- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- Unreasonable Rate Hike? Proposed Legislation Would Tell You About It
- Pharmaceuticals 2
- State Paid Millions For Expensive Hep C Drug
- Opioid Abuse Efforts May Bring Lawmakers Together In Rare Show Of Bipartisanship
Latest From California Healthline:
A new Senate bill proposes that the state inform consumers when state officials find health insurance rates to be unjustified. (David Gorn, 1/27)
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Summaries Of The News:
U.S. regulators found serious shortcomings at Theranos' lab in the latest in a series of setbacks for the blood testing startup. Deficiencies at Newark, California, lab “pose immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety,” the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a letter to the company released Wednesday that demanded immediate changes at the lab and threatened the closely held company with sanctions.
SB 908, introduced by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), would require an insurer to send a written notice to its customers anytime regulators found the price hike for a particular plan to be unjustified.
Unreasonable Rate Hike? Proposed Legislation Would Tell You About It
California consumers should know when their health insurance premium rates have been deemed unreasonable by the state. That's the primary purpose of a bill (SB 908) proposed yesterday in the state Senate. (Gorn, 1/27)
Bill Would Force Health Insurers To Tell You About 'Unreasonable' Rates
A bill introduced in the California legislature this week seeks to force health insurers to notify consumers about coverage premiums that state regulators have deemed "unreasonable." The legislation would also require insurance companies to give those consumers time to shop for a new plan. (O'Neill, 1/27)
“Dollars that were intended for a wide array of medical services started being gobbled up by just one drug,” says Charles Bacchi, president of the California Association of Health Plans. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts attorney general is launching an investigation against the company that produces the drug, Sovaldi, over its pricing structure.
KQED's State of Health:
California Doles Out Millions To Insurers For Hepatitis C Drugs
In an unusual funding arrangement, California is paying private health plans hundreds of millions of dollars in supplemental payments to cover the high price of hepatitis C drugs for patients in Medi-Cal managed care plans. (Bartolone, 1/27)
The New York Times:
Gilead Faces Fights Over Hepatitis C And H.I.V. Drugs
The attorney general of Massachusetts said on Wednesday that she had opened an inquiry into whether Gilead Sciences had violated state consumer protection laws by charging too much for its hepatitis C drugs. ... [And] on Tuesday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit organization that treats patients with H.I.V. and AIDS, filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate patents covering the new version of Gilead’s mainstay H.I.V. drug, tenofovir. The lawsuit also says that Gilead, to maximize product life span but to the detriment of patients, delayed the introduction of the new, safer version of tenofovir until the old version was about to lose patent protection. (Pollack, 1/27)
But both parties' interest in finding bills to combat abuse, improve treatment and bolster some law enforcement programs doesn't mean it faces smooth sailing in Congress. Meanwhile, experts and officials stress how urgent the crisis is at a Senate Judiciary committee hearing.
The Associated Press:
Drug Abuse Bill Raises Hopes For Election-Year Achievement
In a testy election year likely to see scant collaboration between Republicans and Democrats, there's a glint of hope in Congress for a bipartisan bill aimed at fighting heroin and opioid addiction — a deadly, growing problem that afflicts states both red and blue. Senate and House bills establishing grants to combat abuse, improve treatment and bolster some law enforcement programs are winning support from members of both parties. President Barack Obama used this month's State of Union address to call such legislation one area where lawmakers "might surprise the cynics" and get something done this year. (1/27)
The Wall Street Journal:
Officials Call For Stronger Efforts To Combat Heroin, Painkiller Abuse
Governors, senators and law-enforcement officials on Wednesday called for stronger efforts to combat heroin and painkiller addiction, saying the problem was overwhelming police, health-care workers and families in every state. At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, they argued for more federal funding, wider access to substance-abuse treatment and stricter rules for painkiller prescribing to fight the main driver of soaring drug overdose rates. (Whalen, 1/27)
However, officials are worried over what they don't know about the virus. And WHO warns that it is "spreading explosively" in the Americas.
The Sacramento Bee:
Zika Virus Confirmed In California, But State’s Climate Likely To Block Spread
While a case of Zika virus was reported in California this week, health officials say the state’s dry Mediterranean climate and pest control efforts make it an unlikely home for the mosquitoes that carry the tropical disease. (Caiola, 1/27)
The San Jose Mercury News:
Zika Outbreak Worries California Officials As Virus Progresses Across Western Hemisphere
A mosquito-borne virus linked to a rare birth defect in Brazilian newborns has the Americas in its grips and Californians worried about its possible progression to the Golden State. The implications of the Zika virus -- which also has reportedly led to paralysis in some cases -- have caused widespread panic in the Southern Hemisphere since last fall, when cases of microcephaly, abnormal smallness of the head in babies, ballooned in Brazil from 150 in 2014 to 3,900 in the past four months. This week, the World Health Organization predicted the virus would spread to all countries across the Americas except Canada and Chile. (Seipel, 1/27)
The New York Times:
Zika Virus ‘Spreading Explosively’ in Americas, W.H.O. Says
Officials from the World Health Organization said on Thursday that the Zika virus was “spreading explosively” in the Americas and announced that they would convene an emergency meeting on Monday to decide whether to declare a public health emergency. “The level of alarm is extremely high,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the W.H.O., in a speech in Geneva. (Tavernise, 1/28)
Experts: USA Must Prepare Now For Zika Virus
U.S. public health officials must prepare now for the inevitable arrival of Zika virus, a mosquito-borne infection that has spread to 22 countries and territories in the Americas and poses particular danger to pregnant women, health experts said. International air travel will help the virus spread quickly, said Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University in Washington. Zika doesn’t spread from person to person, but a mosquito carrying the virus could hitch a ride on the plane and end up in the USA. An American mosquito could become a carrier of the virus if it bites an infected person who contracted the virus while traveling in an affected country. (Szabo, 1/27)
Capital Public Radio:
What To Know About The Zika Virus
An outbreak of Zika virus in Central and South America has prompted health warnings; the illness is especially dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn children. Though officials say an outbreak is unlikely in the US, there are travel advisories to countries where Zika is spreading. UC Davis Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Dr. Dean Blumberg, explained this virus and its dangers. (Ruyak, 1/27)
The initiate aims to increase efficiency and reduce costs for patients.
