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Los Angeles County Launches Ambitious Plan To Tackle Medical Debt. Hospitals Groan.

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Molly Castle Work
Thu, 23 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County has launched one of the most ambitious efforts in the nation to tackle medical debt, targeting hospitals for their role in feeding a $2.9 billion problem.

For over a year, the nation's most populous county has worked on a comprehensive plan to track patient debt and hospital collection practices; boost bill forgiveness for low-income patients; and buy up and forgive billions in medical debt — an effort helmed by its Department of Public .

Though LA County isn't the first government entity to confront this crisis, what sets it apart is how it casts medical debt not as a political issue, but as an urgent public health threat as prevalent as asthma and diabetes.

“Nobody in the county of LA who is facing economic limitations should have that impact their ability to get the kind of health care, the kinds of services and support that we all need and are essential to optimal well-being,” public health department director Barbara Ferrer said at a medical debt symposium April 10.

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Mona Shah of Community Catalyst, a national health equity and policy organization, called the county's efforts bold — tackling the root causes of medical debt, in addition to providing immediate debt relief, with input and participation from health plans, hospitals, community organizations, and government partners. Shah said the county's population of about 10 million adds to the significance of its initiative.

But on the eve of the symposium, the local hospital association called on the county to revise its plan.

“We believe the proposed DPH [Department of Public Health] debt relief program and data collection effort will only burden hospitals with unnecessary requirements, without ultimately helping to address the underlying issue,” wrote George Greene, CEO of the Hospital Association of Southern California, in a letter to the LA County Board of Supervisors.

Many of the county's recommendations would require hospitals to change their processes and add reporting duties. For instance, the county is asking hospitals to inform it when patient debt is sent to collections and pressing hospitals to improve access to financial assistance programs. Although state law requires hospitals to provide assistance, patient advocates say many don't make it easy for patients to access.

Adena Tessler, LA County regional vice president for the hospital association, told KFF Health the industry provides ample financial assistance and that the county is putting too much emphasis on hospitals' role in the debt crisis, when other sectors of the health care system, such as insurers, should share the blame.

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Tessler said the county plan should include all players, including health plans, provider groups, and ambulance providers.

“Medical debt is a problem, and we want to be a part of the solution,” Tessler said. “But hospitals are not the only source of medical debt.”

Medical debt affects 4 in 10 adults in the U.S., according to a KFF Health News analysis. LA County found, in its own analysis this year, that about 785,000 residents were burdened in 2022 with a total of $2.9 billion in medical debt.

The county analysis shows that medical debt disproportionately affects people of color, low-income people, and families with children. Having medical debt more than doubled the likelihood that patients would delay or forgo health care or prescriptions or be at risk of losing housing or going hungry.

Nationally, a handful of states have passed rules to limit medical debt collection or bolster hospital financial assistance policies. Some jurisdictions have relieved residents of debt. Connecticut, Colorado, and New York enacted laws in the last two years to ban medical debt on credit reports, which can depress credit scores and make it harder for patients to get a job, rent an apartment, or secure a car loan. California lawmakers have proposed similar legislation, and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is also developing a set of rules.

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“It's a huge public health problem,” said Naman Shah, medical and dental affairs director at the public health department. “We in public health try to shift the determinants of health. Those are things that impact health deeply and impact people widely. Medical debt fulfills both of those. It's important that we see this as a health issue, and not just a regulatory issue.”

The department made initial recommendations last spring, then further developed them with the backing of the Board of Supervisors, which described medical debt as “pervasive” and “causing financial, mental, and physical harm … especially to those from historically marginalized communities.”

Shah said that while the department continues to take hospital input and has addressed some of the association's “misunderstandings,” officials are moving ahead with the plan. Tessler agreed the focus is on collaboration, not halting the county plan.

Over the next several months, the county plans to score hospitals based on financial assistance accessibility and provide them with templates and guidelines to make financial assistance less confusing and less burdensome for patients.

States such as Washington, Oregon, and Maryland have developed similar materials for hospitals.

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The county's goals also call for other debt prevention strategies, including working with plans and providers to better educate consumers to avoid surprise billing and out-of-network charges.

Shah said he was surprised by the timing of the hospital association's letter, especially since county officials and hospital representatives met several times before the April symposium. He agreed it is important to tackle all sources of medical debt but said hospitals are a reasonable place to start. Nearly 75% of adults with medical debt owe some or all of it to hospitals, according to a 2023 Urban Institute analysis.

