- California Healthline Original Stories 3
- Three Firms Vie To Run CalPERS' Drug Benefits
- Fix For VA Health Snarls Veterans And Doctors In New Bureaucracy
- Five Health Issues Presidential Candidates Aren’t Talking About — But Should Be
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Advocates Urge Health Coverage For All People In U.S. Illegally During Demonstration On Capitol Steps
- Public Health and Education 2
- Fatal Overdoses In Orange County Reach 10-Year High
- Health Journalism Watchdog: Daily 'Dreck' Causes More Harm Than Good
- Around California 1
- 'Something Was Wrong Here': Report Slams Sonoma Jail's Pattern Of Inadequate Mental Health Care
Latest From California Healthline:
UnitedHealth’s OptumRx is the lowest bidder and wins a key endorsement ahead of final vote by California’s public retirement system. (Chad Terhune, 5/17)
A program that was supposed to help veterans see doctors closer to home more quickly is not fulfilling its promise. (Quil Lawrence, NPR News and Eric Whitney, Montana Public Radio and Michael Tomsic, WFAE, 5/16)
The U.S. faces a variety of serious concerns beyond just the future of the federal health law. (Julie Rovner, 5/16)
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Summaries Of The News:
Billionaire Tom Steyer has donated $1 million so far toward the fight for a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes. The coalition said Monday it has received enough signatures to get the measure on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Los Angeles Times:
Billionaire-Backed Campaign Launched To Raise California’s Tobacco Tax
A coalition of health groups has launched a new campaign to ask voters in November to increase California's tax on cigarettes by $2 per pack, this time enlisting deep-pocket supporters to counter a tobacco industry that blocked several attempts in the past. Billionaire Tom Steyer, who was the nation’s largest individual political donor in 2014, spending $74 million that year, is leading the campaign for the tobacco tax. He has funneled $1 million into collecting signatures to qualify the measure for the Nov. 8 ballot. (McGreevy, 5/17)
The San Francisco Chronicle:
$2 Cigarette Tax Initiative Advances Toward Ballot
Supporters of a $2 per pack tax increase on cigarettes said Monday that they have gathered 1 million signatures in order to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. California would raise its cigarette tax for the first time in nearly two decades under the ballot measure, going from 87 cents to $2.87 on top of the regular price of smokes. The signatures are being turned over to the secretary of state’s office, which will work to verify the 585,407 signatures needed for the measure to make the ballot. (Gutierrez, 5/16)
Capital Public Radio:
California Tobacco Tax Backers Submit Signatures
This ballot measure would raise the tax by $2 a pack – and extend that tax to e-cigarettes, which are not currently covered by it. Most of the tax revenues would go toward increased payments to doctors from California’s health care program for the poor. (Adler, 5/16)
The Associated Press:
Tax Measure Could Cause Financial Jolt To California Smokers
Backers of the measure delivered their first box of petition signatures to the San Diego County registrar of voters. They said a million signatures have been gathered and will be delivered to counties throughout the state. A total of 585,407 signatures of registered voters must be verified for the measure to appear on the November ballot. The increase would make California's tax the ninth-highest in the nation, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an advocacy group. New York has the nation's highest state tax at $4.35 a pack, and Missouri is lowest at 17 cents. (Spagat, 5/17)
In other tobacco news —
Calpers Accelerates Timeline For Tobacco Study
The board of the California Public Employees' Retirement System on Monday shortened the timeline for the completion of a study examining its 16-year-old decision to divest from tobacco. In April, Calpers, the largest U.S. pension fund, voted to conduct the study to see if the pension fund took huge losses and should potentially re-invest in tobacco. (Carroll, 5/16)
On the day that Medi-Cal insurance was extended to children living the U.S. illegally, hundreds of people held a demonstration in Sacramento to call on lawmakers to provide the same benefits for all residents, regardless of their immigration status.
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Sacramento Demonstrations Monday For Undocumented Health Care
On the day comprehensive Medi-Cal health insurance was offered to undocumented children in California, immigration and health care advocates called for coverage to be extended to all immigrants regardless of immigration status. Hundreds of health care advocates demonstrated Monday on the steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento, calling on legislators to approve two bills aimed at providing coverage for all immigrants illegally in the country. SB 10 would allow undocumented immigrants to purchase health plans through Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, while SB 1418 would extend Medi-Cal to adult undocumented immigrants. (Espinoza, 5/16)
The health system says growing expenses and Medicaid business as well as a decline in privately insured patients have hurt the company's financial performance.
Dignity Dips Into The Red As Medicaid Volume Grows
Dignity Health has been taking steps to bring in new revenue and trim expenses but its financial performance nevertheless dipped into the red in its most recent earnings report. The San Francisco-based system has been struggling to get ahead of its growing expenses, particularly from salary and benefit costs, supplies and purchased services. Revenue, meanwhile, is increasing at a slower pace, particularly as Dignity sees a decline in admissions from commercially-insured patients. (Kutscher, 5/16)
Supervisor Michael Antonovich wants to give the stakeholders more time to reach an agreement. Meanwhile, he's calling for the development of an interim option that would give county residents an opportunity to start returning drugs, needles and other sharps right away.
Vote On LA County Drug Take-Back Proposal Delayed Again
A Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors vote on a proposal that would require drug companies to design and pay for a program to collect and dispose of unused drugs, needles, lancets and other sharps is facing its fourth postponement since its introduction last year. Supervisor Michael Antonovich, sponsor of the pharmaceutical take-back measure, is asking the board to delay Tuesday's scheduled vote until June 14 to provide more time for all sides to reach an agreement. The pharmaceutical industry continues to oppose the proposal. (O'Neill, 5/16)
In other pharmaceutical news —
Pfizer's Anacor Deal Showcases New Wave Of Eczema Therapies
Pfizer Inc's (PFE.N) purchase of Anacor Pharmaceuticals Inc (ANAC.O) heralds an approaching wave of potentially safer and more effective treatments for millions who suffer from eczema, a common skin condition which causes infection-prone rashes that can feel like having poison ivy 24 hours a day. (Pierson, 5/17)
In 2005 there were 246 deaths. Preliminary reports show 400 in 2015, with more toxicology reports pending.
