- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Busting Myths About Mental Illness
- Vaccines Are Not Just For Kids
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Geographical Realities Shape GOP Divide Over Health Law Access For Immigrants
- Marketplace 2
- Employee Loyalty To Theranos Fades, As Founder Shrouds Company In Secrecy
- San Francisco's Nursing Home Costs Sky High Compared To Rest Of Country
- Public Health and Education 2
- OxyContin-Maker Purdue Kept Quiet While A Los Angeles Drug Ring Thrived
- Early Death Has Become Fact Of Life For Sacramento's Black Children
- Hospital Roundup 1
- Officials Bring In Outside Help To Stave Off Financial Collapse Of Sebastopol’s Hospital
Latest From California Healthline:
Mental illness is common — and so are misperceptions about it. These too-often-believed myths can be harmful to you and your loved ones. (Barbara Feder Ostrov, 7/11)
California’s leading physician organization is heading a drive to convince adults they need their vaccinations, too. (Anna Gorman, 7/11)
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More News From Across The State
Five GOP members of Congress from California have declined to sign a letter from their colleagues demanding the Obama administration shoot down the request to allow immigrants who are in the country illegally buy subsidized plans from Covered California.
Obamacare For Immigrants Divides California's GOP
California’s proposal to let undocumented immigrants purchase unsubsidized Obamacare plans is creating a divide among Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation. Five GOP lawmakers from the state — including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — declined to sign a letter from their colleagues demanding the Obama administration shoot down the request, the first in the country. The split reflects the geographic realities of the areas they represent, GOP strategists say. Latinos make up a substantial chunk of voters in some GOP-held districts. (Pradhan, 7/8)
In other news, Sonoma County's wine industry is stepping in to help its farmworkers —
The Press Democrat:
Sonoma County Wine Industry Responds To Farmworkers’ Plight
The activity comes after an unsparing report last year by the county’s Department of Health Services and California Human Development, a nonprofit that works with farmworkers, which brought additional scrutiny to the multibillion-dollar industry. ....The survey found only 30 percent of the county’s farmworkers reported having health insurance coverage, compared to 86 percent of all county adults.
But drugmakers say the transparency requirements in the proposed legislation would create a distorted view of drug pricing, failing to account for negotiated discounts or price decreases.
The Associated Press:
Advocates Hope Shaming Drugmakers Discourages Price Spikes
Frustrated by the rising cost of prescription drugs, California health advocates hope sunlight and a dose of shame will discourage drugmakers from raising their prices too quickly or introducing new medications at prices that break the bank. They're promoting legislation that would require drugmakers to provide advance notice before making big price increases. Pharmaceutical companies have come out in force against the measure, warning it would lead to dangerous drug shortages. (Cooper, 7/10)
Elizabeth Holmes has a long-standing practice of keeping information from her employees, The Wall Street Journal reports, but as investigations and penalties ramp up, it's starting to cause tension among her workers.
The Wall Street Journal:
Under Fire, Theranos CEO Stifled Bad News
At a presentation to Theranos Inc. employees last month, Elizabeth Holmes displayed a slide saying the company had developed 304 tests using small volumes of blood, according to an attendee. Left unsaid: Most of those experiments hadn’t progressed beyond laboratory research, according to the attendee. The slideshow was part of a pattern: Ms. Holmes has continued to put a positive spin on her embattled blood-testing company—while broadly keeping employees in the dark on many issues—even as Theranos’s regulatory and legal troubles mount. (Carreyrou, 7/10)
The annual price tag a person can expect to pay for private nursing home care in San Francisco is $182,316, which is 97 percent more than the national average.
