News on health, wellness and health care

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 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.

The summer is a slow time for many occupations, but not for people working to make fundamental changes to the health care system. Millions of uninsured Americans are expected to buy coverage through new health insurance marketplaces called exchanges. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone  has more about how neighboring states are trying to achieve the same end by different means. 


The “Kid Glitch”: Could Your Family Fall Into Obamacare’s Affordability Gap?

Jul 2, 2013

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

In my last column, I tackled your questions about choice. Specifically, I wrote about your options under Obamacare if your employer-sponsored health insurance is too expensive or doesn’t provide access to the doctors or hospitals you prefer.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

All inmates at risk of developing a serious form of valley fever must be removed from two Central California state prisons within the next 90 days. That’s what a U.S. District Court judge ruled Monday, upholding a directive from the federal official in charge of prison health care. The ruling comes over the objections of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which balked at the complexity of the policy. Valley Public Radio’s Rebecca Plevin takes us behind the prison gates to explain how the state and inmates are coping with the problem. 


Obamacare and Your Choices: Options for Californians Who Don’t Like Their Work-Based Coverage

Jun 18, 2013

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

Q: If my husband’s employer offers health care insurance but it is unaffordable, where does that leave us? Will we qualify for help under Obamacare or will we be out in the cold? We make about $45,000 annually.

A: Apparently, lots of you dislike the health insurance options offered by your employers.

Carrie from the Sacramento suburbs submitted this question, but I’ve received a crush of similar queries from all over the state.

California Department of Health Care Services

California lawmakers and Governor Jerry Brown reached a budget agreement this week. The Governor had previously said he had no intention of bringing back services slashed in years past, but a small number of areas won restored funding for next year - dental care was one of them. Health care reporter Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento about what that led up to the decision to renew services.

For four years, Karen Wadsack has been struggling to get the dental care she says she needs.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says Anthem Blue Cross should be left out of the new health insurance marketplace for small businesses next year.

Jones says Anthem’s planned premium rate increase for small employers next month is excessive.

He says the Affordable Care Act requires him to evaluate whether insurers are suitable to participate in the new marketplace.

The California state budget deal reached this week includes some restored funding for dental care for the poor, and millions of dollars for mental health services. And as Pauline Bartolone in Sacramento reports, county and state officials are finalizing the details of how local governments will use health care money.  

After months of negotiations, the Brown administration and county representatives have struck a deal - the state can redirect some money away from county health programs, but the counties will have some choice in how that’s done.   

Workplace Wellness Takes Off, Using Money As a Motivator

Jun 3, 2013
Capital Public Radio

The demands of the workplace and home life can make it hard to find time to be physically active. Many employers are incorporating healthy activities into the workplace, often using money as a motivator. But as Pauline Bartolone in Sacramento reports, the trend comes with concerns about who’s paying more for health care.

Susan Southard walks 10 miles a week without taking her eyes off a computer screen.

“The maximum speed is two miles. So I’ll do the maximum,” says Southard.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

One of the biggest unresolved issues in California budget negotiations is what to do with more than $1 billion counties currently spend on health care for the poor.  Governor Jerry Brown says counties won’t need that money once the new federal health law kicks in next year.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the counties disagree.

New Data Show A Decline In Reported Cases of Valley Fever

May 28, 2013
The Californian

California’s tally of valley fever cases dropped by more than 1,000 last year and some counties have also seen fewer cases in the early months of 2013.

But public health officials say it’s too early to identify long-term trends in the numbers.

California’s new health insurance exchange has announced what plans and prices may look like for millions of people who will be buying individual coverage next year. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more about what the changes may mean for people already in the market.  

Some people may pay the same rate for a health insurance policy next year. But, Janice Rocco from the California Department of Insurance says many people will see a premium increase, with added benefits and fewer other costs.