Monday, April 17, 2023 – California Healthline

California Healthline Original Stories
As Pandemic Emergencies End, People Battling Long Covid Feel ‘Swept Under the Rug’
Millions of Americans suffer from long covid, which can have debilitating physical effects, including fatigue and difficulty breathing. Yet many patients feel they’re on their own. (Jackie Fortiér, KPCC/LAist, )
Journalists Explore Newsom's War With Walgreens and State's Prison Suicide Crisis
California Healthline staff made the rounds on national and local media this week to discuss their stories. Here’s a collection of their appearances. ( )
Merck To Pay Nearly $11 Billion For San Diego’s Prometheus Biosciences: Merck & Co. said on Sunday it will buy San Diego’s Prometheus Biosciences for about $10.8 billion in an effort to build up its presence in immunology. Read more from Times of San Diego and The Wall Street Journal. Keep scrolling to read more about an experimental cancer vaccine from Merck and Moderna. 
Sen. Feinstein’s Health Troubles Causing Bigger Problems: Pressure is mounting on California’s Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein to step down as her prolonged health worries and absence from the Senate stymie Democratic business in the chamber with no clear end date. But some say the calls for her to quit are laced with ageism and sexism. Read more from The Hill, Politico, and Mother Jones.
Below, check out the roundup of California Healthline’s coverage. For today’s national health news, read KFF Health News’ Morning Briefing.
Health Care Industry
Becker's Hospital Review: California Hospital To Lay Off 15; Interim CEO Proposes Eliminating Own Job
Northern Inyo Healthcare District, which operates a 25-bed critical access hospital in Bishop, Calif., anticipates eliminating about 15 positions, or less than 4 percent of its 460-member workforce, by April 21, a spokesperson confirmed to Becker's. (Gooch, 4/14)
Becker's Hospital Review: CFO Brian Dean To Leave Sutter Health
Brian Dean, CFO of Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health, is to leave the health system and take up a similar role at a Houston-based aviation company, Sutter Health said in an April 14 filing. Mr. Dean, who has been with the 23-hospital system in his role since July 2020, will remain with Sutter Health until July to assist with the transition. (Thomas, 4/14)
MassDevice: Medtronic Has A Layoff In California 
Medtronic is letting go of 59 workers at a facility in Sunnyvale, California, according to a notice filed with the state. The California Employment Development Department says it received the WARN notice on April 7. (Newmarker, 4/12)
Sacramento Watch
The New York Times: California And New York Could Ban 5 Food Additives Linked To Health Concerns 
Newly proposed bills in California and New York are putting food additives — the chemicals manufacturers add to food to act as preservatives or to enhance color, texture or taste — under the microscope. The state legislators are seeking to prohibit the manufacturing and sale of products containing additives that have been linked to cancer, neurodevelopmental issues and hormone dysfunction. The five additives named in the bills are most commonly found in baked goods, candy and soda and are almost totally banned in food products in Europe. Several health associations, including the Endocrine Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have raised concerns about the potential health harms of food additives as a whole. (Smith, 4/13)
Medicaid and Medicare
NBC News: Millions Expected To Lose Dental Care Coverage After Medicaid Review
More than 14 million adults across the United States who receive Medicaid are at risk of losing dental health coverage now that the Covid public health emergency is over, according to data exclusively obtained by NBC News. The public health emergency ended April 1, allowing states to review Medicaid recipients’ eligibility and disenroll them from the program for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Around 15.7 million people are expected to lose health coverage as a result. The emergency declaration did not allow states to remove enrollees from the program during the pandemic, which caused programs to expand precipitously over the past three years. (McCausland, 4/14)
CNN: Medicaid: Here's What You Can Do If You Lose Coverage 
Though millions of Americans are expected to be kicked off of Medicaid in coming months, they don’t all have to be left uninsured. But it could take some work to regain health coverage. “For a lot of people, this can be a very disruptive period of time,” said Sabrina Corlette, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University. “There is a significant time and paperwork burden being placed on families – a lot of them very low income, a lot of them medically vulnerable.” (Luhby, 4/15)
NPR: Supreme Court Looks At Whether Medicare And Medicaid Were Overbilled Under Fraud Law
