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KHN’s ‘What The Health’: Spending Bill Slowdown

45 min 50 sec ago
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Julie Rovner

Kaiser Health News

@jrovner

Read Julie's Stories Rebecca Adams

CQ Roll Call

@RebeccaAdamsDC

Read Rebecca's Stories Alice Miranda Ollstein

Politico

@AliceOllstein

Read Alice's Stories

The fiscal year started a month and a half ago, but Congress has still not agreed on an annual spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services – or any of the other annual spending bills that fund the government.

Meanwhile, Congress IS moving on efforts to further restrict tobacco and vaping products, particularly to limit their marketing to underage users. The Trump administration has been vowing to use its own authority to crack down on a youth vaping epidemic, but so far has not acted.

The administration is moving on the drug price front, however, filing a lawsuit against drugmaker Gilead for allegedly infringing a government-owned patent on a drug regimen to prevent HIV.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from Kaiser Health News, Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call and Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico.

Rovner also interviews Dan Weissmann, host of the podcast “An Arm and a Leg,” about why health care costs so much and what patients can do about it. KHN is co-producing the podcast’s new season.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Among the partisan arguments holding up the HHS funding bill are disagreements on spending for family planning programs and the amount of an increase for HHS as a whole.
  • A House subcommittee this week approved new regulations that would limit flavors for vaping and other tobacco products. But that comes as the administration appears likely to step back from Trump’s earlier vow to outlaw flavored products.
  • Some lawmakers and administration officials suggest that any legislation to prohibit flavored e-cigarette products should include carve-outs for some groups, including small businesses that cater to vapers and to members of the military.
  • The recent revelation that Google is working with a major health care system to analyze patient records is raising concerns about consumers’ privacy. That and other recent issues surround health care tech may signal that the federal privacy law, HIPAA, needs to be updated.
  • The Trump administration’s suit against Gilead seeking to bring down costs of its HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis drug may signal that the government is ready to take on other companies with high price tags on drugs developed with federal support.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: The Philadelphia Inquirer’s “A Philly woman’s broken back and $36,000 bill shows how some health insurance brokers trick consumers into skimpy plans,” by Sarah Gantz.

Rebecca Adams: CQ Roll Call’s “Surprise billing fight highlights hurdles for bolder health care changes,” by Mary Ellen McIntire.

Alice Ollstein: Politico’s “Trump allies received hundreds of thousands of dollars under federal health contract,” by Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn.

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcherGoogle PlaySpotify, or Pocket Casts.

Categories: Health Care

Nursing Home Safety Violations Put Residents At Risk, Report Finds

7 hours 5 min ago

As huge swaths of California burned last fall, federal health officials descended on 20 California nursing homes to determine whether they were prepared to protect their vulnerable residents from fires, earthquakes and other disasters.

The results of their surprise inspections, which took place from September to December of 2018, were disturbing: Inspectors found hundreds of potentially life-threatening violations of safety and emergency requirements, including blocked emergency exit doors, unsafe use of power strips and extension cords, and inadequate fuel for emergency generators, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

The nursing home residents “were at increased risk of injury or death during a fire or other emergency,” the report concluded.

The threat is not theoretical in a state that has been ravaged by natural disasters: One of the nursing homes that was inspected burned down in a wildfire afterward, so the report only includes results for the 19 remaining facilities, which it does not identify.

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“The fact that one of the nursing homes inspected was later destroyed by a wildfire speaks to the grave danger residents are facing today,” said Mike Connors of the advocacy group California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. He called the findings alarming but not surprising.

Even though the report didn’t name the nursing home that was destroyed, the California Association of Health Facilities, which represents most of the state’s skilled nursing facilities, identified it as one that burned down in the November 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history.

Craig Cornett, CEO and president of the association, said all the residents were evacuated safely from that home — and from two others destroyed in the same fire. Hundreds of other nursing homes also have responded to emergencies in the past three years without loss of life, he said, which shows that “the deficiencies in the report do not reflect true facility readiness.”

