health care reform

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Operators have responded to about 400,000 calls since Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, launched Oct. 1. Starting this week, employees at the new Fresno Service Center will also answer questions, and help people enroll in health insurance.

“Fresno is a community that reflects the diversity of California, and that’s who we need to have on our phones, serving Californians,” said Peter Lee, the executive director of Covered California.

Hospitals in California are commending the state’s decision to prevent Medi-Cal rate cuts to rural hospitals with nursing facilities. Some of them have been at risk of closure. 

Republican State Assemblymember Brian Dahle says these medical providers are main employers in communities he represents in Northern California.

“We have folks who travel a long ways to those hospitals. And if we lose those hospitals we’re going to lose tour communities. And it would be hundreds of miles to get to the next facility so that’s very critical for our areas,” says Dahle.

Another in a series of Q&A columns answering consumers’ questions about the Affordable Care Act.

Q: My youngest child is 21 and graduated from college in May. My other daughter is 24 and is still a college student in Stockton. What are my options with them under the Affordable Care Act?

A: The good news, Simona, is that your daughters may have several options and their coverage could fall into place easily.

Or not.

Let’s cross our fingers and begin with “could fall into place easily.”

Max Pringle / Capital Public Radio

California’s health insurance exchange board has taken a step toward adding children’s dental insurance to the health plans it will offer under the Affordable Care Act. Max Pringle reports from Sacramento.

The Covered California board wants to give consumers dental insurance options other than as stand-alone plans. To that end the board has voted unanimously to explore ways to add the coverage to its medical insurance plan by 2015. Elizabeth Landsberg with the Western Center on Law and Poverty says low income parents need a variety of affordable options. 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A provision of federal healthcare reform may make it easier for immigrants to deal with language barriers.

Under the Affordable Care Act, California is eligible to receive $270 million to set up an interpreter program for Medi-cal patients.

The state would have to contribute 30 million dollars. The money would fund the program for three years.

Maximus Weikel is with Interpreting for California, which is urging the state to put up its share of the money. He says it would cover common languages, and those that are less well known in the United States.

What does Obamacare mean for you? With the expansion of coverage just months away, we asked Emily Bazar,  senior writer with the California HealthCare Foundation’s Center for Health Reporting at the Annenberg School For Communication and Journalism at USC. She's the author of a regular column called "Ask Emily" which aims to answer questions about the complex and sometimes confusing law, also known as the Affordable Care Act. She joined us on Valley Edition to talk about issues like:

According to a new study of mental health throughout the state, the valley has the highest mental illness rate in California. It also is the region with the fewest mental health professionals.

Statewide around 1 in 20 adults suffer from a serious mental illness. Valley counties score even higher. While 5.1 percent of Fresno adults have a serious mental illness, and 5.7 percent of Kern County residents, that number rises to 6.9 percent in Kings County and 7 percent in Madera County.

Covered California Starts Training Health Care 'Educators'

Jul 17, 2013

More than two-thousand Californians are being trained this month to educate people about getting coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

Several dozen people affiliated with labor unions, local government and non-profits filled a room at UC Davis School of Medicine to hear about the federal health care law. 

They’re part of a $37 million effort by Covered California to educate people about the benefits of buying insurance through the new state health insurance marketplace. 

Camarena Health

In less than three months, thousands of California residents will begin enrolling in expanded health coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act. The law is complex and touches almost every part of the health care system. But what does it mean for residents of the San Joaquin Valley? Over the coming months, we’ll explore that question by visiting with patients, doctors, businesses and clinics in the community of Madera. It’s a city that’s home to more than 62,000 people, more than quarter of whom live below the poverty level.

The summer is a slow time for many occupations, but not for people working to make fundamental changes to the health care system. Millions of uninsured Americans are expected to buy coverage through new health insurance marketplaces called exchanges. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone  has more about how neighboring states are trying to achieve the same end by different means. 

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California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says Anthem Blue Cross should be left out of the new health insurance marketplace for small businesses next year.

Jones says Anthem’s planned premium rate increase for small employers next month is excessive.

He says the Affordable Care Act requires him to evaluate whether insurers are suitable to participate in the new marketplace.

California’s new health insurance exchange has announced what plans and prices may look like for millions of people who will be buying individual coverage next year. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more about what the changes may mean for people already in the market.  

Some people may pay the same rate for a health insurance policy next year. But, Janice Rocco from the California Department of Insurance says many people will see a premium increase, with added benefits and fewer other costs. 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Most counties in California have a shortage of primary care doctors. And with millions more people in the state expected to get health coverage next year, lawmakers are proposing ways to make sure basic care is available in areas that need it. One bill would allow nurse practitioners to treat patients without consulting a physician. Health care reporter Pauline Bartolone reports on what it might mean for patients.

Some nurse practitioners in California already see patients without a doctor in the room. Patients like Anastacia Casperson.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Starting next year, millions of people will gain new health coverage under the federal health law.  In California, dozens of clinics are gearing up for the expansion, with new funding to build clinics and expand old ones.  But as Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, it may be a challenge to find the physicians to staff the new centers.

Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

California physicians and lawmakers are trying to draw attention to a shortage of doctors in the state. They made the point jointly in Sacramento Tuesday. As Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, they agree more doctors will be needed to see millions of people who will start enrolling in coverage next year.   

Hospital-based skilled nursing care facilities say more Medi-Cal cuts will devastate patients and families. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, lawmakers from both parties support a bill that would exclude those facilities from budget cuts. 

Office of state Senator Ed Hernandez

A California lawmaker proposes to allow some healthcare workers to expand their range of services in order to meet the new demand for health care under the Affordable Care Act. Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

Lawmakers Move Step Closer to Expanding Medi-Cal

Mar 7, 2013
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Legislation that would expand health care coverage to an estimated one million low-income Californians has moved a step closer to passing. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the bills would implement part of the federal health care law.

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. 

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