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California Governor Facebook page

Earlier this month, the state of California announced it’ll forgive student loans for hundreds of medical providers. The move should benefit underserved patients in the San Joaquin Valley.

Michael Galvez is a pediatric hand surgeon and plastic surgeon at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera. Between a bachelor’s degree, medical school, residency and two specialized fellowships, he says he spent 18 years studying after graduating high school. “I actually tell families that I meet here that I went to thirtieth grade,” he jokes.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

About five years ago, Jesus Gomez spent a month in the hospital. As he pulls out his phone to show me photos, he stops and smiles. “They’ll scare you,” he jokes.

Gomez scrolls through pictures of his head and torso covered in red splotches and thick brown scabs. “If they hadn’t treated me, I would’ve died,” he says in Spanish. “I would’ve been dead five years.”

His symptoms began small in 2013. “It started with an itch, and when I would scratch, it would break the skin and it would start to peel,” he says. Then came blisters.

Monica Velez

Terri Pedraza is assembling bags of food for children to bring home for the weekend. She’s a volunteer at Food Link for Tulare County. But, she says, kids don’t just go hungry on the weekends.

She knows because her own son always asks to bring extra burritos in his school lunch for his friends.

 

"My burritos went from three, six to a dozen," Pedraza says.

 

Nicole Celaya, the community food system director at Food Link, says they "run across this all the time."

 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

As the fifth largest economy on the globe, California is looked to in many ways as a world leader—not just in terms of agricultural production and climate change mitigation goals, but also in the field of health, where we’ve been a testing ground for new ideas in health care policy and delivery. For instance, California was an early adopter of the Medicaid expansion allowed under the Affordable Care Act, and health officials have launched initiatives to target specific health outcomes and risks like heart attacks, maternal deaths and vaccine exemptions.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California’s legislative session ends on Friday, which means it’s a marathon week in Sacramento as state lawmakers rush to pass bills and get them onto Governor Jerry Brown’s desk to be signed into law—or else wait until 2019 to reintroduce their legislation and begin the process all over again.

Flickr user San Diego PersonalInjuryAttorney, CC BY-SA 2.0

Every time you want to see a doctor, decisions are made about who’s in your network, what’s approved, and how much it’ll cost. Although your health plan manages everything, each of those decisions could be outsourced to a separate company—and those behind-closed-doors actions can have big impacts. Allegations of misconduct within two of these intermediary companies are already having real impacts on patients in the Valley.

Last fall, Dr. Sanjay Srivatsa received a letter.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

When it comes to the health care safety net, there’s been a lot of uncertainty in the last few months. Republican lawmakers spent the better part of the year trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and funding has been on shaky ground for community health centers that treat low-income and uninsured patients. Now in the spotlight is the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which insures 2 million low-income kids in California--and is set to run out of federal funding within the next month.

Office of Congressman Jeff Denham

The expansion of Medi-Cal in the Central Valley under the Affordable Care Act has been key to slashing the area’s uninsured rate in half in recent years. Hundreds of thousands of people signed up, and in most valley counties, about half of the population is on Medi-Cal. But according to some, having more people on the program has compounded the problem of low reimbursement rates for physicians and the area’s long-running doctor shortage.

Clinica Sierra Vista

The Affordable Care Act may be staying in place for now, but the long-term future of health care is still far from certain. And that uncertainty is already taking its toll on some health care programs--with ripple effects felt throughout the Valley.

If you peruse the Airbnb listings outside Bakersfield, you may stumble upon Broken Shadow Hermitage—a 3-bedroom getaway in the Tehachapi Mountains. The owner, Rick Hobbs, says it’s a great place to meditate and commune with nature.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

We continue our coverage this week of the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Last week we heard from Anthony Wright of Health Access California about his concerns with the so-called American Health Care Act, and this week we’re speaking with someone who had a hand in crafting the new plan.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The GOP-backed health care law that’s currently in the U.S. House of Representatives is one of the biggest topics of national debate. But what would the American Health Care Act mean for people here in the San Joaquin Valley? Over the next few weeks on our program we will hear a variety of perspectives on the proposed law, from both supporters and opponents.

Kern Medical / Kern County

The California State Senate’s health committee held a rare hearing in Bakersfield this afternoon discussing the local impact of President Elect Trump’s quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez testified that while Kern Medical has seen its financial health improve in recent years, that could change quickly if the law is rolled back.

Ask Emily: New Rules to Limit Medi-Cal 'Death Fees'

Jan 5, 2017
California Healthline

Six months after her mother died in 2014, Karen Craig opened her mailbox to find a bill for $9,530.06.

It came from Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the Medicaid program for low-income people, which was seeking repayment for her mother’s medical care even though she had used her coverage just once, for a routine wellness exam. (Her mother’s medical costs were primarily covered by Medicare, the federal program for seniors, Craig says.)

“I was just shocked and panicked,” says Craig, a Central Coast resident.

The Dolores Huerta Foundation

Immigration advocates are starting a new outreach effort in Kern County to enroll undocumented children in Medi-Cal. This is the first year undocumented kids can enroll in the government-sponsored insurance program.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A new study from the UCLA Health Policy Institute indicates that the access gap between Medi-Cal recipients and those with private, employer-sponsored coverage continues to grow. And those with Medi-Cal benefits in the Central Valley do even worse, facing even greater challenges in finding and retaining a doctor than those with the same benefits in wealthier parts of the state. 

Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition KVPR Reporter Diana Aguilera interviews a Fresno teenager about the lack of sex education in Fresno Unified schools. Later in the program Valley Edition Host Joe Moore speaks with Shana Alex Charles with the UCLA Center For Healthy Policy Research and the California HealthCare Foundation about gaps in care for Valley Medi-Cal recipients

California HealthCare Foundation

Medi-Cal recipients in California continue to face big challenges when it comes to actually accessing care, especially in the Central Valley. That's the conclusion of a new report by researchers at the UCLA Center For Health Policy Research and the California HealthCare Foundation. 

The study looked at survey data from across the state for both Medi-Cal enrollees and those with private insurance provided through their employers. 

Shana Alex Charles is one of the study's authors.

Audit Finds Problems With Medi-Cal System

Jun 18, 2015
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

An audit of the department that oversees Medi-Cal found inaccurate health plan information, thousands of unanswered calls and a lack of oversight. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on the report out Tuesday.

The California State Auditor examined how the Department of Health Care Services is monitoring health insurance plans that accept Medi-Cal patients. Of the more than 12 million people enrolled in Medi-Cal, more than 75 percent are enrolled in a health plan.

California Extends Health Care To Undocumented Children

Jun 16, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Beginning next spring 170,000 undocumented kids living in California will be able to sign up for Medi-Cal. Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders allocated an initial $40 million for the program in this year’s budget.

Democratic Senator Ricardo Lara has been pushing for California to offer health care to immigrants living illegally in the state. 

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Most undocumented immigrants throughout the country aren’t eligible for Medicaid or Medi-Cal because of their immigration status. But in California there’s a little known provision that allows certain immigrants to obtain full-scope Medi-Cal benefits even if they aren’t here legally.

Until last December, if you were an undocumented resident in Fresno you could get health care through a county program known as MISP. That stopped when the county changed the rules and kicked at least 5,000 undocumented residents out of the program late last year.

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