“We want to get the most bang for our buck,” Shah said. “The largest bill that a patient receives is not a dental bill. It's not an office bill. It's a hospital bill.”

This article was produced by KFF Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. 

——————————
By: Molly Castle Work
Title: Los Angeles County Launches Ambitious Plan To Tackle Medical Debt. Hospitals Groan.
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/los-angeles-county-medical-debt-plan-hospital-dissent/
Published Date: Thu, 23 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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Biden’s on Target About What Repealing ACA Would Mean for Preexisting Condition Protections

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Jacob Gardenswartz
Thu, 13 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

If the Affordable Care Act were terminated, “that would mean over a hundred million Americans will lose protections for preexisting conditions.”

President Joe Biden in a campaign advertisement, May 8

President Joe Biden's reelection campaign wants voters to contrast his record on care policy with his predecessor's. In May, Biden's campaign began airing a monthlong, $14 million ad campaign targeting swing-state voters and minority groups with spots on TV, digital, and radio.

In the ad, titled “Terminate,” Biden assails former President Donald Trump for his past promises to overturn the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Biden also warns of the potential effect if Trump is returned to office and again pursues repeal.

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“That would mean over a hundred million Americans will lose protections for preexisting conditions,” Biden said in the ad.

Less than six months from Election Day, polls show Trump narrowly leading Biden in a head-to-head race in most swing states. And voters trust Trump to better handle issues such as inflation, crime, and the economy by significant margins.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll of about 2,200 adults, released in early May, shows the only major policy issues on which Biden received higher marks than Trump were health care and abortion access. It's no surprise, then, that the campaign is making those topics central to Biden's pitch to voters.

As such, we dug into the facts surrounding Biden's claim.

Preexisting Condition Calculations

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The idea that 100 million Americans are living with one or more preexisting conditions is not new. It was the subject of a back-and-forth between then-candidate Biden and then-President Trump during their previous race, in 2020. After Biden cited that statistic in a presidential debate, Trump responded, “There aren't a hundred million people with preexisting conditions.”

A KFF /PolitiFact HealthCheck at the time rated Biden's claim to be “mostly true,” finding a fairly large range of estimates — from 54 million to 135 million — of the number of Americans with preexisting conditions. Estimates on the lower end tend to consider “preexisting conditions” to be more severe chronic conditions such as cancer or cystic fibrosis. Estimates at the spectrum's higher end include people with more common health problems such as asthma and obesity, and behavioral health disorders such as substance use disorder or depression.

Biden's May ad focuses on how many people would be vulnerable if protections for people with preexisting conditions were lost. This is a matter of some debate. To understand it, we need to break down the protections put in place by the ACA, and those that exist separately.

Before and After

Before the ACA's preexisting condition protections took effect in 2014, insurers in the individual market — people buying coverage for themselves or their families — could charge higher premiums to people with particular conditions, restrict coverage of specific procedures or medications, set annual and lifetime coverage limits on benefits, or deny people coverage.

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“There were a number of practices used by insurance companies to essentially protect themselves from the costs associated with people who have preexisting conditions,” said Sabrina Corlette, a co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University and an expert on the health insurance marketplace.

Insurers providing coverage to large employers could impose long waiting periods before employees' benefits kicked in. And though employer-sponsored plans couldn't discriminate against individual employees based on their health conditions, small-group plans for businesses with fewer than 50 employees could raise costs across the board if large numbers of employees in a given company had such conditions. That could prompt some employers to stop offering coverage.

“The insurer would say, ‘Well, because you have three people with cancer, we are going to raise your premium dramatically,' and therefore make it hard for the small employer to continue to offer coverage to its workers because the coverage is simply unaffordable,” recalled Edwin Park, a research professor at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy who researches public health insurance markets.

As a result, many people with preexisting conditions experienced what some researchers dubbed “job lock.” People felt trapped in their jobs because they feared they wouldn't be able to get health insurance anywhere else.

Some basic preexisting condition protections exist independent of the ACA. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, for example, restricted how insurers could limit coverage and mandated that employer-sponsored group plans can't refuse to cover someone because of a health condition. Medicare and Medicaid similarly can't deny coverage based on health background, though age and income-based eligibility requirements mean many Americans don't qualify for that coverage.

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Once the ACA's preexisting condition protections kicked in, plans sold on the individual market had to provide a comprehensive package of benefits to all purchasers, no matter their health status.

Still, some conservatives say Biden's claim overstates how many people are affected by Obamacare protections.

