- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Drugmakers Funnel Millions To Lawmakers; A Few Dozen Get $100,000-Plus
- Pharma Cash To Congress
- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- Premiums, Subsidies And Insurers: What You Need To Know As Covered California Enrollment Kicks Off
- Courts 1
- Decision Requiring Companies To Remove Lead Paint From Calif. Houses Stands After Supreme Court Passes On Case
- Elections 1
- Opponents Of Prop. 8 Have Raised $99M To Battle The Measure That Regulates Dialysis Clinic Profits
- Public Health and Education 2
- Administration's 'Public Charge' Rule Would Weaken Herd Immunity, Putting All Children At Risk, Physicians Warn
- Doctors Said He Had The Flu. In Reality, He Had Flea-Borne Typhus.
Latest From California Healthline:
Drugmakers' contributions to lawmakers have peaked as surging drug prices emerge as a hot-button political issue. In the past decade, members of Congress have received nearly $79 million from 68 pharma PACs. And the giving crosses the aisle: In California, seven of the top 10 beneficiaries are Democrats — though Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House majority leader, tops other Golden State lawmakers in Congress by a wide margin. (Emmarie Huetteman and Sydney Lupkin, 10/16)
A new Kaiser Health News database tracks campaign donations from drugmakers over the past 10 years. (Elizabeth Lucas and Sydney Lupkin, 10/15)
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Summaries Of The News:
Open enrollment has begun in California, and experts offer tips and advice on navigating the process. Average premiums for Covered California plans have gone up 8.7 percent, but Covered California says about 90 percent of its consumers are eligible for financial assistance to help pay for their insurance coverage.
6 Things To Know About Covered California Open Enrollment For 2019
Last summer, Trump and congressional Republicans failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but a few months later, they were able to repeal the ACA's individual mandate as part of their tax bill, meaning that individuals will no longer face a penalty if they choose not to buy health insurance. Since then, the Trump administration has also announced that it would again decrease the amount it spends on marketing to encourage people to sign up for insurance, and that it would not defend the ACA in a lawsuit arguing much of the health care law to be unconstitutional. (Levi, 10/15)
The California Health Report (healthycal.org):
As Open Enrollment Begins, Advocates Warn Of Continued Threats To Health Coverage
Californians will still have access to a broad range of health insurance plans, coverage guarantees and income-determined subsidies when the state’s health insurance exchange, Covered California, opens enrollment today for 2019. That’s good news, but state residents should remain wary of ongoing federal attempts to destabilize the current health care system, several health care advocacy groups warned last week in advance of the mid-term elections. If successful, these efforts could upend California’s progress toward decreasing the state’s uninsured rate, and leave millions of people vulnerable to inferior health insurance coverage or having no coverage at all, they said. (Boyd-Barrett, 10/15)
A California state court of appeal last November upheld an earlier court's finding of public nuisance but said the companies only have to pay for abatement in homes built before 1951. The paint companies have called the previous rulings unprecedented and noted lead paint was lawful at the time.
The Associated Press:
Supreme Court Won't Take Up Lead Paint Issue From California
The Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision that required paint companies to fund the removal of lead paint from California homes. The Supreme Court on Monday said it wouldn't take up the issue. Courts previously ruled in favor of 10 California cities and counties that argued ConAgra, NL Industries and Sherwin-Williams knowingly endangered public health by advertising and selling lead paint. (10/15)
In other news from the courts —
The Associated Press:
Jurors: Don't Throw Out $289M Weed Killer Cancer Verdict
Jurors who found that agribusiness giant Monsanto's Roundup weed killer contributed to a school groundskeeper's cancer are urging a San Francisco judge not to throw out the bulk of their $289 million award in his favor, a newspaper reported Monday. Juror Gary Kitahata told Judge Suzanne Bolanos in a letter that the jury was convinced by the evidence, the San Francisco Chronicle said. (10/15)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Monsanto Case: Jurors Urge Judge Not To Overturn $289 Million Award
Jurors who awarded $289 million to a former school groundskeeper who is dying of cancer are imploring a San Francisco judge to reconsider her tentative decision to overturn most of the damages against Monsanto Co., manufacturer of the weed killer that they found to be the cause of the man’s illness. (Egelko, 10/15)
The Associated Press:
Firefighters Sue California Gas Company Over Massive Leak
Firefighters who worked in and around the site of a massive natural gas leak sued the Southern California Gas Co. on Monday, saying the utility knowingly let them be exposed to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals. A blowout in a well at the underground Aliso Canyon storage field about 40 miles north of Los Angeles was discovered on Oct. 23, 2015, and took nearly four months to cap after spewing immense amounts of methane into the air. It was the largest known natural gas leak in United States history. (10/15)
On the other side, the Yes on 8 campaign has raised more than $20 million to pay for ads. Overall, the initiative is one of the most expensive on the ballot this year.
