Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. (Max Whitaker/Getty Images)
Update 1:00 p.m. Thursday:
Covered California reported Thursday that 923,832 people have signed up for a health insurance plan through its agency through March 9. With 18 days left in open enrollment and an expected surge predicted as the final March 31 deadline comes near, the one million enrollment mark appears within reach.
20,000 people are starting applications every day on Covered California.
In addition to the enrollment on Covered California, another 1.1 million people who have applied throughout the marketplace were determined likely to be eligible for Medi-Cal. Roughly another million people are newly enrolled in Medi-Cal because they transferred in from the Low Income Health Program on Jan. 1 or through other local and statewide efforts.
“When you take these numbers together and add the first nine days of March,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, “it means more than 3 million Californians have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act.”
With just over two weeks left in open enrollment, Lee says 20,000 people are starting applications every day on the website, and roughly 10,000 people a day are finalizing enrollment by picking a plan.
“These are strong numbers,” Lee said.
Estrogen replacement patches. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
Postmenopausal women have heard just about everything when it comes to hormone therapy. In the 1990s, doctors routinely recommended it, believing that it helped women avoid heart attacks, thinning bones and other problems of aging. Then along came the Women’s Health Initiative study, which first found hormone therapy (HT) created more risks than benefits – then found that over time some of those risks subsided, at least somewhat.
“It’s a very provocative finding, without a doubt.”
But one main criticism of the Women’s Health Initiative study was that women were recruited to start on hormone therapy long after they had gone through menopause. The women were ages 65 or older.
Today, many doctors believe that HT started at the time of menopause — or soon after — can help women with hot flashes, vaginal dryness and other symptoms.
Study shows that plenty of parents can’t put the phone down even when eating with their kids. (Getty Images)
By Brittany Patterson
We know Americans’ use of mobile gadgets has reached near ubiquitous status in our daily lives. Research shows our continued use has health effects on our skeletons, is changing they way we communicate, and even making walking less safe.
“My concern is that it’s becoming such an obsessive habit that we’re missing interaction with our kids.”
But a new study published Monday in Pediatrics quantifies for the first time yet another side effect of our technological obsession: Many of us are engrossed with our devices even when eating with our children.
Researchers anonymously watched 55 caregivers eating with one or more young children in fast food restaurants across different Boston neighborhoods and took copious notes. (They couldn’t call the caregivers “parents” because they were watching surreptitiously.) Researchers watched how often and for how long caregivers used devices during the meal — and if the children tried to get the caregiver’s attention. Their notes were independently analyzed and coded to identify common themes.
Dr. Jenny Radesky led the team of researchers, from Boston Medical Center. Continue reading
The single-story housing units at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton provide wheelchair access, around-the-clock care for inmates. (Julie Small/KQED)
By Julie Small
California prison officials are hoping to resume transfers of sick inmates to a new, state-of-the-art medical facility in Stockton later this month. While not licensed as a hospital, the prison medical facility provides high-level, round-the-clock care to inmates with the most complex medical conditions.
The federal overseer of inmate health care halted admissions at the prison in late January, citing unsanitary conditions and shortages of staff and supplies that have persisted for months.
The state spent $839 million to build the California Health Care Facility located at the southern edge of Stockton. The single-story housing was designed with rooms and doorways large enough to fit gurneys, wheelchairs, and medical equipment to care for 1,700 inmates with complex medical conditions. But shortly after the facility opened in July 2013, staff and inmates reported problems getting essential medical and personal hygiene supplies. Continue reading
The red dots mark a school or child care facility where the vaccine opt-out rate is above 9.9 percent. The statewide average is 3 percent. (Contra Costa Health Department)
In response to the troubling number of children whose parents opt out of vaccines for them, Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) has published an interactive online map of vaccine rates for schools and licensed child-care facilities with at least 15 children at each site across the county.
“There’s not much wiggle room. We need about 90 percent of our community to be immune.”
The screen shot above shows the map. When you visit the site you can click on any of the dots, and a box appears to show you the name of the school, its address and rate of “personal belief exemptions.” While state law requires that every child be fully vaccinated to enter kindergarten, parents can opt out by filing a personal belief exemption (PBE), a signed statement that vaccines are against a parent’s beliefs.
