Covered California: You Still Have A Few Days to Sign Up

Screenshot of Covered California's website.

Screenshot of Covered California’s website.

Nearly 474,000 people signed up for health insurance on Covered California, the state’s marketplace, by the deadline Sunday night, officials announced today. But if you didn’t sign up, you still have a chance.

As Covered California has done in the past, the agency is allowing a few extra days for those who have started the application process, but not yet finished. That extra time was announced last week.

On Tuesday, executive director Peter Lee added a couple more days to the deadline. Now people have until this Sunday to finish applications. The change aligns Covered California with a federal extension announced over the weekend. Continue reading

Parents Relieved as Son Gets First Post-Leukemia Vaccines

Rhett Krawitt, of Corte Madera, received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine on Friday. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Rhett Krawitt, of Corte Madera, received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine on Friday at the Prima Medical Group in Greenbrae. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

It’s been a big week for 7-year-old Rhett Krawitt.

On Tuesday, he stood on a folding chair at the podium to address his southern Marin school district’s board members and urged them to adopt a resolution in favor of ending the vaccine “personal belief exemption” in California. Television news crews lined one side of the auditorium. Rhett is recovering from cancer, and he’s become the face of the importance of widespread vaccination.

Because Rhett is recovering from years of chemotherapy, he’s been unable to be vaccinated. His immune system wasn’t strong enough.

Until now. Continue reading

Covered California Considering Enrollment ‘Contingency Plans’ Tied to Tax Deadline

Screenshot from the Covered California website.

Screenshot from the Covered California website.

Covered California open enrollment ends this Sunday. Sort of.

Special enrollment for people who did not know about the tax penalty?    

For starters, the agency announced Thursday that people who start an application by this Sunday get until next Friday, Feb. 20, to finish it. That’s similar to steps that Covered California has taken in the past. 

But advocates have long been frustrated with the timing of open enrollment. That’s because of how penalties for lacking insurance are assessed — on your taxes. The tax deadline is not for another two months, April 15. Continue reading

As Covered California Enrollment Winds Down, a Push for HIV Prevention

By Heather Boerner

You’ve got just three days left to choose a new health plan under Covered California.

Choose carefully — especially if you want to take the only pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration to block HIV.

“Some plans may look appealing because their premiums are low,” Dr. Hyman Scott, who specializes in HIV at San Francisco General Hospital, said he tells patients interested in the drug, Truvada. “But the copays and deductibles, especially for what are often considered specialty drugs, can be really high.”

Enrollment in Covered California closes Sunday. Local doctors, social workers and navigators are helping the people most at risk for HIV figure out how — and if — they can afford the drug, which costs $13,000 a year, according to the drug’s maker, Gilead Sciences. Continue reading

Statewide Soda Warning Bill Returns

(Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

(Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

By David Gorn, CaliforniaHealthline

State Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) is not giving up in the battle to put a health-risk warning label on sugared drinks. On Wednesday, Monning reintroduced the legislation (SB 203) that failed to pass during the last session.

But expect a different result this year, Monning said.

“We certainly hope for a different outcome this year, and again we expect strong resistance as we had last year,” Monning said. “But this is part of a larger general public health effort … Tobacco was a decades-long struggle. Now we see a change in the number of people who are affected by tobacco. We’re in the early stages.” Continue reading

Cancer Patients, Doctors Sue State to Allow Aid in Dying

Brittany Maynard, 29, terminally ill with brain cancer, ended her own life on Nov. 1, 2014 in Oregon. (Compassion and Choices/BrittanyFund.org)

Brittany Maynard, 29, terminally ill with brain cancer, ended her own life on Nov. 1, 2014, in Oregon.
(Compassion and Choices/BrittanyFund.org)

Cancer patients and doctors are suing the state of California to allow physicians to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, just three weeks after lawmakers proposed an “aid in dying” bill.

“I want to be in control of my life and die a peaceful death here in California, which is my home,” said Christie White, a plaintiff in the case.

She spent two years in the hospital battling leukemia. She’s in partial remission now, but the sense of helplessness she felt during her treatment haunts her. She says she’s suing the state so she can have more say over when and where she dies.

