Latest From California Healthline:
Lawyers seeking to block the Trump administration’s decision to alter rules for the Title X family planning program say their efforts will not be stymied by the Supreme Court’s approval of similar rules 28 years ago. They point to new protections enacted in the Affordable Care Act and language in funding bills that shifts the legal calculus. (Julie Rovner, 2/28)
Good morning! A group of House Democrats unveiled an ambitious “Medicare for All” plan yesterday that would move all Americans onto a government insurer in the span of two years. Moderate Dems immediately distanced themselves from the measure, saying that lawmakers should instead concentrate on shoring up the health law marketplaces. More on that below, but first here are your top California health stories for the day.
Three Out Of Four Californians Who Have Paid Individual Mandate Penalty Are Low-Income: As lawmakers contemplate a state-level penalty for those who don’t have insurance, a report finds that, in California, the fee is most often paid by people making less than $50,000. Although some worry that means instituting a penalty could be hurting people who already need help, policy experts say the data in some ways overstate the number of people paying the fee, since everyone eligible for Medicaid is exempt. “Our issue is if there are people paying the penalty, especially at these income levels, the problem isn’t the penalty,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of insurance advocacy group Health Access California. Read more from the Sacramento Bee.
Liver Samples Taken From Sick Veterans Without Their Permission At La Jolla VA Facility: Extra pieces of liver were removed from at least nine veterans, who weren’t told the samples were being taken or that doing so could increase the risk of bleeding. The findings are part of an ongoing investigation into the treatment of patients at the La Jolla VA Facility. Medical ethics experts are calling the study “disturbing” and “pretty egregious,” and Congress plans to investigate the accusations this spring. “If this has gone so badly wrong, it’s legitimate to ask what else is going wrong – and that’s a little scary,” said C.K. Gunsalus, director of the National Center for Professional & Research Ethics. Read more from inewsource.
Bill In California Senate Would Require Teachers To Get Mental Health First-Aid Training: The legislation — introduced by State Sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) — would require teachers to receive training that instructs participants how to recognize signs of mental distress and substance-use disorders, and refer students to resources that can help them. “It’s kind of like CPR training for mental health,” said Alice Gleghorn, an executive board member with the County Behavioral Health Director’s Association of California. Read more from the California Health Report.
Beyond Mass Shootings: How The Threat Of Everyday Violence On The Walk To School Can Be Devastating To Students: Getting safely to and from school, avoiding not just bullets but gang flashpoints, street harassment, hit-and-runs and muggings can be a daily stressor for students, some of whom have lost friends to that very kind of violence. More and more research is emerging on just how damaging childhood trauma can be on people, with the effects lasting long into adulthood. Children in high-crime areas are “losing more people in their youth than most of us have lost when we get to 30 or 40,” said Ferroll Robins, executive director of the nonprofit organization Loved Ones Victims Services. “I do worry about what is going to happen to them emotionally, mentally, how bad are they really being scarred?” Read more of the special report from the Los Angeles Times.
Below, check out the full round-up of California Healthline original stories, state coverage and the best of the rest of the national news for the day.
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More News From Across The State
Trump Title X Abortion Policy To Draw California Lawsuit
California plans to sue the Trump administration over its plan to deny federal funds to family planning organizations that provide abortion referrals, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff said today.If the lawsuit is filed, it would become California’s 47th challenging Trump administration policies. (Ashmun, 2/27)
Ventura County Star:
Medi-Cal Controversy Will Be Taken To Voters, Latino Leaders Pledge
Latino leaders announced Wednesday their plan to take a growing controversy over Medi-Cal care in Ventura County to voters via a ballot initiative. Representatives of Clinicas del Camino Real, the League of United Latin American Citizens and other groups said in a news conference they’ll launch a drive to place an initiative on the March 2020 ballot. The exact measure is still being defined but would ask Ventura County to replace the current Medi-Cal managed care system — operated by the Gold Coast Health Plan — with a two-plan system. Medi-Cal members pick between competing insurance organizations in a two-plan system. In the current county organized health system, publicly funded Gold Coast is the sole administrator for about 196,000 Medi-Cal recipients. (Kisken, 2/27)
The Washington Post:
‘Miraculous’ Stem Cell Therapy Has Sickened People In Five States
Over the past year, at least 17 people have been hospitalized after being injected with products made from umbilical cord blood, a little-known but fast-growing segment of the booming stem cell industry, according to state and federal health officials and patient reports. Sold as a miracle cure for a variety of intractable conditions, the injections have sickened people in five states, prompting new warnings from health officials about the risks of unproven stem cell treatments. All but two of the illnesses have been linked to a single company: Liveyon of Yorba Linda, Calif. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report in December tying 12 cases in multiple states to treatments sold by the company. Three additional patients in Texas and Maine have filed lawsuits against Liveyon claiming the company’s product infected them with bacteria. (Wan and McGinley, 2/27)
Moms Can Reduce Autism Rates With Prenatal Vitamins, Study Says
The risk and severity of autism decreases for high-risk siblings of children with autism if moms take prenatal vitamins in their first month of pregnancy, according to research released Wednesday by the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis. It’s the first time research has shown that families with a high risk for autism in successive children also can benefit from the mother taking prenatal vitamin supplements near conception, UCD researchers said, something that they already had found true for first pregnancies among women in the general population. (Anderson, 2/28)
Storing Health Records On Your Phone: Can Apple Live Up To Its Privacy Values?
