- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Vaccine Shortage Complicates Efforts To Quell Hepatitis A Outbreaks
- Liquid Gold: Pain Doctors Soak Up Profits By Screening Urine For Drugs
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Significant Change In Anthem's Plan Under Health Law May Trip Up Consumers
- Public Health and Education 3
- This Year's Flu Strain Looks To Be Aggressive
- Experts Gather To Discuss What Can Be Done To Curb Opioid Epidemic In California
- Scientists Genetically Modify Stem Cells To Grow Skin For 7-Year-Old Boy With Fatal Disease
Latest From California Healthline:
The two FDA-approved manufacturers of the vaccine, hit by an unexpected spike in demand, have had difficulty keeping pace. In San Diego County, home to the deadliest outbreak in the nation, officials are postponing a campaign to give at-risk residents the second of two doses. (Stephanie O'Neill, 11/9)
With the nation's opioid crisis, urine testing has become a booming business and is especially lucrative for doctors who operate their own labs, a Kaiser Health News investigation finds. And dozens of practitioners have earned ‘the lion’s share’ of their Medicare income exclusively from urine drug screens. (Fred Schulte and Elizabeth Lucas, 11/9)
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Summaries Of The News:
Although some California residents will still be able to buy health law coverage through the company, it will replace its preferred provider plan or PPO with an exclusive provider plan or EPO.
Local Residents Still Have Obamacare Options. But Beware Of Change To Anthem Plan.
While Anthem Blue Cross decided to withdraw from most of California's individual market, it continues to serve the Central Valley pricing region. According to Covered California, which serves 67,000 people in the five-county region, Anthem customers made up more than 65 percent of those consumers this year. ... For 2018, Anthem will replace its preferred provider plan or PPO with a significantly different type of plan called an exclusive provider plan or EPO. ... [Insurance broker Debra] Wright said the provider network for the EPO is about the same as the PPO, but customers need to understand the terms of the EPO. It does not cover medical bills for patients who use services outside the provider network. (Carlson, 11/8)
The worst of the season is a long way away, but experts are reminding people to get vaccinated.
There’s An Aggressive Flu Virus On The Loose: Have You Gotten A Flu Shot Yet?
The flu is here and just in time to spread during Thanksgiving gatherings. Influenza season is starting early, and it’s aggressive, according to Kaiser Permanente Fresno. Since the start of October, Kaiser has tested 70 people for influenza, and and 10 had influenza A, while two had influenza B. (Anderson, 11/8)
In other public health news —
To Protect People's Lungs, Move Bus Stops Away From Intersections, Study Says
Every day, almost a million LA County residents wait at busy city intersections for the bus. A new UCLA study finds they’re breathing high levels of vehicle exhaust because of it. (Guerin, 11/8)
San Francisco Chronicle:
California’s New Birth Certificate Heralds Third-Gender Intersex Rights
The Gender Recognition Act, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Oct. 15, puts California in the lead nationally in legal recognition for nonbinary genders. ...The new law allows the designation of a third gender on birth certificates. (Knight and Tamar-Mattis, 11/8)
Although the state hasn't been as hard hit as others, it's still been affected by the crisis.
San Diego Union-Tribune:
How California Ranks In The Nation's Opioid Epidemic
With the nation in the grip of a deadly opioid crisis, California seems to have been spared to some degree when compared with many other states. But the human toll it has taken on the most populous state is still staggering. California ranks No. 1 when it comes to the raw number of drug-overdose deaths — more than 4,600 victims in 2015, a trend primarily driven by opioids. (Davis, 11/8)
San Diego Conference Addresses Epidemic Of Opioid-Related Deaths
California has the nation’s seventh-lowest rate of drug overdoses. Even so, because of the state's large population, more people die of a drug overdose each year in California than in any other state. (Goldberg, 11/8)
The doctors were able to reconstruct fully functional skin for 80 percent of the boy’s body. The success story may offer hope to burn victims and others with severe skin conditions.
