- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- Near Incineration Of Psychiatric Hospital Highlights Gaping Need For More Beds
- Covered California & The Health Law 2
- Ramifications Of Individual Mandate Repeal To Ripple Across Calif.'s Marketplaces
- Trump Boasts Tax Package 'Essentially' Repeals Health Law. That's Not True.
- Medi-Cal 1
- California Weighs Options To Keep CHIP Funded: 'It’s A Sophie’s Choice We Shouldn’t Have To Make'
- Health Care Personnel 1
- Contract For Ventura County-Employed Nurses Moves Forward With Pay Raise Increases
- Public Health and Education 1
- The Latest Target In Series Of Gene-Editing Breakthroughs: Hearing Loss
Latest From California Healthline:
Fire almost destroyed one of two acute care facilities in Ventura County — wiping out most of the region’s inpatient capacity. In California and nationally, such hospitals are strained by demand — and disasters. (Barbara Feder Ostrov, 12/21)
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Summaries Of The News:
With their tax package, Republicans have achieved a long-sought for goal of getting rid of the individual mandate. While some experts say it will cause a death spiral, others say it won't be quite that dire.
CA Health Insurance Costs Expected To Rise Under GOP Tax Plan
Despite successfully beating back Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the future of the federal health care law appears uncertain after congressional Democrats were unable to defeat a provision of the GOP tax plan that dismantles the foundation on which Obamacare is built. Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax bill scraps the so-called individual mandate in Obamacare that requires most Americans to have insurance or pay a tax penalty. (Hart, 12/20)
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Obamacare Insurance Mandate Repeal Threatens Sonoma County, State Health Care Expansion
Congressional lawmakers voted Wednesday to repeal the federal mandate requiring most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, a decision that could increase the ranks of uninsured Californians by nearly 2 million people and hike premiums for those who remain covered. Passed as part of the Republican-led $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, the mandate’s elimination will roll back a key component of the Affordable Care Act in 2019 when signed into law by President Trump early next year. (Morris, 12/20)
The tax legislation kills the individual mandate, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, but many of it's parts remain in tact.
The Associated Fact Check:
Trump Says 'Obamacare' Is Repealed. It Isn't.
President Donald Trump has prematurely declared "Obamacare" dead and displayed a misunderstanding of where the money comes from to make the health law work. A look at his remarks Wednesday about the tax plan he will soon sign into law and its effect on President Barack Obama's health insurance overhaul. (12/20)
The New York Times Fact Check:
Trump Falsely Claims To Have ‘Repealed Obamacare’
“When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed,” Mr. Trump said in a cabinet meeting. “We have essentially repealed Obamacare, and we will come up with something that will be much better. ”Mr. Trump’s suggestion that he kept two key campaign promises with one bill is not accurate. Effectively, the tax bill does repeal the individual mandate beginning in 2019. The mandate is a core component of the Affordable Care Act and fines people who do not have health insurance. But the tax bill leaves every other vital part of the current health care law intact. (Qiu, 12/20)
Trump: GOP Tax Bill 'Essentially' Repeals ObamaCare
Despite Trump’s claim, the tax bill does not repeal ObamaCare entirely. People will still be able to purchase insurance through individual marketplaces, Medicaid expansion is preserved and consumer protections remain in place. But health-care experts worry that without the mandate, premiums in the individual insurance market could spike, competition could decrease and more people will become uninsured. (Fabian, 12/20)
It seems likely that Congress will push any decision on CHIP funding until next year, and states and parents who rely on the program are starting to panic.
The Desert Sun:
Are Tens Of Thousands Of California Kids About To Lose Their Health Care?
