- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Where Abortion Fights Will Play Out In 2019
- Addiction Rooted In Childhood Trauma, Says Prominent Specialist
- Covered California & The Health Law 2
- The Affordable Care Act's Defender: A Look At The Attorney General Leading The Coalition To Protect The Health Law
- Officials Working To Get The Word Out That Covered California Deadline Is Fast Approaching
- Public Health and Education 3
- Trump Blasts California Officials Over Wildfire Management, Threatens To Cut Off Disaster Funding
- E. Coli Outbreak Linked To Romaine Lettuce Is Finished After Spreading To 16 States, CDC reports
- Precision Medicine Could Be Key To Better Patient Outcomes, Doctor Argues
- Pharmaceuticals 1
- Johnson & Johnson CEO Warns That Pharma Should Police Itself Over Drug Prices As Other Options Could Be 'Onerous'
- Around California 1
- Regulator Hits Molina Healthcare With Six-Figure Fine Over Significant Lapses In The Insurer’s Grievance Process
Latest From California Healthline:
Expect more aggressive regulatory action from the Trump administration while skirmishes continue in Congress and statehouses. Many of these policies will ultimately be challenged in court. In California, statutes firmly in favor of abortion rights are unlikely to disappear if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, but abortion access could still be affected by decisions from the increasingly conservative court. (Julie Rovner, 1/10)
Dr. Gabor Maté of British Columbia recently visited Sacramento and laid out his theories in an interview with California Healthline. (Rob Waters, 1/10)
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More News From Across The State
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has been aggressive in his legal challenges to President Donald Trump's policies, including ones that have tried to chip away at the health law. The Associated Press offers a profile of the man heading up the defense of the Affordable Care Act in court.
The Associated Press:
California's Top Lawyer Offers Look Inside Trump Offensive
[California Attorney General Xavier] Becerra has been among the most aggressive of the Democratic state attorneys general who have battled Trump in court. Since former Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the job two years ago, Becerra has taken on the Trump administration in nearly 100 briefs and other legal actions, including 45 lawsuits filed mostly over immigration, the environment and health care and often joined by other attorneys general. He has notched some significant victories, though many of the cases are still pending in court. But his office's operation against the Trump administration — who works on the cases, how much it costs and how the office approaches potential suits — has largely remained opaque. (1/10)
The Associated Press:
A Look At California's Key Lawsuits Against Trump
Becerra sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in October 2017 over rules that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control. A judge blocked the rules, and an appeals court in December upheld that decision. The administration has revised the rules, prompting another, ongoing court battle. (1/10)
Consumers have until Jan. 15 to sign up for coverage for this year under Covered California. “We want to make sure they know that this year’s deadline is earlier than it has been in the past, and they must take action in the next week in order to get the peace of mind and protection they deserve in 2019," said Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee.
Covered California: Jan. 15 Deadline Approaching Quickly
Californians hoping to sign up for medical coverage through Covered California have until Tuesday, Jan. 15, when open enrollment ends. This year’s deadline is earlier than in 2018, when open enrollment for the state ended Jan. 31. Those who sign up for coverage by Jan. 15 will begin receiving benefits on Feb. 1. (Wilson, 1/9)
It's unclear how serious the threat, delivered via Twitter, is, but California officials are worried. "Disasters and recovery are no time for politics. I’m already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses," Gov. Gavin Newsom responded.
Los Angeles Times:
Trump Threatens To Cut Off Disaster Funding For California Fire Victims
President Trump injected new uncertainty into California’s wildfire recovery efforts, tweeting early Wednesday that he has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency not to send more disaster funding to state officials “unless they get their act together, which is unlikely.” Neither the White House nor FEMA provided clarification, in response to emails and calls, about whether Trump’s threat was bluster like other tweets he has sent making false assertions while criticizing the state’s fire management, or if he has actually ordered a funding cutoff to thousands of Californians trying to rebuild after the devastating fires late last year. (Wire and Bierman, 1/9)
Trump Repeats Overly Simplistic, False Claim On California’s Wildfires
President Trump blamed a lack of "proper Forest Management" for California’s deadly wildfires in a tweet on Tuesday, repeating his overly simplistic claim about the cause of the infernos that have ravaged the state in recent years. Eighty-six people were killed and 14,000 homes destroyed in November when the Camp Fire tore through Northern California’s Butte County, making it the most deadly and destructive fire in state history. (Nichols, 1/9)
“Contaminated lettuce that made people sick in this outbreak should no longer be available,” the CDC said Wednesday. While there were no deaths, 25 people were hospitalized.
