Latest From California Healthline:
Californians must have health insurance starting next year or face a hefty tax penalty. But, as with the now-defunct federal tax penalty for being uninsured, some people will be exempt. (Bernard J. Wolfson, 12/11)
Good morning! Here are your top California health stories for the day.
Anti-Vaccination Advocates Throw In Towel Over Ballot Initiative To Roll Back New Exemption Rules: The organizers, Denise Aguilar, Heidi Munoz Gleisner and Tara Thornton did not gather enough signatures for the initiative to qualify for the 2020 ballot. SB 276 empowers the state to investigate doctors who grant more than five medical exemptions in a school year, as well as schools with vaccination rates lower than 95 percent. SB 714 allows children with existing medical exemptions to continue not getting vaccinated until their next immunization requirement, unless that exemption was granted by a doctor disciplined by the state medical board. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said that SB 276 is intended to close a “loophole” in state law that allowed “unscrupulous physicians” to sell medical exemptions to parents. Read more from Andrew Sheeler of the Sacramento Bee.
Following Bernard Tyson’s Unexpected Death, Kaiser Permanente Names New CEO: Gregory Adams has been serving as the interim chairman and CEO since Tyson’s death Nov. 10, and prior to that he was an executive vice president and group president, working closely with Tyson for many years. He joined Kaiser in 1999. “Kaiser Permanente will continue to move forward together to deliver on our mission: providing high-quality, affordable health care services, improving the health of our members and the communities we serve, and transforming American health and health care,” Adams said. Kaiser has typically promoted within, with previous CEOs having risen up in management ranks for decades before being tapped for the top leadership position. Read more from Catherine Ho of The San Francisco Chronicle.
State Panel Mulls Whether THC Products Should Be Declared Risk To Pregnant Warning, Carrying A Warning: Studies have indicated that a rising number of mothers-to-be have turned to marijuana products for relief from morning sickness and headaches, though it’s effectiveness has not been backed by science. Cannabis industry officials say too little sound research is available on THC to support such a move and warn that it could make marijuana companies a target for lawsuits with unverified claims of injuries from pot use during pregnancy. “That seems like an open-ended checkbook. How do we defend ourselves?” said Los Angeles dispensary owner Jerred Kiloh, who heads the United Cannabis Business Association, an industry group. The meeting Wednesday of the obscure state Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee in Sacramento will focus on whether THC causes “reproductive toxicity.” The panel is made up of scientists appointed by the governor. Read more from Michael R. Blood of The Associated Press.
Below, check out the full round-up of California Healthline original stories, state coverage and the best of the rest of the national news for the day.
Sign up to get the daily edition in your inbox
More News From Across The State
Why Lawful CA Gun Owners Are Being Denied Ammunition Purchases
Berg was one of tens of thousands of Californians who have been turned away from buying ammunition at firearms and sporting goods stores, even though they appear to be lawfully able to do so, a Sacramento Bee review of state data shows. Between July 1 and November, nearly one in every five ammunition purchases was rejected by the California Department of Justice, the figures show. (Sabalow, 12/11)
The California Health Report:
Fracking Ban A Start, But Broader Actions Needed To Protect Communities, Experts Say
A halt on permit approvals for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in California has drawn widespread praise from environmental activists, but experts say much broader policies are needed to protect the health of communities located near oil fields. Gov. Gavin Newsom stopped approval of new fracking and high-pressure steam injection operations in November pending reviews to ensure these oil-drilling techniques can be performed safely, without harming public health and the environment. The governor said the moratoriums are part of his administration’s efforts to phase out the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. (Boyd-Barrett, 12/10)
Los Angeles Times:
Congress To Halt Military Use Of Toxic Foam Contaminating Drinking Water
Congress has reached a deal on a spending bill that would require the military to stop using firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals linked to cancer, but would abandon efforts to place stronger regulations on the chemicals. The bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act, has been the focus of intense negotiations for months. (Phillips, 12/11)
Los Angeles Times:
To Bring A Boy's Murderers To Justice, A Prosecutor Wrestled With His Own Childhood Abuse
Reflecting on that episode now, Hatami described his public revelation as spontaneous — a split-second decision to highlight his own past. The 49-year-old prosecutor said that as a child, he was physically and verbally abused by his father and kidnapped and shuttled across the country by his mother, leading to years of emotional instability. And he believes that his experiences and years of self-reflection make him uniquely equipped to prosecute child abuse cases. (Gerber, 12/11)
CA Flu Activity Ramps Up Early This Season, Officials Say
California’s 2019-20 flu season started off early – and with a bang. According to the state Department of Public Health, clinical and commercial laboratories have not reported influenza activity this high this early in the flu season since the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009. State epidemiologist Erin Murray said lab results are just one way that CDPH gauges the severity of flu in the state. Her team also tracks how many people were diagnosed with flu, but not admitted to a hospital. In looking at that statistic for this season, Murray said she had to go back to the 2014-15 season to find as much flu activity. (Anderson, 12/11)
San Francisco Chronicle:
SF To Open First Site For Homeless Living Out Of Vehicles. Is It Enough?
