- California Healthline Original Stories 3
- Rest Of The U.S. Could Learn 'A Great Deal' From Covered California, Study Says
- A Deep Dive Into 4 GOP Talking Points On Health Care
- Former FDA Chief Cites 5 Things To Watch On Drug Approvals, And Keeping Drugs Safe
- Quality 1
- As America Trends Toward More Diversity, Health System Is Accommodating Unique Cultural Needs
- Public Health and Education 2
- Companies Continue To Receive Public Funds Despite Serious Safety Lapses
- Following Teacher's Death, Parents Concerned Kids Have Been Exposed To Meningitis
Latest From California Healthline:
Researchers find that the state’s exchange has succeeded by fostering competition, with a large number of insurers in the mix, aggressively negotiating on premiums and setting conditions for health plan participation. (Stephanie O'Neill, 2/14)
The president says Obamacare has been “a complete and total disaster,” and other Republicans see nothing but trouble. But a careful look at the arguments suggest the situation is more complicated. (Julie Rovner, 2/14)
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf shares his views about drug approvals, regulations and safety concerns after stepping down from the giant agency. (Sydney Lupkin and Sarah Jane Tribble, 2/14)
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Summaries Of The News:
Similar bills from Democratic state Sen. Bill Monning failed in 2014 and 2015, but the lawmaker said he sees a rising tide of support following three Bay Area cities approving soda levies in November.
California Lawmaker Makes Push For Health Warning Labels On Soda
A California state senator is taking another stab at introducing a law that would require sugary drink manufacturers to put a warning label on their products, the latest effort in the "War on Sugar." Officials and public health advocates have heightened their criticism of sugar as a key contributor to health epidemics like obesity and diabetes, and California has become a major battleground in the fight against what they say is excessive sugar consumption. (Prentice, 2/13)
Doctors are now being trained to deliver culturally appropriate care to patients of many backgrounds, learning different languages, and adjusting care based on the needs of their diverse patients.
Health Care Adjusts To A More Diverse America
That future is already visible in Sacramento County and neighboring Yolo County, where West Sacramento is located: by 2013 the combined population of Hispanic, black, Asian and other nonwhite residents had edged out whites. In West Sacramento, a historically working-class county across the river from the state capital, more than 2 out of 5 public schoolchildren already speak a language other than English at home. Sacramento-area hospitals, community health centers and doctor’s offices have had to adapt. They’ve hired more multilingual, bicultural staff. They’ve contracted with interpretation services. The medical school at the University of California, Davis, is trying to figure out how to recruit more Latino students to a profession that remains largely white and Asian. And doctors are being trained to deliver culturally appropriate care to patients of many backgrounds. (Quinton, 2/13)
In other news —
City Heights Groups Want East African Immigrants To See A Doctor Before They Need One
Community organizers in the City Heights area are encouraging members of the region's East African population — the second-largest concentration in the U.S. — to seek preventative health care. ... To help expand access, Family Health Centers of San Diego and other groups are hosting a free health screening Tuesday as part of the county's Love Your Heart initiative. The Centers' community clinics serve uninsured and low-income patients, including many immigrants and refugees. (Mento, 2/14)
LinkedIn has released its top 10 for this year's health care jobs.
In other industry news —
East Bay Times:
Pleasanton-Based Zeltiq Sells Itself In $2.48 Billion Deal
Zeltiq Aesthetics has agreed to sell itself and its CoolScupting technology to reduce fat in a $2.48 billion deal to botox-maker Allergan. The deal is expected to close during the second half of this year, the companies said. Shares of Zeltiq zoomed higher after the proposed deal was announced early Monday. Zeltiq closed at $55.93 on Monday, a gain of $6.53, or 13.2 percent. The company went public in October 2011 with an initial public offering price of $13. So far this year, the company’s shares are up 28.5 percent. (Avalos, 2/13)
Since October 2008, the Navy and Coast Guard’s seven major private shipbuilders have received more than $100 billion in public money even though they have gotten citations for serious safety lapses that have endangered, injured and, in some cases, killed workers, a Reveal investigation finds.
