- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Insurance Commissioner Puts Aetna And Humana In Hot Seat Over Merger Deal
- Democrats Increasingly Want Expansion Of Health Law, Poll Finds
- Around California 2
- Free Mobile Clinic Draws Thousands Of LA's Uninsured, Underinsured
- Issue Of Medical Marijuana Cultivation Crops Up For Cities
Latest From California Healthline:
Executives from Aetna and Humana defended their proposed $37 billion tie-up in a hearing conducted by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. Consumer groups warned it would lead to higher premiums and restricted access to care. (Ana B. Ibarra, 4/28)
A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds a majority of Democrats think the law doesn’t go far enough. (Jordan Rau, 4/28)
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Summaries Of The News:
California's largest medical association is joining the fight in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that stems from the hospital chain Dignity Health's denial of a tubal ligation procedure based on religious directives.
Calif. Medical Association Joins ACLU Lawsuit Against Dignity Over Religious Directives
California's largest medical association is joining the fight against Dignity Health over its refusal to allow a woman to get her tubes tied during a C-section.The lawsuit is one of a number that have been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union across the country over Catholic hospitals' refusals to provide certain types of care because of ethical and religious guidelines issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (Schencker, 4/27)
California Medical Association Seeks To Join ACLU Suit Against Catholic Hospital System
The Medical Association says it's illegal for Dignity Health's hospital administrators to intervene in the decision to tie a woman's tubes after a C-section. "It's the physician, with his or her patient, who should make that decision," says Dr. Ruth Haskins, the Medical Association's president-elect. "It should not be administrators, who are laypeople, making medical decisions that have such a consequence." (Plevin, 4/27)
41,000 Doctors To Join Lawsuit Against Catholic Hospital Over Denial Of Care
The ACLU lawsuit stems from the case of a Dignity Health patient who was denied a tubal ligation. The patient’s physician agreed to perform the procedure during her cesarean section, but the hospital refused the doctor’s request, citing religious directives written by Catholic bishops that classify sterilization as “intrinsically evil.” ... The plaintiffs argue that forcing doctors to deny basic health care on the basis of religious objections creates a conflict between the medical well-being of patients and the directives of the Catholic hospital system. They also contend that withholding medical care for reasons unrelated to medicine is illegal in California. (Shine, 4/27)
The San Francisco Chronicle:
State’s Doctors Join Suit Over Dignity Health Sterilization Ban
Dignity Health, based in San Francisco, said it was disappointed by the CMA’s decision to join the suit. The company also said it clearly informs all staff physicians and visiting doctors that its hospitals “operate in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.” (Egelko, 4/27)
While implementation begins May 16, coverage will be retroactive to May 1.
Capital Public Radio:
Undocumented Children In California To Receive Medi-Cal Offer
California will begin offering Medi-Cal coverage next month to children living in the state illegally. Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers agreed to this decision during last year’s state budget deal. Rene Mollow, deputy director of health care benefits and eligibility for the California Department of Health Care Services, says the program is a "big deal" for families who meet Medi-Cal income requirements. "We’re looking at this as a huge opportunity in terms of helping to ensure that the children who are in the state of California have access to comprehensive health care services," Mollow says. (Ayestas, 4/27)
The clinic's problems came up at a U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last week -- in which David J. Shulkin, the VA's under secretary for health, acknowledged issues with wait times at the facility.
The Ventura County Star:
New L.A. Director Tasked With Cutting Backlog At Oxnard VA Clinic
The Department of Veterans Affairs of Greater Los Angeles has hired an executive director of ambulatory care and community-based clinics whose duties will include reducing the backlog for appointments at its Oxnard clinic, an official said Wednesday. Richard P. Robinson, who has served as president and CEO of hospitals in Florida, Texas, California and New York and served in the U.S. Air Force's Strategic Air Command as an accounting specialist, will begin his new job Monday, according to Nikki T. Baker, an associate chief of public and congressional relations for the VA in Los Angeles. Sullivan, 4/27)
A coordinated sweep leading to 16 arrests wasn't connected to the recent outbreak of illnesses related to the powerful opioid fentanyl, but both shine a light on the drug abuse problem embedded in LA's homeless population.
