- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- Hello? It's I, Robot, And Have I Got An Insurance Plan For You!
- Elections 2
- Will Health Issues Influence California Races And National Balance Of Power?
- Voters Across The Country Will Weigh Health Law, Drug Prices And More
- Around California 1
- Federal Judge Announces Probe To See If California Prison Officials Committed 'Fraud On The Court'
- Public Health and Education 2
- Health Officials, Doctors Struggle To Explain Rise In Cases Of Polio-Like Illness
- Women Who Are Early Risers Have Lower Risk Of Breast Cancer, Study Finds
Latest From California Healthline:
An “epidemic” of robocalls timed to open-enrollment season are largely illegal, fraudulent or aim to rope you into insurance you don’t need or can’t use. They're also really annoying. (Barbara Feder Ostrov, 11/6)
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More News From Across The State
As voters head to the polls, news outlets examine the ways heath care played out in state election campaigns, and how California races may influence the big U.S. picture.
CBS San Francisco:
Where Candidates For Governor Stand On Taxes, Trump, Housing, Health Care
[Lt. Gov. Gavin] Newsom backed a California Nurses Association proposal this session to eliminate insurance companies and give everyone state-funded health coverage. It was blocked in the Assembly but it’s become a rallying cry and litmus test for many voters on the left. Newsom said he’s studying international models and promises to aggressively pursue something that would work in California to achieve “universal health care, regardless of pre-existing condition, ability to pay and immigration status.” [Republican businessman John] Cox is adamantly opposed to a government-run health care system, which he says would lead to long wait times, massive tax increases and a system controlled by health care lobbyists. He’s been less specific about what he’d change with California’s health care system but makes clear he opposes more government intervention and providing coverage to immigrants living in the country illegally. (11/4)
The California Districts That Could Determine Control Of The House
In this tumultuous midterm cycle, California has billed itself as ground zero of the resistance -- the place where activists hoped their protests against President Donald Trump's agenda and nativist rhetoric would ripple into a blue wave that would flip the House. With congressional races tightening around the country, that premise will be tested on Tuesday, when Golden State voters cast the final ballots in seven congressional districts held by Republicans that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, which are key to Democrats' path to retaking the House. (Reston, 11/5)
Latinos Head To Polls In A Midterm Election That Has A Lot To Do With Them
Democrats from the start have made health care a central theme of campaigns, hammering Republicans on GOP votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It’s an issue that hits many Latino households, who are the most uninsured racial and ethnic group in the country and who saw marked declines in the number of uninsured families under the Affordable Care Act. (Gamboa, 11/6)
The national issues in play also include Medicare-for-all, Medicaid expansion, marijuana legalization and soda taxes.
Has Obamacare Become A Winning Issue For Democrats?
But after their catastrophe of 2016, when Hillary Clinton was criticised for lacking a clear message to compete with “Make America great again”, Democrats realised that a pure anti-Trump message would not be enough. Instead, many have maintained a laser-like focus on a single issue: protecting Americans’ healthcare. “In the midterms they were much more the pro-health insurance party than they were the anti-Trump party,” said Bill Galston, a veteran of six presidential campaigns and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington. “They worked very hard to avoid what was widely viewed as the mistake of 2016, which was to be seen as too anti-Trump.” (Smith, 11/6)
In These Eight Midterms Races, Health And Medicine Are Front And Center
In Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah, voters will directly decide whether their states should expand their Medicaid programs. In Wisconsin, they could elect a candidate for governor who has pledged to sharply curtail drug prices. And across the country, Democratic congressional candidates are running on platforms highlighting their support for protecting insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and lowering drug prices. Health care is on the ballot across the country, with issues ranging from medical marijuana to abortion rights to insurance coverage dominating the conversation. (Facher, 11/6)
Pelosi Urges Dems To 'Push' Health Care Message Day Before Midterms
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged Democrats to hone in on the issue of health care ahead of the midterm elections Tuesday. "I write to acknowledge the vital role Congressional Democrats played in protecting the Affordable Care Act and exposing the GOP’s monstrous health care agenda – and I urge all of us to continue to push this message in the next 24 hours," Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Democrats. (Hellmann, 11/5)
And, more on the ballot initiatives and key health issues -- like drug pricing, vaccinations and Medicare-for-all -- on which voters will get a say today —
Your Health Is On The Ballot In The Midterm Election
