The two universities affected by the move are Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara University, above. (Michael Zimmer/Flickr)
By Ted Goldberg and Lisa Aliferis
In a reversal, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is barring two Catholic universities in California from offering health plans to their employees that limit abortion coverage.
Previously, state health officials had approved plans used by Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles that did not cover any abortion procedures, unless they were “medically necessary” to protect the health of the mother.
But earlier this month, the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) said they were reviewing that approval.
The DMHC is now sending letters to insurance companies for both universities, requiring them to cover all abortions. Continue reading
The family first used a scene from the movie “Aladdin” to connect to their son. (JD Hancock/Flickr)
By Kathy Shield
Owen Suskind was a normal toddler, learning to speak in full sentences and happily playing in the backyard with his older brother, Walt.
Owen wasn’t merely watching these movies, he was hearing them and learning through the characters.
That all changed at age 3, when Owen stopped speaking, and in the space of a single month, his entire vocabulary was reduced to one word: juice. Owen was diagnosed with late-onset regressive autism. Though his developmental trajectory was typical for children with this form of autism, this fact offered no comfort to his parents.
Today, Owen has grown into a relatively self-sufficient young man. He graduated from a college-like program for young adults on the autism spectrum and is now living semi-independently in an apartment. Continue reading
Ebola virus magnified 108,000 times. (Getty Images)
A patient admitted to a Kaiser hospital in South Sacramento has tested negative for the Ebola virus, said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) in a brief press conference Thursday evening.
Chapman said the results came in from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier in the day. Chapman, Kaiser officials and Sacramento County health officials refused to answer other questions about the patient, citing privacy laws.
Earlier this week, CDPH called the patient “low risk” and said the testing was occurring out of an “abundance of caution.” Chapman said CDPH and Kaiser made the determination that the patient was low risk by following established CDC assessment tools, available to any health care worker.
Chapman stressed that Ebola is “a very difficult infection to spread.” It does not spread through air, food or water. The virus can only be spread through direct physical contact with an infected person’s bodily fluid, including blood and sweat.
There are no reported cases of Ebola in California. In West Africa, the disease has killed 1,350 people.
Shops remain closed in Monrovia’s West Point slum as part of quarantine measures to contain the spread of Ebola in Liberia. A doctor trained in California traveled last week to staff a Monrovia hospital. (ZOOM DOSSO/AFP/Getty Images)
While Californians worry about a single possible case of Ebola, considered low risk, the hot spot for this outbreak remains in West Africa where 1,350 people have died, and another 2,400 people are sick with the illness. But what happens to people who get sick with something that is not Ebola?
Dr. James Appel was trained in the Inland Empire, at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. He’s been working for Adventist Health International at hospitals in Chad for the last decade. Last week, Dr. Appel flew to Liberia to keep the doors open at Cooper Adventist, a small hospital in the capital, Monrovia, focusing on remaining available to patients with anything but Ebola. He talked Thursday morning with The California Report’s Rachael Myrow.
Appel described Liberia as “shutting down” around him. “There’s a curfew that’s been initiated. Many businesses are not open; all the schools are closed, government offices are closed,” Appel told Myrow. “So for example our hospital is not getting paid by the insurance companies, because insurance companies are closed. The whole economy is coming to a standstill.” Continue reading
By Helen Shen, Kaiser Health News
California voters are showing strong early support for a ballot initiative that would expand the state’s authority to regulate health insurance rates.
Nearly 7 of every 10 respondents indicated that they would vote in favor of Proposition 45, while 16 percent would vote against it, according to a Field poll released Wednesday.
Proposition 45 would give California’s insurance commissioner the power to veto excessive health insurance rate increases.
Health insurance rates in the state are currently overseen by the Department of Managed Health Care and the California Department of Insurance. Insurance companies are required to submit proposed rate increases for review each year by state regulators, who may declare rates unreasonable but cannot block them from going into effect. Continue reading
Officers Ned Bandoske (left) and Ernest Stevens are part of San Antonio’s mental health squad — a six-person unit that answers the frequent emergency calls where mental illness may play a role. (Jenny Gold/KHN)
This week, Julie Small has reported on this blog about court-ordered overhauls in caring for mentally ill inmates in California prisons. About one-fourth of California’s inmates — 37,000 people — have mild to severe mental illness.