Even if you consider the broadest definition of the number of Americans living with such conditions, “there is zero way you could justify that 100 million people would lose coverage” without ACA protections, said Theo Merkel, who was a Trump administration health policy adviser and is now a senior research fellow with the Paragon Health Institute and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank.

Joseph Antos, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, called the ad's preexisting conditions claim “the usual bluster.” To reach 100 million people affected, he said, “you have to assume that a large number of people would lose coverage.” And that's unlikely to happen, he said.

That's because most people — about 55% of Americans, according to the most recent government data — receive health insurance through their employers. As such, they're protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules, and their plans likely wouldn't change, at least in the short term, if the ACA went away.

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Antos said major insurance companies, which have operated under the ACA for more than a decade, would likely maintain the status quo even without such protections. “The negative publicity would be amazing,” he said.

People who lose their jobs, he said, would be vulnerable.

But Corlette argued that losing ACA protections could lead to Americans being priced out of their plans, as health insurers again begin medical underwriting in the individual market.

Park predicted that many businesses could also gradually find themselves priced out of their policies.

“For those firms with older, less healthy workers than other small employers, they would see their premiums rise,” he told KFF Health .

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Moreover, Park said, anytime people lost work or switched jobs, they'd risk losing their insurance, reverting to the old days of job lock.

“In any given year, the number [of people affected] will be much smaller than the 100 million, but all of those 100 million would be at risk of being discriminated against because of their preexisting condition,” Park said.

Our Ruling

We previously ruled Biden's claim that 100 million Americans have preexisting conditions as in the ballpark, and nothing suggests that's changed. Depending on the definition, the number could be smaller, but it also could be even greater and is likely to have increased since 2014.

Though Biden's claim about the number of people who would be affected if those protections went away seems accurate, it is unclear how a return to the pre-ACA situation would manifest.

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On the campaign trail this year, Trump has promised — as he did many times in the past — to replace the health law with something better. But he's never produced a replacement plan. Biden's claim shouldn't be judged based on his lack of specificity.

We rate Biden's claim Mostly True.

our sources

ABC News/Ipsos Poll, “Six Months Out, a Tight Presidential Race With a Battle Between Issues & Attributes,” May 5, 2024

Avalere, “Repeal of ACA's Pre-Existing Condition Protections Could Affect Health Security of Over 100 Million People,” Oct. 23, 2018

Biden-Harris 2024 campaign email, “NEW AD: Biden-Harris 2024 Launches ‘Terminate' Slamming Trump for Attacks on Health Care,” May 8, 2024

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Center for American Progress, “Number of Americans With Preexisting Conditions by District for the 116th Congress,” Oct. 2, 2019

Census Bureau, “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2022,” September 2023

CNN, “Trump Administration Gives States New Power to Weaken Obamacare,” Oct. 22, 2018

Department of Health and Human Services, “Health Insurance Coverage for Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act,” Jan. 5, 2017

Department of Health and Human Services, “The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 Helpful Tips,” accessed May 15, 2024

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Email exchanges with Biden-Harris 2024 campaign official, May 13-15, 2024

Email exchange with Karoline Leavitt, Trump 2024 campaign national press secretary, May 13, 2024

KFF, “KFF Health Tracking Poll: The Public's Views on the ACA,” May 15, 2024

KFF, “Recent Trends in Mental Health and Substance Use Concerns Among Adolescents,” Feb. 6, 2024

KFF Health News, “Drowning in a ‘High-Risk Insurance Pool' — At $18,000 a Year,” Feb. 27, 2017

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KFF Health News and PolitiFact, “Biden's in the Ballpark on How Many People Have Preexisting Conditions,” Oct. 1, 2020

The New York Times, “Trump Leads in 5 Key States, as Young and Nonwhite Voters Express Discontent With Biden,” May 13, 2024

Phone interview and email exchanges with Theo Merkel, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the director of the Private Health Reform Initiative at the Paragon Health Institute, May 14-15, 2024

Phone interview with Edwin Park, a research professor at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, May 22, 2024

Phone interview with Sabrina Corlette, a co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University, May 14, 2024

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Truthsocial.com, post by @realDonaldTrump, Nov. 25, 2023

The Wall Street Journal, “Healthcare.gov to Shut Down During Parts of Enrollment Period for Maintenance,” Sept. 23, 2017

Work, Aging and Retirement, “Job Lock, Work, and Psychological Well-Being in the United States,” Feb. 19, 2016

YouTube.com/@CSPAN, “First 2020 Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” Sept. 29, 2020

