Medical / Health

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Governor Looks to Get CA into the Rx Business

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2020 at 8:51 AM

In a bold strategy to drive down prescription drug prices, Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing that California become the first state in the nation to establish its own generic drug label, making those medications available at an affordable price to the state’s 40 million residents.

The proposal, part of the new state budget Newsom sent to the Legislature on Friday, would authorize the state to negotiate contracts with drugmakers to manufacture selected prescriptions on behalf of California. Such a disruption of the pharmaceutical industry, proponents say, would leverage the state’s massive market to increase competition and lower generic drug prices nationally.
CALMATTERS
  • CalMatters
The strategy is one of several the Democratic governor's plans aimed to lower the cost of healthcare for Californians. The administration indicated the proposal is part of a multi-prong effort that includes strengthening the state’s public option for health insurance and increasing drug pricing transparency.

Newsom will also continue last year’s push to establish a single market for drug pricing, direct the state to ask for more rebates from drug manufacturers and open a new health care affordability office sometime this spring.

“The cost of health care is just too damn high, and California is fighting back,” Newsom said in a statement. “These nation-leading reforms seek to put consumers back in the driver seat and lower health care costs for every Californian.”


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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Arcata House to Provide Hot Meals, Needs Some Help to Do So

Posted By on Sun, Dec 22, 2019 at 3:56 PM

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The Arcata House Partnership will be hosting meal events during Christmas week to help folks in need of a hot meal during the holiday season.

Meals will be available from noon to 3 p.m. at the nonprofit’s Ninth Street annex Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

In addition to lending a helping hand, the partnership is asking those with means to aid the effort by volunteering to cook or clean up, or by donating to the cause (cider and cinnamon sticks are a special request) or by giving clothes, blankets and socks.

To contact AHP about volunteering and/or donating, call 298-7610 or email volunteer@arcatahouse.org.

Read the release from the Arcata House Partnership:
We will be serving out of the back of our 9th Street annex, from 12 to 3 p.m. on Monday (12/23), Tuesday(12/24), Thursday (12/26) and Friday (12/27).

Volunteers for cooking and cleanup would be greatly appreciated. Donations of cider and sweets (esp. cinnamon sticks) are also welcome.

In addition, clients are in need of blankets and socks for the holiday season so AHP will gladly receive clothing contributions as well.

To contact AHP about volunteering and/or donating, call (707) 298-7610 or email volunteer@arcatahouse.org.

The Christmas week menu will include:

Monday, 12/23: Chili w/cornbread and chips
Tuesday, 12/24: Shepherd's Pie w/cranberries
Thursday, 12/26: Black beans and coconut rice
Friday, 12/27: Pasta w/meat sauce

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Monday, December 16, 2019

UPDATE: Covered California Has Extended Deadline to Friday, Officials Say New Subsidies and Eligibility Requirements Are Available

Posted By on Mon, Dec 16, 2019 at 12:56 PM

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UPDATE:

The state has extended the deadline to sign up and receive Covered California coverage beginning Jan. 1 until Friday due to a surge in enrollment.

According to a press release, “Covered California saw tens of thousands of people sign up for coverage” beginning late last week.

“Open enrollment is full-steam ahead, and this year’s enrollment period is more important than before,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said. “Sign up now and you may be eligible for new financial help that is available for the first time, and you can avoid the possibility of paying a significant penalty for not being covered.”

The full Covered California release on the extension can be found at the bottom of the story.

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If you want to sign up for health insurance through Covered California and enter 2020 insured, you’re running out of time.

The Dec. 15 deadline (extended to Dec. 20)  to sign up in time to start the New Year with coverage is approaching and state officials are reminding California residents without health insurance that they will face a penalty next year. While Congress reduced the penalty for failing to get insured under the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, the California Legislature enacted its own version this year, meaning residents who don’t have health insurance next year could face penalties of up to $695 per person.

But the looming penalties promise to bring more people into the insurance pool, which will reduce costs, said Covered California spokesperson James Scullary. Rates for next year are only going up 0.8 percent statewide, Scullary said, the lowest rate change in the program’s history. And in Humboldt County, he said, the average rate change is a 1.7-percent reduction.

There are also more subsidies available than in previous years, Scullary said, and they are available to a wider swath of customers.

Customers who make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level — which equates to about $49,960 for an individual or $103,000 for a family of four — on average receive subsidies that cover 80 percent of their insurance costs, Scullary said. Further, he said individuals making up to $75,000 and families of four with incomes up to $154,000 are now eligible.