Since last March, Apple has been rolling out a feature that allows people to store their medical records in its Health app. UC San Diego Health, where Cavaliere sees his doctors, is one of more than 200 health care providers around the United States using the health records feature. (Sydell, 2/27)
Los Angeles Times:
Should California Insure Itself Against Spending Too Much On Fighting Wildfires?
This would be a first for California: state government buying insurance to protect itself against overspending its budget. But before you start pelting the politicians and screaming fiscal irresponsibility, know that the budget-busting would be for fighting wildfires. (Skelton, 2/28)
Los Angeles Times:
Terminal Island Prison Inmates Went Without Heat During The Coldest February In Decades
Hundreds of inmates at the Terminal Island federal prison on the harbor front spent one of the coldest periods in decades in frigid cells with no heat and only blankets for warmth before they were transferred temporarily to another facility. As outside temperatures plunged into the low 40s at night, two units that housed more than 200 inmates lost heat after an underground steam line failed in January at the low-security federal lockup that sits at the entrance to Los Angeles Harbor in San Pedro. (Winton, 2/27)
Berkeley OKs Third Cannabis Dispensary On Short Stretch Of Telegraph, Despite Opposition
Berkeley officials have given the green light to cannabis retailer The Apothecarium to set up shop on Telegraph Avenue. At a packed City Council meeting Tuesday evening, dozens of citizens weighed in over several hours on whether the city should grant its approval for the company to locate its fifth outlet near the UC Berkeley campus. (Jamali, 2/27)
Capital Public Radio:
Homeless Campers Will Be Allowed To Sleep Outside Sacramento City Hall After Hours
Homeless people who choose to camp overnight at Sacramento City Hall will soon be allowed to do so legally, according to new rules approved by City Council on Tuesday. Council members voted unanimously to allow people to remain on City Hall grounds between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., including if they want to sit or lay down. (Miller, 2/27)
The New York Times:
As Over 100 House Democrats Embrace ‘Medicare For All,’ A Party Division Appears
Denouncing the profit motive in health care, more than 100 House Democrats rallied on Wednesday around a bill to replace most private health insurance with a national single-payer system, “Medicare for all.” The chief sponsor of the bill, Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, said it would cure “a deep sickness within our for-profit system” of health care. But the bill highlights Democrats’ split over health policy going into the 2020 elections. (Pear, 2/27)
Health Insurers Sink As `Medicare For All' Idea Gains Traction
Health insurers are leading declines among health-care stocks as investors turned their focus to Democrats’ new “Medicare for all” bill that would replace almost all private plans and assessed the implications of a Senate hearing on surging drug prices. The S&P 500 Managed Health Care Index plunged as much as 4.9 percent, the most since Dec. 6, led by UnitedHealth Group Inc., Humana Inc. and WellCare Health Plans Inc. The broader health sector index fell 0.8 percent. (Darie, 2/27)
POLITICO's Pulse Check: Meet The Industry Group Fighting Medicare For All
More than 100 House Democrats on Wednesday, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, unveiled their sweeping Medicare for All legislation. So what comes next — and why is the health care industry so opposed to it? First, POLITICO's Alice Miranda Ollstein joins Dan Diamond (starts at the 1:05 mark) on Capitol Hill to explain the state of play. (2/28)
Moderate Dems Revive Effort To Stabilize ObamaCare Markets
A group of moderate House Democrats will make a push this year to stabilize ObamaCare's markets, reviving an effort that fell to partisan bickering in 2017. The New Democrat Coalition, a caucus of 101 centrists, says the House should "immediately" work with Republicans to bring down ObamaCare premiums and reverse the Trump administration's "sabotage" of the health care law. (Hellmann, 2/27)
U.S. House Approves Expanded Background Checks For Gun Sales
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would expand background checks for gun sales to include firearm purchases at gun shows and over the internet, a measure likely to face Senate and White House opposition. The background check bill, which was approved by a 240-190 vote, is the first gun control measure taken up by Democrats since they regained control of the House in the 2018 congressional midterm elections. (2/27)
House Passes Most Sweeping Gun Control Legislation In Decades