YouTube.com/@JoeBiden, “Terminate” campaign advertisement, May 10, 2024

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Phone interview with Joseph Antos, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, June 5, 2024

Health Affairs, What It Means To Cover Preexisting Conditions, Sept. 11, 2020

KFF, Pre-Existing Conditions and Medical Underwriting in the Individual Insurance Market Prior to the ACA, Dec. 12, 2016

PolitiFact, “Does Trump Want To Repeal the ACA, as Biden Says? Tracking His Changing Stance Over the Years,” June 3, 2024

——————————
By: Jacob Gardenswartz
Title: Biden's on Target About What Repealing ACA Would Mean for Preexisting Condition Protections
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/fact-check-biden-campaign-ad-repealing-obamacare-preexisting-conditions/
Published Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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‘I Try To Stay Strong’: Mom Struggles To Get Diagnosis for Son’s Developmental Problems

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Sejal Parekh
Wed, 12 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. — Four-year-old Ahmeir Diaz-Thornton couldn't sit still in class and rarely ate his lunch. While his preschool classmates spoke in perfect sentences, Ahmeir had trouble pronouncing words.

Ahmeir's preschool teacher relayed her concerns to his mother, Kanika Thornton, who was already worried about Ahmeir's refusal to eat anything but yogurt, Chef Boyardee spaghetti, oatmeal, and applesauce. He also sometimes hit himself and others to cope with the frustration of not being able to communicate, she said.

Thornton took her son, who is on Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, which covers low-income families, to his pediatrician. Then he was evaluated by a school district official, a speech therapist, and the pediatrician — again. Along the way, Thornton consulted teachers, case managers, and social service workers.

Ten months later, she still doesn't have an accurate diagnosis for Ahmeir.

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“I felt like I failed my child, and I don't want to feel that,” said Thornton, 30, who has been juggling Ahmeir's behavior and appointments on top of her pregnancy and caring for her two other children.

“Some days I don't eat because he doesn't eat,” said Thornton from her home in Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I don't want to hurt my unborn child. So I try to eat some crackers and cheese and stuff, but I don't eat a meal because he doesn't eat a meal.”

Seeking a diagnosis for a child's behavioral problems can be challenging for any family as they navigate complicated medical and educational systems that don't communicate effectively with parents, let alone each other.

A common obstacle families face is landing an appointment with one of a limited number of developmental specialists. It is particularly difficult for families with Medi-Cal, whose access to specialists is even more restricted than for patients with private insurance.

As they await their turn, they boomerang among counselors, therapists, and school officials who address isolated symptoms, often without making progress toward an overall diagnosis.

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Obtaining a timely diagnosis for autism, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or other behavioral disorders is important for children and their parents, said Christina Buysse, a clinical associate professor in developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Stanford University.

“Parent stress levels go down when a child is diagnosed early,” because they learn how to manage their child's behaviors, she said.

Intervening early can also help retrain a child's brain quickly and avoid lifelong consequences of developmental delays, said Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, president of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

“A speech and language delay at the age of 2 can put a child at risk of reading comprehension problems in the third grade,” she said.

Buysse is likely the right type of medical specialist for Ahmeir. As a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, she can often unify different symptoms into one diagnosis, and she knows what kind of therapy or medication patients need.

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The Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics reports that there are only 706 actively certified developmental specialists in the nation.

“There just aren't enough of us,” Buysse said, and some developmental specialists don't accept Medicaid patients because they believe the reimbursement rates aren't adequate.

Thornton didn't know her son needed to see a developmental specialist, and he had never been referred to one, despite his many medical appointments. Once she learned about this type of specialist in May, she asked his pediatrician for a referral.

Alameda System, which provides Ahmeir's primary care, “does not have a developmental-behavioral pediatrician on staff at this time,” said Porshia Mack, the system's associate chief medical officer of ambulatory services.

“We have made efforts to hire them, but recruiting and retaining pediatric subspecialists is difficult for all health systems, and public safety-net systems in particular,” she said.

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Karina Rivera, a spokesperson for the Alameda Alliance for Health, Thornton's Medi-Cal managed care plan, provided a list of nine developmental-behavioral pediatricians she said are in the plan's network.

However, the only two in Alameda County work for Kaiser Permanente, which “is a closed system,” acknowledged Donna Carey, interim chief medical officer of the Alameda Alliance. In practice, that means “even if they have a developmental pediatrician, we don't have access to that pediatrician,” she said.

