Latest From California Healthline:
More than half of Americans contacted about an overdue bill said it related to medical debt. A federal agency has proposed new guidance for what debt collectors are allowed to do when pursuing many types of overdue consumer bills, including medical debt. But some consumer advocates have panned the effort. (Michelle Andrews, 6/4)
Good morning! The anti-vaccination movement was thrilled to hear Gov. Gavin Newsom’s doubts about the controversial legislation that would give final exemption authority to a state official. On Monday, though, the governor reiterated his support of vaccines in general and clarified that he took issue with how the bill went about addressing doctors who abuse their exemption privileges. More on that below, but first here are some of your top California health stories for the day.
California Joins Slew Of Other States In Suing OxyContin-Maker Purdue Pharma: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in the suit alleges that Purdue falsely promoted its painkillers as not addictive even as OxyContin emerged as among the most widely abused in the United States. “Purdue and [its founding family] the Sacklers traded the health and well-being of Californians for profit and created an unprecedented national public health crisis in the process,” Becerra said at a news conference. “But we will hold them accountable.” The lawsuit alleges that as early as February 1997, Purdue and former Purdue President Richard Sackler knew that people were abusing oxycodone-containing drugs. But between 1996 and 2002, Purdue more than doubled its sales force and sales rose from approximately $48 million to nearly $2 billion in 2002. “The opioid crisis is devastating our communities and killing our loved ones,” Becerra said. “Purdue Pharma and Dr. Sackler started the fire and then poured gasoline on the opioid crisis with practices that were irresponsible, unconscionable and unlawful.” California’s lawsuit comes after legal challenges by dozens of cities, counties and states, including New York, Massachusetts and Oklahoma. Read more from Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times and Andrew Oxford of The Associated Press.
S.F. Supervisors Agree To Deal Over Expanding City’s Ability To Force Mentally Ill People Into Care: The debate over expanding the definition of who is eligible for court-ordered mental health care has been a contentious one. While the city’s Department of Public Health estimates the expanded law would help only about five people, the board was fractured over whether the city’s already clogged mental health care system could adequately help more patients. Some supervisors said they decided to support the legislation after seeing several minor amendments crafted by Supervisors Matt Haney and Norman Yee. None of the amendments, however, addressed a fundamental problem that some supervisors had with the legislation: It would add more people to an already clogged mental health care system. Long wait times still concern Supervisor Hillary Ronen, originally one of the law’s main opponents. But she said the amendments that were added persuaded her to support the law. Her support is a big shift from two weeks ago when she called the proposal “unworkable.” The vote is expected today. Read more from Trisha Thadani of The San Francisco Chronicle.
Good News For Coffee Drinkers: It Doesn't Warrant Cancer Warning In California, Officials Say. Better News: It Reduces Risk Of Some Cancers: The safety of coffee has been in dispute in California since a state court judge ruled last spring that coffee must carry a cancer warning because of the presence of acrylamide, a potentially carcinogenic chemical created during the roasting process. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment took the rare step at assessing the risks for itself following the ruling. On Monday, officials said that coffee does not need to carry a warning. "Coffee is a complex mixture of hundreds of chemicals that includes both carcinogens and anti-carcinogens," said Sam Delson, a spokesman for the agency. "The overall effect of coffee consumption is not associated with any significant cancer risk." Read more from The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press.
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
Los Angeles Times:
Anti-Vaccine Activists Praise Newsom’s Comments On California Immunization Bill
Gov. Gavin Newsom thrust himself into a debate over one of California’s most controversial legislative proposals by suggesting he did not agree with a bill to tighten vaccine exemptions because it would create an immunization bureaucracy. Opponents of the bill immediately latched onto Newsom’s comments, with anti-vaccination advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. praising the governor Monday for “his wise and sober opposition to a draconian proposal.” (Gutierrez ,6/4)
Sacramento City Unified, Teachers Union At Odds On Health Care
The Sacramento City Unified School District wants to shave millions in health care spending to ease pressure on its budget, a move that will likely lead to further conflict and pushback from its most powerful employee group: the teachers union.If that sounds familiar, it’s because district leaders have broached the topic with union officials many times before. Both the district and union hoped to lower the amount spent on health insurance coverage. But the Sacramento City Teachers Association wants to divert that money to boost staffing, which would cut into the district’s bottom line. (Finch II and Morrar, 6/4)
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Kaiser’s Mental Health Workers Plan To Walk Off Job June 11
The union representing 4,000 Kaiser Permanente mental health workers statewide announced on Monday plans for an indefinite strike beginning next week to protest what it claims are severe staff shortages and inadequate pay. The strike, slated to start June 11 unless the two sides reach an accord, would affect nearly 100 Kaiser therapists and mental health workers in Sonoma County, according to the National Union of Healthcare Workers. Union leaders said Kaiser’s contract proposals thus far focus on hiring more temporary staff rather than full-time therapists. One of the sticking points of ongoing negotiations is the therapists’ workload. The union contends Kaiser, a major healthcare provider, is focusing only on the initial intake and scheduling of mental health patients, increasingly done by regional call center staff, rather than beefing up therapist hiring for follow-up therapy sessions. (Espinoza, 6/3)
A California Democratic Convention Brought To You By ... Juul?
