- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Ballot Measure Seeks To Protect Use Of Hospital Fees For Low-Income Health Coverage
- CVS MinuteClinics: A Cure For Long Wait Times At Veterans Affairs?
- Medi-Cal 1
- Citing Possible Conflict Of Interest, Medi-Cal Commission Rejects Bids To Manage Pharmacy Benefits
- Sacramento Watch 1
- Legislature Considers Bill To Allow Organ Transplants Between HIV-Positive Patients
- Veterans Health Care 1
- VA Seeks To Cut Down On Wait Times With 'MinuteClinics' Collaboration In Palo Alto
- Women's Health 1
- L.A. City Attorney To Crack Down On Pregnancy Centers 'Willfully Flouting' Notification Law
- Public Health and Education 1
- Therapy As A Status Symbol: U.S. Health System Creating Culture Of Mental Health Haves And Have Nots
Latest From California Healthline:
A hospital-financed fund used to draw matching federal dollars for Medi-Cal would become permanent, and it would be harder for officials to divert the money from its intended use. (Ana B. Ibarra, 5/24)
The experiment in private partnership begins in Palo Alto. (Barbara Feder Ostrov, 5/24)
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Summaries Of The News:
The panel voted unanimously to restart the process to decide what company will manage a pharmacy program for the Gold Coast Health Plan. In other Medi-Cal news, a ballot measure proposes to use hospital fees to fund the low-income health program.
Ventura County Star:
Medi-Cal Commission Cites Possible Conflict, Rejects Pharmacy Bids
A Medi-Cal commission voted Monday to reject bids and back up the process of finding a company for the high-priced job of running a pharmacy benefits program that serves more than 200,000 Ventura County residents. Revolving around possible conflict-of-interest concerns, the decision came after impassioned presentations from two companies involved and a suggestion there may be more arguments to come. (Kisken, 5/23)
Ballot Measure Seeks To Protect Use Of Hospital Fees For Low-Income Health Coverage
A joint legislative committee Wednesday will hear pro and con arguments on a ballot measure intended to protect an important source of funding for low-income Californians. The measure, known as the Medi-Cal Funding and Accountability Act, would override the scheduled expiration of a fund used by the state to bring in matching dollars from the federal government for Medi-Cal, California’s version of the Medicaid health care program for low-income people. The fund — financed by hospitals — would become permanent. (Ibarra, 5/24)
The measure is expected to pass the Assembly Health Committee and then the full Assembly by the end of this week. The Senate has already approved it. The practice is currently permissible under federal law, but not under California state law.
The Desert Sun:
California Poised To OK HIV-Patient Organ Transplants
Republican Assembly Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley is helping this week to push through the Legislature a bill that would allow for organ transplants between HIV-positive patients, which is permissible by federal law but prohibited in California. (Marx, 5/23)
The VA Palo Alto Health Care System has launched a partnership with CVS in an effort to get veterans timely care for more acute conditions. In other news, critics are blasting VA Secretary Robert McDonald for comparing clinic wait times to long lines at Disneyland.
San Jose Mercury News:
VA Palo Alto Links Bay Area Veterans To CVS MinuteClinics
When former U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Christine Poblete comes down with the flu, an ear infection or other common illness, the San Jose resident usually calls the advice nurse at the Veterans Affairs San Jose Clinic or the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, seeking a timely appointment. But she can never be sure whether it will be that day or the next. Starting Tuesday, Poblete can ring the nurse and decide if she would rather head straight to the nearest of 11 Bay Area CVS Health MinuteClinics for treatment instead. (Seipel, 5/24)
CVS MinuteClinics: A Cure For Long Wait Times At Veterans Affairs?
Struggling with long wait times, the Veterans Affairs Health Care System is trying something new: a partnership with the CVS Pharmacy chain to offer urgent care services to more than 65,000 veterans. The experiment begins today at the VA’s operations in Palo Alto, California. Veterans can visit 14 “MinuteClinics” operated by CVS in the San Francisco Bay area and Sacramento, where staff will treat them for conditions such as respiratory infections, order lab tests and prescribe medications, which can be filled at CVS pharmacies. (Feder Ostrov, 5/24)
VA Secretary Compares Long Hospital Wait Times To Lines At Disneyland
Critics said Monday that Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald had trivialized the long-standing problem of lengthy wait times for appointments at California’s veterans medical centers by comparing them to waiting in long lines at Disneyland. His comments sparked an angry backlash from California lawmakers who felt that he had dismissed the angst and frustration of their constituents. McDonald made the comments Monday during a roundtable discussion with reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. (Ybarra, 5/23)
KQED takes a look at the troubled blood-testing startup.