The other seven specialists are in surrounding counties, which could pose transportation challenges for Thornton and other patients.

The Alameda Alliance for Health met state requirements for patient access to specialists in the most recent review of its network, in 2022, said Department of Health Care Services spokesperson Griselda Melgoza. The plan “was found compliant with all time or distance standards,” she said.

However, after learning from California Healthline that the plan considers Kaiser Permanente specialists part of its network, the department contacted the insurer to inquire, and will work with it “to ensure member-facing materials accurately represent their current network,” Melgoza said.

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A month after starting preschool in fall 2023, Ahmeir was evaluated for speech delay through his school district. His pediatrician also began ordering tests to understand his eating habits.

But Thornton believes Ahmeir's symptoms aren't isolated problems that can be addressed in a piecemeal fashion. “It's just something else. It's his development,” she said. “I know a tantrum, but he doesn't get tantrums. He will hit people. That's a no-go.”

In addition to addressing medical concerns, a developmental specialist could help parents like Thornton understand what school districts offer and how to expedite school evaluations, Spinks-Franklin said. Ahmeir faces a six- to eight-month wait for a comprehensive evaluation through his school district for additional services, Thornton said.

It's common for parents to get confused about what a school district can and can't do for kids with developmental disabilities, said Corina Samaniego, who works at Family Resource Navigators, an organization that helps parents like Thornton in Alameda County. For instance, Samaniego said, school districts cannot provide medical diagnoses of autism, nor the therapy to address it.

Ahmeir has made significant improvement with speech therapy provided through the school district, Thornton said, and now speaks in full sentences more often. But she remains frustrated that she does not have a diagnosis that explains his persistent symptoms, especially his reluctance to eat and difficulty expressing emotions.

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Thornton believes she has done everything she can to help him. She has even created elaborate food landscapes for Ahmeir with dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, mashed potato volcanoes, gravy lava, and broccoli trees — only to have him turn his head away.

As of late May, she continued to seek advice from teachers and counselors while she waited for an appointment with a specialist.

“I try to stay strong for my son and do the best I can and be there for him, talk to him, teach him things,” she said. “It's been really tough.”

This article is part of “Faces of Medi-Cal,” a California Healthline series exploring the impact of the state's safety-net health program on enrollees.

This article was produced by KFF Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. 

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——————————
By: Sejal Parekh
Title: ‘I Try To Stay Strong': Mom Struggles To Get Diagnosis for Son's Developmental Problems
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org//article/alameda-county-california-mom-diagnosis-child-behavioral-issues/
Published Date: Wed, 12 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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Many Young Adults Who Began Vaping as Teens Can’t Shake the Habit

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John Daley, Colorado Public Radio
Wed, 12 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

G Kumar's vaping addiction peaked in college at the University of Colorado, when flavored, disposable vapes were taking off.

“I'd go through, let's say, 1,200 puffs in a week,” Kumar said.

Vaping became a crutch for them. Like losing a cellphone, losing a vape pen would set off a mad scramble.

“It needs to be right next to my head when I fall asleep at night, and then in the morning, I have to thrash through the sheets and pick it up and find it,” Kumar recalled.

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They got sick often, including catching covid-19 — and vaping through all of it.

Kumar, now 24, eventually quit. But many of their generation can't shake the habit.

“Everyone knows it's not good for you and everyone wants to stop,” said Jacob Garza, a University of Colorado student who worked to raise awareness about substance use as part of the school's promotion program.

“But at this point, doing it all these years … it's just second nature now,” he said.

Marketing by e-cigarette companies, touting the allure of fruity or candy-like flavors and names, led many teens to try vaping. As more high schoolers and younger kids experimented with e-cigarettes, physicians and researchers warned it could lead to widespread addiction, creating a “Generation Vape.”

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Research has shown nicotine is highly rewarding to the brains of young people.

New data on substance use among adults ages 18-24 suggests that many former teen vapers remain e-cigarette users. National vaping rates for young adults increased from 7.6% in 2018 to 11% in 2021.

It's not surprising that many of them start in high school for social reasons, for all sorts of reasons,” said Delaney Ruston, a primary care physician and documentary filmmaker. “And many of them now — we're seeing this — have continued to college and beyond.”

Her latest film is “Screenagers Under the Influence: Addressing Vaping, Drugs & Alcohol in the Digital Age.”

In Colorado, the share of those 18 to 24 who regularly vaped rose by about 61% from 2020 to 2022 — to nearly a quarter of that age group.

