- California Healthline Original Stories 2
- California Attorney General And Santa Clara County Face Off Over Sale Of Two Hospitals
- Nonprofit Dental Insurer Under Scrutiny For ‘Flagrant’ Spending
- Medi-Cal 1
Latest From California Healthline:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is trying to prevent Santa Clara County from buying two local nonprofit hospitals unless it pledges to maintain certain critical health care services. County officials warn the hospitals will close if the attorney general succeeds, leaving area residents with fewer health care choices. (Samantha Young and Barbara Feder Ostrov, 1/29)
Delta Dental of California, with more than 36 million enrollees across the country, is looking to buy a stake in a for-profit insurance company based in Oregon. Consumer advocates are calling on regulators to scrutinize the transaction, arguing that it is just the latest questionable move by the nonprofit dental insurer whose corporate practices may be out of step with its tax-exempt status. (Anna Maria Barry-Jester, 1/30)
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Here's your top California news of the day.
• Bankruptcy Judge Tentatively Blocks Becerra’s Attempts To Interfere With Hospital Sale
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ernest Robles maintained his previous stance that Attorney General Xavier Becerra lacks the authority to regulate the sales of private hospitals to public entities. The sale of O’Connor Hospital and St. Louise Regional Hospitals to the county of Santa Clara has drawn public attention recently after the county went on a media blitz against Becerra’s attempts to interfere in the deal. Becerra cited concerns over conditions that were imposed on the hospitals’ private owners in 2015, but the county argued they were essentially redundant to other statutes. Read more in The Mercury News.
• Suit Accuses Long Beach Hospital Of Dumping Patient Outside Locked Alzheimer’s Facility In Middle Of Night
Security video shows Savina Genoese Zerbi, wearing a bathrobe and sandals while clutching a large envelope, attempting to get into an Alzheimer’s treatment facility. The issue of patient dumping has drawn state-level and national scrutiny over the past year, the public outrage prompting lawmakers to pass a measure last year requiring hospitals to have discharge policies in place. Read more in the Orange County Register.
• For Inmates, It Can Take Months To Pay Off Even Inexpensive Medical Bills. Proposed Legislation Would Provide Relief.
Some inmates are left choosing between buying a bar of soap and seeing a doctor because even a $5 co-pay can be tough to pay back when earning 18 cents an hour. State prison inmates are not charged a co-payment for mental health treatment or in the case of emergencies, but they are charged when the voluntarily seek medical care. A proposed bill would eliminate those co-pays. “They are patients with nowhere else to go, so why do we even bother with co-pays?” Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) says in the Los Angeles Times’ coverage.
• Improving Access To Mental Health Services Should Be A Top Priority For Lawmakers, Californians Say In Poll
About half of Californians say their community needs more mental health providers, and among those who said they or a family member sought mental health treatment in the past year, about a quarter said they had to wait longer than they thought was reasonable for an appointment. Read more from Capitol Public Radio.
• Simultaneous House, Senate Hearings On High Drug Prices Set The Stage For Pharma's New Reality On Capitol Hill
The pharmaceutical industry was put on notice Tuesday when two powerful congressional committees placed high drug prices firmly at the top of their agendas. “Drug companies make money hand over fist by raising the prices of their drugs — often without justification and sometimes overnight — while patients are left holding the bill," said House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) at the House hearing. Over in the Senate, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was adamant about bringing drug company executives in front of lawmakers to answer questions on high costs. Read more here.
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. Media outlets report on news about Medi-Cal, veterans' health, immigration, air pollution, Camp Fire survivors, "Medicare for All" and more.
