Latest From California Healthline:
A growing number of pregnant women are among the migrants seeking asylum in the United States. Many must wait in Mexico until their cases are heard, spending weeks or months in migrant shelters with limited access to health care. (Heidi de Marco, 7/23)
Good morning! Here are your top California health stories for the day.
Now-Federally Funded, California-Based Chain Of Family Planning Clinics Emphasizes Abstinence: The Obria Group’s clinics encourage young clients to use online apps, developed with funding from religious conservatives, to “move them away from sexual risks as their only option in life, to an option of self-control.” Chief Executive Kathleen Eaton Bravo is pitching Obria as an alternative to Planned Parenthood. Political analysts have called the new federal funding for Obria a game-changer for the antiabortion movement that may lead to similar clinics being eligible for more types of federal grants, reimbursement from Medicaid and participation in private insurance plans. The Department of Health and Human Services granted $1.7 million to Obria in fiscal year 2019, with the possibility to be renewed for two more years for a total of $5.1 million — part of a larger effort by religious conservatives in the Trump administration to transform women’s health-care services by encouraging alternatives to abortion and hormonal birth control, such as birth control pills, and promoting traditional marriage. Read more from Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post.
After State Passed Strict Vaccination Laws, Number Of Home-Schooled Kindergartner’s Quadrupled: In 2016, California implemented one of the strictest immunization laws in the country, requiring that all children be up to date on their vaccinations to attend school unless a doctor says otherwise. The law, however, does not apply to children who are home-schooled, a loophole that parents seem to be increasingly exploiting. Over the past three years, the number of kindergartners who were home-schooled and did not have their shots quadrupled, according to a Times analysis of state data. And though most of their schooling may take place at home, many are part of programs that meet several times a week with other students. If one contracted a disease such as measles, they could still spread it at the park, or the grocery store, or anywhere they come into contact with other people, said Dr. James Cherry, a UCLA expert on pediatric infectious diseases. “They frequently get together,” he said. “If there’s a cluster, and they’re getting together, and [a disease] gets introduced, then there are going to be a lot of cases — and that’s likely to happen.” Read more from Soumya Karlamangla of the Los Angeles Times.
Oakland’s Homeless Populations Skyrockets Nearly 50% Over Two-Year Span: Oakland’s homeless population rose 47% between 2017 and 2019, one of the biggest two-year increases of any California city, according to a one-night street count released Monday by county officials. The jump means Oakland’s per capita homeless rate now surpasses the same figure in San Francisco and Berkeley. The spike, which shocked many at City Hall, comes despite efforts by the city to tackle the homelessness problem, including the creation of community cabins and the opening of a safe RV parking site. “Of course, it is disappointing ... that we’ve had the highest increase, at least in the Bay Area,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “It shows that we need to do more; we need to do things differently and we need to act with a sense of urgency that is greater than anything we’ve seen in the past.” Read more from Sarah Ravani of the San Francisco Chronicle.
In related news, a breakdown of the information on how many people LA County got off the streets last year shows a more new nuanced picture than the numbers seem at first glance. Read more from Doug Smith of the Los Angeles Times.
Below, check out the full round-up of California Healthline original stories, state coverage and the best of the rest of the national news for the day.
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More News From Across The State
Confusion And Tension Between Counties As California Tests New Drug Treatment Program
San Francisco is one of the first counties in the state to roll out new updates to the Drug Medi-Cal program. Now the state gets more federal money to provide residential treatment for more people. But each county is responsible for running its own program. So while some bigger counties have gone all in, many rural counties, for financial or political reasons, have implemented the changes on a smaller scale; 18 opted out altogether. (Dembosky, 7/22)
The California Health Report:
In The Central Valley, A Trafficking Survivor Works To Rescue Others
In the Central Valley, human trafficking appears to be increasing. In the past 10 years, 800 victims have been identified and rescued, according to Sarah Johnston, trafficking program manager for the Economic Opportunities Commission’s Central Valley Against Human Trafficking. But in the first three months of 2019, 50 people were identified as trafficking victims, and there are likely more unknown victims, according to Johnston. In March, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, launched the Human Trafficking Initiative, designed to bring together local agencies that prosecute exploiters and provide services to survivors. The hope is that the collaborative approach can also serve as a model and inspire other communities statewide to work together to end human trafficking. (Childers, 7/22)
Patients ‘Dumped’ From Care Homes Win Appeals Fight To Sue CA
A federal appeals court sided with former nursing home residents – including two who were housed in Sacramento-area facilities – allowing them to proceed with a lawsuit challenging California regulators for failing to crack down on patient dumping by care facilities. The July 18 opinion by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco allows the residents’ lawsuit against the state’s Department of Health Care Services and Department of Health and Human Services to go forward. The ruling overturns an earlier San Francisco federal court decision that dismissed the residents’ suit. (Smith, 7/23)