USC's Virtual Doctors Will See You Now
The University of Southern California is bringing virtual reality to specialty care. Keck Medicine, USC's academic medical center, has launched a virtual care clinic that it believes will improve efficiency and reduce costs by allowing more patients to receive healthcare services through virtual providers. USC's Center for Body Computing, the health system's digital health and innovation arm, has assembled eight partners for the initiative. These partners include IMS Health, insurer VSP Global and USC's own Institute for Creative Technologies, best known for its computer-generated “virtual humans.” (Kutscher, 1/27)
A study of 15 years of malpractice cases that resulted in payments to patients found that one percent of physicians accounts for 32 percent of all paid claims and if a doctor pays out once, the chances are good he or she will pay again.
Small Number Of Doctors Responsible For Many Malpractice Claims, Stanford Study Shows
Just 1 percent of doctors are linked to nearly one-third of all paid malpractice claims, an analysis by researchers at Stanford finds, and those physicians have a set of distinctive characteristics. (Aliferis, 1/27)
The New York Times:
Doctors Who Get Sued Are Likely To Get Sued Again
One percent of all doctors account for 32 percent of all paid malpractice claims, and the more often a doctor is sued, the more likely he or she will be sued again. Researchers analyzed 10 years of paid malpractice claims using the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal government database that includes 66,426 claims against 54,099 doctors. The study is in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Bakalar, 1/27)
Meanwhile in New Hampshire, a conservative group tries to label Republican candidate John Kasich as an "Obama Republican" due to his Medicaid actions as Ohio governor. And on the Democratic side of the race, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says that Sen. Bernie Sanders' universal health care plan is unrealistic.
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Cruz Hammers Trump On Abortion, Health Care, Debate
Ted Cruz on Wednesday ratcheted up his criticism of GOP presidential rival Donald Trump, belittling the celebrity real estate mogul as a "fragile soul" for refusing to participate in Thursday's debate and likening him to an "imperial dictator." Cruz, a first-term senator from Texas, and Trump are locked in a dead heat before the Iowa caucuses begin the presidential nominating contest on Monday. (Seidman, 1/27)
The New York Times:
John Kasich Is Called An ‘Obama Republican’ In New Hampshire Ads
Gov. John Kasich of Ohio has steadily gained ground in the New Hampshire polls, drawing few attacks from his opponents as they have fought among themselves. Now, that will begin to change. A national conservative group, the American Future Fund, ... will run a commercial that goes after Mr. Kasich for supporting Common Core educational standards and expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It shows an image of Mr. Kasich smiling, face to face with Barack Obama, and calls him “one of the few Republican governors to cheerlead Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.” (Burns, 1/27)
The Washington Post:
Pelosi Dismisses Portions Of Sanders’s Tax And Health-Care Agenda: ‘It’s Not Going To Happen’
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed portions of Bernie Sanders’s agenda Wednesday, welcoming the Vermont senator’s energetic support for his presidential bid but declaring that some of his deeply liberal ideas were unrealistic. Kicking off a three-day retreat of House Democrats in her childhood home town, Pelosi said that the party’s agenda would not include a call to raise taxes and would continue to embrace the Affordable Care Act that Democrats bitterly fought for in 2010. (Kane, 1/27)
Hailed as a landmark piece of work, the new study identifies a set of gene variants that increases the risk of schizophrenia. In other national news, the second-largest U.S. insurer says it had about 800,000 enrollees under the Affordable Care Act, which was 30 percent less than projected, and Obama wants to launch a $12 billion child nutrition plan to help feel low-income students over summer break.
Los Angeles Times:
Geneticists Uncover A Key Clue To Schizophrenia
Scientists say they have broken new ground in the study of schizophrenia, uncovering a potentially powerful genetic contributor to the mental disorder and helping to explain why its symptoms of confused and delusional thinking most often reach a crisis state as a person nears the cusp of adulthood. Genes associated with the function of the immune system have long been suspected in schizophrenia, but scientists have been at a loss to understand the nature of the link. (Healy, 1/27)
Health Insurer Anthem Says Obamacare Costs Drag Down Fourth-Quarter Profit
Health insurer Anthem Inc, which is in the process of buying smaller rival Cigna Corp, said on Wednesday its individual Obamacare exchange health plans weighed on fourth-quarter profit, causing it to miss analysts' expectations. Anthem said that it had nearly 800,000 people enrolled in plans through the exchanges, which were created under President Barack Obama's national healthcare reform law, about 30 percent below its expectations. Without the membership it had planned for, costs of running the business were too high, Anthem said. (Humer, 27)
The Associated Press:
Obama To Seek $12B From Congress For Child Nutrition
President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for $12 billion over a decade to help feed millions of schoolchildren from low-income families during the summer, the White House said Wednesday. Nearly 22 million low-income children receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year, but just a fraction of those kids receive meals when school is out. The disparity puts those children at higher risk of hunger and poor nutrition during the summer months, the White House said. (1/27)