Paul Leung, immunization program manager for Contra Costa Public Health, said the goal of producing the map was to increases awareness. “Many community members may not realize this dangerous, disturbing trend of parents choosing to skip vaccines for their children,” he said. “It not only puts these kids at greater risk of serious, dangerous diseases like measles and polio,” but it also puts others at risk, he said, including those who cannot be vaccinated, such as babies, and children or adults too sick to be vaccinated. Continue reading
Many over-the-counter products contain acetaminophen. One dose is usually not a problem, but it’s easy to lose track of how much your child is taking. An overdose can cause liver failure or death. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
By Scott Hensley, NPR
Concerns about drug risks have led 28 state attorneys general to ask the Food and Drug Administration to reverse its approval of Zohydro, a long-acting narcotic painkiller, before the medicine is even put on the market.
People often underestimate the risks of individual drugs and combinations of drugs for young children.
The risks for addiction and overdose from the potent opioid outweigh the benefits of pain relief, critics say. Some point to the risk for children, in particular. A single capsule of Zohydro could kill a kid, the medicine’s instructions warn.
Other opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin and Percocet, are already fixtures in America’s medicine cabinets. And as the prescriptions for drugs like these have surged, so have the reports of overdoses and deaths — for children and adults.
But opioids are just one kind of risky medicine. Doctors have a disturbingly long list of drugs that can lead to the death of a child after just one or two doses. Continue reading
Screen shot from an early Covered California TV ad targeting Latinos. The on-screen text says people cannot be turned down for pre-existing conditions, but consultants say that is not a key selling point for Latinos.
It’s been decades since the advertising industry recognized the need to woo Hispanic consumers. Big companies saw the market potential and sank millions of dollars into ads. The most basic do’s and don’ts of marketing to Latinos in the U.S. have been understood for years.
“It’s not a cohesive campaign targeted to Hispanics.”
So when California officials started thinking about how to persuade the state’s Latino population to enroll in health care plans, they should have had a blueprint of what to do. Instead, they made a series of mistakes.
“It’s not a cohesive campaign targeted to Hispanics,” says Bessie Ramirez of the Los Angeles-based Santiago Solutions Group, a Hispanic market research firm that has consulted for large health care clients like HealthNet, Cigna and Blue Cross.
“Frankly, it seems obvious that the launch of this program seemed to have actually turned a blind eye to what the needs of this particular consumer were,” she says. Continue reading
Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, would have no negative effect on jobs, a new study shows. In fact, there would be a small increase, researchers estimate.
A team led by Lisa Powell, an economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, analyzed the effect of a 20 percent tax on sugar-swettened beverages. That works out to a little more than a penny-per-ounce. They looked at the impact in two states: Illinois and California.
“Effectively we found that there was pretty much zero change in jobs, zero net effect,” Powell told me in an interview. Continue reading
It’s been about six weeks since a half-million people saw their Covered California health insurance plan take effect. And in that time, those who have needed care have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of finding a provider who will accept their insurance.
Let’s start with people who are dealing with some significant challenges.
I’ve been following Sue Kearney of Oakland. After confirming her doctors would take the insurance, she enrolled in an Anthem Blue Cross subsidized PPO plan with Covered California last fall. Then she scheduled appointments for early January. She has ongoing chronic health issues, and the thing she said she needs most is a colonoscopy.
But at her first appointment, she was told that the doctor did not accept any Covered California insurance. Ditto for the other doctors. Kearney set up a screen share with me, logged into her account and confirmed for me that doctors showed up as accepting her insurance, but the office said they didn’t when she called them. Ultimately, Kearney was referred to a specific customer service representative with Anthem Blue Cross to help her find an in-network doctor to perform her colonoscopy. I promised to check back in.
Darryl Avery is a transgender man seeking medical care to complete his transition. (Angela Hart/KQED)
By Angela Hart
Among those estimated to enroll in the expansion of Medi-Cal, some of those most likely to benefit are among the most stigmatized in health care — transgender patients. Darryl Avery, 48, is one of them. Avery was born female, but identifies as a man. Several years ago, he began his transition. He moved to San Francisco where he sought medical care, stable housing, culinary schooling, and eventually, sex reassignment surgery.
“I’ve seen so many trans people with mental health problems, they get access to treatment, and it’s like you’ve flipped a light switch on.”
“Where I grew up in New Jersey, there were no resources for me,” Avery said. “I never had anyone I could relate to until I moved here. I was no longer called a freak.”
Avery lives without a steady source of income. Because California is expanding its Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal here, Avery now has access to health insurance. More than one million Californians are newly enrolled as of January 1.
And for people like Avery, who are seeking transgender care and sex-reassignment surgery, it’s a “big deal” says Dawn Harbatkin, Avery’s primary care physician who is also executive director for Lyon Martin Health Services, an LGBT-focused community health clinic on Market Street near San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood.