- Coverage And Access 1
- Man Leading Transition For New Insurance Commissioner Worked For Drugmaker That's Under Investigation By State
- Marketplace 2
- FDA Says Juul-Altria Partnership Shows That Their Promises To Keep E-Cigarettes Away From Minors Aren't Serious
- Hospitals Now Have To List Prices For Medical Procedures, But Experts Question The Usefulness For Consumers
- Health IT 1
- Tech Companies Are Moving Full-Steam Ahead With Wearables, But What Are They Doing With All That Health Data?
- The Opioid Crisis 1
- Fentanyl-Laced Drugs Are To Blame For Opioid Crisis' Ever-Rising Death Toll. But When Labeled That Way, It's Still Sought After.
- Public Health and Education 1
- LA Officials Work Toward 'Better Communication, Better Preparation' As Cleanup From Woolsey Fire Continues
- Around California 1
- California's Department Of Developmental Services Threatened With Sanctions Over Murder Defendant
Latest From California Healthline:
The Food and Drug Administration is supposed to inspect all factories, foreign and domestic, that produce drugs for the U.S. market. But a KHN review of thousands of FDA documents — inspection records, recalls, warning letters and lawsuits — reveals how drugs that are poorly manufactured or contaminated can reach consumers. (Sydney Lupkin, 1/4)
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Summaries Of The News:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is leading the coalition of Democratic states that is defending the health law in court, but that's just one of the ways Becerra has used his position to try to thwart the administration. Meanwhile, the House is taking steps to formally intervene in the suit.
The Associated Press:
California Attorney General Leads Trump Resistance Into 2019
Xavier Becerra became perhaps the nation’s most influential attorney general when he was named California’s top lawyer two years ago, and he has since used his post atop what some call the “Resistance State” to pummel President Donald Trump’s administration with dozens of legal actions. Heading into 2019, he may turn up the heat even more, buoyed by his overwhelming endorsement from voters, a Democratic U.S. House and a more aggressive governor who takes office Monday. Becerra kicked off the new year on Thursday by leading a coalition of 17 Democratic attorneys general in appealing a recent ruling by a conservative federal judge in Texas that declared the Obama-era Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. (Thompson, 1/4)
The Desert Sun:
California Defends Obamacare In Fight That Pits Blue States Against Red Ones
California is once again defending the Affordable Care Act, leading a coalition of Democratic states against a small army of Republican lawmakers seeking to undo the Obama administration’s signature healthcare law. Thursday morning, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 16 other attorneys general appealed last month’s ruling by a federal judge in Texas that declared the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, unconstitutional. (Chistopher and Aguilera, 1/6)
The Associated Press:
Dem-Led House Moves To Join Health Care Law Case
The new Democratic-controlled House has moved toward defending former President Barack Obama's health care law against a federal court ruling that the statute is unconstitutional, part of the party's effort to use the issue to embarrass Republicans. The House has filed papers seeking to intervene in the case, Democrats announced Friday, which by itself is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the litigation. The House action's greatest impact is likely to be political. (1/4)
Democrats Fight Back Against Lawsuit Threatening Health Law
Democrats on Thursday officially launched their pushback against a December federal court decision that declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. A group of 17 Democratic state attorneys general formally appealed the Dec. 14 decision in Texas v. U.S. issued by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor. In the case filed by 18 Republican state attorneys general and two GOP governors, O’Connor ruled that when Congress in 2017 reduced the tax penalty for not having insurance to zero, the rest of the law became invalidated. (Rovner, 1/4)
The New York Times:
Why A ‘Passive’ Health Approach Can Produce The Most Action
A $100 billion dollar health care package was proposed by congressional Republicans this past summer, and afterward endorsed by some Democrats. It aims to save money by encouraging you to make big life changes. But the package will probably fail to achieve its goals for a simple reason: scarcity. Chances are you don’t have the time, money or bandwidth to follow through. The legislation is expected to be reintroduced in the first quarter this year, and it has laudable goals. It encourages exercise by treating gym memberships as tax-deductible medical expenses. It would help cover out-of-pocket costs for high-deductible health plans by allowing people to deposit more money in tax-shielded health savings accounts. (Frakt and Benavidez, 1/7)
Michael Martinez previously worked in Gilead's life sciences sector. Gilead, in turn, disclosed in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as recently as Nov. 6 that the California Department of Insurance and Alameda County District Attorney’s Office issued subpoenas in October 2017 requesting documents related to its marketing, and interactions with specialty pharmacies.
