health

Dan Wong

This week on Valley Edition: The Affordable Care Act is expected to expand health insurance coverage to millions of Californians. But with those newly insured patients will come a dire need for more primary doctors. FM 89.3’s Rebecca Plevin reports on a new type of medical residency program that’s intended to train primary doctors who will remain in the Central Valley and work in local community health centers.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

A new type of residency program may provide some relief to the Central Valley’s physician shortage, and change the way we grow and retain primary care doctors in the Valley.

The model is called a “teaching health center,” and it’s funded by the Affordable Care Act.

The idea behind this new approach to graduate medical education is to train medical residents in community health centers, and encourage them to pursue careers in primary care in underserved areas, like the Valley.

California lawmakers are deciding how geography can affect health insurance premiums in the individual marketplace.

Lawmakers got one step closer to ironing out new rules that would guarantee insurance to individuals regardless of their prior health history. But, they still need to decide how companies will factor in where someone lives into premium rates.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

A non-partisan legislative report suggests expanding California’s Medicaid program under the federal health law would make good sense in terms of finance and policy. 

The Legislative Analyst’s Office says the state should move ahead with the Medi-Cal expansion that Governor Jerry Brown recently laid out in his budget. 

It says not only could the coverage mean better health for the newly eligible, but it says the money both the state and counties would save would far outweigh the costs in the short and long term. 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio


State lawmakers will be looking at changes to insurance market rules under the Affordable Care Act this week.

As health care reporter Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, lawmakers and the administration still need to reach agreement about the link between state and federal law. 

Health Care Exchange Announces Benefit Plan Choices

Feb 14, 2013

Low-income Californians without health insurance or who aren’t eligible for Medi-Cal can now see which benefits they can expect under the federal health care overhaul- and how much their coverage will cost.

Californians eligible for federal subsidies can determine out-of-pocket costs for medications and doctor and hospital visits, as well as maximum annual costs.

Valley Fever Stories: Bernadette Madrid

Feb 11, 2013
Photo courtesy of Bernadette Madrid

Bernadette Madrid, Bakersfield, 29

I’ve been diabetic since I was 10. I got really sick with valley fever in 2006. It’s been a long seven years.

I thought I had a flu that wouldn’t go away and I had severe pain in my ribs. I also noticed that my vision was becoming blurry, and I thought maybe I needed glasses.

Valley Fever Stories: Jerry Walker

Feb 11, 2013
Casey Christie / The Californian

Jerry Walker, Bakersfield, 59

My name is Jerry Walker and I am a valley fever survivor.

I was not born and raised here. In late 1991, I was working as a petroleum engineer for one of the largest oilfield service companies in the world. Around the second week of November, I was working on the west side of the valley and experienced a very windy day with blowing sand.

Valley Fever Stories: David Losa

Feb 11, 2013
Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

David Losa, Bakersfield, 68

After living in Bakersfield for 17 years and not catching valley fever, I thought I might be immune. Being aware that the disease was endemic in my hometown, I read everything about it that I could get my hands on.

Valley Fever Stories: Karen Werts

Feb 11, 2013
Casey Christie / The Californian

Karen Werts, 53, Bakersfield

My journey with valley fever began in August 2010. While at work at a local medical center, I felt heaviness in my chest and my right arm ached. My boss sent me to urgent care to make sure I was not having a heart attack. The EKG was normal, but a chest X-ray showed a slight shadow in my right lung. The physician said I probably had the start of bronchitis, and prescribed antibiotics. The heavy feeling in my chest never went away and my legs began to swell.

One month later, I awoke in the middle of the night with chills. Later that night, I woke up again, soaking wet. I figured I was coming down with the flu, so I stayed home from work that day.

The California Supreme Court appears poised to leave intact the right of local governments to ban medical marijuana dispensaries.  Ben Adler has more on the court’s oral arguments today  in a case involving a dispensary and the city of Riverside.

Here’s the core question for the justices in this case: Do state laws that allow the use of medical marijuana trump the long-standing powers of local governments to make their own land use and zoning decisions?  Many justices appeared skeptical.  Here’s Justice Joyce Kennard pressing the attorney representing the dispensary:

Valley Public Radio

In this week's Valley Edition, 89.3's Rebecca Plevin shares the story of Pablo Reyes-Morales, a West Hills College Student, Lemoore. Morales counts himself among the ranks of the 'Dream Army' – or, young, undocumented people who would qualify for the federal DREAM ACT, if it were passed - and are currently barred from serving in the U.S.

Ezra Romero / Valley Public Radio

For Rene and Veronica Ramirez careers in medicine were always a dream. But with childhoods spent in rural California – Dinuba and Kerman – the couple’s desire to bring aid back to their communities seemed only to be just wishful thinking.

"I always thought I would like to be a doctor, but I didn’t know if I actually could do it," she said.

That’s Veronica Ramirez. She says her family helped her develop an interest in medicine early on.

“I’ve had medical problems in my family, my mom has epilepsy, and I have experienced that since I was very young," she said. 

Shellie Branco / Valley Public Radio

California lawmakers will consider new legislation designed to keep the state in sync with the federal health law. As Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, the legislation is part of a special session on health care that began Monday.

Lawmakers in both houses propose bills that would add more than a million people to the state’s Medicaid program.

Assembly Speaker John Perez said his bill would allow individuals with an annual income of around $15,000 dollars to get public health insurance – and that could indirectly help other Californians, too.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Anna Martinez was standing on a street corner in the tiny farmworker community of Kettleman City when she heard the familiar sound of a truck engine roaring to life.

She pointed to a diesel truck parked on a lot next to three others. The lot was just one block from State Route 41, and another block or so from a huge agricultural field.

“We’ll see how long he’s going to idle,” said Martinez, a community organizer with Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. “He’s just now starting his truck - see all the emissions and black smoke.”

The federal government has awarded California $674 million to develop an online health insurance marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The two-year grant for the exchange known as Covered California is less than the $706 million requested. But Executive Director Peter Lee says he believes the grant will give the state all the resources it needs.

Rennett Stow of Flickr under Creative Commons License

This week on Valley Edition, KVPR’s Rebecca Plevin reports on how valley counties are preparing to expand coverage to their poorest residents under the Affordable Care Act. We’ll also talk with Peter Cunningham, Ph.D., Senior Fellow and Director of Quantitative Research with The Center for Studying Health System Change about whether the San Joaquin Valley as a whole is ready to take on health reform.

The Reporting on Health Collaborative asked readers to share their experiences with valley fever. Here are their stories, in their own words, as told to the Collaborative's Community Engagement Editor, Kellie Schmitt. 

Their accounts capture the pain and anguish suffered by local families as doctors struggled to find the right treatment and jobs and lives were lost to the disease. Misdiagnosis was a frequent problem, allowing time for the disease to "tunnel" its way into lungs and other organs, as one survivor put it. 

Five Ways to Move the Fight Against Valley Fever Forward

Dec 22, 2012
Alex Horvath/The Bakersfield Californian

Valley fever is a humbling disease.

It can rob sufferers of their health, their life plans and their financial well-being.

Uncertainty adds to the trauma. There is no cure around the corner, no vaccine in the works and no well-organized patient group lobbying effectively for more policy attention.

The result: those who become ill often suffer in silence and feel alone.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued 12 administrative penalties to hospitals throughout the state, including two at Visalia's Kaweah Delta Medical Center. The hospitals were cited for failing to follow established procedures that resulted in serious injury or death, or had the potential to. 

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