Monthly Archives: March 2014

Covered California Extends Deadline — With Caveats

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

By Lisa Aliferis and April Dembosky

Because of what it termed a “dramatic spike” in traffic, Covered California announced late Monday that it would extend the March 31 deadline to enroll in a health insurance plan. But the extension has certain limitations.

  • Anyone who has not been able to get on the website for technical reason can apply in person or through the Covered California call center by April 15
  • Anyone who starts an application by midnight Monday (March 31) has until April 15 to finish, either online or in person (this was previously announced)
  • Anyone who is filing a paper application must mail it today; it must be postmarked March 31 — but Covered California strongly encourages people to apply in person as opposed to mailing your application

For consumers who complete an application and select a plan by 11:59pm April 15, insurance will take effect May 1. Continue reading

Covered California Disables Part of Site to Handle Traffic

Covered California executive director Peter Lee speaking to advocates and reporters in San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2013. (Angela Hart/KQED)

Covered California executive director Peter Lee speaking to advocates and reporters in San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2013. (Angela Hart/KQED)

Update 7pm: Covered California extended the deadline to sign up for a health insurance plan — with some caveats.

Original Post:

Covered California is seeing “truly unprecedented enrollment,” says executive director Peter Lee. Sunday was the busiest day ever — that includes the days before the last big deadline in December. Just over 500,000 people enrolled in a Covered California plan by Dec 31, 2013. Covered California had reached the 1 million mark earlier in March. More than 1.2 million people had signed up for a plan as of 2am Monday morning. Nearly 400,000 people started applications in the last week.

To help keep the website running in the face of the surging traffic, Covered California is taking parts of it that don’t have to do specifically with enrollment offline. The “preview plans” function is being disabled, although people can still use “shop and compare.”

If traffic gets very high, individuals might find themselves logged out once they have started their application — but before they have picked a health insurance plan. “We know that’s not ideal, but we want to make sure the people that want to enroll can get in the system,” Lee says. Continue reading

Why Playing Minecraft Might Be More Healthy for Kids Than TV

(screenshot from Minecraft trailer)

(screenshot from Minecraft trailer)

By Maanvi Singh, NPR

Doctors say children shouldn’t log more than two hours a day of screen time, though what with phones, computers and TV most children put in much more.

But it may be that not all screens are equally evil.

One theory? Harder to snack on chips when tapping on keyboard.    

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that sixth-graders who watched a lot of TV were more likely to eat junk food and drink soda than their peers who spent the same amount of time on the computer or playing video games, the researchers say.

Of course, running around outside is still much better for children’s health than playing Temple Run on an iPhone. Kids who watched two to six hours a day of TV and those who played video games or used a computer for the same amount of time were heavier and had higher blood pressure than those who put in less than an hour a day of screen time, the researchers found. Continue reading

More Students with Serious Medical Needs — But Few School Nurses

Gabriella Dominguez, a transitional kindergarten student, follows a strict dietary regimen to deal with a congenital intestinal disease. (Courtesy: Dominguez Family)

Gabriella Dominguez, a transitional kindergarten student, follows a strict dietary regimen to deal with a congenital intestinal disease. (Courtesy: Dominguez Family)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

Five-year-old Gabriella Dominguez spends 20 minutes every hour in the back of her transitional kindergarten classroom consuming mini-meals she finds dreadfully unappetizing: no water, no sugar, no fat, the occasional cracker and lots of bland liquid nutritional supplements.

Born with Hirschsprung’s disease, an intestinal disorder, Gabriella is one of four medically fragile students at Willow Glen Elementary School in San Jose and part of a growing number of students who come to school with chronic and often serious health conditions.

The medical oversight that students like Gabriella receive at school is part of a “hidden health care system” that intertwines school nurses, educators and community health providers according to a statewide report released Friday. That system could be run a lot more efficiently and effectively, according to the report’s authors at the School of Nursing at California State University, Sacramento. Continue reading

California Measles Cases Jump Dramatically; 49 So Far in 2014

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

The state is reporting 49 confirmed cases of measles so far in 2014.

Last year at this time there were just four.

This is the first year since 2000, when officials declared measles eliminated in the U.S., that the number of cases in California climbed above 40. And it’s just April.

The California Department of Public Health says the highest number of cases – 21 – have been reported in Orange County. Other affected counties in Southern California include Los Angeles County with 10, Riverside with 5 and San Diego County with 4.