San Francisco Business Times:
Nursing Home Care Is Twice As Expensive In San Francisco Vs. The National Average
Private rooms in nursing homes, the most expensive option, are nearly twice as costly in San Francisco as the national median price tag, thanks to high real estate and labor costs. The median monthly cost of private nursing home care in California, for example, is $9,338, which adds up to just over $112,000 a year...And in San Francisco, you can expect to pay $15,193; that's 62 percent more than the California monthly median, and 97 percent more than the national average, the survey disclosed. (Rauber, 7/8)
The drugmaker tracked the clinic that was prescribing a jaw-dropping amount of OxyContin — one employee wrote in an email: "I feel very certain this is an organized drug ring...” — but said nothing to the DEA until years later, according to the Los Angeles Times. The paper also looks at the Washington city that was ravaged by the drug ring.
Los Angeles Times:
Inside An L.A. OxyContin Ring That Pushed More Than 1 Million Pills. What The Drugmaker Knew
In the waning days of summer in 2008, a convicted felon and his business partner leased office space on a seedy block near MacArthur Park. They set up a waiting room, hired an elderly physician and gave the place a name that sounded like an ordinary clinic: Lake Medical. The doctor began prescribing the opioid painkiller OxyContin – in extraordinary quantities. In a single week in September, she issued orders for 1,500 pills, more than entire pharmacies sold in a month. In October, it was 11,000 pills. By December, she had prescribed more than 73,000, with a street value of nearly $6 million. (Ryan, Glover and Girion, 7/10)
Los Angeles Times:
How Black-Market OxyContin Spurred A Town's Descent Into Crime, Addiction And Heartbreak
For years, Jevon “Goldie” Lawson dealt crack on the steps of a 7-Eleven in a rough part of this blue-collar town. He smoked the rocks he didn’t sell and often appeared as strung out as his customers. But in 2008, he moved into a $400,000 house, started driving a champagne-colored Humvee, and made himself the star act of his own hip-hop label. He abandoned the crack business. Found something better, he told associates. (Ryan, Glover and Girion, 7/10)
Meanwhile, many await DEA's decision on reclassifying marijuana —
Orange County Register:
Is Pot As Dangerous As Heroin?
At the same time Californians are preparing to vote on the legalization of adult marijuana use, the federal government is weighing whether pot should continue to be classified as a top-tier narcotic on par with heroin. Within a month, the Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to release a much-anticipated decision that could alter cannabis’ ranking in the hierarchy of controlled substances – a formal listing that affects everything from medical research to taxing policy. Since the list was created in 1970, marijuana has been ranked in Schedule I – the most restrictive category – alongside heroin, LSD and peyote. (Edwards Staggs, 7/11)
Between 2010 and 2015, African American children died at well above the rates of any other racial or ethnic group in Sacramento County. The Sacramento Bee investigates why.
Black Children Die At Alarming Rate In Sacramento County, And Here’s Why
Between 2010 and 2015, African American children died at well above the rates of any other racial or ethnic group in Sacramento County: Nearly one-quarter of the 873 children under age 18 who died in the county during that six-year time frame were black, even as black youths made up just 11 percent of the population in that age group. During that time period, the death rate among black children was more than twice the rate of white children and about three times the rate for Latino and Asian children, according to a Sacramento Bee review of state death certificates. (Caiola, 7/10)
In other public health news —
Los Angeles Times:
Those Pricey Alkaline Waters Aren't Doing Much For Your Health, Expert Says
Proponents claim that drinking high-pH water slows the aging process, increases energy, boosts immune function and decreases a person’s risk of cancer, osteoporosis and other chronic diseases. ... There is scant scientific evidence, however, that drinking alkaline water has any effect on health, other than to temporarily relieve heartburn. (Like the calcium carbonate in antacid tablets, mineral ions in alkaline water can neutralize stomach acid.) (Dayton, 7/9)
What You Need To Know About Mosquitoes, Zika Virus And Repellents
To date, not a single person has been known to contract the disease from a mosquito within the United States. And when it does arrive in the U.S., your chances of getting it will still be slim. But that hasn’t stopped people from calling Phillip Howe, owner of Mosquito Squad of Greater Kansas City & Lawrence. ...Here’s a primer about mosquitoes and how best to keep them at bay. (Billhartz Gregorian, 7/9)
Los Angeles Daily News:
Gas Company, Pollution Agency At Odds Over Cost Of Porter Ranch Health Study
It took weeks of public testimony about being sickened or forced to move because of the nation’s largest natural gas leak near Porter Ranch for air regulators to issue a sweeping nuisance abatement order. But nearly seven months after the order against SoCalGas regarding its four-month leak in Aliso Canyon, a required health study of affected residents may be on hold, regulators said Saturday. The reason: a dispute between the gas company and the South Coast Air Quality Management District over cost. (Bartolomew, 7/9)
Palm Drive Health Care District, which provides funding and oversight for the hospital, has hired consultants to stabilize the hospital. “They’ve taken on hospitals in the heart of Los Angeles, in some of the most underserved communities, I would say, in America and made those hospitals successful in pretty short order," says Dan Smith, president of the board of directors of the nonprofit Sonoma West Medical Center.