Scullary said he’s heard from lots of people in Humboldt County who assumed they were ineligible for Covered California and/or subsidies because that was the case a couple of years ago.

“We’re really encouraging them to check again because things have changed substantially,” he said. “That could make a big difference in people’s lives.”

To find out if you’re eligible, visit www.coveredcalifornia.com or call (800) 300-1506. Scullary said the website also has a tool that allows people to anonymously enter their zip code, household income and ages of household residents in order to see the assortment of plans available and what federal and state subsidies may be available.

Open enrollment for Covered California extends through Jan. 31, though, again, customers must sign up by Dec. 15 to be insured by Jan. 1. As of March, Scullary said about 5,900 Humboldt County residents were enrolled in the program.

Read the Covered California release below:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In response to a strong surge in enrollment, Covered California extended the deadline for consumers to sign up for health insurance that would start on Jan. 1. They will now have through Friday, Dec. 20, to sign up and have their coverage go into effect on New Year’s Day.

“Covered California is still open for business and making sure consumers can have a health plan in place on Jan. 1,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “Covered California is putting consumers first, making sure they have time to find the plan that best fits their needs.”

Beginning late last week, Covered California saw tens of thousands of people sign up for coverage on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“Open enrollment is full-steam ahead, and this year’s enrollment period is more important than before,” Lee said. “Sign up now and you may be eligible for new financial help that is available for the first time, and you can avoid the possibility of paying a significant penalty for not being covered.”

Governor Gavin Newsom Amplifies Message

Governor Newsom took to social media this weekend to help remind all Californians they can get help paying for their health insurance. In this Twitter video, the governor used the holiday season as a way to spread the news about the first in the nation state subsidies that are available and that Californians have until the end of Friday to sign up for coverage that begins Jan. 1.

Restoring the Individual Mandate

California lawmakers put two new policies in place for 2020 that were designed to encourage enrollment and lower costs.

First, they restored the individual mandate penalty that was part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from 2014 to 2018, meaning consumers who do not get covered could face a penalty when they file their 2020 taxes in the spring of 2021.

For those facing a penalty, a family of four would pay at least $2,000, and potentially more, for not having health insurance throughout 2020.

Covered California is working with the Franchise Tax Board, which will administer the penalty, to alert Californians about the new law and reduce the number of uninsured people in our state.

New State Subsidies

The second new policy for 2020 is new financial help for eligible Californians that will lower the cost of their coverage. Last week, Covered California announced that nearly 500,000 people who had already signed up for coverage in 2020 will be receiving the new subsidies.

On average, consumers between 200 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will receive $21 per household, per month on top of their federal tax credits. Meanwhile, for the first time in the nation, people who earn between 400 and 600 percent of the federal poverty level will be receiving an average of $460 per month, per household.

“California will be making history this year, becoming the first state in the nation to make coverage more affordable for middle-income people like small-businesses owners and entrepreneurs,” Lee said. “If you have checked Covered California out before, check again, because you could be eligible for new financial help that will lower the cost of your coverage by hundreds of dollars a month.”

Getting Help Enrolling


Consumers can easily find out if they are eligible for financial help and see which plans are available in their area by entering their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage into Covered California’s Shop and Compare Tool.

Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can:

Visit www.CoveredCA.com.
Get free and confidential in-person assistance, in a variety of languages, from a certified enroller.
Have a certified enroller call them and help them for free.
Call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.


California’s open-enrollment period continues through Jan. 31, 2020, but people who enroll after Dec. 20 will have their coverage start Feb. 1.

Residents of Minnesota, Rhode Island, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia should visit www.HealthCare.gov to be directed to their state exchange to enroll. Enrollment in Idaho’s health exchange ends today.

About Covered California

Covered California is the state’s health insurance marketplace, where Californians can find affordable, high-quality insurance from top insurance companies. Covered California is the only place where individuals who qualify can get financial assistance on a sliding scale to reduce premium costs. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Depending on their income, some consumers may qualify for the low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal program.

Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the health insurance marketplace work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the governor and the legislature. For more information about Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.
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Monday, December 9, 2019

Trump Administration Food Stamp Cuts Will Hit 3,600 in Humboldt

Posted By on Mon, Dec 9, 2019 at 9:05 AM

The Trump administration has announced that it will be changing food stamp eligibility requirements, which could cut nutrition assistance to 688,000 Americans, including more than 3,500 in Humboldt County.

On Dec. 4, the administration announced it would be eliminating waivers that allow counties with high unemployment rates to allow able-bodied adults without dependents who work fewer than 80 hours a month to receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for more than three months. Currently, 52 of California’s 58 counties, including Humboldt, have such waivers in place.

