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WATCH: After Health Scare, Fiona The Baby Hippo Goes For A Dip

So, a baby bongo, eh? Sure, the tiny bounding antelope born recently to the Los Angeles Zoo is cute — but the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden may have just done them one better: a tiny one-month-old hippopotamus named Fiona, making her parents proud by stepping back into the pool.

Bounding Baby Bongo Born

On Friday, the zoo celebrated the baby hippo’s return to pool time with a video of the big moment, which can be watched at the top of this page.

On the face of it, this may not seem too big a deal. After all, the zoo says baby Fiona “has outgrown two pools already!” What’s another little dip to a hippo so prodigious?

In this photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo, the prematurely born hippo named Fiona rests on a towel, on Monday. The zoo says the hippo recovered from dehydration this week with the help of staff from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.


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But Fiona has had a tough go of it so far. Born six weeks early, more than 20 pounds lighter than the typical birth weight for a Nile hippo, she has received round-the-clock care during her first month of life. The process has been so strenuous, the zoo put out a call for donations to help cover the cost of the care.

In fact, when Fiona suffered from dehydration earlier this month, the zoo even reached out to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for assistance. Local news station WCPO reports the hospital’s Vascular Access Team, a group that works with prematurely born (human) children, helped place an IV in the little hippo.

The swim depicted in Friday’s video was Fiona’s first since the dehydration scare. Zoo researcher Jessye Wojtusik told WCPO that swims like this one help build Fiona’s strength, which is crucial before Fiona can finally be returned to her mother, who is being kept nearby.

“We love [Fiona] to pieces,” Wojtusik said. “She’s at about 50 pounds now — so she’s about what she should have weighed when she was born.”

Now, Wojtsusik says baby Fiona faces her next grand challenge: teething.

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All Chicago police dispatchers now trained in mental health awareness

All call takers and dispatchers in the city’s 911 police operations center have completed mental health awareness and de-escalation training as the department works to improve the way it responds to crisis situations.

Training for the frontline civilian employees included how to best communicate with callers who may be having a mental health crisis, techniques to calm a situation before officers arrive and how to recognize situations that may need a response from officers specially trained in crisis intervention.

All 911 center employees, 488 total including supervisors, completed an eight-hour training course, including information from the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago.

“Since the training, their awareness has been heightened, and they know what to look for,” Dionne Tate, deputy director of 911 operations, said in an interview.

U.S. Department of Justice said the incident “laid bare failures in CPD’s crisis response systems,” including dispatchers who didn’t recognize that LeGrier might be mentally ill and officers who did not use crisis intervention techniques.

Quintonio LeGrier called 911 three times before a Chicago cop shot him

Quintonio LeGrier called 911 three times before a Chicago cop shot him

Quintonio LeGrier called 911 three times on the morning after Christmas, pleading for help from Chicago police shortly before he was fatally shot by an officer responding to his father’s West Side residence, according to newly released recordings.

The existence of only one of the calls had previously…

Quintonio LeGrier called 911 three times on the morning after Christmas, pleading for help from Chicago police shortly before he was fatally shot by an officer responding to his father’s West Side residence, according to newly released recordings.

The existence of only one of the calls had previously…

(Jeremy Gorner and Annie Sweeney)

Tate said call takers and dispatchers know how to insert “triage questions” into conversations with callers to better identify signs of mental illness, whether there is a mentally ill person at the scene, or whether someone involved is off medication. Information gleaned from calls is entered into the computer system used by officers on their way to the scene, so responding police can be prepared and crisis-intervention officers deployed.

Dr. Julie Morita, Chicago public health commissioner, said additional training for dispatchers and police officers can end up helping those with mental or behavioral health problems receive the treatment and services they need. By identifying people who need help, Morita said, first responders can better connect those in crisis with service providers, including a new community triage center in Roseland, as opposed to sending them into the criminal justice system.

The mayor announced plans for the added training for 911 operators and also police officers after LeGrier and Jones were killed and as the department faced intense scrutiny in the aftermath of the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video in November 2015. A committee, including experts and city officials, was established to study mental health issues and proposed reforms.