The association is concerned about safely violations, he added, but “this is an example of bureaucracy equipped with blinders.”

The federal auditors said the violations occurred because of poor oversight by management and high staff turnover at the homes. But they also criticized the California Department of Public Health, the agency responsible for overseeing nursing homes in the state, for not ensuring the homes complied with federal safety and emergency requirements.

In some cases, the state’s own inspectors had previously cited nursing homes for the same problems, but did not inspect the facilities again to ensure they had been fixed, the report said.

The department “can reduce the risk of resident injury or death by improving its oversight,” the report said. For example, it could “conduct more frequent site surveys at nursing homes to follow up on deficiencies previously cited rather than relying on reviews of documentation submitted by nursing homes.”

The public health department told the auditors it had followed up with the 19 remaining homes to ensure they were addressing the problems auditors identified. But the state disagreed with the auditors’ recommendation to inspect nursing homes more frequently, saying in a letter to the auditors that federal rules don’t require onsite visits to determine whether problems have been fixed — and that the agency simply does not have enough inspectors.

The department declined a California Healthline request for comment.

The Office of Inspector General is auditing nursing homes across the nation that receive payments from the public health insurance programs Medicare or Medicaid to determine whether the facilities meet the stricter federal safety and emergency guidelines that were adopted in 2016. The auditors did not choose the 20 nursing homes randomly out of the approximately 1,200 statewide, but rather selected those in fire- and earthquake-prone regions, as well as ones already on notice for health and safety violations.

The inspectors found a total of 325 violations at the 19 homes. Among them:

  • Two of the homes had pathways leading to emergency exit doors that were blocked, including one exit door blocked by a pallet.
  • 16 had violations related to their fire alarm and sprinkler systems, including two that didn’t have their fire alarm systems routinely tested and maintained.
  • All had violations related to electrical equipment, including using power strips that did not meet requirements or were unsafely connected to appliances or other power strips.
  • Eight had not properly inspected, tested and maintained their emergency generators, which provide electricity for critical medical equipment during a power outage. Two didn’t have enough generator fuel to last 96 hours. Generator power has become critical for nursing homes in recent months amid widespread power shutdowns aimed at preventing wildfires.
  • Three nursing homes’ emergency plans didn’t address evacuations.

“We don’t want reports like this,” said state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa). “It sounds like maybe we need to ask the state auditor to see if the site visits done by the state are being done thoroughly.”

This KHN story first published on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Categories: Health Care

Research Roundup: Ethical Issues Of Genome Sequencing; Poor Sleep; Care For Young Transgender Patients

7 hours 31 min ago
Each week, KHN compiles a selection of recently released health policy studies and briefs.
Categories: Health Care

State Highlights: New York Becomes First State To Name Hospitals, Nursing Homes Treating Patients With Deadly Fungus; Dayton, Ohio’s Last Abortion Clinic Granted Operating License

7 hours 31 min ago
Media outlets report on news from New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Georgia, California, Maryland, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, and Florida.
Categories: Health Care

Hospital Group Involved In ‘Project Nightingale’ Defends Actions As Covered Under A Business Clause Of HIPAA

7 hours 32 min ago
Federal regulators have launched an investigation into Google's "Project Nightingale," in which the company was amassing health data on millions of patients without their knowledge. Ascension, the hospital group involved in the initiative, said that the project is covered by what’s known as a business associate agreement. Meanwhile, a new study confirms that Apple's smartwatches are able to accurately detect teh most common type of irregular heartbeat.
Categories: Health Care

Doctors Paint Dire Picture Of Climate Change’s Negative Health Effects On Children

7 hours 32 min ago
A new report lays out health problems that will face the coming generations ranging from infectious diseases and worsening air pollution to rising temperatures and malnutrition.
Categories: Health Care

