Health

News on health, wellness and health care

An elderly Fresno County woman is dead today after contracting West Nile virus. Her death is the second in California associated with the virus this year. She had been hospitalized prior to her death.

The Fresno County Department of Public Health released a statement today indicating that there have been 26 cases of West Nile virus in humans throughout the state this year. In 2011, the state reported a total of 158 cases with 9 deaths. Fresno County had 9 reported cases of the illness in 2011, with no deaths.

Training Program Props Up New Nurses in Tough Job Market

Aug 21, 2012

Nursing has a reputation for being a well-paid, stable profession with lots of opportunity. But in the current economy, many nursing school graduates may send out dozens of job applications and get no interviews. Pauline Bartolone visited one Sacramento area program that is hiring new nurses, and hopes to keep them.

A few dozen nurses are packed into this room at Sutter medical center in Roseville to practice a scenario none of them looks forward to. A patient’s heart has stopped beating, and a loved one is hysterical. The nurses job is to bring life back to the patient.

California health leaders say they’re ‘heartened’ with a new Field Poll that suggests state voter support for the federal health law is getting stronger.

More than half of California voters polled said they support the health overhaul. More showed ‘strong support’ for the law than in the past two years. Thirty-seven percent of Californians oppose the law.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley says she was struck by the partisan nature of the findings.

CHCF Center for Health Reporting

Already reeling from big cutbacks in Medicare funding, hospitals in the Fresno area would lose another 5.4 percent of their federal reimbursement under a new analysis ordered by Congress.

Rural areas of California would be hit hardest under the Institute of Medicine study, which would pare Medicare payments to the state’s hospitals by an average 3-4 percent.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

One California resident is dead and another is ill today after contracting a rare disease spread by deer mice while vacationing at Yosemite National Park. Officials with the State Department of Public Health announced today that they believe the individuals contracted the disease while staying at Yosemite's Curry Village.

Hantavirus is rare in the state, but the disease is often deadly. Since 1993 there have been 60 cases of the disease in California, and about one third of those cases have been fatal.

California lawmakers and nurses are taking a hard look at charitable health care provided by hospitals with non-profit tax status.

Different hospitals have different practices when it comes to care for those who have trouble paying. For example, a patient may get free care in one hospital, but be charged at another.

At least, that’s what a recent report from the California State Auditor suggests.

Democratic State Senator Ellen Corbett chaired a committee this week that is looking into creating standards for the tax exempt status.

A bill before California lawmakers this week would create a new publicly-funded health plan for low-income residents. Creating a ‘basic health program’ is a state option under the federal health law. It would cover some of the people otherwise eligible for California’s health benefit exchange.

Ken Jacobs of the UC Berkeley Labor Center did an analysis of the plan. He says the program would be more affordable than the health exchange, which could result in more people covered overall. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California hospitals experienced a 10 percent drop in the number of serious infections over the past year, but a number of San Joaquin Valley hospitals are still above the state average, when compared with similar hospitals elsewhere in the state.

Some California lawmakers are calling for a closer look into a state fund for county mental health programs.

The Mental Health Services Act has brought in more than $8 billion since it was enacted in 2004. Republican State Assemblyman Dan Logue says he requested an audit of the funds after he heard reports of money spent on activities not clearly connected to mental health.

“If the basics are being sacrificed for programs that have proven and have shown no benefit whatsoever, then there needs to be a reevaluation of where these funds go.”

California Lawmakers Decide on Health Bills This Month

Aug 6, 2012

California state lawmakers return to the Capitol this week and they’ll deal with a number of health bills.

A handful of bills would incorporate provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act into California law. They deal with everything from Medicaid expansion, to setting rules governing how health premiums are set, to determining minimum benefits. Anthony Wright is from Health Access.

Nearly two million Californians should receive a health insurance premium rebate this week. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the rebates are the result of the federal Affordable Care Act.

The federal law requires health insurers to spend at least 80 percent of their premium money on actual health costs, rather than marketing and other non-medical expenses. Insurers who don’t meet that percentage are required to issue refunds. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says premium rebates total about $74 million, or about $65 per family.

California leaders say the federal health care overhaul will help African Americans get better access to health services. Democratic State Senator Curren Price says over the next few years, the Affordable Care Act could mean more primary and quality care for more than two million black Californians.

“It’s going to help level the playing field, and ultimately eliminate some of the nagging health disparities.”

California Health Leaders Call for "Culture of Coverage"

Jul 25, 2012

Key players in implementing the federal health overhaul in California say the public should be part of building a ‘culture of coverage.’

Kim Belshe is on the board of the California Health Benefit Exchange, an online marketplace where people will soon be able to buy coverage. She says in order for the federal health law to serve its purpose, schools, labor, faith and community organizations need to be on board.

Children's Hospital Gets New CEO

Jul 20, 2012

The Children's Hospital Central California Board of Trustees have named Todd Suntrapak as the hospital's new President and CEO.

The Board of Trustees said they conducted a national search for the position, and decided on Suntrapak based on his contributions to the hospital's expansion as a regional referral center.

Suntrapak has worked as the hospital's Chief Operating Officer since 2005, during which time trustees say he provided leadership in clinal operations and business development.

Suntrapak will assume the position, effective immediately.

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Adult day health care patients face change

Jul 16, 2012

Adult day health care in California is feeling the pinch of the state’s budget crisis. The state has been working to scale back the publicly-funded program that helps elderly and fragile adults. Meanwhile, centers are struggling to keep their services going. Pauline Bartolone visited one center in Sacramento that serves as a community space for Eastern European immigrants.

Every weekday at Altamedix adult day health center in North Sacramento, over a hundred Russian speaking immigrants follow a tight schedule of health education and exercise.

Even before the decision by the US Supreme Court to uphold most of President Obama's health care reform law, California was leading the way in implementing portions of the law. Now that most provisions of the Affordable Care Act are moving forward, what do California lawmakers and health care leaders have to say?

Special funding for this program comes from the California HealthCare Foundation
http://www.chcf.org/

As the nation waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a historic ruling on the constitutionality of President Obama’s overhaul of federal health care, California is not waiting to make changes. As Pauline Bartolone reports, state health planners say even if the high court overturns the federal mandate to buy insurance, their effort will move forward.

A new survey sheds light on what small businesses in California want out of the new health insurance market starting in 2014. 

Only a little more than a third of California small businesses currently provide some health benefits in their workplace. But that number could go up to 44 percent when a new health marketplace is up and running.

That’s according to a poll commissioned by the Small Business Majority and Kaiser Permanente.

John Arensmeyer of the Small Business Majority says the poll shows small companies want the same health options big ones have.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal next Tuesday to allow a foreign medical school from the Caribbean to cycle 100 students a year through the clinical rotation program at Kern Medical Center.

The Ross University School of Medicine would pay Kern County $3.5 million a year for 10 years for the program, if it’s approved by the board. KMC currently has students from UCLA and several other Caribbean medical schools in its program.

To reach Oakhurst, Calif., drive away from the green fields of the Central Valley, past miles of pistachio trees showing their spring buds and up toward the snow-topped peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

Here, just a few miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park, is the Sweetwater Steakhouse, a local watering hole where no one is shy about their opinions of President Obama's signature initiative.

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