Say you want to buy a car. One of the first places you might think about going for ratings and reviews is Consumer Reports. For decades, the magazine has published reviews of all manner of consumer products.
“We want to level the playing field” for consumers.
You might not know it, but Consumer Reports also publishes reviews on hospitals and physician groups. Starting Wednesday Californians can access that information — free — on CalQualityCare.org
, a website run by the nonprofit California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF). This site already features reviews of hospitals and nursing homes.
Launching just days after Jan. 1, when new insurance took effect for hundreds of thousands of Californians via the Covered California marketplace, the revamped site offers consumers information to help them choose hospitals, nursing homes and doctor groups.
“Making this information easy to digest for the consumer is so key,” said Andy Krackov, senior program officer for CHCF. Previously, the foundation had maintained separate websites for hospitals and long-term care facilities. In this new partnership with Consumer Reports, CHCF has merged its separate websites to create a one-stop resource for comparison data. The site has no advertising. Continue reading
By Allison Aubrey, NPR
People are increasingly turning to mindfulness mediation to manage health issues, and meditation classes are being offered through schools and hospitals.
But doctors have questioned whether this ancient Eastern practice really offers measurable health benefits. A fresh review of the evidence should help sort that out.
Think of it as Buddhist meditation “but without the Buddhism.” It’s completely secular.
Meditation does help manage anxiety, depression and pain, according to the 47 studies analyzed in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, but does not appear to help with other problems, including substance abuse, sleep and weight.
“We have moderate confidence that mindfulness practices have a beneficial effect,” wrote the author of the paper, Dr. Madhav Goyal of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in an email to Shots. He says the positive effects on anxiety, depression and pain can be modest, but are seen across multiple studies. Continue reading
Think the U.S. has the greatest health care system in the world?
Over at The Incidental Economist, pediatrician, blogger and health researcher Aaron Carroll has posted a terrific video explaining why survival rates are not the best way to compare how well the U.S. system is doing against that of any other country. Check it out:
It’s been more than three weeks since 13-year-old Jahi McMath was declared brain dead after what appeared to be a tonsillectomy at Children’s Hospital Oakland. In the interim, the family has battled the hospital to keep McMath’s body hooked up to a ventilator while they have searched for a facility willing to accept her. Friday morning, at a hearing in Alameda Superior Court, the two sides seem to have come to an agreement that the family can possibly remove her, as long as they accept full responsibility for her.
“This isn’t a patient with a bad prognosis. This is about someone who died. And what the family is hoping for … is resurrection.”
But none of this changes the sad fact that Jahi McMath is dead, as experts patiently explained on KQED’s Forum earlier this week.
David Magnus, director of Stanford’s Center for Biomedical Ethics, pointed to six separate independent evaluations that have all come to the same conclusion, that McMath is “medically dead, she is legally dead.” Continue reading
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
Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, 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
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
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
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.
- 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.”
- 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
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. State of Health is running one post a day with questions and answers on both the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. This installment comes from KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.
I’ve Heard the Government Is Offering Subsidies to Buy Insurance. Tell Me More.
You may qualify for a subsidy — in the form of a tax credit — to help you pay for health insurance. Tax credits are available on a sliding scale, according to your income. More than 2 million Californians will qualify for a tax credit.
If you earn between 138 and 400 percent of poverty ($15,850 – $46,000 for an individual; $32,500 – $94,200 for a family of four), you may qualify for a federal tax credit. The credit will be applied to the cost of your premium. You choose when you want to receive the credit. You might want to receive it monthly, so that you will pay less each month, or you may elect to receive it all at once when you file your taxes in the following year. Continue reading