- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- California Regulator Signs Off On $37 Billion Aetna-Humana Insurance Merger
- Public Health and Education 3
- Even With New Investments, Calif. Is In Bottom Third Of States On Kids' Well-Being
- Raging California Fires Prompt Air Quality Advisory
- Program Uses Skateboarding To Help Kids With Disabilities Build Social, Physical Skills
Latest From California Healthline:
Aetna to spend nearly $50 million on health initiatives, agrees to more rate review. (Chad Terhune, 6/20)
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Department of Managed Health Care Director Shelley Rouillard approves Aetna’s $37 billion proposed merger with Humana, despite her past criticism of Aetna’s repeated rate hikes. California’s other insurance regulator, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, hasn’t yet announced his decision. The decisions by California's officials could be influential in how federal officials view the merger.
The Associated Press:
Aetna-Humana Merger Gets California Regulator's Approval
A California regulator is approving Aetna Inc.'s proposed acquisition of rival health insurer Humana Inc. Shelley Rouillard, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, announced her decision Monday. As a condition of the approval, Aetna agreed to limit premium increases in the small group market and to allow greater state oversight of its rates. The company will also have to keep certain decision-making functions in California and must invest in various health initiatives. (6/20)
California Regulator Signs Off On $37 Billion Aetna-Humana Insurance Merger
California officials don’t have the authority on their own to block the national insurance merger, but their decisions can be influential as the companies try to win antitrust approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. Shelley Rouillard, director of the state Department of Managed Health Care, said she reached an agreement with Aetna that should help keep future rate increases to a minimum and improve the quality of patient care. (Terhune, 6/20)
California Clears Aetna-Humana Deal As Anthem Still Under Review
Aetna Inc.’s $37 billion deal to buy Humana Inc. was approved by the California Department of Managed Health Care, which said Monday that it could move forward after the company agreed to invest in the state’s health-care infrastructure. Humana’s stock rose 1.9 percent to $190.74 at 3:07 p.m. New York time. Aetna gained 1.5 percent to $122.88. (Horowitz, 6/ 21)
Capital Public Radio:
Aetna Humana Merger Gains Approval From State Agency
Aetna and Humana are one step closer to merging after approval from the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC). The merger will affect about 1.5 million people currently enrolled in health plans through the two insurers. This is the third health insurance merger the department has approved. (Johnson, 6/20)
Almost all of that came from the California State Council of Services Employees, which donated $1 million on May 31. Meanwhile, the campaign to cap hospital executives pay received another $325,000 from its sponsor.
The Sacramento Bee:
California Initiative Backers Keep Up Fund-Raising Pace
They aren’t yet officially on the November ballot, but 10 would-be fall initiatives are being readied with healthy fundraising efforts. In the weeks since the May 20 deadline to submit initiative signatures, the campaigns pushing the measures have reported collecting more than $3.2 million. The biggest recipient has been the campaign to increase cigarette taxes by $2 a pack, to $2.87, with Save Lives California raising more than $1.1 million. (Miller, 6/20)
A new study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, finds that a free meal is all it takes for drugmakers to influence doctors' prescribing habits.
The Washington Post:
How A Simple Sandwich Could Be Driving Up Drug Prices
Doctors who ate a single meal on a drug company's tab had a higher likelihood of writing a prescription for the name-brand drug that was being promoted instead of equivalent drugs that were cheaper, according to a new study. And the more meals — or the more expensive the meals — the greater the rate of prescribing the pitched drug. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, can't show that dinner or doughnuts with the pharmaceutical company caused physicians to preferentially prescribe a particular drug, but it revealed a striking correlation between breaking bread with a sales representative who is pushing a particular drug and doctors who are prescribing it. Overall, the meals received were modest, with an average cost of less than $20. (Johnson, 6/20)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Even $20 Meals Can Sway Doctors, Study Finds
“We really don’t think that a $5 bagel sandwich is influencing a doctor or buying a prescribing pattern,” said Colette DeJong, a fourth-year UCSF medical student and co-author of the study. “Rather, we think our findings shift the conversation to say it’s not about the money, but more about the time spent between the doctor and drug representative.” (Colliver, 6/20)
The Wall Street Journal:
Even Cheap Meals Influence Doctors’ Drug Prescriptions, Study Suggests
The industry association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that the study “cherry-picks physician prescribing data for a subset of medicines to advance a false narrative” and that drugmakers interact with doctors to share drug safety and efficacy information. Critics say drugmakers’ payments and gifts to doctors can improperly influence medical decisions and inflate drug costs by steering doctors to pricey brand-name drugs. (Loftus, 6/20)
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its 2016 Kids Count Data Book, and California jumped up two states, but it's still much lower than others, in large part because of how the foundation weighs economic factors.