California Insurance Commissioner Hires Ex-Lobbyist For Company Being Investigated
One of two people leading state Sen. Ricardo Lara’s transition as California’s newly elected Insurance Commissioner worked until last month as the Sacramento lobbyist for a major drug maker that is the subject of an investigation by the Department of Insurance that Lara soon will head. (Morain, 1/6)
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who has been leading a crackdown on what he's called an "epidemic" of teen vaping, plans to haul the companies into the agency's headquarters so they can explain how they plan on sticking to previous vows of protecting young people.
The New York Times:
F.D.A. Accuses Juul And Altria Of Backing Off Plan To Stop Youth Vaping
The Food and Drug Administration is accusing Juul and Altria of reneging on promises they made to the government to keep e-cigarettes away from minors. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s commissioner, is drafting letters to both companies that will criticize them for publicly pledging to remove nicotine flavor pods from store shelves, while secretly negotiating a financial partnership that seems to do the opposite. He plans to summon top executives of the companies to F.D.A. headquarters to explain how they will stick to their agreements given their new arrangement. (Kaplan, 1/4)
"The only people for whom these list prices are remotely relevant are those among us who don't have any health insurance at all," said Martin Gaynor, professor of economics and health policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Even just knowing the difference between what one hospital charges versus another won't mean much in practice for consumers.
Want To Know The True Price Of A Hospital Procedure?
The cost of health care in the United States is an ongoing conversation. As a way to create transparency around the price of medical procedures, back in April the health and human services secretary, Alex Azar announced a provision that requires hospitals to post the prices of their services online. ...Not everyone agrees with the proposal, including Martin Gaynor, professor of economics and health policy at Carnegie Mellon University. He believes the new regulation won’t help consumers in the long run. (Adams, 1/4)
San Jose Mercury News:
Hospital Prices: New Federal Rule Requires Costs To Be Online
Hoping to empower consumers who are shouldering more and more of their health care costs each year, the federal government this year is requiring hospitals across the country to post their standard price lists on their websites. Consumer advocates and industry experts applaud the move as a step toward price transparency in the Byzantine world of medical billing that can help keep a lid on costs by pressuring hospitals to be more competitive in their prices. (Woolfolk and Bartley, 1/6)
On display at the big 2019 CES technology show will be the latest in wearables -- “I just got an email about a bladder monitor," says one analyst -- but privacy concerns remain at the front of consumers' minds.
The Wall Street Journal:
Blood Pressure, Baby’s Pulse, Sperm Potency: Home Health Devices Are Tracking More Than Ever
Companies are planning to get personal—very personal—at the 2019 CES technology show this week in Las Vegas. The annual event for showcasing the latest in consumer technology will feature self-driving shuttle buses, 5G wireless hubs, artificially intelligent ovens and more, but exhibitors will also be displaying their ability to intuit deeper health data directly from users, often with cheap, even wearable, devices. (Bindley, 1/6)
In other health and technology news —
San Francisco Chronicle:
Biotech Firm Grail Conducting Large Study For Early Breast Cancer Detection
Dr. Harriet Borofsky, a radiologist and medical director at one of the Bay Area’s largest breast imaging centers, is always on the lookout for technology to improve breast cancer screenings. She is so hopeful about one such technology — a blood test made by biotech startup Grail Inc. that seeks to detect cancer early — that she recently joined her patients in signing up for a study to test its effectiveness. (Ho, 1/6)
In places like San Francisco, where fentanyl is clearly labeled and not disguised as heroin, some people who are addicted to opioids prefer the powerful synthetic. “Fentanyl is stronger, you need less of it, and it’s cheaper. So why wouldn’t I, as somebody with limited funds, want to spend my money on something that’s a better value and therefore a better product?” Kristen Marshall, who runs a drug testing program for the Harm Reduction Coalition, tells Stateline about the drug users she treats.
Some Drug Users In Western U.S. Seek Out Deadly Fentanyl. Here’s Why.
