California state Assembly passes health care reform
SACRAMENTO, Calif. California’s state Assembly on Monday approved Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan for universal health insurance for residents of California regardless of socio-economic levels.
While other states have revamped their health care systems, California’s may wind up being used as a model for national health care reform, leading to a viable option for universal health care for the entire United States, even as the issue is debated in the 2008 presidential races.
Under the plan, which still must pass the California state Senate, insurers could not deny coverage regardless of age or medical history and must spend at least 85 cents of every premium dollar on patient care. Everyone in the state, however, would be required to buy health insurance, though costs would be more affordable for the low-income individuals who are among the state’s 6.5 million uninsured.
In addition, the new plan will address such chronic conditions as diabetes, obesity and smoking by providing broad access to preventive care and enacting the “Healthy Actions” programs
The California Pharmacists Association has come out in favor of the plan, lauding both Republican Schwarzenegger and Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat, for their collaborative efforts. “Pharmacists are fully aware of the many problems encountered by the uninsured in California and recognize the crucial need to fix our broken health care system now,” said Lynn Rolston, chief executive officer for the CPA. “They are on the front lines and witness, daily, people in need of life-saving medications who cannot afford them. The proposed reform is a move in the right direction to helping Californians in need.”
The measures would also provide funding for community clinics in order to attempt to ease stress on overcrowded emergency rooms, which provide the most expensive health care and act as a safety net for the uninsured.
The state, which is currently facing a $14 billion budget gap, plans to pay for the plan by taxing hospitals, cigarettes and employers who do not provide health insurance. Senate president pro tem Don Perata, a Democrat, said he has ordered an analysis of the long-term fiscal effects of the bill. “This analysis, combined with the governor’s proposed budget, will help determine how we can move forward in a fiscally responsible manner,” he said, according to Reuters.
New Jersey adds flu vaccine to list of childhood innoculations
PHILADELPHIA The state of New Jersey announced that, starting in September 2008, children entering day care or preschool will be required to have had flu vaccinations, despite some parents’ fears that the trace amounts of mercury in the vaccines could trigger autism.
The flu vaccine is an addition to the list of communicable diseases for which children in the state already are required to have before they can enter such social settings as day care or preschool, both situations in which contagious diseases are easily spread. “This is a public-health policy that is aimed at protecting children and the community at large,” Eddy Bresnitz, state epidemiologist and a deputy health commissioner, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Some parents, however, have expressed concern and even written letters to the Public Health Council in opposition to the change, mainly over safety concerns. While no scientific studies have found a link between thimerosal—a mercury-containing preservative once used in vaccines—and the triggering of autism in young children, some vaccines still contain trace amounts of the chemical and it’s enough to alarm parents.
“It is our feeling that parents have the right to make medical decisions for their families,” Sue Collins, a parent and leader of the New Jersey Alliance for Informed Choice in Vaccination, told the paper. “I don’t want trace amounts of mercury in my body or my children’s bodies under any circumstances. We know it is a dangerous toxin and yet we keep injecting it into our kids.”
“Thimerosol-free preparations are available, and the trace amounts in some preparations are truly tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny amounts,” said Craig Newschaffer, chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Drexel University School of Public Health.
The new rules follow recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New Jersey does allow exemptions based on medical and religious grounds, but not for “philosophical” reasons. “Flu is turning out to be a stealth killer,” said Robert Field, chair of the department of health policy and public health at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. “Seasonal flu, which most people can shrug off as an inconvenience for a week or two, is truly a threat to people at high risk, particularly the very old, the very young, and those with compromised immune systems.”
Tibotec awards Medivir $24 million for drug development milestone
STOCKHOLM, Sweden Medivir has received $24.54 million from Tibotec related to the development of the drug candidate TMC435350, which recently advanced into Phase II clinical trials at the end of November, according to published reports.
The money has come in two different payments. The first payment was for a clinical milestone reached by Medivir under the terms of the research and license agreement between the two companies; that amounted in $7.21 million for Medivir. The second payment is due because Medivir opted not to obtain the marketing rights to an approved product in the Nordic countries, which resulted in $17.32 million.
“Our goal is to achieve revenues from sales of licensed pharmaceuticals in the Nordic market in the coming 12 months,” explains Medivir’s chief executive officer Lars Adlersson. “A robust financial position will facilitate the creation of a Nordic sales and marketing organization and strengthen us in coming partnership negotiations.”