Talking About Mental Health At Work Can Still Be Taboo, But That Costs Businesses In The End

7 hours 32 min ago
Mental health issues that are kept hidden can be an expensive problem for businesses. Depression alone costs the U.S. economy $210 billion a year, half of which is shouldered by employers in the form of missed work and lost productivity.
Categories: Health Care

Following Stark Report On Increase In Hate Crimes, Advocates Say Congressional Action Is Needed

7 hours 32 min ago
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says legislation is needed to incentivize police to report hate crimes. An FBI report this week showed the highest levels of violent hate crimes in the U.S. since 2001. In other public health news: alcohol, the pneumonic plague, trial results, gene editing, and texting while walking.
Categories: Health Care

Flavored E-Cigarette Ban Passes House Subcommittee; Senators Want Information On Administration’s Plans

7 hours 32 min ago
The movement in Congress over e-cigarettes comes as the nation awaits the Trump administration's decision on the matter.
Categories: Health Care

As Boomers Age Out Of Caring For Adult Disabled Children, Health System Is Unprepared To Take Over In Their Place

7 hours 32 min ago
The children were the first generation to be raised at home rather than in institutions. But as their parents age, families and advocates wonder what will happen to the vulnerable population. In other health industry news: sky-high medical bills, supply chain tweaks, hospital care at home, and more.
Categories: Health Care

Health Law Sign-Ups Drop 20% As Constitutionality Decision Looms, But Experts Point To Marketplace’s Past Resiliency

7 hours 32 min ago
So far, more than 932,000 people have signed up for 2020 health insurance coverage down from 1.1 million sign-ups this time last year despite the marketplace being stronger than ever.
Categories: Health Care

First Edition: November 14, 2019

9 hours 51 min ago
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.
Categories: Health Care

‘An Arm And A Leg’: Mom Vs. Texas In A Fight To Get Kids’ Hearing Aids Covered

11 hours 21 min ago
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About This Podcast

Health care — and how much it costs — is scary. But you’re not alone with this stuff, and knowledge is power. “An Arm and a Leg” is a podcast about these issues, and its second season is co-produced by KHN.

Visit armandalegshow.com

When Stephanie Wittels Wachs found out that health insurance in Texas didn’t cover hearing aids for kids, she lobbied to change Texas law. And she won. But the process took more than two years.

“You’re constantly just like bugging everyone you know, like, ‘Please call! Please text! Please call! Please email!’” Wittels Wachs said. “You just become like this broken record.”

It was a grind, but along the way, Wittels Wachs found surprising allies. The bill’s sponsor in the state Senate was Lois Kolkhorst, a deep-red Republican with family members who are deaf.

“You end up getting into bed with people who, you’re like, ‘They’re the worst!’ But you find out they’re not the worst,” Wittels Wachs said.

Season 3’s Episode 1 of “An Arm And A Leg” unveils the moment when Sen. Kolkhorst made an emotional pitch to her fellow lawmakers. It worked. Texas now requires health plans to cover medically necessary hearing aids and cochlear implants for children.

Wittels Wachs has a daughter born hearing-impaired, and she was shocked to learn that the hearing aids her daughter needed would cost $6,000, and not be covered by her health insurance.

But her activism didn’t come from financial need; it came after a personal tragedy. Wittels Wachs’ brother, Harris Wittels — a comic who wrote for TV comedies like “Parks and Recreation” — died of a heroin overdose around the time Wittels Wachs’ daughter turned 1 year old.

“I just needed a place to put a lot of my inability to bring my brother back, my inability to change the fact that my daughter couldn’t hear,” Wittels Wachs said. “All of these things happened at once that I couldn’t fix.”

Wittels Wachs is the host of “Last Day,” a new podcast about the opioid crisis and the author of “Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful,” a memoir about grieving her brother.

Season 3 is a co-production of Kaiser Health News and Public Road Productions.

