Leaburn Alexander works two jobs and does not have health insurance. Here, he is on the start of his 3-hour commute home from the job he works as an overnight hotel janitor. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)
By Lisa Morehouse
When the Affordable Care Act rolled out last fall, Californians enrolled in both Covered California and expanded Medi-Cal in high numbers. But there are still millions in the state without health insurance. Undocumented people don’t qualify for Obamacare benefits. Many others still find coverage too expensive, or face other obstacles in enrolling.
One of those people is Leaburn Alexander. I meet up with him at 6 a.m. as he is finishing his shift as the night janitor at a hotel near the San Francisco Airport. He clocks out just in time to catch the hotel’s shuttle back to SFO, where he will catch a bus.
“Right now I’m on the beginning of my commute,” he tells me. “After an eight hour shift, my commute is like 2 and a half hours.”
I accompany Alexander on his commute to East Palo Alto, about 20 miles south. It actually takes three hours, on the hotel shuttle plus three more buses. He does this commute 5 days a week. Continue reading
(David Paul Morris/Getty Images)
A new Field Poll shows voter support dropping for two propositions on the November ballot.
Prop. 45 would give the state insurance commissioner the authority to reject excessive rate hikes. Support has dropped from 69 percent early in the summer to 41 percent in the current poll. Twenty-six percent are opposed and 33 percent are undecided.
Prop. 46 would require drug testing of doctors and increase the cap on pain and suffering awards in medical negligence lawsuits from $250,000 to $1.1 million. Early this summer, support stood at 58 percent; today it is 34 percent, with 30 percent opposed and 29 percent undecided.
“This current poll is relatively big news on Prop. 46. I don’t think its chances of passage are all that great,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo told the San Francisco Chronicle. He added that it’s harder to predict what might happen with Prop. 45. Continue reading
By Olivia Allen-Price and Lisa Aliferis
California law requires that children entering kindergarten be fully vaccinated against a range of diseases. But despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, the rate of parents opting out of vaccines for their children has doubled since 2007.
To opt out, parents must file a personal belief exemption, or PBE, a signed statement that vaccines are against their personal beliefs. In the 2007-2008 school year, the statewide PBE rate was 1.56 percent. By 2013-2014, the most recent year statistics are available, the rate had jumped to 3.15 percent.
PBE rates vary by county and by individual school. In the Bay Area, Marin has the highest PBE rate by far — 7.57 percent. (Marin was highest in the Bay Area last year too.) The PBE rate at private schools tends to be higher, overall, then that at public schools. In the 2013-2014 school year, only 85 percent of private school kindergarten students statewide were fully vaccinated when school started, compared to about 90 percent of public school students. Other students enter on “conditional” status, meaning the school is to follow up with these children to make sure they receive all their vaccines.
Randen Patterson left a research career in physiology at U.C. Davis when funding got too tight. He now owns a grocery store in Guinda, outside Davis. (Max Whittaker/Prime for NPR)
By Richard Harris, NPR
Ian Glomski thought he was going to make a difference in the fight to protect people from deadly anthrax germs. He had done everything right — attended one top university, landed an assistant professorship at another.
“I shouldn’t be a grocer right now. I should be training students. I should be doing deeper research. And I can’t. I don’t have an outlet for it.” Former UC Davis professor
But Glomski ran head-on into an unpleasant reality: These days, the scramble for money to conduct research has become stultifying.
So, he’s giving up on science.
And he’s not alone. Federal funding for biomedical research has declined by more than 20 percent in the past decade. There are far more scientists competing for grants than there is money to support them. Continue reading
The magnitude-6.0 earthquake struck Aug. 24. (Craig Miller/KQED)
A 65-year-old woman who suffered a head injury when a television struck her during last month’s earthquake in California’s wine country has died — the first death attributed to the magnitude-6.0 quake, sheriff’s officials said.
Laurie Anne Thompson was at her Napa home during the Aug. 24 earthquake when she was hit, according to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. She did not go to the hospital until the next day when she felt dizzy and experienced a decline in mental function.
Sheriff’s officials said she died Friday at a hospital of an intracranial hemorrhage.
“Her condition continued to deteriorate over time and, unfortunately, she passed away,” Sheriff’s Capt. Doug Pike said. Continue reading
Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.
By Judy Lin, Associated Press
Some Californians who purchased individual health coverage through the state’s insurance exchange are suddenly being dropped or transferred to Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program for the poor that fewer doctors and providers accept.
Covered California, which is responsible for determining and directing Californians to an appropriate health plan, has no estimate of how many people are affected, saying only that the changes are occurring as incomes are checked to verify the policyholders can purchase insurance through the exchange.
Since the shifts often happen without warning, there’s confusion and anger among policyholders.
Glendale resident Andrea Beckum learned last month that she and her husband had been shunted to Medi-Cal only after getting a call from their insurance broker telling them their Anthem Blue Cross policy had been canceled. Continue reading
Kaiser had been fighting the fine, levied last year by the California Department of Managed Health Care. (Ted Eytan/Flickr)
Kaiser Permanente agreed to pay a $4 million fine over claims that it did not provide adequate access to mental health care services for its patients.
The state’s Department of Managed Health Care levied the fine last year, citing survey results that indicated patients had to wait excessively long periods between therapy appointments, and that they were effectively dissuaded from seeking individual treatment.
Kaiser had contested the fine, calling it “unwarranted and excessive.” The two parties were scheduled to give opening statements before an administrative law judge on Tuesday in Kaiser’s appeal, but Kaiser faxed a letter to the court Monday evening saying it will pay the full fine, and asked the judge to dismiss the case. Continue reading
By David Gorn, CaliforniaHealthline
At the first stakeholder meeting last week to review California’s new autism Medi-Cal coverage, state health officials said many details have yet to be worked out. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program.
New benefits, which include coverage of applied behavior analysis — also known as ABA therapy — begin next week.
Department of Health Care Services officials said many details — including the crucial figure of what the reimbursement rates will be — still need to be worked out. Rates will be discussed at the next stakeholder meeting Oct. 16, officials said. Continue reading
Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn, a newly minted medical student at UCSF. (Courtesy: Jirayut Latthivongskorn)
By Mina Kim
I first met Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn a little over two years ago. He was completing his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley and had dreams of going to medical school.
But he had no idea if he’d ever get there. Latthivongskorn is an undocumented immigrant.
His parents brought him to the U.S. from Thailand on a tourist visa when he was 9 years old, and the family never left. Continue reading
The Anthem Blue Cross headquarters in Woodland Hills, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)
Effective Monday at 12:01a.m., Stanford Health Care terminated its contract with Anthem Blue Cross. Anthem says that roughly 10,000 of its policyholders have used Stanford services in the last year.
In a statement, Anthem said it had requested that “Stanford agree to a two-week extension of the terminated contract at existing rates.” Both parties say negotiations are ongoing.
Stanford had notified the insurer on Feb. 28, Anthem says, that it intended to terminate the contract.
The sticking point appears to be the duration of the contract. Both sides say that they reached agreement on rates for a two-year contract, but Stanford seeks a three-year contract. Because no agreement has been reached on the third year, and because Stanford did not extend its current contract, no contract is in force. Continue reading