Multistate E.Coli Infection Outbreak Appears To Be Over: CDC
The multistate outbreak of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce from the Central Coastal growing regions in northern and central California appears to be over, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday. (1/9)
Romaine Lettuce E-Coli Outbreak Is Over, CDC Says
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there have been 62 cases across 16 states and the District of Columbia since the disease was first reported in October. There were no deaths, but 25 people were hospitalized, including two people who developed a type of kidney failure. (Weixel, 1/9)
Dr. Fred Meyers at the UC Davis School of Medicine is looking at veterans' cases where the go-to treatment won't work. But Meyers says the work on precision medicine will benefit civilians, as well.
Capital Public Radio:
Doctors Hope 'Precision Medicine' Program With Veterans Could Change How We Treat Patients
Precision medicine is taking off at research institutions across the country, for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. In successful cases, doctors have saved patients with tricky diagnoses by pinpointing the gene responsible and designing gene therapy treatment. ... Some experts have called the impact of personalized medicine “exaggerated.” Critics argue there’s too much money being spent on sophisticated tests and procedures that often don’t result in a cure. But Meyers said this could ultimately make America’s expensive health care system more efficient. (Caiola, 1/9)
“If we don’t do this as an industry, I think there will be other alternatives that will be more onerous for us,” Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in California. Drug pricing was just one of the many topics that were being hotly discussed at the annual event that draws the movers-and-shakers in the industry.
The Wall Street Journal:
Health-Care CEOs Outline Strategies At J.P. Morgan Conference
One of the biggest health conferences of the year for investors, the J.P. Morgan Health-Care Conference, is taking place this week in San Francisco. Here are some of the hot topics covered at the four-day event, which wraps up Thursday. (Loftus and Wilde Mathews, 1/9)
For Tiny Biotechs, J.P. Morgan Is A Big Opportunity — And A Big Cost
For the smallest, newest companies, the conference acts as something of a corporate debutante ball — a way for executives to introduce their work to biotech’s high society and (hopefully) catch an investor’s eye. That’s why NeuBase Therapeutics is attending this year. The company, which is working on drugs based on antisense oligonucleotides to treat genetic conditions, announced a reverse merger with Ohr Pharmaceutical on January 3, which would allow its stock to trade publicly. (Sheridan, 1/10)
Chinese Biotech Was Big At JPM. Attendees Were Enthusiastic — And Wary
If last year was a chance for Chinese companies to bet big on biotech and pharma — and also to contend with some disappointment and scandal — this year already appears to be a chance for them to flood the zone. Chinese companies had a noticeably more visible presence at this week’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, the industry’s biggest business gathering of the year. U.S. executives and investors have been soaking up the pitch for Chinese biopharma and showing enthusiasm. (Robbins, 1/10)
J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon Talks Amazon At JPM 2019 Private Dinner
J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon hosted a private dinner for pharmaceutical executives on Sunday night, ahead of the bank's health-care conference in San Francisco. There was one company not in attendance that received a lot of attention: Amazon. About 25 industry leaders attended from companies including Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, along with some of the J.P. Morgan's investment bankers, according to two people with knowledge of the event who asked not to be named because it was private. (Farr and LaVito, 1/9)
The Department of Managed Health Care found 44 instances where Molina violated state statutes and regulations, including 13 incidents where an enrollee’s grievance was not adequately considered, investigated and rectified.
