Latest From California Healthline:
Sutter Health will pay $575 million to settle a high-profile antitrust case filed by California’s attorney general. In addition, it has agreed to end a host of practices that the state alleged unfairly stifled competition. (Jenny Gold, 12/20)
Good morning! California Healthline will not be publishing Dec. 24-Jan. 1. We’ll be back in your inbox on Jan. 2. Happy Holidays! Now here are some of your top California health stories of the day.
Sutter Health To Pay $575M To Settle Closely Watched Case Over Alleged Anti-Competitive Practices: California hospital system Sutter Health has agreed to pay $575 million to hospital employees, local governments, and the state after settling an antitrust lawsuit filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Becerra filed the lawsuit in March 2018, alleging that the company charges prices that far exceed the market rate, and then uses the profits to acquire other health firms and overcompensate executives. According to Becerra, Sutter has agreed to cap out-of-network costs, increase transparency and stop all-or-nothing contract deals (requiring health insurers to contract with all of a system’s hospitals and affiliates). Sutter will also halt measures to prevent access to lower-cost plans, Becerra said. The California Department of Justice will select a monitor, approved by a judge, to ensure that Sutter is complying with the terms of the deal, according to Becerra. Sutter does not admit to wrongdoing, Becerra said.
Read more from Roland Li and Catherine Ho of The San Francisco Chronicle | Sammy Caiola of Capital Public Radio | Jenny Gold of California Healthline | Katie Thomas of The New York Times | and Cathie Anderson of the Sacramento Bee.
In related news from The Mercury News: Sutter Health Introduces Cost Estimator Tool
California’s Soaring Homelessness Crisis Drives National Rate To Increase For Third Year In Row: A decline in homelessness in 29 states, as well as the District of Columbia, was offset by a spike in California of 21,000 people, or 16.4 percent, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Friday — evidence that homelessness in the nation’s most populous state is “at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. California leaders and advocacy groups share federal officials’ alarm over the state’s outsize role in that trend. But there’s significant disagreement over how to tackle the issue as the president singles out cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles as problems, clashing with a liberal state that often fights his policies. Read more from Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, although homelessness is Los Angeles’s defining crisis, it does not affect everyone equally. The historic displacement and fracturing of black communities in South Los Angeles have pushed black Angelenos onto the streets at more than eight times the rate of other groups. Read more about the disparities from Jugal K. Patel, Tim Arango, Anjali Singhvi and Jon Huang of The New York Times.
Below, check out the full round-up of California Healthline original stories, state coverage and the best of the rest of the national news for the day.
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More News From Across The State
Los Angeles Times:
Why Some Unions Are Nervous About 'Medicare For All'
The Culinary Health Center is a beige, two-story office building on Las Vegas’ east side, miles from the casino glitz of the Strip and not much to look at by Sin City standards. The surprise is what happens inside, and how it gets paid for, which would probably make most American workers’ jaws drop. On a recent Friday, the parking lot was full as union members and their family members, some with children, visited the facility for primary and pediatric checkups, dental procedures and eye tests and eyeglasses, almost all of which are offered at no cost. There’s no emergency room, but X-ray, ultrasound and CT scan equipment awaited use in the building’s 24-hour urgent-care wing, free of cost to union members, along with a pharmacy that offers free generic medications. (Pearce, 12/23)
Sacramento CA Jail Guards Abused Inmates, Kept Jobs, Files Say
Patrick Hoyt ended up in the Sacramento County Main Jail on Dec. 1, 2015, after being picked up on a misdemeanor domestic violence warrant. Within hours, he said, he was escorted by two deputies into an area of the jail without camera coverage, where one of them twisted his arm and shoved his face into a brick wall so hard he ended up with a swollen black eye. Hoyt said he later complained of excessive force and, after his release, was interviewed by internal affairs investigators who asked, “What would make this right again?” (Stanton and Sullivan, 12/22)
The Wall Street Journal:
Trump Administration Awards Migrant Detention Contracts Days Before California Would Ban Them
The federal agency in charge of immigrant detention has awarded multiyear contracts for private companies to run facilities in California just over a week before a new state law forbidding them goes into effect. Lawmakers in Sacramento passed a bill in September—signed the next month by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom —that bans new contracts for for-profit prison facilities beginning Jan. 1. As the legislation was being drafted, the definition was expanded to include immigrant detention, as the Trump administration’s border policies and the conditions in which it held migrants drew increasing criticism. (Lazo, 12/20)
Capital Public Radio:
Kids Under 12 Can No Longer Be Sent To Juvenile Hall For Most Crimes Starting In 2020
One of the last pieces of legislation from former California Gov. Jerry Brown’s final year in office would end the prosecution of pre-teens who commit crimes, other than murder and forcible sexual assault. Right now, California has no minimum age for sending children to juvenile hall. Beginning in the new year, counties will no longer be allowed to process kids under 12 years old through the juvenile justice system. Instead, they will have to set up the least restrictive alternatives, which could include existing programs at hospitals and schools. (Milne, 12/20)
Capital Public Radio:
You Could Get Fined $25 If You Smoke At A California State Beach Or Park Starting In 2020
The flick of a lighter and a puff of smoke on a California state beach or trail will become a no-no in 2020. If you break the new law — Senate Bill 8 — the fine is $25, but court fees will bring it to more than $100 or $200 depending on the county, says California Department of Parks and Recreation spokesperson Adeline Yee. "It'll be park by park, beach by beach,” said Yee. “We want to make sure visitors are well aware of the law before we start imposing any fines." (Romero, 12/18)
The California Health Report:
New Screenings For Childhood Trauma Raise Hopes, Questions