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“That's an astounding increase in just two years,” Ruston said.

Trends in that state are worth noting because, before the pandemic, Colorado led the nation in youth vaping among high school students, surpassing 36 other states surveyed.

Nationally, vaping rates among high schoolers dropped from 28% in 2019 to 10% in 2023, according to the Annual National Youth Tobacco Survey. But for many young people who started vaping at the height of the trend, a habit was set.

At Children's Hospital Colorado, pediatric pulmonologist Heather De Keyser displayed on her screen a clouded X-ray of the lung of a young adult damaged by vaping.

For years, doctors like her and public health experts wondered about the potentially harmful impact of vaping on pre-adult bodies and brains — especially the big risk of addiction.

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“I think, unfortunately, those lessons that we were worried we were going to be learning, we're learning,” said De Keyser, an associate professor of pediatrics in the Breathing Institute at Children's Hospital Colorado.

“We're seeing increases in those young adults. They weren't able to stop.”

It's no coincidence the vaping rates soared during the pandemic, according to several public health experts.

For the past couple of years, undergraduates have talked about the challenges of isolation and using more substances, said Alyssa Wright, who manages early intervention health promotion programs at CU-Boulder.

“Just being home, being bored, being a little bit anxious, not knowing what's happening in the world,” Wright said. “We don't have that social connection, and it feels like people are still even trying to catch up from that experience.”

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Other factors driving addiction are the high nicotine levels in vaping devices, and “stealth culture,” said Chris Lord, CU-Boulder's associate director of the Collegiate Recovery Center.

“The products they were using had five times more nicotine than previous vapes had,” he said. “So getting hooked on that was … almost impossible to avoid.”

By “stealth culture,” Lord means that vaping is exciting, something forbidden and secret. “As an adolescent, our brains are kind of wired that way, a lot of us,” Lord said.

All over the U.S., state and local governments have filed suits against Juul Labs, alleging the company misrepresented the health risks of its products.

The lawsuits argued that Juul became a top e-cigarette company by aggressively marketing directly to kids, who then spread the word themselves by posting to social media sites like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

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“What vaping has done, getting high schoolers, in some cases even middle schoolers, hooked on vaping, is now playing out,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

Juul agreed to pay hundreds of millions in settlements. The company did not respond to requests for comment on this article.

R.J. Reynolds, which makes another popular vape brand, Vuse, sent this statement: “We steer clear of youth enticing flavors, such as bubble gum and cotton candy, providing a stark juxtaposition to illicit disposable vapor products.”

Other big vape companies, like Esco Bar, Elf Bar, Breeze Smoke, and Puff Bar, didn't respond to requests for comment.

“If we lived in an ideal world, adults would reach the age of 24 without ever having experimented with adult substances. In reality, young adults experiment,” said Greg Conley, director of legislative and external affairs with American Vapor Manufacturers. “This predates the advent of nicotine vaping.”

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The FDA banned flavored vape cartridges in 2020 to crack down on marketing to minors, but the products are still easy to find.

Joe Miklosi, a consultant to the Rocky Mountain Smoke-Free Alliance, a trade group for vape shops, contends the shops are not driving vaping rates among young adults in Colorado. “We keep demographic data in our 125 stores. Our average age [of customers] is 42,” he said.

He has spoken with thousands of consumers who say vaping helped them quit smoking cigarettes, he said. Vape shops sell products to help adult smokers quit, Miklosi said.

Colorado statistics belie that claim, according to longtime tobacco researcher Stanton Glantz. The data is “completely inconsistent with the argument that most e-cigarette use is adult smokers trying to use them to quit,” said Glantz, the former director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California-San Francisco.

For recent college graduate G Kumar, now a rock climber, the impetus to quit vaping was more ecological than health-related. They said they were turned off by the amount of trash generated from used vape devices and the amount of money they were spending.

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Kumar got help from cessation literature and quitting aids from the university's health promotion program, including boxes of eucalyptus-flavored toothpicks, which tasted awful but provided a distraction and helped with oral cravings.

It took a while and a lot of willpower to overcome the intense psychological cravings.

“The fact that I could just gnaw on toothpicks for weeks on end was, I think, what kept me sane,” Kumar said.

This article is from a partnership that includes CPR News, NPR, and KFF Health .

——————————
By: John Daley, Colorado Public Radio
Title: Many Young Adults Who Began Vaping as Teens Can't Shake the Habit
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/generation-vape-teen-habit-young-adult-addiction/
Published Date: Wed, 12 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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