San Francisco-based e-cigarette maker Juul was one of a few controversial corporate sponsors of the convention, including ride-hailing company Uber and President Donald Trump's preferred television channel Fox. During a general session on Sunday, California Democratic Party Region 6 Director Hene Kelly voiced concern for her party accepting money from companies like Uber and Juul. She represents districts in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara. (Klivans, 6/3)
The Bakersfield Californian:
How A Baby Bottle Can Help A Child In Kern County
Low birthweight babies, premature deliveries and births to adolescent mothers have been persistent problems in Kern County. The county recorded an estimated 13,600 births from 2015 to 2017. Of those births, 7.5 percent, or 1,020, were classified as low birthweight babies, according to the County Health Status Profile. Many once-negative health outcomes are improving, but this is not one of them. In the previous study, 2012 to 2014, 7 percent were low birthweight deliveries, according to Kern County Public Health Department. (Bedolla, 6/3)
East Bay Times:
She Saw Through Elizabeth Holmes. Now Stanford Professor Is Star In Theranos Saga.
She’s a professor of medicine at Stanford and a former partner in a health care venture capital firm. She sits on the Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows and the boards of biotechnology companies. But that’s not why people are recognizing Phyllis Gardner on the street and in airports these days. Rather, it’s because of Gardner’s memorably frank and at times indelicate assessments of Elizabeth Holmes in two documentaries, several blog posts, a popular podcast and a best-selling book about the Theranos founder, and the massive fraud authorities say she and her blood testing company perpetrated. (Savidge, 6/3)
The Associated Press:
Senate Report Reveals Nearly 400 Troubled Nursing Homes
The federal government for years has kept under wraps the names of hundreds of nursing homes around the country found by inspectors to have serious ongoing health, safety or sanitary problems. Nearly 400 facilities nationwide had a "persistent record of poor care" as of April, but they were not included along with a shorter list of homes that get increased federal scrutiny and do have warning labels, according to a Senate report released Monday. (6/3)
Obamacare Rate Hikes Appear Modest For 2020
The era of annual eye-popping Obamacare rate hikes appears to be over. Premium increases in the law’s marketplaces are on track to be relatively modest for the second straight year, according to the first batch of 2020 rates proposed by insurers. The rate filings are an early indication that this year’s small rate hikes weren’t a fluke and that other Trump administration policies — including support for a lawsuit that could torch the Affordable Care Act — have proven less disruptive than some experts feared. (Demko, 6/3)
Outside Group Knocks McConnell Over Health Care In TV Ad
A left-leaning outside group on Monday is launching a TV ad knocking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over his efforts to repeal ObamaCare. The Ditch Mitch Fund, a group focused on trying to unseat McConnell in 2020, is running the five-figure TV ad in Louisville, Ky., and Lexington, Ky., as well as going up with a statewide digital buy in the Bluegrass State. (Carney, 6/3)
Measles Outbreaks Put U.S. At Risk Of Losing Prized 'Elimination' Status
With two large and still growing outbreaks in New York pushing the country’s measles count to a quarter-century high, public health officials are starting to grapple with an unpleasant prospect. The Rockland County and Brooklyn outbreaks have dragged on for eight months. If transmission from either of those outbreaks continues until late September, the United States will likely lose a hard-fought and prized status — that of a country deemed to have “eliminated” measles. (Branswell, 6/4)
The Washington Post:
FDA To Make It Easier For Doctors To Get Unapproved Cancer Drugs For Patients
The Food and Drug Administration plans to provide “concierge service” to doctors seeking access to unapproved drugs for cancer patients who have no other treatment options, the agency announced Monday. The goal is to remove any “perceived hurdles” for physicians who want to use the agency’s “expanded access” program, said Richard Pazdur, director of the agency’s Oncology Center for Excellence. The pilot program will include Project Facilitate, a new call center run by the agency’s oncology staff to provide a single point of contact for doctors submitting requests to the program. (McGinley, 6/3)
The New York Times:
F.D.A. Can Act Against Stem Cell Clinic, Judge Rules
A federal judge on Monday struck a blow against the rapidly growing stem cell industry, ruling for the Food and Drug Administration in its efforts to halt treatments by U.S. Stem Cell, a clinic in Sunrise, Fla., that blinded three patients by injecting a fat extract into their eyes. The decision does not shut down the clinic but states that the F.D.A. has the authority to regulate it and is entitled to an injunction against it. The judge, Ursula Ungaro of United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, is expected to issue a further ruling shortly that will specify what action can be taken against the clinic. (Grady, 6/3)
The Washington Post:
Quest Diagnostics Discloses Breach Of 11.9 Million Patient Records
Quest Diagnostics, the medical testing company, said a data breach has affected about 11.9 million patients after an “unauthorized user’’ gained access to financial data, Social Security numbers and medical data but not laboratory test results. American Medical Collection Agency notified Quest about a potential intrusion on May 14 and then reported on the scope of the breach Friday. (Rowland, 6/3)
The Associated Press:
Humana Takes Rare Step Of Squashing Centene Deal Talk
Centene shares are tumbling after Humana took the rare step of publicly refuting reports that it's interested in buying the company. Centene Corp., based in St. Louis, is in the midst of a $15 billion takeover of WellCare, another insurer specializing in government funded health coverage. Humana said in a prepared statement Monday that it will not make a bid for Centene, which specializes in running state-based Medicaid coverage programs. Humana is one of the nation's largest providers of privately run Medicare Advantage plans. (6/3)
The Associated Press:
Abrams To Go To Hollywood As Fears Grow Over GA Abortion Ban
After Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp postponed a trip to Hollywood amid fallout over the abortion ban he signed into law, his Democratic rival Stacey Abrams is planning to go instead. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Abrams will meet with Hollywood figures June 11 alongside the president of an abortion rights group. An invitation obtained by the newspaper says they'll address the "reality that employees in the state may not have full access to healthcare." (6/3)