Health Care


AB 369: Governor Brown Should Stand with Californians Battling Silent Epidemic of Chronic Pain

By Wesley Mizutani

Scientific breakthroughs have revolutionized the treatment of chronic pain. As a result, a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is no longer accompanied by the expectation of progressive disability that would lead to a wheelchair.

Some California health insurers, however, have enacted policies that imperil the precious gains made by the medical community against the silent epidemic of chronic pain. Governor Brown now has an opportunity to stop them.

According to the U.S. Institute of Medicine, approximately 100 million people in the United States are affected by chronic pain every year, which is more than the number of Americans who are affected by cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined. Pain costs this country $635 billion yearly in medical treatment expenses and lost productivity.

Countdown to California's New Health Benefit Exchange

By Linda Leu

A couple of weekends ago, the California Health Benefit Exchange was the focus of a front page New York Times article (one where Health Access Director Anthony Wright got "Quote of the Day"). The article featured a big photo of many allies and coalition members lining up to testify at the Exchange Board meetings - lines that were repeated at the Board meeting this past week in Sacramento.

First, the Board heard reports from Exchange staff that have been making significant progress in implementation. Highlights of these reports include:

Despite California's High Rate of Uninsured, Signs of Hope

By Anthony Wright

Recently, the U.S. Census released its new numbers from 2011 on income, poverty, and health insurance. Among the findings:

  • In 2011, the percentage of people without health insurance decreased to 15.7 percent from 16.3 percent in 2010. The number of uninsured people decreased to 48.6 million, down from 50.0 million in 2010.
  • The number of people with health insurance increased to 260.2 million in 2011 from 256.6 million in 2010, as did the percentage of people with health insurance (84.3 percent in 2011, 83.7 percent in 2010).
  • California has the greatest number of uninsured, with 7.256 million uninsured, or 19.6% of the population over the last two years.
  • Californians are more likely to be uninsured than residents of all but a few other states. And as a result of being uninsured, Californians live sicker, die younger, and are more likely to be one emergency away from financial ruin. This data shows that, more than ever, California needs to aggressively take advantage of the new benefits of the Affordable Care Act, because our health system and our residents need all the help we can get.

Getting Healthy at Work: Who Do You Trust?

By Carl Finamore

Around 150 million Americans drag themselves out of bed each day and show up for work. You get your first cup of coffee, chit-chat a bit, punch in, and settle in for a long day on the job. But don't get too settled, because you might be asked to answer a few questions about your family medical history, your sexual orientation, and your use of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. You also might be asked to take a blood test, have your cholesterol and blood pressure recorded, and get your body mass index checked. Only a few years ago, such probing, pricking, and pinching would only occur in the privacy of a doctor's office, but now these procedures are becoming more commonly prescribed in over half of American workplaces. And such "wellness" programs are growing rapidly.

Pizza, Health Care and the Minimum Wage

By Rev. Jim Conn

My grandchildren live on pizza. Oh, they eat other things that young children like, but whenever mom or dad work late or events intervene, the call goes out for pizza man to deliver.

I was thinking about this when I read a piece in The Week a while back about franchisers who will soon need to cover the cost of health insurance for their low-wage workers or pay a fine. The case study focused on a guy who owns a string of chicken and Mexican fast food stops and who employs 425 workers. Some of these people run the front counter. Some do the deep frying. Some sweep up. None, apparently, have any health insurance.

Health Care Reform in California

By Diane Lefer

“The way the health care delivery system developed in this country has been a global scandal,” said Michael Hiltzik, author and Los Angeles Times columnist, as he concluded the community program he moderated August 22 on the effects of the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking at the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles, expert panelists acknowledged the obvious limitations of the act, which was found constitutional (for the most part) by the Supreme Court at the end of June. They also cited new benefits flowing from the legislation. But what became very clear was that there are steps we in California can take to make reform more meaningful even without action on the federal level.

Are You Dense? Breast Cancer Detection Day

By Joe Simitian

Everywhere there are campaigns with pink ribbons. People march in pink T-shirts. Baseball players hit with pink bats. These campaigns to save our mothers, sisters and wives from breast cancer have had great success in increasing awareness and in raising funds for a cure.

As a result, most women know they need to get regular mammograms as they get older. Yet surprisingly few of them are aware of a widespread condition that raises the risk of breast cancer and makes it harder to detect.

The condition is dense breast tissue. Although 40 percent of women tested by mammograms have dense breast tissue, a recent survey found that fewer than 10 percent of women are aware of their breast density. To spread the word, and to encourage women to talk to their doctors, the Legislature has declared Aug. 8 “Are You Dense? Day.” Women need this essential knowledge to make informed decisions about their health.

Wal-Fare Benefits: Facts About Walmart Employee Plans

By Bobbi Murray
Frying Pan News

Nearly all employers struggle to contain health care costs. Walmart, however, has long made it part of its business model to externalize those costs. The World’s Biggest Company has repeatedly come under fire from labor and community groups, as well as states, for promoting a health care structure that encouraged employee reliance on Medicaid. The Supreme Court’s June 28 decision upheld the heart of the Affordable Care Act, which was good for President Obama–and also good for Walmart.

“The ‘Obamacare’ plan is a huge subsidy to Walmart,” Nelson Lichtenstein, author of The Retail Revolution: How Walmart Created a Brave New World of Business said in a phone interview. The Affordable Care Act will also benefit the bottom rung of Walmart’s workforce who will be eligible for Medicare under the plan, he added.

The Costs And The Benefits

By Anthony Wright
Health Access

There's been more discussion about whether some states will or will not do the Medicaid expansion. To date, while there's been lots of posturing, only 6 GOP Governors have said they won't expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Many others haven't made that commitment, and I imagine that after the election, even some of those remaining Governors may come around.

California Wins with Affordable Care Act Decision

By Daniel Zingale
New America Media

The recent Supreme Court Decision upholding the Affordable Care Act has led to the nearly inevitable – and wholly irrelevant – discussion of “winners” and “losers.” Over the next few days, talking heads will ask the critical questions of our time:

“Who’s up? Who’s down?”

“Is this good for President Obama, or bad for Governor Romney?”

“Who lost? Who won?”

Over the next few weeks, there will be no shortage of legal analysis. There will be no shortage of political analysis. But there will be a disappointing lack of human analysis. But if one looks through the lens of healthy community, then one can see million of winners, especially here in California. And the state is stronger when every Californian has an opportunity to live a long, healthy life.