Voters in 37 states will have more than candidates to choose in Tuesday's election. There are more than 150 statewide measures on ballots this midterm election, and several involve health-related issues such as Medicaid expansion, marijuana, abortion, grocery taxes and charges related to drug use and possession. (Christensen, 11/5)
As Election Day Nears, Pharma Spends More Heavily On Democrats
In the final weeks before Tuesday’s midterm elections, the pharmaceutical industry’s campaign donations have begun flowing heavily and unexpectedly in a new direction: toward Democrats. The party received a full 63 percent of the industry’s campaign contributions reported in the first half of October, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s a new trend to cap off a tumultuous election cycle: Up to this point, just over half of drug industry money has flowed toward Republicans, and the GOP has received substantially more campaign cash from the pharmaceutical and health products industry in the past decade. (Facher, 11/6)
How Antivax PACs Helped Shape Midterm Ballots
In other hotbeds of anti-vaccine sentiment, centrist conservatives who’ve championed similar bills have also been conspicuously missing from this year’s midterm ballots. Replacing them are candidates backed by well-financed organizations made up of members who either entertain the fraudulent science linking vaccines to autism, who believe their kids have had adverse vaccine reactions, or think the government shouldn’t dictate what goes in their children’s bodies. (Molteni, 11/5)
Beyond The Buzz: What Do Americans Mean By ‘Medicare-For-All’?
California Healthline's news analysis on "Medicare-for-all" sparks a broader conversation ahead of the midterm elections. (11/6)
Soda Industry Steals Page From Tobacco To Combat Taxes On Sugary Drinks
In the run-up to the midterm elections, the soda industry has poured millions of dollars into fighting taxes on sugary drinks, an increasingly popular approach to combating obesity, which affects 40 percent of American adults. Soda makers have campaigned against sugary drink taxes in dozens of cities in recent years, mostly successfully. ... Soda makers also have cultivated close relationships with doctors, scientists and professional societies, including the Obesity Society and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Both groups say there’s not enough evidence to know if sugar taxes are effective. (Szabo, 11/6)
U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller did not officially appoint an investigator during the hearing, but said she planned to file a written explanation of what she wants investigated.
Judge Wants Investigator To Probe Whistleblower Claims On Prison Psychiatric Reports
A federal judge in Sacramento said Monday that she intends to appoint an independent investigator to look into whether state corrections officials committed “fraud on the court” in reports they have submitted regarding the level of psychiatric care inside California’s prisons. The extraordinary move by U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller would give an investigator or law firm access to corrections records and witnesses to determine whether allegations leveled by the state’s chief prison psychiatrist have merit. (Stanton, 11/5)
Independent Investigation Considered In Wake Of Scathing Report By State's Top Prison Psychiatrist
The release of Dr. Michael Golding's 161-page report may deal a blow to the state's efforts to end more than two decades of federal oversight of psychiatric care in California's prisons. The decision to release that report was made by the federal judge charged with making sure treatment is improving. At hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller indicated that she is considering hiring an independent investigator to conduct an investigation into the report. (Perry, 11/5)
And in other state health news --
Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Petaluma Schools To Launch Opioid Prevention Program Across Classrooms
The Petaluma school district will be the first in Northern California to roll out a Drug Enforcement Administration opioid prevention program, in response to rising concerns over a nationwide opioid epidemic. Operation Prevention, developed by the DEA and textbook and curriculum provider Discovery Education, will launch this spring in the district of over 7,400 students. The program teaches students as young as 8 years old about the dangers of prescription opioid abuse, providing resources such as lesson plans, videos, PowerPoint presentations and parent toolkits in English and Spanish. (Minichiello, 11/5)
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
San Diego's ResMed To Buy Health Software Firm MatrixCare For $750 Million
ResMed, a San Diego maker of sleep apnea devices, has inked a deal to acquire long-term care software firm MatrixCare for $750 million. The acquisition announced Monday boosts ResMed’s efforts in digital health software -- particularly in the skilled nursing and senior living markets. Based in Minnesota, MatrixCare’s Electronic Health Record software helps manage point of care, referrals, claims processing, payroll, nutrition and other services for roughly 15,000 providers of long-term and post hospital care services. (Freeman, 11/5)
The drug would be used to treat spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disorder whose most severe form is fatal for almost all patients before age 2. In other pharmaceutical news, drugmakers are eyeing changes in the congressional lame duck session to save them money on Medicare, Insys is considering selling off its opioid-related assets and federal inspectors find more problems at Akorn manufacturing plants.
