Helping make the health care system work for you

Is your surgeon profiting from the device he's implanting in you?

PODS 02

Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Azike Ntephe kept the surgical implants that Dr. Ali Mesiwala allegedly used on him improperly. For two years Ntephe lived with more than 40 pieces of unnecessary hardware in his back before having them removed.

Are you considering spinal surgery?

Do you know if your doctor is part of a Physician Owned Distributorship, or POD?

If your reaction is – "Wait…what?" – you’re not alone.

"It's virtually impossible for the patient to know" if a doctor is part of a POD, KPCC investigative producer Karen Foshay told me. Her two-part series on PODS, Selling the Spine, aired this week.

But a patient should be armed with this knowledge before undergoing intensive surgery, she said. Here's what consumers should know about PODs:

What's a POD?

It's a business model where the doctor is an investor in – and distributor of – the devices or hardware he or she may put into patients. Multiple doctors can have a financial interest in one POD.

Check out PODS 101 for more background information. 

What's the concern with PODs?

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One easy way pregnant women can protect newborns from whooping cough

When depression strikes during pregnancy

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The whooping cough vaccine should be a regular part of prenatal care, state health officials say.

Pregnant women, listen up!

Whooping cough has reached epidemic proportions in California, and there's one very easy thing that you can do to protect your infants from the disease:

Get vaccinated during your third trimester.

State health officials say that when pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine – which protects against whooping cough, as well as tetanus and diphtheria – they also pass their immunity on to their infants.

This helps protect the newborns until they can get their first dose of the DTaP vaccine, at around six weeks. (Children are not considered fully protected until they’ve received at least three of the five recommended doses - usually by the time they are six months old.) 

This is a relatively new strategy. During the last whooping cough epidemic, in 2010, the public health recommendation was to surround infants with adults who’d been vaccinated – an approach called "cocooning."

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Affordable Care Act allows diabetic musician to dream big

About 23 million adults have Type 2 diabetes, and most of them are overweight or obese.

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"Without the ACA, my older child and younger one, when she turns 18, would have no insurance and no prospect of ever getting any," said Dr. Jeannie Brewer.

Here at Impatient, we want to hear about your experiences with the Affordable Care Act - the good, the bad, and the nitty gritty. Several of our recent posts have focused on the frustrating aspects of navigating the health insurance system. But we've also heard from folks who have had positive experiences. 

One reader recently wrote to tell us about how the Affordable Care Act has guaranteed that her diabetic daughters can access insurance coverage for the rest of their lives. Dr. Jeannie Brewer of Tarzana shared her own family's story: Two daughters – ages 22 and 12 - have Type 1 diabetes.

Nikki Lang and her sister, Lara Montero in 2012 (photo courtesy of Nikki Lang)

"No prospect" of insurance

Thanks to the federal health law, both of Brewer's diabetic daughters can now be covered under Brewer's insurance plan, until they turn 26. After they age out of Brewer's plan, the young women will be able to buy their own insurance, without worrying that they'll be denied coverage due to their preexisting condition.

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New parents and parents-to-be: What's your experience with family leave?

baby babies newborn infant FILE Changes Announced In Maternity Services

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Given how common pregnancy is, it’s surprising that it’s so challenging to determine how much time off – and pay – parents should get to care for their babies.

Here's a question for all of you parents-to-be and parents of young children: How much maternity and paternity leave did you get?

Given how common pregnancy is, it's surprising that it's so challenging to determine how much time off – and pay – parents should get to care for their babies.

For proof, just type in to Google: "how much time maternity leave California"

Blog posts pop up (like this one and this one) written by mothers who pieced together the provisions of several laws, to maximize the time they could spend with their newborns and the pay they could earn while on leave.

You'll also find documents that outline family leave laws and rights in California, and the websites of several lawyers offering help.

There are also articles, like this one from the Center for Health Reporting, about the challenge of piecing these laws together.

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Impatient post prompts insurer offer to help frustrated family

This photo taken on January 7, 2010 show

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The director of public relations read the Impatient post about Will and Betsy Allen, and offered to help.

On Tuesday, Impatient readers met Will Allen of Long Beach. He was trying to help his sister, Betsy Allen, navigate her health insurance problems, and was beyond frustrated.

You may remember that Betsy fell about three years ago, fracturing her hip and traumatizing three vertebrae in her lower back. Her primary care doctor retired, so she was seeing the doctor who bought the practice – until she learned two months ago that the new doctor is not covered by her insurance, United Healthcare.

Will Allen wrote to Impatient:

So before the insurance company will move forward with anything, they expect her to pay for all the back visits that she has had to this doctor AND since she was seeing a pain management specialist (that she was originally referred to by her original doctor) but did not receive proper authorization from a new primary care doctor… she must pay all those back charges as well.

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