Author Archives: state of health

Nearly a Million People Backlogged in Medi-Cal Expansion

It's not clear when the backlog will be cleared. (Getty Images)

It’s not clear when the backlog will be cleared. (Getty Images)

By Helen Shen, Kaiser Health News

A massive backlog of Medi-Cal applications is well into its third month, and California officials have provided little information about how and when the largest such bottleneck in the nation might be cleared.

The California Department of Health Care Services in Sacramento first reported 800,000 pending applications in April. By May, that number had grown by 100,000 and has not budged much since. As the state works through older applications, new ones continue each day to enter the system, which has been plagued by computer glitches and inefficient procedures for verifying applicants’ personal information.

There are no estimates of processing times or how long delays will persist, though a state official said last month that new applications in May appeared to have slowed. Continue reading

Berkeley City Council Puts Soda Tax on November Ballot

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Charles Siler, Berkeleyside

Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to include a proposal that would tax distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages on the November ballot.

Voters will decide on penny-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
The measure, which proposes a one-cent-per-ounce charge at the distributor level, would be the first such tax passed in the country. Richmond tried to pass a similar tax in 2012, but it was voted down after a $2.7 million campaign by the soda industry.

Supporters of the tax point to studies linking sugary drinks to childhood obesity and diabetes. Members of community organization Berkeley vs. Big Soda gathered on the steps of city hall before the Tuesday night meeting to voice their support of the tax. Continue reading

Digital Mammograms: Pricey And Perhaps No Better for Older Women

In the U.S. 95 percent of mammography machine are now digital.(Mychele Daniau/AFP/Getty Images)

In the U.S. 95 percent of mammography machine are now digital.(Mychele Daniau/AFP/Getty Images)

By Kara Manke, NPR

Medicare spending on breast cancer screening for women age 65 and older has jumped nearly 50 percent in recent years. But the rise in price was not associated with an improvement in the early detection of breast cancer.

“We did not see a change in the detection of early or late stage tumors.”

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found that Medicare spending on breast cancer screening rose from $666 million in the years 2001-2002 to $962 million in the years 2008-2009.

So why the big increases in costs?

“The way that we screen for breast cancer has changed dramatically,” explains Yale’s Dr. Cary Gross, an internist and a co-author of the study. The study was published this week in the Journal of The National Cancer Institute. Continue reading

At Stanford, Using Rodin’s Sculpted Hands to Teach Anatomy

Photo of Auguste Rodin’s “Left Hand of Eustache de St. Pierre” druing the 3D scanning process. (Photo: Matthew Hasel, © Division of Clinical Anatomy, Stanford University School of Medicine)

Photo of Auguste Rodin’s “Left Hand of Eustache de St. Pierre” druing the 3D scanning process. (Photo: Matthew Hasel, © Division of Clinical Anatomy, Stanford University School of Medicine)

By Laura Sydell, NPR

Auguste Rodin is known for his realistic, unflinching depiction of the human form. Some of the French sculptor’s work even shows the ravages of disease and disfigurement. A Stanford University professor and surgeon who noticed these realistic details was inspired to incorporate Rodin into his teaching using a curriculum that combines Rodin’s sculpture with medical science and computer technology.

Superimposing scans of patients’ hands into Rodin’s hands to show 3-D anatomy.

Dr. James Chang first noticed certain details of Rodin’s sculptures when he was a medical resident at Stanford studying hand surgery. He used to relax on the grass at the sculpture garden of the school’s Cantor Arts Center. “The more I looked at the Rodin sculptures … and I focused on the hands, and if you look at each hand … they’re exactly like the actual medical conditions I was treating.”

The works include some of Rodin’s most famous pieces, like the Burghers of Calais, a group of defeated noblemen. Chang noticed that one of the Burghers had fused fingers. “We have children with Apert syndrome that have a similar fusion of the fingers and an open thumb, and we release the fingers to put [them] into a more natural condition,” he says. Continue reading

Stanford Tests Artificial Pancreas on Children with Diabetes

Study participant Tia Geri explains how this artificial pancreas works. (April Laissle/KQED)

Study participant Tia Geri explains how her artificial pancreas works. (April Laissle/KQED)

By April Laissle

This week seven children are participating in a Stanford research study in a somewhat unusual setting — a hotel in Newark, outside San Francisco. Researchers are testing an “artificial pancreas” on these children who all have Type 1 diabetes. The device is the latest advance in diabetes management technology.