Orange County Fatal Drug Overdoses Hit 10-Year High
Orange County is seeing high numbers when it comes to their annual fatal drug overdoses. It just hit its highest point in the last 10 years. According to preliminary coroner data, there were 400 deaths from drug overdoses last year. This number could still climb because there are pending toxicology reports from 2015, Bruce Lyle from the Orange County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Office told KPCC. This number started to gradually rise beginning in 2005, when there were 246 deaths. Although it's steadily been on the rise, Lyle said it isn't that shocking. “It hasn’t really come as a surprise — it’s increased gradually, but still fairly sharply,” Lyle said. (5/16)
Gary Schwitzer, the publisher of Health News Review and a longtime health journalist, weighs in on the current quality of health care journalism, and how it affects the public.
Does Health Journalism Do More Harm Than Good?
If you are one of the millions of people who has seen John Oliver’s recent skewering of the way scientific and health studies are reported by the media (“New study shows drinking a glass of wine is just as good as spending an hour at the gym”), you have probably laughed yourself into an uproarious stupor by now. (Brooks, 5/16)
Disability Rights California, an agency that monitors conditions for mentally ill and disabled people in jails, said it found highly delusional inmates screaming and crawling on the floor at Sonoma County Jail.
Disability Agency Blasts Sonoma County Jail’s Treatment Of Mentally Ill
Last August, Anne Hadreas toured Sonoma County’s main jail in Santa Rosa to check on the treatment of inmates there. Hadreas is an attorney for Disability Rights California, an agency that monitors conditions for mentally ill and disabled people in jails, state hospitals and other facilities. She’s visited lots of those facilities, but what she saw in Sonoma County still came as a shock. (Pickoff-White and Small, 5/16)
In other health care news from across the state —
The Sacramento Bee:
Brain-Dead Toddler’s Family Files Appeal To Block Ventilator Removal
Racing against the clock, lawyers for the family of brain-dead toddler Israel Stinson have filed a federal appeal, seeking to prevent Kaiser Permanente’s Roseville hospital from taking the child off a ventilator by Friday’s court-ordered deadline. (Buck, 5/16)
The Ventura County Star:
Medical Board Asked To Take Action Against T.O. Doctor On Probation
A Thousand Oaks urologist ordered to stop treating patients due to an alleged medical probation violation faces the possibility of having his doctor's license revoked or suspended. (Kisken, 5/16)
Capital Public Radio:
ER Doctor: Bike Safely, Wear A Helmet
If National Bike Month has prompted you to dust off your bicycle and do more peddling, a Sacramento emergency room doctor says - "do it safely and wear a helmet." Dr. Jeff Rodgerson is chief of the emergency room at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. He wants people to do more bicycling. (5/17)
The Sacramento Bee:
Music Reaches Memories For Sacramento Seniors With Alzheimer’s
Gloria Silott spends most days in her wheelchair, socializing very little and verbalizing only with muffled “yes” or “no” answers. Immobilized by a stroke 15 years ago, she cannot speak clearly or express herself. Typically, say staffers at Eskaton Care Center Greenhaven, she has a flat, sad affect. (Buck, 5/16)
The Supreme Court's decision averts a 4-4 tie that would have left different parts of the country following different regulations. In announcing the decision from the bench, Chief Justice John Roberts said both sides have have made concessions since the case was argued in March.
The Obama administration said last week's Republican victory in federal court, if upheld, could have significant market implications.
The New York Times:
House Challenge To Health Law Could Raise Premiums, Administration Says
Victory for House Republicans in federal court last week could mean significantly higher health insurance premiums for millions of people if the decision is upheld on appeal, the Obama administration said Monday. And much of the cost for those higher premiums could be passed on to the federal government and taxpayers, administration officials and health policy experts said. The ruling by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia would block the administration from reimbursing insurers for discounts provided to millions of low-income people under the Affordable Care Act. Without that money, insurers would have to increase premiums for many people purchasing insurance through the health law’s online marketplaces, the administration said. (Pear, 5/16)
In other national health care news —
Obama Administration Releases Rules On Wellness Programs
A federal agency on Monday released final rules on how employers can offer workers financial incentives of up to 30 percent of the cost of their cheapest health insurance plans to participate in wellness programs without violating federal laws protecting the confidentiality of medical information. The move from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission aims to clear up confusion over the way two federal laws protecting employees' medical privacy apply to the popular programs, which are designed to control medical spending by reducing obesity, smoking and other risk factors. (Wiessner, 5/16)
The Associated Press:
Senate Likely To Advance $1.1 Billion In Zika Funding
After a three-month delay, the Senate is acting on President Barack Obama's request for money to combat the Zika virus. The Senate is slated to vote Tuesday on three competing plans to battle the virus, with a bipartisan plan that cuts Obama's $1.9 billion request to $1.1 billion having the greatest chance to advance. The procedural vote would pave the way to add funds for the government's response to Zika to an unrelated spending bill. (5/17)
U.S. House To Weigh $622.1 Million In New Zika Funding
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives will try to pass legislation this week providing $622.1 million in funds to fight the spreading Zika virus, far less than the Obama administration has been seeking. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers introduced the measure on Monday, according to a statement. The bill would offset the new spending by taking $352.1 million from an Ebola fund and another $270 million from a Department of Health and Human Services administrative account. (Cowan and Gardner, 5/16)