To keep in touch with “An Arm and a Leg,” subscribe to the newsletter. You can also follow the show on Facebook and Twitter. And if you’ve got stories to tell about the health care system, the producers would love to hear from you.

To hear all Kaiser Health News podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to “An Arm and a Leg” on iTunesPocket CastsGoogle Play or Spotify.

Categories: Health Care

A Regulatory Haze: Vape Marketers Are Online, Creating New Headaches For Feds

11 hours 21 min ago

In one picture, Hannah — or, as her 133,000 Instagram followers know her, @__justpeachyy — reclines in a car, her blue vape accenting the matching tattoo ink on her arms. Her curls are messy by design, and eyes heavily lined. (The post has more than 1,300 likes.)

In another, she gazes at the camera, her hair brushing against her right eye, her blouse slightly unzipped. You swipe left to see the vape juice she’s using today: a mix of strawberry custard, sugar cookie and vanilla custard, paired with, this time, a black device (2,994 likes as of Nov. 2).

As Washington scrambles to crack down on the nascent vaping industry — particularly how it courts young users — so-called influencers, like Hannah, whose online personas exist in a haze of glamour and celebrity, are exposing critical gaps in how government officials regulate the marketing of electronic cigarettes. (Hannah did not respond to requests for an interview.)

Tobacco marketing researchers and anti-smoking advocates say regulators — namely the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission — are ill equipped, relying on rules and standards that fail to understand modern marketing.

Eschewing the glossy magazines and television ads favored by tobacco giants, brands like Juul, Logic and Myblu have leveraged sophisticated internet campaigns, relying heavily on Instagram, the photo-sharing platform used by about three-quarters of American teenagers. They have marketed from their own accounts but now benefit from the free advertising provided by influencers: seemingly unaffiliated people who promote vapes to their sizable online audiences.

Their reach is global — a complication, since American regulations don’t necessarily apply abroad.

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Liam Gunther of Calgary, Alberta, has 49,000 followers on his account @chufflord. One video post, scored to the Etta James song “At Last,” depicts his morning ritual. He runs his fingers through his bed head, turns to the right and smiles. In the next shot, the objects of his affection are on the nightstand: his Canadian flag-clad vaping pod system and e-liquid (both of which he promotes in the caption). “HOW VAPORS WAKE UP,” it reads in all caps. “DO YOU GRAB YOUR PHONE OR VAPE FIRST??” (Gunther also declined to provide an interview.)

“All the rules for limitations on tobacco were written before social media existed,” said Dave Dobbins, chief operating officer at Truth Initiative, which advocates for enhanced tobacco regulations. “It didn’t even contemplate social media.”

It’s a gaping hole, especially since science increasingly suggests that nicotine vapes may harm young users’ brains — and are serving as a transition to actual tobacco. Young users are more likely to adopt e-cigarettes when they engage with social media-based advertising.

Some influencers use the hashtag #nominors, which has over 10,400 posts and, in theory, sets a boundary. In practice, it can do the opposite and attract underage traffic.

The hashtag #vaping alone has more than 9 million posts, featuring elaborate smoke tricks, e-juice flavors, attractive models and stylish vaping devices.

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While federal agencies play catch-up, researchers worry it’s too little, too late.

In theory, a couple of rules govern marketing. Regardless of platform, e-cig advertisements cannot include demonstrably false statements — including unproven claims that the devices help people quit smoking, an argument often deployed by manufacturers and vape hobbyists. And on the internet, any marketing post must include a warning statement that says nicotine is addictive.

But, in practice, these restrictions mean little, researchers said.

“It’s been kind of a free-for-all on social media with vaping companies,” said Linnea Laestadius, an associate professor of health policy at the University of Wisconsin, who studies e-cig marketing. “Nobody’s really touched it yet.”