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More News From Across The State
The Mercury News:
Judge Rejects Attorney General's Attempt To Block Sale Of O'Connor And St. Louise Hospitals
A Los Angeles bankruptcy judge has tentatively denied a request by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to block the sale of O’Connor Hospital and St. Louise Regional Hospital to the county of Santa Clara, ruling Becerra doesn’t have the authority to regulate the deal. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ernest Robles, who ruled in December that the attorney general doesn’t have the authority to regulate the sale of private hospitals to public entities, wrote that Becerra’s attorneys have made the same argument they did when he ruled against them in December. (Vo, 1/29)
Orange County Register:
Long Beach Hospital Dumped 84-Year-Old Woman With Dementia Outside Locked Care Facility, Daughter Claims
An 84-year-old woman suffering from dementia was placed in a cab after treatment at a Long Beach hospital and then dumped in the middle of the night outside a locked Alzheimer’s treatment facility, according to a complaint filed with the state by the woman’s daughter. ... Security video shows Savina Genoese Zerbi, wearing a bathrobe and sandals while clutching a large envelope, first attempting to open the front door to Regency Palms on East Eighth Street in Long Beach at 2:17 a.m. Jan. 13. (Schwebke, 1/29)
Los Angeles Times:
A Bill Would End A $5 Co-Pay That Has Some California Inmates Choosing Between Buying Soap Or Seeing A Doctor
Thousands of California inmates like Watson struggle to cover their healthcare costs in prison every year, and Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) says the state should ease some of the burden. He has introduced a bill that would prevent the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from charging a co-pay for self-initiated medical and dental visits that has some inmates choosing between buying soap or visiting the doctor. (Ulloa, 1/29)
Capital Public Radio:
Mental Health Treatment Tops Californians' Concerns Around Health Care, Poll Finds
The California Legislature is poised to make health care a priority this year, and Gov. Gavin Newsom recently proposed expanding coverage to more residents. A new poll of roughly 1,400 Californians from the California Health Care Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation shows health care issues, and especially mental health treatment, was a top concern for respondents. (Caiola, 1/29)
Orange County Register:
Orange County Approves $16.6M For ‘First-Of-Its-Kind’ Mental-Health Center, Psychiatric ER
Orange County approved funding Tuesday for a first-of-its-kind mental health center and psychiatric emergency room, filling a void that has left mentally-ill patients in the county with inadequate treatment and burdened local hospitals. The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to allocate $16.6 million to the $40-million project, which will be co-funded and jointly-operated with two local hospital chains and CalOptima, the county’s health care system for the poor, elderly and disabled. (Graham, 1/29)
Los Angeles Times:
California Has Mismanaged Its Veterans Home Properties, Audit Finds
California has “mismanaged” properties where its state-run veterans homes are located, failing to charge market rents to private users and shortchanging programs that should benefit from the leases, a state audit concluded Tuesday. The head of the California Department of Veterans Affairs agreed with the findings and said changes would be made, while a leading state lawmaker said Tuesday she was pursuing legislation to make sure the properties were handled properly. (McGreevy, 1/29)
Ventura County Star:
Medi-Cal Plan Extends Pact With Pharmacy Giant, Citing Changes
A pharmacy giant in the heart of a storm that includes a lawsuit and a state audit is set to continue its role managing the pharmacy program for Gold Coast Health Plan until at least January 2021, according to a contract extension approved Monday night. OptumRx is being sued by a group of Ventura County mom-and-pop pharmacists who have complained for more than a year that the company has cut their Medi-Cal reimbursements so severely that some stores have gone out of business. Gold Coast’s $100 million-plus annual contract with OptumRx is also the focus of a review conducted by the California State Auditor’s Office. That audit report, requested last year by the state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee, is expected to be released in June. (Kisken, 1/29)
California Approves Plan To Clean Up Central Valley's Toxic Air
The California Air Resources Board on Thursday announced it's moving forward with a plan to clean up the toxic air that plagues the San Joaquin Valley.The region, which stretches from roughly Stockton to Bakersfield through the middle of the state, suffers some of the most dangerous air quality in the country. (Arcuni, 1/29)
Capital Public Radio:
Sacramento Police Must Improve Use-Of-Force Policies, California DOJ Report Says
In a review brought about by last year’s fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark, the California Department of Justice recommended on Tuesday more than 60 reforms for the Sacramento Police Department, including some related to de-escalation techniques, officer use of force, and investigating misconduct. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced his department’s 97-page report at a press conference with Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Police Chief Daniel Hahn. (Moffitt, 1/29)
Sonoma County Spills Spewed Nearly 3 Million Gallons Of Sewage Into Creeks And Bay
Sonoma County water officials, under order from the state to improve the capacity of their sewage system, say a valve malfunction and leaky pipes resulted in a string of spills this month that released 2.7 million gallons of waste and stormwater, some of which flowed into local creeks and San Pablo Bay. The largest spill occurred Jan. 12, when a faulty valve at a Sonoma County Water Agency treatment plant caused sewage to run backward in a pipeline that handles waste from homes and businesses in the Sonoma Valley. (Goldberg, 1/29)
Camp Fire: As Last Shelter Closes, Where Will Survivors Go?