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tuesday in a case that could undermine one of the government's most powerful tools for fighting fraud in government contracts and programs. The False Claims Act dates back to the Civil War, when it was enacted to combat rampant fraud by private contractors who were overbilling or simply not delivering goods to the troops. But the law over time was weakened by congressional amendments. Then, in 1986, Congress toughened the law, and then toughened it again. The primary Senate sponsor was — and still is — Iowa Republican Charles Grassley. … He is alarmed by the case before the Supreme Court this week. At issue is whether hundreds of major retail pharmacies across the country knowingly overcharged Medicaid and Medicare by overstating what their usual and customary prices were. If they did, they would be liable for triple damages. (Totenberg, 4/17)
Washington Monthly: Expanding Medicaid Coverage To The Incarcerated And Those Recently Released
Last week, a group of House members introduced a bill to provide Medicaid coverage to people in the last 30 days of their sentence in prison or jail. The Medicaid Reentry Act would give states a powerful tool to reduce the drug overdose deaths ravaging the country.  (Humphreys, 4/17)
The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat: Sonoma County Revamps Its Website For COVID-19 Statistics, Moving Away From Unreliable Case Counts
Sonoma County health officials have revamped the county website that reports local COVID-19 statistics, moving past infection rates and case counts that are no longer reliable due to dramatic decreases in laboratory testing. (Espinoza, 4/15)
The Washington Post: Covid Is Still A Leading Cause Of Death As The Virus Recedes
Federal health officials say that covid remains one of the leading causes of death in the United States, tied to about 250 deaths daily, on average, mostly among the old and immunocompromised. Few Americans are treating it as a leading killer, however — in part because they are not hearing about those numbers, don’t trust them or don’t see them as relevant to their own lives. (Diamond, 4/16)
CIDRAP: XBB.1.16 Picks Up Speed In US As WHO Experts Weigh COVID Vaccine Composition 
The Omicron XBB.1.16 SARS-CoV-2 subvariant fueling India's surge is gaining traction in the United States, but so far the nation isn't seeing increases in cases, deaths, or hospitalizations, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest updates. (Schnirring, 4/14)
Reveal: The COVID Tracking Project Part 1
The United States has 4% of the world’s population but 16% of COVID-19 deaths. This series investigates the failures by federal agencies that led to over 1 million Americans dying from COVID-19 and what that tells us about the nation’s ability to fight the next pandemic. Epidemiologist Jessica Malaty Rivera is the host for this three-part series. The first episode takes us back to February 2020, when reporters Rob Meyer and Alexis Madrigal from The Atlantic were trying to find solid data about the rising pandemic. (Curiskis and Oehler, 4/15)
Special Report: Inside San Diego County’s Mental Health Crisis
The San Diego Union-Tribune: 72 Hours: Inside San Diego County’s Mental Health Crisis
San Diego County has a mental health crisis. It’s on the streets and in jails, in classrooms and suburban homes. The problem isn’t new, but only in the past few years has it burst into the public consciousness in a way that’s forced elected leaders to pledge more and more time and money toward a fix. Yet, by any metric, the situation is worsening. (4/16)
San Diego Union-Tribune: Monday: 'I Thought She Was Going To Kill Me.’ 
San Diego County, like many places nationwide, faces a mental health crisis. But what that crisis looks like minute by minute is rarely seen. (Nelson, Figueroa and Winkley, 4/16)
The San Diego Union-Tribune: Tuesday: 'People Who Have Mental Illness Are Shunned A Lot, And I’m One Of Them.'
There are three scenarios in which you can lose your freedom without breaking the law. The first is if you’re suicidal. The second occurs if you’re deemed a danger to others. The third is when you’re so disabled you can’t care for yourself. If police or mental health professionals find one to be true, you could be involuntarily held for three days. (Nelson, Figueroa and Winkley, 4/16)
The San Diego Union-Tribune: Wednesday: 'You Might Feel Hopeless, But There Are No Hopeless Cases.'
One of the most intractable problems in the mental health crisis is how to reduce confrontations with law enforcement. About 30 percent of people shot by police in the county had documented mental health issues or showed “unstable behavior,” according to a District Attorney’s Office analysis that covered 1993 through 2017. (Nelson, Figueroa and Winkley, 4/16)
San Diego Union-Tribune: County Jails Are The Largest Mental Health Facility In The Region 
In San Diego County, about one in every three people in Sheriff’s Department custody is on prescribed medication to treat a mental illness, making the county jail the largest mental health provider in the region. (McDonald, 4/16)
San Diego Union-Tribune: Behavioral Health Court Explained: Who Gets In And What Happens When They Do?
