- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- Calif., N.H. Seek To Help Consumers Get Details On Health Care Prices
- Sacramento Watch 2
- State Senate Set To Vote On Bill Raising Smoking Age To 21
- Santa Monica Lawmaker Introduces Soda Tax Bill
- Marketplace 3
- California Report Cards Add Health Pricing Information
- Growth Of High-Deductible Plans Creates New Set Of Affordability Problems
- Theranos Under The Microscope
- Campaign 2016 1
- At Debate, Clinton Defends Support For Universal Coverage, Sanders Praises Cuba's Health System
Latest From California Healthline:
California is expanding its report cards on large medical groups to include cost of medical services by an average patient. New Hampshire will list the cost of dental treatments and 65 prescription drugs. (Jordan Rau, 3/10)
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More News From Across The State
The legislation is part of a six-bill package that will go to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk if the lawmakers approve it. Meanwhile, CVS is launching a $50 million anti-smoking initiative designed to contribute to a 3 percent decline in the national youth smoking rate and a 10 percent decline in the number of new youth smokers.
The Associated Press:
California Lawmakers Near Vote On Raising Smoking Age To 21
California's Senate is poised to vote on a sweeping package of anti-smoking measures_including raising the smoking age to 21— as lawmakers try to crack down on tobacco use and the health problems that flow from it. If the Senate approves Thursday and Gov. Jerry Brown signs off, California would become the second state to move the age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21, and electronic cigarettes would face the same restrictions as tobacco products. (3/10)
The Wall Street Journal:
CVS To Spend $50 Million On Antismoking Program Aimed At Youths
CVS Health Corp. plans to spend $50 million over the next five years on a youth antismoking campaign as it aims to position itself as a serious competitor in the health-care industry. It is unusual for a corporation to attack an industry as CVS plans to do by warning youth of the harms of smoking. Historically, the only companies to fund antitobacco initiatives have been pharmaceutical companies that sell smoking cessation products like Pfizer Inc., according to the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, a leading antitobacco group. (Mickle, 3/10)
The two-cents-an-ounce "health impact fee" would raise an estimated $2 billion a year.
Soda Tax Is Again Before California Legislators
California lawmakers have again introduced legislation to impose a fee on sodas and other sugary beverages — not a true tax, but a “health impact fee” to be paid by beverage distributors. (Aliferis, 3/9)
California Assemblyman Proposes Soda Tax
In an attempt to combat high rates of obesity and diabetes in California, a lawmaker from Santa Monica announced Wednesday he is introducing bill that would tax sugary drinks. It's the seventh bill in the last six years designed to tax or add warning labels to sodas and other beverages with high sugar content. But so far, none of them have become law. (Boone, 3/10)
The state is working to reveal some of the biggest secrets of health care by publishing price information to help consumers comparison shop for doctors, dentists and prescription drugs.
California Adds Cost Data To Report Card On Medical Groups
The state of California is adding cost information to a report card that rates the quality and patient experience scores for major medical groups practicing in the state. The report card allows consumers to find detailed information about more than 150 medical groups—such as whether they meet medical guidelines for managing chronic conditions or recommend routine screening tests. Scores are provided on a four-star scale. (Kutscher, 3/9)
Policy experts warn that workers will avoid medical care and struggle to pay the bills as more employer-provided health plans require a deductible of at least $2,000.
High Deductibles Clash With Care Coordination And Primary Care
High deductibles add to household financial stress and dissuade some patients from getting needed medical care. That is worrisome and could also block attempts to reform U.S. healthcare, health policy experts warn in the latest New England Journal of Medicine. High deductibles—an increasingly common feature of private health plans—require patients to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to see doctors, fill prescriptions or get diagnostic tests before insurance will begin to pick up the bill. But experts and advocates have long argued that deductibles can be an indiscriminate way to get patients to stop and consider the price and necessity of medical care they seek. (Evans, 3/9)
A Wall Street Journal reporter talks to CBS about how the once promising startup is now struggling.
Why Much-Hyped Biotech Company Is Fighting To Save Its Reputation
Theranos, one of the rising stars in biotech, is battling to save its reputation. Just last year, founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was featured among Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People." Her company promised to offer hundreds of fast, cheap and accurate blood tests, using a few drops of blood, rather than vials. But a series of articles in the Wall Street Journal raised questions about its technology and lab practices, and the Silicon Valley startup is now under review by two federal regulators. (3/9)
The company's CEO did not address the reasons for the drop but said the system invested $898 million last year in new buildings and technology.