Camp Fire survivors Lisa Butcher and Randy Viehmeyer remember waking up one night to the screams of a nearby shelter resident reliving the nightmare of watching her dog burn alive. Having bounced from one chaotic and sometimes dangerous shelter to another, the couple said they’ve experience a kind of volatile “hell” since their Paradise home burned down last November during the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. (Yoon-Hendricks, 1/30)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Mother’s Agonizing Wait Ends In SF: She’s Reunited With Baby Taken From Father By U.S. Officials At Border
A Honduran mother in San Francisco was reunited with her 17-month-old daughter on Tuesday night after spending a month desperately pleading with federal immigration authorities for the return of her baby who was separated from her father at the U.S.-Mexico border. The baby, Juliet, was sent to a shelter for migrant children in Texas after immigration officials took her from her father, whom they arrested Dec. 28 near Calexico. (Sanchez, 1/29)
The New York Times:
On Both Ends Of Capitol, Both Parties Warn Big Pharma On Drug Prices
Members of Congress from both parties served notice on pharmaceutical companies on Tuesday that the days of unchecked drug-price increases were over and that they would be held politically accountable for exorbitant prices. The new reality became apparent at simultaneous but separate hearings of House and Senate committees where lawmakers said that the relentless increases were unsustainable and unacceptable. (Pear, 1/29)
In Dueling Drug Pricing Hearings, Lawmakers In Both Parties Slam Pharma
Democrats here have, of late, been making far more noise about high prescription drug prices. But at two dueling hearings on Tuesday, the most powerful Republicans on each committee made their own mark. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee and a former chairman of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, kicked off his panel’s hearing by offering his support for a controversial proposal that would inflame drug makers: to potentially cut the lucrative exclusivity periods the government grants drug makers for their products. (Facher and Florko, 1/29)
The New York Times:
Kamala Harris And Michael Bloomberg Clash On Medicare For All
A day after Senator Kamala Harris of California endorsed ending private health insurance in favor of a “Medicare for all” government plan, Michael R. Bloomberg, a possible rival of hers for the Democratic presidential nomination, said the proposal would “bankrupt us for a very long time.” Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is considering a 2020 bid on a centrist Democratic platform, rejected the idea of “Medicare for all,” which has been gaining traction among Democrats. (Astor, 1/29)
Dems Hit GOP On Pre-Existing Conditions At Panel's First Policy Hearing
The powerful House Ways and Means Committee used its first policy hearing of the new Congress to hammer Republicans on pre-existing conditions, an issue that helped propel Democrats into the majority during the 2018 midterm elections. Democratic panel members highlighted actions by the Trump administration that they argue have hurt people with pre-existing conditions, like the expansion of non-ObamaCare plans that could draw healthy people from the markets, raising premiums for those left behind. (Hellmann, 1/29)
The Washington Post:
New Planned Parenthood Head Leana Wen Goes On Offensive Against Trump Administration
Planned Parenthood’s new president, Leana Wen, is gearing up for the battle of her life. With the Trump administration expected to announce its final plan for the $260 million in Title X family-planning funding any day, the organization is likely to take a huge hit. But Wen said the fight is far from over. Under the proposal announced in May, clinics that provide abortion services or referrals alongside family planning — such as Planned Parenthood — would be barred from receiving any money. Health centers are allowed to use nonfederal funds for abortions, but the new rule would require a “bright line” of physical and financial separation. Planned Parenthood serves about 41 percent of Title X patients and receives about $60 million from the program to provide basic services such as cancer screenings, birth control, screenings for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy tests and well-woman exams. (Cha, 1/29)
The New York Times:
‘I’m Cold And I’m Afraid’: Across Midwest, Homeless Await Deep Freeze
As temperatures in Midwestern cities plunged to levels colder than parts of Antarctica and officials warned people not to step outside even for a few minutes, Tony Neeley stood on a downtown Chicago street corner Tuesday, wearing wet sneakers and clutching a hand warmer packet in each of his bare hands. He had already been there for hours. “I’m cold and I’m afraid,” Mr. Neeley said, adding that he was trying to raise enough money from the bundled commuters rushing past to pay for a $45 motel room on a night that weather forecasters warned would send the Midwest into a deep freeze unlike anything even this region has seen in years. (Bosman and Davey, 1/29)
'We Know How To Survive,' But U.S. Shutdown Cuts Deep For Native Americans
The Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma used a GoFundMe page and its own money to feed its many members who were furloughed or worked without pay during the U.S. government shutdown. On their reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Sioux used third-party funds and dipped into tribal funds to provide food assistance. The 35-day partial government shutdown affected 800,000 federal workers, but Native Americans were especially vulnerable because they rely mostly on federal contracts for services and jobs in the Bureau of Indian affairs for incomes. (1/29)
Domestic Violence: Children Who See Abuse Suffer As Much As Those Abused
Latrelle Huff says her twins were conceived by rape. Now she blames domestic violence for her children's health problems. The Georgia woman says she had been in an abusive, on-and-off relationship for six years when she became pregnant. While pregnant, she says, the conflict continued. Huff spent 25 of 37 weeks on bed rest, she says, due in part to rectal bleeding her doctors said was caused by stress. (O'Donnell and Quarshie, 1/29)
Congress Takes On Unexpected Medical Bills, Sparking Industry Turf War
A bipartisan fix for surprise medical bills that are socking even well-insured Americans could be one of the few issues uniting Democrats and Republicans this year, but only if lawmakers find a way to contend with competing factions of the health industry, none of whom want to pick up the entire tab. The political appeal of the issue is such that even President Donald Trump last week hosted a roundtable of patients who shared stories of jaw-dropping medical costs — like a $16,000 charge for one emergency room visit. (Roubein and Cancryn, 1/29)
Coca-Cola And CDC: Paper Reveals Controversial Emails
Private emails between employees at the Coca-Cola Co. and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been exposed in a new research paper, raising questions about just how extensive of a relationship the soda company has had with the nation's public health agency. The paper, published Tuesday in the journal The Milbank Quarterly includes excerpts from emails and suggests that current and former Coca-Cola staff tried to influence the CDC by attempting to frame the debate around whether sugar-sweetened beverages play a role in America's obesity epidemic, as well as trying to lobby decision-makers. (Howard, 1/29)