017
The CMS made a profit from the Medicare Shared Savings Program last year as more accountable care organizations moved to risk-based contracts and gained experience, new federal data show. About 60% of the 472 Medicare ACOs generated a total of $1.1 billion in savings in 2017, according to the CMS data set released Thursday. The CMS paid $780 million in bonuses to the ACOs, but the agency still scored a $313.7 million gain from the program. (Castellucci and Dickson, 8/30)
The New York Times:
A Fertility Doctor Used His Sperm On Unwitting Women. Their Children Want Answers.
To couples at the end of their ropes who wanted children but could not conceive them for medical reasons, Dr. Donald Cline was a savior of sorts, offering to match the women with sperm from anonymous men resembling their partners. Many couples sought Dr. Cline out at his Indianapolis-area fertility clinic during the 1970s and ’80s. They had children, who grew up and had children of their own. (Zaveri, 8/30)
The New York Times:
The Bugs Are Coming, And They’ll Want More Of Our Food
Ever since humans learned to wrest food from soil, creatures like the corn earworm, the grain weevil and the bean fly have dined on our agricultural bounty. Worldwide, insect pests consume up to 20 percent of the plants that humans grow for food, and that amount will increase as global warming makes bugs hungrier, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science. That could encourage farmers to use more pesticides, which could cause further environmental harm, scientists said. (Pierre-Louis, 8/30)
A selection of opinions on health care developments from around the state.
‘Everyone Needs It...No One Can Afford It.’ Is There Middle Ground On California Health Care?
When it comes to health care reform, Gavin Newsom and John Cox are from different solar systems, not just different planets. Newsom, the Democrat who is the strong front-runner in this year’s campaign for governor, has promised to work toward a government-run universal health care system. Cox, his conservative Republican opponent, prefers a private-sector approach. (Dan Schnur, 8/27)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Is Letting Drug Users Shoot Up In A Safe Place Really Such A Bad Thing?
In an opinion piece in the New York Times on Monday, [Deputy Attorney General Rod[ Rosenstein said it is unfortunate that some cities — San Francisco included — are contemplating opening safe injection sites where drug users “can abuse dangerous illegal drugs with government help” and “without fear of arrest.” ... It could be argued that the alternative is cracking down on public drug users now, with or without a safe injection site. But under California law, the personal use of most illegal drugs is a misdemeanor. (Heather Knight, 8/31)
Los Angeles Times:
O.C. Cannot Tackle Homelessness Without Consistent Help From Washington
Two lawsuits, seven months and a handful of court dates later, Orange County and its cities now have a deadline: finalize plans to house 1,550 people by Sept. 7 or face a possible court ruling or temporary injunction stopping the enforcement of anti-camping laws. ... While [David] Carter’s mandate for our county and cities to increase the number of beds available for our homeless men and women is laudable, more is needed in order for homelessness to become a relic of the past. (Harley Gouda, 8/24)
San Francisco Chronicle:
California Public Universities Should Make Abortion Pill Available To Students
College students seek abortion at a higher rate than other age groups, demonstrating the need for accessible and affordable care. For nearly 20 years, students have safely and effectively used the abortion pill. They’ve just been forced to do so off campus, which for some involves significant — and unnecessary — obstacles. (Daniel Grossman, 8/30)
California Communities Are Thirsty For Justice
Our leaders should do what’s right and support Senate Bills 844 and 845 to finance the proposed Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. The bills are modest in scope and cost, but will save lives. They will raise a small, dedicated amount of funding through new fees on agriculture and voluntary charges on water bills to help low-income communities afford ongoing operations and maintenance costs for water treatment. (Dolores Huerta and Tom Steyer, 8/28)
The Mercury News:
Prop. 10 Would Worsen California's Housing Crisis
Rents in California, especially the Bay Area, are soaring. Decent housing is unaffordable for far too many. But the solution is to build more housing, not restrict rents. That’s why voters should reject Proposition 10 on the Nov. 6 ballot. The initiative would lift state limitations on local rent control laws, allowing cities to impose restrictions on more housing. That’s the last thing we need. It would only make the situation worse. (8/25)
Why Is Legal Marijuana Taking So Long To Reach Californians? Blame Local Officials
Along with legalization, the passage of Proposition 64 ended California’s war on drugs, which disproportionately criminalized the poor and people of color. The California Democratic Party adopted decriminalization of cannabis in its platform in 2016. Despite the overwhelming voter support and decades of progress, nearly 85 percent of California residents still live without access to legal recreational cannabis. (Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker, 8/29)
LA Daily News:
How You Can Stop Sacramento From Raising Your Water Rates And Property Taxes
Under state law, the Department of Water Resources can finalize a long-term contract for water from the State Water Project through a unique process that doesn’t require a vote of the Legislature or any legislative committee. The DWR simply sends over a copy of the contract, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee holds an informational hearing, and 60 days later, the contract can be finalized. In this case, the DWR wants to extend contracts for water from the State Water Project all the way to the year 2085. (Susan Shelley, 8/29)