In Sickness And In Health
John Williams Jr.’s life changed irrevocably in 2014 when he was involved in a horrific crane accident while working at VT Halter shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Williams, an experienced crane operator, lost a significant portion of his skull, his vision and his independence. He suffered permanent, severe brain damage that left him with the mental capacity of a child. Wanda, his wife of almost 20 years, must now take care of him. Their love remains strong, but they have lost the life and relationship they once knew. The Williamses consider themselves among “the lucky ones.” (Aden-Buie, 2/10)
Antibiotics were given to “children in that classroom, close contacts among the staff and other close contacts of the patient,” according to Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, of the Department of Public Health.
Los Angeles Times:
South Gate Teacher Gets Meningitis And Dies, And Parents Worry About Health Risks
A teacher at Montara Avenue Elementary School in South Gate died last week after contracting meningitis, leading parents to worry about whether their children might have been exposed. The Los Angeles Unified School District issued a statement saying the Los Angeles County Public Health Department "is taking appropriate measures to identify and protect those who may have come in contact with our employee. They have provided preventative antibiotics, as well as information about meningococcal disease." (Kohli, 2/13)
Parents Concerned After Meningitis Death At South Gate School
The Los Angeles Unified School District has confirmed that a South Gate school teacher died last week from meningitis. The death has sparked concerns among some parents, although the public health department says it has taken adequate measures to protect those who were at the greatest potential risk of infection. L.A. Unified has not yet identified the teacher, who worked at Montara Avenue Elementary School. Parents met with school officials Monday. (Lavender, 2/13)
The San Diego Blood Bank is expanding its horizons to deal with changing demand.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
San Diego Blood Bank Pivots To Research Amid Drop In Transfusions
At a time when many of its peers have been forced to close or consolidate, the San Diego Blood Bank is thriving thanks to a new focus on research and dogged competition for business outside of its home market. For decades, the nonprofit’s focus has been on getting freshly collected units of red blood cells, platelets and plasma to the surgeons who use them to save lives. While that role remains the core of its business, a documented decline in the need for traditional blood products has forced this vital enterprise to expand its horizons from the operating room to the lab bench. (Sisson, 2/13)
In other news from across the state —
Fresno Nursing Home Resident Dies Of Legionnaires' Disease
Fresno County health officials said Monday a nursing home resident has died of Legionnaires’ disease. The patient’s identity, age and date of death were not released because of patient confidentiality laws, but health officials said they have been investigating Legionnaires’ disease at NorthPointe Health Centre on East Bullard Avenue since Jan. 23. No other cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been identified from the nursing home, the officials said. (Anderson, 2/13)
David Shulkin promised he would address the problems that have been plaguing the agency, but that it wouldn't be privatized on his watch.
