- California Healthline Original Stories 3
- ‘Simple Choice Plans’ To Debut on Federal Exchanges In 2017
- Study Says Concerns About Orphan Drug Spending Are Unjustified
- Shhh! America’s Most Common Workplace Injury Is Hearing Loss
- Campaign 2016 2
- Majority Of Voters Support Ballot Measure Legalizing Recreational Pot, Poll Finds
- Clinton To Return To Trail; Trump Changes Plan For Dr. Oz Talk
- Around California 3
- Southern California Gas Agrees To Pay $4M After Leak Sickens Porter Ranch Residents
- Police Volunteers Check In On Elderly And Disabled Fremont Residents
- Advocates Urge Contra Costa Officials To Improve Mental Health Care System
- Public Health and Education 2
- 7 Children Hospitalized With Infections After Anaheim Dental Clinic Treatments
- Public Health Roundup: Ventura Among Counties That Will Offer Only Flu Shot, Not Spray
Latest From California Healthline:
Already in place in California, the standardized insurance options will help consumers nationwide better compare Obamacare health plans. (Michelle Andrews and Pauline Bartolone, 9/14)
A study in Health Affairs concludes that orphan drugs for rare diseases are not having a widespread or deep impact on health care spending. (Sarah Jane Tribble, 9/14)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hearing loss is the most common work-related injury. Approximately 22 million workers are exposed annually to hazardous levels of occupational noise. The Department of Labor is seeking new ways to turn down the volume. (Zhai Yun Tan, 9/14)
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More News From Across The State
The state has cut the uninsured rate in half since 2012. Nationally, the rate falls to 9.1 percent, and nearly 13 million more people are insured than when the health law began enrollment efforts in 2013, the Census Bureau reports.
The Sacramento Bee:
California Halves Medically Uninsured Rate To 8.6 Percent
California’s vigorous embrace of Obamacare, particularly its sharp expansion of Medi-Cal coverage for the poor, has reduced the state’s medically uninsured population by half, a new Census Bureau report says. Three years ago, California had one of the nation’s lowest rates of medical insurance coverage, with 17.2 percent of its nearly 40 million residents lacking coverage, but by 2015, its uninsured rate had dropped to 8.6 percent, the Census Bureau study found. (Walters, 9/13)
Capital Public Radio/KXJZ:
California's Uninsured Rate Falls But Poverty Rate Still High
The report on each state's uninsured population shows California has cut more than 3.1 million people, or 8.6 percent of the state's population, off the rolls of the uninsured. That’s largely due to the state’s active participation in the Affordable Care Act, including Medi-Cal expansion. California doesn't just lead the nation in the sheer number of people who are now insured – which would be predictable, given that California has by far the state’s most residents. It’s also reduced its uninsured population by a greater percent than any other state in the nation. Meanwhile, the Census Bureau also released poverty rates. Its traditional measurement pegs California’s poverty rate at 15 percent – roughly in the middle of the pack. (Adler, 9/13)
Kaiser Health News:
Number Of Uninsured Falls Again In 2015
The federal health overhaul may still be experiencing implementation problems. But new federal data show it is achieving its main goal — to increase the number of Americans with health insurance coverage. According to the annual report on health insurance coverage from the Census Bureau, the uninsured rate dropped to 9.1 percent, down from 10.4 percent in 2014. The number of Americans without insurance also dropped, to 29 million from 33 million the year before. (Rovner, 9/13)
Uninsured Rate Drops, But Medical Expenses Still Drag Millions Into Poverty
However, separate census data showed that medical out-of-pocket expenses dragged 11.2 million people into poverty in 2015, a potential symptom of the shift of moving employees and individuals into health plans that have higher deductibles, copays and coinsurance rates. “This (report) is really validating the point that the law is working to expand health insurance coverage,” said Erin Trish, a health policy professor at the University of Southern California. But, she said, “There's definitely evidence suggesting people are still having a hard time making their payments for the premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.” (Herman, 9/13)
Meanwhile, a report from Republican lawmakers questions the financial health of state-run exchanges —
GOP Report: State-Run ObamaCare Exchanges Are Headed For Collapse
The dozen ObamaCare exchanges run by the states are struggling financially and could be headed toward collapse over the next several years, according to a new report released Tuesday by House Republicans. All of the active state-run exchanges are still relying on federal dollars, nearly two years after they were supposed to be self-sustaining under law, according to a lengthy report by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Ferris, 9/13)
Gov. Jerry Brown cites budget constraints as the reason: “Tax breaks are the same thing as new spending."