The California Health Report:
Molina Healthcare Slapped With Large Fine For Lapses In Handling Grievances
A California regulator has imposed a six-figure fine on Molina Healthcare for significant lapses in the insurer’s grievance process for enrollees. It’s the third large fine imposed on Molina related to its handling of enrollee grievances since 2015. Molina, which is based in Long Beach and has enrollment of about 630,000 statewide, is one of the largest Medicaid managed care and Children’s Health Insurance Plan companies in the United States. It also provides Medicare coverage and sells individual policies through the Covered California health insurance exchange. (Shinkman, 1/9)
In other news from across the state —
San Diego Schools Get Boost In Federal Funds For Disadvantaged Kids
Next year, San Diego Unified schools will get tens of thousands of dollars in extra federal funding to help disadvantaged students. District trustees have approved a plan for the central office to relinquish control over more than $8.2 million it traditionally spends on things like district-wide professional development. (Burks, 1/9)
East Bay Times:
Health District Gets Reprieve From Dissolution
A Contra Costa Superior Court judge on Wednesday granted Los Medanos Community Health Care District a temporary stay, halting its potential dissolution by the commission that oversees such agencies. The health-care district filed a lawsuit for a preliminary injunction to prevent the Local Agency Formation Commission from making a decision on its dissolution at its regular meeting later that same day. While giving the long-embattled district a temporary reprieve, Judge Steven Austin also allowed the commission to move forward with a dissolution vote as long as it was not recorded before the next court hearing on Feb. 7. (Prieve, 1/9)
The Desert Sun:
Riverside County Doctor's License May Be Revoked Following Threatening Actions, Found Firearms
The medical license of a Riverside County family physician is in jeopardy after police found several unaccounted firearms in his home following an episode of psychosis. A petition filed by the director of the Medical Board of California against Dr. Michael Simental of Corona, who works for a Kaiser Permanente medical office in Riverside, was filed on Dec. 18. The move to have the board revoke his medical license comes after Simental was put on probation for two years in 2016 in an unrelated case of improperly prescribing controlled substances. (Hayden, 1/10)
Turlock’s Homeless Move Again After Third Park Cleanup
A few dozen homeless people who had been living in Turlock’s Broadway Park were on the move again Wednesday after city workers removed what the city said was illegally stored personal property. While Turlock officials say the city is not kicking homeless people out of the park and only enforcing a city ordinance against the storage of personal property in public places, some of the homeless had a different perspective. (Valine, 1/9)
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, however, said that high-risk food surveillance inspections will resume soon. The shutdown's impact is being felt across many sectors, including drug approvals, pollution inspections, and approval of mergers such as the CVS-Aetna deal.
The Associated Press:
Routine Food Inspections Halted By US Government Shutdown
Routine food inspections aren't getting done because of the partial government shutdown, but checks of the riskiest foods are expected to resume next week, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. The agency said it's working to bring back about 150 employees to inspect riskier foods such as cheese, infant formula and produce. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency can't make the case that "a routine inspection of a Nabisco cracker facility" is necessary during the shutdown, however. (1/9)
The New York Times:
Government Shutdown Curtails F.D.A. Food Inspections
F.D.A. inspectors normally examine operations at about 160 domestic manufacturing and food processing plants each week. Nearly one-third of them are considered to be at high risk of causing food-borne illnesses. Food-borne diseases in the United States send about 128,000 people to the hospital each year, and kill 3,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Domestic meat and poultry are still being inspected by staff at the Agriculture Department, but they are going without pay. The F.D.A. oversees about 80 percent of the nation’s food supply, as well as most overseas imports. (Kaplan, 1/9)
The Washington Post:
FDA Food Inspections, Reduced By Shutdown Furloughs, Put 'Food Supply At Risk'
Food inspections are just one of the public health and safety efforts that have been cut or curtailed during the shutdown, now deep into its third week. The federal government also keeps airplanes from colliding, inspects pharmaceutical drugs, pursues criminals and defends against possible terrorist and cyberattacks. It is a 24-7-365 effort to make Americans safer.But a shutdown upends the calculus of risk management as agencies including the FBI, Coast Guard, Secret Service, FDA, Federal Aviation Administration and Agriculture Department face drastically reduced resources. (McGinley and Achenbach, 1/9)
