- Covered California & The Health Law 1
- UnitedHealth's Exit From State's Obamacare Exchange To Have Little Impact On California Consumers
- Veterans Health Care 1
- Legislation To Fund Calif. VA Clinics Put On Hold Over Political Spat About Benefits
Latest From California Healthline:
Though United’s presence was small, its departure from the nation’s largest state underscores insurers’ ongoing dissatisfaction with Obamacare exchanges. (Chad Terhune, 5/31)
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Summaries Of The News:
Although it's a key market, the decision will affect less than one-tenth of a percent of consumers on the exchange, a Covered California official says.
The Wall Street Journal:
UnitedHealth To Exit Key ACA Market
UnitedHealth Group Inc. told brokers that it has filed paperwork to offer plans in just six states’ health-law marketplaces next year, providing the most complete picture so far of its previously announced widespread withdrawal. The biggest U.S. health insurer said in April that it would pull out of all but a handful of the 34 states where it was selling the Affordable Care Act exchange plans, in the wake of mounting losses in that business. Since then, the insurer’s 2017 exchange decisions have been emerging piecemeal as various state regulators disclosed that UnitedHealth wouldn’t be in their exchanges next year. (Wilde Mathews, 5/31)
UnitedHealth To Exit California’s Obamacare Market
Critics of the Affordable Care Act have seized on the company’s exit, state by state, as further evidence the health-law insurance exchanges aren’t sustainable financially and that premiums will rise even higher for consumers. The Obama administration has countered that the number of health plans offering exchange policies has increased since the 2014 launch, and that it expects the individual market will continue to stabilize as adjustments are made. (Terhune, 5/31)
Los Angeles Times:
UnitedHealth To Stop Selling Obamacare Coverage In California
United’s move will have almost no effect on Covered California, as the insurer has only about 1,200 members this year, accounting for less than one tenth of 1% of the marketplace’s 1.4 million consumers. United’s current customers will continue to have coverage through the end of this year. But they will have to select new coverage for 2017 during the open enrollment period this fall. “We will learn in July whether any new plans will join Covered California or if any of our existing plans will expand their coverage areas, as they did in 2016,” said Covered California spokesman James Scullary. (Levey, 5/31)
The Senate bill directs the state to petition the government to allow individuals who are in the country illegally to purchase health care through Covered California under the Affordable Care Act. They would not be eligible for subsidies.
California Assembly OKs Asking Feds To Allow Undocumented Immigrants Access To Covered California
The California Assembly approved a bill on Tuesday that would permit undocumented immigrants access to Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace. Under federal law undocumented immigrants are barred from any of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Senate Bill 10 would direct California to ask the federal government for a waiver that would permit undocumented immigrants the option to buy insurance on Covered California — with their own money. It passed by a vote of 54-19. (Aliferis, 5/31)
The Sacramento Bee:
California Nears Letting Undocumented Immigrants Buy Healthcare
Already at the forefront of enacting immigrant-friendly policies, California could become the first state permitting immigrants to use the insurance exchanges created by the new federal healthcare law. Senate Bill 10 would have California petition the federal government for the right to do so. Undocumented immigrants using the exchange would not be eligible for the public subsidies that extend to other lower-income shoppers. (White, 5/31)
The halt in consideration of the bill throws into limbo plans to build outpatient clinics in the California cities of Alameda, Oxnard and Santa Rosa; to increase earthquake protections to buildings in Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Francisco; to construct a research facility in Mission Bay; and to realign medical facilities in Livermore.
The Fresno Bee:
California VA Construction Plans On Hold In Battle Over Benefits
A political spat over veterans’ benefits has prompted a powerful committee chairman to put a hold on legislation that would have authorized $866 million worth of construction at several Veterans Affairs medical facilities in California. Rep. Jeff Miller, the Chumuckla, Fla., Republican who chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, postponed discussion of the bill last week after veterans advocacy groups began complaining to lawmakers that the bill would result in a reduction in cost-of-living benefits for veterans. (Ybarra, 5/31)
Maria Spivey is one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Kaiser Permanente, whom she blames for her daughter not getting proper mental health treatment.
San Diego Mother Mourns While Mental Health Gaps Persist
At first [Maria] Spivey blamed herself. But later, she blamed Kaiser Permanente. Spivey says the HMO failed to take care of her daughter. When Chloe started having trouble with depression and anxiety in middle school, Kaiser told her she couldn’t get weekly individual therapy. “There’s no one-on-one,” Spivey remembers being told. Chloe had attempted suicide once before, when she was 16. Even then, Kaiser did not schedule her into individual therapy. Instead she was put into a weekly group for teens with drug abuse problems. “They didn’t discuss depression, anxiety, PTSD,” Spivey says. No one asked if she was feeling suicidal. “Chloe told me more often than not, ‘Mom, this is not what I need.'” (Dembosky, 5/31)
The company was deterred by regulatory roadblocks it encountered in its efforts to get the experimental drug approved. In other news, drugmaker Grifols S.A. is entering a partnership with diagnostics company Singulex Inc.