Los Angeles Times:
Tax Candy, Not Tampons, Say Lawmakers Who Pushed For Sales Tax Exemptions
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed bills Tuesday that would have repealed the sales tax on diapers and tampons, saying that they would cost the state budget too much money. Now the two legislators who authored the legislation have an idea they say will make that argument irrelevant: Tax candy instead. (Dillon, 9/13)
Orange County Register:
La Palma Teens Inspire Argument For Elimination Of Pink Tax In California
Rachel and Helen Lee, 18, took to the Internet – gathering support from thousands of men and women in California and inspiring Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia and Ling Ling Chang to submit a bill ending sales and use taxes on pads, tampons, menstrual sponges and menstrual cups. On Tuesday, the Lees’ crusade came to a disappointing end when Gov. Jerry Brown announced his veto plans. (Whitehead, 9/13)
The Washington Post:
With Governor’s Veto, California’s ‘Tampon Tax’ Will Survive, For Now
A national movement is steadily gaining steam, and its backers have one simple demand: Stop taxing menstrual products. ... On Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have ended the state’s tax on menstrual products. The measure was one of seven pieces of legislation Brown killed Tuesday, citing the state’s budget woes. ... The veto is a rebuke of the state legislature, which unanimously approved the bill in August to much fanfare. Brown said that the state’s finances were “precariously balanced” and that lawmakers should have brought the measure up during budget deliberations. (Hawkins, 9/14)
According to the new survey, 58 percent say they will vote for Proposition 64, which would allow for personal marijuana use. Meanwhile, news outlets cover other marijuana-related stories.
Los Angeles Times:
Most California Voters Support Legalizing Recreational Marijuana, Poll Finds
Six years after a similar initiative was rejected, a clear majority of California voters supports a measure on the November ballot that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in their state, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. Proposition 64, which would legalize personal use, is backed by 58% of California voters, and that favorable view extends across most lines of age, race, income and gender, according to the survey. (McGreevy, 9/13)
A Question For Voters This Fall: Is Pot Bad For The Brain?
Five states are voting this fall on whether marijuana should be legal, like alcohol, for recreational use. That has sparked questions about what we know — and don't know — about marijuana's effect on the brain. Research is scarce. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. That classification puts up barriers to conducting research on it, including a cumbersome DEA approval application and a requirement that scientists procure very specific marijuana plants. (Bebinger, 9/13)
Does Access To Medical Marijuana Reduce Opioid Deaths?
In the United States, 25 states have legalized medical marijuana, including 19 that let patients with a prescription buy pot from dispensaries. Proponents argue that expanding the availability of medical marijuana reduces opioid abuse and overdose deaths because it gives people an alternative for pain relief.About 3 out of 5 opioid overdoses occur in people with legitimate prescriptions for pain pills. These are the people who might opt for medical marijuana instead. (Begley, 9/14)
On other ballot measure news —
Los Angeles Times:
County Sets Stage For Potential March Ballot Measure To Fund Services For The Homeless
Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to hold a countywide election in March, possibly setting the table for a sales tax initiative to fund homeless services. County officials had debated placing several possible funding measures to deal with homelessness on the November ballot. In July, they voted to put forward a tax on marijuana businesses, but then quickly reversed course after pushback from some homeless advocates and drug treatment providers. (Sewell, 9/13)
News outlets in California and around the nation look at the history behind presidential candidate health disclosures and how current concerns are impacting the 2016 race.