Can Novartis Charge $4 Million For A One-Time Drug?
Novartis believes its new gene therapy is worth more than $4 million for a one-time dose, and the company has some data to back that up. But, with a global spotlight on the escalating cost of medicine, is it politically viable to set a new record for the world’s most expensive drug? The treatment, called AVXS-101, has demonstrated dramatic effects in spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disorder whose most severe form is fatal for almost all patients before age 2. In a 15-patient trial, infants with SMA who got AVXS-101 had a 100 percent survival rate after 24 months, data that convinced Novartis to pay $8.7 billion for the gene therapy’s inventor. (Garde, 11/5)
Pharma Makes Lobbying Push To Roll Back Seniors' Drug Discounts
Pharma giants have been quick to tout their efforts to help the Trump administration rein in runaway drug prices, but behind the scenes the industry has been lobbying furiously to roll back recently mandated medicine discounts for U.S. seniors. Drug companies are focusing lobbying efforts to use a possible lame-duck session of Congress to peel back a legislative loss they suffered earlier this year, according to people familiar with the efforts. On the line for the drug industry is $1.9 billion next year, according to one estimate. Critics say the effort by the industry has the potential to increase costs for some of the most vulnerable and medically fragile Americans: seniors on Medicare. (Koons and Brody, 11/5)
The Wall Street Journal:
Insys Looks To Sell Opioid-Related Assets, Including Subsys
Insys Therapeutics Inc. is looking to sell its opioid-related assets, including Subsys, the fentanyl painkiller that fueled its success and later landed it in legal trouble for aggressive sales practices. Subsys, a mouth-spray version of fentanyl, has been commercially available in the U.S. since 2012 to treat cancer-related pain. Its sales helped make Insys the best-performing initial public offering in 2013. Those fortunes turned when former CEO and co-founder John Kapoor and other executives and managers were arrested and indicted last year as part of a federal probe into alleged bribes for doctors to prescribe large amounts of the drug. They have pleaded not guilty. (Armental, 11/6)
Akorn Is Tagged — Again — By The FDA For Problems At A Manufacturing Plant
Despite disagreeing with accusations that it fails to comply with regulatory practices, Akorn is something of a full employment act for Food and Drug Administration inspectors. The agency released another in an ongoing stream of inspection reports that have found quality control problems at different Akorn plants in the U.S. and elsewhere. The concerns included a failure to review unexplained discrepancies in batches and consistently investigate issues with batch samples; procedures for quality control were not in writing; and a failure to validate procedures to avoid contamination. (Silverman, 11/5)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified 80 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, which mostly affects children. This represents the illness' third nationwide peak since 2014. And, cases of measles are also spiking.