California health officials are gearing up for the launch of a statewide screening effort that aims to help doctors measure children’s exposure to trauma and their risk of related health problems. Starting Jan. 1, California will become the first state in the nation to reimburse health care providers who screen patients enrolled in the Medi-Cal program for “adverse childhood experiences” or ACEs. The $40 million effort has been hailed as a revolutionary change in California’s approach to health care, particularly within Medi-Cal, the state’s health program for people with limited incomes. (Boyd-Barrett, 12/20)
The Mercury News:
Bay Area Scientists Use Gene Tools To Fend Off Bioterrorism
Inspired by recent breakthroughs in genetics, Bay Area scientists are dialing up our inner strength to survive a bioterrorism attack. Two Defense Department-funded projects strive to give us a new kind of DNA superpower if a rogue actor unleashed a lethal flu virus or a radiation-laced “dirty bomb.” Our existing tools — vaccines, medicines, even bone marrow transplants — aren’t fast or furious enough to defend us. (Krieger, 12/21)
Ventura County Star:
Ventura County CEO Mike Powers Gets New Contract
County Executive Officer Mike Powers won a new five-year contract this week following a positive performance evaluation from the Board of Supervisors amid the ongoing financial struggles at Ventura County Medical Center. Board Chairman Steve Bennett, who recommended approval of the new contract, said Powers has shown "tremendous leadership." He said that was particularly true of the administrator's efforts to help people affected by recent wildfires and the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill last year. (Wilson, 12/20)
The Bakersfield Californian:
Fears Of A Takeover Arise After Supervisors Vote To Change Kern County's Medi-Cal Administration
Changes are in store for Kern Health Systems, the authority that oversees the medical well-being of 256,000 local Medi-Cal recipients through Kern Family Health Care. At a recent meeting, the Kern County Board of Supervisors approved ordinance changes that would more closely integrate KHS with the Kern Hospital Authority, which governs the county’s safety net hospital, Kern Medical Center. While the county and KHS insist that patients will hardly notice a difference in their care, some in Kern’s medical community have raised concerns that the changes could lead to a de facto takeover of KHS by the hospital authority. (Morgen, 12/21)
The Associated Press:
Obamacare Sign-Ups Steady As Debate Persists Over Its Future
More than 8 million people have signed up for coverage next year under former President Barack Obama's health care law, the government said Friday, a sign of continued demand for the program amid persistent uncertainty over its future. Preliminary numbers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed that 8.3 million people enrolled from Nov. 1-Dec. 17, about 2 percent fewer than last year. The final number will be higher after states that run their own sign-up drives report their results. National totals are usually released in March. (12/20)
The Washington Post:
Congress Showers Health Care Industry With Multibillion-Dollar Victory After Wagging Finger At It For Much Of 2019
Vilified by lawmakers from both parties for months, the health-care industry this year appeared to face an existential threat to its business model. But this week, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, insurance companies and medical device manufacturers practically ran the table in Congress, winning hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks and other gifts through old-fashioned lobbying, re-exerting their political prowess. “It’s the ‘no special interest left behind bill’ of 2019. That’s what it feels like this is,” said Andy Slavitt, a former health administrator who served in the Obama administration. “There’s no other explanation.” (Stein and Abutaleb, 12/20)
The Washington Post:
Democratic Presidential Aspirants Disregard Political Gift Of ACA Court Ruling
Less than an hour after an appeals court invalidated part of the Affordable Care Act and pushed off a decision on the rest of it, congressional Democrats began punching, accusing President Trump and his party of imperiling Americans’ insurance and consumer health protections. But on a debate stage Thursday night, Democrats vying for their party’s nomination for president did not mention the major court decision. (Goldstein and Sullivan, 12/20)
The Associated Press:
'Vast Majority' Of Vaping Illnesses Blamed On Vitamin E
Health officials now blame vitamin E acetate for the “vast majority” of cases in the U.S. outbreak of vaping illnesses and they say doctors should monitor patients more closely after they go home from the hospital. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the updated advice Friday. And, in a related move Friday, authorities investigating how patients obtained possibly tainted vape products said they have shut down 44 websites advertising the sale of illicit vaping cartridges containing THC. (12/20)
The New York Times:
Vaping Patients May Be Prone To Relapse, C.D.C. Warns
Health officials are warning doctors to more closely monitor patients with severe lung damage caused by vaping, because some have relapsed or died shortly after being sent home from the hospital. The recommendations are part of four new reports about the nationwide outbreak of severe illnesses from vaping, which has hospitalized 2,506 people and killed 54 as of Dec. 17. The reports were published on Friday, two by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and two by The New England Journal of Medicine. (Grady, 12/20)
The Washington Post:
A Major Funder Of The Anti-Vaccine Movement Has Made Millions Selling Natural Health Products
The nation’s oldest anti-vaccine advocacy group often emphasizes that it is supported primarily by small donations and concerned parents, describing its founder as the leader of a “national, grass roots movement.” But over the past decade a single donor has contributed more than $2.9 million to the National Vaccine Information Center, accounting for about 40 percent of the organization’s funding, according to the most recent available tax records. That donor, osteopathic physician Joseph Mercola, has amassed a fortune selling natural health products, court records show, including vitamin supplements, some of which he claims are alternatives to vaccines. (Satija and Sun, 12/20)
The Wall Street Journal:
Drugmakers Turn To Data Mining To Avoid Expensive, Lengthy Drug Trials
Drugmakers are trying to win drug approvals by parsing vast data sets of electronic medical records, shifting away from lengthy, and costly, clinical trials in patients. Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Amgen Inc. are among the drugmakers that have submitted the data-mining analyses to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in seeking approval to sell new medicines or for new uses for older ones. The FDA has approved new uses for breast cancer, bladder cancer and leukemia drugs in part based on the data. (Loftus, 12/23)