News on health, wellness and health care

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Maricela Mares Alatorre says she has a “hate-hate” relationship with Kettleman City’s water, which contains unsafe amounts of naturally occurring arsenic.

“Usually, very early in the morning or late at night, there’s like a petroleum smell, like gas,” Alatorre says. “Sometimes during the day, while we’re washing the dishes, we’ll have a white dish, and all of a sudden, we’ll see the water is totally brown.” 

Courtesy of Teresa De Anda

When you arrive at Teresa De Anda’s house on the edge of Earlimart, you might think the biggest health threat here is her pack of dogs. But from De Anda’s perspective, the almond orchard directly across the street, and the nearby vineyards and fields, are much more dangerous.

“It’s nice not having neighbors across the street, but it’s not nice having all the spraying and the tilling and the dirt and the bees,” De Anda says.

Californians with Food Stamps to Get 'Fast Tracked' to Health Care

Dec 4, 2013

The state of California says as many as 600,000 people who receive food stamps could be fast-tracked into Medi-Cal next year if the federal government approves.  Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

The state says people on the CalFresh program have the same income as people who qualify for expanded Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act next year.

Rene Mollow of the California Department of Health Care Services says it will offer food stamp recipients a way to sign up for free health care without filling out another application.

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.

Despite Obama's Proposal, California Health Insurers Want to 'Stay the Course'

Nov 14, 2013
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California health insurers don’t like President Obama’s proposal to allow people to stay on health plans that don’t meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act next year. But as Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone tells us, the state’s Insurance Commissioner supports the President. 

California Stands Out In New Obamacare Numbers

Nov 14, 2013

Both California and the federal government have released numbers about people applying for health coverage next year. As Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone in Sacramento reports, California stands out from the rest of the states.

The federal government’s numbers show more than 35,000 Californians have picked a health plan through the state-run exchange as of November 2nd.

But Peter Lee of Covered California says the total is almost twice that if you count the latest numbers.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Kern Medical Center has welcomed new classes of physician residents specializing in family medicine for more than 30 years. But last week, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to close the family medicine residency program at the financially struggling medical center, and transition it to Clinica Sierra Vista.

For the county, this arrangement could mean financial savings. The struggling hospital was reportedly losing more than $3 million per year on the family medicine program.

Health Insurer Says Individual Plans Will Have Fewer Doctors Next Year

Nov 11, 2013
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California health insurers say people buying coverage for themselves next year should expect a different set of doctors and hospitals than are available this year. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California are the largest issuers of individual health insurance policies in the state. Jeff Smith of Blue Shield said in order to keep its plans affordable next year, it negotiated with doctors and hospitals.

UCSF Fresno

This Saturday, community members are invited to attend Valley Fever Research Day at the UCSF Fresno Center for Medical Education and Research. The event is an opportunity for researchers from UCSF Fresno, UC Merced, and Fresno State to connect with community members who have been impacted by the disease.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

California has reduced its premature birth rate. The rate has dropped to 9.6 percent, earning the state an A on the March of Dimes annual report card for the first time.

"But unfortunately in the Central Valley, we’re still at a grade of C, although we’re trending downward on pre-term birth rates, as the state is," Gail Newel, director of the Fresno County Department of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, said at a press conference this morning.

California Health Insurers: "Some People Will Pay More, Some People Will Pay Less"

Oct 31, 2013

California health insurers say the wave of individual policy cancelations across the country is part of an “evening out” of health care rules under the Affordable Care Act. Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

At least 350,000 Californians who currently purchase health insurance will have that coverage canceled this year. Health insurers say they have to comply with new rules that guarantee broad coverage. Some will pay more, some will pay less.

Can The Free Market Curb Asthma in Fresno?

Oct 31, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Is there a profit to be found in reducing children’s asthma attacks? A diverse team of public health advocates, asthma care providers, financiers, and foundations has set up a pilot program with the goal of making money for investors while solving a deeply entrenched health crisis in and around Fresno, California.

How Will Covered California Verify Incomes?

Oct 21, 2013

The final spending deal that ended the federal shutdown includes a provision that adds a layer of scrutiny for income verification in the new health insurance marketplaces.  Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone in Sacramento reports on what it means for California.

The agreement hashed out by Congress calls for federal reports to be submitted about how marketplaces confirm income.  But if you’re enrolling in California’s exchange it’s not going to make any difference.

Study: Soda Consumption Down For Kids Under 12, Up For Teens

Oct 17, 2013
Valley Public Radio

A UCLA report suggests more than 40 percent of California’s children have at least one sugary drink a day. As Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone  in Sacramento tells us, that rate has declined in recent years, but not for teenagers.  

Fresno County Public Health Department

The Fresno County Public Health Department has announced that yellow fever  mosquitoes have been found two more valley cities. The mosquitoes, which are not native to California, were discovered earlier this week in the cities of Fowler and Fresno.

It’s not the first time the potentially dangerous insects have been spotted in the county. In June, the mosquitoes were detected in Clovis. They have also been found in Madera County and San Mateo County.

Covered California Says More Than 28,000 People Have Joined Exchange

Oct 8, 2013

The Covered California health insurance exchange reported today that, during its first week of operation, more than 28,000 people became eligible for coverage. Max Pringle reports from Sacramento.

Covered California says the level of interest so far shows how eager Californians are for affordable health insurance.

“A million people in week one researching and finding out what’s right for them is huge,” says Peter Lee, Director of Covered California. He says early confusion about the level of interest was the result of semantics not accounting errors.

California's Health Marketplace Opening Through the Eyes of One Uninsured Woman

Oct 2, 2013
Edge Hill University, Learning Services Learning Technology Development / Creative Commons License /

Covered California opened for business Tuesday. By mid-afternoon, seventeen thousand phone inquiries had been made to the state exchange call centers. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone in Sacramento has the story of one uninsured woman who went shopping for new coverage online.  

Even before the Covered California call center in Rancho Cordova opened, there were floating balloons and words of congratulations.


On Tuesday, California launched its version of Obamacare, with the official debut of the state’s insurance exchange Covered California.

Despite the shutdown of the federal government, the exchange is moving ahead, according to California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley, who spoke to Valley Public Radio Tuesday morning, prior to a launch event at Fresno State. 

How Does The Obamacare Launch Compare With Medicare's Debut?

Oct 1, 2013
LBJ Presidential Library / YouTube / Public Domain

Open enrollment for health coverage under the federal health law began Tuesday.  Millions of people who may have had trouble getting insurance now have new options. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone reports on how the roll out of the Affordable Care Act compares to the last time the federal government made coverage available to millions.

Ever since the Affordable Care Act passed, health policy makers have been comparing it to another moment in history.

OBAMA: Is this, the most important step that we’ve taken towards health care since Medicare? Absolutely.

Last summer, President Obama announced a new policy, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It allows certain immigrant youth to remain in the country and obtain a work permit, without fear of deportation.

“This is a temporary stop-gap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely, while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven and patriotic young people,” Obama said, when he announced the program in June 2012.