- California Healthline Original Stories 3
- Uncertain Fate Of Health Law Giving Health Industry Heartburn
- Avoiding The ER: Paramedics Link Patients To Local Mental Health Treatment
- Victims Seek Payments As 'Dr. Death' Declares Innocence
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- 'There Is Significant Risk Of Chaos': Stability Of Industry Threatened By 'Repeal And Replace'
- Public Health and Education 4
- Alleviating Loneliness Can Aid Recovery: Calif. Hospital Pairs Older Patients With Companions
- Program Aims To Curb High Rates Of Re-Injury In Young Adults Who Have Been Violently Hurt
- Advocates Want Stanislaus County To Implement Laura’s Law
- WHO Shifts Zika Classification From Emergency To Ongoing Threat
Latest From California Healthline:
The effect of “repeal and replace” could have greatest consequences for hospitals. They accepted lower federal funding under the law because their uncompensated care was expected to fall as more people became insured. (Chad Terhune and Julie Rovner, 11/21)
In California and other states, these first responders are learning to identify people with mental illness and get them help -- or sometimes just chat and check in over snacks. (Shefali Luthra and Ana B. Ibarra, 11/21)
While hundreds of his former patients submit claims for restitution, a Detroit cancer doctor convicted of making millions by purposefully poisoning them with drugs they didn’t need vows to prove his innocence. (Melissa Bailey, 11/18)
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More News From Across The State
Republicans' plans could disrupt insurance coverage for many more Americans than did the original law. Meanwhile, Mike Pence says Donald Trump will take on the health law right "out of the gate," but two conservative thinkers talk with Politico about how Trump's stance on health care is more of a wild card than some may think.
Los Angeles Times:
Republicans' Plans To Repeal Obamacare Could Be More Disruptive Than The Law Itself
In the summer of 2013, as state and federal officials readied new insurance marketplaces created through the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans started getting disquieting notices from their insurers. Health plans were being canceled because they didn’t comply with the law, often called Obamacare. Some 4 million people were ultimately told they would lose their plans. The ensuing outrage sparked a political firestorm, seriously eroded public confidence in Obamacare and forced an embarrassed President Obama to change federal regulations so people could keep their coverage. Yet that tumultuous episode could be dwarfed by what President-elect Donald Trump’s administration and its congressional allies unleash beginning next year. They plan to not only repeal the law but are contemplating changes that are significantly more far-reaching and could disrupt insurance coverage for many more Americans than did the original law. (Levey, 11/21)
Obamacare Repeal Plan Stokes Fears Of Market Collapse
Republicans warned for years that Obamacare would blow up the nation's individual insurance market. Instead, their own rush to repeal the health care law may be what triggers that death spiral. GOP lawmakers say they plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act as soon as President-elect Donald Trump takes office, including a transition period of a year or two before it takes effect. That way, they satisfy their base while giving notice to 20 million Obamacare customers that they must find other coverage options. (Cancryn and Demko, 11/21)
Uncertain Fate Of Health Law Giving Health Industry Heartburn
Six years into building its business around the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s $3 trillion health care industry may be losing that political playbook.Industry leaders, like many voters, were stunned by the election of Donald Trump and unprepared for Republicans’ plans to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. In addition, Trump’s vague and sometimes conflicting statements on health policy have left industry officials guessing as to the details of any substitute for the federal health law. (Rovner and Terhune, 11/21)
Pence: Trump To Push Rapid Repeal Of Obamacare
President-elect Donald Trump will prioritize repealing President Barack Obama's landmark health care law right "out of the gate” once he takes office, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday. (Temple-West, 11/20)
Why Trump Is The Wild Card On Obamacare
The House Speaker wants Obamacare dead. The House Budget Chairman — a leading candidate for HHS secretary — wants Medicare reform. But all the focus on Republicans' health strategies is ignoring the biggest elephant in the room: Donald Trump, a president-elect who's spent more than a year bucking congressional Republicans — and may not share their priorities, two leading conservative thinkers tell POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast. (Diamond, 11/18)
Vida En El Valle:
Covered California Tour Makes Stops In The Central Valley
As Covered California officials traveled throughout communities in the Central Valley last week to promote enrollment, one of their goals was to bring the spot light on the enrollment efforts at local level. “We are putting the spot light on the local efforts that are happening, not just here in Visalia, but throughout the Central Valley, throughout California,,” said Peter V. Lee, Covered California executive director. “We are actually making the (health) benefits real to millions of people.” Lee and other Covered California officials stopped in Visalia on Nov. 16 at one of the Family HealthCare Network’s locations as part of the third annual tour that started on Nov. 12 in Southern California and ended on Nov. 19 in Northern California. (Ortiz-Briones, 11/20)
Those trying to operate in the state find it difficult to navigate the tricky line between what they can do because of state law versus what's enforced at a federal level.
