5 Things California: Sen. Richard Pan, Samoa, CalAIM

If you weren’t able to make our 2019 Southern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference this week, you can see “What You Missed.”  There was tremendous energy and optimism in the hallways and sessions. Sen. Richard Pan was very strong, as was Asm. Marie Waldron.

So, some of our content this week is directly informed by the hallway conversations in San Diego.  Take a look at these 5 Things We’re Watching in California health care in December, 2019.



With help from Emily Boerger
and Michael Goldberg


1. Senator Richard Pan talks health policy

In a keynote presentation at the 2019 Southern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference, Senator Richard Pan outlined the work his committee may take up in the 2020 legislative session, as well as the lessons learned from a raucous 2019 session. Pan’s role as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health as well as his background as a pediatrician makes him one of the foremost experts on healthy policy in California.

In a wide-ranging discussion, I spoke with Pan about defending the ACA, building smarter incentive structures, investments in the next cycle of improvement, and a host of other issues. Reporter Michael Goldberg has the recap here.


2. Hallway talk in SD: concern about the direction of Medi-Cal

There are three key considerations that don’t appear to be aligned when it comes to California Medi-Cal.  The CalAIM effort is one. The pending DHCS Medi-Cal reprocurement is another. And, the political commitments Gov. Newsom made during his election are yet another.

So far, it feels a little like the tail wagging the dog. One might think that Newsom’s vision would drive the CalAIM process, leading to a 1115 waiver renewal, that was then implemented through procurement.  Instead, there is a re-procurement that is kind of status quo, while a CalAIM process reimagines Medi-Cal, working through a 1915B waiver rather than an 1115, little of which appears to align with what Gov. Newsom campaigned on.

3. Blue Shield launches mental health intiative for students

Studies show that nearly 1 in 5 children live with a mental issue, but many of those same children do not receive the treatment they need. By one estimate, the total number of children with untreated mental health disorders is close to 3.3 million. In the most populous state in the country, a new Blue Shield initiative is launching to raise awareness of the mental crisis effecting California’s youth and enhance the accessibility of mental health resources in schools.

A multi-year effort, BlueSky will feature collaborations between Blue Shield, the California Department of Education, and several nonprofits. Strategies of the initiative include funding Youth Mental Health First Aid training in schools and creating new student-led clubs for stigma reduction on campus.

4. Capretta: The rise of the public option

Jim Capretta at the American Enterprise Institute is one of the smartest, most well regarded health policy observers in the country. He pens a monthly column for us at State of Reform where he offers our community some of his insights.

This month, Capretta argues that Democrats are not likely to actually pursue a “Medicare for All” option, should the nominee win the White House. “The party’s next big idea in health care will be a public option, not single-payer,” says Capretta. His column is always worth a read, but I think that’s particularly the case this month with the Iowa caucuses two months away on Feb. 3rd.

5. You should track Samoa. Seriously.

In an island nation of about 200,000 residents, 2% of the population has been confirmed to have the measles in an epidemic that has spread in just the last three weeks. So far, 62 have died, 54 of which were babies and kids under 4. A mass vaccination campaign has begun, moving the vaccinated population from an estimated 30% to 55%.

If your response is “2% isn’t much,” it’s this much: the government has shut down. Basic food and sanitation supplies are withering as businesses are forced to close and residents are told to stay home. Foreign nationals are working to send coffins for babies because there are not enough to meet the need.

Anti-vaxxers have mobilized to explain measles is a result in Vitamin C and A deficiency. Some are now being detained for spreading misinformation that has led to deaths.