San Jose Mercury News:
California Rises In Child Well-Being Ranking
With more investments in health, the well-being of California's children continued its three-year improvement, new data shows. At the same time, measurements in four broad categories of children's welfare place the Golden State in the bottom third of the nation -- 36th out of the 50 states, in an annual survey released Tuesday by the child-advocacy groups the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Children Now. California's overall ranking in children's well-being moved up two places from last year, when it was 38th. (Noguchi, 6/20)
South Coast Air Quality Management District warns that the air quality is so bad it's unhealthy for everyone, not just people with respiratory conditions.
Air Quality Reaches Unhealthy Levels After Multiple Fires Blanket Southern California
As the two fires that broke out Monday in the Angeles National Forest continue to burn, prompting an advisory, the South Coast Air Quality Management District's Sam Atwood told KPCC that the warning level on AQMD's air quality index is red. That means it's unhealthy for everyone, Atwood said — not just people with respiratory problems. “When that happens, especially when residents can see or smell smoke, they should take precautions,” Atwood said. The AQMD issued an advisory for potentially unhealthy air quality, with the warning in effect until midnight Tuesday, as the Fish and Reservoir fires sent smoke into the skies. (Muñoz, 6/20)
SkateMD holds clinics to help children with conditions such as autism, Down syndrome, spina bifida and cerebral palsy develop strength, balance and coordination while helping them overcome their social anxieties.
The Sacramento Bee:
Skateboard Clinic Teaches Kids With Disabilities Life – And Shredding – Skills
As Amy Rogers watched her eldest son, Preston, glide by on his skateboard on a recent afternoon, she marveled at how far he had traveled just over the past few months. Before he took his first skateboarding lesson as part of an innovative new therapy for children with disabilities, the 15-year-old, who has been diagnosed with autism, had never even ridden a bike before. Most of his time was spent in his room playing video games and sketching, far from family and friends. (Kirk, 6/20)
The workers represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Petaluma Valley Hospital include licensed vocational nurses, nursing assistants, radiology technicians, clerical workers, secretaries, and food service and janitorial service workers.
The Press Democrat:
Santa Rosa, Petaluma Hospital Workers’ Union Reaches Three-Year Contract
Medical workers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Petaluma Valley Hospital approved a three-year labor agreement over the weekend, according to the National Union of Healthcare Workers. The NUWH said Monday a majority of employees at both hospitals approved a tentative labor agreement that was hammered out two weeks ago, just before workers were scheduled to carry out a one-day strike on June 9. (Espinoza, 6/20)
They say he got the virus while traveling outside the country. In other news, health officials in Simi Valley are warning residents that West Nile Virus has been discovered in the area.
The Modesto Bee:
Stanislaus County Man Tests Positive For Zika Virus
Health officials announced Monday afternoon that a 19-year-old Stanislaus County man has contracted the Zika virus while traveling outside the U.S. The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency confirmed that the young man tested positive for Zika virus. Officials did not say where the man lives or where he traveled or give any information on his condition. (6/20)
Ventura County Star:
Case Of West Nile Virus Found In Simi Valley
County health officials warned residents on Monday after they discovered a bird in Simi Valley that tested positive for West Nile Virus. The case is the first positive test of the virus this year, officials said. (6/20)
Sen. Chuck Grassley's measure would have encouraged states to submit mental-health records to the nation’s background-check system.
The Wall Street Journal:
Senate Rejects Four Gun-Control Proposals
The Senate on Monday night rejected four proposals to tighten the nation’s gun laws, as familiar partisan battle lines left lawmakers unable for now to respond to this month’s mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. ... Two measures focused on the background-checks system also stalled Monday night. The Democratic bill would have expanded the use of background checks beyond only federally licensed dealers to include private gun sellers and all sales online. A competing measure from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) that would encourage states to submit relevant mental-health records to the nation’s background-check system was blocked. It would also have changed certain mental-health terminology in a way that Democrats said would make it easier for those with mental illness to procure guns. (Peterson and Hughes, 6/20)
In other national health care news —
The Associated Press:
Experimental Zika Vaccine To Begin Human Testing
An experimental vaccine for the Zika virus is due to begin human testing in coming weeks, after getting the green light from U.S. health officials. Inovio Pharmaceuticals said Monday it received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to begin early-stage safety tests of its DNA-based vaccine against the mosquito-borne virus. That puts the company ahead of researchers at the National Institutes of Health, who have said they expect to begin testing their own DNA-based Zika vaccine by early fall. (6/20)
The Wall Street Journal:
Supreme Court Upholds Rules That Have Been Friendly To Patent Challenges
The Supreme Court on Monday blessed new government procedures for challenging patents, a win for companies that argued the fledgling process was a better, more cost-effective way to weed weak patents out of the system. The ruling is a blow for companies that favor strong patent protections, such as those in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. (Kendall, 6/20)
The Wall Street Journal:
Researchers Study New Ways To Treat Suicide Risk
Scientists are developing new ways to directly target the suicidal thoughts and behaviors of people at risk. Researchers are finding that certain medications, like ketamine, clozapine and lithium, may alleviate suicidal thinking. Scientists are also tweaking existing psychological treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy, and coming up with new ones to combat the desire for self-harm. (Petersen, 6/20)