Policy Updates 9/30/2022

  1. Mental Health

Bolstering Young People’s Mental Health
Mental health problems often surface during childhood or adolescence, but they can go unnoticed because of a lack of routine screening. According to Laura Conrad of the Technical Assistance Collaborative, several options are available to help state Medicaid programs strengthen screening and preventive behavioral health services for youth who are most at risk, including those in low-income households and children of color. As she explains on To the Point, addressing their problems early is key to achieving better school performance and overall well-being.


San Francisco Chronicle: ‘Who Is Going To Hold Kaiser Accountable?’ Patients Detail Mental Health Care Failings
A San Francisco mother whose daughter nearly jumped in front of a train learned that a Kaiser Permanente therapist would be able to see her — in a month. A mentally unstable man who begged in vain for Kaiser to hospitalize him drove to a cliff and leaped to his death. A therapist whose client blamed Kaiser for her son’s mental health crisis agreed that therapists were stretched too thin and apologized. Those were among the shocking stories revealed during a San Francisco Board of Supervisors hearing Tuesday as politicians sought to understand why Kaiser delivers what patients, families and employees called deeply inadequate mental health care, even as the city spends nearly $500 million a year with the health care giant. (Asimov, 9/28)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Suicide Rates Rose In 2021 After Two Years Of Decline
The U.S. suicide rate rose in 2021 after two consecutive years of declines, federal data showed, underscoring concern about mental health in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. The suicide rate last year increased 4% compared with the rate in 2020, provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed on Friday. The rise was driven largely by suicides among men. Males ages 15 to 24 experienced the sharpest increase at 8%, the report found. (Abbott, 9/30)

The Hill: House Passes Bill Addressing Mental Health Concerns Among Students, Families, Educators
The House passed a bill on Thursday that seeks to address mental health concerns among students, families and educators aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which lawmakers say had a “severe impact” on those three groups. The bill, titled the Mental Health Matters Act, passed in a largely party-line 220-205 vote. One Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), joined all Democrats present in supporting it. (Schnell, 9/29)

  1. Trans Care

Newsom Signs Trans Youth Bill, Vetoes Solitary Confinement Bill: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law Thursday that aims to protect transgender youths from bans against gender-affirming care. But he vetoed a bill that would limit solitary confinement in California’s prisons. Read more from the Los Angeles Times and The Sacramento Bee.

  1. COVID

Becker's Hospital Review: Pulse Oximeter Flaws May Have Delayed COVID-19 Treatment For Black Patients: Study
Black COVID-19 patients may have faced 4.5-hour treatment delays due to pulse oximeters' inability to accurately read their blood oxygen levels, according to researchers at Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health. For 30 years, medical literature has documented that pulse oximeters overestimate blood oxygenation in individuals with darker pigmented skin, according to a study shared with Becker's on Sept. 28. However, the clinical impacts of this discrepancy have not been heavily investigated, a Sutter Health spokesperson said Sept. 28 in a statement shared with Becker's. (Kayser, 9/29)

KHN and PolitiFact: Is Covid ‘Under Control’ In The US? Experts Say Yes
President Joe Biden caused a stir in a “60 Minutes” interview on Sept. 18 when he declared that the covid-19 pandemic is over. “We still have a problem with covid — we’re still doing a lot of work on it,” Biden said. “But the pandemic is over.” Critics countered that the U.S. is still averaging about 400 deaths daily from the virus, that nearly 30,000 Americans remain hospitalized, and that many others are suffering from “long covid” symptoms stemming from previous infections. (Jacobson and Cercone, 9/26)

Los Angeles Daily News: A Memorial To Those Who Died From COVID-19 In LA County Gets The Go-Ahead
A memorial to more than 33,500 people of Los Angeles County who lost their lives to COVID-19 is in the works as a result of a unanimous motion adopted by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. (Scauzillo, 9/28)

  1. Monkeypox

CNN: CDC Warns Of Severe Illnesses From Monkeypox As Ohio Reports Death Of A Monkeypox Patient
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new warning to health care providers Thursday about severe illnesses in people with monkeypox. (Kounang and Dillinger, 9/29)

San Francisco Chronicle: California Monkeypox Cases Plunge 95%, Outbreak Isn’t Over Yet
The number of people testing positive for monkeypox has plunged in California, with the seven-day average of new cases down about 95% since the peak of the outbreak in early August. Though health experts caution that the virus threat hasn’t disappeared, progress in fending it off so far constitutes a major public health success. (Vaziri, 9/29)

  1. Health Care Providers

The New York Times: Physician Burnout Has Reached Distressing Levels, New Research Finds
Ten years of data from a nationwide survey of physicians confirm another trend that’s worsened through the pandemic: Burnout rates among doctors in the United States, which were already high a decade ago, have risen to alarming levels. Results released this month and published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a peer-reviewed journal, show that 63 percent of physicians surveyed reported at least one symptom of burnout at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, an increase from 44 percent in 2017 and 46 percent in 2011. Only 30 percent felt satisfied with their work-life balance, compared with 43 percent five years earlier. (Whang, 9/29)

  1. Hunger

AP: Biden On Ending Hunger In US: 'I Know We Can Do This'
President Joe Biden said Wednesday his administration’s goal of ending hunger in the U.S. by the end of the decade was ambitious but doable, if only the nation would work together toward achieving it. “I know we can do this,” Biden told an auditorium full of public health officials, private companies and Americans who have experienced hunger. They were gathered for the first White House conference on hunger, nutrition and health since 1969. It was the president at his most optimistic, sketching out a future where no child in the U.S. would go hungry, and diet-related diseases would diminish because of better, healthier food alternatives and access to vast outdoor spaces. (Khalil and Superville, 9/28)