Los Angeles Times:
How Much Do Presidents And Candidates Need To Tell The Public About Their Health?
Hillary Clinton, 68, was recently diagnosed with pneumonia, and the public didn’t know about it until two days later, when she abruptly left a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony feeling unwell and needing to be helped into a vehicle. If Donald Trump, 70, were elected, he would be older than any previous president at the start of his first term — and, like Clinton, he hasn’t released detailed records about his health beyond a doctor’s letter. Both candidates promised Monday to release more detailed medical records soon. But the idea of presidential candidates, or sitting presidents, disclosing their health history is relatively new. (Pearce, 9/13)
Concerns About Hillary Clinton's Health Abound, Poll Shows
Following a caught-on-camera health scare for Hillary Clinton over the weekend, a new Morning Consult survey reveals widespread concerns about her health among registered voters. The poll, taken Sept. 12 through Sept. 13, shows that eight in 10 (79 percent) said they have heard a lot or some about Clinton’s health concerns. (Yokley and Dropp, 9/14)
The New York Times:
Donald Trump Scraps Plan To Discuss Medical Exam
Donald J. Trump on Wednesday scrapped his previously announced plan to go over results from his most recent physical examination in a taped appearance with the television celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz, aides to the Republican presidential nominee said. Instead, Mr. Trump, 70, will appear on the “Dr. Oz Show,” but the two men will have a general discussion about health and wellness, not one anchored to the fitness of one of the two major candidates for president. (Haberman, 9/14)
The Associated Press:
Clinton Has History Of Ignoring Health -- And Paying A Price
Nearly two decades later, Clinton's desire to work through illness — and penchant for keeping her health secret — has helped cause the most damaging 48-hour period in her presidential campaign and given fresh ammunition to GOP rival Donald Trump. The incident has also stoked long-simmering conservative conspiracy theories about her health and questions about her commitment to openness (Lerer and Thomas, 9/14)
Clinton To Return To Campaign Trail Thursday
Hillary Clinton is returning to the campaign trail Thursday after scrapping her West Coast travel for Monday through Wednesday as she recovers from a case of pneumonia at home in Chappaqua, New York, said campaign spokesman Nick Merrill. (Debenedetti, 9/13)
The settlement covers criminal charges. The utility company will likely face civil cases from residents. Many living in the Porter Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley experienced health issues as a result of the methane-gas leak.
Los Angeles Times:
Southern California Gas To Pay $4-Million Settlement Over Massive Porter Ranch Gas Leak
Southern California Gas Co. agreed to pay $4 million to settle criminal charges over the massive gas leak near Porter Ranch last year, but the utility still faces potentially costly civil actions from both residents and regulators. The settlement ends a prosecution brought by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which accused the gas company of failing to properly notify authorities when the largest recorded methane leak in U.S. history first occurred. The leak forced thousands of residents to flee their homes for months as officials worked to cap the leak. (Walton, 9/13)
The Associated Press:
Prosecutor Reaches $4M Settlement With Utility For Gas Leak
A utility that owns a well that leaked massive amounts of natural gas and drove thousands of families from their Los Angeles homes pleaded no contest to a criminal charge Tuesday as part of a $4 million settlement with prosecutors. ... The well that wasn't plugged until February led more than 8,000 families to move out of their homes in the Porter Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley. Many experienced headaches, nosebleeds and nausea during the event that scientists said was the largest known release of climate-changing methane in U.S. history. (Melley, 9/13)
In other news on elder care, a study finds that more Americans are providing care for aging relatives and that those caregivers also need more social services and financial aid.
East Bay Times:
Fremont Police Patrol Volunteers Call Senior, Disabled And Home-Bound Residents To Make Sure They Are Doing OK And Not Facing A Medical Emergency.
