Impatient | Helping make the health care system work for you

Is it sometimes better not to treat a sick child?

Stock photo by Alex Proimos via Flickr Creative Commons

Dr. Sarah Maufe, a resident physician in pediatrics at UCLA, wrote a thought-provoking op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on April 28.

You should do yourself a favor and read the piece in full. But in the meantime, here’s a synopsis:

Maufe introduces us to a boy she calls Michael. He was born three months early into a lifetime of severe medical needs. He had a series of organ transplants, was in and out of the UCLA hospital, and bounced around various foster homes. Things took a decided turn for the better when he was adopted at age 5. 

He finally had parents he loved and was loved by. I saw his face light up when he talked about his new family and the fun they had together. He was enthusiastic about his new school and new friends in Northern California. It appeared that Michael had finally achieved the happiness he so clearly deserved.

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Many have forgotten or don't know: Measles was miserable

Between pages 258 and 259, illustrations of children with Measles and Scarlet Fever
Photo by Sue Clark via Flickr Creative Commons

California's measles outbreak of 2014 is apparently under control, at least for now. But with at least 19 of this year's cases happening in people who were intentionally not vaccinated, health officials are still asking the question: Why are some parents choosing to not vaccinate their kids?

At least one pediatric infectious disease expert told me he thinks it’s partly because parents these days have no institutional memory of how horrible the disease really was.

RELATED: Health official: California measles outbreak 'under control'

The numbers tell part of the story: Before the measles vaccine was developed, about 450 to 500 people in the United States died from measles each year, according to the CDC. Annually, 48,000 people were hospitalized, 7,000 had seizures, and about 1,000 suffered permanent brain damage or death.

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2nd California baby dies of pertussis

A Placer County baby is the second in California to die of pertussis this year.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

A second baby has died of pertussis – or whooping cough – in California.

The Placer County baby was less than six months old, county Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Oldham said in a press release Monday.

“It is a terrible tragedy for both the family and our community when a baby dies,” Oldham said. “Sadly, most of the deaths from pertussis are children less than six months old.”

RELATED: Is 2014 turning into a bad year for whooping cough?

Another baby, who was less than six months old, died in Riverside County in January. It was the first confirmed whooping cough death since the state faced an epidemic in 2010.

Why six months matters

Babies can get their first dose of the pertussis vaccine at two months, but they’re not fully protected until six months.

That can become a problem if the people around them are not vaccinated against whooping cough. Unlike other vaccine-preventable diseases, the pertussis vaccine does not promise lifelong immunity, nor does getting pertussis ensure that you won’t contract it, according to CDPH. 

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Introducing Impatient, KPCC’s new health blog

Photo by Chu❤ via Flickr Creative Commons

Welcome to Impatient, KPCC’s new health blog!

This blog is dedicated to making the health care system work better for you. We’ll sift through the data and noise on hospitals and insurance to help you navigate the complex and rapidly changing health care system.

Our reporting is informed and powered by you — as consumers (and providers) of health care, you are the experts on what’s working, and what’s not.

You can expect first-person stories of people forced to fight the health insurance system, like today’s post about triathlete and breast cancer survivor Alison Chavez. We'll explain health stories in the news and curate the most interesting health reporting. And we'll have regular features that will help you make well-informed decisions about your own health.

Why launch a blog now?

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How many people does it take to fix a Covered California glitch?

36-year-old Alison Chavez, triathlete and breast cancer survivor.
Courtesy of Alison Chavez

Like many young, healthy people, Alison Chavez had what she called an "oh-s---" insurance plan. It had a high deductible, and was intended to protect the 36-year-old triathlete in case she got into a bike accident, or injured herself while running trails.

But last summer, Chavez was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast. She also learned she had the BRCA 1 gene, which indicated a high predisposition for cancer in her other breast.

When Covered California opened for enrollment in October 2013, Chavez  jumped at the chance to get a new plan. It had a lower deductible, and covered her medications, like the expensive nausea pills she needed after chemotherapy.

She had a double mastectomy in November.

Everything was great, right?

Well, Chavez ran into a problem: She said several of her doctors and hospitals had stopped - or planned to stop - taking Covered California plans due to their low reimbursement rates. So at the end of March, she purchased a private health plan that would allow her to continue seeing her doctors.

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