- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- Bill Would Expand Hospital Reporting On Executive Pay
- UnitedHealthcare To Exit All But ‘Handful’ Of Obamacare Markets In 2017
- Marketplace 3
- Theranos' Fate Could Hinge On Thin Line Between Rosy Projections And False Promotion
- The Green Rush: Venture Capitalists Flock To Cannabis Industry
- Kaiser Permanente Plans 3 New Facilities For Santa Cruz Area
Latest From California Healthline:
The Assembly’s health committee Tuesday approved legislation that would require hospitals and affiliated medical groups to report the compensation of all executives making $250,000 or more a year. (Ana B. Ibarra, )
UnitedHealthcare said Tuesday it will leave most of the 34 states in which it offers health insurance under Obamacare, but Nevada and Virginia are two markets it will retain a presence. Company officials would not say if the changes would affect customers in California, but United had a small portion of the Covered California market. (Phil Galewitz, )
More News From Across The State
The insurer's exchange business was relatively small, but the move draws attention to the industry's struggle to adjust to the sicker, more costly pool of customers that have dominated the market under the Affordable Care Act.
The New York Times:
UnitedHealth To Pull Back From Insurance Exchanges, Citing Losses
The UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, told investors on Tuesday that it continued to lose hundreds of millions of dollars selling individual policies under the federal health care law. The company said it planned to pull out of a majority of states where it offered coverage and would offer policies on the public exchanges in “only a handful of states” for 2017. (Abelson, 4/19)
UnitedHealth To Exit Obamacare In 16 States To Stem Losses
So far, New York and Nevada have confirmed that UnitedHealth plans to remain on their ACA exchanges next year. The company has also filed plans to participate in Virginia for 2017. Wisconsin said it hasn’t received an exit notice from UnitedHealth, and that it doesn’t comment on insurers’ business plans. A representative of Covered California said plan participation is confidential until it’s announced later this year. (Tracer, 4/19)
The Los Angeles Times:
Nation's Largest Health Insurer To Quit Some Obamacare Markets
Several other insurers, including state Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, have reported similar challenges in recent months. And more than a dozen nonprofit insurance co-ops created through the law have shuttered, as they were overwhelmed by medical claims they couldn’t afford. But other insurers, including California-based Kaiser Permanente and Indiana-based Anthem, another major player in the California market, have been more bullish on the new marketplaces. And in February, Covered California Executive Director Pete Lee blasted UnitedHealth for blaming the health law for its own missteps, noting in an interview with Kaiser Health News that the company had poorly designed and priced its health plans. (Levey, 4/19)
At worst, if investigators find evidence of hype that crosses the line with the blood-testing startup, its executives could face jail time. Meanwhile, Theranos board member David Boies says he has confidence in CEO Elizabeth Holmes following news of investigations into the company.
When Does Hyping A Product Become A Criminal Act? Theranos May Be About To Find Out
When does hype cross the line into illegal activity? That’s the big question animating criminal and civil probes into Theranos, the once high-flying Silicon Valley startup that aimed to revolutionize medical testing by developing technology that could perform an array of lab tests with just a few drops of blood. (Robbins, 4/19)
Theranos Director Defends CEO, Says Investors Have Faith
Theranos Inc. board member David Boies defended Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Holmes on Tuesday, saying she has the management and scientific skills to lead the blood-testing startup despite criminal and civil investigations of the company by U.S. authorities. (Kohlatkar and Chen, 4/19)
The activity has accelerated in the wake of California’s recent moves to regulate and tax medical marijuana. In other news, a county has a change of mind when it comes to medical marijuana.
The Press Democrat:
Investors Pour Millions Into Northern California Marijuana Industry
As millions of marijuana aficionados light up Wednesday at 4:20 p.m. in celebration of “Weed Day,” many are blissfully unaware of the increasing interest that investors with deep pockets are showing in their favorite psychoactive herb. A green rush is on in the marijuana industry, with legal sales of cannabis rising by a billion dollars or more each year nationwide, according to one report, and venture capitalists pouring millions into marijuana enterprises ranging from computer software and social networks to storage bags, vaporizers and insurance. (Kovner, 4/19)
Adelanto, Desert Hot Springs Could Become State’s Top Legal Marijuana Producers
Riverside and Upland led the court challenge in 2011 to allow local governments to ban medical marijuana stores in a winning case that went to the state Supreme Court. Five years later, there is more than a whiff of change: While Riverside voters in June 2015 rejected a city ballot measure that would have allowed up to 10 regulated dispensaries in the city, the City Council relented on its ban, a bit, in January and now permits medical users to grow small amounts of pot at home. (DeAtley, 4/19)
All three locations will offer primary care and will facilitate telemedicine visits, while two will provide some specialty, laboratory, pharmacy and radiology services.
