Monthly Archives: December 2013

How Much Alcohol Causes a Hangover?



Medically, the condition is called “veisalgia” — from the Norwegian kveis or “uneasiness following debauchery,” and the Greek algia, otherwise known as “pain.”

But you probably just call it a hangover.

The helpful PR coordinators at the American College of Physicians resent information about a review, published back in 2000, titled simply The Alcohol Hangover. “More than 4700 articles have been written about alcohol intoxication (from 1965 to 1999), but only 108 have addressed alcohol hangover,” the researchers, all at UC San Francisco at the time, wrote.

But you don’t care about how much research has been done, you want to know how many drinks cause a hangover.

Let’s get to it: Continue reading

Living With Grace in a Nursing Home

PhyllisEditor’s Note: Eighty-three-year-old Phyllis Donner Wolf figured she would live on her own until the end of her life and die peacefully in her sleep. But last spring, she fell and broke her neck, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. She went from living independently in her apartment in Palo Alto to a nursing facility in San Francisco called the Jewish Home. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we talk to Wolf about what it takes to live a life of grace in a nursing home.

By Phyllis Donner Wolf

I was very active. I did yoga. I did yoga for 40 years. I was in an exercise class that met every morning at quarter to 8. I drove the car for friends to go to the symphony in the city. I was the one who took someone’s walker and put it in the trunk. So when I fell it was unbelievable. I didn’t dream I would wind up in a wheelchair.

I stood up in the middle of the night, which I often would just walk to the bathroom, and this time when I stood up I found myself on the floor. I think I heard a crack, which meant that my neck and spine, the bones just were brittle and broke. And I knew I had done great damage because I could not move the lower part of me.

Continue reading

Missed Last Monday’s Obamacare Deadline? You Can Still Enroll

Screenshot from, the website of Covered California.

Screenshot from, the website of Covered California.

The deadline to sign up on the Covered California marketplace for health insurance that takes effect Jan. 1 was Monday at midnight. But, if you started an application before that deadline, Covered California is giving you until 8pm Friday night to finish.

Here’s the catch — you cannot finish the process online. You must either contact the call center or work with a certified agent or enrollment counselor. [The call center number is 1-800-300-1506.]

Whether you are already enrolled in a plan or finishing the enrollment today, your first payment must be received by your health plan by Jan. 6, 2014. If you haven’t yet received a bill, you might want to contact the health plan. Continue reading

Covered California Won’t Extend Enrollment Deadline

By Olivia Hubert-Allen and the Associated Press

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said he is pleased with the number of young people who have enrolled so far. (Max Whitaker/Getty Images)

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said there are no plans to extend the deadline for those who want coverage by Jan. 1. (Max Whitaker/Getty Images)

Residents in California must sign up for health care plans through the Covered California exchange by the end of the day today to get coverage on Jan. 1. They will not push back the deadline, as the Obama administration announced it is doing for the 36 states using the federal health insurance exchange.

“If you want coverage to start on Jan. 1, you need to enroll today,” said Peter Lee, the director of Covered California.

As long as customers begin the process before the deadline, Covered California will honor those who are still completing their applications into the next day.

“If someone starts that application process today, we’re going to get them across the finish line,” Lee said. “It’s like the election. If you’re in line when the polls closed, you can vote.”

On Friday, Covered California had the largest single-day of enrollment, with 29,000 Californians enrolling in plans. The group is expecting today could be even larger.


San Francisco’s Chinese Community Health Plan Diversifies, Sort Of, Under Obamacare


CCHP enrollment counselor Kristen Chow explains Covered California and federal subsidies to a Chinese-language caller. Currently, more than 90 percent of the HMO's members are ethnically Chinese. (Marcus Teply/KQED)

CCHP enrollment counselor Kristen Chow explains Covered California and federal subsidies to a Chinese-language caller. Currently, more than 90 percent of the HMO’s members are ethnically Chinese. (Marcus Teply/KQED)

By Valerie Hamilton

The kitchen at San Francisco’s Chinese Hospital is a little different from other hospital cafeterias in the city. The commercial steel kitchen range where you might expect big vats of orange hospital Jell-O to be stewing is here topped with industrial-sized woks. Cooks hired from local Chinatown restaurants are frying Chinese broccoli, onions and noodles.

Larry Loo was born in Chinese Hospital. Now he’s the director of business development for Chinese Community Health Plan (CCHP), the HMO affiliated with the hospital and 15 clinics around San Francisco. CCHP has 15,000 members. More than 90 percent of them are Chinese Americans. 

The walk-in service center for CCHP members in San Francisco's Chinatown. "We want to make sure the existing community is taken care of," says director of business development Larry Loo. "To the extent that it broadens out, that's great." (Marcus Teply/KQED)

The walk-in service center for CCHP members in San Francisco’s Chinatown. “We want to make sure the existing community is taken care of,” says director of business development Larry Loo. “To the extent that it broadens out, that’s great.” (Marcus Teply/KQED)

But that may soon change. CCHP is one of 11 insurers statewide — along with big names like Kaiser and Anthem Blue Cross — vying for new customers on Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace.

The hospital and the health plan have made their name providing what’s called “culturally competent” care to patients from the city’s Chinese community. That goes beyond stir-fried hospital food. Here, people speak Mandarin and Cantonese, the plan covers Eastern medicine, and staff understand Chinese patients’ attitudes about health and medical care.

