News

RECENT POSTS

1.4 Million Californians Sign Up For Obamacare, But State Falls Short of Goal

CCHP enrollment counselor Kristen Chow explains Covered California and federal subsidies to a Chinese-language caller. Currently, more than 90 percent of the HMO's members are ethnically Chinese. (Marcus Teply/KQED)

CCHP enrollment counselor Kristen Chow explains Covered California and federal subsidies to a Chinese-language caller in 2013. (Marcus Teply/KQED)

Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, has released its latest numbers for 2015 enrollment to date. Among the highlights:

  • Through Feb. 22, the end of open enrollment, 495,073 newly enrolled in a Covered California plan. Total enrollments numbered 1.4 million. AP is reporting that falls 300,000 short of the state’s goal for signups.
  • More than 780,000 new enrollees in Medi-Cal
  • As of Dec. 14, 2014, 92 percent of Covered California participants renewed for 2015.
  • Ninety percent of both old and new enrollees are eligible for a subsidy to help pay premiums.

Covered California said the number of new enrollees was consistent with its forecast.

A spokesperson for the exchange said it did not yet have a total number for all Californians who have enrolled under the Affordable Care Act, including those who who now receive Medi-Cal,  Continue reading

Bay Area Golf Coach With Cerebral Palsy Defies Stereotypes (Video)

Don’t call Marty Turcios inspiring. Yes, he motivates and challenges his students, but not simply because he’s a golf coach with cerebral palsy.

Instead, his students say it’s his commitment to self-directed learning that is so empowering.

At the center of his coaching is this question: “When we teach, are we teaching people to think for themselves?”

 

On Friday mornings, Turcios critiques the golf swings of able-bodied UC Berkeley students at the Tilden Park driving range. Some regulars have been coming for two years; others are holding a golf club for the first time.

For the uninitiated, it is surprising to see Turcios, with his spasmodic movements and halting gait, swing a golf club. But he says his disability is not his problem: “My problem is how people look at me with a disability.” 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.

California Bill Would Outlaw Unvaccinated Workers at Child-Care Facilities

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

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

Child-care facilities and preschools would be prevented from employing anyone who has not been vaccinated against influenza, pertussis and measles under a bill introduced in the California state Senate last week

SB792, sponsored by state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) would amend the state Health and Safety Code to add the requirement that workers be vaccinated.

“Children under the age of five are one of the most vulnerable age groups for contracting infection and developing complications from these very serious diseases, so it is critical that we use all available methods to protect them,” Mendoza said in a press release announcing the legislation.

From the L.A .Times:

Currently, there are no vaccine requirements for day-care workers. Across schools, restaurants and the workplace, adults generally are not tracked for vaccinations as closely as young children entering school.

Since a December outbreak that started in Disneyland, 131 cases of measles in California have been confirmed, the Department of Public Health said Monday. Among those individuals for whom the department has vaccination documentation, 55 were unvaccinated and 18 had one or more doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. In the Bay Area, Alameda County has seen six cases, and Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Solano counties have each experienced a handful.

A previously introduced bill, SB277, would eliminate parents’ right to leave their children unvaccinated due to a personal belief exemption if enrolled in school or a child-care facility.

Read Transcript of Today’s Oral Arguments in Supreme Court Obamacare Case

Today’s oral arguments in the latest Obamacare case to come before the Supreme Court are now over. Proponents of the law are worried that if the plaintiffs prevail, canceling subsidies to insurance buyers in the federal exchange, the Affordable Care Act could be heading for a death spiral. The Supreme Court website has put up a full transcript of the proceedings, which you can read here. A report on today’s events from Associated Press follows.

Here is AP’s write-up of today’s events:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court was sharply divided Wednesday in the latest challenge to President Barack Obama’s health overhaul, this time over the tax subsidies that make insurance affordable for millions of Americans.

The justices aggressively questioned lawyers on both sides of what Justice Elena Kagan called “this never-ending saga,” the latest politically charged fight over the Affordable Care Act.

Chief Justice John Roberts said almost nothing in nearly 90 minutes of back-and-forth, and Justice Anthony Kennedy’s questions did not make clear how he will come out. Roberts was the decisive vote to uphold the law in 2012.

Otherwise, the same liberal-conservative divide that characterized the earlier case was evident. Continue reading

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

Is Bay Area Boom Driving Up Cost of Therapy?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Going out to dinner is really stressful for Carolyn Desimone. She has a lot of friends who work in the tech sector, and they always want to go to trendy places.

“I went out for ramen with some startup kids and it was 30 bucks a person. It was stupid,” she says. “Everyone at the table is making twice as much as I do.”

And they’re willing to spend twice as much on food. It’s an economic dynamic she notices in the cost of therapy, too. Desimone pays $65 an hour at a community clinic to get help with her anxiety.

‘Geek whisperers’ needed now more than ever as the price of mental health services rises.

“The pool of my friends, they’re all $100, $120 per appointment,” she says. “I’d never be able to do that. I couldn’t do that and pay my rent.”

The influx of tech workers to the Bay Area has had a profound effect on the local economy: Affordable housing is nearly impossible to find. Dining out has become a competitive sport. And now, it seems the tech sector is applying upward pressure on the cost of some mental health services, too.

“One big variable is money,” says Michael Klein, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco. “The other is stress.” Continue reading

California Not Affected by Obamacare Court Challenge; At Least Not Yet

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It’s been three years, but the Affordable Care Act is before the Supreme Court again. The constitutionality of the law was settled then. This time, the question is subsidies. Oral arguments happen Wednesday.

The case is King v. Burwell, and the heart of the matter is whether the ACA permits subsidies to be granted to people who live in the 34 states that use the federally-run marketplace, healthcare.gov.

Note well: people in California, and the 13 other states that set up their own insurance marketplaces are not affected by this case. No one is challenging the legality of the subsidies as a whole — only whether they may legally go to people who live in states using healthcare.gov. Continue reading

Silicon Valley is Thinner Than San Francisco-Oakland, Report Says

Woman's feet on scale.

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The South Bay and San Francisco compete on a multitude of fronts: Which will snag the hottest tech firms, which can retain or attract the most sports teams, which will win the prize for least affordable housing…

But no matter how many prestige points San Francisco racks up, the South Bay can claim bragging rights based on at least one important metric: weight.

That’s according to WalletHub, a personal finance website that spends a lot of time compiling data on all sorts of things. (Last month they told us the Bay Area is one of the more diverse regions in the U.S.) From the site:

In light of National Nutrition Month, WalletHub analyzed 100 of the most populated U.S. metro areas to identify those where weight-related problems call for heightened attention. We did so by examining 12 key metrics, among which are the percentage of adults and high school students who are obese and the percentage of people who are physically inactive.

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