As a result of increased training and awareness, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications identified 25,691 CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) events in 2016, nearly five times more than were classified as such during the previous year. CIT officers responded to more than 16,000 events last year.

The Police Department also announced that Lt. Antoinette Ursitti, a 16-year veteran and licensed professional counselor, will lead the Crisis Response Unit. Police also are continuing to develop a uniform crisis intervention strategy across the entire department. The plan calls for all officers to attend mental health awareness and de-escalation training — to teach officers how to defuse tension and reduce the need to use force.

The call center employees, Tate said, will undergo yearly refresher mental health and de-escalation training. The Police Department, OEMC and Fire Department this spring will start a new pilot training program to help improve collaboration for recognizing and treating someone experiencing a mental health emergency.

Twitter @pmocwriter

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Lucille Horn, Who Was Nursed To Health In A Coney Island Sideshow, Dies At 96

In this 2015 photograph, Lucille Horn stands on the boardwalk outside her home in Long Beach, N.Y.

Frank Eltman/AP

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Frank Eltman/AP

In this 2015 photograph, Lucille Horn stands on the boardwalk outside her home in Long Beach, N.Y.

Frank Eltman/AP

When Lucille Horn was born in 1920, the odds of her managing to live out the year were long. A premature infant, Horn was just 2 pounds — small enough to be held in her father’s hand. Her twin had died at birth, and at that point it looked for all the world as if she would soon, too.

Babies On Display: When A Hospital Couldn't Save Them, A Sideshow Did

Instead, with the help of an enterprising doctor and a rather odd sideshow at New York’s Coney Island, Horn would go on to live another 96 years. She died on Feb. 11, according to Hungerford Clark Funeral Home, nearly a century after nearly every expert told her parents she would.

“They didn’t have any help for me at all,” Horn told her daughter Barbara in a 2015 StoryCorps interview. At that time, the state of medicine was such that babies born as prematurely as Horn had very little chance of surviving. “It was just: You die because you didn’t belong in the world.”

Except one doctor, in particular, did not accept that assessment.

For four decades, Martin Couney pioneered the use of incubators to keep infants like Horn alive — but these incubators were so widely rejected by the medical establishment, he resorted to funding his work in a very unconventional way: by displaying the babies in a Coney Island sideshow, charging viewers 25 cents to see the show.

Dr. Martin Couney holds Beth Allen, one of his incubator babies, at Luna Park in Coney Island. This photo was taken in 1941.

Courtesy of Beth Allen

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Courtesy of Beth Allen

Upon her father’s insistence, Horn was accepted as one of Couney’s patient-attractions at no charge to her parents, just as he did with thousands of other babies he treated at Coney Island. About six months later, Horn was healthy enough to go home.

As we reported, Couney himself died in 1950, after incubators like his were finally being adopted in hospitals.

Horn, who went on to have five children of her own, worked as a crossing guard and then as a legal secretary for her husband, according to The Associated Press.

Years after her treatment in Couney’s incubator, she said she returned to the exhibit as a visitor and introduced herself to the doctor who saved her life.

“And there was a man standing in front of one of the incubators looking at his baby,” Horn told her daughter in 2015, “and Dr. Couney went over to him and he tapped him on the shoulder.

“He said, ‘Look at this young lady. She’s one of our babies. And that’s how your baby’s gonna grow up.’ “

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GOP Health Bill Draft Would Cut Medicaid, Emphasize Tax Credits

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., responds to constituents concerned about their coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

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Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., responds to constituents concerned about their coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

In recent days, several Republican lawmakers have faced crowds of constituents at town hall meetings around the country who are angry that they may be in danger of losing their health coverage.

A GOP draft bill, recently obtained by Politico, would likely do little to assuage these concerns.

The Feb. 10 document follows the broad policy outline released by Republicans last week just before they went home for a Congressional recess. It proposes cuts to federal payments to states that have expanded Medicaid and offers tax credits for people to buy health insurance.

“This would mean fewer people could afford health insurance and that the health insurance would likely cover less,” says Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Under the plan, states that expanded eligibility for Medicaid would see their supplemental federal funding rolled back. The program would also be converted from a federal-state program that pays for all the health care beneficiaries get, to one where Washington sends a fixed amount of money to each state for each Medicaid enrollee.

