- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- Two Insurance Giants Planning To Jump Into California’s Medicaid Market
- Sacramento Watch 1
- For Prop 47 Advocates, Battle To Fund Mental Health, Substance Abuse Programs Isn't Over
- Marketplace 1
- Zenefits Settles With Tennessee In First Of Multiple Investigations Into Its Practices
- Pharmaceuticals 2
- DIY Scientists Take Creating Treatments, Finding Cures Into Own Hands
- Physicians Turn To Marijuana To Ease Agitation, Aggression In Alzheimer's Patients
Latest From California Healthline:
Aetna and UnitedHealth seek to build up doctor networks before they start offering government-funded health plans to low-income residents of San Diego and Sacramento counties next year. (Anna Gorman, 7/26)
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Summaries Of The News:
The measure, which downgraded certain petty criminal offenses, was supposed to create savings to be used for mental health and substance abuse treatment. But the formula used by the state has the amount of money devoted to the programs falling quite short of the original estimates.
The Sacramento Bee:
Where Did California’s Savings From Reducing Drug Penalties Go?
Proposition 47, which passed in 2014, reduced drug possession and some crimes of petty theft, check forgery and receiving stolen property from felonies to misdemeanors. The initiative mandated that savings from downgrading these offenses be spent on mental health and substance abuse treatment, victim services and truancy prevention. Voters were told the shift in emphasis from prison to rehabilitation could result in savings in “the low hundreds of millions.” Yet the final savings figure to pay for prevention and treatment – reached after months of tense disagreements and accusations of betrayal – is far below the original estimate. (Cohrs, 7/26)
Officials in several states are looking into the San Francisco-based company after it failed to get the necessary licenses for its sales staff to broker health insurance benefits.
Zenefits Fined $62,500 By Tennessee Regulators In First Settlement On Licensing
Software startup Zenefits must pay the state of Tennessee $62,500 for violating insurance requirements, state officials said on Monday, marking the first settlement with regulators as the scandal-hit company seeks to redeem itself after revelations it had flouted the law. "Under the company's past leadership, compliance with insurance laws and regulations was almost an afterthought," Julie Mix McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, said in a statement. "Under the old Zenefits model, they were not complying with state laws. Fortunately, new company leadership has demonstrated a dedication to righting the ship." (Somerville, 7/25)
The Wall Street Journal:
Zenefits Settles With Tennessee Regulator Over Sales Practices
Zenefits faces several continuing investigations from other states, including Washington, California and Massachusetts, after the company failed to get the necessary licenses for its sales staff to broker health-insurance benefits, the primary way the startup makes money. Zenefits reported its licensing issues to all 50 states earlier this year and said it has stopped the unlicensed practices. The company won’t be restricted from doing business in Tennessee, said Zenefits’s chief executive, David Sacks, in an email to employees that was released by the company. (Winkler, 7/25)
A group of scientists at a crowdfunded lab in Oakland have set an ambitious goal to create human insulin to help relieve the global shortage.
Oakland Hackers Try To Make Insulin And Disrupt Biotech
How many times have you had a conversation about when are “they” going to find a cure for the common cold, or make decent-tasting vegan cheese? Well, what if you had a chance to do it yourself? That’s the idea behind the trend of do-it-yourself biohacking: to get regular people involved in scientific discovery. A group of DIY scientists at a new crowdfunded lab in Oakland are doing just that. (Stelzer, 7/25)
For Sonoma County assisted-living facilities, the treatment is “well known and very popular." In other news, a study on children's exposure to marijuana could prove as a cautionary tale for California.
The Press Democrat:
Marijuana Aids Sonoma County Alzheimer’s Patients
Marijuana can make life better for some of the more than 5 million Americans afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, but despite an encouraging new study, it remains a long shot as an antidote to the brain disorder that claims about 85,000 lives a year, experts say. Some assisted-living facilities and physicians in Sonoma County are quietly administering medical marijuana to patients — with consent from legally responsible parties — for behavioral management, quelling aggression and agitation in people who are losing recognition of their surroundings. (Kovner, 7/25)
More Colorado Youngsters Exposed To Pot After Legalization
Significantly more children in Colorado have been treated for unintentional exposure to marijuana since recreational pot became legal there, according to a new study published Monday. The findings offer a cautionary tale for California, where voters will decide in November whether to legalize recreational use of the drug. (Plevin, 7/25)
“When a patient says, ‘I don’t feel like my health is very good right now,’ it’s a meaningful thing with a biological basis, even if they don’t show symptoms,” says Christopher Fagundes, the study's author.