The Press Democrat:
Palm Drive Health Care District Hires Outside Management
In the latest move to save Sebastopol’s hospital from financial collapse, hospital district officials have handed over executive, financial and administrative responsibilities to an outside consultant with expertise in stablizing hospitals and making them profitable. On Friday, at a special meeting of the Palm Drive Health Care District, which provides funding and oversight for the hospital, board members approved a subcontract between the current hospital management group, Sonoma West Medical Center, and Pipeline Health, which owns and operates four hospitals in the Los Angeles area, as well as a university-owned hospital in Washington, D.C. (Espinoza, 7/8)
In other hospital news —
East Bay Times:
Berkeley City Council Resolution Would Oppose Hospital Closure
Three City Council members are seeking to undo plans by Sutter Health to close its Alta Bates campus. Councilmen Max Anderson, Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington are sponsoring a draft resolution on the July 12 council agenda that opposes Sutter Health's stated plan to cease operations at Alta Bates sometime between 2018 and 2030, and asks the city to identify opportunities to seismically retrofit the hospital. Alta Bates, at 2450 Ashby Ave., houses an acute care facility and emergency department. (Lochner, 7/8)
Although the toddler was declared brain dead by three different doctors, the family sued to keep him on life support. The case was pending when his parents obtained last-minute passports and private funding to airlift him out of the country to a Central American hospital.
Brain-Dead Toddler Could Return To U.S. Next Week After Central America Treatment
A brain-dead Vacaville toddler, whose family waged a legal fight to keep him on life support, could be coming home after six weeks in a Central American hospital. An air ambulance return trip to the U.S. was scheduled Friday morning for 2-year-old Israel Stinson, “but there were administrative hiccups with the (U.S.) hospital,” said Alexandra Snyder, an attorney with the Life Legal Justice Foundation, one of two nonprofit legal groups handling Israel’s case. Snyder said it’s likely the boy and his parents will leave an unidentified Central America country early next week on a medical flight to an East Coast hospital, where he’ll be treated by a pediatric specialist for “technology-dependent” children, such as those on ventilators. (Buck, 7/8)
Hillary Clinton reaffirms her support for a "public option" and proposes doubling funding for "federally qualified “ health centers, which serve about 25 million low-income people in the U.S. Meanwhile, Donald Trump will lay out his vision for veterans' health care, and a new video from KHN looks at why the presidential candidates' proposals for regulating drug prices may not be good ideas.