Senate Confirms David Shulkin As Veterans Affairs Secretary
The Senate unaminously confirmed Trump nominee David Shulkin to be secretary of Veterans Affairs Monday night. Shulkin, the lone holdover from the Obama administration among President Trump’s Cabinet picks, has been the VA undersecretary for health since July 2015 and has not drawn the harsh opposition from Democrats that other Trump nominees have faced. (Slack, 2/13)
In other national health care news —
Republicans' Struggles To Replace Obamacare Feel Like Deja Vu All Over Again
Republicans in Congress are hitting roadblocks as they try to devise a plan to replace Obamacare, stuck over issues like how to structure tax breaks they want to give people to buy insurance. The party stalemated on many of the same obstacles in 2014 during its most extensive effort to devise an alternative, according to lawmakers and aides involved with that effort. "It wasn’t easy for us," said Eric Cantor, then the House majority leader, who led the effort. "There were a lot of thorny issues. The easy way was to gloss over the thorny details and the intra-party divisions." (Kapur, 2/13)
Why High-Risk Pools Won't Crack The Pre-Existing Condition Dilemma
Some Republican leaders are promoting state high-risk pools as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act's popular provision requiring health plans to accept consumers regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. They cite Wisconsin's pre-ACA pool, the Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan, as a model. But a Wisconsin insurance official recently cautioned a House panel that high-risk pools need a stable funding source and are not a solution for every state. Other experts say state high-risk pools generally were a policy failure across the country, and making them work properly would require a large amount of taxpayer funding. (Meyer, 2/13)
Conservatives Balking At GOP Leadership's Obamacare Plans
House conservatives — anxious that the GOP’s effort to end Obamacare is getting bogged down in the fight over what a replacement should look like — are plotting a major push to repeal the law immediately without simultaneously approving an alternative. The House Freedom Caucus and a number of Republican Study Committee members this week will urge Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his lieutenants to forego their plan to add replacement provisions to a repeal bill, dubbed “repeal-plus.” Instead, they want to approve the same standalone repeal bill that Congress sent to President Barack Obama in 2016. (Bade, 2/13)
The Wall Street Journal:
Legal Challenges Could Leave U.S. On The Hook For Obamacare ‘Risk Corridor’ Payments
A recent ruling by a federal judge that the U.S. government must pay more than $200 million to an Oregon insurer could mean serious financial and political headaches for the Trump administration in the months to come. The decision last week by a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims requires the government to pay Moda Health Plan Inc. money it said it was owed under an Affordable Care Act provision intended to cover insurers financial shortfalls. (Armour, 2/13)
A federal court judge ruled last month that the $34 billion merger would hurt competition in the insurance industry. As part of the deal, Aetna will give Humana $1 billion as a break-up fee.
Aetna, Humana End $34 Billion Merger Agreement
Aetna and rival Humana are terminating their merger, after their $34 billion deal was blocked by a federal court on antitrust grounds. Aetna will pay Humana a $1 billion break-up fee, in accordance with the agreement. (Coombs, 2/14)
Aetna, Humana Walk Away From $34 Billion Deal After Court Ruling
After the Jan. 23 court ruling, Aetna and Humana had said they were weighing whether to appeal the decision and extend their agreement, which was set to expire on Feb. 15. Aetna and Humana announced the deal in July 2015, just a few weeks before Anthem Inc and Cigna Corp said they would also combine. A year later, the U.S. Justice Department sued to block both transactions and won in separate lawsuits, derailing what would have been a massive industry consolidation to three insurers from five. (Humer, 2/14)
Hartford (Conn.) Courant:
Aetna, Humana Call Off $37 Billion Deal
"While we continue to believe that a combined company would create greater value for health care consumers through improved affordability and quality, the current environment makes it too challenging to continue pursuing the transaction," [Aetna Chief Executive Officer Mark] Bertolini said. "We are disappointed to take this course of action after 19 months of planning, but both companies need to move forward with their respective strategies in order to continue to meet member expectations," Bertolini said.
The Wall Street Journal:
Aetna, Humana Mutually End Merger Agreement
The end of their deal, which would have forged a diversified insurance powerhouse, leaves both insurers with challenges as they forge separate paths forward. ... In his ruling last month, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said the merger would unlawfully threaten competition, harming seniors who buy the private Medicare coverage known as Medicare Advantage. The 156-page decision said that combining the two companies likely would lead to a substantial lessening of competition for Medicare Advantage plans in 364 counties. (Wilde Mathews, 2/14)
Aetna, Humana Abandon $37 Billion Merger Blocked By Judge
Aetna and Humana, which had agreed to combine in July 2015, are free to make new deals or spend billions of dollars on buying back their own shares. Another massive health insurance deal, meanwhile, is grinding forward -- for now. Anthem Inc. said on Monday that it’s seeking a fast-track appeal of a different judge’s ruling that blocked its own proposed $48 billion acquisition of Cigna Corp. (Tracer, 2/14)