Latest From California Healthline:
Millennials and Gen Zers say they often feel isolated even when surrounded by friends — both real and virtual. (Sharon Jayson, )
Well-known insurers are offering plans with lower premiums. But they could leave patients on the hook for unexpected costs. (Julie Appleby, )
Good morning! The director of NIH’s cancer center has been tapped to lead the FDA in an acting capacity following the surprise resignation of Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar faces congressional fire over President Donald Trump’s budget proposals. More on those stories below, but first here is you top California health news for the day.
Gov. Newsom To Place Indefinite Moratorium On Death Penalty: It's 'Inconsistent With Our Bedrock Values': Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign an order Wednesday that will impose a moratorium on the death penalty in California, saying no one will be executed by the state while he is in office. Newsom cited racial disparities and costs and justification for the decision, citing the fact that the death sentence is overwhelmingly applied to people of color and those who have suffered from severe developmental disabilities, brain damage and childhood trauma. Newsom’s office also argued that the death penalty had cost the state more than $5 billion to administer since 1978, with no measurable savings in terms of public safety or lower homicide rates.
But Newsom also made a point to highlight how the ethics of government-sanctioned corporal punishment played a role in his decision. “I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people,’’ Newsom said. “In short, the death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.” California joins Pennsylvania, Oregon and Colorado, whose governors have used their powers to impose moratoriums on executions. Twenty states, plus the District of Columbia, have now abolished or overturned the death penalty.
As recently as 2016, California voters rejected a ballot that would have abolished the death penalty in the state, so Newsom may face some political fallout from the decision.
Advocates Call On California To Create Task Force To Deal With Rising Rates Of HIV, STDs In State: A coalition of 133 health-related groups in California want the state to create a task force that would address the intertwined public health crises of HIV, other STDs and hep C. California leads the nation in the number of new HIV diagnoses, and more than 400,000 residents are living with the viral infection hepatitis C. “Bold action is needed to integrate our response to these epidemics and eliminate health disparities and inequities,” the coalition said in its consensus statement. It’s unclear whether Gov. Gavin Newsom supports spending $2 million on a new task force, but the approach is already having success in other states. In New York, HIV diagnoses dropped nine percent in just one year. Read more from the California Health Report.
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.
More News From Across The State
California Has A Giant Surplus—Of Ideas For New Taxes
California is enjoying a projected $21.4 billion surplus. Three-quarters of the state believes any new revenue increase should be for voters to decide. By population and percentage of personal income, this state already has the nation’s 10th highest tax burden. And the leader of the California Senate, Pro Tem Toni Atkins, has pointedly cautioned against any more levies that take cash out of the pockets of working families. (Lin, 3/11)
The Associated Press:
Trump Vs. California Immigration Suit Heads To Appeals Court
The Trump administration will try to persuade a U.S. appeals court on Wednesday to block California laws aimed at protecting immigrants, seeking a win in one of numerous lawsuits between the White House and the Democratic-dominated state. At issue in the hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a 2018 administration lawsuit over three California laws that extended protections to people in the country illegally. (3/13)
Los Angeles Times:
Orange County Devotes $600,000 To First Suicide-Prevention Program
The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to devote $600,000 to begin the first countywide suicide-prevention program aimed at combating a spiraling mental health crisis. The Orange County Health Care Agency will direct the funds to the nonprofit MindOC, which will seek to increase awareness, provide resources to those in need, support existing programs and host educational community events to support those with mental health issues and their families. (Brazil, 3/12)
Ventura County Star:
Flu Deaths Double In Ventura County But Remain Far Below Last Year
Flu deaths in Ventura County doubled in the past month in a rise a public health official said is not unusual but is evidence of a still-lingering season marked by two different strains of the flu. As of Tuesday, 10 people in the county had suffered flu-linked deaths during the current flu season, including four people younger than 65, said Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin. Since Feb. 12, five people had died. (Kisken, 3/12)
Patrick Mulvaney Aims To Help Workers With Drug, Alcohol Issues
The chef/co-owner of Mulvaney’s B&L has recruited people for mental health treatment classes, installed a support program in his own restaurant and is helping create a formal resource and advocacy network for restaurant workers. When combined with the work he and his wife/co-owner Bobbin have done to support and develop the farm-to-fork movement, it was enough for the couple to be named the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Sacramentans of the Year in January. (Egel, 3/13)
The New York Times:
National Cancer Chief, Ned Sharpless, Named F.DA.’s Acting Commissioner
Dr. Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute, will serve as acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Alex M. Azar III, secretary of health and human services, announced on Tuesday. Dr. Sharpless temporarily will fill the post being vacated by Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who stunned public health experts, lawmakers and consumer groups last week when he abruptly announced that he was resigning for personal reasons. (Kaplan, 3/12)
The Wall Street Journal:
National Cancer Institute Director Ned Sharpless To Be Acting FDA Commissioner