San Francisco Business Times:
BioMarin's $700M Bet Becomes 'Sucker Punch' For Rare Disease Patients
BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. killed development of an experimental treatment for a rare muscle-weakening disease and a trio of potential follow-on drugs, the company said Tuesday, dealing a blow to patients and advocates pressing for FDA approval of a therapy. (Leuty, 5/31)
San Francisco Business Times:
Big East Bay Drug Company Buys Into Small East Bay Diagnostic Company
Spanish drug and diagnostics maker Grifols S.A. will spend $50 million for a 20 percent stake in diagnostics company Singulex Inc. and an exclusive worldwide license for the Alameda company's technology for screening donor blood and plasma. (Leuty, 5/31)
The overall objective of the campaign in Orange County is to strengthen the health care sector’s response to domestic violence as a public health crisis.
The Orange County Register:
O.C. Program Urges Expanded Approach To Identifying Domestic Violence
Health care providers routinely ask patients about blood pressure, diet, exercise and other information vital to maintaining good health. An initiative launched in May in Orange County intends to add a new routine query to women’s medical visits: Are you experiencing domestic violence? The Domestic Violence and Health Collective – Orange County will enlist physicians, nurses and other medical personnel, along with the general public, in thinking about domestic violence as a public health crisis. A public awareness campaign will roll out over the next two years and include free trainings for health care providers on how to discuss domestic violence with patients, advertising aboard buses and at bus shelters, and a centralized clearinghouse of resources and information. (Walker, 5/31)
The legislation was signed May 4, giving public health leaders only a little over a month to educate those selling tobacco on the new law.
The Orange County Register:
O.C. Merchants Prepare For Smoking Age To Rise From 18 To 21
The cigarettes are stashed behind the counter at Antojitos Latinos Market, along with the Lotto tickets. But starting next week, 18-year-old customers will only be allowed to buy a Scratcher, not a pack of smokes. (Perkes, 5/31)
In other news from across the state —
The Sacramento Bee:
UC Davis’ Cancer Center Director De Vere White To Step Down
Ralph de Vere White, the longtime director of the UC Davis comprehensive cancer center who elevated its stature nationally while expanding its campus locally, announced Tuesday he is stepping down on June 29. (Buck, 5/31)
Capital Public Radio:
UC Davis Mind Institute Works To Help School-Age Kids With Autism
Researchers at the UC Davis' MIND Institute want to find the best way to help children with autism spectrum disorder excel in school. Most studies focus on development in pre-schoolers. (Johnson, 5/31)
The Desert Sun:
Desert Cooling Centers Opening Early Due To Friday Heat
Cooling Centers across the Coachella Valley will be activated nearly two weeks ahead of schedule because of high triple-digit temperatures that are expected to hit somewhat earlier than usual. The cooling centers -- complete with water, snacks and other supplies -- are typically available by mid-June when warm conditions become more consistent, said Jose Arballo, spokesman for the Riverside County Public Health Department. But they should be open by Friday when temperatures are expected to reach 114 degrees. (Atagi, 5/31)
The nurses want the party to embrace a single-payer, government-run health plan that Sen. Bernie Sanders touts.
The Wall Street Journal:
Nurses Seek Democratic Showdown
The 185,000-strong National Nurses United is the scrubs-wearing symbol of a split in the Democratic Party that threatens to inflict damage at the presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia. While Hillary Clinton tries to bring the nomination battle to a close and unite the party before the general election showdown with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, the nurses are having none of it. They are looking for a fight. ... The nurses aren’t deterred by delegate math showing Mrs. Clinton with an all-but-insurmountable lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders. Nor are they much interested in smoothing over rifts. With at least 150 nurses set to attend the convention as pro-Sanders delegates, they will travel to Philadelphia for one last effort to land him the nomination. (Nicholas, 5/31)
CDC's report shows the an increase in U.S. deaths for the first time in a decade. Although scientists say it could be a fluke, they say they are surprised by the trend. “We are not accustomed to seeing death rates increase on a national scale,” said Andrew Fenelon, a researcher at the CDC.
The New York Times:
American Death Rate Rises For First Time In A Decade
The death rate in the United States rose last year for the first time in a decade, preliminary federal data show, a rare increase that was driven in part by more people dying from drug overdoses, suicide and Alzheimer’s disease. The death rate from heart disease, long in decline, edged up slightly. Death rates — measured as the number of deaths per 100,000 people — have been declining for years, an effect of improvements in health, disease management and medical technology. (Tavernise, 6/1)
In other national health care news —
GOP: Administration Ignoring ObamaCare Subpoenas
House Republicans say that the Obama administration is ignoring subpoenas for documents related to ObamaCare spending they call illegal. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tuesday calling on it to comply. (Sullivan, 5/31)
The Associated Press:
Poll: People Unsure About Ability To Pay For Long-Term Care
Demand for long-term care is expected to increase as the nation ages, but the majority of Americans 40 and older lack confidence in their ability to pay for it. The annual cost of long-term care expenses range from $17,680 for adult day care to more than $92,000 for a private room in a nursing home, according to Genworth Financial. Yet an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey finds that a third of Americans 40 and older have done no planning for their own-long term care needs, such as setting aside money to pay for a home aide or to help with daily activities or a room in a nursing home. (6/1)
Conspiracy Theories Muddy Zika Public Health Message
The Zika virus is not being spread by genetically engineered mosquitoes, nor is it transmitted through vaccines. It also is not part of a plan by pharmaceutical companies to boost sales of a future vaccine. The rumors, conspiracy theories and myths about the virus being shared on social media and by word of mouth are seemingly as contagious as the disease. (Cohn, 5/31)