Continue reading

First Measles Case in Contra Costa; BART Riders Potentially Exposed

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A Contra Costa Country resident commuting to and from work in San Francisco last week may have exposed some BART riders to measles, health officials said today.

Officials with Contra Costa Health Services and the San Francisco Department of Public Health said risk of contracting measles by being exposed to the disease on BART is low, but riders should nonetheless be aware of the situation.

The person traveled between the Lafayette and Montgomery BART stations during the morning and evening commutes from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The person also spent time at E&O Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant located at 314 Sutter St. in San Francisco, on Feb. 4 between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Continue reading

Schools Helping Families Enroll in Covered California and Medi-Cal

A parent talks to a health care enrollment specialist at a health insurance sign-up event at Natomas Unified in Sacramento. (Courtesy: The Children's Partnership)

A parent talks to a health care enrollment specialist at a health insurance sign-up event at Natomas Unified in Sacramento. (Courtesy: The Children’s Partnership)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

With huge numbers of California children still uninsured, schools are beginning to take the lead in letting families know that affordable health care coverage is available.

The deadline to sign up for a Covered California plan is this Sunday.
In school libraries and courtyards from Sacramento to Los Angeles and beyond, trained enrollment counselors have been invited to set up folding tables, commandeer desk space and corral parents before the Feb. 15 sign-up deadline for Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act.

And the outreach will increase. Under a new state law, all California schools must include in their 2015-16 enrollment packets information about options for health care coverage and how to get help with the sign-up process. The law, Assembly Bill 2706, authored by Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, is intended to reduce the number of children who are eligible for health insurance subsidies but remain uninsured. Continue reading

Marin School District Considers Endorsing Ban of Vaccine ‘Personal Belief Exemption’

Rhett Krawitt with his oncologist, Dr. Rob Goldsby, taken Monday at an appointment at UCSF. (Courtesy: Carl Krawitt)

Rhett Krawitt with his oncologist, Dr. Rob Goldsby, taken Monday at an appointment at UCSF. (Courtesy: the Krawitt family)

Update Feb. 10, 10:00pm: The board of the Reed Union School District voted 4-1 to “encourage the state of California” to eliminate the personal belief exemption.

Original post:

As first reported on State of Health, the face of the vaccine debate in southern Marin’s small Reed Union School District is Rhett Krawitt. He’s a first grader at Reed Elementary in Tiburon. Rhett was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 2 and went through three years of chemotherapy.

Rhett is in remission now, but cannot yet be vaccinated, for medical reasons. A small percentage of school children statewide — 0.19 percent — have such medical exemptions. They depend on everyone around them being vaccinated to protect them from disease. This community protection is called herd immunity.

But Marin County has a much higher rate of “personal belief exemptions” — a way for parents to lawfully refuse vaccines on behalf of their children.

In large part because of prodding from Rhett’s parents, the district’s board at its regular meeting tonight will consider whether to formally endorse a new bill that would abolish the personal belief exemption in California. Continue reading

Licensed Midwife Opens Birth Center in Fresno

Detrah Hele (left), a licensed midwife, opened The Birth Place in Fresno last fall. Alex DePastene (right) works with her. (Courtesy: Mike DePastene)

Detrah Hele (left), a licensed midwife, opened The Birth Place in Fresno last fall. Alex DePastene (right) works with her. (Courtesy: Mike DePastene)

By Alice Daniel, CaliforniaHealthline

Even as licensed midwife Detrah Hele explained why she recently opened a birth center in Fresno, she was in her car heading to a client’s home in Visalia.

Her client was a labor and delivery nurse who had already had two home births and was about to have a third one under Hele’s supervision. Hele has caught hundreds of babies since she got her license 10 years ago. She said it had been a dream of hers to establish a place where pregnant women could give birth outside a hospital setting.

After months of searching, she found the right property in downtown Fresno, a home on the historic register that was most recently the office of the Fresno Women’s Medical Group. She dealt with all the necessary city codes and opened The Birth Place in October 2014. It is the only birth center in the San Joaquin Valley. Another licensed midwife, Alex DePastene, works with her. Continue reading