The lot is being dubbed a “Vehicle Triage Center,” where people will have daily access to case managers, portable toilets and a portable shower three times a week. While city officials hail it as a productive first step toward addressing vehicular homelessness, others see it as an inadequate response to the crisis and a veiled attempt to clear RVs from residential neighborhoods. (Thadani, 12/10)
Volunteers Sought For Annual Modesto CA Homeless Count
Organizers of the annual count of Stanislaus County’s homeless population are asking for volunteers to help in the upcoming count in January. The count is set for Jan. 23.The Stanislaus Community System of Care and its predecessors have done these counts since 2005. The system of care is a collection of government agencies, faith-based groups, nonprofits and others who help homeless people. (Valine, 12/11)
The Desert Sun:
Martha's Village Partners With Borrego Health To Provide Health Care To Homeless
Borrego Health, the largest community health center network in California, announced on Tuesday that it has partnered with Martha's Village and Kitchen, a shelter and resource center for homeless individuals in Indio, to provide expanded health care services. The Federally Qualified Health Center will provide primary care, pediatric services, vaccinations and laboratory services to Martha's clients. Eventually, a pharmacy will operate onsite. The clinic will also help connect clients to other specialists in the community if needed. A full-time nurse practitioner, along with seven other staff members, will work out of the clinic. Borrego has moved into the existing onsite clinic that includes three exam rooms, a laboratory and treatment room. (Hayden, 12/10)
U.S. Supreme Court Justices Lean Toward Insurers On $12 Billion Obamacare Claims
U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared sympathetic to claims made by health insurers seeking $12 billion from the federal government under a program set up by the Obamacare law aimed at encouraging them to offer medical coverage to previously uninsured Americans. The justices considered a challenge by a group of insurers of a lower court's ruling that Congress had suspended the government's obligation to make such payments. (12/10)
Pelosi Brokers Deal With Liberals On Drug Pricing Bill
House Democratic leadership on Tuesday clinched a deal to win progressive leaders’ support for a sweeping drug pricing bill that could clear its path for passage in the full House on Thursday. The pact between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and progressive leaders includes an agreement to expand the government’s authority to directly negotiate drug prices under the legislation, ultimately requiring federal officials to hammer out the cost of at least 50 medicines a year, from the original 35. (Cancryn and Ferris, 12/10)
‘A F—Ing Soap Opera’: The Health Care Drama Riveting The White House
They’re not obsessing about the impeachment imbroglio consuming the rest of the Washington. At the West Wing’s Navy mess, in hallway asides and at staff meetings, many White House aides just want to chatter about an increasingly vicious public spat between two of President Donald Trump’s top health officials. Among top Trump aides, it’s now an open question as to whether Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma can survive the scale of bickering that has appalled and horrified people internally, a White House official said. (Cook, 12/11)
The Wall Street Journal:
White House Calls Top Health Officials For Meeting To Resolve Tensions
People familiar with the matter said distrust between Ms. Verma and Mr. Azar has arisen in part because some people at HHS suspect Ms. Verma leaked information to the media about former HHS Secretary Tom Price’s use of private and military planes for work travel. Reports about that travel led Mr. Price to resign last year. These people also said the tension is partly fueled by a belief that Ms. Verma wants the HHS secretary position. Allies of Ms. Verma have said she played no role in providing leaks to the press about Mr. Price’s travel and that she wasn’t aware he was doing it. (Armour, 12/10)
The New York Times:
Trump Aides And Democrats Agree On Trade Pact With Mexico And Canada
The White House and House Democrats reached an agreement to strengthen labor, environmental, pharmaceutical and enforcement provisions in President Trump’s North American trade pact, a significant development that made it all but certain that the signature trade deal would become law. ... One of the most significant revisions will roll back protections for new pharmaceutical products, in particular an advanced class of drugs called biologics, which were initially given 10 years of patent protection from cheaper alternatives. It also removed language that would ensure patent protections when drug companies find new uses for their existing products, a process known as “evergreening.” (Cochrane and Swanson, 12/10)
The New York Times:
Buttigieg Discloses Ex-Clients As Fundraising Swing Begins
Facing intense pressure to answer questions about his work in the private sector, Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday disclosed a roster of former consulting clients that include a major health insurance provider, a nationwide electronics retailer, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. (12/10)
The Wall Street Journal:
Six CEOs And No Operating Room: The Impossible Job Of Fixing The Indian Health Service
Three years ago, the U.S. Indian Health Service needed a savior for its hospital in Rosebud, S.D. The federal health-care agency was forced to shut down the emergency department under pressure from federal regulators. Capt. Michael Weahkee seemed the man for the job, having run the IHS’s flagship hospital in Phoenix. He launched quality-improvement efforts and got the hospital’s emergency department running again, before departing later that year to resume his Phoenix post. He signed off with a laudatory email to the Rosebud hospital staff: “For those of you who have weathered this storm, I salute you.” (Wilde Mathews and Weaver, 12/10)
The New York Times:
The I.R.S. Sent A Letter To 3.9 Million People. It Saved Some Of Their Lives.
Three years ago, 3.9 million Americans received a plain-looking envelope from the Internal Revenue Service. Inside was a letter stating that they had recently paid a fine for not carrying health insurance and suggesting possible ways to enroll in coverage. New research concludes that the bureaucratic mailing saved lives. Three Treasury Department economists have published a working paper finding that these notices increased health insurance sign-ups. Obtaining insurance, they say, reduced premature deaths by an amount that exceeded any of their expectations. (Kliff, 12/10)
The Washington Post:
Facebook Ads Pushed Misinformation About HIV Prevention, PrEP, LGBT Activists Say
Facebook users have been bombarded with misleading ads about medication meant to prevent the transmission of HIV, according to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates, who say the tech giant’s refusal to remove the content has created a public-health crisis. The ads have been viewed millions of times in recent months, Facebook’s archive reveals, and LGBT organizations argue they’ve had a dire effect: They’ve scared patients, potentially those who may be most at risk of contracting HIV, out of taking preventative drugs, known as PrEP, even though health officials and federal regulators have said they are safe. (Romm, 12/9)