Dr. Sharpless, a native of Greensboro, N.C., studied math at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he also got his medical degree before completing his internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was a clinical and research fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Dr. Sharpless is the candidate favored by Dr. Gottlieb for the permanent job of FDA commissioner, according to a person familiar with the issue. Dr. Giroir has been backed by Mr. Azar, the person said. Dr. Giroir declined to comment. (Burton, 3/12)
Cancer Institute Director Named Acting FDA Commissioner
Azar said in a statement that Sharpless’ "deep scientific background and expertise" will make him a strong leader for FDA. He added, "There will be no let-up in the agency’s focus, from ongoing efforts on drug approvals and combating the opioid crisis to modernizing food safety and addressing the rapid rise in youth use of e-cigarettes.” (Owermohle, 3/12)
National Cancer Institute Chief To Serve As Acting FDA Head
"We have no doubt that Dr. Sharpless will continue to navigate and direct the FDA in a manner that best benefits patients, and we look forward to executing critical work with him in his new role," Ellen Sigal, founder and chair of Friends of Cancer Research, said in a statement. The search for a permanent FDA chief is still under way. (3/12)
The Washington Post:
Nation’s Cancer Chief Appointed Acting FDA Commissioner
Part of Sharpless’s appeal is that he could start at the FDA relatively quickly. It’s also possible he would be nominated as permanent commissioner later. He has never been confirmed by the Senate — which is not required for the National Cancer Institute post or acting head of the FDA. But as a presidential appointee, he has been extensively vetted and has divested himself of financial holdings that could pose conflicts of interest. Sharpless has contributed to a number of Democratic candidates, including a total of $750 to Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, according to Federal Election Commission records. (McGinley and Goldstein, 3/12)
The Associated Press:
NIH Cancer Chief To Serve As Acting FDA Commissioner
Last Tuesday, Gottlieb said he would step in down in April after less than two years leading the FDA, a massive public health agency that regulates the food, drug, medical device and tobacco industries, among others. He was widely viewed as one of President Donald Trump’s most effective administrators, serving as a key messenger on the federal response to rising drug prices, the opioid epidemic and underage use of e-cigarettes. (Perrone, 3/12)
The New York Times:
Congress Warns Against Medicaid Cuts: ‘You Just Wait For The Firestorm’
If President Trump allows states to convert Medicaid into a block grant with a limit on health care spending for low-income people, he will face a firestorm of opposition in Congress, House Democrats told the nation’s top health official on Tuesday. The official, Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, endured more than four hours of bipartisan criticism over the president’s budget for 2020, which would substantially reduce projected spending on Medicaid, Medicare and biomedical research. (Pear, 3/12)
Trump's Medicaid Budget Plan Could Hit States, Enrollees Hard
The $1.5 trillion Medicaid cuts and the national work requirement in President Donald Trump's new proposed budget inject fresh uncertainty into the fate of current state efforts by Republicans to overhaul the healthcare program for poor and disabled Americans. While details in the budget document are sparse, it appears the administration wants to replace the existing state waiver process for testing changes with a new national program granting states unfettered flexibility to customize their Medicaid programs, accompanied by tight federal spending caps. That's similar to the Senate Republicans' Graham-Cassidy plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in 2017, which failed to pass. (Meyer, 3/11)
The Associated Press:
Trump's Cuts To Medicare Hospital Payments Trigger An Outcry
Democrats are accusing President Donald Trump of going back on his campaign promise to protect Medicare after he introduced a 2020 budget that calls for steep cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals. The budget embodies long-standing Republican ambitions "to make Medicare wither on the vine," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday. (3/12)
The New York Times:
UnitedHealthcare Will Expand A Drug Discount Program Aimed At Lowering Consumer Costs
The insurance giant UnitedHealthcare said Tuesday that it will expand a program that passes drug discounts directly to consumers, a move that could lower costs for many who have struggled with high deductible payments and other out-of-pocket expenses. United said the plan would take effect next year and would be required for all new employer clients, although existing clients would be permitted to continue under the older system. Those clients will be “encouraged” to adopt the new plan when their contracts expire, but will not be required to do so, according to Matthew Stearns, a spokesman for OptumRx, the pharmacy benefit manager that is owned by United. (Thomas, 3/12)
The New York Times:
Treated Like A ‘Piece Of Meat’: Female Veterans Endure Harassment At The V.A.
Corey Foster spent her Army career caring for wounded troops, both as a flight medic in the Iraq war and at Walter Reed hospital, so she looked forward to one of the most celebrated benefits of military service — health care for life from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Then she walked through the door at a V.A. medical center in Temple, Tex. “You felt like you were a piece of meat,” said Ms. Foster, 34, who retired as a sergeant. “Standing in line at the registration desk, I was getting comments from the male patients behind me, looking me up and down. It was a major source of discomfort.” (Steinhauer, 3/12)
US Opioid Drug Epidemic: J&J Called 'Kingpin' By Oklahoma
Johnson & Johnson was at the center of the burgeoning opioid-addiction crisis in America, operating like a drug kingpin by selling its version of the powerful painkiller as well as the active ingredient, according to newly unsealed court filings. J&J, through subsidiaries based in Tasmania, grew opium poppies used in its Nucynta medication and sold to other drugmakers for use in their opioid-based products, court filings in Oklahoma show. The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company also wrongfully targeted children and the elderly in its marketing, the state contends. (Feeley, 3/12)