- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Report: Despite Medi-cal Effort, Many Sacramento Children Lack Dental Care
- Public Health and Education 2
- Schools That Erroneously Enroll Undervaccinated Children Face Possible Penalties
- Why Porter Ranch Is The Canary In the Mine For Gas Storage Zones
Latest From California Healthline:
The Senate Rules Committee made it official this week, voting unanimously to confirm Jennifer Kent as director of the Department of Health Care Services. (David Gorn, 1/22)
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Summaries Of The News:
California needs to stay focused on building a reserve fund for an inevitable recession and anticipate that new taxes will be needed to pay for crumbling roads and bridges, Gov. Jerry Brown said in a State of the State speech Thursday that was big on chores, short on glamour. ... Brown warned about the rising cost of Medi-Cal, which has grown by $23 billion in four years for the state and federal government. In-home Supportive Services is expected to jump from $2 billion to $9.2 billion, Brown said.
Only 40 percent in the county on the Medi-cal managed care plans utilize the services. In other news, the average health law premium rose to $408 per month, HHS says.
The Sacramento Bee:
Many Sacramento Children On Medi-Cal Going Without Dental Care
Low-income Sacramento children aren’t going to the dentist as much as they should, according to a report released Thursday. That’s despite a five-year effort to bring more dentists into Medi-Cal managed care plans, expand community clinics and educate families about the importance of dental care. In Sacramento County, only 40 percent of children on Medi-Cal managed care plans use the dental services they’re eligible for, compared to 52.5 percent statewide. (Caiola, 1/21)
Average ObamaCare Premium Rises To $408 Per Month
The average ObamaCare premium rose to $408 per month for 2016 plans, about a 9 percent increase from this time last year, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services. However, 83 percent of ObamaCare enrollees pay far less than $408 because they get tax credits under the healthcare law. The average tax credit for 2016 is $294, meaning that the average share of the premiums that enrollees have to pay is $113. That is up $8 from the $105 people paid on average last year. (Sullivan, 1/21)
It the court rules against them, industry critics say it would be the end to one of the biggest tax code abuses in state history, but the health plans say they aren't insurers so they are thus exempt from the tax. Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente says its outages issues have not been caused by a cyberattack.
The San Jose Mercury News:
California's Four Largest Health Plans Could Owe State $10 Billion In Back Taxes
California's four largest health plans may be on the hook for $10 billion in state back taxes -- and at least $1 billion every year going forward -- if a closely watched legal case does not break their way. Should that happen, insurance industry critics say, it would end one of the biggest tax code abuses in state history -- one that for decades has allowed Kaiser Permanente, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Health Net to avoid paying a state tax on health insurance premiums. The health plans, however, say they aren't insurers and thus shouldn't be subject to the tax. (Seipel, 1/21)
The San Francisco Business Times:
Kaiser Permanente Says Website Woes, Now On Third Day, Weren't Caused By Cyber Attack
Kaiser Permanente says serious outages this week on its health website serving 10.2 million enrollees have been resolved and weren't caused by a cyberattack, although the portal still didn't appear to be fully accessible to all members as of Thursday afternoon. "As of 11:30 a.m., the kp.org website is fully accessible," officials told me early Thursday afternoon, and IT teams are monitoring the site to ensure the earlier problems don't pop up again. "Members are able to access kp.org and all its associated features." (Rauber, 1/21)
The California Department of Education says it will audit 166 schools statewide for having more than 25 percent of their kindergartners enrolled as conditional entrants; 107 are in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In other public health news, Stateline examines why opioid addicts in the hardest-hit communities -- such as San Francisco -- aren't getting the medications that could help them recover.
California Threatens To Take Money From Schools With Under-Vaccinated Kids
In an effort to get more kids vaccinated on time, the state of California says that it will financially penalize schools that wrongly admitted a high percentage of kindergartners who were overdue for their second dose of the measles vaccine. (Plevin, 1/21)
Few Doctors Are Willing, Able to Prescribe Powerful Anti-Addiction Drugs
Clinical studies show that U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved opioid addiction medicines like buprenorphine offer a far greater chance of recovery than treatments that don’t involve medication, including 12-step programs and residential stays. But as the country’s opioid epidemic kills more and more Americans, some of the hardest-hit communities across the country don’t have enough doctors who are able — or willing — to supply those medications to the growing number of addicts who need them. More than 900,000 U.S. physicians can write prescriptions for painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. But because of a federal law, fewer than 32,000 doctors are authorized to prescribe buprenorphine to people who become addicted to those and other opioids. (Vestal, 1/18)
The problems that led to the massive, uncontrolled gas leak are common in areas across California.
The Huffington Post:
Why Everyone Should Be Worried About The California Gas Leak Disaster
Call it a canary in a natural gas storage zone. The enormous volume of natural gas spewing from a broken well here should serve as a wake-up call that more catastrophes are waiting to happen at similar facilities nationwide, conservationists warn. Aging infrastructure, industry negligence and scant state regulations are all factors that led to the enormous Aliso Canyon methane leak now plaguing the affluent Porter Ranch community, and they are common problems across California and the nation, according to environmental experts. (Ferner and O'Connor, 1/21)
Local governments across California are taking action before state-wide regulations kick in. In other news, other states are looking toward California's model when it comes to investors in the marijuana industry.
The Ventura County Star:
Moorpark Bans Cultivation And Sale Of Medical Marijuana
The Moorpark City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a zoning ordinance banning commercial cultivation and sale of medical marijuana in the city. In a separate action, the council made an exception by allowing deliveries of medical marijuana to a qualified patient by a primary caregiver. (Willer-Allred, 1/21)
The Associated Press:
Marijuana States Take A Fresh Look At Outside Investors
States that have legalized pot are taking a fresh look at making it easier for out-of-state investors to get in the weed business, saying the industry’s ongoing difficulty in banking means they need new options to finance expansion. The four states that allow recreational pot sales — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have another big reason to take a new look at pot investment. That’s California, the nation’s most populous state and largest marijuana producer, though it allows the drug only for people with certain medical ailments. (Wyatt, 1/21)
At a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Thursday, lawmakers grilled acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt over the failed nonprofit health insurers. Slavitt promised the committee that the government is taking steps to help the co-ops, which were created to compete with larger private insurers. Twelve of the 23 set up under the law have gone out of business.
The Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpoenaed former Turing CEO Martin Shkreli, who became the face of the high drug costs controversy, to testify on the spiked prices.
But one reason for the lack of interest in the topic could be that the organizations are focused on developing drugs to cure diseases.
Patient Groups Funded By Drugmakers Are Largely Mum On High Drug Prices
Drug companies provide so much of the funding for major patient groups that many critics say they've stifled a key voice in the policy debate over soaring drug prices, especially over those for cancer. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, for example, gets $50 million a year from drugmakers, which comes to about 16% of their funding. The National Patient Advocate Foundation receives 60% of its $2 million budget from the pharmaceutical industry, while the Colon Cancer Alliance gets 15% of its $1.2 million budget. Several other groups get up to 20% of their revenue from drug companies. (O'Donnell, 1/21)