December 1, 2023

Health Insurance

Follow Your Health Insurance

Friday, April 14, 2023 | California Healthline

Palm Springs Student Has Tuberculosis: A student at Raymond Cree Middle School in Palm Springs has tested positive for active tuberculosis, the county health department said Thursday. The student was briefly hospitalized and was “expected to recover,” the county said. The school district has identified about 70 people who may have been exposed to the illness. Read more from The Desert Sun.

Public Warned To Avoid Pop-Up Covid Testing Tents: Several testing sites that popped up on San Francisco sidewalks this week appear to be unscrupulous operations that are not properly licensed through a laboratory and whose workers do not follow basic public-health rules. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Below, check out the roundup of California Healthline’s coverage. For today’s national health news, read KFF Health News’ Morning Briefing.

Biden Says He’s Expanding Some Migrants’ Health Care Access 

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children will be able to apply for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. The action will allow participants in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to access government-funded health insurance programs. “They’re American in every way except for on paper,” Biden said in a video released on his Twitter page. “We need to give Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve.” (Miller, Seitz and Balsamo, 4/14)

The Hill:
Biden Announces Medicaid, ObamaCare Access For DACA Recipients 

DACA beneficiaries are not currently eligible for those benefits because their immigration status does not meet the current definition of “lawful presence” required to enroll in Medicaid and the ObamaCare exchanges. Under the administration’s plan, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is preparing a new rule to amend that definition by the end of the month. (Bernal, 4/13)

The Wall Street Journal:
DACA ‘Dreamers’ Would Be Eligible For Government Healthcare Under New Rule 

The proposal angered Republicans, who oppose both the DACA program—which they consider an illegal use of the government’s immigration authority—as well as expanding most federal health benefits, particularly the Affordable Care Act. For years, Republicans campaigned on repealing the Obama-era health law before failing to overturn it in 2017. … It isn’t clear how broad of an impact the administration’s proposal will have if completed. Because the criteria for the program haven’t been updated since 2012, most DACA recipients are now in their 20s and 30s, and most receive healthcare through their jobs or through universities. Still, 34% of the nearly 600,000 young immigrants enrolled in the program are currently uninsured, according to an HHS estimate. (Hackman, 4/13)

Fierce Healthcare:
DOJ Calls For Stay On ACA Preventive Services Ruling

The Department of Justice (DOJ) wants a federal judge to ensure that preventive care coverage requirements in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remain available while it appeals a ruling striking the provisions down. The DOJ filed on Wednesday a request with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas for a partial stay of an earlier judgment from Judge Reed O’Connor that strips the preventive care coverage requirements for insurers. (King, 4/13)

The Hill:
Top Democrats Ask Health Insurers For Response To ObamaCare Preventive Care Ruling

Democrats in key House and Senate health committees have requested information from a dozen major health insurance companies and trade groups on how they plan to respond to the ruling from Texas that struck down the preventive services provision in the Affordable Care Act. The lawmakers sent out letters to major insurance providers including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group. The letters asked whether consumers would experience interruptions in their coverage in light of the ruling issued by U.S District Judge Reed O’Connor last month. (Choi, 4/13)

Key Court Ruling Does Not Restrict Abortion Pill Access In 17 States, Federal Judge Says

A U.S. district judge in Washington state on Thursday said access to the abortion pill mifepristone is not affected by a federal appeals court ruling that imposed restrictions on the medication this week. Judge Thomas Rice of the state’s U.S. Eastern District last Friday ordered the Food and Drug Administration to preserve access to mifepristone in 17 states and the District of Columbia which sued to protect the drug in those jurisdictions. Rice reiterated in a court order on Thursday that the FDA cannot roll back access to the drug, despite a decision by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals this week that imposed restrictions on how the medication is dispensed and used by patients. (Kimball, 4/13)

What Last Night’s Abortion Pill Twist Means For Access — Even In Blue States 

Should the ruling stand, retail pharmacies will no longer be authorized to dispense the drug. Physicians will not be able to prescribe the drug via telemedicine; instead, patients will have to make multiple in-person office visits to get a prescription. Additionally, non-physicians will not be able to prescribe or administer the drug, and prescribers will have to resume reporting “non-fatal adverse events” related to mifepristone to the federal government. The decision also suspends FDA approval of the company GenBioPro’s generic version of mifepristone, another blow to access. (Goldberg and Ollstein, 4/13)