Prominent vape companies are savvy about skirting restrictions, said Dr. Robert Jackler, a physician at Stanford University who researches cigarette and e-cigarette advertising — which often suggests that vapes will help smokers quit, without being explicit.

“They advertise that they’re useful in transitioning from traditional cigarettes to vaping products, often with proxy terms,” Jackler said. “They use clever alternatives, like ‘switch’ or ‘alternative’ — without saying, switch from what.”

That’s one issue. The bigger factor is that the limited rules around social media haven’t anticipated how, precisely, a service like Instagram works.

The big companies aren’t posting much anymore — Juul’s account has been closed for almost a year, and Myblu hasn’t posted since last October. They don’t need to.

Instagram users often trust influencers more than they do brands, research suggests, and their posts are more effective in recruiting young users. They sport tattoos, ear gauges and piercings. Models are pretty, slim and perfectly made up. The most popular accounts have tens of thousands of followers, views and likes.

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Some are certainly independent enthusiasts. But many have contracts with major vaping companies, receiving money or free products in exchange for posts featuring particular products. Juul alone has recruited thousands of influencers, according to an investigation by the House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee. (The company contests those findings, saying it has worked with fewer than 10 adult influencers.)

The FTC stipulates that any poster with corporate sponsorship must clearly disclose that relationship. But that rarely happens in a meaningful way.

Analyzing a random sample of 1,000 Instagram posts, Laestadius found that fewer than 10% of industry-backed influencers noted corporate sponsorship in their individual posts. Many simply mention the relationship in the bio of their profile page — easier to miss if you’re just scrolling through a feed.

Federal authorities are now trying to crack down. The FDA and FTC sent warning letters this summer to four companies that it said had paid influencers for marketing but failed to follow federal guidelines. According to information provided by the FDA, such letters are the first step in taking enforcement actions, which could include financial penalties.

Many experts said it’s unclear, though, whether these agencies have the bandwidth to enforce the existing rules — citing the number of accounts to follow and the sheer volume of activity. In fact, since Juul shut down its account, the number of Instagram posts with the company’s hashtag has continued to climb. (As of publication, there were more than 624,000.) And that’s only one of the relevant hashtags. Vapers use #vgod to share tricks — with 1.4 million posts and counting. There are 2.5 million posts under #cloudchasing, many of which are focused on vape tricks, and about 783,000 at #improof.

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The sheer volume sparks another series of regulatory challenges.

Companies can disavow those posts as separate from their marketing strategy — even if they “lit the fire and fanned the flames” of that online community, Jackler said.

When asked about influencer-based marketing, Austin Finan, a Juul spokesman, said the company’s social media team works to find “inappropriate social media content” and remove it from the platform.

“We agree these types of social media posts are a serious problem,” he said.

Plus, the First Amendment makes it harder to craft regulations around marketing. Individual posters have specific protections that big companies lack. They could have more freedom, for instance, to say electronic cigarettes helped them quit smoking, Laestadius said, which Juul’s account legally couldn’t say. (E-cigarettes haven’t undergone the FDA’s process to be approved as medical quit aids.)

One example — from Hannah, @__justpeachyy: “I watched smoking destroy the health of my family, claiming lives that should be here today,” she writes in one post. “When I found a way to quit, all I wanted was to see more lives changed, and helped others drop the habit too.”

These challenges underscore why health officials and anti-smoking advocates are moving in another direction: to police platforms rather than posters by recruiting tech companies like Facebook (which owns Instagram), Snapchat and TikTok to remove content promoting vaping.

The American Medical Association in October asked Amazon, Microsoft, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to prevent vape sales on their platforms. Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said his organization has had “constructive conversations” with Facebook and Instagram.

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But none of those companies are legally required to make any changes — and, historically, have done so only in the face of public pressure, Jackler and Laestadius both noted.

“It’s a really complicated environment. It’s not as cut and dry as big tobacco,” Laestadius said. “It’s a combination of the big internet companies and the products — and our legal system isn’t designed to handle this yet.”

