Calif Health Care

December 8, 2017 gtutt44 162 comments
California Healthline

Daily Edition

A service of the California Health Care Foundation

Friday, December 08, 2017
Check California Healthline online for the latest news

In This Edition:

California Healthline Original Stories

Desperate For Coverage: Are Short-Term Plans Better Than None At All?

Sacramento Watch

Calif. Gubernatorial Candidate Walks Fine Line On Supporting Universal Health Care

Marketplace

California-Based Dignity Health To Merge With Catholic Health Initiatives

Public Health and Education

There Are Hints That Flu Season Is Going To Be Ferocious, So Officials Say Get Your Shot

Post-Sandy Hook Behavior Provides Unique Data On Link Between Gun Sales, Accidental Deaths

Around California

Bay Area Sees Huge Uptick In Fatal Crashes Due To Unsafe Driving Behavior

National Roundup

McConnell Promised Collins Health Bills Would Pass, But No One Else Seems Eager To Uphold That Deal

Hospitals, Nursing Homes In Mad Dash To Borrow Tax-Free Funds While They Still Can

Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Only Crickets From Trump After Realistic Road Map To Cut Drug Prices Was Released

Latest From California Healthline:

California Healthline Original Stories

Desperate For Coverage: Are Short-Term Plans Better Than None At All?

As stopgap health plans gain attention as possible alternatives to Obamacare, consumers are advised to read the fine print. (Julie Appleby and Ana B. Ibarra, 12/8)

Summaries Of The News:

Sacramento Watch

Calif. Gubernatorial Candidate Walks Fine Line On Supporting Universal Health Care

California Treasurer John Chiang said he supports the ideas behind a universal health care system, but also points out the costs that would be associated with it.

Capital Public Radio: Chiang’s Delicate Dance On Single-Payer Health Care
California Treasurer John Chiang’s effort in his run for governor to strike a balance between support for progressive policies and an image of fiscal prudence could prove tricky on the issue of single-payer health care. “I support universal care – I believe all Californians should be covered,” Chiang told Capital Public Radio in an interview this week. “And I support the approach of single-payer, if they want to eliminate the inefficiencies that exist in the system.” (Adler, 12/8)

Marketplace

California-Based Dignity Health To Merge With Catholic Health Initiatives

The combined system will have 139 hospitals around the country.

Redding Record Searchlight: Merger Planned For St. John’s Hospitals’ Parent
With a mission to “combine ministries and create a new, nonprofit Catholic health system,” Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives announced their merger Thursday morning. In Ventura County, Dignity Health owns St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard and St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo. The merger between the two means service in 28 states with 139 hospitals and approximately 159,000 employees. The goal is to increase investments in digital technologies such as tele-medicine programs, stroke robots, Google Glass and expand access to outpatient and virtual care settings. (Sandhu, 12/8)

Modern Healthcare: Dignity And CHI Sign Definitive Agreement To Merge
After more than a year of discussions, Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives have signed a definitive agreement to merge. The combination will create the nation’s largest not-for-profit hospital system by operating revenue. The new health system would have 139 hospitals and a combined revenue of $28.4 billion with more than 159,000 employees, and 25,000 physicians and other advanced practice clinicians. The combined system would have operations in 28 states with no overlap in hospital service areas, which could help expand access and also help from a regulatory perspective, executives said. (Kacik, 12/7)

Public Health and Education

There Are Hints That Flu Season Is Going To Be Ferocious, So Officials Say Get Your Shot

So far, the strain that is most common is the one that is less vulnerable to vaccines. But officials say that, even so, it’s still worth getting the shot.

