- Sacramento Watch 1
- A Look At The Coverage Models That Could Serve As Blueprint For Universal Health Care In California
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Republicans' Attacks On Health Law Ignites Surge Of Activity In States To Protect It
- Women's Health 1
- Activists Launch Campaign Against Abortion-Reversal Procedure Touted By Pregnancy Centers
- Public Health and Education 2
- Vicious Flu Season Takes Toll On Blood Banks' Supplies, Centers Begin Rationing To Hospitals
- Worried About Brain Impact Of Tech? So Are Some Early Facebook, Google Employees Who Are Teaming Up
- Hospital Roundup 1
- Advocates Far From Reassured That Plans To Move Alta Bates Center Won't Affect Care
Latest From California Healthline:
For over 50 years, the program for the poor and sick has been required to ferry certain clients to and from medical appointments. Though California is not among the states out to cut this service, it could still feel the pinch if the feds slash Medicaid funding overall. (JoNel Aleccia, 2/5)
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More News From Across The State
The State Assembly's Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage will hold hearings Monday and Wednesday to explore a path forward for universal health care coverage in California.
3 Paths To Universal Health Care In California
The push to move California to a universal health care system enters a new phase this week, when a special committee will hear for the first time specific proposals on how the state might pursue a path to universal care. The State Assembly's Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage has its two final scheduled hearings on Monday and Wednesday. (Faust, 2/5)
In other news from Sacramento —
Bill To Give California More Oversight Over Health Plan Mergers Clears State Assembly
A federal judge in 2017 rejected a proposed merger between health insurance giants Aetna and Humana, saying it would likely lessen competition. The California Assembly has passed a bill that would give state regulators the authority to reject such mergers on similar grounds. (Goldberg, 2/5)
There are now at least nine states, including California, publicly considering their own version of the individual mandate. The movement is part of a bigger trend of some states taking matters into their own hands to shield the health law's protections as the federal government tries to chip away at it.
The Wall Street Journal:
States Look At Establishing Their Own Health Insurance Mandates
At least nine states are considering their own versions of a requirement that residents must have health insurance, a move that could accelerate a divide between Democratic states trying to shore up the Affordable Care Act and Republican states intent on tearing it down. Congressional Republicans in December repealed the so-called individual mandate, a pillar of the ACA, as part of their tax overhaul. That cheered conservatives who say people shouldn’t be forced to buy insurance, but it has now energized liberals who say a mandate is needed to ensure coverage and keep premiums low. (Armour, 2/4)
9 States Considering Individual Mandate Rules: Report
Nine states are considering laws that would require their residents to purchase health insurance, the The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. The proposals come less than two months after Republicans, as part of a sweeping tax code overhaul, voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) mandate requiring individuals to have health insurance. (Greenwood, 2/3)
The measure would limit local medical facilities “from charging patients more than 15 percent above the cost of care, plus quality improvement costs."
Ballot Measure Campaign Takes Aim At Stanford Health Care
The union representing thousands of Bay Area health care workers is launching a signature-gathering campaign this week in four Bay Area cities with the goal of qualifying ballot initiatives that would force Stanford Health Care facilities to lower costs or invest more money in care. The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West has filed ballot measures for the November election in Palo Alto, Pleasanton, Redwood City and Livermore, all home to Stanford Health Care facilities. (Marzorati, 2/5)
The Mercury News:
Effort Begins On Palo Alto Patient Care Ballot Initiative
Two elected officials are trying to garner support for a Palo Alto ballot initiative that aims to control the costs of patient care. The initiative, which would be placed on the November ballot if it collects enough signatures, would limit Stanford Hospital and other Palo Alto medical facilities “from charging patients more than 15 percent above the cost of care, plus quality improvement costs,” according to a statement issued Friday by Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), which is backing the initiative. (Kelly, 2/2)
In other news from across the state —
Los Angeles Times:
Battling Treacherous Office Chairs And Aching Backs, Aging Cops And Firefighters Miss Years Of Work And Collect Twice The Pay
When Capt. Tia Morris turned 50, after about three decades in the Los Angeles Police Department, she became eligible to retire with nearly 90% of her salary.b But like many cops and firefighters in her position, the decision to keep working was a financial no-brainer, thanks to a program that allowed her to nearly double her pay by keeping her salary while also collecting her pension. (Dolan, Garcia-Roberts and Menezes, 2/3)
The Bakersfield Californian:
Program Encourages Teens To Become Health Professionals By Letting Them Work Alongside Them
Getting hands-on experience in the medical field is no easy feat, especially in high school. But [Jovanna] Orellana gets the opportunity through East Bakersfield High School’s Health Careers Academy, an intensive college-preparatory program that allows students to take health-related elective courses and travel to Kern Medical Center once a week their junior and senior years of high school to work alongside medical professionals. The program is just one of the innovative ways the Kern High School District has, for years, been working get more young people interested in health careers in a region that has been recognized by the federal government as a medically underserved region. (Pierce, 2/2)
The group plans to put up billboards near the centers with "medically accurate information, not politically-motivated" information for patients.