The San Francisco Business Times:
Sutter Health's Profit Plummets 80 Percent
Although operating revenue at Sutter Health, which operates many of the Bay Area's largest hospitals and medical groups jumped nearly 9 percent, its net income plummeted by nearly 80 percent, from $402 million in 2014 to just $81 million last year. ... Sutter didn't directly address the reasons for 2015's lower results, but new CEO Sarah Krevans noted that the organization has pumped $9 billion over the last decade into new buildings and new technology, including $898 million last year. Sutter also said it spent $712 million more on treating Medi-Cal patients last year than the joint federal-state program paid it for those services. (Rauber, 3/9)
Superintendent Nancy Kelly initiated pilot programs two years ago to overhaul the food the schools were serving, and the changes paid off. Three schools were granted silver status under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's voluntary program HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms. Nationally, fewer than two out of every 100 schools are given a silver or gold status.
The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:
USDA Deems 3 Upland Schools 'Healthier' Than Other Schools
Superintendent Nancy Kelly knew if she wanted to improve the minds and bodies of students in the Upland Unified School District, she would have to overhaul the nutrition program. About two years ago, the district’s nutrition services program began offering locally-sourced menu options once a week, removing syrup from the breakfast menus and offering fresh fruits and vegetables three times a week at specific school sites. (Marquez, 3/9)
In other news from around the state —
Tehachapi City Council Considers Banning Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
The Tehachapi City Council considered an ordinance Monday night that would prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries, cooperatives and collectives — and heard from several people who support the use of marijuana. The ordinance, which would also ban the mobile delivery, cultivation and processing of marijuana, was only introduced. It will be up for a public hearing and a vote at the March 21 meeting. (Budge, 3/9)
The Bakersfield Californian:
Medical Board Withdraws Accusation Against Doctor, Documents Show
A California Medical Board accusation filed against a Bakersfield doctor last June alleging poor treatment of patients has been withdrawn, according to medical board documents the physician provided The Californian Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the Medical Board said she could not confirm the agency had withdrawn the accusation against Dr. William Bichai but stressed there is nothing negative in the licensing information it has for him. (3/9)
State Medical Board Looking Into Pediatrician After She Was Arrested For Leaving Her Kids In Her Car
The California State Medical Board is investigating pediatrician Christie Yee after she was arrested for leaving her two young children in a car unattended for more than an hour. Yee was arrested Tuesday after someone heard the two children crying in the van while throwing out the trash. (Harrington, 3/9)
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders jabbed at each other over health care and immigration in the eighth Democratic debate, which came a day after Clinton's surprising loss in Michigan.
The Obama administration on Wednesday released a plan for a new way to reimburse doctors for prescription drugs under Medicare, which is already drawing backlash from manufacturers and health care providers. However, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt defended the proposal, saying, “There is nothing that we propose to do, or should do, in any way, that prevents a patient from getting a prescription medicine that they need."
The New York Times:
Groups Scrutinize White House Plan To Cut Drug Costs In Medicare
The Obama administration touched off a tempest on Wednesday with its plan to test new ways of paying for prescription drugs under Medicare, widely seen as the administration’s first serious attempt to rein in drug spending. Groups representing Medicare beneficiaries welcomed some of the proposals but expressed concern about others. Drug manufacturers and some cancer doctors criticized the initiative, saying it placed too much emphasis on saving money and too little on ensuring patients’ access to treatment. (Pear, 3/9)
In other national health care news —
The New York Times:
Christians Flock To Groups That Help Members Pay Medical Bills
When Chris Doyle learned that his health insurance deductible would climb to $10,000 last year, he and his wife, both evangelical Christians, “spent a couple weeks just praying,” he said. Then they opted out of insurance altogether, joining something called a health care sharing ministry, which requires members to help cover one another’s major medical costs as they come up. While such nonprofit ministries have been around for decades, interest in them has grown since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, largely because the law exempts members from the requirement to have health insurance or pay a yearly fine. (Goodnough, 3/10)
The New York Times:
New Procedure Allows Kidney Transplants From Any Donor
In the anguishing wait for a new kidney, tens of thousands of patients on waiting lists may never find a match because their immune systems will reject almost any transplanted organ. Now, in a large national study that experts are calling revolutionary, researchers have found a way to get them the desperately needed procedure. In the new study, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, doctors successfully altered patients’ immune systems to allow them to accept kidneys from incompatible donors. Significantly more of those patients were still alive after eight years than patients who had remained on waiting lists or received a kidney transplanted from a deceased donor. (Kolata, 3/9)
The New York Times:
First Uterus Transplant In U.S. Has Failed
The first uterus transplant in the United States has failed, and the organ was surgically removed on Tuesday, officials at the Cleveland Clinic said on Wednesday. The recipient, a 26-year-old woman, suddenly developed a serious complication on Tuesday, according to Eileen Sheil, a spokeswoman for the clinic. She did not specify the nature of the problem but said the uterus was being analyzed by pathologists to determine what went wrong. (Grady, 3/9)