Capital Public Radio:
Dialysis Industry Raises $99 Million To Defeat California’s Prop 8
Tens of millions of dollars are flowing in to California’s ballot campaigns on rent control and the gas tax increase. But the one raising the most cash, at nearly $120 million, is the lesser known Proposition 8, a measure to regulate dialysis clinics. That’s according campaign finance totals on the California Secretary of State’s website. (Nichols, 10/15)
“The flu season is just upon us, and we are seeing that we are having difficulty getting our immigrant children and adults in for flu shots,” said Dr. Lisa Ward, president of the board of the California Association of Family Physicians. “It is quite likely that one of the reasons is that they are too afraid not only to get health care for the adult parents but for their U.S.-born children as well, and that’s just one tiny bit of health care.”
California Doctors: Proposed Trump Immigration Rule Threatens Public Health
California’s family physicians are warning federal officials that a proposed change in immigration rules will put public health at risk because it weakens “herd” immunity, especially in the Golden State where one in every two children has a foreign-born parent. The Trump administration on Wednesday proposed changes to a federal rule that, immigration experts say, creates ambiguity about what it means to be an immigrant who depends on the government for their support. (Anderson, 10/15)
Tom Sachs is one of about 60 reported people who have contracted flea-borne typhus this year, an outbreak that reflects an increasing trend in typhus cases since 2009. The symptoms of the sickness are very similar to the flu.
Orange County Register:
Typhus Symptoms Look Like The Flu, Which Is Why It Took Weeks For This San Marino Man To Be Diagnosed Correctly
Tom Sachs could barely move from his bed. He lay lifeless — delirious with 103-degree fever, riddled with aches, chills and extreme weakness. “I had the chills where my body would shake from my waist to my head,” he said during an interview Monday, Oct. 15. Doctors told him he had the flu. After nearly three weeks without any recovery, his wife, Carolyn, called a priest. Although she said she was thinking more about healing than death, Sachs seemed so ill that the priest gave him communion and last rites. (Scauzillo, 10/15)
In other public health news —
Los Angeles Times:
Paging Dr. Facebook: How The Social Network Could Help Doctors Screen Patients For Depression
More than half of Americans who suffer from depression never get any treatment, and in many cases that’s because their symptoms are never diagnosed. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises primary care physicians to screen all of their patients for depression and make sure proper care gets to those who need it, but this is a big job and doctors could use some help. Paging Dr. Facebook, stat! (Kaplan, 10/15)
In the lawsuit, Dr. Eunice Neeley claimed that her supervisor Stanton Glantz, the director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, sexually harassed her and that he refused to include her name on a research paper.
UCSF Settles Sexual Harassment Suit Involving Star Researcher For $150,000
The University of California, San Francisco, has agreed to pay a former postdoc $150,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit involving a prominent tobacco researcher on its faculty. In the settlement, dated last month, Stanton Glantz, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, and UCSF “deny and dispute” the allegations by the former postdoc, Dr. Eunice Neeley, who now is a resident in family medicine at Emory University in Atlanta. (Oransky and Marcus, 10/16)
In other news from across the state —
The Mercury News:
Saratoga Doctor Charged With Illegal Distribution Of Opioid
A South Bay doctor has been charged with distributing a powerful prescription opioid outside the scope of his professional practice, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Venkat Aachi, 52, of Saratoga, allegedly gave hydrocodone to two individuals half a dozen times between Nov. 27, 2017, and March 5 without a legitimate medical purpose. (Green, 10/15)
The San Diego Union-Tribune:
GreatCall Teams With Insurer To Offer In-Home Sensors To Track Movement Of High-Risk Seniors
San Diego-based GreatCall, acquired by Best Buy two months ago, said Tuesday that it has inked a five-year agreement with a Massachusetts health insurer to provide in-home health monitoring for high-risk seniors. For those eligible, GreatCall will supply its Lively Home product – 10 sensors installed throughout the home to monitor movement, eating, sleeping and other daily activities. Using predictive analytics, Lively Home aims to pinpoint early signs of changes in health. (Freeman, 10/16)
The rule, which is part of President Donald Trump's blueprint to rein in high drug costs, sparked immediate push back from pharmaceutical companies. Beyond the industry, experts are skeptical that the regulation would do anything to bring down prices and may confuse patients because consumers often don't pay the list price for medications.
