- California Healthline Original Stories 1
- Breathing Fire: Health Is A Casualty Of Climate-Fueled Blazes
- Coverage And Access 1
- A Coverage Option For Young Adults Who Can't Afford Insurance But Don't Qualify For Medicaid
- Public Health and Education 3
- The Crackdown On Anti-Vaccination Doctors That Never Materialized
- This New Shingles Vaccine Costs $280, But Doctors Say It's Worth It
- Mental Illness Becomes Scapegoat After Mass Shootings, But The Truth Is Far More Nuanced, Experts Say
- Pharmaceuticals 1
- Scrutiny Of Opioid Addiction Drug Marketing Intensifies As Sen. Harris Seeks Information From Alkermes
- Around California 1
- Initiative Touts San Diego's Unique Combination Of High-Quality Medical Care, Tourism Opportunities
Latest From California Healthline:
As the planet warms, wildfires such as the latest disastrous blazes in Northern California have increased in frequency and scope. Beyond the environmental effects, people suffer health repercussions that can be disabling and even deadly. (John Upton, Climate Central and Barbara Feder Ostrov, 11/7)
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More News From Across The State
Those in Kaiser Permanente's Community Health Care Program will not have a monthly premium and will have access to Kaiser’s health care system or providers.
Here’s An Option For Health Insurance For Young People Who Have No Where Else To Turn
Young adults in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties who are not eligible for Medi-Cal and cannot afford private insurance can enroll in a new Kaiser Permanente health program. The new Community Health Care Program provides coverage to young adults, ages 19 to 25, with household incomes of up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (up to $36,180 for a single person or up to $73,800 for a family of four). Young adults in the program will not have a monthly premium and will have access to Kaiser’s health care system or providers. (Anderson, 11/6)
California passed a strict law on vaccinations, which prevents parents from citing religious or other personal beliefs to get out of vaccinating their children. But now the number of children with medical exemptions tripled last year.
Los Angeles Times:
Why Hasn't California Cracked Down On Anti-Vaccination Doctors?
A year ago, California officials appeared to be coming down hard on doctors and parents who were reluctant to vaccinate children. The state had just implemented one of the strictest vaccination laws in the nation. The medical board was threatening to pull the license of Dr. Robert Sears, a celebrity in the anti-vaccine community. One vaccine skeptic called the case against Sears “a shot across all the doctors’ bows.” (Karlamangla, 11/6)
While the previous vaccine cut the risk of getting shingles by about 50 percent, this new one slashes it by 90 percent.
Roll Up Your Sleeve And Get Out Your Wallet, Doctors Say This Vaccine Is Worth The $$
And if you buy insurance through Covered California, the state’s Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace, the vaccine should be covered. According to the CDC, shingles vaccine is one of the shots that all of the health insurance plans usually cover without charging a copayment or coinsurance when the vaccine is given by an in-network provider. And you don’t have to meet your yearly deductible. Medi-Cal, the state-federal insurance program for low-income adults, children and people with disabilities, also covers Zostavax; and it will update its coverage and reimbursement policy for Shingrix, the agency said. (Anderson, 11/6)
In other public health news —
Los Angeles Times:
San Diego's Hepatitis A Outbreak Continues To Grow, But More Slowly
Though the case count in San Diego's ongoing hepatitis A outbreak increased again Monday, officials said that the number of new infections continues to slow. In a presentation to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, showed a chart that indicated there were 31 cases in October, significantly fewer than the 81 reported in September and 94 in August — the largest total of the outbreak so far. (Sisson, 11/6)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Tests Show That Lead Levels In Bay Area Drinking Water Are Not Dangerous
Despite recent alarming revelations that children in 10 San Francisco and Oakland schools had been exposed to lead contamination well above federal safety standards, data from household water quality tests performed this year by the Bay Area’s two major utilities indicate that lead levels remain well below dangerous thresholds in the vast majority of the region’s homes. (Fracassa, 11/6)
Saying mental illness is to blame for mass violence incidents not only misses the complexities at the root of the motivation, but also besmirches millions of non-violent mentally ill people, experts say in the wake of the Texas shooting which left 26 dead. President Donald Trump said the shooting was a "mental health" problem and not a "guns situation."
