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Essential California: Battles over single-payer healthcare, drug pricing and Medicaid loom

Essential California: Battles over single-payer healthcare, drug pricing and Medicaid loom
Carolyn Angela Chen, a nurse with Los Angeles Christian Health Centers, gives a free vaccination to Glenn Gardner at Joshua House Clinic on L.A.'s skid row. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Dec. 28, and here’s what’s happening across California:



Healthcare outlook in 2018

Whether it was bracing for a possible repeal of Obamacare or pondering an ambitious single-payer program that would overhaul how California provided medical care to its residents, the issue of healthcare kept politicians and policy wonks busy in 2017. That’s not likely to let up in 2018. Decisions by Congress and the Trump administration could shift priorities in the state budget. The crusade for single-payer healthcare is sending lawmakers — and candidates — scrambling. And long-simmering issues such as rising prescription drug costs continue to draw attention in Sacramento. Los Angeles Times

By the border

So many people fleeing persecution in their home countries have asked for help in San Ysidro in recent weeks that federal officials have not been able to process all of them, leaving some stranded and running out of money while they wait in Tijuana. U.S. border officials are trying to work through the backlog, but they can go only as fast as migrants can be processed and moved from temporary holding cells to immigration detention. Los Angeles Times

A tale of tragedy from Guatemala

“If we're attacked, we'll die together,” 16-year-old anti-mining activist Topacio Reynoso in Guatemala told her family. But when the bullets came, they killed only her. Raynoso’s death shows how Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world for environmental activists, with at least 120 killed last year alone, according to the nonprofit Global Witness. Los Angeles Times

A year in review

America’s anxious and unsettled times made it a banner year for villains and bad guys in movies, TV and real life. From Alexander Skarsgard in “Big Little Lies” to Jeff Daniels in “Godless”, we were haunted and riveted by those with dark hearts. Los Angeles Times

BEST OF 2017

Over the next week, Essential California will reboot some of the stories that moved us most this year. Have a nomination? Let us know:

Nut job: Inside one of the most bizarre heists in California history: Who is stealing millions of dollars of nuts from Central Valley farmers? And how did the lowly almond and cashew become such a hot commodity? Peter Vigneron explores. Outside

A loss: Her son was killed by police in San Francisco. After the attention and shock faded, how a mother spent the year after such a profound loss. By Jaeah Lee. California Sunday Magazine

What’s that in the air?! More than a decade ago, California air quality officials warned cities to not put housing too close to freeways. The Los Angeles Times’ Tony Barboza and Jon Schleuss explained why in an amazing report. It details how, in Los Angeles alone, officials have approved thousands of new homes within 1,000 feet of a freeway — even as they advised developers that this distance poses health concerns. Los Angeles Times

Unraveling a mystery: In 1989, Josh Klaver, 10, was discovered in a barn at the farm where his dad and step-mom lived hanging from a hook normally used by his father to hang steers during butchering. In this serialized tale, which was also a podcast, the Mercury News’ Julia Prodis Sulek unravels this mysterious and also tragic case of a boy in the barn. The Mercury News


Yum yum yum: Sometimes the best journalism is explaining what’s right before one’s eyes. Why are doughnut boxes pink? The answer, David Pierson found, could only come out of Southern California. Los Angeles Times


Another big month: Southern California home prices surged 8.6% in November compared with a year earlier, tying an all-time high that underscores a tight housing market with few properties for sale, according to a report released Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

Nice: Preservation groups have purchased a 17-acre mountain ridge in Laurel Canyon for $1.6 million to set aside the land for permanent preservation. Los Angeles Times

Trend anyone? The increased popularity of the “granny flat” — a relatively small home addition in the backyard — has created a niche industry in Los Angeles. KPCC


Makes sense: California and the U.S. Forest Service broke spending records fighting wildfires that blackened more than 9.5 million acres across the country in 2017, including about 1.2 million acres in California. Los Angeles Times

Another departure: Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas abruptly announced his resignation from the California Legislature on Wednesday, citing health reasons. Los Angeles Times

What to watch for: Here are three California housing issues to watch in 2018. Los Angeles Times


Great story: The harsh beauty and banality of the 105-110 Interchange. L.A. Taco


That’s a drag: iPhone owners from several states have filed at least nine class-action lawsuits against Apple Inc. for not disclosing sooner that its software updates deliberately slowed down older-model phones so batteries would last longer. Los Angeles Times

Be wary: California legalizes marijuana for recreational use Monday, but that won’t stop federal agents from seizing the drug — even in tiny amounts — on busy freeways and backcountry highways. Los Angeles Times

That’s new: Authorities say two Southern California people used a drone to deliver illegal drugs to their customers. Los Angeles Times


Survivors: “In the middle of the torched wasteland that was once their Santa Rosa neighborhood — at the bottom of a pool of black, sludgy water — Logan Hertel and his friends spotted a tiny miracle. Within the toxic-looking water flecked with ash and studded with charred chunks of wood, there was movement. A dozen goldfish had somehow survived the raging inferno that devastated entire communities, killed 44 people and destroyed almost 9,000 homes and buildings.” The Mercury News


Check it out! Here’s why you should see Hugo Crosthwaite's L.A.-inspired mural, before he destroys it bit by bit. Los Angeles Times

Drink it in: The Temecula Valley, determined to shake off its reputation as the state’s second-tier — or possibly even third-tier — wine region, is taking steps to boost its meager profile among California tourists. The burgeoning Southern California wine region is in the midst of an ambitious, multi-pronged plan that includes improving the quality of its wine, doubling the number of wineries and opening or expanding several hotels and resorts. Los Angeles Times

Desert chic: Check out these homes for sale in and around Palm Springs. Wall Street Journal


Los Angeles area: sunny, 79, Thursday; sunny, 78, Friday. San Diego: sunny, 72, Thursday and Friday. San Francisco area: foggy, 59, Thursday; partly cloudy, 60, Friday. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 61, Thursday; partly cloudy, 62, Friday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Terry Friedman:

“I was born in Santa Monica in 1945 and moved to Hollywood in ’55. The closest thing to snow that I remember is a bunch of hail in 1957. My mother, however, moved to Hollywood (at age 12) from Rupert, Idaho, in 1929, a month before the Depression hit. She told me several times of the snowstorm of 1932 and of sledding down Highland in front of Hollywood High School. It made quite an impression, even for a recent Idaho girl.”