Los Angeles Times: America, It’s Time To Get Ready For The Flu
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — the time when the flu makes its presence known in the United States. You may not have given influenza much thought, but that’s OK — health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been doing it for you. They say the virus had been lying low through October, but that’s changed since early November. So far, the dominant strain of influenza here is of a sort that usually produces more misery. It’s also the type that’s less vulnerable to flu vaccines. Even so, health experts recommend that you get your annual flu shot (or nasal mist), if you haven’t done so already. (Kaplan, 12/7)

In other public health news —

Los Angeles Times: Scientists Use CRISPR To Turn Genes On Without Editing Their DNA
The revolutionary gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 is best-known for helping scientists edit a strand of DNA more precisely and efficiently than ever before. Now, researchers have demonstrated another use for the CRISPR complex: changing what genes are expressed without altering the genome itself. (Netburn, 12/7)

San Francisco Chronicle: California, 13 Other States Sue EPA Over Smog Levels
California and 13 other states sued the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday for ignoring an Oct. 1 deadline to update the nation’s map of areas with unhealthy smog levels, saying the delay is endangering children and people who suffer from lung disease. (Egelko, 12/7)

Post-Sandy Hook Behavior Provides Unique Data On Link Between Gun Sales, Accidental Deaths

Researchers have always struggled with the correlation between deaths and the presence of guns in homes. But the 2012 tragedy — and the rush of sales that followed — allowed them an insight into the ramifications of more Americans owning guns.

The Washington Post: Surge In Gun Sales After Sandy Hook Led To Spike In Accidental Gun Deaths, Study Says
In the days after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gun enthusiasts rushed to buy millions of firearms, driven by fears that the massacre would spark new gun legislation. Those restrictions never became a reality, but a new study concludes that all the additional guns caused a significant jump in accidental firearm deaths. The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, estimates that the 3 million guns sold in the several months after Sandy Hook caused about 60 more accidental gun deaths than would have occurred otherwise. Children were killed in a third of them — some 20 youngsters, the same number as died at Sandy Hook. (Wan, 12/7)

Los Angeles Times: Add At Least 57 To The Number Of Gun-Related Deaths Tied To The Sandy Hook Mass Shooting
But the aftermath of a mass shooting does not appear to be very good for Americans’ safety. New research suggests that the increased availability of firearms after a mass shooting exacts a deadly toll of its own. That toll falls heavily on children, according to the study, which links the spike in gun sales following a mass shooting with an increase in fatal accidents involving firearms. (Healy, 12/7)

Around California

Bay Area Sees Huge Uptick In Fatal Crashes Due To Unsafe Driving Behavior

Three factors top the charts in their link to fatal collisions: speeding, unsafe turning and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The Mercury News: Bay Area’s Dangerous Roads: Fatal Crashes Up 43 Percent From 2010 To 2016
The Bay Area’s roads are getting more dangerous — and not just for motorists crowding the region’s highways. …The number of fatal car, motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian collisions in the Bay Area jumped 43 percent from 2010 to 2016, according to newly released data from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the region’s transportation planning agency. (Baldassari, 12/8)

In other news from across the state —

Capital Public Radio: Small Towns Find Opportunities In California’s Legal Cannabis Industry
As California gears up for a massive expansion of the state’s legal cannabis industry, small towns in the Inland Empire see an opportunity. Some are competing to welcome cultivators—and their money. (Potter, 12/7)

National Roundup

McConnell Promised Collins Health Bills Would Pass, But No One Else Seems Eager To Uphold That Deal

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) threw her support behind the Republican tax bill on the agreement that the Senate would take up the bipartisan health legislation that is aimed at stabilizing the marketplace. But even though she extracted the promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the rest of the GOP leadership isn’t ready to uphold the bargain.

Politico: Collins’ Obamacare Deal Faces Moment Of Truth
Sen. Susan Collins is barreling toward yet another health care showdown with her own party. But this time, she might not have the leverage to get what she wants. Republicans who watched Collins lead the rebellion over the GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort just three months ago are playing tough on yet another high-stakes bill, wagering they can do without the Maine moderate’s swing vote and still claim a narrow year-end legislative win on tax reform. (Cancryn, 12/8)

Bloomberg: Senator’s Shaky Obamacare Deal Poses Challenge For Tax Overhaul
The three biggest stories in Washington — a broad overhaul of the U.S. tax structure, a health-care makeover and a spending bill that would avert a government shutdown — all depend, more or less, on one moderate Republican senator who says she’s got a deal that could deliver them all. The only trouble is, Senator Susan Collins’s deal could unravel fast, putting the Maine lawmaker and her party in a tight spot as GOP leaders seek a major policy win in 2017. (Kapur, 12/8)