California Billboards Aim To Discredit 'Abortion Reversal'
A campaign to challenge so-called crisis pregnancy clinics that promote “abortion reversal” will appear Monday on billboards throughout the San Francisco Bay Area — not your typical place for battles over reproductive rights. Abortion controversies more often emanate from states like Texas. But liberal California has found itself on the front lines recently. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments next month in a free-speech challenge from anti-abortion groups to a state law requiring providers to post information about state-funded abortion services. And California's state nursing board invited controversy recently, reversing itself and allowing continuing education credits on the unproven reversal process. (Colliver, 2/4)
But the good news is that there are signs the flu is loosening its grip on California.
Blood Bank Low On Donations Amidst Record Flu Season In San Diego
The San Diego Blood Bank said during one week in January, 400 people canceled appointments due to the flu or another sickness. Recently blood supplies have been running low. (Hoffman, 2/2)
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Sonoma County Flu Season Claims Two Lives
Sonoma County’s flu season turned deadly in January, when two people under the age of 65 died at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, even as the virus’ spread peaked in California. The hospital reported Friday that a 46-year-old man and a 56-year-old woman died last month as a result of flu-related illnesses. The woman died of pneumonia and respiratory failure, while the man died of respiratory failure and sepsis, said Vanessa DeGier, a Memorial Hospital spokeswoman. (Espinoza, 2/2)
Children Have Been Hit Hard By The Current Flu Season
The current flu season is still getting worse, federal health officials said Friday. And it continues to take a toll on children.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an additional 16 flu deaths among children, bringing the nationwide total this season for youngsters to 53. About half of those children apparently had been healthy and had no special vulnerability to this viral disease, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the CDC. And the risk is not going away. (Harris, 2/2)
Concerned technologists are creating a coalition to address the potential health issues that social media and smartphones may cause.
The New York Times:
Early Facebook And Google Employees Form Coalition To Fight What They Built
A group of Silicon Valley technologists who were early employees at Facebook and Google, alarmed over the ill effects of social networks and smartphones, are banding together to challenge the companies they helped build. The cohort is creating a union of concerned experts called the Center for Humane Technology. Along with the nonprofit media watchdog group Common Sense Media, it also plans an anti-tech addiction lobbying effort and an ad campaign at 55,000 public schools in the United States. (Bowles, 2/4)
But some experts question if the people at these startup companies really know what the older generation needs in terms of tech gadgets.
The Mercury News:
As Adults Get Older And Lonelier, Smart Devices Want To Help
From technology-assisted home-care services such as Honor to hardware products such as grandPad’s tablet for seniors, with a magnifying glass and simplified apps, businesses are seeking to tap into a booming population of older adults and help them tackle a critical challenge of modern aging: social isolation. More than 8 million Americans over 50 are affected by isolation, which is a “growing health epidemic,” according to Connect2Affect, an advocacy group launched by the American Association of Retired Persons to erase social isolation. (Lee, 2/4)
In other health and technology news —
MIND Institute Uses Skype To Teach Parents To Be Speech Therapists For Their Children
[Kristen] Lundstrom and her son are participating in a study that is “training parents so they can essentially function like the speech language clinicians for their own kids,” said Dr. Leonard Abbeduto, principal researcher in the study and executive director of the MIND Institute. ...And while they’re reading, speech language clinicians at the MIND Institute coach Lundstrom via Skype in ways to draw Tyson out, such as how to ask questions that will prompt him to expand his answers and use new vocabulary words. (Sullivan, 2/5)
Due to a California law that requires hospitals to complete seismic upgrades by 2030, Sutter Health announced in 2016 its plans to move inpatient care and emergency services from the Alta Bates site in Berkeley. This week, Sutter Health released a statement saying the emergency room and inpatient hospital services provided at the Alta Bates campus will remain in Berkeley until they are available in full at the Summit Medical Center campus in Oakland, which could take 10 years.