The Washington Post:
Genetically Modified Skin Grown From Stem Cells Saved A 7-Year-Old Boy’s Life
Scientists reported Wednesday that they genetically modified stem cells to grow skin that they successfully grafted over nearly all of a child's body — a remarkable achievement that could revolutionize treatment of burn victims and people with skin diseases. The research, published in the journal Nature, involved a 7-year-old boy who suffers from a genetic disease known as junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB) that makes skin so fragile that minor friction such as rubbing causes the skin to blister or come apart. (Cha, 11/8)
The Wall Street Journal:
New Skin for 7-Year-Old Boy Marks Advance In Gene Therapy
The new skin remains functional after 21 months, and doesn’t blister or require ointment or medication, according to the team of scientists and doctors from Austria, Germany and Italy who described the case in a paper in the journal Nature. The child in the study has Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa (JEB), part of a family of rare, often lethal, skin-blistering diseases. Epidermolysis Bullosa affects only around 1 in every 20,000 births in the U.S.; JEB is a severe form of the disease, often leading to death in early childhood. (Dockser Marcus, 11/8)
Los Angeles Times:
9-Year-Old Boy With Rare Disease Now Has Engineered Skin Covering 80% Of His Body
Over a five-month period in the fall and winter of 2015, they harvested some of the boy's few remaining healthy skin cells. Using a virus to invade the cells, they introduced a corrected version of the mutated gene that had caused the catastrophic failure of his epidermis, the body's largest organ. They cultured the corrected cells and, on sheets backed with plastic and a naturally-occurring adhesive, used them to build many square meters of healthy new epidermis. Then, ever so delicately, they clothed his small body in a new set of skin. (Healy, 11/8)
Genetically Altered Skin Saves A Boy Dying Of A Rare Disease
After eight months in the intensive care unit, the boy was well enough to go home. And, two years later, he is in school, even playing soccer. "The kid is doing quite well," Rothoeft said. "The skin is of good quality, it doesn't need any ointments or stuff like that. It's perfectly smooth and it is quite stable. And if he gets any bruises, they just heal like bruises in every other kid." (Harris, 11/8)
The program follows Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval in 2016 of Assembly Bill 2246 after a spate of suicides in recent years among teenagers in San Diego and Palo Alto. The bill requires school boards to develop and adopt policies on suicide prevention that specifically address high-risk groups.
Los Angeles Times:
‘If You See Something, Say Something.’ Newport-Mesa School District Seminar Teaches Suicide Warning Signs
As part of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s new program to educate staff about student suicide prevention, parents were invited to a seminar Tuesday night at Corona del Mar High School to learn about what experts say is a rising crisis nationwide. “We feel it won’t happen in our backyard, but it’s happening everywhere,” said Angela Castellanos, district coordinator of mental health and outreach services. “We’ve had incidents where our students have died by suicide, so we’re not isolated from the phenomenon.” (Vega, 11/8)
In other news from across the state —
Capital Public Radio:
Placer County's Whole Person Care Program Opens First Home
This is a big week for some homeless people in Auburn who are transitioning into permanent housing as part of the statewide Whole Person Care pilot program. Geoff Smith is Placer County's Whole Person Care manager. He says 13 people will be moved-in to a home by the end of the week. (Milne, 11/8)
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Palomar Health CEO Retires
Palomar Health has some turnover at the top. Chief executive Robert Hemker announced his retirement this week. Palomar declared in a statement that he’s departing “to spend more time with his family.” The executive will be succeded on an interim basis by Diane Hansen who previously served as Palomar’s executive vice president of finance. (Sisson, 11/8)
In its revised analysis, the Congressional Budget Office also finds that the move would mean 13 million more people would be uninsured and premiums would rise by about 10 percent most years over the next decade.
