- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Will Rx Ballot Initiative Save Money? Report Offers An Educated Shrug
- Sounds Like A Good Idea? Selling Insurance Across State Lines
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Despite Obstacles, Advocates Confident About Efforts To Provide Immigrants Coverage
- Public Health and Education 3
- UCSF Study: If 10 Percent Of Smokers Quit, Nation Would Save $63B In Health Care Costs Next Year
- Battle Of The Hashtags: Skeptics Take To Twitter After 'Vaxxed' Producer's Visit To State Senator
- Judge Unseals Secret Documents About Purdue's OxyContin Marketing
Latest From California Healthline:
A ballot measure in November would peg state-paid drug prices to the lowest prices paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. But there’s a catch: The VA won’t say what those prices are. (Ana B. Ibarra, 5/11)
Republicans have long touted a proposal to allow insurers to sell across state lines as a way to help keep coverage costs down. But there are some significant obstacles to making such a system work, as this video points out. (Julie Rovner and Francis Ying, 5/12)
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Summaries Of The News:
The state spends $2 billion a year on health care for retired state employees, but according to a new report it would have to spend more than three times that amount to fully cover current health care costs and chip away at its $80.3 billion unfunded liability for future health care obligations.
The Sacramento Bee:
State Retiree Health Care Could Cost California $6.6 Billion A Year
California is spending more than $2 billion a year on health care for retired state employees – up more than 80 percent in the last decade, according to Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest budget. However, the state would have to spend over three times as much – $6.6 billion a year – to fully cover current health care costs and whittle down its $80.3 billion unfunded liability for future health care obligations, according to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts. (Walters, 5/11)
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times answers questions about the state's new aid-in-dying law, doctor-backed Prop 30 will be on the ballot in November and analysts say the financial impact of a different initiative is unclear —
Los Angeles Times:
How California's Aid-In-Dying Law Will Work
Starting June 9, terminally ill Californians can request prescriptions from physicians for medications that would end their lives. Here are questions and answers about the End of Life Option Act. (Karlamangla, 5/12)
Capital Public Radio:
Prop 30 Income Tax Increase Extension Likely Headed To Voters
Californians will likely decide this fall whether to extend the Proposition 30 income tax increases on the rich that voters approved in 2012. A coalition of interest groups said Wednesday it’s turning in enough voter signatures to place a measure on the November ballot. The initiative’s backers include unions, school groups, doctors and hospitals – all of whom say their programs would suffer if the tax increases expire as scheduled in 2019. (Adler, 5/11)
Will Rx Ballot Initiative Save Money? Report Offers An Educated Shrug
It is “highly uncertain” how much money the state of California would save if a ballot measure to cap drug prices passes in November — and it might not save money at all. That’s the key finding in a preliminary report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The ballot initiative, known as the Drug Price Relief Act, would prohibit the state from paying more for a prescription drug than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA is thought by proponents of the measure to get the best bargains from drug companies. (Ibarra, 5/11)
California health care advocates and immigrant rights groups want to allow people in the country illegally the option of buying a health plan on Covered California, but they need federal approval, an involved bureaucratic process that could be thwarted under a new presidency.
Hello, White House, How About Obamacare For California's Undocumented?
As the presidential election generates a heated national debate about immigration, California is ploughing ahead with policies to integrate undocumented immigrants, most recently, by expanding healthcare access. “It’s one of the most dramatic turnarounds in California political history,” said Daniel Zingale, senior vice president of the California Endowment, a nonprofit health foundation, about undocumented kids being covered for a full range of health services through Medi-Cal starting May 16. Currently, Medi-Cal covers emergency medical services for undocumented children and adults. (Bartolone, 5/4)
Sunny Balwani, Theranos' president and chief operations officer, helped build the startup, which has announced it will replace his position and expand its board.
