Helping make the health care system work for you

A new law helps you pick a health plan based on its drug coverage

pills capsule drugs prescription medication

Photo by higlu via Flickr Creative Commons

It's hard for California consumers to shop for a health plan based on their prescription drug needs. That process is going to get easier - eventually - thanks to a new law signed Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown.

We first told you about SB 1052, written by State Senator Norma Torres (D-Pomona), back in May. It requires the state's Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance to jointly develop a standard template for health insurance companies to use when sharing their drug formularies. A formulary lists the medications an insurer covers, at what cost, and for how long.

This is important, because right now it's really hard to comparison shop based on which medications you use - insurers currently share their drug formularies in different formats.

The new law requires that insurers update their formularies every month. And Covered California will have to provide a link to each company's information.

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State Farm drops Rob Schneider ad amid outcry over his anti-vaccine stance

US Hollywood actor and stand-up comedian

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Rob Schneider performs during 'Black Dog - Comedy Evenings' in Bangalore in 2011.

State Farm has apparently decided that someone who's outspoken against vaccines is not a good neighbor — or at least, not a good pitchman for the company. The insurer is pulling an ad featuring anti-vaccination activist Rob Schneider, a comedian and actor who's better known for his work on Saturday Night Live and movies like Deuce Bigalow.

Schneider's stance

In 2012, Schneider campaigned against a California law requiring parents to meet with a doctor before they obtain a Personal Belief Exemption, which allows them to opt out of vaccinating their children.

"You can't make people do procedures they don't want," Schneider said in this video interview with News10 Sacramento, posted on the Huffington Post in 2012. "The parents have to be the ones who make the decisions for what's best for our kids."

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Which flu shot is right for you and your loved ones?

Chicago Clinic Gives Flu Shots To At-Risk And Elderly

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Widespread flu vaccination is intended to protect people who are at risk for serious complications from the virus.

Southern California broke records last week during a late summer heat wave. But, while it may not feel like it, don't be fooled: flu season is almost upon us.

The basics

The Centers for Disease Control recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get the seasonal flu vaccine. It's designed to protect people against the main flu viruses that are expected to cause the most illness during the upcoming season.

Widespread flu vaccination is intended to protect people who are at risk for serious complications from the virus.

And now is the time to do it. The CDC recommends people get the shot soon after it becomes available, and preferably by October. It takes two weeks for people to develop the antibodies that protect against the flu.

"I would get the flu shot earlier rather than later," said Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director at the University of California, Irvine. The reason: "it affords you protection throughout the flu season," she said.

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Is sitting really the new smoking?

Man sitting on a club chair reading from his laptop.

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If you work in an office, what tactics have you employed to reduce the amount of time you sit during the day?

I read every anti-sitting story with trepidation.

I do what I can to live a healthy lifestyle, but my job requires a lot of chair time. Over the years, I've tried to accept that death-by-sitting is a necessary evil of my beloved career choice.

But an article by Sacramento Bee health reporter Cynthia Craft makes me rethink my reluctant acceptance of extended sitting.

"Sitting is the new smoking," Craft writes, because, "both are habits that are within our physical capabilities to stop."

Wait, this sitting-at-a-desk thing is just a bad habit I've developed?

Craft continues:

"Like smoking, cardiovascular experts say, the decision to sit is our own. It's preventable. It's deliberate. We can quit it."

And the reasons to quit sitting are extensive, Craft writes: It slows our brain function and increases our risk of cardiovascular disease.

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If you thought IUDs were just for moms, think again

IUD

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Intrauterine devices are one of the most effect forms of birth control, but are relatively underutilized, at least in the United States.

Until recently, intrauterine devices – or IUDs - were marketed as the birth control for moms. This commercial for the hormonal IUD, Mirena, perfectly illustrates that.

At least one reason it was sold that way: There were concerns that the IUD could lead to infertility, if it was implanted wrong or caused pelvic inflammation.

But Dr. Eve Espey, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of New Mexico, says the IUDs on the market now are very safe and complications are rare. (Uterine puncture occurs in an estimated one out of 1,000 women, Espey says.)

They're slowly gaining traction and acceptance among young women, and women who haven’t had kids yet. (If you're among the women using an IUD, please share the cost of your device with our #PriceCheck project!)

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