Unions Fight Sale of Safety-Net Hospitals

Six safety-net hospitals owned by the Daughters of Charity Health System — four in the Bay Area and two in Los Angeles — are for sale. The company says it’s out of money and needs another organization to take over.

The mission of Daughters of Charity hospitals is to take care of the poor and needy. CEO Robert Issai says that three-quarters of the patients are covered by government health programs, which pay significantly less than private insurers.

“We’ve always had that 25 percent of commercial business to make ends meet,” he said.

But a lot of that dried up when the recession hit in 2008. People lost their jobs and their insurance. Then the government cut back too, slashing reimbursement rates. Continue reading

Two California Counties Sue Narcotics Makers in Deceptive Marketing

Two California counties – Orange and Santa Clara — joined forces and filed a lawsuit this week against five of the largest prescription narcotics manufacturers. The Los Angeles Times summarized the case this way:

(T)he lawsuit alleges the drug companies have reaped blockbuster profits by manipulating doctors into believing the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks, despite “a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary.” The effort “opened the floodgates” for such drugs and “the result has been catastrophic,” the lawsuit contends.

Thursday on KQED News, Tara Siler spoke with Robert Bohrer, a professor at the California Western School of Law in San Diego. The lawsuit does not challenge the FDA approval of these drugs. Instead the case alleges that the companies broke state laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance.

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Two Different Reactions to Obamacare

The 2014 enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act closes tonight. For some people the new health law is a godsend. Others barely noticed its existence.

Donna Zeuli and her husband lost their insurance when he retired two years ago. Private insurers denied them both because of pre-existing conditions and the COBRA plan offered through his union was too expensive. So they decided to take their chances and wait for Obamacare to take effect.

Then, last fall, Zeuli had a mini stroke at her home in Magalia, Calif., in the foothills of Chico, and was rushed to the ER.

“You can’t believe the angst I had about not having insurance,” says Zeuli, 55. “The only thing I could think about was how much is this going to cost me. Do the minimum. But make sure I’m not gonna die.” Continue reading

Survey: Alcohol and Tobacco Ads Target California’s Children

California’s kids are overexposed to ads for alcohol, tobacco and junk food. That’s according to a new survey from public health departments throughout the state. They sent hundreds of teens and young adults to thousands of corner stores throughout the state to record what kinds of products and advertising they find.

Twenty-two year old Luisa Sicairos saw shelves lined with products like marshmallow-flavored vodka, fried chips, and plenty of sugary drinks in her neighborhood in San Francisco. She says the young, slim models that appear in ads next to these products and on the labels send a mixed message.

“It’s still bombarding us with all this stuff on how we should look, and then they’re saying, oh, but you should be drinking soda,” she says. Continue reading

At-Home Test Good Alternative to Colonoscopy, Study Confirms

If you’re like most of my colleagues in the newsroom, you read that headline and thought, “GREAT! What is the alternative test?!”

Here’s the quick background: Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer killer in the U.S. A colonoscopy is an excellent screening tool. But more than one-third of people who are supposed to get it (that’s people ages 50-75) don’t.

Why? I think you can guess.

A colonoscopy is an invasive screening test that can involve missing one to two days of work, an inconvenient preparation process and then a “colonoscope is gently eased inside the colon and sends pictures to a TV screen,” the American Cancer Society says. Continue reading

6 Insightful Tweets on the ACA

It’s early days here in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

Friday morning, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt, an expert in health insurance policy, sent out a series of tweets. He said he hoped they were “concise thoughts on enrollment mix and the ACA.” Indeed, the tweets are a quick and insightful read:

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Living With Grace in a Nursing Home

PhyllisEditor’s Note: Eighty-three-year-old Phyllis Donner Wolf figured she would live on her own until the end of her life and die peacefully in her sleep. But last spring, she fell and broke her neck, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. She went from living independently in her apartment in Palo Alto to a nursing facility in San Francisco called the Jewish Home. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we talk to Wolf about what it takes to live a life of grace in a nursing home.

By Phyllis Donner Wolf

I was very active. I did yoga. I did yoga for 40 years. I was in an exercise class that met every morning at quarter to 8. I drove the car for friends to go to the symphony in the city. I was the one who took someone’s walker and put it in the trunk. So when I fell it was unbelievable. I didn’t dream I would wind up in a wheelchair.

I stood up in the middle of the night, which I often would just walk to the bathroom, and this time when I stood up I found myself on the floor. I think I heard a crack, which meant that my neck and spine, the bones just were brittle and broke. And I knew I had done great damage because I could not move the lower part of me.

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Obamacare FAQ: The Deadline is Monday — What You Need to Know

State of Health editor Lisa Aliferis talked with KQED Newsroom’s Thuy Vu about the upcoming enrollment deadline. People who want health insurance that starts Jan. 1 need to enroll by 11:59pm Mon. Dec. 23.

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You can also check out KQED’s Obamacare Guide — Just for Californians for a straightforward explanation of what the Affordable Care Act means to you and your family with answers to a multitude of frequently asked questions.

How 6 Fabulous British Women Age — With Style

By Rachael Myrow

A great Friday story if ever there was one!

This British documentary looks at aging through the lens of six women in their 70s, 80s and 90s. But not just any women, these women are Fabulous Fashionistas who dress “with style and panache that belies their advancing years,” according to the film’s website. Check it out:

Woman Finds Relief From Chronic Pain by Caring for Horses

Kaitlyn Pintor visits with horses at Hoof Beats riding school in Petaluma. For the past decade, a nerve disorder has made it painful for her to experience touch. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Kaitlyn Pintor visits with horses at Hoof Beats riding school in Petaluma. For the past decade, a nerve disorder has made it painful for her to experience touch. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we hear from Kaitlyn Pintor, whose nerve disorder causes pain so severe that she’s often felt like her body has been set on fire. When the pain started nearly a decade ago, Pintor was a single mother of two. She still found time to organize support groups for people who share her chronic pain disorder. Now, a new medication has made her chronic pain more manageable. Pintor speaks to us from HoofBeats riding school in Sonoma County, where she goes for horse therapy. Reporter: Ryder Diaz.

By Kaitlyn Pintor

In 2004, I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy after an ankle sprain. I had burning pain that ended up spreading throughout my body, from head to toe.

It literally feels like you’ve been set on fire and you can’t turn the fire down. Just water brushing over my skin would cause intense flame.

The normal comforts don’t comfort you. You can’t wrap yourself in a blanket. You can’t go soak in the sun. Sounds bother you. Or the laughter of your children may turn your pain up. Continue reading