The New York Times:
Embattled Blood Lab Theranos Makes A Bid To Regain Confidence
In the latest attempt to restore confidence in its business, the embattled Silicon Valley blood-testing company Theranos is replacing its chief operating officer and expanding its board, including the addition of a former senior Amgen executive. Theranos attracted the media spotlight with its claim of revolutionizing the laboratory business, offering simplified blood tests at a fraction of the cost of conventional methods. But the company, once valued at $9 billion, now faces growing skepticism over its technology and is under criminal investigation and intense regulatory scrutiny. (Abelson, 5/11)
The Wall Street Journal:
Theranos Executive Sunny Balwani To Depart Amid Regulatory Probes
A top executive who helped build Theranos Inc. into a major blood-testing laboratory is leaving the company amid regulatory probes of the embattled Silicon Valley firm. The departure of Sunny Balwani as Theranos president and chief operating officer comes amid a broader board reorganization announced by the Palo Alto, Calif., firm. In a release late Wednesday, Theranos said it is expanding its board, adding three members to beef up its scientific and medical expertise. (Carreyrou, 5/11)
The expansion plans include constructing a new, six-story patient wing.
The Los Angeles Daily News:
Providence Tarzana Hospital Expansion To Create 1,000 Jobs
Hoping to expand health services into the community, officials with Providence Tarzana Medical Center announced plans Wednesday for a $624 million hospital upgrade to its patient wing, emergency department, and other areas. (Abram, 5/11)
In other hospital news —
Loma Linda University Health Breaking Ground On New Hospital On May 22
When complete, it will be the tallest building in San Bernardino County and the second largest medical center in California, according to a news release from Loma Linda University Health. On May 22, Loma Linda University Health will break ground on its new hospital complex and the community is invited. There will be family activities including an obstacle course, face painting and a petting zoo, free giveaways and cooking demonstrations, the release says. (Steinberg, 5/11)
Research has long shown that smoking cessation saves money in the long run, but this study focused on year-over-year savings.
UCSF Study: Smokers Quit And Health Care Costs Drop — In Next Year
When smoking rates decline, health care spending declines, too, and fast. An analysis from researchers at UC San Francisco finds that if 10 percent of smokers nationwide quit, it would save a whopping $63 billion in national health care costs the next year. Stan Glantz, a professor of medicine at UCSF and director of its Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, was co-author of the study, which found that a 10 percent decline in both prevalence of smoking and per-person cigarette consumption would save one percent of total health care cost. (Aliferis, 5/11)
Furor over vaccinations has been roiling the Capitol for the past year, and the movie "Vaxxed" has added more fuel to the fire.
The Sacramento Bee:
Vaccine Tiff Between Richard Pan, ‘Vaxxed’ Producer Roils Twitter
The latest flareup of a conflict between vaccine skeptics and an inoculation-championing state senator has moved from a Capitol corridor to the realm of hashtags. A 2015 bill requiring California children to be fully vaccinated to enroll in school fomented the year’s most visible fight. Waves of red-clad parents regularly flooded the Capitol to protest what they called an infringement on parental rights. They targeted much of their ire at the bill’s author, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who endured violent threats. (White, 5/11)
STAT filed a motion to bring to light the documents that include the deposition of Dr. Richard Sackler, a former president of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma. Purdue plans to appeal the ruling.
Los Angeles Times:
Maker Of Painkiller OxyContin Loses Legal Battle To Keep Lawsuit Records Secret
Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, lost a legal battle Wednesday to keep records and testimony about its bestselling and widely abused painkiller secret. A judge in Pike County, Kentucky, a region hard-hit by prescription painkiller abuse, granted a motion by a news outlet to unseal records from a lawsuit by the state accusing the company of fraud, conspiracy and negligence in the development and marketing of the drug. Purdue settled that suit in December for $24 million without any admission of wrongdoing. (Kim and Ryan, 5/11)
Last week, the Los Angeles Times took an in-depth look at the painkiller. Read the story here.
The 2-year-old's parents are fighting to bar a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Roseville from disconnecting the child’s ventilator.
The Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento Judge To Rule On Continuing Life Support For Brain-Dead Toddler
It’s been nearly a month since toddler Israel Stinson was declared brain dead at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Roseville, but the 2-year-old’s life remains in limbo. While the curly-haired boy lies hooked up to ventilators in a Kaiser pediatric unit, lawyers for his parents and the hospital were in federal court Wednesday, fighting over who has the right to determine whether he is legally dead. (Buck, 5/11)
In other news from across the state —
UC San Francisco Drops Plans To Close Mission Clinic
A reproductive health clinic serving San Francisco’s Mission District that is threatened with closure will stay open another year, UCSF officials say. (Romero, 5/11)
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Stemedica, Gordie Howe Family, Team Up On Brain Injuries
San Diego's Stemedica says it has allied with the family of hockey great Gordie Howe and an Ohio hospital system to test Stemedica's stem cell therapy on those with traumatic brain injuries. The initial focus is on veterans, athletes and auto injury patients. (Fikes, 5/11)
The Desert Sun:
One Patient's Story: He Called 911 While Having A Stroke
On the morning of April 11, King Wilder was home alone in La Quinta after returning from a Las Vegas vacation. Along with breakfast, Wilder started some laundry before getting back to his at-home job as a web developer. As he moved clothes from the washer to the dryer, Wilder began feeling dizzy. He tried to turn on the dryer and couldn't. (Newkirk, 5/11)
The presumptive Republican nominee for president recently pledged to appoint pro-life judges and brought a prominent opponent of abortion on to his staff.
Anti-Abortion Groups Moving — Reluctantly — Toward Trump
Anti-abortion groups that steadfastly opposed Donald Trump are coming around — though not with great enthusiasm. The thawing of relations comes as the Trump camp has made moves that anti-abortion leaders view as potentially promising that he will champion their causes if he becomes president. On Tuesday evening, the presumptive GOP nominee pledged to appoint “pro-life” judges, his clearest and most prominent effort to date to tap into one of the highest priorities of anti-abortion voters. (Haberkorn, 5/11)
The announcement comes after UnitedHealth said it was withdrawing from most of the exchanges.
The Wall Street Journal:
Aetna Not Withdrawing From Any Health-Law Insurance-Exchange States
Aetna Inc. expects to continue selling Affordable Care Act exchange plans in 15 states, and the insurer said it may expand into new areas. The announcement adds to the mixed picture that the industry has been providing about companies’ willingness to stick it out on the exchanges, which have generated red ink for many insurers. Insurers’ moves on the exchanges are being closely watched after UnitedHealth Group Inc. said last month that it would withdraw from all but a handful of the 34 states where it is offering the marketplace plans, amid continued losses. ... But other big insurers have struck a guardedly optimistic tone. (Wilde Mathews and Armour, 5/11)
Meanwhile, a task force responsible for coming up with a "replace" plan for the Affordable Care Act is set to lay out its draft to GOP leaders —
House GOP To Huddle Over Health Care As Hearing Hints At Changes
House GOP leaders announced Wednesday at a weekly closed-door conference meeting that they will present members with an update on the Republican Obamacare replacement plan on Thursday afternoon, according to a senior GOP aide. ... While the plan is not yet finalized, a hearing in Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee on Wednesday offered hints of what the replacement plan might contain. Committee members are mulling various ways to handle pre-existing conditions, quality of coverage, affordability and insurance regulation. (Owens, 5/11)
GOP Lawmakers To Get Briefing From Leaders Of ObamaCare Replacement Effort
The meeting, which will be attended by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), marks the first time the task force will lay out a draft of its plan after months of conversations with members, according to a House GOP aide. The plan is expected to include numerous standard Republican health policy ideas — including a controversial proposal to cap the employer tax exclusion for health insurance, according to two Republican lobbyists. ... Details of the plan have been mostly kept quiet, but Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, told The Hill that other elements include allowing insurers to sell across state lines and “beefing up” health savings accounts. (Sullivan and Ferris, 5/11)
Also see a related video on California Healthline: Sounds Like A Good Idea? Selling Insurance Across State Lines (Rovner and Ying, 5/10)