Helping make the health care system work for you

The government compensates those injured by vaccines. Who knew?

vaccine vaccination immunization shot syringe

Photo by Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr Creative Commons

The program is funded through vaccines: There's a 75-cent charge for each disease that's treated by each vaccine administered.

Last month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report about the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Wait… you didn’t know that a program like this existed?  

That's actually one of the issues the report raises. It notes that the Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the program, "has acknowledged being criticized for years for not adequately promoting public awareness" of the fund.

The report continues: "Without awareness of the program, individuals who might otherwise receive compensation for a vaccine-related injury or death could be denied compensation because of a failure to file their claim within the statutory deadlines."

I discussed this point – and others – with Marcia Crosse, a health care director at the GAO.

The issue of publicity is tricky, she said, because public health officials "don't want to make a big deal out of the program."

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Fewer Southern California parents opting out of vaccination

vaccine measles injection vaccination

Photo by El Alvi via Flickr Creative Commons

The decline in Personal Belief Exemptions follows the Jan. 1, 2014 implementation of a law that requires parents to talk with a doctor about the benefits and risks of immunization, and the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The number of Southern California parents opting to not vaccinate their children due to their personal beliefs has dropped significantly, according to data released by the California Department of Public Health.

The statistics on immunization for incoming kindergartners in 2014 show that the number of parents filing Personal Belief Exemptions fell 20 percent statewide from the previous school year, according to an analysis by the Sacramento Bee. The number of these exemptions had doubled since 2007, and this was the first drop in at least a decade, according to the newspaper.

In two Southern California counties, the decrease was even more pronounced, according to KPCC's analysis of the state data. Los Angeles County saw a 27 percent decline in the number of children not vaccinated under Personal Belief Exemptions, from 2.2 percent of incoming kindergartners in 2013 to 1.6 percent in 2014.  San Bernardino County saw a 24 percent dip, from nearly 2.8 percent of new kindergartners in 2013 to 2.1 percent this year.

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Has your doctor prescribed exercise or vegetables?

Richy!/Flickr

Doctors are prescribing exercise regimens and healthy diets for patients with weight, blood pressure and other problems, and these efforts are having some success.

Some doctors are prescribing exercise regimens and healthy diets to patients with chronic health problems - and this approach is having some success, according to recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

In the Wall Street Journal, Laura Landro writes:

Doctors are working exercise counseling into office visits and calling exercise a "vital sign" to be measured when they take readings like pulse and blood pressure. Rather than just explain the dangers of inactivity, they suggest the right amount of exercise, and in some cases refer patients to certified trainers or physical therapists who can design regimens for different medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes that might limit certain activities.

As part of a program at Kaiser Permanente – called Exercise as a Vital Sign - nurses or medical assistants ask patients about their exercise habits, and enter the data in their electronic medical records, Landro explains. Doctors then use this information to determine which patients need to exercise more, and discuss which types of activities might be beneficial.

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Should unvaccinated kids be allowed in day care? Tell us

baby vaccination immunization

Photo by Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr Creative Commons

California law says children must be immunized in order to attend childcare.

As NPR reported this week, a recent survey from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health measured parents' reactions to day care vaccination policies.

Here are some of the survey's findings:

  • 81 percent of parents believe that all children in day care centers should be vaccinated;
  • 41 percent of parents believe that kids who are not up to date on their vaccines should not be allowed in day care;
  • 25 percent of parents believe they should receive the names of kids who are not up to date on their shots;
  • 10 percent of parents support allowing an unvaccinated kid to attend day care, without a waiver or vaccine requirement.

California law says children must be immunized in order to attend child care. The required shots vary by age, as you can see here. But as we know, there are exceptions to this rule, and many Southern California families have opted out of vaccinating their kids.

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How do you rate the first year of Covered California?

Covered California - Second Open Enrollment Presser

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee speaks during a press conference on Friday, Nov. 15, 2014 at Grand Park kicking off Covered California's second open enrollment period. The event was part of a statewide bus tour that stopped in more than 20 cities to raise awareness about enrollment.

Our health care system has changed at a dizzying pace under the Affordable Care Act. And many of us are adapting to these new realities, a little more than a year into the life of Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange set up under the federal law. 

The California Healthcare Foundation's Center for Health Reporting documents these profound shifts in a comprehensive package of stories that launched today.

Consider these numbers from their report:

  • 3.6 million: The approximate number of California residents who enrolled in health insurance, through Covered California and Medi-Cal. That's more people than in any other state.
  • 11 percent: The state's uninsured rate. It dropped from 17 percent.
  • 500,000: The number of Californians who are expected to enroll in health insurance during the second round of open enrollment, which ends Feb. 15.

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