In Northern California the cases were spread out between Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Mateo. Continue reading

Oakland Schools Help Parents Sign Up for Covered California

Gabino Pablo gets help with Covered Calfiornia enrollment as the deadline approaches. (Rachel Dornhelm/KQED)

Antonia Briones (left), an Alameda County Social Services Agency eligibility technician, helps Gabino Pablo (right) with Covered California enrollment as the deadline approaches. (Rachel Dornhelm/KQED)

The robocall went out this week to every parent of an Oakland public school student:

“Hello! This is the Oakland Unified School District calling to remind you that March 31st is the deadline for enrolling in health insurance … The OUSD Central Family Resource Center is here to help.”

The day after that call went out the Central Family Resource Center, housed in a small portable building. was swamped. Over a 100 calls came in and 30 families dropped by.

“We’re just getting flooded with calls and people dropping in asking for appointments so we’re all hands on deck trying to respond to the demand,” said Eliza Schiffrin, the center’s program coordinator. Continue reading

Higher Autism Numbers Announced as Feds Introduce Early Screening Program

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Every two years, the federal government announces the rate of autism. This is what NPR’s shots blog had to say about today’s numbers, which show 1 in 68 children in the U.S. have an autism spectrum disorder.

That’s a remarkable jump from just two years ago, when the figure was 1 in 88 and an even bigger jump from 2007, when it was just 1 in 150.

But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say the agency’s skyrocketing estimates don’t necessarily mean that kids are more likely to have autism now than they were 10 years ago.

“It may be that we’re getting better at identifying autism,” says Coleen Boyle, director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental disabilities.

For one thing, the prevalence seems to vary in different communities and among children of different races. The CDC found white children are far more likely to be identified with autism, even though scientists don’t believe the rates are truly different between whites, Hispanics or blacks.

“What we need to focus on is getting more people identified so they can get the supports they need,” Shannon Rosa, Bay Area parent advocate.

That means that the discrepancy lies in the diagnosis and services available in different communities. The shots blog points out the work of George Washington University anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker.

Along with other researchers, he studied autism prevalence in South Korea. They found that 1 in 38 children there met the criteria for autism spectrum disorder. Grinker thinks that the US number is likely closer to the one they saw in South Korea. Which means that in two years the CDC estimate will likely tick higher still.

Continue reading

Study: Californians Qualify for $2.3 Billion in Insurance Subsidies

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Jenny Gold, Kaiser Health News

Americans have already qualified for about $10 billion in tax credits to help them purchase private health insurance this year through the Affordable Care Act, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

That’s an average of $2,890 for each of the 3.5 million people who qualified for a subsidy as of March 1 — about 83 percent of those who enrolled in an exchange plan.

Eighty-eight percent of those who have enrolled in Covered California qualified for a subsidy, according to the study.

California had an even higher percentage of people qualifying for a tax credit. Eighty-eight percent of those who have enrolled in Covered California qualified for a subsidy, according to the study. That means a total of 765,000 people in the state will receive tax credits. The study estimates those credits are worth $2.3 billion.

The state also beat another national average. Forty percent of all subsidy eligible Californians had enrolled in a health plan by March 1st. That’s double the national figure, where only 20 percent of those who could get a tax credit had signed up on a health exchange.

Sign-up rates varied greatly by state.  More than half of the subsidy money allotted so far will go to consumers in California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and New York.

Continue reading

Covered California Gives Until April 15 to Finish Applications in Progress

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. (Max Whitaker/Getty Images)

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. (Max Whitaker/Getty Images)

The deadline for Covered California applications is fast approaching: midnight on March 31.

The state is still strongly encouraging people to finish by that time. However, on Wednesday, Covered California announced that if you have an application in the works by March 31, you will have until April 15 to complete it.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said health exchange enrollment has been surging ahead of the deadline. Continue reading

5 Things You Might Not Know About Obamacare

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

As you likely know by now, the deadline to sign up for health insurance is Monday — at least in California. (The federal government announced on Tuesday night it would give certain consumers more time, but Covered California has not yet extended the deadline here.)

KQED’s Forum devoted an hour Tuesday to taking listener calls about the Affordable Care Act. They invited Emily Bazar, who answers questions about Obamacare in her regular column for the Center for Health Reporting, and me to answer questions.

Bazar and I have teamed up before on Forum and the questions that come up are always surprising. Here I list 5 points raised in the show that you might want to know before completing sign up. Continue reading