Former Sutter Executive Alleges His Firing Was Retaliatory
A former Sutter Health IT executive said the company fired him because he told an investigator that management could have avoided a systemwide computer failure in May 2018 if they had taken his advice to install backup infrastructure for electronic medical records, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court. Stuart James said that Sutter not only wrongfully terminated him in July 2018 but that the health provider also went on to defame him by naming him as one of three information technology executives terminated in the fallout from the outage. Others cited in the articles were Jonathan Manis, senior vice president and chief information officer, and Randy Davis, director of information services finance. (Anderson, 7/23)
Los Angeles Times:
Peak Fire Season Is Near And The Federal Government Is Short Hundreds Of Firefighters
Heading into the hottest and driest months of the wildfire season, the Department of the Interior is short hundreds of firefighters, a result of recruitment problems and the longest federal government shutdown in history. Based on interviews and internal agency memos obtained through a public records request, The Times found that the agency has about 500 fewer firefighters available than expected — a roughly 10% shortfall. (Phillips, 7/23)
The Associated Press:
Kamala Harris Proposes Bill To Invest In Safe Drinking Water
Sen. Kamala Harris is introducing legislation designed to ensure all Americans, particularly those in at-risk communities, have access to safe, affordable drinking water, the latest response to burgeoning water crises across the country. The California Democrat and presidential candidate’s “Water Justice Act” would invest nearly $220 billion in clean and safe drinking water programs, with priority given to high-risk communities and schools. As part of that, Harris’ plan would declare a drinking water infrastructure emergency, devoting $50 billion toward communities and schools where water is contaminated to test for contaminants and to remediate toxic infrastructure. (Summers, 7/22)
The Washington Post:
USDA Proposes SNAP Change That Would Push 3 Million Americans Off Food Stamps
The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new rules Tuesday to limit access to food stamps for households with savings and other assets, a measure that officials said would cut benefits to about 3 million people. In a telephone call with reporters, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Acting Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps said the proposed new rules for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) were aimed at ending automatic eligibility for those who were already receiving federal and state assistance. (Reiley, 7/23)
The Wall Street Journal:
IRS Greenlights Tax Breaks For Buyers Of 23andMe Genetic Tests
Buyers of 23andMe Inc.’s genetic-testing kits will now have an easier time paying for the service with tax-advantaged health accounts after a favorable IRS ruling. The decision offers more clarity to consumers and reduces the cost of the company’s service. It also highlights differences between the tax law’s permissive definition of medical care and health regulators’ more restrictive approach to direct-to-consumer testing products. The Internal Revenue Service made the ruling in May and will release a redacted version next month. The Wall Street Journal reviewed the document before 23andMe disclosed it Monday. (Rubin and Marcus, 7/22)
The Wall Street Journal:
Consumers Will Be Able To Pay For Doctor Visits On Their Phones, Via Anthem
Health insurers are racing to roll out new digital tools that give them a deeper role in health care, aiming to reduce costs and improve convenience for consumers. The latest sign is a new app from Anthem Inc. that is set to be introduced next week in one state, but later reach the big insurer’s full geographic territory. The app will let consumers, including those who don’t have its insurance, schedule and pay for medical visits through their smartphones, as well as learn potential diagnoses and text with doctors. (Wilde Mathews, 7/22)
The New York Times:
Discrimination Is Hard To Prove, Even Harder To Fix
When it comes to lawsuits alleging discrimination, the wheels of justice sometimes turn even more slowly than usual. “It’s a difficult process, more difficult than it needs to be,” said Jeff Vardaro, a civil rights attorney in Columbus, Ohio. These cases can become complex and expensive, and defendants and their attorneys have incentives to drag them out. Over the past year or so, I have reported on several suits involving older adults’ complaints of discrimination based on age, sex and disability status, all of which are prohibited under federal law. (Span, 7/22)
Ousted Planned Parenthood Chief Called Abortion ‘The Fight Of Our Time’
Deposed Planned Parenthood chief Leana Wen vowed in a memo before taking her post that she would treat abortion “as the fight of our time,” calling into question her claim that she was ousted as CEO last week for seeking to depoliticize Planned Parenthood’s signature issue. “We are facing [the] real probability that 1/3 of women of reproductive age—25 million—could be living in states that ban or criminalize abortion,” Wen wrote in an October 2018 internal memo where she laid out her agenda. “[W]e need to fight with everything we have.” (Diamond, 7/22)
The Associated Press:
Weight Loss Among Fat-Acceptance Influencers A Fraught Topic
Fashion and lifestyle blogger Maui Bigelow has always been curvy and built a social media presence by embracing every pound. Until the worst happened. At nearly 380 pounds, her health took a dive. She was diagnosed with a blood cancer and multiple uterine fibroids that couldn't be treated due to her weight. That's when she decided to have bariatric surgery, a weight loss procedure. (7/22)