Categories: Health Care

Dialysis Patients Panic As Financial ‘Life Raft’ Becomes Unmoored

11 hours 21 min ago

Russell Desmond received a letter a few weeks ago from the American Kidney Fund that he said felt like “a smack on the face.”

The organization informed Desmond, who has kidney failure and needs dialysis three times a week, that it will no longer help him pay for his private health insurance plan — to the tune of about $800 a month.

“I am depressed about the whole situation,” said the 58-year-old Sacramento resident. “I have no clue what I’m going to do.”

Desmond has Medicare, but it doesn’t cover the entire cost of his care.  So, with assistance from the American Kidney Fund, he pays for a private plan to cover the difference.

Now, the fund, which helps about 3,700 Californians pay their premiums and out-of-pocket costs, is threatening to pull out of California because of a new state law that is expected to cut into the dialysis industry’s profits — leaving patients like Desmond scrambling.

The letter portrayed the fund as helpless. “We are heartbroken at this outcome,” it read. “Ending assistance in California is the last thing we want to do.”

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But supporters of the new law are calling the threat a scare tactic. State Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), the author of AB-290, said there is nothing in the measure that prohibits the fund from continuing to provide financial assistance to patients.

“AKF has simply made a conscious decision, without merit, to leave the state despite the many accommodations I made by amending the bill in the Senate to ensure that it can continue to operate in California,” Wood said in a written statement.

What’s behind this dispute is the tight relationship between the American Kidney Fund and the companies that provide dialysis, which filters the blood of people whose kidneys are no longer doing the job.

People on dialysis usually qualify for Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older, and those with kidney failure and certain disabilities. If they’re low income, they may also qualify for Medicaid, which is called Medi-Cal in California.

But dialysis companies can get higher reimbursements from private insurers than from public coverage. And one way to keep dialysis patients on private insurance is by giving them financial assistance from the American Kidney Fund, which helps nearly 75,000 low-income dialysis patients across the country.

The fund gets most of its money from DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care, the two largest dialysis companies in the country. The fund does not disclose its donors, but an audit of its finances reveals that 82% of its funding in 2018 — nearly $250 million — came from two companies.

Insurance plans, consumer advocacy groups and unions have accused the American Kidney Fund of helping dialysis providers steer patients into private insurance plans in exchange for donations from the dialysis industry. Wood said his bill is intended to discourage that practice.

American Kidney Fund CEO LaVarne Burton denied the accusations and said her group plays no role in patients’ coverage choices.

Starting in 2022, the new law will limit the private-insurance reimbursement rate that dialysis companies receive for patients who get assistance from groups such as the American Kidney Fund to the rate that Medicare pays. The rate change won’t apply to patients who are currently receiving assistance as long as they keep the same health plans. The bill will also address a similar dynamic in drug treatment programs.

To determine which patients receive financial aid, the law will require third-party groups to disclose patients’ names to health insurers starting July 1, 2020.

These disclosure requirements are spurring the American Kidney Fund’s decision to leave, Burton said. She argues that they conflict with federal rules and violate patient privacy.

“AKF has no choice but to leave or seek legal relief,” Burton said.

Brian Carroll says he had to move back in with his parents in 2016 after dialysis treatment because it left him too weak to work. Without premium assistance from the American Kidney Fund, he says, he’ll face even more financial strain. (Ana B. Ibarra/California Healthline)

In mid-October, the fund started sending letters to its financial aid recipients in California warning of its departure. And Nov. 1, it joined two dialysis patients in filing suit against the state, asking a U.S. District Court to rule the law unconstitutional.

Gov. Gavin Newsom cautioned against such actions when he signed the bill, and urged “both opponents and supporters to put patients first.”

But as the threats and legal battle play out, patients are caught “squarely in the middle,” said Bonnie Burns, a consultant with California Health Advocates, a Medicare advocacy group.