In other national health care news —

The Hill: AARP: Congress Must Prevent ‘Sudden Cut’ To Medicare In 2018
The AARP is urging House and Senate leaders to waive congressional rules so the Republican tax bill doesn’t trigger deep cuts to Medicare. If Republicans pass their tax bill, which would add an estimated $1 trillion to the federal deficit, congressional “pay-as-you-go” rules would require an immediate $150 billion in mandatory spending cuts to offset the impact. … Under the bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare would be faced with a $25 billion cut in fiscal 2018. (Weixel, 12/7)

The Hill: Bipartisan Group Of Senators Seek To Block Trump Cuts To Drug Discount Program
Six senators, including three Republicans, are asking GOP leadership to block a Trump administration rule that slashes funding for a federal drug discount program. The program, called 340B, requires drug companies give discounts to health-care organizations that serve high volumes of low-income . (Hellmann, 12/7)

CQ: Senators Press Leadership On Children’s Health
An increasing number of senators are raising concerns with leadership over delays in funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program since state officials are anxious because a long-term solution still has not been found. Earlier this week, West Virginia GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito penned a letter to Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch about the state of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Virginia Democratic senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warnerwrote a joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Ryan expressing their concerns about the lack of movement on funding renewal as well. (Raman, 12/7)

Modern Healthcare: CMS Could Demand CSR Repayments From Insurers If Congress Doesn’t Act
Insurers may be on the hook to pay back the government for funds they have already spent on low-income enrollees through 2017. It’s still not clear whether Congress will appropriate cost-sharing reduction payments, as lawmakers race toward a short-term spending agreement before Christmas. This means insurers may have to return any surplus they used to cover CSR costs since the Trump administration cut off the payments in October. An October bulletin from the CMS said insurers would be on the hook for any “overpayments” of CSRs for 2016, but that the agency wouldn’t pay any shortfalls. This could be the case for 2017, according to a healthcare attorney who follows the CMS’ regulatory actions closely. (Luthi, 12/7)

Hospitals, Nursing Homes In Mad Dash To Borrow Tax-Free Funds While They Still Can

The borrowing spree is happening as Congress debates whether to do away with long-held tax exemptions on these types of bonds beginning Jan. 1. Meanwhile, lawmakers are mulling what to do about the health law’s insurance tax.

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Hospitals, Schools Rush To Raise Tax-Free Funds
Hospitals, universities and nursing homes across the U.S. are rushing to borrow money tax-free—while they still can. Last week, borrowers issued more than $4 billion in new so-called private-activity bonds, which allow nonprofits and some for-profit firms to raise money for development projects perceived to have a public benefit. That was triple the amount issued during the same week in 2016, according to a Municipal Market Analytics analysis of Bloomberg data, and one of the highest weekly issuances of the past two years. Prices on private-activity bonds have increased this week alongside other municipal bonds. (Gillers and Evans, 12/7)

Politico: House Tax Writers Weigh Plan To Suspend Obamacare Insurer Tax
House Republican tax writers are considering delaying Obamacare’s health insurance tax for only limited markets next year, leaving out small businesses and possibly private Medicaid plans, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill. They would suspend it for all markets in 2019. Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee are worried that it will be difficult for the small businesses to send prospective savings from delaying the tax back to consumers. Industry sources, however, say it is possible. (Haberkorn, 12/7)

Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Only Crickets From Trump After Realistic Road Map To Cut Drug Prices Was Released

A selection of opinions on health care developments from around the state.

Los Angeles Times: Trump Is Mum On Report Showing How We Can Reduce Sky-High Drug Prices
Hard as it may be to believe, there’s a yawning chasm between Trump’s words and deeds when it comes to drug prices. He’s been a consistent critic of the drug industry since before taking office. He declared a year ago: “I’m going to bring down drug prices. I don’t like what’s happened with drug prices.”… To date, he hasn’t announced a single initiative along these lines. But he has nominated a former drug-company executive, Alex Azar, to serve as health secretary. While head of U.S. operations for Eli Lilly & Co., Azar more than doubled the price of insulin, a life-saving medication for millions of people with diabetes (including me). (David Lazarus, 12/8)

