Health

News on health, wellness and health care

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

The almond harvest is well underway in Madera County.

Along a tree-lined, rural road, about a dozen Agriland employees are loading almonds into a huge elevator. The nuts will then be loaded into a truck. They will appear on the shelves as Blue Diamond-brand almonds, among others.

California Proposes Lower Threshold for Carcinogenic Substance in Drinking Water

Aug 23, 2013
Valley Public Radio

California health officials propose to lower the limits of a heavy-metal often found in drinking water. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

The California Department of Public Health proposes a regulation that would reduce the allowable level of ‘chromium-6’ in water to five times less than it is now. 

Chromium-six is carcinogenic. The substance is both naturally occurring, and leaks into the water supply from industrial hazardous waste areas.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California lawmakers and mental health groups say they ‘welcome’ new findings of inadequate oversight of state mental health funds. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

The California State Auditor says state agencies haven’t made ‘serious efforts’ to measure the effectiveness of county programs intended to mitigate mental illness.

Democratic State Senate President Darrell Steinberg helped create the Mental Health Services Act.

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.

California Supreme Court Rules in School Insulin Case

Aug 13, 2013
Flickr user Steve Rhodes - Creative Commons / http://www.flickr.com/photos/ari/

The California Supreme Court has ruled that school employees without medical licenses can give insulin shots to diabetic students in some cases.

Monday’s unanimous ruling reverses a lower court decision that permitted only licensed nurses to give the shots.

Dr. Francisco Prieto is with the American Diabetes Association. He says the ruling is necessary to keep students at understaffed schools safe.

“Most schools do not have a full time nurse present all day long and kids with diabetes need care,” says Prieto.

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

The push to change California law to allow nurse practitioners more independence from doctors suffered a major setback today in an Assembly committee. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more.

The Assembly Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection voted down the measure, but the bill’s author says he wants it reconsidered.  Democratic State Senator Ed Hernandez says lifting restrictions on nurses would help meet a new demand for primary care under the Affordable Care Act, especially in areas without enough doctors.

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:

Help! What Can Obamacare Do For Me Now?

Jul 30, 2013

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

Q: I am a married, 62-year-old female unable to obtain health insurance. I am retired and financially comfortable and in general good health. My husband is on Medicare/Anthem Blue Cross supplemental, so he is taken care of.

Who can I contact by phone to walk me through the process correctly? I have had several insurance salesmen contact me, and they each tell me something different.

The new health insurance marketplace known as Covered California is getting ready to launch a $240 million dollar marketing and outreach campaign.

The exchange says about a third of that money will go towards TV, radio and digital media advertising.

Dana Howard of Covered California says enrollment counselors and educators will be spreading the word too.

Congressional Task Force to Aid Valley Fever Fight

Jul 24, 2013
Designed by ReportingonHealth.org graphic artist, Claudia Delgado

Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy made another move in his crusade against valley fever Wednesday, announcing the new “Congressional Valley Fever Task Force.”

The panel is comprised of 11 Republicans and three Democrats from California, Arizona and Texas. McCarthy said the group grew out of meetings he’s had throughout the year with Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., who will co-chair the task force.

California Department of Insurance

California’s Insurance Commissioner says the Obama administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act means more people will have to buy their own health insurance in a few months. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

The Department of Insurance says the vast majority of California’s large companies already offer their employees health coverage. But about one and a half million Californians are in companies with 50 or more workers, and no insurance options.  

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. 

Medi-Cal and Obamacare: More Confusing Twists

Jul 16, 2013

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

Q: If my family of six qualifies for Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act, do we have to sign up for that? Or can we still buy subsidized health care plans through Covered California? … I have real concerns about the quality of care we would get on Medi-Cal. I’m hoping for a positive answer!

A: Sadly, I’m about to disappoint Beth from Modesto and others in her situation.

Private Doctors Provide Personalized Care, For a Price

Jul 15, 2013
Pauline Bartolone / Capital Public Radio

While insurance companies stand to gain millions of new customers next year under the Affordable Care Act, one area of health care is taking a step away from the industry. Private medicine – commonly known as concierge care – is a small but growing trend, with California at its center. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more about how it works at one practice in the Sacramento area.

The N1 Health Center for Functional Medicine sits in an average looking corporate business park. But there’s nothing average about the doctor’s office inside. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

 

Lawyers representing inmates at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Fresno County and Avenal State Prison in Kings County filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court Tuesday.

The suit is on behalf of black, elderly, and immune-compromised inmates who acquired valley fever since July 2009, while serving time at the two institutions.

The complaint alleges that state and prison officials knew these groups were at high-risk of contracting the serious, potentially fatal form of the disease, but failed to take adequate steps to protect them.

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.

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