News on health, wellness and health care

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.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new study from UCLA and the state Air Resources Board finds that minorities and other low-income populations face greater incidents of asthma than the rest of the population.

The study from the Chronic Disease Program at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research connects increased exposure to pollution with a rise in everything from asthma attacks to work absences and emergency room visits.

The study also found that those living within 750 feet of busy roads and highways had increases in asthma-related trips to the emergency room.

Rosie O'Beirne / Creative Commons License /

The death last week of 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless at a Bakersfield retirement home helped sparked a nationwide controversy over practices at nursing homes and other senior living facilities.

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.

The leader of California’s new health benefit exchange says he doesn’t expect employers to drop employees from health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

But he says people may choose to leave on their own. Health care reporter Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

Executive Director of Covered California Peter Lee says a few hundred thousand Californians may choose to leave their employer plans and sign up through the exchange over its first five years.

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.

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



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.