FILE
  • File
Nationally, 13 percent of the population receives assistance buying groceries through SNAP.

According to the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, Humboldt currently has 3,606 residents who receive benefits through the program — administered as CalFresh in California — who would be impacted by the change. They receive anywhere from $16 to $194 a month in benefits, which come in the form of an EBT card that can only be used to purchase food, including fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, grains and other staples.

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Thursday, November 21, 2019

St. Joseph Hospital and Redwood Memorial Hospital Healthcare Workers on Strike

Posted By on Thu, Nov 21, 2019 at 3:50 PM

St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial Hospital healthcare workers striking in front of the St. Joseph Lane entrance to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. - IRIDIAN CASAREZ
  • Iridian Casarez
  • St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial Hospital healthcare workers striking in front of the St. Joseph Lane entrance to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka.
Employees at St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals donned red shirts and held picket signs demanding fair labor practices as they crowded the corner of the  entrance into St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka yesterday.

They were protesting the hospital’s staffing shortage and the state of new employee salary negotiations, according to a press release sent by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents about 500 healthcare workers in Humboldt County. According to the release, 92 percent of caregivers at the two hospitals reported that “their shifts are understaffed at least once a week” and that “nursing assistants reported having to care for as many as 20 patients at a time.”

The release also states that the hospital’s health system, Providence St. Joseph Health, made more than $197 million in operating profits (including $63 million from both hospitals in Humboldt County) in the last year but isn’t investing its resources to alleviate staffing problems. The release also alleges Providence is also looking to cut employee health benefits, reduce vacation time and offer just a 1.5 percent raise in each of the next two years.

“We need caregivers to provide quality patient care,” Kellie Shaner, a monitor technician at St. Joseph, said in the release. “And our hospitals won’t be able to recruit or retain quality workers if we can’t make enough money to support our families.”


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Friday, November 8, 2019

CDC Reports Links Vaping Lung Injuries to Vitamin E

Posted By on Fri, Nov 8, 2019 at 12:41 PM

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified vitamin E acetate, an ingredient used to cut cannabis concentrate oils, as a "very strong culprit" in the rash of vaping-related lung injuries across the nation that now include more than three dozen deaths.

The CDC report released today does not rule out the possibility other chemicals or toxins could be contributing to the vaping-related illnesses, which have now impacted more than 2,000 people, and warns against vaping products that contain THC, "especially obtained from informal sources such as friends or family, or those from the illicit market, where product ingredients are unknown or can be hugely variable."
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The report comes after the CDC analyzed fluid samples taken from the lungs of 29 patients hospitalized with the lung disease and found vitamin E acetate in each of them.


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Thursday, October 31, 2019

State DOJ Denies Proposed St. Joseph, Adventist Health System Merger

Posted By on Thu, Oct 31, 2019 at 3:11 PM

St. Joseph Hospital. - FILE
  • FIle
  • St. Joseph Hospital.
The California Department of Justice today denied a proposed partnership between Adventist Health System/West and St. Joseph Health System citing “concerns that it is not in the public interest, has the potential to increase health costs and potentially limits access and availability of health care services,” according to a release.

In June, Adventist Health System/West and St. Joseph Health System proposed creating the ST Network to operate 10 hospitals in a region stretching from Humboldt down to the North Bay area, including Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.

While the hospital systems said the merger would improve care in the covered areas, the state DOJ — which has supervision in California over all charitable organizations — found differently.

“The California Department of Justice is responsible for ensuring that any proposed sale or transfer of a nonprofit health facility protects the health and safety interests of the surrounding community. After careful review we found this proposal falls short of protecting consumers,” said Sean McCluskie, chief deputy to the Attorney General.

Read the full California Department of Justice release below:


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Friday, October 25, 2019

Where to Get Medical Supplies, Charge Devices During the Blackout

Posted By and on Fri, Oct 25, 2019 at 3:30 PM

With Humboldt County’s impending blackout looming, the county Office of Emergency Services is urging residents to stock up on enough medical supplies to last at least a few days and officials are scurrying to set up medical device charging stations throughout the county.

The entirety of Humboldt County is expected to lose power Saturday afternoon and officials say the fire warnings that prompted it could last until Monday afternoon, after which it could take several days for PG&E to inspect and re-energize the lines. During the blackout on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, medical providers said acquiring needed oxygen would have become a real problem for people on breathing aides had the outage extended beyond 28 hours. As it was, six people were hospitalized with breathing issues, including one who rapidly decompensated and had to be flown out of the area for further treatment.