The New York Times:
Medical Marijuana Is Legal In California. Except When It’s Not.
In what may be a sign of things to come after the drug’s broader legalization, medical cannabis companies like CannaCraft — which have operated in a quasi-legal, unregulated market, or gray market, for the past two decades in California — continue to be whipsawed by the glaring contradiction between a federal ban on marijuana and still-evolving state laws that should, in theory, shelter the companies from prosecution. Cannabis enterprises deal almost exclusively in cash because banks, fearing federal consequences, will not take their business. (Fuller, 11/21)
In other news on care for the aging population, Californians debate if people with Alzheimer's should be excluded from the state's new aid-in-dying law.
Hospital Companions Help Combat Loneliness For Older Patients
Loneliness can be a problem for older people, especially when they're in the hospital. Their children may have moved away. Spouses and friends may themselves be too frail to visit. So a California hospital is providing volunteer companions in the geriatric unit. One of the volunteers at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica is 24-year-old Julia Torrano. She hopes to go to medical school. Meanwhile, her twice-weekly volunteer shifts give her a lot of practice working with patients. (Jaffe, 11/21)
The Mercury News:
Should Alzheimer's Victims Be Excluded From California's Right-To-Die Law?
Since California’s controversial new law went into effect in the late spring, it has allowed approximately 150 state residents suffering from terminal illnesses to get physicians to prescribe a lethal prescription drug. But for many Californians who fear wasting away slowly over years, the law falls short. The reason: The law requires someone to make a competent decision to die, which patients with dementia clearly can’t do. (Wessel and Seipel, 11/18)
The Wraparound project provides services such as mentorships, job training and even getting clients their favorite foods.
How An Intervention Program Stops The Revolving Door Of Violent Injuries
This time he [Darius Irvin] was shot with nine bullets, again by someone he did not know. He was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital. It was there something unexpected happened. ... That’s because the Wraparound Project had stepped in to help. It’s a program based at San Francisco General Hospital. Wraparound’s goal is to reduce re-injury for young people who have been violently hurt, through either a shooting or stabbing. (Klivans, 11/20)
Eighteen counties in California have adopted Laura’s Law, which allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment, but Stanislaus County is still in its fact-finding stage.
Laura’s Law: Court-Ordered Psych Treatment Considered For Stanislaus County
Mental health advocates are hoping that Stanislaus County leaders will implement a state law that enables counties to seek court-ordered outpatient treatment for people with serious mental disorders. A growing number of counties have chosen to create Laura’s Law treatment programs for people with a history of not complying with mental health treatment. (Carlson, 11/20)
In other mental health news —
Los Angeles Times:
Investment Firm Ousts Mentally Ill And Latino Families To Flip Koreatown Buildings, Lawsuit Alleges
Rivera is one of 15 tenants in five Koreatown buildings named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed electronically Thursday night by the pro bono law firm Public Counsel and the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates Inc. It alleges that the Century City investment company Optimus Properties LLC used abusive and discriminatory tactics to displace mentally ill and Latino tenants from the rent-controlled buildings so they could renovate their units and rent them for more money. (Smith, 11/18)
Experts worry the distinction — that the virus is here to stay and should have longterm resources devoted to it — will be lost on many, and could slow research and funding efforts.
Los Angeles Times:
WHO Lifts Zika Emergency, But Prepares For A Long-Term Fight
In a grim milestone, the World Health Organization declared Friday that Zika no longer presents a “public health emergency” and said the virus should now be treated like other established infectious diseases. That means the United Nations health agency will establish a long-term program to fight the virus responsible for thousands of cases of microcephaly and other neurological ailments. (Kaplan, 11/18)
Valley fever is often asymptomatic, so patients don't know if they've had it before. But a new test could change that, allowing those who have not had it to better prepare themselves against the sickness.
