Author Archives: KQED News Staff and Wires

New Guidelines Say Many Women Can Skip Pelvic Exam

(Maigh/Flickr)

If this picture makes you shudder, you’ll want to understand the new guideline. (Maigh/Flickr)

No more dreaded pelvic exam? New guidelines say most healthy women can skip the yearly ritual.

Routine pelvic exams don’t benefit women who have no symptoms of disease and who aren’t pregnant, and they can cause harm, the American College of Physicians said Monday as it recommended that doctors quit using them as a screening tool.

It’s part of a growing movement to evaluate whether many longtime medical practices are done more out of habit than necessity, and the guideline is sure to be controversial.

Scientific evidence “just doesn’t support the benefit of having a pelvic exam every year,” said guideline coauthor Dr. Linda Humphrey of the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University. 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.

 

Enroll by Valentine’s Day to Avoid Obamacare Fines

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

When it comes to Obamacare, the big date we’ve heard for a long time is Jan. 1, 2014. That’s the day the Affordable Care Act takes full effect, requiring most Americans to be covered, or pay a fine.

We’ve also heard that there’s a grace period — that in this first year, people have until March 31 get covered before the fine will kick in.

But, whoops! It turns out that Mar. 31 date is wrong, the Obama administration confirmed to the Associated Press on Wednesday. In order to have coverage by March 31, you need to enroll by Feb. 15 — in other words, the day after Valentine’s Day — to avoid the penalty.

Here’s why: It takes about two weeks to process applications. Insurance takes effect on the first of the month. You need to enroll by Feb. 15, for the insurance to take effect March 1. Insurance on April 1 is too late, and you will pay the fine.

The Jackson Hewitt tax preparation company first pointed out the wrinkle with the health care law’s least popular requirement.

An administration official confirmed it. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and insisted on anonymity.  Continue reading

Days Away From Signing-up, Many Californians Still Don’t Understand Obamacare

Women knit as they attend a Senior Information & Resource Fair in South Gate, California September 10, 2013 . The event included a discussion of how the Affordable Care Act, also called 'Obamacare' will impact senior citizens and what insurance plans will be available to them. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Women knit as they attend a Senior Information & Resource Fair in South Gate, California September 10, 2013 . The event included a discussion of how the Affordable Care Act, also called ‘Obamacare’ will impact senior citizens and what insurance plans will be available to them. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

In five days, a key piece of the Affordable Care Act goes live in California — the state-run insurance marketplace Covered California. Yet, most Californians eligible to participate, are confused.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Thursday, finds three in four state residents eligible for government-subsidized private plans are either unaware they quality, or wrongly believe they don’t qualify.

This survey was taken just about a month ago.

KQED’s Mina Kim spoke to Mollyann Brodie, the Director of Public Opinion and Survey Research and Senior Vice President for Executive Operations at Kaiser Family Foundation, about the survey. Continue reading

Valley Fever Hospitalizations Increase Dramatically in California

Fungal spores that cause valley fever are carried in the dust. Activities including farming in the Central Valley contribute to the spread of the spores. (Robin Beck/Getty Images)

Fungal spores that cause valley fever are carried in the dust. Activities including farming in the Central Valley contribute to the spread of the spores. (Robin Beck/Getty Images)

(AP) - The annual rate of hospitalizations for valley fever, a potentially lethal but often misdiagnosed disease, has doubled over the past 12 years in California, according to a study published on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California’s rates of reported fever cases increased by more than six-fold over the past decade. 
The fever — which is caused by a fungus found in soil and can be contracted by simply breathing in the spores from dust disturbed by wind or other activity — has cost more than $2 billion in hospital charges over about a decade, the study found.

The study, conducted by researchers at the California Department of Public Health, was published in the October 2013 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC’s monthly peer-reviewed public health journal.

Valley fever is prevalent in arid regions of the U.S., especially in California and Arizona, as well as in Mexico, Central and South America. It is not spread person-to-person. Continue reading