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Friday, September 27, 2019

NBC News Investigation Finds Vitamin E, Pesticides in Illicit Vape Cartridges

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2019 at 2:35 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
An investigative report published by NBC News this morning seems to underscore the dangers of vaping cannabis products purchased on the illicit market, as reports of serious vaping-related lung disease continue to increase nationwide.

The news outlet purchased 18 THC vape pen cartridges — three from licensed dispensaries and 15 on the unregulated, illicit market — and reports the “findings were deeply troubling.”

While the three purchased at legal dispensaries tested clean for heavy metals, pesticides or residual solvents like Vitamin E, 13 of the 15 illicit market samples tested positive for Vitamin E, which some health officials believe is a potential cause of the rash of lung illnesses being being reported throughout the country, which now include a dozen deaths.

Further, the NBC News reported that it tested 10 of the unregulated vape cartridges for pesticides and all 10 came back dirty, with all containing varying amounts of the fungicide myclobutanil, which can transform into hydrogen cyanide when it is heated.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

California Department of Public Health: 'Refrain from Vaping'

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2019 at 10:45 AM

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  • Shutterstock
The California Department of Public Health has issued a health advisory recommending people stop vaping, no matter the substance or source, until current investigations are complete. 

According to a release, as of Sept. 24, the CDPH had received 90 reports of people with a history of vaping who have been hospitalized for “severe breathing problems and lung damage, and two people have died” in California.

The health advisory came one week after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order funding a $20 million public awareness campaign to warn people of the dangers of vaping cannabis or nicotine products.

“We are seeing something that we have not seen before,” said Dr. Charity Dean, acting state public health officer, in the release. “There are numerous unknown factors at this time, and due to the uncertainty of the exact cause, it is our recommendation that consumers refrain from vaping until the investigation has concluded.”

The CDPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, local health departments and healthcare providers are investigating what is making people sick.

In the meantime, health care officials are encouraging people who use vaping products that experience shortness of breath to contact their doctor immediately.

For more information about the risks of vaping click here.

Read the full press release below. 
California Department of Public Health Issues Public Health Advisory Urging Everyone to Refrain from Vaping

Health Advisory Warns About Imminent Public Health Risks

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a health advisory today urging everyone to refrain from vaping, no matter the substance or source, until current investigations are complete. The health advisory follows an executive order signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last week to confront the growing youth epidemic and health risks linked to vaping.
As of September 24, 2019, CDPH has received reports that 90 people in California who have a history of vaping were hospitalized for severe breathing problems and lung damage, and two people have died. Across the U.S., there are more than 500 reports of lung damage associated with vaping across 38 states and 1 U.S. territory, and more reports are coming in nearly every day.

“We are seeing something that we have not seen before,” said Dr. Charity Dean, Acting State Public Health Officer. “There are numerous unknown factors at this time, and due to the uncertainty of the exact cause, it is our recommendation that consumers refrain
from vaping until the investigation has concluded.”

CDPH, along with other states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), local health departments, and healthcare providers are working hard to investigate what is in the vape materials that is making
people sick.

Although CDPH regulates manufacturers of cannabis vaping products to ensure they are as safe as possible for those who choose to vape, CDPH warns that all individuals put themselves at risk any time they inhale a foreign substance into their lungs. The risk of vaping for any individual may include serious illness and death. “Vaping is not just a concern for youth; the vaping cases under investigation affect youth and adults alike,” said Dr. Dean.

If you experience difficulty breathing after vaping, contact your doctor immediately. You may also experience other symptoms including: cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, and weight loss. If this happens to you, do not discard any used vaping cartridges you might have, as CDPH is interested in testing the remaining substance in used cartridges. Those cartridges are being collected by local health departments and sent to CDPH labs for analysis.

In California, licensed cannabis retailers are required to sell products obtained from a licensed cannabis manufacturer that have been tested by a licensed laboratory. Cannabis products sold by licensed sources are tested for a variety of chemicals, pesticides, microbial impurities, and heavy metals. Illegal cannabis dispensaries sell unregulated and untested cannabis products and absolutely should not be used.

CDC continues to warn that any tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe. Furthermore, use of cannabis and tobacco products remains especially unsafe for youth, and for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

The Governor’s executive order directed CDPH to launch a $20 million statewide digital and social media public awareness campaign to educate youth, young adults and parents about the health risks associated with vaping nicotine and cannabis products.

CDPH is also tasked with developing recommendations to reduce smoking among young adults and teens by establishing warning signs with health risks where vaping products are sold and on product advertisements.
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