The idea came to Fremont community services officer Diana Allen about four years ago when she saw a story out of Arizona about a senior citizen who was found injured inside her home a week after falling. ... A year later in 2013, police started the You Are Not Alone program in partnership with the city’s Human Services Department, which is modeled after similar ones Allen investigated, including one in Piedmont and three other cities in California. But so far the program has only 16 seniors enrolled who receive phone calls from 10 Fremont police patrol volunteers and the city is hoping to get more elderly, disabled and home-bound residents signed up. (Mohammed, 9/13)
Kaiser Health News:
Study: Elderly’s Family Caregivers Need Help Too
Elderly Americans’ well-being is at risk unless the U.S. does much more to help millions of family caregivers who sacrifice their own health, finances and personal lives to look out for loved ones, reported a study released Tuesday. ... Describing family caregiving as “a critical issue of public policy,” a committee of experts in health care and aging said the next presidential administration in 2017 should direct a national strategy to develop ways to support caregivers, including economically. (Bluth, 9/13)
The county is struggling to with a growing demand for services while staffing has not increased.
East Bay Times:
CoCo Supes Told -- Again -- Of Mental Health Service Shortcomings
Contra Costa County’s public mental health care system is in crisis, advocates told county leaders on Tuesday while lobbying for more funding in next year’s budgets — and for officials and the community to step up efforts to find new money anywhere possible. The problem, mental health care advocates told the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning, is a system whose services are sought out by 900 people each month, almost double the number of people in 2010, with no appreciable boosts in staffing. (Richards, 9/13)
The children had each received pulpotomies at Children’s Dental Group, also called a baby tooth root canal. In other news, researchers in Northern California are setting up a bank of genetic material from families; a student film about suicide is set to screen tonight and new research examines pediatricians' unease in talking about guns with parents.
Orange County Register:
7 Children Hospitalized After Treatment At Anaheim Dental Clinic, Hundreds More May Be Affected
Seven children have been hospitalized with serious infections after undergoing the same dental procedure at an Anaheim clinic, and public health officials said Tuesday they are contacting the parents of 500 other children who also had the treatment there. The patients all received pulpotomies at Children’s Dental Group beginning May 3. The procedure, sometimes called a baby tooth root canal, removes infected pulp in order to prevent tooth loss. (Perkes, 9/13)
The Mercury News:
Autism Biobank Aims To Help Research
The Trevinos are one of 1,200 families helping Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Division of Research build the Autism Family Biobank that the health care giant set up last summer for its Northern California member families with autistic children. Through samples of saliva or blood, Kaiser researchers are collecting the genetic material of each child and his or her biological parents, as well as medical and environmental information for all three members of the family. (Seipel, 9/13)
KPBS Public Media:
Student Films About Suicide Prevention Screen In San Diego
Suicide is preventable. That's the subject of the award-winning student films that will be screening Wednesday night at San Diego's e3 Civic High School. It's also the theme of the Directing Change program, now in its fifth year. Directing Change is a statewide program that offers students ages 14-25 the chance to make a 60-second film on suicide prevention and mental health. (Goldberg, 9/13)
Kaiser Health News:
How Can Parents, Pediatricians Discuss Guns In The House?
Many children live in houses with guns, but pediatricians often don’t feel comfortable discussing gun safety with parents — even though most parents say they would welcome that conversation. That’s a key finding from a study published Wednesday in the Journal of Pediatrics. It comes as some state legislatures and doctors tussle over proposals restricting what doctors can say to patients about firearms, and as doctor groups increasingly push physicians to treat gun violence as a public health concern. (Luthra, 9/14)
Media outlets also cover public health developments related to the penicillin shortage and the debate over providing costly hepatitis C drugs to prison inmates.