Without congressional action, California expects its federal funds to run out by early January, if not sooner, leaving state officials to figure out how to make up the difference, which could involve taking money from other programs. ... California received $3.1 billion from the federal government for the program for the last federal fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. Those funds make up 88 percent of the costs, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance. The state picks up the rest, about $734 million. (Aguilera, 12/20)
The Washington Post:
Kids’ Health Insurance Hangs In Balance, And Parents Wonder What’s Wrong With Congress
The lingering uncertainty in Congress over the fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program has left Ashlee and Levi Smith torn between optimism and anxiety. As the parents of two young children who have relied on the government-backed health-care plan, the Smiths are unsure whether they should stretch their finances to put their boys, 3 and 3 months, on a private plan — or have faith that a polarized Congress will work it out. “$1,200 for the four of us,” Ashlee Smith, 26, said, estimating the plan’s monthly cost from their two-bedroom townhouse outside Salt Lake City, where she crafts necklaces as part of the family business. “We can’t pay that and save for a mortgage, or save anything at all.” (Samuels, 12/21)
State Officials Panicked Over Children’s Health Program
Families are becoming increasingly panicked about children losing health insurance without new funding from Congress, state officials warned Wednesday as a new report showed nearly 2 million kids could be dropped from coverage next month. Roughly 1.9 million children across the country could lose insurance in January if Congress fails to renew Children's Health Insurance Program funding, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. Another 1 million could lose coverage by the end of February if the congressional stalemate drags on. (Pradhan, 12/20)
The contract still needs to be approved by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.
Ventura County Star:
Ventura County Registered Nurses Approve Two-Year Contract
Ventura County-employed nurses approved a contract Tuesday night that brings registered nurses base pay raises ranging from 3 to 6 percent over two years, a union representative said. ... It would also bring 10 percent hikes over two years for psychiatric technicians and nurse practitioners, said Kenny Sylvain, labor representative for the California Nurses Association. A separate contract ratified by per diem nurses includes 4.5 percent base pay raises over three years. (Kisken, 12/20)
The field is breaking down barriers with startling frequency.
Los Angeles Times:
Gene-Editing Breakthrough Found To Minimize Hearing Loss In Mice Could Help Humans
Scientists are one step closer to using CRISPR-Cas9 to cure some types of hearing loss. In a paper published Wednesday in Nature, researchers describe how they used the CRISPR-Cas9 complex to alter a faulty gene associated with a form of inherited, progressive hearing loss in the tiny ears of newborn mice. (Netburn, 12/20)
In other public health news —
Los Angeles Times:
Kale And Other Leafy Vegetables May Make Your Brain Seem 11 Years Younger
In research that gives new meaning to the expression "salad days," a study published Wednesday finds that older people who ate at least one serving of leafy greens a day had a slower rate of decline on tests of memory and thinking skills than did people who rarely or never ate these vegetables. The study was published in the journal Neurology.After almost five years, regular consumers of such veggies as kale, spinach, collard greens and lettuce enjoyed a mental edge that was the equivalent of 11 years in age. (Healy, 12/20)
Getting rid of bed bugs can be difficult and expensive. The Modesto Bee investigates the options.
Bed Bugs Making Their Bite Felt All Around Modesto. Here’s What You Need To Know.
At one time, the blood-sucking insects were not prolific in California. Experts believe they made a comeback in many states after DDT was banned in 1972 and the public forgot about the need to control the bugs. (Carlson, 12/20)
In other news from across the state —
Los Angeles Times:
Unsung Hero: Nurse-Midwife Robbie Prepas Goes To Disaster Scenes
When hurricanes, floods or earthquakes strike, Robbie Prepas heads to the scene, offering medical aid to people in need. The Laguna Beach resident and certified nurse-midwife joined the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Disaster Medical Assistance Team before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. (Alderton, 12/20)
Another Gas Leak Reported At Aliso Canyon Facility
The Southern California Gas Co. says a gas leak occurred at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility in Porter Ranch just before 5 p.m. Monday night. This comes just two years after one of the nation’s largest accidental gas leaks at the same facility. (McNary, 12/20)
Everything You Want To Know About Legal Weed In California
On Jan. 1, it will become legal for adults 21 and older to buy and sell recreational marijuana in California. In anticipation, Bay Curious is answering a bunch of your questions about commercially available marijuana. (Placzek, Levi and Wirtschafter, 12/21)
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had promised Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that in exchange for her vote on the tax package, he would push through legislation shoring up the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. But the pact faced strong resistance in the House.
