Health

News on health, wellness and health care

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.

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.

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.

Shellie Branco / Valley Public Radio

In less than one year, the federal health care law will take effect. When that happens, an estimated 1.4 million low-income, uninsured adults in California will become eligible for Medicaid. That’s a huge number of people who will suddenly be eligible for health benefits and better access to health care.

The Fallacies Of Fat

Jan 14, 2013

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. This isn't going to take you by surprise, but America is fat. One in three adults is obese. For kids, it's one in six. But don't forget the infants. Doctors say there's now an obesity epidemic among six-month-old babies. And if you think you're safe because you're thin, consider that up to 40 percent of thin people have metabolic syndrome, in other words, on the road to type 2 diabetes, even if they can't tell by looking in the mirror.

Anthem Blue Cross of California is proposing an increase in health insurance rates for small employers. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the state’s Insurance Commissioner says the increase is unreasonable.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says the rate increase proposed by Anthem Blue Cross would amount to 10.6 percent a year and ultimately affect more than a quarter of a million Californians. But Anthem’s Darrell Ng says it amounts to a 7.5 percent increase and would initially affect 52,000 members.

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.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio Network

Mental health advocates and a top California lawmaker are starting a public awareness campaign in the aftermath of last Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut. 

Their message: Don’t be afraid of the stigma associated with mental health problems, and get help quickly if you see symptoms in someone you know or love.

Doctor Cameron Carter with the UC Davis Medical Center says most serious mental illnesses first become apparent in adolescents and young adults.

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. 

California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration says it will start moving about 860,000 children in the Healthy Families program into Medi-Cal on January 1st. But as Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, state lawmakers and doctors want them to slow down.

Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg sent a message to the administration last week.  

“Do not make the actual transition unless you are assured that the child who has a doctor and sees a doctor under one program – HF’s – will be able to have ready access to a doctor when they’re shifted.”

Valley fever treatments can do harm as they heal

Dec 8, 2012

Thousands of California and Arizona adults and children annually contract valley fever and find themselves battling the disease for months or years — missing work and school, spending weeks in the hospital — with frequent recurrences.

If they had a bacterial infection — food poisoning, strep throat or a boil on the skin — their doctor could reach for multiple, cost-effective antibiotics that usually are able to kill the bacteria, even though resistance to antibiotics is on the rise.

December 1st is World AIDS Day. Here in California, health officials say the face of the disease is getting younger. 

More than 110,000 Californians are currently living with an HIV or AIDS diagnosis, and roughly 14 cases are diagnosed in the state every day. 

Dr. Gil Chavez of the California Department of Public Health says he’s seeing more cases among young, gay, minorities. 

“The 13-24 year age group is the only demographic group in the state where we have seen an increasing – in new HIV infections.” 

For Some California Prisoners, Valley Fever Becomes A Life Sentence

Nov 26, 2012
Kevin Walker

Kevin Walker arrived at Taft Correctional Institution, a federal prison in western Kern County, in December 1999 to serve a 14-year sentence for attempted possession of cocaine.

But another kind of sentence awaited him, one far more painful than confinement alone.

In July 2001, fluid-leaking boils broke out across Walker’s face and body. Once he was diagnosed with valley fever, doctors put him on an antifungal drug — amphotericin B — but the drug was so powerful that it caused his kidneys and liver to begin failing.

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