Ventura County Star:
Flu Vaccine Options Limited To Shots
A federal agency and a national pediatric association are pushing pediatricians and other doctors not to provide the nasal spray influenza vaccination, FluMist, and instead to rely only on shots. ... This means the Ventura County Public Health Department, private pediatricians and many other providers will offer only the pin cushion option this year. Some doctors say the impact will be minimal because few people asked for the nasal option. Others say FluMist was the vaccination for choice for children not quite ready to bare their arms. (Kisken, 9/13)
Penicillin Shortage Threatens Syphilis Patients
Pharmacists are concerned that several forms of penicillin are in shortage, including one used as the primary treatment for syphilis. Penicillin G Benzathine, which comes in a pre-filled syringe known by the brand name Bicillin L-A, has been in shortage since spring. The medicine is the first-line treatment for syphilis, meaning that, although there are alternatives, it is highly preferred over other treatments. (Rubenfire, 9/13)
The Wall Street Journal:
High Cost Of New Hepatitis C Drugs Strains Prison Budgets, Locks Many Out Of Cure
David Maldonado, an inmate at a Pennsylvania state prison, is one of thousands of convicted criminals with hepatitis C, an infectious disease that is one of the country’s biggest killers. Powerful new drugs on the market could help Mr. Maldonado and cut the chances of it spreading outside prison walls. The medicines, however, are so expensive, and the problem so widespread, that to treat all sufferers would blow up most prison budgets. List prices for the newer drugs range from $54,000 to $94,000 a person for a typical 12-week course. (Loftus and Fields, 9/12)
MedCrypt, headquartered in San Diego, says its commercial software can help protect hospitals from cyberattacks.
San Diego Union-Tribune:
MedCrypt Raises Seed Funding For Cyber Software
San Diego-based MedCrypt, which is building cybersecurity software for connected medical devices, said it raised $750,000 in a seed funding round, led by publicly traded Safeguard Scientifics and a group of angel investors. MedCrypt said it will use the money to make its software toolkit ready for commercial use – giving hospitals a new layer of security against cyberattacks. (Freeman, 9/13)
The top five managers took home almost $300 million over the past five years, The Wall Street Journal reports amid continuing questions about the manufacter's EpiPen pricing. News outlets also report on an FDA warning to doctors about drug risks, the pros and cons of pharmaceutical ads and a drop in the cost of generics.
The Wall Street Journal:
EpiPen Maker Dispenses Outsize Pay
The drugmaker buffeted by the furor over hefty price increases on its lifesaving EpiPen had the second-highest executive compensation among all U.S. drug and biotech firms over the past five years, paying its top five managers a total of nearly $300 million, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. The big pay packages are unusual because of Mylan NV’s relatively small size in the U.S. drug industry, where it is No. 11 by revenue and No. 16 by market capitalization. (Maremont, 9/13)
Doctors Downplaying Drug’s Suicide Risks Attract FDA’S Scrutiny
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a message for doctors: The money you’re taking from pharmaceutical companies may be clouding your judgment. Research sites where Pfizer Inc. had paid doctors at least $25,000 in speaking, consulting or other fees reported sunnier results for its smoking-cessation drug Chantix, the FDA disclosed Monday. At those sites, doctors studying the drug’s possible link to suicide risk and other behavior changes reported fewer side effects than at locations where colleagues accepted lower or no payments. (Edney, 9/13)
All That Pharmaceutical Advertising May Be A 'Mixed Bag,' After All
Amid the ongoing debate over the wisdom of pharmaceutical advertising, a new analysis suggests that doctors agree more often than not to write prescriptions for patients who have seen drug ads. At the same time, however, the analysis also found that only 1 in 10 consumers were moved by such advertising to ask a doctor for a prescription. The results present a slightly conflicting picture of the extent to which so-called direct-to-consumer advertising poses an unhealthy dilemma, according to the authors of the analysis, published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. While the pharmaceutical industry insists its ads educate consumers, doctors argue some ads too often encourage patients to seek medicines unnecessarily. (Silverman, 9/13)
The Fiscal Times:
Generic Drug Prices Dropped By Nearly 60% Under Medicare Part D
Between 2010 and early 2015, the prices of generic drugs provided under Medicare Part D for declined by nearly 60 percent – dramatic savings that helped leaven U.S. health care costs, according to a new report by the General Accountability Office (GAO). Generic drugs have long served as a counter-weight to pricey brand name prescription drugs. While they account for 88 percent of the 4.3 billion prescription drugs dispensed annually, they represent only 28 percent of the total price, according to industry experts. (Pianin, 9/14)