The Bakersfield Californian:
New Valley Fever Skin Test Shows Promise, But Obstacles Remain
A new skin test called Spherusol can detect whether a person has developed natural immunity, meaning they’ve overcome valley fever before. Because most valley fever cases are asymptomatic, many people whose immune systems have battled the disease may never know it. Advocates are excited about the test. So are doctors — like Dr. John Galgiani, director of the University of Arizona’s Valley Fever Center for Excellence. He dreams of seeing Spherusol being used as a tool to screen for past infections. “I think that Spherusol's best use will be in primary care doctors' offices, to test their patients on a routine basis to find out if they've indeed previously had valley fever,” Galgiani said. If patients knew they had never conquered valley fever, they could better prepare themselves against it; and doctors might be more likely to diagnose the disease if patients showed unusual symptoms. (Klein, 11/19)
In other news from across the state —
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Kaiser Permanente Breaks Ground On New Medical Office In Southwest Santa Rosa
Kaiser Permanente broke ground Friday on an 87,300-square-foot medical office building in southwest Santa Rosa that will expand the health care provider’s ability to serve the region’s Latino population and residents of west Sonoma County. The three-story building on Mercury Way near Sebastopol Road will offer a range of primary and specialty care, including family medical services, dermatology, pharmacy, lab and imaging services. The facility should open in early 2018 and the construction cost will total around $50 million, Kaiser officials said. (Morris, 11/18)
Ventura County Star:
Home Health Agency Gains Recognition
Simi Valley Hospital announced that Adventist Health/Home Care Services has been named a top agency of the 2016 HomeCare Elite, a recognition of the top-performing U.S. home health agencies. "We are very proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. This award is well-deserved and represents the level of quality our home health patients experience with Adventist Health/Home Care Services — Simi Valley," said Caroline Esparza, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer at Simi Valley Hospital. Eileen Tondreau, RN, BSN, director of Adventist Health/Home Care Services — Simi Valley, credits the expertise of the home health nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists,aides and social workers for the success of this achievement. (11/18)
If completed, the merger between Anthem and Cigna and the deal between Aetna and Humana would leave the industry topped by three giant firms. While the decisions are expected before Donald Trump takes office, it's unclear where his administration will come down on mega-mergers like these.
The New York Times:
The Future Of Health Care Mergers Under Trump
The proposed health insurance mega-merger between Anthem and Cigna heads to court on Monday, as the companies face off against a Justice Department seeking to block their $48 billion deal. It will be followed in just a few weeks by the trial for another proposed insurance mega-merger, between Aetna and Humana. (Abelson, 11/20)
The Wall Street Journal:
Insurer Anthem To Defend Cigna Deal In Court
The trial starts Monday in the Justice Department’s challenge to health insurer Anthem Inc.’s $48 billion acquisition of reluctant partner Cigna Corp., a case that could produce unusual courtroom drama and be a last hurrah for President Barack Obama’s antitrust enforcers. The Justice Department has been aggressive in challenging mergers recently, but none of its efforts is bigger than its lawsuits challenging the Anthem-Cigna deal, the largest ever in the industry, and a $34 billion deal that would combine insurers Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. A trial on the latter transaction begins Dec. 5. (Kendall and Wilde Mathews, 11/20)
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has instituted changes in the health care system that have saved many lives, but as the industry is about to enter a time of uncertainty under a Trump administration, the agency could lose support.
How AHRQ's Low Profile Threatens Work On Healthcare Best Practices
AHRQ—pronounced “arc” by wonks—is quietly lauded by fans and vocally scorned by detractors. Its mission of figuring out how to improve the healthcare system is all the more daunting for its relatively puny annual budget that for several years has hovered around $430 million. But research supported by AHRQ, sometimes solely so, has transformed the underpinnings of a sector that not only directly manages life and death but also encompasses nearly one-fifth of the U.S. economy. The HHS agency's anonymity might be inherent in the nature of its work, but its obscurity has serious implications as federal healthcare policy is thrown into tumult with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. (Whitman, 11/19)
In other national health care news —
The New York Times:
Many Insured Children Lack Essential Health Care, Study Finds
A new study to be released on Monday by the Children’s Health Fund, a nonprofit based in New York City that expands access to health care for disadvantaged children, found that one in four children in the United States did not have access to essential health care, though a record number of young people now have health insurance. The report found that 20.3 million people in the nation under the age of 18 lack “access to care that meets modern pediatric standards.” (Santora, 11/20)
Deaths Involving Fentanyl Keep Climbing
In mid-August, an affable, 40-year-old man from Everett, Mass., overdosed at his mom's home after almost 25 years of heroin use. Joe Salemi had overdosed before, but this time couldn't be revived. Salemi's brother, Anthony, says he was pretty sure when his brother died that there must have been something besides heroin in the syringe. The medical examiner later confirmed it. (Bebinger, 11/18)