To help people who don’t get insurance through their employer buy coverage, the bill offers age-based tax credits that start at $2,000 for individuals under age 30. It would rise to $4,000 for those over 60. Those credits are unlikely to cover the full cost of a plan that pays for routine health care, but could potentially pay for insurance that protects against a catastrophic health event.

Levitt says those credits are less generous than the subsidies offered under Obamacare.

The draft bill is consistent with what Republicans have been saying they want to see in place of Obamacare, says Rodney Whitlock, vice president of health policy at ML Strategies.

“No surprises here,” says Whitlock, who was formerly the Republican health policy director for the Senate Finance Committee. “These are all ideas Republicans have championed. Now the Congressional Budget Office will decide if they agree.”

The Congressional Budget Office will “score” the ultimate bill, estimating how how many people it’s likely to cover and its impact on the federal budget.

Spokesmen for the House Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means committees, which are drafting the legislation, declined to comment on the leaked bill.

It’s not clear that the details in the two-week-old draft bill, such as the size of the tax credits, are still being considered. One House staffer says lawmakers are testing different scenarios with the Congressional Budget Office, comparing cost and coverage levels, and fine tuning the legislation.

The draft bill would also get rid of the taxes created under the Affordable Care Act, including taxes on medical device makers and health insurers. Instead, it would limit how much employers can deduct for expensive insurance policies they give to their workers.

It would also eliminate the mandate for individuals to buy insurance.

The bill attempts to encourage healthy people to buy insurance by mandating that they cannot be charged more for existing medical conditions, or, once they get sick, if they maintain continuous coverage. People who elect not to buy insurance at the outset would pay a surcharge when they do, and could end up paying more if they’ve been ill.

Levitt is not convinced the Republican’s continuous coverage plan would work.

“Republicans are struggling to find the Holy Grail of how to get healthy young people to buy insurance,” he says. “I’m not sure they’ve found it here, but it’s a legitimate struggle.”

Senate Democrats denounced the proposal. “This isn’t a replacement, it’s a recipe for disaster,” says Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, N.Y. “Republicans are determined to put insurance companies back in charge, make health insurance more expensive for millions of Americans, restrict women’s access to vital health services by by defunding Planned Parenthood, shift costs to states and dismantle Medicaid, while kicking millions more off of their plan.”

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For better health, reduce greenhouse gases

In a new podcast series, “Harvard Chan: This Week in Health,” the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings you top health headlines — from wellness tips to important global health trends — and insights from experts who will put it into perspective.

In Part 1, the Harvard Chan School shares an in-depth conversation with Aaron Bernstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment, about the effects of climate change on individual health. Bernstein will also discuss how the future health care costs that stem from climate change will dwarf the cost of moving away from fossil fuels.

In Part 2 of the series, “This Week” explores ways to communicate effectively about climate change and health. What can be done to convince skeptics and why empathy might be the key to shifting the conversation.

Visit the School’s page on climate change and health to learn more. You can subscribe to the podcast by visiting iTunes, listen to it on Soundcloud, and stream it on the Stitcher app.

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GOP Draft Health Care Bill Cuts Medicaid, Insurance Subsidies

A draft bill detailing Republican plans to begin repealing and replacing many facets of the Affordable Care Act would provide expanded tax credits and health savings accounts for individuals while reducing federal spending on tax subsidies and Medicaid and practically eliminating both the current employer and individual mandate to provide and carry health insurance.

The 105-page draft legislation, obtained by NBC News, repeals much of the current law, also known as Obamacare, within the next few years and sets in place a Republican vision of healthcare.

The draft, dated February 10, is circulating among health care lobbyists and, while changes are possible, it is believed to be a legitimate effort at health care reform.

“This is the bones of what’s going to happen,” said an aide to a House Republican.

The legislation, which also cuts funding to Planned Parenthood, still has to be scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, for a full accounting of how much it would cost, but the largest funding mechanism is a tax on the most expensive employer-provided health insurance plans.

What isn’t included is a guarantee that people with pre-existing conditions are able to obtain coverage. Members of the House, however, introduced a bill last week to preserve the pre-existing condition ban, signaling that it would have to be passed separately.