The New York Times:
Trump Rule Would Compel Drug Makers To Disclose Prices In TV Commercials
Over vehement objections by drug companies, the Trump administration proposed on Monday a new federal regulation that would require them to disclose the list prices of prescription drugs in their television advertisements. The proposal sets the stage for a battle with the pharmaceutical industry, which said the requirement would be a form of “compelled speech” in violation of the First Amendment. (Pear, 10/15)
The Associated Press:
US Wants Drug Prices In TV Ads: 'Patients Deserve To Know'
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar unveiled a proposal that would apply to all brand-name drugs covered by the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which is most medicines. "Patients deserve to know what a given drug could cost when they're being told about the benefits and risks it may have," Azar said in prepared remarks. "They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels. And they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV." (10/15)
The Washington Post:
Drugmakers May Have To Disclose Prices Of Medicine In Television Ads
While some health policy researchers are skeptical that disclosing drug prices in television ads would change consumer behavior and doctors’ prescribing habits, the proposal drew immediate praise from unlikely bedfellows. Health insurers’ main trade group commended the administration “for taking such bold action” to combat “out-of-control” drug prices. The American Medical Association lamented the existence of direct consumer advertising of medicine but said in a statement that “as long as the practice is allowed, the ads should come with at least a small dose of transparency.” (Goldstein and Johnson, 10/15)
The Wall Street Journal:
Pharma Industry Pushes Back Against Required Listing Of Drug Prices In TV Ads
Drugmakers oppose the mandate, saying that providing only the list price would confuse and mislead consumers, who may think they have to pay more than they actually would. The list price is the figure initially set by the drugmaker. But it is different than what consumers generally pay, because it doesn’t take into account rebates, discounts and insurance payments. Critics also say the rule runs afoul of the First Amendment free-speech protections, and that a legal challenge is likely. (Armour, 10/15)
Trump Issues Rule To Require Drug Prices In TV Ads, Rejecting Industry Plan
HHS said its proposed rule fulfilled another prong of the president's blueprint to address pharmaceutical costs and would help Americans make more informed decisions that could lower out-of-pocket costs and those of government health programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The move came with polls showing significant voter outrage about drug costs, which also are comprising an ever larger share of the federal budget. (Karlin-Smith, 10/15)
TV Ads Must Trumpet Drug Prices, Trump Administration Says. Pharma Tries A Plan B.
A drug’s list price — the metric HHS wants to emphasize — often bears little relationship to what a patient pays at the drugstore. Insurance plans and pharmacy benefit managers often negotiate cheaper prices than the list price. Some patients qualify for other discounts. And often patients pay only what their copay or deductible requires at any given time. (Luthra and Tribble, 10/15)
Questions Loom As Pharma Hints At Suing Over New Trump Drug Pricing Policy
Even before it was announced, drug makers threatened to sue the Trump administration over a new policy that would require them to include prices in their TV ads. Now that the proposal is official, the better question about a lawsuit may be “When?” Already on Monday, drug makers doubled down on their argument that the government is violating their First Amendment rights by compelling them to disclosure their prices. (Florko, 10/16)
Democrats have been sounding warnings about the potential threat to preexisting conditions coverage on the trail for months. Now some Republicans are trying to get ahead of the issue through ads including family members with health problems. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump goes after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' "Medicare For All" plan.
The New York Times:
Republicans Are Suddenly Running Ads On Pre-Existing Conditions. But How Accurate Are They?
For months, Democratic candidates have been running hard on health care, while Republicans have said little about it. In a sign of the issue’s potency, Republicans are now playing defense, releasing a wave of ads promising they will preserve protections for Americans with pre-existing health conditions. The ads omit the fact that the protections were a central feature of the Affordable Care Act and that the Republican Party has worked unceasingly to repeal the law, through legislation and lawsuits. (Sanger-Katz, 10/16)
Trump Attacks ‘Crazy Bernie’ Sanders Over Medicare Plans
President Trump on Monday attacked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a supporter of single-payer "Medicare for all," over health care, claiming that Sanders "and his band of Congressional Dems" would outlaw Medicare Advantage. "Open enrollment starts today on lower-priced Medicare Advantage plans so loved by our great seniors. Crazy Bernie and his band of Congressional Dems will outlaw these plans. Disaster!" Trump tweeted. (Burke, 10/15)