Repeal Of Individual Mandate Would Increase Uninsured, Premiums: CBO
The Congressional Budget Office said on Wednesday that repealing the Obamacare individual mandate would increase the number of uninsured by 13 million by 2027 and reduce the federal budget deficit less than initially forecast. The CBO, the nonpartisan budget-scoring agency, said that eliminating the Obamacare mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance or else pay a fine would lower the deficit by $338 billion over the next decade, not $416 billion as it estimated in December. (Brice and Abutaleb, 11/8)
Repealing ObamaCare Mandate Means Millions Fewer Insured: CBO
Getting rid of the individual mandate means fewer people with health insurance. That means fewer subsidies the government will pay to help people afford their ObamaCare health plans, and thus, savings. Premiums in the individual insurance market would increase by about 10 percent in most years of the decade, CBO concluded, because repealing the mandate means less healthy people will buy insurance. That would leave sicker, older people to share the costs in the market, resulting in higher premiums. (Roubein and Hellmann, 11/8)
CBO: Repealing Health Coverage Mandate Would Save $338 Billion
House Republicans are toying with the idea of repealing the so-called individual mandate — a key part of the Affordable Care Act — as part of their plan to overhaul the tax code. Including the provision could be a win-win for Republicans. The move would allow them to offset more of the tax cuts they want in their tax plan and give them the chance to claim they repealed one of the most hated parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. (Kodjak, 11/8)
"There has been a major change here," says Robert Blendon, an expert on public opinion about healthcare at Harvard's Kennedy School. "Democrats for years wouldn't talk about healthcare. … Now, the implication is that if you are a Democrat running in 2018, you can talk about protecting healthcare for millions of Americans."
The Associated Press:
In Election Glow, Dems See Health Care As A Winning Issue
Democrats are starting to see a political edge in health care — particularly the idea of widening Medicaid access for more low-income people — after big election victories Tuesday night. In Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam promised a vigorous push as governor to expand Medicaid. Voters who said health care was important went decisively for Northam. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/9)
The Wall Street Journal:
Democratic Wins Dent Efforts To Roll Back Health Law’s Individual Mandate
Democratic wins in Tuesday’s elections make it less likely that Republicans, as part of their tax package, will seek to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most people have health coverage, according to congressional aides. Voters in Maine this week decisively backed a referendum to expand Medicaid under the ACA, and exit polls showed health care was a central issue for Virginians who elected Democrat Ralph Northam as their state’s governor. (Armour and Peterson, 11/8)
Los Angeles Times:
Healthcare, For Years A Political Winner For GOP, Now Powers Democratic Wins
Tuesday's elections don't ensure healthcare will remain a winning issue for Democrats in 2018, when party leaders hope they can retake the majority in at least one chamber of Congress. But the emergence of healthcare as a political liability for Republicans marks a dramatic turnabout for the GOP, which for years reaped huge electoral gains by playing on the unpopularity of the 2010 law. (Levey, 11/8)
The tax credit is part of a popular plan to encourage the development of drugs for rare disease. But ending it could save the government an estimated $54 billion over the next decade
The New York Times:
Congress Weighs Repeal Of Tax Credit For Rare Disease Drugs
A decades-old tax credit designed to spur cures for rare diseases has been so successful that it’s now become a target in the House Republican tax plan. The proposal under consideration would end the tax breaks for development of what are called orphan drugs. Ending the credit used by big and small drug companies could save the government an estimated $54 billion over the next decade, an effort to help offset some of the anticipated losses in revenue if other Republican tax cut provisions become law. (Thomas and Kaplan, 11/8)
Trump Wants To Cut Big Pharma’s Tax Bill, But What Are Drug Makers Actually Paying?
Pharma has had a rocky relationship with President Trump since inauguration, but the two agree on at least one thing: Corporate taxes are too high. And yet the nation’s biggest drug makers aren’t paying anywhere near the top corporate tax rate Trump, and congressional Republicans, hope to slash. (Garde, 11/8)
In other news on the GOP tax overhaul —
The New York Times:
Ending Medical Tax Break Could Be A ‘Gut Punch’ To The Middle Class
Suzanne Hollack tried to care for her husband at home after he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia at age 69. But it got to the point where she couldn’t take a shower for fear he would stray out of the house. So 18 months ago, she moved him to a memory care community near their home in Scottsdale, Az., which like most long-term care, is not covered by Medicare. That, plus his other medical expenses, cost the couple $90,000 last year. (Zernike and Goodnough, 11/8)