U.S. Government Says Shutdown May Slow Resolution Of CVS/Aetna Court Process
The Justice Department has said in a court filing that a partial government shutdown could delay its response to comments on pharmacy chain CVS Health Corp's purchase of health insurer Aetna, a necessary step in a court giving final approval to the deal. Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has been reviewing a consent decree reached by the government and the companies in October to allow their $69 billion merger. The deal has closed, although Judge Leon has required that some aspects of integration be halted during the review process. (1/9)
The Washington Post:
How Food Stamps, Housing Subsidies And Other Programs For Americans In Need Will Be Hit By Shutdown
The waterlogged ceiling of Betty Gay’s rural Kentucky home sags so low that she hits her head on the light fixture. She’s only 5-foot-1. When it rains, the retired nurse’s aide covers her bathroom floor with buckets and towels. Mold festers on the damp walls. Gay, 70, was counting on a $20,000 loan from the Agriculture Department this winter to patch the hole in the roof of the ranch-style Mount Sterling home she’s lived in for 30 years. But the money is on hold. (Jan and Wan, 1/9)
The New York Times:
Shutdown Means E.P.A. Pollution Inspectors Aren’t On The Job
The two-week-old shutdown has halted one of the federal government’s most important public health activities, the inspections of chemical factories, power plants, oil refineries, water treatment plants, and thousands of other industrial sites for pollution violations. The Environmental Protection Agency has furloughed most of its roughly 600 pollution inspectors and other workers who monitor compliance with environmental laws. (Davenport, 1/9)
Trump Storms Out Of Talks On Shutdown, Bemoans 'Total Waste Of Time'
U.S. President Donald Trump stormed out of talks with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday over funding for a border wall with Mexico and reopening the government, complaining the meeting at the White House was "a total waste of time." On the 19th day of a partial government shutdown caused by the dispute over the wall, a short meeting that included Trump, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer ended in acrimony with no sign of a resolution. (1/10)
The vote forced House Republicans to go on record against the health law and its popular provisions -- such as protections for preexisting conditions -- which were big winners in the midterm elections.
The Washington Post:
House Votes To Protect Health-Care Law As Democrats Put GOP On Record
In the first health-care vote since Democrats seized the House majority, the chamber on Wednesday gave itself the power to intervene legally after a federal judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. Wednesday’s vote was largely symbolic — Democrats voted last week to authorize legal action as part of a broader rules package — but it was the first time that lawmakers were presented with a discrete measure dealing with what was a dominant issue in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. (DeBonis, 1/9)
Dems Hit GOP On Health Care With Additional ObamaCare Lawsuit Vote
Democrats framed Wednesday's vote as proof that Republicans don't want to safeguard protections for people with pre-existing conditions — one of the law’s most popular provisions. “If you support coverage for pre-existing conditions, you will support this measure to try to protect it. It’s that simple,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) before the vote. (Hellmann, 1/9)
House Democrats Look To Hearings And Courts To Protect Affordable Care Act
In her first speech as speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi made it clear that she knows that health care is key to why voters sent Democrats to Congress. "In the past two years the American people have spoken," Pelosi told members of Congress and their families who were gathered Thursday in the House chamber for the opening day of the session. "Tens of thousands of public events were held, hundreds of thousands of people turned out, millions of calls were made, countless families, even sick little children — our little lobbyists, our little lobbyists — bravely came forward to tell their stories and they made a big difference," said Pelosi, a California Democrat. What is the Democrats' mandate? (Kodjak, 1/9)
Veteran House Dems Poised To Get Seats On Exclusive Committees
Three former Democratic House members who were again elected in 2018 appear to have the inside track to gain seats on highly sought-after House committees. Newly-elected Democratic Reps. Ed Case of Hawaii and Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona are being considered for spots on House Appropriations, and Steven Horsford of Nevada is being considered for Ways and Means. All three are on the final slates for the committees but their assignments will not be finalized until the entire caucus votes in the coming days. (Barron-Lopez, Caygle and Bresnahan, 1/9)