Behavioral Health Court is a program in San Diego Superior Court offered to a small number of defendants in criminal cases who suffer from serious mental illness. It’s an intense program designed for the most serious cases. (Figueroa, 4/16)
San Diego Union-Tribune: Veterans Experience Mental Health Issues In Higher Numbers Than Civilian Population 
With more than 100,000 active-duty service members and 240,000 veterans, San Diego County has one of the largest concentrations of military personnel in the nation. Along with that population comes a high number of enlisted personnel and veterans struggling with mental health issues. (Warth and Dyer, 4/16)
San Diego Union-Tribune: Shifting From Crisis Care To Chronic Care For Patients Dealing With Mental Health Issues
Treatment of mental illness takes time. Experts say many people struggling with their mental health need repeated help to stay on the path to success. Existing research supports that assertion. (Sisson, 4/16)
San Diego Union-Tribune: CARE Court Could Expand Mental Health Treatment For Those Reluctant To Receive It 
In 2022, California launched an effort to address one of the state’s most frustrating issues: How to get mental health care to people who may not want it. (Warth, 4/16)
San Diego Union-Tribune: New County, City Programs Focus On Providing Mental Health Help To Homeless Population
On any given day, it isn’t hard to find evidence of a mental health crisis among San Diego County’s homeless population. (Warth, 4/16)
San Diego Union-Tribune: Schools Ramping Up Mental Health Support For Youth 
“You don’t always know the source of why a person is acting or behaving a certain way,” particularly since the pandemic, said Sandra Ceja, director of student support services for the Vista Unified School District. (Brennan, 4/16)
San Diego Union-Tribune: County Working To Disentangle Law Enforcement From Mental Health Encounters 
Out of nearly three dozen police shootings in the county from 2018 through June 2022, 40 percent involved someone with mental health issues, a review by The San Diego Union-Tribune found. (Winkley, 4/16)
San Diego Union-Tribune: A Hospital Closed Its Psychiatric Ward And Exposed The Region's Fragile System
San Diego County reached an inflection point around mental health care in 2018, when Tri-City Medical Center shuttered its 18-bed psychiatric unit. Directors of the Oceanside hospital said the closure was necessary because of expensive federal upgrade requirements and staffing difficulties. (Sisson, 4/16)
AP: US Supreme Court's Abortion Pill Order Spares Safe Havens 
Before the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in Friday, access to an abortion pill was in line to become more cumbersome in California, New York and some other states that have positioned themselves as safe havens for those seeking to end their pregnancies. The order keeps in place federal rules for use of mifepristone, one of the two drugs usually used in combination in medication abortions. The legal saga isn’t over: The Supreme Court suggested it will decide the issue by Wednesday. (Mulvihill, 4/14)
Stat: Supreme Court Temporarily Pauses New Limits On Abortion Pill
Access to the abortion pill mifepristone will remain unchanged until next Wednesday, after a U.S. Supreme Court justice on Friday issued a stay on last week’s ruling from a conservative Texas judge banning the medicine. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued an administrative stay preserving access to mifepristone, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 2000, until 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday. It is likely the country’s highest court will rule more substantively on access to the medication before then, a decision that will have major ramifications for the FDA’s authority and access to the commonly used drug. (Owermohle, 4/14)
The Washington Post: Unpacking The Flawed Science Cited In The Texas Abortion Pill Ruling
A Texas judge’s decision to invalidate federal approval of a key abortion drug cites research based on anonymous blog posts, cherry-picks statistics that exaggerate the negative physical and psychological effects of mifepristone, and ignores hundreds of scientific studies attesting to the medication’s safety. The unprecedented ruling last week by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk contradicted the recommendations of numerous medical groups when it assailed the safety of mifepristone, a two-decade-old medication used in more than half of all abortions in the United States. Another federal judge determined on the same day that the drug should remain available in a swath of states. (Weber, McGinley, Ovalle and Sellers, 4/13)
The Washington Post: The Controversial Article Matthew Kacsmaryk Did Not Disclose To The Senate
As a lawyer for a conservative legal group, Matthew Kacsmaryk in early 2017 submitted an article to a Texas law review criticizing Obama-era protections for transgender people and those seeking abortions. The Obama administration, the draft article argued, had discounted religious physicians who “cannot use their scalpels to make female what God created male” and “cannot use their pens to prescribe or dispense abortifacient drugs designed to kill unborn children.” (Kitchener, Barnes and Marimow, 4/15)
Around California
Orange County Register: California Is Changing How It Goes After Illegal Cannabis Farms 
It’s been five years since recreational cannabis sales began in California. Many have played by the rules, but the illegal growth and sale of the plant continue to undermine those obeying the laws. Since its establishment in 1983, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) has had more than 110 law enforcement agencies involved, making it one of the largest law enforcement task forces in the U.S. But things are changing. (Snibbe, 4/16)
