Author Archives: state of health

Will the HIV-Prevention Pill Protect Teens or Encourage Risky Behavior?

(Justin Sullivan: Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan: Getty Images)

By Rafael Johns, Youth Radio via NPR

Leon Richardson is 18 years old and tall, charismatic and thoughtful about his sexual health.

He understands that as a young, gay black man, he is in the demographic with the highest rate of HIV infections in the country. But when Richardson learned that he could be part of an HIV prevention pill research study for young people, he was skeptical.

“I was scared. I had to really think about it, ‘What is this drug going to do to me?’ ” he says.

The regimen, called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 85 percent when a pill called Truvada is taken daily. In a first, the Food and Drug Administration approved Truvada for prevention of the infection in 2012. Truvada had been used previously to treat HIV infection. Continue reading

Uninsured Rate for Latino Students Down Sharply at State Universities

Covered California enrollment fair in Pasadena, CA in Nov. 2013. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Covered California enrollment fair in Pasadena, Nov. 2013. (David McNew/Getty Images)

By David Gorn, California Healthline

The rate of uninsured students at two California State University campuses dropped dramatically overall, and Latino students in particular saw a steep decline, according to poll results released Wednesday.

At Cal State LA, the Latino uninsured rate dropped by 75 percent since 2013.

Seven CSU campuses now have an estimated 7 percent overall rate of uninsured students, according to Walter Zelman, director of the CSU Health Insurance Education Project, which works to sign up uninsured students.

This is a population — the so-called “young invincibles” — that traditionally has high rates of the uninsured. Zelman pointed out they also happen to be the healthy, lower-cost enrollees that health insurance plans and Covered California would love to have in their patient mix. Continue reading

More Obamacare Tax-Time Lessons

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Emily Bazar, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

The second round of Obamacare open enrollment is over, but your paperwork may not be.

It’s tax time.

And as I suspected, this is shaping up to be a stressful period for many Californians who remained uninsured or purchased health insurance from Covered California.

Q: I had a Covered California plan for eight months last year before I moved to Texas. But I still haven’t received a 1095-A form from Covered California. What should I do?

A: When Travis Choma, 35, moved from California to Dallas in August, he arranged to cancel his Covered California health plan and start a new plan from the federal health insurance exchange, (healthcare.gov). Continue reading

The Gentle Cesarean: More Like A Birth Than An Operation

Kristen Caminiti cuddles her son Connor while doctors stitch her up following a C-section. (Courtesy: Kristen DeBoy Caminiti)

Kristen Caminiti cuddles her son Connor while doctors stitch her up following a C-section.
(Courtesy: Kristen DeBoy Caminiti)

By Jennifer Schmidt, NPR

There are many reasons women need cesareans. Sometimes the situation is truly life threatening. But often the problem is labor simply isn’t progressing. That was the case for Valerie Echo Duckett, 35, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. After receiving an epidural for pain, Duckett’s contractions stopped. By late evening she was told she’d need a C-section to deliver her son, Avery. Duckett says she has vague memories of being wheeled into the OR, strapped down and shaking from cold.

“They were covering me up with warm blankets,”she says. “I kind of slept in and out of it.” Her only memory of meeting her newborn son for the first time was from some pictures her husband took.

This is the experience many women have. The cesarean section is the most common surgery in America – about 1 in 3 babies are delivered this way. But for many women, being told they need a C-section is unpleasant news. Duckett says she felt like she missed out on a pivotal moment in her pregnancy. Continue reading

For Breast-feeding Teen Moms, High Schools Don’t Make the Grade

Norma Acker hangs out in the kitchen with her mom and her daughter. (Alice Daniel/KQED)

Norma Acker (right) hangs out in the kitchen with her mother and her daughter, Samantha Grace. She breast-fed her for eight months. (Alice Daniel/KQED)

By Alice Daniel

Norma Acker’s 3-year-old daughter Samantha Grace has opened a bottle of bright red fingernail polish without anyone noticing. Now it’s everywhere.

California has strong employer laws to accommodate breast-feeding mothers, but high schools are different.  

“Oh Gracie!” says Acker. “Let me see. Give it to mommy. Go wash your hands.” She then laughs the laugh of a mother who has had many a day like this.

Parenting is hard, Acker says. Being a teen parent is even harder. Acker was barely 15 when she had Gracie.

Even though she was a young mother, she’d heard about the benefits of breast-feeding and decided she would try to breast-feed while attending her local high school in the Central Valley town of Reedley. Continue reading

Latino, African American Enrollment Up on Covered California

Screenshot from the Spanish language website for Covered California.

Screenshot from the Spanish language website for Covered California.

By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

The percentage of Latinos and African Americans who signed up for subsidized health coverage through California’s insurance exchange increased during the second annual open enrollment period, officials announced Thursday.

About 37 percent of subsidized enrollees are Latino, up from 31 percent during the first enrollment period ending in March 2014, according to data released by Covered California. That’s a 20 percent increase. About 4 percent are African American, up from 3 percent last year.

The numbers, released by Covered California during its monthly board meeting, include only those enrollees eligible for subsidies who responded to questions about their race or ethnicity. Continue reading

Support Wanes For Keeping Doctors Medical Center Afloat Through Parcel Tax

Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo

Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo (Lisa Aliferis/KQED) 

By Sara Hossaini

Support is waning for another parcel tax aimed at keeping Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo open.