More than half of drug users here purposely seek fentanyl, despite its dangers, according to harm reduction workers who talk to hundreds of drug users every day. Fifty times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, the synthetic opioid was rarely detected in U.S. illicit drug markets or in the bodies of fatal overdose victims just a decade ago. Now it has become the biggest killer in the nation’s raging drug overdose epidemic. (Vestal, 1/7)
The efforts are slow-going because of the sheer scope of the fire. Officials are putting together task forces to determine how evacuation and responsiveness can be improved for the next time it happens.
LA County Is Studying The Woolsey Fire To Prepare For The Next Big Emergency
As many work to clean up and rebuild, the city of Malibu and L.A. County are launching investigations into the cause of the fire and how local emergency officials responded to the crisis. The goal is to come away from this devastating fire with "better communication, better preparation, better evacuation measures," Kuehl said in an interview with KPCC's Take Two. (Paskin, 1/4)
In other public health news —
Mental Illness Increasingly Helps Defendants Avoid Trial. But Not Always.
More than two years after the murder of Stanislaus County Deputy Sheriff Dennis Wallace, a case against the accused shooter remains on hold because he was declared mentally incapable of standing trial. On Wednesday, the county’s latest accused cop killer — Paulo Virgen Mendoza, formerly identified as Gustavo Perez Arriaga — appeared headed down the same road. (Stapley, 1/6)
Los Angeles Times:
At The Peak Of The Holocaust, Nazis Murdered More Than 14,000 Jews A Day, Scholar Says
In the ledger of evils perpetrated by humans, Operation Reinhard holds a distinct place. Over 21 months starting in March 1942, Nazi forces and their collaborators rounded up 1.7 million Jews from 393 Polish towns and ghettos and dispatched them in tightly packed rail cars to three camps in German-occupied Poland — Sobibor, Treblinka and Belzec. At these three killing centers, members of Poland’s once-thriving Jewish community were murdered with such efficiency and ruthlessness that, of roughly 1.5 million Jews who passed through their gates, a mere 102 would survive to bear witness. By November 1943, when Operation Reinhard ended, essentially no Polish Jews were left for the Germans to kill. (Healy, 1/5)
Marc Carr's attorney says the Department of Developmental Services has been “very resistant” to placing Carr in a mental institution. The hearing on Friday became contentious as the department pointed blame at the sheriff's office. Judge Lewis Davis said that if Carr isn’t placed within 30 days, “I will impose sanctions."
East Bay Times:
East Bay Judge Threatens Sanctions If Murder Defendant Isn’t Sent To Psych Ward
In a tense hearing Friday morning, a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge said he would impose sanctions against the state’s Department of Developmental Services if a murder defendant isn’t moved to a mental institution promptly. It is the latest development in the years-old prosecution of Marc Carr, 29, who is accused of two murders, an attempted murder, and kidnapping and assaulting a jail guard. Carr suffers from multiple mental disabilities and in July, a judge found him incompetent to stand trial. (Gartrell, 1/4)
In other news from across the state —
Ventura County Star:
Los Robles Hospital Agrees To Pay $2.95 Million In Workers' Lawsuit
Allegations of shortchanging employees hourly pay and overtime, preventing people from taking lunch and rest breaks and violating other labor regulations have placed Los Robles Regional Medical Center on the verge of a $2.95 million settlement. The deal has been agreed to by officials of the for-profit Thousand Oaks hospital and leaders of a class-action lawsuit filed in 2014 by a former Los Robles nurse. Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kevin DeNoce took the issue under advisement after a hearing Friday morning and said he would later issue his final ruling. (Kisken, 1/4)
Sonora Transient Faces Charges In Attack On Double Amputee In Care Home
A man entered a Sonora care home Thursday and attacked a wheelchair-bound double amputee, the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office reported. Cesar Hernandez, 35, was booked on battery and other charges following the afternoon attack at the Avalon Health Care Center on Greenley Road. (Holland, 1/4)
Capital Public Radio:
Sacramento Community Groups Call For Investment In Youth After Arden Mall Fights
Roller skating, crafting and silent discos will pop up all over the Sacramento region Friday night to encourage teens to seek organized activities instead of violence. ...Pastors and youth mentors from Oak Park, Meadowview, Florin and other Sacramento neighborhoods say the violence is tied to a lack of safe and healthy activities for kids. They noted that boredom peaks during holiday breaks. (Caiola, 1/4)
Orange County Register:
Sewage Spill Closes A Stretch Of Newport Bay
The stretch of Newport Bay from Bayside Drive Beach to China Cove has been closed because of a sewage spill Friday, according to the OC Health Care Agency. Blockage in a sewer line resulted in a spill of about 375 gallons. (Wisckol, 1/4)
More than 19 million households in the United States receive food stamps, accounting for nearly 39 million people. The Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is one of the agencies that has not yet been funded by Congress. Although SNAP is automatically renewed, if the shutdown continues through March, there will be no remaining funding for the program.