The bill dismantles some major components of the ACA, including the expansion of Medicaid and the subsidies to purchase health insurance.

In its place, Americans who need assistance to purchase health care will receive a tax credit – able to be received in advanced on a monthly basis – based on age. A person under 30 is eligible for a $2000 tax credit while a person over 60 is eligible for a $4000 credit.

As for Medicaid, Republicans propose placing a cap on the number of Medicaid recipients in each state based on population, which would likely largely reduce the 72 million Americans currently receiving the benefit for low-income people. The current Medicaid expansion allows coverage for people based on income. The transition begins in 2020 and then instates a multi-year phase out – a timeline that might be problematic for some conservative members.

They have also carved out exceptions for some medicaid recipients with pre-existing conditions to ensure they keep their medicaid coverage, including cervical and breast cancer or are blind, which are specifically noted.

The measure also also creates state-based high risk pools for people who don’t have access to insurance. The federal government would start in 2018 providing $15 billion to help fund the high risk pools, but the number decreases to $10 billion by 2020 and beyond.

And the legislation would greatly expand the use of Health Savings Accounts, a tax deductible way to purchase health insurance, which has become a top Republican priority.

The measure does not directly get rid of the individual and employer mandate to purchase and provide health care, but it zeroes out the penalty, making violation of the mandate non-enforceable.

Republicans, struggling to figure out a way to pay for their health insurance plan, puts in place a tax on the most expensive employer-based health insurance plans, which is an expanded version of the so-called Cadillac tax to the most expensive employer based plans.

“We’re cointinuing to work toward a defecit neutral replacement plan along with repeal and I’m confident we’ll deliver on that,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said.

The measure repeals unpopular taxes opposed by the business community and health field, including the medical device tax and the tax on health insurance, also known as the HIT tax, that helped to pay for the ACA.

The plan is already being panned by some.

Ron Pollack, head of the Families USA, which advocates for health consumers, said the draft “buys less care — or no coverage at all.”

“This leaked Republican proposal, if enacted, would put us on a destructive path that would decimate the safety-net Medicaid program for over 72 million people; drastically reduce premium subsidies for working families; and cause out-of-pocket health costs to soar,” Pollack said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said that the House is working to bring a bill to the House floor for a vote the first week of March. Members return from a one-week recess Monday.

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One of original Obamacare architects here at Premier Health event

As one of the law’s original architects, Berwick, now CEO for the Institute for Health Care Improvement, said he is unimpressed with a House proposal to overhaul Obama’s signature achievement by drastically reducing federal payments to states like Ohio that have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the law, and shifting more of the cost for private plans purchased on insurance exchanges to individuals and families.

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Fracking Is Dangerous To Your Health — Here’s Why

Fracking, or drilling for gas by hydraulic fracturing, has been associated with a growing number of health risks. Last week, I began this series looking at some of the hazardous chemicals injected into the wells to make drilling easier and cheaper, and the growing risks to our health by the GOP rushing through the approval of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Judy Eckert holding water contaminated with arsenic drawn from her private well. In 2007 Guardian Exploration drilled and fracked a Marcellus well 450ft from her home, which she believes is part of the cause of her contaminated her water supply. In 2010 DEP found a waste pit buried illegally into her season high water table. To learn more about her case you can donate to receive a copy of Triple Divide — a Public Herald documentary on fracking. – courtesy J.B.Pribanic

This post looks in greater depth at the health problems linked to fracking. These are not hypothetical concerns—there are now more than 700 studies looking at risks—and more than 80% of the health studies document risks or actual harms.

It’s also important to note that these risks are likely to be seriously underestimated, because the environmental agencies have been downplaying the risks to the public. A new in-depth exposé from investigative journalists at Public Herald looks in-depth at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) misconduct and negligence, as the DEP studiously ignored citizens’ complaints, sometimes not even testing water samples. Earlier studies from ProPublica and others showed similar EPA failures in the western U.S.