The Associated Press:
Congress Deals Pair Of Blows To 'Obamacare'
Two Republican senators abandoned their fight Wednesday for legislation this year to help contain premium costs by resuming federal subsidies to insurers, as Congress dealt a pair of blows to President Barack Obama's health care law. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Tennessee's Lamar Alexander ran into opposition from both parties to inserting the language into a must-pass bill preventing a weekend federal shutdown. They said they'd pursue the effort early next year, though there is no guarantee it would succeed. (12/20)
Collins Lets McConnell Slide On Promise To Shore Up Insurance Markets In 2017
Collins acknowledged on Wednesday that McConnell and Vice President Pence won’t be able to keep their promise to enact the insurance stabilization legislation in exchange for voting for tax reform. Collins and Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a statement Wednesday that they will introduce the insurance market stabilization proposal “after the first of the year when the Senate will consider the omnibus spending bill” and other priorities such as reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and funding for community health centers. (Bolton, 12/20)
Republicans Drop Obamacare Fix In Rush To Avert Shutdown
The two chambers had been on a collision course for days over the subsidies bill, with House rank-and-file Republicans staring down Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Even with the Obamacare flash point out of the picture, House Republican leaders will have a hard sales job to persuade their fractured conference to swallow another kick-the-can spending bill. And in the Senate, the suggestion of including provisions that would provide temporary leeway for certain defense funding is already deterring Democratic support. (Ferris, Caygle and Haberkorn, 12/20)
Broken Health Care Pledge Tests Collins-McConnell Relationship
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) will be a crucial swing vote for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) next year, but it may be tougher to strike deals with her after McConnell failed to fulfill a pledge on health care. The moderate senator told reporters this month that she had an “ironclad” commitment from McConnell and Vice President Pence to pass legislation by the end of the year to stabilize ObamaCare premiums. She wanted that assurance before committing her vote for tax reform. (Bolton, 12/21)
The United States has not seen two years of declining life expectancy since 1962 and 1963, and the numbers paint a grim picture if the opioid epidemic is not brought under control.
The Washington Post:
Fueled By Drug Crisis, U.S. Life Expectancy Declines For A Second Straight Year
American life expectancy at birth declined for the second consecutive year in 2016, fueled by a staggering 21 percent rise in the death rate from drug overdoses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. The United States has not seen two years of declining life expectancy since 1962 and 1963, when influenza caused an inordinate number of deaths. In 1993, there was a one-year drop during the worst of the AIDS epidemic. (Bernstein and Ingraham, 12/21)
Life Expectancy Drops As Opioid Deaths Surge
"I'm not prone to dramatic statements," says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics. "But I think we should be really alarmed. The drug overdose problem is a public health problem and it needs to be addressed. We need to get a handle on it." (Stein, 12/21)
The Wall Street Journal:
Overdose Deaths Drive Down U.S. Life Expectancy—Again
The last time the U.S. experienced a back-to-back fall in life expectancy, in 1962 and 1963, a bad flu season was to blame, Bob Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, said in an interview. The previous consecutive-year decline was in 1925-26, which was likely due to infectious disease, he said. (Whalen, 12/21)
The Trump administration is looking to literally change the conversation with its list of words that agencies should avoid. But the effort has sparked a firestorm among advocates, Democrats and even the officials in charge of drafting the budgets.
The Washington Post:
Trump Administration Targets Certain Words, And The Bureaucracy Pushes Back
The Trump administration is waging a linguistic battle across official Washington, seeking to shift public perception of key policies by changing the way the federal government talks about climate change, scientific evidence and disadvantaged communities. The push drew fresh attention after employees at the Department of Health and Human Services were told to avoid certain words — including “vulnerable” “entitlement” and “diversity” — when preparing requests for next year’s budget. But the effort to disappear certain language and replace it with other terms is much broader, sparking resistance from career officials in multiple federal agencies, outside experts and congressional Democrats. (Eilperin and Sun, 12/21)
FDA Chief Has No Qualms About Using Words Like 'Evidence-Based'
A report that the Trump administration discouraged officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using seven words — including “vulnerable” and “evidence-based” — in its budget submissions sparked outrage over the weekend in the scientific and public health community. It also got us wondering: How often — and in what context — do these words get used in other government agencies focused on health and science? (Robbins, 12/20)
Health Panel Dems Demand Answers From Azar On Banned Words
Democrats on the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday released a letter asking Alex Azar, the Trump administration's nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, how he would deal with a reported prohibition on the use of certain words at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Given your pending nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services, we seek your reaction to this reported new administration policy, as well as additional information about how you would plan to address these communications restrictions if confirmed,” the Democrats wrote. (Weixel, 12/20)