The Los Angeles Daily News:
Crackdown On Skid Row Drug Dealing Won’t Stop ‘Evil People’ Who Sell
The pre-dawn arrest Wednesday of a suspected drug kingpin and his associates accused of selling narcotics in Los Angeles’ Skid Row likely won’t alleviate a complicated substance abuse cycle deeply embedded in downtown’s homeless, advocates said. (Abram, 4/27)
And in other news, an effective, but costly, way to save lives —
Anti-HIV Pill Not Cost Effective Among U.S. Drug Abusers
Providing anti-HIV pills to people who abuse injection drugs in the U.S. would reduce infections and save lives but end up costing the healthcare system billions of dollars a year, researchers say. The message for policymakers is that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) use among injection drug abusers is effective, but very costly, said study author Dr. Douglas Owens. (Seaman, 4/27)
About 2,500 doctors, dentists, nurses, dental assistants and other medical professionals will provide over $30 million worth of free services over the course of the three days.
Thousands Of LA’s Uninsured, Underinsured Brave Lines For Free Health Care
Thousands waited in line overnight to get into the Los Angeles Convention Center Wednesday for the first of three days of free eye exams, dental care, minor surgeries and more. While past large free clinics have offered dental, eye and primary care, this week's effort is different because it also offers the minor surgeries and mental health screenings. In addition, about three dozen people who signed up in advance will get more complex surgeries – like hernia repair – for free at White Memorial and Glendale Adventist Hospitals. (Aguilera, 4/27)
Cathedral City's council approves pot manufacturing while Fillmore votes to reconsider a previous ban.
The Desert Sun:
Cathedral City Approves Medical Pot Cultivation
Marijuana propagation, cultivation and other aspects of medical cannabis manufacturing will be allowed in Cathedral City, a move that follows a similar policy change in Desert Hot Springs. City Council approved several changes to the city's medical marijuana ordinance Wednesday to allow cannabis manufacturing in light industrial zones. (Descant, 4/27)
The Ventura County Star:
Fillmore May Allow Cultivation, Sale And Delivery Of Marijuana
Fillmore could allow the cultivation, sale and delivery of medical marijuana, after the City Council voted Tuesday night to reconsider the ban it passed three months ago. The Fillmore City Council, along with councils all over Ventura County, banned growing or selling medical marijuana because state law gave them a March 1 deadline, after which the state could start licensing growers and sellers in cities that hadn't passed their own rules. But the state lifted that deadline before it took effect. (Biasotti, 4/27)
House Speaker Paul Ryan says the provisions that keep insurers from charging sick people higher rates has raised costs for healthy consumers while undermining choice and competition, Reuters reports.
Ryan Wants To End Obamacare Cost Protections For Sick Consumers
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan called on Wednesday for an end to Obamacare's financial protections for people with serious medical conditions, saying these consumers should be placed in state high-risk pools. In election-year remarks that could shed light on an expected Republican healthcare alternative, Ryan said existing federal policy that prevents insurers from charging sick people higher rates for health coverage has raised costs for healthy consumers while undermining choice and competition. (4/27)
In other health law news —
The Associated Press:
Significant Premium Hikes Expected Under Obama Health Law
Expect insurers to seek significant premium increases under President Barack Obama’s health care law, in a wave of state-level requests rippling across the country ahead of the political conventions this summer. Insurers say the law’s coverage has been a financial drain for many of them, and they’re setting the stage for 2017 hikes that in some cases could reach well into the double digits. For example in Virginia, a state that reports early, nine insurers returning to the HealthCare.gov marketplace are seeking average premium increases that range from 9.4 percent to 37.1 percent. Those initial estimates filed with the state may change. (Alonso-Zaldivar and Murphy, 4/28)
“Pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered. It’s time to slaughter some hogs,” Sen. Claire McCaskill said in opening the committee hearing on high drug prices. Valeant's outgoing CEO J. Michael Pearson offered his regrets to a skeptical panel, while investor Bill Ackman promised a shift in pricing strategy going forward.