Patient Observations About Their Own Health Are Usually Accurate
A new study out of Rice University finds that when patients make observations about their own health, they’re usually right. The study, published this week in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, gathered the results of a health questionnaire and then blood samples from 1,500 participants. They tested the blood samples for inflammation and the latent herpes virus, neither of which usually produce obvious symptoms. (Caiola, 7/25)
The funding includes a $10 million endowment that will be used to study disparities in the public's access to health care, $2 million for autism research and $2 million to help in the development of new antibiotics.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
SDSU Raises Near-Record $130M For Research
San Diego State University pulled in $130 million for research during fiscal 2015, the second highest figure in campus history and the largest figure of any California State University campus. As part of the CSU system, San Diego State is primarily devoted to teaching. But the campus decided in the 1980s to develop a large research program that has challenged some University of California campuses for money, as well as those in the CSU. The $24.9 million SDSU obtained from the National Institutes of Health in fiscal 2015 was higher than UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara got from the same agency (Robbins, 7/25)
In his endorsement at the Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders touted his efforts to pull Hillary Clinton toward his stances on health care, including proposals to let people join Medicare early and increase funding for community health centers.
Sanders Convention Speech Cites Clinton Health Care Concessions
Bernie Sanders celebrated the health care concessions he won from Hillary Clinton Monday night as he gave a rousing endorsement to his former presidential rival. In a Democratic convention speech that revisited the agenda of his surprisingly competitive campaign for the nomination, Sanders reminded the audience that while he may have lost the race, he did succeed in convincing Clinton to support three important proposals: a “public option” for Obamacare, letting people join Medicare early, and a big funding increase for community health centers. (Kaplan, 7/26)
In other news from the 2016 presidential election —
Success Of Pence's Medicaid Expansion Far From Settled
The success of the conservative approach to Medicaid devised by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence—Donald Trump's pick for vice president—is a mixed bag so far, according to a report that offers fodder for both sides of the political spectrum. A new analysis funded by the state shows both positive and concerning elements to Indiana's alternative Medicaid expansion. It again exposes the dichotomy of Pence embracing President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law even though his presidential running mate, Donald Trump, has called for full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. (Dickson, 7/25)
For Some Anti-Abortion Rights Voters This Year, Neither Candidate Appeals
The 2016 Democratic Party platform includes strong pro-abortion rights language. It opposes Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, as well as bids to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which limits federal funding for abortions. In contrast, the Republican platform called for repealing Roe vs. Wade and adding a "personhood" amendment to the Constitution, which protects a fetus from the beginning of its development. Here & Now's Robin Young talks to Edel Finnegan, executive director of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, about how abortion is being talked about by the parties and the candidates this year. (Young, 7/25)
If implemented, Medicare would set a fixed payment for all services provided during the treatment of a heart attack, instead of letting the hospital bill for each separately.
The Wall Street Journal:
Medicare Proposes Fixed Payments For Treating Heart Attacks
Medicare wants to pay hospitals fixed amounts for treating heart attacks, following a move to offer set reimbursements for hip and knee replacements rather than letting providers bill for every service provided to older Americans, the Obama administration said Monday. The proposal represents the most significant extension of the Obama administration’s efforts to curb costs and improve quality of care funded by Medicare. (Radnofsky and Evans, 7/25)
In other national health care news —
The Associated Press:
Doctors Urged To Check Pregnant Women For Zika At Each Visit
U.S. health officials are strongly urging doctors to ask all pregnant women about a possible Zika infection at every checkup. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of a Zika infection from a mosquito bite in the United States, although officials expect mosquitoes will start spreading it in Southern states. All U.S. illnesses have been connected to travel to areas with Zika outbreaks. (7/25)
Los Angeles Times:
Why The Rio Olympics Are Not Likely To Increase The Spread Of Zika Across The World
More than a dozen athletes have dropped out of the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro citing fears of spreading the Zika virus, but a new study from researchers at Yale University finds that the international sporting event poses little risk of increasing the transfer of the virus around the world. “Yes, Zika is a serious disease, but transmission linked to the Olympics and ParaOlympic Games is not a substantial public health threat and policy should be guided by this fact,” said Gregg Gonsalves, co-director of the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership and an author on the paper. (Netburn, 7/25)
The Wall Street Journal:
Gilead Sales Of Hepatitis C Drugs Fall 19%
Gilead Sciences Inc. said its revenue from its hepatitis C drugs continued to fall, dropping 19% during the second quarter, with sales of Harvoni missing expectations as competition from rival drugs and pricing pressures intensified. Shares of the company slipped 3% to $85.90 after hours. The Foster City, Calif., biopharmaceutical company also lowered its 2016 product sales outlook to $29.5 billion to $30.5 billion, from its previous estimate for products sales of $30 billion to $31 billion. (Stynes, 7/25)
The New York Times:
Surgery Fixes A Ligament (If It Exists). Does It Fix The Knee?
For professional athletes and weekend warriors alike, it appeared to be welcome news: the discovery by researchers of a new knee ligament that, if repaired, might help tens of thousands of people with an injury from sports or an accident. In the fall of 2013, a study about the finding was published in a small medical journal, generating extensive press coverage in the United States and Europe. A Florida company quickly began marketing a repair procedure those researchers helped develop. And soon, patients were asking about the knee surgery, and doctors were performing it. (Meier, 7/25)