San Jose Mercury News:
Sutter Health Will Close Alta Bates Hospital, But Not Yet
Hospital services at Alta Bates Medical Center’s Berkeley campus will end, but not as soon as people think, company officials said this week. In an ongoing debate over the future of emergency services at the campus, legislators, city officials and health care professionals will continue their public campaign against the closure while the hospital’s parent organization Sutter Health insists it will keep the campus open for at least a decade. Nurses and local leaders will gather for a community forum Saturday on the Ed Roberts campus, calling on Sutter Health to keep Alta Bates open as a full hospital with inpatient and emergency car. (Sciacca, 2/2)
States are supposed to keep track of cases involving the abuse, neglect, exploitation or unexplained death of Medicaid beneficiaries in assisted living facilities. But a report from the Government Accountability Office said more than half of the states were unable to provide information on the number or nature of such cases.
The New York Times:
U.S. Pays Billions For ‘Assisted Living,’ But What Does It Get?
Federal investigators say they have found huge gaps in the regulation of assisted living facilities, a shortfall that they say has potentially jeopardized the care of hundreds of thousands of people served by the booming industry. The federal government lacks even basic information about the quality of assisted living services provided to low-income people on Medicaid, the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, says in a report to be issued on Sunday. (Pear, 2/3)
In other national health care news —
The Associated Press:
New Report Details Misuse Of Antipsychotics In Nursing Homes
U.S. nursing homes have significantly reduced the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs among their elderly residents, responding to pressure from many directions. Yet advocacy groups insist that overmedication remains a major problem, and want the pressure to intensify. According to the latest data from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, known as CMS, the percentage of long-term nursing home residents being given antipsychotic drugs dropped from about 24 percent in late 2011 to under 16 percent last year. Decreases were reported in all 50 states, with the biggest in Tennessee, California and Arkansas. (2/5)
The New York Times:
If Immigrants Are Pushed Out, Who Will Care For The Elderly?
In Dallas, a 93-year-old is worried about the woman who, for years, has come to her house four days a week to help with shopping, laundry, housecleaning and driving. “She’s just a wonderful person, someone I feel I can trust completely,” said the older woman. But because her helper is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, both women increasingly fear that she’ll be detained and deported. (Span, 2/2)
The Wall Street Journal:
Paul Ryan Pushes To Keep Overhaul Of Safety-Net Programs On GOP Agenda
House Speaker Paul Ryan, speaking at a GOP policy retreat, called for overhauling government-aid programs to be a legislative priority in 2018, though his plan is likely to face difficulties getting through the Senate and to be delayed by fights over government spending, the nation’s debt limit and immigration. Mr. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, focused on tightening workforce requirements for welfare and food-stamp programs in his presentation Wednesday to GOP lawmakers and “getting people the skills and opportunities to get into the workforce,” as a measure of helping people, not as a budget-cutting exercise, according to a person in the room. A follow-up discussion on Thursday echoed some of the speaker’s ideas. (Andrews, 2/4)
The Associated Press:
Not Just Boy And Girl; More Teens Identify As Transgender
Far more U.S. teens than previously thought are transgender or identify themselves using other nontraditional gender terms, with many rejecting the idea that girl and boy are the only options, new research suggests. The study looked at students in ninth and 11th grade and estimated that nearly 3 percent are transgender or gender nonconforming, meaning they don't always self-identify as the sex they were assigned at birth. That includes kids who refer to themselves using neutral pronouns like "them" instead of "he" or "she." (2/5)
As Opioid Overdoses Rise, Colleges Supply Reversal Drug
Colleges are increasingly stocking up on an easy-to-use opioid overdose antidote as the number of incidents keeps rising with young adults among those most at risk. Opioids killed nearly 4,000 Americans ages 15 to 24 in 2016, nearly a third more than the year before. And while over 30 percent of college students said they knew someone who had overdosed on pain pills or heroin, even more — over 37 percent — reported not knowing what to do if they were present, a survey by the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy and The Christie Foundation found. (Sanchez, 2/2)