Theranos, From All Angles
There’s a lot of drama here, as business stories go. Is the company going to be definitively exposed as the Enron of biotech startups? Or will it be vindicated as a misunderstood and unfairly persecuted innovator that, well, made a few mistakes. If the former, you get the sense only a talent on a par with David Simon‘s could coherently dramatize the shortcomings of the multiple institutions implicated in this mess. The story is compelling even without the appearance to date of the most important characters — real-life patients who may have been harmed by Theranos’ faulty blood tests. (Brooks, 5/23)
City Attorney Mike Feuer sent notices to six pregnancy centers last week as the first step in enforcing the law, which requires licensed facilities primarily providing family planning or pregnancy-related care to notify customers that the state offers free or low-cost access to a variety of family planning services including abortion.
The Los Angeles Times:
This Is Why The City Attorney's Office Is Making Sure Women Know Their Reproductive Rights
The Los Angeles city attorney's office announced Monday that it is aggressively enforcing a new state law requiring pregnancy clinics to inform clients of their reproductive rights. City Atty. Mike Feuer said his office is working in coordination with the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to ensure clinics follow the law because "women need timely, accurate and complete information" on their family planning options. (Parvini, 5/23)
The Los Angeles Daily News:
LA City Attorney Urges Pregnancy Centers To Include Abortion Option To Clients
Los Angeles City Hall officials are urging local pregnancy services businesses to comply with a new state law requiring them to tell pregnant women about the possibility of abortion. Amid concerns that pro-life centers may be trying to discourage women from aborting, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and Councilwoman Nury Martinez said letters have been sent to six businesses in Los Angeles to urge compliance with the law. (Smith, 5/23)
LA City Attorney, County To Enforce New Abortion Notice Law
The Los Angeles City Attorney's office said Monday it will enforce a new California law requiring "crisis pregnancy centers" to notify clients that the state offers access to low-cost and free abortions, even as it faces challenges in state and federal court. (Plevin, 5/23)
The mental health landscape caters to the "worried well" who can pay $400 an hour and not to those who are actually struggling with a serious mental health issue, one expert says.
How Therapy Became A Hobby Of The Wealthy – Rather Than A Necessity For The Mentally Ill
There’s something that really bothers Stanford psychiatry professor Keith Humphreys. When he thinks of all the years he spends training the next generation of psychiatrists, the enormous investment in medical school and residency, he wants them to devote that education to taking care of people with serious mental illness. But many of them instead set up a private practice, where they can charge $400 an hour in cash to help people who Humphreys calls “the worried well” –- people who enjoy the self-exploration of therapy but do not necessarily have a mental health problem. (Dembosky, 5/24)
Meanwhile, between insufficient reimbursements and the paperwork, therapists just aren't finding it worth their effort to work with insurance companies —
Just Like Patients, Therapists Also Battle Insurance Red Tape
Nearly half of therapists in California don’t take insurance, according to a recent survey from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. The same is true of psychiatrists. (Dembosky, 5/24)
Israel Stinson was at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Roseville, where doctors wanted to remove him from a ventilator. His parents went to court to buy more time for their son, who has now been airlifted to an undisclosed foreign location.
The Sacramento Bee:
Brain-Dead Toddler Airlifted From Sacramento To Foreign Country
In a last-minute scramble involving passports, an air ambulance and hundreds of dollars in donated funds, tiny Israel Stinson was airlifted over the weekend to an undisclosed hospital in a foreign country. The 2-year-old, declared brain-dead by three Sacramento-area physicians, has spent the last month on a ventilator at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Roseville, as his parents battled in court to dispute his terminal diagnosis and buy time to obtain care elsewhere. (Buck, 5/23)
The Associated Press and Bay Area News Group:
California Toddler, Declared Brain-Dead, Moved Out Of Country
A California toddler whose family waged a court battle to keep him on life support after he was declared brain-dead has been transferred to another hospital outside of the United States. (5/23)
HHS plans to use the $230 million Nonrecurring Expenses Fund to pay for Medicare payment improvements, but if the House bill passes, that money would go toward fighting the virus. Meanwhile, senators have sent a letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee wanting to know how athletes participating in the games are going to be protected.