The background checks legislation faces stiff opposition in the GOP-controlled Senate, and President Donald Trump — who has strong backing from the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups — has vowed to veto the bill if it ever reaches his desk. But House Democrats insist that some federal action must be taken to address the growing toll of gun violence. In addition to Wednesday's vote, they will move legislation on Thursday to close the "Charleston loophole," which allows people to buy guns before background checks are completed, and extend the time period for any background checks from three days to as long as 20 days. White supremacist Dylann Roof was able to buy a gun in 2015 despite pending drug charges, and he later killed nine African-Americans at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. (Bresnahan, 2/27)
The New York Times:
Thousands Of Immigrant Children Said They Were Sexually Abused In U.S. Detention Centers, Report Says
The federal government received more than 4,500 complaints in four years about the sexual abuse of immigrant children who were being held at government-funded detention facilities, including an increase in complaints while the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the border was in place, the Justice Department revealed this week. The records, which involve children who had entered the country alone or had been separated from their parents, detailed allegations that adult staff members had harassed and assaulted children, including fondling and kissing minors, watching them as they showered, and raping them. (Haag, 2/27)
The Associated Press:
Transgender Troops Tell Congress They Excel In Military
Transgender troops testifying for the first time to Congress on Wednesday said transitioning to another sex made them stronger, while Pentagon officials defended the Trump administration's desire to bar people like them from enlisting in the future. Army Capt. Alivia Stehlik, an infantry officer and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. and Ranger School, told lawmakers she became a more "effective soldier" after she transitioned from male to female in 2017. (2/27)
The Associated Press:
How 'Completely Avoidable' Measles Cases Continue To Climb
The U.S. has counted more measles cases in the first two months of this year than in all of 2017 — and part of the rising threat is misinformation that makes some parents balk at a crucial vaccine, federal health officials told Congress Wednesday. Yet the vaccine is hugely effective and very safe — so the rise of measles cases "is really unacceptable," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health. (2/27)
Did Some Pharma Execs Give Misleading Answers To Senate Panel?
During Tuesday’s Senate hearing on drug pricing, each of the seven pharma execs insisted their companies have never withheld samples from generic rivals, a step that has raised concerns about unfairly thwarting competition. This is because generic companies need samples to develop copycat medicines and, sometimes, run tests to show a product is bioequivalent in order to win regulatory approval. Yet a recent Food and Drug Administration list of drug makers that withheld samples includes two companies — Pfizer (PFE) and AstraZeneca (AZN) — whose chief executives testified samples were, in fact, not withheld. (Silverman, 2/27)
The Associated Press:
Weeks After 2030 HIV Pledge, Report Shows US Headway Stalled
Three weeks after President Donald Trump announced a campaign to end the U.S. HIV epidemic by 2030, new government data show that progress against the disease stalled recently. After declining for several years, the estimated number of new HIV infections held about steady from 2013 to 2016, the latest available data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. (2/27)
New Study Finds No Link Between Flu Shots And Miscarriages, Allaying Fears
A new study looking at whether women who are pregnant face an increased risk of a miscarriage if they get a flu shot found no link between the vaccine and pregnancy loss. The reassuring finding contradicts an earlier study by the same researchers that raised questions about the safety of getting a flu shot during pregnancy. An overview of the study findings was presented Wednesday at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which guides vaccination policy for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Branswell, 2/27)
The Associated Press:
Study: US Pedestrian Deaths Hit Highest Number Since 1990
The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. roads last year was the highest in 28 years, according to a report from a safety organization. Using data reported by states, the Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that 6,227 pedestrians were killed last year. That’s up 4 percent from 2017 and 35 percent since 2008. The association blames the increase on factors that include distracted or impaired drivers, more people walking to work, and more SUVs on the road, which cause more severe injuries in collisions with people on foot. (2/28)