SNAP Benefits And The Shutdown: Millions Could Face Severe Cuts To Food Stamps Due To Government Shutdown And USDA Underfunding
The partial government shutdown glided into its third week Saturday with no end in sight. If the government is not reopened before February, millions of Americans who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- the nation's food stamp program — could have their assistance disrupted. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP at the federal level, is one of the agencies unfunded during the partial government shutdown. Although SNAP is automatically renewed, it has not been allocated funding from Congress beyond January. Congress has appropriated $3 billion in emergency funds for SNAP distribution, but that would not cover all of February's obligations. (Segers, 1/6)
The New York Times:
Toll On Science And Research Mounts As Government Shutdown Continues
One of the first sessions of the American Meteorological Society’s annual conference in Phoenix this weekend seemed like just the sort to attract plenty of government scientists: “Building Resilience to Extreme Political Weather: Advice for Unpredictable Times.” But the conference, where more than 700 federal employees had been expected, will have few federal scientists in attendance. Many are barred from participating during the partial government shutdown, just one of the numerous consequences for the science community during the capital’s latest spending standoff. (Blinder, 1/5)
The Washington Post:
As Shutdown Drags On, Trump Officials Make New Offer, Seek Novel Ways To Cope With Its Impacts
Trump administration officials began taking extraordinary steps to contain the fallout from the partial federal government shutdown Sunday, as the budget impasse between the president and congressional Democrats showed no signs of nearing a breakthrough. As agencies sought to deal with cascading problems across the federal bureaucracy, acting White House budget director Russell T. Vought sent congressional leaders a letter detailing the administration’s latest offer to end the shutdown. (Costa, Eilperin, Paletta and Miroff, 1/6)
Southwest Key, a nonprofit that houses almost a third of detained migrant youth, has drawn scrutiny from officials after video footage of staff members abusing children surfaced last month. But cracking down on the organization would be a balancing act as the government has been under strain to provide care for the young people.
The New York Times:
Inquiry Into Migrant Shelters Poses Dilemma: What Happens To The Children?
A difficult situation for migrant children in government custody could grow more challenging if the largest provider in the overburdened shelter system were to lose its grants. The provider, Southwest Key Programs, faces mounting pressure after a video of staff members abusing children surfaced last month and the Justice Department opened an investigation into its finances. State and federal officials have cracked down on suspected malfeasance at shelters in the past year, closing multiple facilities, including two run by Southwest Key, and moving children elsewhere. (Barker and Kulish, 1/5)
The New York Times:
The Price Of Trump’s Migrant Deterrence Strategy: New Chaos On The Border
At a migrant shelter near the Mexican border, three girls from Guatemala — sisters aged 10, 9 and 6 — coughed and sniffled. One of them clung to both a teddy bear and a large bottle of Pedialyte, to soothe her dehydration and flu. The girls’ mother, Nelcy, 28, said her daughters got sick not during their long journey to the border in the back of a pickup truck, but during the 12 days they spent at two crowded government detention facilities before arriving at the privately run shelter in Texas. “It was very cold, especially for the children,” said Nelcy, who would only be identified by her first name. “My children got sick. They gave us aluminum blankets, but it wasn’t enough.” (Fernandez, Dickerson and Villegas, 1/4)
Politico Pulse Check:
Inside HHS: A Former Official Defends Crisis Response
Thousands of migrant families were separated at the border by the Trump administration last year. One of the HHS officials involved in putting them back together: Chris Meekins — a Trump appointee who normally helped oversee emergency preparedness, but was tapped as part of HHS' broader response. (1/7)