Their options may be limited, she said. Those who don’t work won’t have access to employer-sponsored coverage to make up the difference. And in California, Medicare recipients under age 65 are not eligible to purchase supplemental insurance known as Medigap.

The state Department of Managed Health Care offers a fact sheet for affected patients, directing them to programs such as Covered California and Medi-Cal.

DaVita and Fresenius said insurance counselors and social workers at their clinics are working with patients to find other options.

“We will continue to treat all patients, regardless of insurance status,” said Paige Hosler, vice president of insurance management at DaVita. Hosler noted that some patients may qualify for DaVita’s charity care program.

Dialysis companies have been at the center of recent legislative and ballot-box battles, and have spent big to defend their bottom lines. Last year, they poured a record-breaking $111 million into a campaign to defeat Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that would have capped their profits. The measure failed.

The industry also spent about $2.5 million in California on lobbying and campaign contributions in the first half of this year to oppose Wood’s measure.

Desmond said he understands why lawmakers targeted the dialysis industry but can’t fathom why they did so at the expense of patients.

Desmond was laid off from his job as a computer programmer in Massachusetts in 2009 and moved to California to join his brother. One year later, he was diagnosed with kidney failure.

He lives off his Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, which come to about $2,000 a month after his Medicare premiums are deducted. Medicare pays for 80% of his care.

He also qualifies for Medi-Cal coverage that comes with high out-of-pocket costs, so he relies instead on a private Aetna insurance plan to cover the remaining 20%. The American Kidney Fund has been paying the premiums for his private plan since 2015.

“What they did is take away our life raft and left us to drown,” he said of lawmakers.

Brian Carroll, 40, of Sacramento, has been on dialysis for five years. He moved back in with his parents in 2016 because, he said, dialysis left him too weak to work.

“I am now completely depending on other people,” Carroll said. The American Kidney Fund pays the $270 monthly premium for his private insurance plan that covers what Medicare doesn’t. “That’s an entire month of groceries and gas for me,” he said.

Carroll said he supported Proposition 8, even though dialysis companies argued it would force them to cut back services and shut down clinics.

In this situation, he’s not sure whom to blame — the lawmakers, who passed the law with no backup plan for patients, or the fund, which is essentially holding patients hostage.

“What I do know is that you can’t just leave dialysis patients like this,” Carroll said. “It’s cruel.”

This KHN story first published on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Categories: Health Care

Listen: Focusing On Health Care Politics

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 11:30am

Julie Rovner, the chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News, was on the air Tuesday discussing current health politics and marketplace enrollment issues. She joined New York Times reporter Margot Sanger-Katz to talk with Radio Times host Marty Moss-Coane to break down Democratic presidential candidates’ debate on “Medicare for all” plans and other health initiatives.

She also was on WDET, the NPR station in Detroit, with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson to help answer consumers’ questions about the Democrats’ health care debate and buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces during open enrollment.

Categories: Health Care

Viewpoints: Supreme Court Ruling Against Gun Maker Is a Welcome Win For Gun Violence Victims; Prohibition Of E-Cigs Isn’t A Good Long-Term Public Health Option

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 8:45am
Media outlets focus on these public heath topics and others health care issues.
Categories: Health Care

State Highlights: Civil Trial Begins For Arizona Body Donation Facility Accused Of Fraud; Experts Link High Lung Cancer Rates In Missouri, Kentucky With Smoking

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 8:45am
Media outlets report on news from Arizona, Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas, Maryland, North Carolina, California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and New Hampshire.
Categories: Health Care

USC Officials Try To Quell Rumors Of Suicide Cluster As Total Number Of Student Deaths This Year Climbs To 9

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 8:45am
While three of the deaths on the University of Southern California campus were suicides, officials still haven't determined some of the causes. School administrators have faced a balancing act, trying to share adequate information with students without overloading them with unnecessary details.
Categories: Health Care

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