House Zika Bill Would Raid HHS Fund for New Medicare Payment System
The House bill providing money to fight the Zika virus would strip the Department of Health and Human Services of funding it plans to use for implementation of the bipartisan Medicare payment overhaul that was enacted last year. In a letter to the House Appropriations Committee obtained by Morning Consult, the Department of Health and Human Services wrote that it plans to use $108 million of its “Nonrecurring Expenses Fund” to invest in “the development of information technology and other systems needed to effectively implement several provisions” of the Medicare Access and Chip Reauthorization Act, or MACRA. (Owens, 5/23)
Senators Want To Know How Athletes Will Be Protected From Zika
Led by Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray, a coalition of 11 Senators sent a letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee on Monday requesting information on how the committee will protect athletes from the Zika virus at the Rio Olympics in August. Signed by 10 Democrats and one independent senator, the letter to USOC chairman Larry Probst asks “what steps the USOC is taking to assist and protect our athletes against the spread of the Zika virus.” (Axon, 5/23)
In other national health care news —
The Associated Press:
Report Says NFL Sought To Influence Study On Brain Injuries
National Football League officials improperly sought to influence a government study on the link between football and brain disease, according to a senior House Democrat in a report issued Monday. New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone says the league tried to strong-arm the National Institutes of Health into taking the project away from a researcher who the NFL feared was biased. (Taylor, 5/23)
Doubts Mount Over Merger Of Health Insurers Anthem, Cigna
Wall Street expressed growing doubts about a pending $54 billion merger of U.S. health insurers Anthem Inc and Cigna Corp on Monday as news of management squabbles added to concerns over its review by antitrust regulators. Cigna shares closed down 4 percent at $126.15, well below Anthem's original $188 per share offer of cash and stock announced last July. Anthem shares fell 1.8 percent to $133.18. (5/24)
The proposal from Reps. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Bill Cassidy, R-La., but it would repeal the individual and employer mandates.
Sacremento Business Journal:
Republicans Offer Plan To Compete Against Obamacare, Not Repeal It
The latest Republican attempt to address Obamacare wouldn’t repeal the Affordable Care Act, but instead establish a new health insurance system to compete against it. Under the “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan,” every adult American citizen would receive a $2,500 tax credit they could use for purchasing health insurance if they opt out of using Obamacare’s exchanges. (Hoover, 5/23)
GOP Duo Unveils Healthcare Bill Maintaining Parts Of ObamaCare
Two Republican lawmakers are breaking with their party’s long-stated goal of repealing ObamaCare by putting forward a healthcare plan that leaves parts of the system in place. While the new bill from Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is a departure from the core Republican idea of full repeal, it could provide a roadmap for changes that could be enacted under a GOP president. (Sullivan, 5/23)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's report shows that the smoking rate among adults in the U.S. fell to 15 percent, down two percentage points from 2014. In other news, Americans have begun to question the safety of using e-cigarettes, according to a new poll.
The Associated Press:
Kicking The Habit: Adult Smoking Rate In US Is Falling Fast
The nation seems to be kicking its smoking habit faster than ever before. The rate of smoking among adults in the U.S. fell to 15 percent last year thanks to the biggest one-year decline in more than 20 years, according to a new government report. The rate fell 2 percentage points from 2014, when about 17 percent of adults in a large national survey said they had recently smoked. The smoking rate has been falling for decades, but it usually drops only 1 point or less in a year. (5/24)
U.S. E-Cigarette Use Stalls As Health Concerns Grow: Reuters/Ipsos Poll
Use of electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices has stalled in the United States as more Americans question their safety, according to a new online Reuters/Ipsos poll. About 10 percent of the 9,766 adults surveyed between April 19 and May 16 use the devices, the same percentage as in a similar Reuters/Ipsos poll in May, 2015. This year, however, a growing percentage of participants expressed negative attitudes toward e-cigarettes. Forty-seven percent of respondents said vaping was not healthier than smoking conventional cigarettes compared with 38 percent who felt that way a year ago. (Mincer, 5/24)