Los Angeles Times:
How The Abortion Pill Mifepristone Affects Psychological Health

At the heart of the latest battle over abortion access is a federal judge’s ruling that cites concern about the mental health of women who choose to end their pregnancies. In revoking regulatory approval of the widely used drug mifepristone, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk said the Food and Drug Administration failed to study the psychological effects of its use and ruled that it should be pulled from shelves while the drug agency conducts a comprehensive evaluation of the pill’s safety. (Healy, 4/13)

Bay Area News Group:
Stanford: Personal Information Stolen In Healthcare Data Breach

The personal information of some Stanford University employees and postdoctoral students, along with their dependents, was stolen in a data breach earlier this year, officials said. The breach involved Brightline Inc., a provider of virtual behavioral and mental health services for the children of benefits-eligible employees and postdoctoral students across Stanford’s group of health plans, including Stanford Health Care, Stanford Health Care Tri-Valley, Stanford Medicine Children’s Health and Stanford Medicine Partners, according to a letter Raina Rose Tagle, senior associate vice president and chief risk officer for Stanford University and Stanford Medicine, and Sondra Hornsey, interim chief compliance and privacy officer for Stanford Health Care and Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, sent to colleagues on April 7. (Green, 4/13)

Los Angeles Times:
Even With 988 Hotline, L.A. Mental Health Crisis System Is Dependent On Police 

While campaigning for mayor in mid-August, Karen Bass spoke about a brand-new three-digit mental health crisis hotline — 988 — and its promise to save lives of people suffering from mental illness by avoiding deadly confrontations with police. As a member of Congress, she had examined more than 100 lethal police encounters throughout the country and found that at least 40% involved a mental health crisis, she said. The figure dwarfs the often-cited national statistic that a quarter of all people who die at the hands of law enforcement have serious psychiatric problems. (Seidman, 4/13)
You Now Need A Credit Card In Most Cases To Get Access To DoD, VA Benefits Websites

Andrew Langer was pretty sure his daughter was on the wrong website when she tried to apply for new credentials to access Tricare, the military health program, from their home near Fort Eustis, Virginia. As part of the online validation process for the Defense Department’s MHS Genesis electronic health records system, Langer’s daughter was told she would need to furnish the last eight digits of a credit card and undergo a “soft” credit check to gain access. (Kime, 4/13)

Becker’s Hospital Review:
Lawmakers Probe VA Over ‘Hostile’ Hospital Supervisor

Members of Congress are investigating the Department of Veterans Affairs and its Loma Linda (Calif.) Healthcare System for continued employment of a supervisor known to create a hostile work environment. U.S. Reps. Mike Bost and Jay Obernolte penned a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough on April 10. Three investigations dating back to July 2020 have concluded that a supervisor within the health system is creating a hostile work environment. However, this individual is still employed by the VA “despite medical center leadership doing everything possible within its legal constraints” to remove them, according to the representatives. (Kayser, 4/13)

Military Times:
US Troops Provide Free Medical Care In South America, The Caribbean

U.S. Southern Command completed a 56-day medical assistance mission to deliver no-cost medical care to three countries across South American and the Caribbean, according to a statement from Air Forces Southern Command. The effort in Suriname, Guyana and Saint Lucia — named Operation Lesser Antilles Medical Assistance Team — were part of SOCOM’s Enduring Promise Initiative, a project meant to increase security and stability in the Western Hemisphere, according to the statement. (Perez, 4/13)

Almost 90% Of US Mpox-Related Deaths Were In Black Men, And Nearly All Had Weakened Immune Systems, CDC Reports

Almost 90% of mpox-related deaths in the United States were among Black men, and nearly all had weakened immune systems, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From May 2022 to March 2023, 30,235 people in the US were diagnosed with mpox, previously known as monkeypox. Thirty-eight deaths were linked to mpox; 36 of them were men, and 33 were Black men. The average age of those who died was 34. (Russell, 4/13)

ABC News:
Paul Edmonds, 5th Person Apparently Cured Of HIV, Steps Forward To Share His Story

One of only five people in the world to achieve full remission of HIV is stepping forward to share his story in an ABC broadcast exclusive. Paul Edmonds’ journey into medical history began decades ago. He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988 – a time when it was a potential death sentence. Thanks to his own perseverance and advances in treatment, he survived – even thrived – after his diagnosis. (Salzman and Zepeda, 4/13)