“The reason we’re even here is because the Chinese community always had a tough time getting access to care, getting access to doctors that speak their language and understand their needs,” Loo explains.

The health plan’s roots go back more than 100 years, to a time when widespread racial discrimination meant San Francisco’s Chinese were excluded from mainstream health care. The community founded its own medical dispensary in Chinatown to meet the need. That grew into the Chinese Hospital and later, in the 80s, into the Chinese Community Health Plan. Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: The Deadline is Monday — What You Need to Know

State of Health editor Lisa Aliferis talked with KQED Newsroom’s Thuy Vu about the upcoming enrollment deadline. People who want health insurance that starts Jan. 1 need to enroll by 11:59pm Mon. Dec. 23.

Embedly Powered

You can also check out KQED’s Obamacare Guide — Just for Californians for a straightforward explanation of what the Affordable Care Act means to you and your family with answers to a multitude of frequently asked questions.

Despite Angelina, People Misunderstand Breast Cancer Risk; Look Up Your Risk Online

Angelina Jolie's decision to have a double mastectomy after genetic testing has prompted a discussion about which other tests should be covered. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

In one of the bigger stories this year, actress Angelina Jolie caught both celebrity-watchers and health advocates off guard in May when she revealed in a New York Times op-ed that she had had a double mastectomy. She did this, she explained, because she carried a rare gene mutation that increased her likelihood of developing breast cancer to 87 percent.

Jolie’s mother died of breast cancer at 56. Jolie was careful to explain why her situation was unusual. “Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation,” she wrote. About 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are related to a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation.

But a new study shows that while her story certainly got a lot of attention, it unfortunately didn’t do much to increase people’s understanding of actual breast cancer risk. Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: What Happens If I Travel — or Move?

(Kuster & Wildhaber Photography/Flickr)

(Kuster & Wildhaber Photography/Flickr)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. We are running one post a day with questions and answers on the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. Readers can also consult KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

By Emily BazarCHCF Center for Health Reporting

About 130,000 Americans pick up and move somewhere else every single day, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates. And guess who are among the most mobile? We itchy Californians.

Perhaps you’re wondering what moving around has to do with Obamacare. Quite a lot, actually.

Your health plan options – and prices – vary by geography, and the Golden State is divided into 19 regions. Los Angeles is so large that it accounts for two regions, and that doesn’t even include the Inland Empire or Orange County.

Today, I’ll tell you what happens to your coverage when you travel or move, and whether you’ll be able to see a doctor when you’re in Boise, Berlin or even Berkeley. Continue reading

E-Cigarettes May Not Have Tobacco, But Still Pose Risks

Woman using an e-cigarette. (Getty Images)

Woman using an e-cigarette. (Getty Images)

By Kenny Goldberg, KPBS

While cigarettes are a familiar sight in just about any convenience store, now they’re sharing space with a related product: e-cigarettes. They’re not tobacco based. Instead, e-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat liquid nicotine and turn it into vapor. Electronic cigarettes are catching fire, especially with young people, because they offer the experience of smoking, without burning tobacco. The FDA has yet to regulate them, but many cities aren’t waiting. On Thursday, the New York City Council is expected to vote on a ban, following similar moves by many California cities.

At Vapor Craze, an e-cigarette shop near San Diego State University, Jeff Pascua puffs away. Or, as he calls it, vapes. Every few moments, Pascua reloads his e-cigarette from a small plastic bottle.

“It’s called the e-liquid juice,” Pasqua says. “Two types: VG and PG,” or vegetable glyceride  and propylene glyceride.

Pascua used to smoke cigarettes. Then he heard about e-cigarettes and decided to give them a try. He says vaping helps him curb his cravings for a real smoke. Continue reading

Top 7 Stories on State of Health in 2013

Study shows sleep deprivation makes you crave high-calorie foods. (Getty Images)

No, ‘hamburgers’ was not the #1 story, but do you really want to see another picture depicting Covered California? (Getty Images)

Just like that, another year is coming to a close. And what a year it’s been on the health beat. I’m going to wager that you can guess what the top news story of the year was on this (or any) health blog. Technically, several Obamacare stories were Top 10 most-viewed posts on this site, but since one of them was from last year, I’m just giving all Affordable Care Act stories one slot.

  1. The Rollout of Obamacare — From Jan. 3 when the federal government approved California’s exchange through the state vs. county debate about funding the Medi-Cal expansion to the May release of plans and premiums to the launch of Covered California and the many challenges — and successes — since then, the implementation of the ACA has dominated health news coverage. If you’ve got questions about how the law affects you and your family, check out our Obamacare Guide, just for Californians. And if you just want to be entertained, watch this video of “President Obama” telling you to “sign up while it’s hot.”
  2. Childhood Vaccines  — the state released its annual report on immunization status of kindergarteners and Marin County had the highest personal-belief exemption rate in the Bay Area. We simplified the state data to make it easy for you to look up your child’s school online and see what percentage of children have been vaccinated — or had parents who had opted out. On Jan. 1, 2014, a new state law goes into effect requiring parents who want to opt out of vaccines to meet with a health provider first. Washington instituted such a law in 2011 and the number of parents opting out of vaccines has dropped more than 25 percent. Continue reading