The San Francisco Business TImes:
Kaiser Permanente Is Coming To Santa Cruz, With Plans To Open 3 Medical Office Buildings
Kaiser Permanente plans to come to the Santa Cruz area, aiming to begin offering care from Jan. 1 at three locations. Pending regulatory approval, the Oakland-based healthcare provider said Tuesday it will begin offering commercial and Covered California coverage and care in the area. It plans to open three medical office buildings: in downtown Santa Cruz, at the Crossroads Center in Watsonville, and at the Granite Creek Business Center in Scotts Valley. (Parker, 4/19)
In other news —
The Bakersfield Californian:
Kern Health Systems No Longer Interested In City Land
After trying to come to terms for six months, Kern Health Systems has let Bakersfield officials know it is no longer interested in buying 5 ½ acres of city land downtown and building new offices for 350 employees there. (Douglas, 4/19)
"We are delighted to have someone with Andrei [Soran's] significant leadership experience join us in revitalizing our hospital facilities" in Northern and Southern California, CEO Mitchell Creem said in a statement.
The San Francisco Business Times:
Verity Health System Hires COO After Daughters Of Charity Buy
Verity Health System, which owns the former Daughters of Charity Health System hospitals, has hired Andrei Soran as president and COO, as it struggles to reach profitability. The appointment took effect April 18. The newly minted California system, based in Redwood City, launched Dec. 14. It's the operating unit for Blue Mountain Capital Management, the New York hedge fund that acquired the former Daughters of Charity hospitals, including Daly City's Seton Medical Center, San Jose's O'Connor Hospital, Gilroy's Saint Louise Regional Hospital and Seton Coastside in Moss Beach, plus two Los Angeles facilities, late last year. (Rauber, 4/19)
Dr. David J. Shulkin, the VA health undersecretary, says Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, had correctly identified the problems at Oxnard's clinic when she referred to having interim directors and problems retaining staff members. "You need permanent leadership in place; you need experienced leadership ... so we brought in an experienced leader there. I think you're seeing that makes a difference," Shulkin said.
Oxnard’s VA Clinic One Of Worst In U.S. In Delays Getting Appointment
Oxnard's outpatient clinic for veterans has significant backlogs with appointments for primary care, officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledged Tuesday at a congressional hearing. Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, said data indicated Oxnard's record is one of the worst in the country for meeting the standard of seeing patients within 30 days. Only individual clinics in Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia have worse timeliness scores, records show. The department has put a new manager in charge of the region to help address the issue, the VA undersecretary for health told a House committee at the hearing. (Sullivan, 4/19)
Second Genome plans to use the cash to push its lead drug through a mid-stage clinical trial for inflammation and pain in patients with a bowel disease called ulcerative colitis.
The San Francisco Business Times:
Gut Instinct Leads Peninsula Company To $42 Million
If it takes a microbial village to cause or protect humans from certain diseases, Second Genome Inc. is a little closer to moving to town. The South San Francisco company — developing drugs that seize on changes to the bacterial playground in the gut, known as the microbiome — snagged $42.6 million in a Series B round co-led by the venture capital units of drug giants Pfizer Inc. and Roche. (Leuty, 4/20)
Dr. Steve Rosenberg talks about how immunotherapy — using the body's own immune system to fight — could be the best way to fight cancer.
The San Francisco Business Times:
Is This The Next Big Thing In Cancer Treatment? Watch And Find Out
Dr. Steve Rosenberg is a well-known cancer surgeon -- he is known enough to be the cancer surgeon for former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. But, while surgery has been his calling card of sorts, his true passion is finding a way to make surgery obsolete when it comes to treating cancer. (Johnston, 4/19)
In other news, cancer advocacy groups come out swinging for "moonshot" resources —
Windfall For Cancer Research Sets Off A Scramble For Clout
With the Obama administration swinging behind Biden’s “moonshot” effort, and with the National Institutes of Health looking to build on its biggest funding increase in 12 years, cancer advocacy organizations see a window of opportunity to gain additional funding and attention for their respective causes. But if the history of cancer politics in Washington is any guide, the competition will be intense. There are more than 75 cancer advocacy groups that try to make their case in Washington, and while they may share broad goals, scarce resources have long engendered competition among them, fueling tension that is only likely to intensify with more money at stake. (Nather and Kaplan, 4/19)
The 17 cases that were grouped into the cluster due to how quickly they emerged without apparent cause are still shrouded in mystery, but health officials say they are investigating any connection. Meanwhile, no new cases have been reported in the past two weeks.
The Ventura County Star:
Cluster Of Mysterious Heart Cases May Be Over
Health officials said they're hopeful an unexplained cluster of sudden heart illnesses that caused two deaths has played itself out. "I hope it's over. I think it's over but we'll stay vigilant," said Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County public health officer. Over the past several weeks, county health officials reported confirming 17 unexplained cases of the condition that involves a weakened heart muscle, with most emerging in February and March. Two people died. (Kisken, 4/19)
Elsewhere in California —
The Bakersfield Californian:
Challenge To Assisted Living Development On Tuesday's Council Docket
Residents unhappy with last month's Bakersfield Planning Commission review of a 112-unit assisted living and memory care facility in the northeast will take their case to the Bakersfield City Council on Wednesday night. (Douglas, 4/19)
The Sacramento Business Journal:
Anti-Abortion Activist Pleads Guilty To Threatening StemExpress CEO
A Washington man who threatened the life of a local life-sciences company CEO pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento. (Anderson, 4/19)