You’re Less Likely To Get Long COVID After A Second Infection Than A First

If you’ve gotten COVID more than once, as many people have, you may be wondering if your risk for suffering the lingering symptoms of long COVID is the same with every new infection. The answer appears to be no. The chances of long COVID — a suite of symptoms including exhaustion and shortness of breath — falls sharply between the first and second infections, according to recent research. (Stein, 4/14)

World Has 28% Risk Of New Covid-Like Pandemic Within 10 Years

There’s a 27.5% chance a pandemic as deadly as Covid-19 could take place in the next decade as viruses emerge more frequently, with rapid vaccine rollout the key to reducing fatalities, according to a predictive health analytics firm. Climate change, growth in international travel, increasing populations and the threat posed by zoonotic diseases contribute to the risk, according to London-based Airfinity Ltd. But if effective vaccines are rolled out 100 days after the discovery of a new pathogen, the likelihood of a deadly pandemic drops to 8.1%, according to the firm’s modeling. (4/13)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Map Shows How Far Toxic Dust From Bay Area Refinery Accident May Have Traveled

A new map from local air pollution regulators has attempted to estimate how far toxic white dust from PBF Energy’s malfunctioning oil refinery in Martinez may have traveled last November. Using computer modeling combined with witness reports, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District charted an approximately 15-mile swath of Contra Costa County where the refinery dust may have fallen five months ago on Thanksgiving night. (Johnson, 4/13)

California Tobacco Ban: Why Did Bill Get Shelved?

Three years ago, advocates for reducing smoking and vaping in California won a major victory when they persuaded the state Legislature to adopt a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products despite an intense industry lobbying campaign. But in recent months, those same groups have been largely silent as a first-term lawmaker sought to phase out tobacco sales in the state altogether. His proposal was shelved this week without even receiving a hearing, and he will instead pursue a bill this session to strengthen enforcement of the flavored tobacco ban. (Koseff, 4/13)

FDA Mandates New Safety Warnings For Opioid Pain Medicines

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday it will require new safety warnings to be added in the prescribing information on labels for opioid pain relievers, including a warning about increased sensitivity to pain. FDA said data suggests patients who use opioids for pain relief after surgery often have leftover tablets, which puts them at risk for addiction and overdose. (4/13)

Los Angeles Times:
The Assault On Abortion Rights Isn’t About Babies. This Is About Power 

The toes, the clothes and, oh, the smell of a newborn. Babies are adorable — which is precisely what makes infants such powerful political forces, and abortion such a divisive issue. But of course, abortion isn’t really about the babies, is it? Because we have plenty of babies living without healthcare, going hungry, stuck in foster care with no prospects of adoption. Few antiabortion folks spend their weekends protesting those realities. (Anita Chabria, 4/11)

Los Angeles Times:
Will The Texas Judge’s Abortion Overreach Be Matched By The Supreme Court?

Last week, dueling rulings threw the fate of the abortion pill mifepristone into doubt. In one decision, 17 liberal states and the District of Columbia had sued to expand access to the pills, but U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice did not go that far, instead ordering federal regulators to preserve access to mifepristone in just the states that sued. In the other case, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing litigation group, argued that the Food and Drug Administration lacked the authority to approve mifepristone and that distribution of the drug violated the Comstock Act, a federal anti-vice law passed in 1873 and not much thought of in the past century. If Rice’s ruling was narrow, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk gave the lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom everything they wanted and more. (Mary Ziegler, 4/10)

Fresno Bee:
California Regulators Wrongly Spend Mental Health Funding 

In 2004, California voters approved Proposition 63, known as the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). For prevention, care and treatment of the seriously mentally ill (SMI), this act imposes a 1% tax on annual personal income over $1 million, which is then distributed by formula to the counties. The act currently annually generates close to $4 billion per year. (Daniel O. Jamison, 4/9)

Los Angeles Times:
Anti-Vaxx ‘Science’ Turns Out To Be Misinformation

Back in January, an academic study gave heart to critics of COVID-19 vaccines by estimating the number of U.S. deaths from the vaccines at 278,000. That was a bombshell, if true. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited only 19,476 reports of deaths after COVID vaccination in a national database of unverified adverse reactions to the shots. (Michael Hiltzik, 4/11)