As Small reported, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ordered the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in April to draft new policies for use of force and has signed off on CDCR’s plans. Now the department is working on plans to comply with Karlton’s orders to change how it handles segregation for inmates with mental illness.
So, I was riveted by a report this morning from NPR and Kaiser Health News about a different approach — a coordinated, comprehensive approach — to a county-run mental health system. The story was set in Texas’ Bexar County, (pronouced “bear”) home to San Antonio and the Alamo, and the program is now a model for the nation. Continue reading
Ebola virus magnified 108,000 times. (Getty Images)
By Lisa Aliferis and April Dembosky
Don’t panic, folks. Really.
A patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is being tested at Kaiser’s South Sacramento Hospital.
The other key information here is that California Department of Public Health officials call the unidentified patient “low risk,” according to criteria established by the CDC that considers travel history, exposure to infection, and clinical features.
In a call with reporters Wednesday afternoon, CDPH deputy Dr. Gil Chavez said the state has received no reports of any high risk patients. CDPH said the patient is being tested out of an “abundance of caution.”
In a statement, Dr. Stephen Parodi, director of hospital operations for Kaiser Northern California, said the unidentified patient is being kept in a specially equipped negative pressure room, and staff working with the patient are using “personal protective equipment.” Continue reading
All Inmates are shackled whenever they leave their cells. (Julie Small/KQED)
By Julie Small
Segregating prison inmates who repeatedly break the rules or turn violent against other inmates or guards is not new in California. For years the state has placed these inmates in special housing sections with multiple barriers between them and others.
Evidence that segregation ‘can and does cause serious psychological harm’ in inmates with serious mental illness.
But the practice of isolating inmates whose bad behavior may be part of a mental illness is under fire amid a rash of suicides and attempted suicides. The focus on this type of treatment comes against a backdrop of lawsuits brought by inmates against the state over the last two decades. Those lawsuits have exposed a correctional system poorly equipped to handle their extraordinary needs.
Now a federal judge says that kind of punishment poses too great a risk for inmates with serious mental illness who, he says, can and do worsen in segregation. Continue reading
Fresno residents demonstrate their support for a county health program that covers care for undocumented immigrants (Courtesy: Fresno Building Healthy Communities)
Update: Fresno County’s Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to end the contract providing care to the poor and to undocumented immigrants.
Brandon Hauk’s job is about to get a lot harder. The health of about 7,000 patients he helps at Clinica Sierra Vista in Fresno is in the hands of the county board of supervisors – they are set to vote Tuesday whether or not to shut down a program that covers specialty care for the undocumented.
Hauk doesn’t want to think about how he’s going to explain that to people when their primary care doctor says they need to see a cardiologist, pulmonologist, or endocrinologist.
“What do you say to somebody that has chronic illness and we can’t refer them out? Sorry?” says Hauk. “I mean, how can you tell someone that has abdominal bleeds, I’m sorry, but we can’t help you.”
Fresno’s Medically Indigent Services Program was set up decades ago to provide health coverage for the poor, and later, the undocumented. But now that the Affordable Care Act has gone into effect, the county says it doesn’t need the program anymore. Now tens of thousands of uninsured Fresnans have health coverage through Obamacare. More than that, the county says it can’t afford to keep the program going. Continue reading
By Polly Stryker
Taking some fresh air in the courtyard at Westchester Villa, an assisted facility in Inglewood. (Rachael Myrow/KQED)
Last Thursday, August 14, was the day that bills still in the state Senate Appropriations Committee sank or swam. The Senate Appropriations Committee is where bills costing $150,000 or more go for consideration. If bills make it out of this committee, then bills are still in play and could make it to the governor’s desk, albeit with potential amendments along the way. If not, they die.
Going into the home stretch of this legislative session, 16 bills were on the table that, altogether, constituted the first major overhaul of the assisted living industry in nearly 30 years.
Two have already made it to the governor’s desk. AB1523 mandates liability insurance for all assisted living facilities. Advocates say liability insurance is one of the best ways to improve conditions in the industry. Operators whose violations make buying insurance too expensive will be simply forced out of business. The industry group California Assisted Living Association supported AB1523. AB1572 mandates facility operators allow and support resident and family councils at assisted living facilities. CALA supported that one as well.
Most of the rest of the bills are still swimming. But what about the bills that died?