RECENT POSTS

California Teens Slurping More Sugary Drinks

Arizona Green Tea is popular with teens, but this 23.5 ounce can has 51 grams -- or more than one-third of a cup -- of sugar.(Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

Arizona Green Tea is popular with teens, but this 23 ounce can has 51 grams — or more than one-third of a cup — of sugar. (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

As the clock ticks toward a 2014 federal ban on the sale of sports drinks at high schools, California teenagers are showing an increasing fondness for the sugary beverages, with an alarming 23 percent spike in the consumption of sports and energy drinks since 2005, according to a new study.

At the same time, consumption of sugary drinks by young children is declining sharply, according to the study by researchers at the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The study tracked youth consumption of the beverages from 2005 to 2012.

Both trends – the surge in teens guzzling sugary drinks and the drop in consumption for younger children – are tied to regulations governing the sale of the beverages in California schools, said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

“Taking sodas out of schools contributed to a precipitous drop in consumption among younger kids,” he said, “while older kids have switched to sports drinks and energy drinks, and those products are available in schools.” Continue reading

How Hospitals Can Be More Green

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Ryder Diaz

Kaiser Permanente wants to know what’s lurking in their hospitals’ mattresses. Mattresses are often treated with brominated flame retardants. And these chemicals usually don’t stay put. They leak into the air or cling to specks of dust and enter our bodies.

“Flame retardants can be quite toxic. They accumulate in the environment and in our fat cells,” said Kathy Gerwig, vice president and environmental stewardship officer at Kaiser.

Certain beds may contain vinyl or other plastics that when produced or destroyed can release toxins into the environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing the safety of these chemicals, which have been linked to increased cancer risk and other health issues.

Gerwig’s team is trying to figure out what’s in their stock. If they prove to be harmful, swapping out hospital beds is bound to be a big undertaking. “We have a lot of mattress,” she said. But if necessary, it’s a task Gerwig would embrace.

Kaiser hospitals are among more than 100 private and public hospitals in California that are moving toward more sustainable practices for their facilities, said Laura Wenger, executive director of Practice Greenhealth. Continue reading

Gov. Brown Signs Transgender Students’ Rights Bill

By Scott Detrow, KQED

Update 1:05pm: Gov. Jerry Brown has signed AB 1266 into law.

Here’s the original post:

A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk would allow transgender students to participate in sports and other activities as well as use facilities based on how they identify their gender, regardless of what sex they were born as. The governor has until Tuesday at midnight to sign or veto the bill.

The legislation, AB 1266, adds just four words to California law, but the Transgender Law Center’s legal director, Ilona Turner, calls it a major step toward acceptance.

“When transgender students are forced to participate in activities based on the sex that they were assigned that is not the sex they are living as, it outs them as transgender, for one thing,” she said, “and subjects them to all kinds of stigma and harassment from their peers.”

California’s education laws already ban gender-based discrimination, but outreach group Gender Spectrum’s director of education and training, Joel Baum, said the new measure would “give clear direction” to school administrators making decisions on a sensitive subject. Continue reading

Univision Obamacare Deal Could Put WellPoint Ahead Of Competitors

By Jenny Gold, Kaiser Health News

Some 10 million Latinos nationally — including nearly 3 million in California — stand to gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and the Spanish-language media network Univision is positioning itself as a direct path to this potentially lucrative market.

WellPoint and other Blue insurers in six states, including California, have signed deals with Univision for undisclosed sums to be the exclusive health insurance sponsor of the network’s Peabody-award winning health initiative, “Salud Es Vida,” which means Health Is Life. WellPoint is the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross in California.

A spokesman for Covered California, confirmed that the agency is finalizing guidelines for “plan-based enrollment.”
The deals include a special plan-sponsored Univision website that will be able to connect Latinos with coverage on the online markets, or exchanges, that will serve individuals beginning in October. But it’s a path that could take a detour around some competitors who are offering plans: Because of a little-known rule proposed by the administration in June, customers will be able to buy their subsidized Obamacare insurance directly from the insurer.

Continue reading

Advocates Demand Governor’s Attention on California Developmental Centers

By Caroline Chen, Center for Investigative Reporting

Advocates for the developmentally disabled gathered today at the state Capitol to demand that Gov. Jerry Brown focus his attention on the 1,500 men and women living in California’s troubled board-and-care facilities, described by one resident as “hellholes.”

Waving a thick stack of reports in the air, Jacquie Dillard-Foss, CEO of Strategies to Empower People, which provides services for the disabled to live independently, said cases of patient abuse and neglect at the state’s five institutions had been recorded since the early 1990s, but with little response from the government.