San Francisco Chronicle: These Scuba Divers Have A Macabre Mission: Find Dead Bodies Underwater
Plumbing the mucky bottoms of lakes, rivers and San Francisco Bay for dead bodies is highly technical, sometimes gruesome work. But a small cohort of East Bay forensic scuba divers has created a new nonprofit to do just that. The organization, called California Recovery Divers, formed earlier this year and launched its website this month. It offers a lifeline to distressed families whose loved ones have drowned and can’t be found. (Thomas, 4/16)
Race and Health
Stat: In Areas With More Black Doctors, Black People Live Longer
Black people in counties with more Black primary care physicians live longer, according to a new national analysis that provides the strongest evidence yet that increasing the diversity of the medical workforce may be key to ending deeply entrenched racial health disparities. (McFarling, 4/14)
The New York Times: Black Pregnant Women Are Tested More Frequently For Drug Use, Study Suggests 
Hospitals are more likely to give drug tests to Black women delivering babies than white women, regardless of the mother’s history of substance use, suggests a new study of a health system in Pennsylvania. And such excessive testing was unwarranted, the study found: Black women were less likely than white women to test positive for drugs. (Rabin, 4/14)
The Washington Post: Why Black Men Face So Many Health Hurdles 
Social epidemiologist Roland Thorpe Jr. is on a double mission: to improve the health and extend the life expectancy of Black men, and to do the same for himself since both of his grandfathers died prematurely from heart disease. An expert in minority aging and men’s health, Thorpe is the principal investigator of the Black Men’s Health Project — a partnership of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and Michigan State University — created to call attention to the health crisis of Black men. (Petrow, 4/15)
The Washington Post: Genetic Prostate Cancer Risks Identified For Men Of African Descent
When it comes to prostate cancer, Black men face a grimmer picture than their White counterparts. They’re more likely to get and die of the disease. They also face longer delays between diagnosis and treatment. What’s behind the disparities? A recent study covering tens of thousands of men of African descent offers one answer — increased genetic risk, including some risk factors found only in men of African ancestry. (Blakemore, 4/16)
Skin Cancer
Reuters: Moderna/Merck Cancer Vaccine Plus Keytruda Delays Skin Cancer Return
An experimental mRNA cancer vaccine developed by Moderna Inc and Merck & Co cut the risk of death or recurrence of the most deadly skin cancer by 44% compared with Merck's immunotherapy Keytruda alone, U.S. researchers reported at a medical meeting on Sunday. The findings suggest that adding a personalized cancer vaccine based on mRNA technology to Keytruda, which revs up the immune response, could prolong the time patients have without recurrence or death, said Dr. Jeffrey Weber of the NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center, who presented the findings. (Steenhuysen and Erman, 4/16)
USA Today: In What Could Be A 'Big Shift' For Cancer Treatment, MRNA Vaccine Shows Promise Against Melanoma
Messenger RNA vaccines aren't just for COVID anymore. The vaccine technology America learned about during the pandemic was originally aimed at cancer, but its use against infectious diseases took off in the pandemic. Now a new study suggests specially designed mRNA shots can help prevent recurrences of melanoma, a dreaded skin cancer. The study, presented Sunday at a research conference, showed that after nearly two years, patients who received a personalized mRNA vaccine made by Moderna and Merck were 44% more likely to be alive and avoid new tumors than those who received only the standard of care. (Weintraub, 4/16)
The Washington Post: Why Melanoma Is So Deadly For Men, And Why It Doesn’t Have To Be
As his patient sat on the examining table, dermatologist Jeremy Brauer explained the pathology report, letting him know that the lesion on his chest was skin cancer and that minor surgery would be required to remove it. “I’d like to try to get this done before the weather gets nice,” the patient, himself a physician, told Brauer, “so I can get back out into the sun.” Brauer, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health, says he was stunned. (Atkins, 4/16)
Health Equity Racism in Academic Medicine
We cannot achieve health equity for Black patients without expanding the Black physician workforce, and the nation’s medical institutions are not achieving that goal.
Listening to Black Californians How the Health Care System Undermines Black Californians’ Pursuit of Good Health
CHCF commissioned a study that listens deeply to Black Californians talking about their experiences with racism and health care. This report summarizes in-depth interviews with 100 Black Californians and 18 focus groups, as well as a statewide survey of 3,325 adult Black Californians.
Health Care Survey The 2023 CHCF California Health Policy Survey
More than one in three Californians report having medical debt, and of those, one in five (19%) report owing $5,000 or more.
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California Healthline is a service of the California Health Care Foundation produced by KFF Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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