More Than 200 Cases Of Polio-Like Illness Under Investigation In US; 80 Confirmed
There have been 80 confirmed cases of the polio-like illness known as AFM in 25 states this year as of Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday. In addition, there are 219 cases under investigation. This is eight more confirmed cases than the agency reported last week and 20 additional patients under investigation. (Goldschmidt, 11/5)
The Wall Street Journal:
Another Burst Of Polio-Like Cases In Children Alarms Doctors
The condition is called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM. Though rare, it has jumped onto the national radar. As doctors struggle to explain its third nationwide peak since 2014, families like the Bottomleys are trying to provide hope to others hit with the sudden, polio-like disease and to push for more awareness in the medical community. AFM causes inflammation of the nervous system, particularly the gray matter of the spinal cord, which results in weakening muscles in usually one or more arms and legs. It can also affect the face and lead to difficulty swallowing or even breathing. Almost all AFM patients are hospitalized for several days or even months. (Reddy, 11/5)
Measles Cases Top Last Year's Total, Spread Among The Unvaccinated
The number of measles cases in the United States so far this year has surpassed 2017 with the potential for about a quarter of the highly contagious respiratory infections to be occurring in one New York county north of New York City. Nationwide as of Oct. 6, the most recent nationwide data available, 142 measles cases had been reported, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of people sickened, mostly unvaccinated, exceeded the 2017 total of 120 in mid-August. (Cutler, 11/5)
Meanwhile, pediatricians offer advice about common childhood health issues —
The Associated Press:
Don't Spank: Pediatricians Warn Parents Of Long-Term Harms
The academy says research since its 1998 discipline policy led to the update. It says spanking is falling out of favor among parents, especially those with young children. While some parents still believe it can lead to short-term improvements in behavior, studies show spanking is no more effective than non-physical punishment, including timeouts, setting firm limits and establishing unwanted consequences. (Tanner, 11/5)
The New York Times:
For A Child’s Cough, The Best Medicine Is No Medicine
Parents are often disappointed or even a little bit upset when I tell them there’s no medicine to help their coughing, sneezing, drippy-nosed children feel better. There’s nothing that works, I say, and medicines can have bad side effects. We don’t recommend any of the cough and cold medications for children under 6. But after all, parents are intimately aware of just how miserable a cough and a runny nose and congestion can make a small child feel, from cranky days to disruptive nights. (Klass, 11/5)
A team of UK researchers found that women who wake up early have a 40 to 48 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer. In other public health news: why you should get your flu shot now; U2's Bono thanks Congress for maintaining AIDS funding; an exploration of the brain's working memory; and more.
Breast Cancer Study: Women Who Wake Up Early Reduce Risk By 40 Percent
Women who wake up early have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, according to researchers in the United Kingdom. A team at the University of Bristol in England analyzed data from 180,215 women enrolled with the UK Biobank project, and 228,951 women who had been part of a genome-wide association study of breast cancer led by the international Breast Cancer Association Consortium. The findings, which were not peer-reviewed, were presented at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. (May, 11/6)
The New York Times:
Need A Flu Shot? Get It Now
If you’ve waited until now to get your flu shot, your procrastination may actually pay off, though you’d be unwise to delay getting the vaccine any longer. Although there are some cases of flu in October and November in the United States, flu season here doesn’t usually get going full speed until December, peaking in most years in February and usually ending by April. (Brody, 11/5)
The Associated Press:
Bono To Congress: Thanks For Ignoring Trump On AIDS Funding
Bono has a message for the U.S. Congress: Thanks for ignoring President Donald Trump. Trump has sought to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from U.S. funding for AIDS programs at home and abroad, but the U2 frontman says members of Congress “have so far turned down this president’s request to cut AIDS funding — right and left in lockstep together on this.” His message to them? “Thank you for your leadership.” (Lawless, 11/5)
Neuroscientists Debate A Simple Question: How Does The Brain Store A Phone Number?
You hear a new colleague's name. You get directions to the airport. You glance at a phone number you're about to call. These are the times you need working memory, the brain's system for temporarily holding important information. "Working memory is the sketchpad of your mind; it's the contents of your conscious thoughts," says Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. (Hamilton, 11/4)
The Washington Post:
CDC Director Warns That Congo’s Ebola Outbreak May Not Be Containable
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said Monday that the Ebola outbreak in conflict-ridden Congo has become so serious that international public health experts need to consider the possibility that it cannot be brought under control and instead will become entrenched. If that happened, it would be the first time since the deadly viral disease was first identified in 1976 that an Ebola outbreak led to the persistent presence of the disease. In all previous outbreaks, most of which took place in remote areas, the disease was contained before it spread widely. The current outbreak is entering its fourth month, with nearly 300 cases, including 186 deaths. (Sun, 11/5)
These Flatworms Can Regrow A Body From A Fragment. How Do They Do It And Could We?