Trump Wrong To Blame Mass Killings On Mental Illness Rather Than Guns, Experts Say
President Trump on Monday attributed the slaughter of 26 people in a Texas church — the nation’s third mass killing in five weeks — to “a mental health problem,” saying it wasn’t a “guns situation.” ...Critics say blaming mass killings on “mental health problems” is not only medically inaccurate, it is politically disingenuous — a “fig leaf,” to make it appear that Trump is doing something about gun violence. (Garofoli, 11/6)
Los Angeles Times:
Gun Injuries In The U.S. Have Become More Severe Since The 1990s, Study Says
If the purpose of a gun is to inflict serious damage to a body, then these weapons have become increasingly effective, new research shows. An analysis of U.S. hospital records shows that gun injuries bad enough to land a victim in the hospital grew more severe over the course of two decades. Wounds involving "serious open fractures" — trauma that pairs a break in the skin with a broken bone — increased by 0.61% per year between 1993 and 2013. Meanwhile, gun injuries classified as "minor" fell by 0.74% per year during the study period. (Kaplan, 11/6)
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) points to reports that pharmaceutical company Alkermes has attempted to increase sales of Vivitrol -- a monthly shot to treat opioid addiction -- by playing up misconceptions about other medications and trying to limit their availability.
Harris Calls For Probe Into Alkermes And Its Vivitrol Promotion For Opioid Treatment
A mid a worsening opioid crisis, a U.S. senator has opened a probe into Alkermes and its controversial promotion of the Vivitrol monthly shot for combating opioid addiction. The move comes as Alkermes is scrutinized for aggressive lobbying and marketing. The company has spent heavily on contributions to lawmakers who are trying to mitigate opioid abuse. In state legislatures across the country, the drug maker has pushed bills that favor its treatment over rival medicines. And Alkermes has provided thousands of free doses to encourage usage in jails and prisons. (Silverman and Facher, 11/6)
Sen. Harris Seeks Information From Maker Of Opioid Treatment
“According to these reports, Alkermes has targeted much of its promotion for Vivitrol at law enforcement officials and lawmakers, efforts which have included the assignment of sales representatives to judges overseeing drug courts and free shots to inmates leaving jails and prisons,” Harris wrote in a letter Monday to Alkermes’s CEO and chairman, Richard Pops. (Roubein, 11/6)
Senator Investigates How Drugmaker Alkermes Pushed Its Opioid-Addiction Treatment
An Alkermes spokesman said in a statement that the company strongly disagrees with Harris’s claims and is “focused on ensuring that patients, health-care professionals and criminal justice officials are educated on Vivitrol and believes that patients should have access to all medications.” (Rausch, 11/6)
Kamala Harris Scrutinizes Opioid Treatment Drug Manufacturer
In her letter to Pops, Harris asks the company to provide a list of documents, including: A list of judicial officials and drug courts to which Alkermes has assigned sales representatives; A list all jails or prisons at which Alkermes has provided free Vivitrol shots; Copies of any educational materials provided to law enforcement personnel or judges; Research or data “concerning the superiority of Vivitrol as an opioid addiction treatment.” (Cadei, 11/6)
UC San Diego Health System, Scripps Health, Sharp Healthcare and Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego are anchoring the program.