“We’re trying to push this system to the limit by having the kids eat a lot and get out and run.”

The artificial pancreas is an android phone loaded with software mimicking the function of a real pancreas. Using bluetooth, the device communicates with two monitors attached to the patient’s body; one that keeps track of blood sugar levels and another that pumps insulin into the body when those sugar levels are too high. It determines when and how much insulin to release and sends that information to the insulin pump without patient intervention.

Researchers say the device could simplify the lives of those with diabetes by taking the guesswork out of treating the disease.  Continue reading

Another Step Closer to Autism Therapy as Medi-Cal Benefit?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By David Gorn, California Healthline

CMS officials last week approved a state plan amendment for the state of Washington that includes autism therapy as a Medicaid benefit.

It’s the second state in a month to receive that go-ahead from the federal government, and it means autism coverage should be a Medi-Cal benefit in California, as well, according to Kristin Jacobson, president of Autism Deserves Equal Coverage, a not-for-profit autism advocacy group.

The budget passed this week by the California Legislature omitted autism therapy as a Medi-Cal benefit.

Autism advocates hope one day soon CMS will make it clear that applied behavior analysis treatment — known as ABA therapy — should be a required benefit for all states receiving Medicaid, including California. Continue reading

California Assembly Rejects Sugary Drink Warning Label

(KJM-427/Flickr)

(KJM-427/Flickr)

By Fenit Nirappil, Associated Press

A bill that would have made California the first state in the nation to require warning labels on sodas and other sugary drinks was effectively killed Tuesday.

Sen. Bill Monning’s SB1000 failed on a 7-8 vote as his fellow Democratic lawmakers doubted whether a label would change consumer behavior. It needed 10 votes to pass.

Certain sodas, energy drinks and fruit drinks would have included a label reading, “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” Continue reading

Mom’s 30 Day Ab Challenge Goes Viral on Facebook

Still, don't expect abs of steel at the end of 30 days. (Jessica Quinn/Flickr)

Still, don’t expect abs of steel at the end of 30 days. (Jessica Quinn/Flickr)

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff, NPR

Robyn Mendenhall Gardner was amazed when what started off as a monthlong ab workout challenge between friends and family caught fire on the Web.

More than 2.7 million people have signed on to the challenge.
The Montana mother of eight told Shots she came across a 30-day ab fitness plan online and, after having a tough time finishing it, turned it into a Facebook event to motivate herself.

Within days, the Facebook challenge went viral. At last count, more than 2.7 million people had signed up. And Gardner’s challenge attracted attention from major media outlets, including Good Morning America.

The challenge features a daily series of progressively longer sets of crunches, planks, sit ups and leg lifts. Participants have taken to the Facebook event’s wall, reporting their progress and encouraging each other to stick with it. The challenge lasts through the end of June. Continue reading

6 Questions About Contraceptives, the ACA, and the Supreme Court

Customers entering a Hobby Lobby store in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Antioch. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images).

Customers entering a Hobby Lobby store in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Antioch. The owners of the company are evangelical Christians and object, on religious grounds, to providing certain types of birth control. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images).

By Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News

One of the most watched issues before the Supreme Court this term may turn on the question of religious freedom. But it will also likely determine how women will be able to access a key provision of the Affordable Care Act – one seeking to guarantee no-cost prescription contraception in most health insurance plans.

The justices’ ruling on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp v. Sebelius, two cases that are being considered together, is expected by the end of this month. The court will decide whether those companies, and potentially all other for-profit companies, must abide by the so-called contraceptive mandate. It’s a complicated legal thicket, so here is some background.

1. What is the contraceptive mandate?

The health law requires that most insurance plans provide preventive care services without out-of-pocket expense to beneficiaries. The Obama administration included all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration as part of a package of preventive services for women. Continue reading