A variety of health problems are associated with fracking

Respiratory problems:

Cough, shortness of breath and wheezing are the most common complaints of residents living near fracked wells. Toxic gases like benzene are released from the rock by fracking. Similarly, a toxic waste brew of water and chemicals is often stored in open pits, releasing volatile organic compounds into the air. These noxious chemicals and particulates are also released by the diesel powered pumps used to inject the water. An epidemiological study of more than 400,000 patients of Pennsylvania’s Geisinger clinic, done with Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, found a significant association between fracking and increases in mild, moderate and severe cases of asthma (odds ratios 4.4 to 1.5). Hopkins’ Dr. Brian Schwartz cautions that residents should be aware of this hazard as “some ‘pristine’ rural areas are converted to heavily trafficked industrial areas.”

Problems during pregnancy: 

Fracking chemicals are harmful to pregnant women and their developing babies. West Virginia researchers found endocrine-disrupting chemicals in surface waters near wastewater disposal sites; these types of chemicals can hurt the developing fetus even when present at very low concentrations.

Another Hopkins/Geisinger study looked at records of almost 11,000 women with newborns who lived near fracking sites and found a 40% increased chance of having a premature baby and a 30% risk of having the pregnancy be classified as “high-risk,” though they controlled for socioeconomic status and other risk factors. Contributing factors likely include air and water pollution, stress from the noise and traffic (1,000 tankers/well on average).

Premature babies accounted for 35% of infant deaths in 2010. In addition to the personal toll on the families, preemies are very expensive for society—prematurity is a major cause of neurologic disabilities in kids, and their cost of care was more the $26 billion in 2005 alone, or $51,600 per preemie. Cost to employers during the infant’s first year of life averaged $46,004—more than tenfold higher than for a full-term delivery.

[Note that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, women may once again be denied health insurance for pregnancies and a premature baby will likely never be granted health insurance. According to the March of Dimes, Medicaid expansion of health insurance to low-income citizens helped the percentage of babies born as preemies drop to a low level of 11.4% in 2013.]

Noise, stress and sleep deprivation

Other studies have found that the noise from the drilling itself, the gas compressors, other heavy equipment and the truck traffic is high enough to disturb sleep, cause stress and increase high blood pressure. Longer-term exposure to noise pollution contributes to endocrine abnormalities and diabetes, heart disease, stress and depression, and has been linked to learning difficulties in children. Sleep deprivation has pervasive public health consequences, from causing accidents to chronic diseases.

Another epidemiologic study from University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University compared the hospitalization rates between a county with active fracking and a neighboring county without. This study found that fracking well density was significantly associated with higher inpatient hospitalization for cardiac or neurologic problems. There was also an association between skin conditions, cancer and urologic problems and the proximity of homes to active wells.

Spills and accidents

With disturbing frequency, new spills or accidents are reported at the same time as industry tries to reassure that fracking brings safe and clean energy. Tell that to the residents of Dimock, Pa., who have had their drinking water destroyed, or those in many other communities.

A newly released study found 6,648 spills in just four states over the past 10 years. Once again, the EPA had reported a far lower number—457 in eight states over a six-year period. Why the huge difference? Because the EPA chose to only look at the actual fracturing stage, rather than the whole life cycle of the gas and oil production. The DeSmogBlog notes that just this month, the day after U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) the final permit it needed to build across Lake Oahe (threatening the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s land and water), a pipeline of a DAPL co-owner exploded near New Orleans, killing one and injuring others. Aging pipelines pose special risks as they deteriorate. An ExxonMobil pipeline built in 1947 spilled 134,000 gallons of gas in Arkansas. You can see the location and magnitude of the spills at this handy interactive from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP). Another disturbing data viz shows the type of spill and whether water was impacted.

Map of unconventional oil and gas spills in Pennsylvania — courtesy SNAPP partnership. Click on the image to explore interactive with type of spill and much more detail.

But new fracking has additional risks, as the conventional pipes often used are unable to withstand the high pressure of the fracking mixture being injected. In fact, new wells were not safer, and 6% of unconventional (fracked) wells drilled since 2000 showed problems, with even the Pa. DEP (shown by Public Herald to not be thorough in investigating citizens’ complaints, nor entirely forthcoming) confirming more than 100 contaminated drinking water wells.