“We know the problem has existed for decades,” Dillard-Foss said. “We are in the midst of a human crisis.”

The event in Sacramento comes a week after the California State Auditor released a scathing report detailing the failures of the Department of Developmental Services to protect the people who reside in its institutions in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sonoma and Tulare counties.

A letter from the advocates in today’s event calls on Brown to appoint an administration official to respond to the audit’s findings. Continue reading

Aetna and United Leave California; Who’s Moving In?

By Dan Diamond, California Healthline

United Healthcare has more than 4,700 hospitals in its national network.

Valley Health Plan has four, all located in Santa Clara County.

That relative scale is one reason why United’s departure from California’s individual market last week got so many headlines — even though United only covers 8,000 people in the state — while the news of Valley’s inclusion in Covered California last month got almost none.

And on the surface, the thought of losing the nation’s largest health insurer doesn’t seem to augur much good for the Golden State’s health reform efforts. Especially in the wake of Aetna’s similar announcement last month.

But take the glass half-full approach, a handful of experts say: Think about who’s stepping in to fill the void. Continue reading

California Insurance Chief: Bar Anthem from Small Business Marketplace

By Mina Kim, KQED

California’s insurance commissioner Dave Jones says Anthem Blue Cross shouldn’t be allowed to sell small business health plans on Covered California, the state’s new health insurance marketplace being set up under the requirements of the federal health law.  Jones says Anthem, the state’s largest insurer, has been engaging in a “pattern” of “excessive” rate hikes.

“It simply cannot be the case that a health insurer can unreasonably gouge its small business customers and not face any consequences whatsoever,” Jones said.

Under state law, Jones can review health plan rate hikes and declare them unreasonable, but he lacks authority to block them. Continue reading

Will Proposed Obamacare Fines Help or Hurt California Workers?

By Kelley Weiss, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

A proposed law seeks to close the so-called "Walmart Loophole." (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A proposed law seeks to close the so-called “Walmart Loophole.” (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

For many businesses Obamacare is downright intimidating. The requirement to provide coverage to full-time employees or potentially face thousands of dollars in fines is what’s really worrying some large companies.

Most employees at large businesses already receive health insurance through their employer. But there are still some exceptions.

Barbara Andridge is a sales associate at a Walmart near Sacramento. She’s not sure if she’s eligible for the company’s health insurance program because her hours are all over the map — from eight hours one week up to 36 hours the next.

To qualify for company benefits she says she’d have to be working at least 30 hours per week.

“We don’t support big companies that can afford health care costs for their employees simply pushing those costs onto taxpayers.”

“I really had to sit down and think about my hours and if I’m going to have enough hours to qualify to have health care all year,” Andridge says.

With no guarantee of hours Andridge decided to enroll her six-year-old son in Medi-Cal, the government health insurance program for low-income Californians. Andridge plans to apply for herself soon as well.

Some health care advocates are concerned there will be even more employees like Andridge applying for Medi-Cal once Obamacare kicks in next year. They fear companies will limit hours for workers just to avoid having to pay for their health insurance.

“Employers should not be able to skirt their responsibility simply by exploiting a vulnerability in the law,” says Steve Smith with the California Labor Federation. Continue reading

Appeal Denied: Medi-Cal Rate Cuts Poised to Move Forward

By Judy Lin, Associated Press

A federal appeals court on Friday denied a second request by California doctors, pharmacists and hospitals seeking to undo the state’s 10 percent provider rate cut for treating the poor.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal from medical providers to rehear their case, which allows Gov. Jerry Brown to begin implementing the cuts retroactively. A three-judge panel had ruled against them in December on the grounds that trial courts cannot block the state from making cuts that were approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Health providers vowed they will continue to press lawmakers to restore the 10 percent reimbursement rate cut to the state’s Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal. Continue reading

Powerful Documentary Highlights ‘The Power of Two’

Every 10 minutes, someone’s name is added to a waiting list — a waiting list for a new kidney, heart, lung or other organ. And every day, about 18 people die waiting.

Starting today, San Francisco’s Link TV is screening a remarkable documentary, “The Power of Two.” Twin sisters with fatal cystic fibrosis each received a double lung transplant. In the clip below, they travel to the National Donor Memorial in Richmond, VA.”In a way it was like a pilgrimage to a Mecca,” says Ana, one of the twins. “Because this is the place where our country pays tribute to all the people who have said ‘yes’ to organ donation.”

You can watch the complete documentary online at LinkTV.

And, if you’re not already, you can sign up to be an organ donor.