Last year, West Contra Costa County voters declined to put a third parcel tax in place that would have benefited West Contra Costa County’s public safety-net hospital. Measure C would have imposed an additional $210 parcel tax for a 2,000-square-foot property.

A ‘key blow’ to keeping Doctors Medical open, says hospital governing chair.

Now Eric Zell, chair of the hospital’s governing board, says a new poll of likely voters shows they’re even less likely to pass a parcel tax this year. Fewer than half say they’d support a $150 tax, falling well short of the two-thirds needed to pass.

“This is one of a number of elements that we’ve considered, but it’s a cornerstone of the potential funding that we were looking at,” Zell said. “So it’s a key blow to our ability to put together a sustainable package of funding that would potentially keep this hospital open.”

He said he wouldn’t recommend putting a measure on the ballot to the board.

Doctors Medical Center runs an $18 million-a-year deficit because most of its reimbursements come from Medi-Cal or Medicare, which pay at a lower rate than private insurance.

Zell said the hospital expects to sign a deal to sell some of its property to the city of San Pablo next week, and he says officials will next have to decide whether to use that money to stay open or close responsibly. That would mean paying off some of the hospital’s debt and paying employee pensions and vacations, he said.

Zell said those decisions will come in the next two to four weeks.

Pressure Rising to Restore Medi-Cal Provider Rates

FILE PHOTO: Doctors in an emergency room in Panorama City, Calif. (David McNew/Getty Images)

FILE PHOTO: Doctors in an emergency room in Panorama City, Calif. (David McNew/Getty Images)

By David Gorn, California Healthline

A protest Wednesday at the Capitol Building will highlight proposed legislation to reverse cuts to Medi-Cal provider rates.

In 2011 during a bleak budgeting period, the Legislature agreed to cut most Medi-Cal provider payments by 10 percent. The cutbacks were held up in legal battles for two years, and the court eventually sided with the state. Implementation came from the state in stages, and primary care providers started getting the lower reimbursement rate this year, on Jan. 1.

Last month, Assembly member Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), who chairs the Assembly Committee on Health, introduced a bill — AB366 — to reverse the cuts made in 2011.

Protest at Capitol Building aims to reverse cuts.

“This is my top priority,” Bonta said. “The reason I’m interested in health policy is to maximize quality care and access for as many people as possible. And access within Medi-Cal is not what it needs to be.”

The number of providers participating in Medi-Cal has dropped, Bonta said, because they lose money on Medi-Cal patients and can’t afford to take on too many of them.

Legislation to restore Medi-Cal rates has been floated before and failed. Bonta said those efforts were setting the groundwork for this push. Continue reading

People with Low Incomes Say They Suffer Poorer Health

Uzuri Pease-Greene talks with two police officers in the public housing complex in San Francisco where she lives. (Talia Herman/NPR)

Uzuri Pease-Greene talks with two police officers in the public housing complex in San Francisco where she lives. (Talia Herman/NPR)

By Patti Neighmond, NPR

When you ask people what impacts health you’ll get a lot of different answers: Access to good health care and preventative services, personal behavior, exposure to germs or pollution and stress.

But if you dig a little deeper you’ll find a clear dividing line, and it boils down to one word: money.

“My health is deteriorating, and I know what the cause of it is, but I can’t fix it.”    

People whose household income is more than $75,000 a year have very different perceptions of what affects health than those whose household income is less than $25,000. This is one key finding in a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. One third of respondents who are low income say lack of money has a harmful effect on health.

This is the case for 29-year-old Anna Beer of Spokane, Wash. She lives with her husband in the basement of her father’s house. Beer got laid off from her job as a nanny last summer. Now she is attending college in the hope that she will get a better than minimum-wage job when she graduates. Beer’s husband earns $10 an hour working at a retail store. “This is probably the most poor we’ve been,” Beer says. Continue reading

When Health Care Is Far From Home

Richard Sandor, 65, of Hayfork, took the hour long bus ride to Mad River Clinic to pick up his medication for chronic pain. (Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Richard Sandor, 65, of Hayfork, took the hour-long bus ride to illad River Clinic to pick up his medication for chronic pain. (Heidi de Marco/KHN).

The biggest barrier to treatment for residents of a tiny town in the mountains of Northern California isn’t insurance coverage — it’s distance.

By Daniela Hernandez, Kaiser Health News

HAYFORK, Calif. — It’s Tuesday morning, half past eight and already hot, when the small bus pulls up to the community clinic. Most of the passengers are waiting in front — an old man with a cane, two mothers with four kids between them, packed lunches in hand.

Two more arrive. A gray-bearded man with a pirate bandana steps from the shelter of his Subaru. A sunken-cheeked woman rushes up on her bike.

“Woohoo! We have a full car!” the driver says brightly after they’ve all climbed aboard. The riders smile back, some with a hint of resignation. It’s time for the weekly trip to the clinic in Mad River, about 30 miles down a winding mountain road. The tight twists and turns are hard on the stomach, but even harder on the joints — especially if you have chronic Lyme disease, as more than a few of these riders do.

Jeff Clarke is one of them. He acquired Lyme long ago from deer ticks that dwell in the region’s sprawling forests. But today he’s going to ask about a lump that’s been growing in his left breast. It’s starting to hurt, and he’s worried. His fellow riders list their own ailments matter-of-factly: asthma, dental decay, diabetes, drug addiction, heart disease and much more. Continue reading