Sacramento Bee: When A Sheriff Is Also Coroner, Bad Cops Can Get Protected, Hands May Get Cut Off Corpses
It should be a relic of California’s provincial past that one person can serve as both sheriff and coroner of a county. But as of this year, at least 41 of the state’s 58 counties still had such a setup – and the result, as we’ve seen in San Joaquin County this week, can be disturbing. Steve Moore, the longtime sheriff-coroner of the Central Valley county, is facing accusations of gross – and we mean gross – malfeasance in the job he’s held for a decade. (12/6)

Los Angeles Times: The Fight Against The GOP’s Unfair Tax Plans Isn’t Over Yet
Behind closed doors, Republicans drafted a bill that raises taxes on millions in the middle class and adds at least $1 trillion to our deficit. The bill also renews the GOP attack on the Affordable Care Act, a move that will drive up health insurance premiums in the individual market by 10% each year and will likely result in 13 million more Americans without coverage. (Dianne Feinstein, 12/4)

Los Angeles Times: A Guide To The Billions In Giveaways To Special Interests Buried In The Senate Tax Bill
The Senate hid billions in giveaways to special interests in its tax measure. We ferret some of them out. (Michael Hiltzik, 12/5)

The Mercury News: Community Health Centers Abandoned By Congress
On Sept. 30, critical funding for federally qualified community health centers expired. This perceived lack of urgency endangers the health of our nation’s most vulnerable. Now, every community health center in California faces drastic cuts in federal funding that will cause many services to be discontinued, patients to be sent to emergency rooms, clinic staff laid off and some health center doors closed permanently. (Anna Eshoo and Dolores Alvarado, 12/2)

Los Angeles Times: CVS And Aetna Say Their Huge Merger Will Be Great For Consumers. Here’s Why You Should Be Skeptical
The CEOs of drug retailer CVS and health insurer Aetna were marvelously in sync Sunday when they jointly announced their companies’ $69-billion merger deal. (Michael Hiltzik, 12/4)

Los Angeles Times: Less Choice, Higher Prices Feared In CVS’ Takeover Of Health Insurer Aetna
CVS Health says that its $69-billion takeover of insurance giant Aetna will be good for consumers. That, of course, is unlikely. (David Lazarus, 12/4)

Sacramento Bee: City And County Play Blame Game. Families Live With Lead Contamination.
This is exactly why people don’t trust local government: The city of Sacramento and Sacramento County are fighting over who is to blame for the lead contaminating lawns in Mangan Park near a city-owned gun range. And while the bureaucratic battle plays out, 15 families are left waiting. To do right by them, city and county officials need to figure out how to clean up the lead first and determine who pays later. (12/5)

Sacramento Bee: A Plea For Clean And Sober Housing For Mothers And Their Children
Drug abuse, lack of education, unstable home environments and more can lead to homelessness. But for the women who wind up on the streets, there’s often the additional element of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Worse, their children are almost always in harm’s way as well. (Heather Fargo and Roger Niello, 12/7)

Orange County Register: New Law Gives Domestic Violence Victims A Better Choice
In the time it takes you to read this sentence, a women in the United States will have been assaulted or beaten. That’s because every nine seconds, a woman is victimized by domestic violence — and every minute, nearly 20 people on average are physically abused by an intimate partner. How can we provide lifelines to these more than 10 million women and men annually caught in the cycle of abusive relationships? For most, the solution lies in giving them back economic control of their lives. (Maricela Rios-Faust, 12/6)

The Mercury News: Sobrato Pavilion Is Spectacular Addition To Valley Medical Center
Valley Medical Center’s new Sobrato Pavilion opens to patients next week, nine years after Santa Clara County voters approved Measure A, a bond measure to pay for seismically retrofitting VMC and keeping its prized burn and trauma centers open. There were significant setbacks along the way, for sure. But the end product is a spectacular addition to the region’s health care assets and to the hospital that is the linchpin of Santa Clara County’s health care system. (12/6)

From the California Health Care Foundation

Primed for Change

Entrepreneurs and innovators can shape the future of Medicaid. A new set of CHCF resources explains how.

Called to Care

CHCF Board member Carolina Reyes, MD, reflects on medicine, family, and her recent return to life in California.

California Healthline is an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. It is produced by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2017 Kaiser Health News.

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