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Medical Tourism Program Launches
In the heart of San Diego's biomedical community, in a tourist-friendly setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean, civic leaders officially kicked off a program to attract wealthy patients and their families. DestinationCare San Diego unites four local health care systems along with the San Diego Tourism Authority to market the region. The message is that San Diego has a rare combination of a tourist-friendly climate, advanced research expertise in critical areas such as genomics, and excellent clinical care. So while patients are cared for, their friends and family members can enjoy all San Diego County has to offer. (Fikes, 11/6)
Despite fears that Trump administration's actions to cut the outreach budget for the health law would undermine sign ups, the numbers spiked over last year according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. However, usually signups this early are consumers renewing coverage, not new customers. Meanwhile, insurers are opening their own wallets to make up for the lack of federal marketing for the health law.
ObamaCare Signups Surge In Early Days To Set New Record
A record number of people signed up for ObamaCare in the first few days of open enrollment this year compared to the same period in previous years, several sources close to the process told The Hill. The surge in sign-ups, which was confirmed by an administration official, comes despite fears from Democrats that enrollment would fall off due to the Trump administration's cutbacks in outreach and advertising. (Sullivan, 11/6)
The Washington Post:
ACA Sign-Ups Spike At Open Enrollment’s Start
More than 200,000 Americans chose a plan on Nov. 1, the day open enrollment began, according to one administration official. That’s more than double the number of consumers who signed up on the first day of enrollment last year. More than 1 million people visited HeathCare.gov, the official federal website, the official said, which amounts to roughly a 33 percent increase in traffic compared with 2016. These figures capture only a portion of the nation’s overall ACA enrollment, because they encompass states that either use the federal health-care marketplace or rely on its website for their consumers to sign up for coverage. More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia run their own programs and do not use HealthCare.gov. (Eilperin, 11/6)
Insurers Step Up Pitch For Obamacare As Government Slashes Its Effort
President Donald Trump's 90 percent cut to Obamacare advertising has U.S. health insurers in many states digging deeper into their pockets to get the word out about 2018 enrollment, which opened last week. Independence Blue Cross, a health insurer in Pennsylvania, has commissioned a tractor trailer truck to bring insurance consultants out to shopping centers and other neighborhood spots around Philadelphia. (Humer, 11/6)
Meanwhile, on the topic of picking employer-based coverage —
The New York Times:
Which Health Plan Is Cheaper?
Doing a thorough comparison of health care plans is difficult. But there is an imperfect, yet fairly, simple way to check whether a high-deductible plan might qualify for “no-brainer” status, meaning, it enables you to save on health care no matter how often you go to the doctor. Here’s how to do it. (Thaler, 11/4)
The New York Times:
Why So Many People Choose The Wrong Health Plans
If you get health insurance from your employer, you have to make decision every year about which coverage to choose. So here is a warning: If you are simply sticking with an old plan with a low deductible, that may well be a wrong and costly choice. ... Because of human quirks, lack of understanding and overly complicated plans, many people are paying more without getting anything extra in return. (Thaler, 11/4)
The draft order would broaden the “hardship exemption” that the Obama administration established for those who face extraordinary circumstances.
The Washington Post:
White House Seeks To Weaken ACA’s Individual Mandate, With Executive Order As Backup Plan
White House officials have prepared an executive order that would weaken the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that taxpayers demonstrate proof of insurance, according to people briefed on the matter, suggesting they will issue it if congressional Republicans cannot achieve the same goal through the tax reform process. President Trump supports abolishing the insurance requirement, called the individual mandate, but he cannot eliminate it unilaterally because it is enshrined in law. Given that several Republican bills aimed at unraveling the ACA have failed, Trump and his deputies are now seeking other ways to scale back the requirement for health-care coverage. (Eilperin and Sullivan, 11/6)
GOP Unlikely To Repeal ObamaCare Mandate In Tax Measure
The House is unlikely to repeal the mandate to buy insurance under ObamaCare as part of its tax-reform bill, GOP sources say, though the issue could return down the road. President Trump and conservative lawmakers are pushing for the individual mandate to be repealed in the bill, but House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has expressed worry that the controversial measure would jeopardize the broader tax-reform bill, given the Senate’s failure on health care earlier this year. (Wong and Sullivan, 11/6)