The Associated Press:
In Nod To Sanders, Clinton Offers New Health Care Proposals
In another nod to primary rival Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton is proposing to increase federal money for community health centers and outlining steps to expand access to health care across the nation. Clinton's campaign says the proposal is part of her plan to provide universal health care coverage in the United States. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee also is reaffirming her support for a public-option insurance plan and for expanding Medicare by letting people age 55 year and older opt in. (7/9)
Los Angeles Times:
Hillary Clinton Vows To Expand Funding For Healthcare Centers, Sanders Lauds Effort As Two Move Toward Unity
Hillary Clinton pledged Saturday to double federal support for primary care at community health centers serving low-income patients nationwide, building on her plans to expand the Affordable Care Act. The move drew quick praise from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, her one-time rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. And it underscored Democrats' commitment to expanding the reach of the health law that President Obama signed in 2010. (Lee, 7/9)
The Associated Press:
Trump's Speech To Spell Out Veteran Health Care Proposal
Republican Donald Trump will deliver a speech on veterans' health care reform Monday, his latest in a series of prepared remarks aimed at articulating his policy agenda and convincing still-reticent Republicans that he has the discipline and control to mount a credible general election bid against likely rival Hillary Clinton. Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, will be speaking in Virginia Beach, Virginia, not far from the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, where he first unveiled his plan to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs last October, promising to modernize the system, while minimizing wait times for patients and improving care. (7/11)
Kaiser Health News:
Sounds Like A Good Idea? Regulating Drug Prices
This is the second in a series of videos about health care promises from presidential candidates that “sound like a good idea.” Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News explores why proposals to regulate drug prices may not be such a good idea after all. (Rovner and Ying, 7/11)
Physicians groups say the problem is surprise gaps in insurance coverage while insurers counter that more doctors are rejecting in-network rates, then charging out-of-network fees that are many times higher.
The Wall Street Journal:
Surprise Medical Bills Fuel Fight Between Providers, Insurers
The growth of insurance plans built around small networks of health-care providers is fueling new fights over surprise medical bills, when patients inadvertently get care from out-of-network doctors. Providers and insurers are blaming each other for sticking patients with higher bills in such cases, and nearly two dozen states have passed or are considering legislation to protect consumers. (Beck, 7/8)
In other national health care news —
The Washington Post:
Congress Set To Pass Bill To Combat Opioid Abuse
Congress this week is expected to send President Obama legislation to combat heroin and painkiller abuse, despite lingering disputes over whether there is enough funding to support new treatment and prevention programs. Senate Democrats have pushed for additional funding arguing that without it the bill will not be able to deliver on its promise to help thwart the opioid epidemic. But they do not plan to block the agreement that House and Senate negotiators finalized last week, according to a spokesman for Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). It’s unclear how many Democrats will support the bill, but it is expected to easily be approved just in time for the height of the election season. (Demirjian, 7/11)
The Wall Street Journal:
Big Insurers Defend $34 Billion Merger
Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. face resistance from the Justice Department to their proposed $34 billion merger and an uphill battle persuading antitrust enforcers the deal won’t harm competition, according to people familiar with the matter. The insurers on Friday met with top government officials in a late-in-the-game attempt to make their case that the deal has public benefits and won’t hurt consumers, and that they could address competitive concerns through asset sales, people familiar with the matter said. (Kendall and Wilde Mathews, 7/8)
Pharma Dollars Went Overwhelmingly To Lawmakers Opposing Medicare Part B Overhaul
After the Obama administration unveiled a proposal to overhaul Medicare Part B four months ago, a large number of lawmakers quickly and very vocally opposed the effort. Now, a new analysis finds that drug makers, who are worried the plan will cut into their revenue, have given them considerably more financial support than lawmakers who have not raised objections. Specifically, 310 lawmakers who either signed two letters opposing the overhaul or were critical of it received a total of more than $7.2 million from pharmaceutical and health products companies for their 2016 campaigns, according to the analysis by Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group, which released its analysis on Monday. And the amount given to each representative averaged more than $23,300 (read the letters here and here). (Silverman, 7/11)
Moon Shot Won't Take Down Drug Costs
Vice President Joe Biden yelled about the unacceptable costs of cancer drugs at his recent moon shot summit, but so far there's no indication drug prices will be anything more than a talking point in the ambitious quest to speed cancer therapies. Instead, the government and private sector partnerships that develop out of the project could just add to tensions over the government's responsibility to control the costs of drugs whose development it helps fund. (Karlin-Smith, 7/8)