Modern Healthcare: Kaiser, Boston Medical Join $8B White House Food Insecurity Initiative
Healthcare organizations including Kaiser Permanente, Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital are making investments in nutrition and food insecurity programs as part of a White House initiative aiming to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease by 2030. (Hartnett, 9/28)

  1. Reproductive Health

CalMatters: California Gov. Newsom Signs Abortion Protections Into Law
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a package of 12 bills Tuesday, establishing some of the strongest abortion protections in the nation — a direct reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal abortion guarantees earlier this year. (Hwang, 9/27)

San Francisco Chronicle: Gov. Newsom Responds To Anti-Abortion Laws With Cheaper Vasectomies
California will require health plans to cover vasectomy costs starting in 2024 under a bill Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Tuesday. The federal Affordable Care Act already required most health plans to cover birth control for women. The new law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed, SB523 , extends that requirement to vasectomies, a reversible sterilization procedure for men. It will require health plans to cover the procedure without charging co-pays or cost-sharing. (Bollag, 9/27)

Sacramento Bee: California Ends ‘Pink Tax’ On Gender-Based Products
Women across California should no longer be forced to pay a premium when purchasing toiletries and other products, under a bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday outlawing the so-called “pink tax.” Joined by members of the Legislative Women’s Caucus and his wife, Jennifer Seibel Newsom, the governor signed into law a package of bills intended to advance gender equity and protect the rights of women. (Angst,. 9/27)

  1. Protective Services

Southern California News Group: New California Law Seeks To Bridge A Gap Exposed By Child Torture Turpin Case
A snag in Riverside County’s safety net — one mentioned in an investigation of the county’s care of the tortured Turpin siblings — is the focus of a new state law intended to help at-risk children and adults. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Sept. 23, signed a bill that allows adult and child protective services to share information about clients and their families. Previously, laws intended to protect clients’ privacy prevented those agencies from comparing notes on the same people. (Horseman, 9/27)

  1. Medi-Cal

CalMatters: As State Sets Higher Medi-Cal Contract Standards, Some Providers Predict Major Disruptions
More than 1.7 million Medi-Cal patients may get a new insurance provider in the coming months as a result of the state’s first-ever competitive bidding process, but critics and some providers fear the change will cause major disruptions to care. (Hwang, 9/27)

CalMatters: Medi-Cal Providers Fear Disruption To Patient Care
More than 1.7 million Medi-Cal patients may get a new insurance provider in the coming months as a result of the state’s first-ever competitive bidding process, but critics and some providers fear the change will cause major disruptions to care. California’s Department of Health Care Services last month announced its intent to award $14 billion-worth of Medi-Cal contracts to three companies — Health Net, Molina and Anthem Blue Cross — down from nine. The deal is part of the department’s multifaceted effort to overhaul the behemoth program that provides health insurance for a third of all state residents. Medi-Cal is the state’s version of federal Medicaid, which serves low-income residents. (Hwang, 9/26)

KHN: Health Plan Shake-Up Could Disrupt Coverage For Low-Income Californians
Almost 2 million of California’s poorest and most medically fragile residents may have to switch health insurers as a result of a new strategy by the state to improve care in its Medicaid program. A first-ever statewide contracting competition to participate in the program, known as Medi-Cal, required commercial managed-care plans to rebid for their contracts and compete against others hoping to take those contracts away. The contracts will be revamped to require insurers to offer new benefits and meet stiffer benchmarks for care. (Wolfson, 9/27)

Health Plan Shake-Up Could Disrupt Coverage for Low-Income Californians

Four managed-care insurance plans may lose contracts with California’s Medicaid program, which would force nearly 2 million low-income residents to switch their health plans — and possibly their doctors. The plans are fighting back. (Bernard J. Wolfson, 9/26 )

  1. Children’s Health

The Washington Post: Pregnancy During Hurricane Sandy Linked To Kids’ Psychiatric Disorders, Study Says
At the time Hurricane Sandy made landfall over New Jersey and inundated New York City in October 2012, Yoko Nomura, a psychology professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and Queens College, had already assembled a cohort of local pregnant women in preparation for a study about the impact of stress during pregnancy on their offspring’s development. ... The study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, found that children who were exposed to Sandy, a superstorm, while in utero had substantially increased risks for depression, anxiety and attention deficit and disruptive behavior disorders. The symptoms of these disorders presented when the children were preschool-age. (Gibson, 9/27)

Strategies to Ensure Continuous Coverage for Children when COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Ends

During the pandemic, all states have been federally required to maintain continuous Medicaid coverage for children who were enrolled as of March 2020. When these coverage requirements expire, states must redetermine eligibility for millions of pending Medicaid cases, putting many children at risk of becoming uninsured even though they remain eligible for coverage. In the first of three policy briefs funded by our Foundation, Manatt, in partnership with Family Voices, provides recommendations for states and child advocates to ensure that children retain access to the care they need. Read the brief.

Also seeNew Resources for Unwinding the Medicaid Continuous Coverage Protection – from Georgetown Center for Children and Families


  1. Regional Center Disparities


New Law Addresses Racial, Linguistic Disparities in Regional Center Services

Significant gaps in funding of services for children of different racial and ethnic groups have persisted for years at California's regional centers for developmental disabilities, as documented in several reports funded by our Foundation. A newly signed law requires regional centers and the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to publicly report on the number of instances where it takes longer than 45 days to translate a client’s individual program plan into their preferred language. The law also requires DDS and the regional centers to report on the purchase of services data for the recently restored set of social recreation activities. Read more.