[Nelson] Hall and researchers around the world are hard at work trying to understand how most of a group of flatworms called planarians can use powerful stem cells to regenerate their entire bodies, an ability humans can only dream of. When we suffer a severe injury, the best we can hope for is that our wounds will heal. But our limbs don't grow right back if they are cut off, the way that planarians regenerate. (Quiros, 11/6)
The New York Times:
How To Eat Safely And Travel With An Autoimmune Disease
Most medical professionals categorize travel as a stressful event, even more so for those suffering from autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel, celiac, Hashimoto’s or psoriasis. A change of routine, jet lag, and unfamiliar germs or foreign food can exacerbate one’s condition. Plus, since a growing number of people adhere to strict anti-inflammatory diets to manage those illnesses, dining on the road can pose a real challenge. Here, doctors and specialists share some advice on how to stay healthy and eat well while traveling. As always however, talk to your doctor for specific advice related to your condition, depending on where you plan to visit. (Walsh, 11/5)
The health insurer allegedly used aggressive tactics to sell sham plans -- one of which was named TrumpCare -- that skirt the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, leaving people around the country with skimpier coverage than they expected and liable for unpaid medical bills. Also, more national news on Medicare Part B premiums and FDA's approval of a new opioid.
The New York Times:
Sales Of ‘Ruinous’ Health Insurance Plans
Federal authorities have shut down a network of Florida companies that they say used aggressive, deceptive tactics to sell skimpy health insurance products that skirt requirements of the Affordable Care Act and left tens of thousands of people around the country with unpaid medical bills. “There is good cause to believe” that the Florida companies have sold shoddy coverage by falsely claiming that such policies were comprehensive health insurance or qualified health plans under the Affordable Care Act, Judge Darrin P. Gayles of the Federal District Court in Miami said in a temporary restraining order issued last week at the request of the Federal Trade Commission. (Pear, 11/5)
Your Social Security Benefits, Medicare Part B Premiums In 2019
Your Social Security check could look different in 2019.That's because recipients will get a 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment in 2019. Meanwhile, Medicare Part B premiums will see a slight bump to $135.50 in 2019, up from $134 in 2018. Those premiums are typically deducted from your Social Security check, provided you are receiving both Social Security benefits and are covered by Medicare. (Konish, 11/5)
Could New Drug Approved By FDA Make The Opioid Epidemic Worse?
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a controversial new form of the powerful synthetic opiate sufentanil for managing acute pain in adults, just weeks after the chairman of the advisory committee warned that doing so would lead to “diversion, abuse and death.” Sufentanil has been used intravenously since the 1980s, but pharmaceutical company AcelRx has developed a sublingual tablet form of the drug called Dsuvia, which is delivered through a “pre-filled, single-dose applicator.” Ten times stronger than fentanyl and 500 to 1,000 times stronger than morphine, Dsuvia will be restricted to limited use only in health care settings, such as hospitals, surgery centers and emergency rooms, and will not be available in pharmacies or for home-use; nevertheless, critics fear the drug will contribute to an already devastating opioid crisis, including more than 40,000 overdose deaths last year. (McDonnell-Parry, 11/5)
After 11 years with the American Cancer Society, Brawley, an executive vice president and chief medical officer, left his post late last week. And look who's in the top spot at Families USA.
The New York Times:
Cancer Society Executive Resigns Amid Upset Over Corporate Partnerships
A top official of the American Cancer Society has resigned in part because of concern over some of the organization’s fund-raising partnerships. The official, Dr. Otis W. Brawley, an executive vice president and chief medical officer, resigned his post late last week after 11 years at the society. His departure was largely attributed to his dismay over some commercial partnerships, including with Herbalife International, the controversial supplements company, people close to him said. (Kaplan, 11/5)
Academic Consulting Deals With Industry Lack Oversight, Raising Concerns
Numerous academics have consulting deals with industry, but there is a distinct lack of oversight at schools of medicine and public health that raise concerns about the effects on scientific progress, published research, and intellectual discourse, a new analysis suggests. To wit, about one-third of universities surveyed require faculty to submit at least some consulting agreements for institutional review, but another third review contracts upon request and still another third refuse to review contracts. (Silverman, 11/5)
Liberal Health Advocate Looks To Move Beyond Defense On ObamaCare
Frederick Isasi says people are sometimes surprised to learn he is the head of a major liberal advocacy group. “It’s a funny thing to walk into a room with funders or with the press or with partners and they say, ‘Oh you’re the new [executive director], that’s interesting, like we’re not used to somebody that’s so young or kind of just seems really different,’ ” Isasi, who became the head of Families USA early last year, said in an interview with The Hill last week. (Sullivan, 11/6)