The oil and gas industry says that these health problems are not proven to be caused by fracking. That is partially true—especially since agencies like the Pa. DEP have actively hidden complaints or even failed to test the water of residents, as Public Herald reported. With the new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, determined to dismantle the agency and its protections, we will likely never have definitive proof. Some health problems, such as cancer and some neurologic problems, also take years to develop after an exposure.

Fracking profits go to private industry but the public—families and communities—bear the costs of the many health complications from the drilling.

There is growing evidence of a variety of health problems being associated with fracking. Common sense dictates that drinking and breathing cancer-causing agents will take their toll. The correlation is too strong to ignore, especially when we have other, cleaner energy options. For our safety and that of future generations, we should not allow the new administration to sell off public lands, nor allow drilling on our land, and should ban fracking completely.

For more medical/pharma news and perspective, follow me on Twitter @drjudystone or here at Forbes

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Repeal of Health Law Faces Obstacles in House, Not Just in Senate

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California nurses rally for bill on 1st state-run single-payer health plan

Hundreds of California nurses and community activists are rallying today in favor of a bill that could make the state the first to launch a single-payer health care system.

They see this as a chance for the large state to show how a single-payer system can work and illustrate the necessity of providing universal health care coverage, according to Bonnie Castillo, the director of the Registered Nurse Response Network, a project of the union National Nurses United.

“We believe [health care is] a right and not a privilege,” she told ABC News. “We know at the federal level there is debate and quandary about what to do, and we know that this provides an opportunity in California to set a standard and a model for the nation.”

Supporters of the plan say the timing is right for this kind of legislation in the state, which has enormous influence, with a population of nearly 40 million people and the sixth-largest economy in the world. Health care coverage has been under added scrutiny as Republican leaders in Washington, D.C., have pledged to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, leaving many questions about the public’s options for health insurance.

This proposed legislation would go further than the ACA by making all California residents eligible for coverage. The bill, the Californians for a Healthy California Act, was introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and state Sen. Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego, last week.

“Healthy California gives everyone insurance, because everyone has a right to health care,” Lara said in a statement at the time. “Trump and the Republicans don’t get to pick the health care winners and losers, and we’ll never get to 100 percent health care in California unless we lead.”

If the legislation enacted, California will be the first state to start a single-payer health system in the country. Vermont passed legislation to start a single-payer system in 2009, but the governor scuttled the plan over financing concerns, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Castillo said her group is optimistic about the law’s chances, since many people have voiced concerns about a possible decrease in health coverage if the ACA is repealed.

“It’s different political time. We’re just coming off this presidential election where health care was majorly debated and a primary issue,” she said. She cited recent studies, including a Pew report released in January that found 60 percent of Americans say the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans.

This bill does not give details on how California would implement a single-payer system, which would require the state to take on the huge task of negotiating bulk prices for health care services and medications on behalf of the state’s giant population. Regardless, she said, her group plans on being at the drafting table to ensure the system can function.

“It’s a real opportunity to address this problem and in a way that provides real relief,” Castillo said.

A single-payer system would have to overcome unique hurdles in a state where millions of dollars in federal funds are spent on health programs like Medicaid and treatment for veterans.

Without details on how the plan will work with federal programs, it is difficult to say how functional it would be, according to Laurence Baker, a professor of health research and policy and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

“This would have to interact with other national programs,” he explained. “The system would have to be functional within the national health system … It would be another layer of difficulty.”

Other countries, like Canada, may have single-payer systems that differ slightly by state or province, he said, but the U.S. is more complicated. Nothing like this plan — a state-run single-payer system that must also comply with federal government rules — currently exists.

“It would have to be a uniquely American California system,” Baker said.

It’s feasible for California to pull it off, he said, because of its size and bargaining power, but there has never been enough political will to figure out the complex and daunting task of doing so.

“It has been up and down, and it’s never been a majority of the population” in support of the single-payer system, Baker said. “In a political sense … what is the moment for folks who want to support it?”

California’s state legislature has considered several health care bills since the early 2000s. It passed a similar bill in 2006, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said socialized medicine was not the answer to the state’s health care problems. He subsequently proposed his own universal health care bill, but it was never moved forward.

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