A couple of themes emerge from this week's health news:
- Online media sources can play a big role in people's wellbeing.
- Medical technology can come with hidden costs.
- Insurance can be a boondoggle.
Without further ado, I give you KPCC's five (or six!) best consumer-focused stories of the week...
Impatient helps man mistakenly enrolled in Medi-Cal get his private plan back
File this one under "Power of the Media."
"Elliot" found this KPCC story about people being switched from private health insurance plans to Medi-Cal. He reached out to us to share his own story: He tried to re-enroll in a private health plan through Covered California, with an income level just above the Medi-Cal cut-off. He was directed to the state insurance program for lower-income people instead.
He called Covered California to try to resolve the problem, then faxed, e-mailed and wrote letters. Nothing worked. I called Covered California on his behalf; within a day, a representative had called him back and re-enrolled him in his private plan.
Facebook's suicide prevention tools connect friends, test privacy
If it takes a reporter to solve an insurance issue, it takes a village to help prevent suicide.
Facebook is the latest social media network to roll out resources for suicide prevention, according to this story from NPR. In the past, friends could flag troubling posts or comments.
The story links to this Facebook Safety post, which reads:
Besides encouraging them to connect with a mental health expert at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, we now also give them the option of reaching out to a friend, and provide tips and advice on how they can work through these feelings. All of these resources were created in conjunction with our clinical and academic partners.
We're also providing new resources and support to the person who flagged the troubling post, including options for them to call or message their distressed friend letting them know they care, or reaching out to another friend or a trained professional at a suicide hotline for support.
Why don't hospitals have to report all 'superbug' infections?
Too bad Facebook can't flag "superbug" infections in California facilities.
Following the recent outbreaks of Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, at two Los Angeles hospitals, KPCC health reporter Elizabeth Aguilera explains:
The state does require hospitals to report CRE if it's contracted through a central line or a surgical site. But they don't have to report it if it's transmitted through an endoscope, which is what happened at Cedars and UCLA.
The California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don't require comprehensive reporting of CRE, "because, basically, it’s too complicated," Aguilera reports. "The state agency says there are different strains of CRE and no consensus definition of what it is."
Study finds some breast biopsy analyses are often inaccurate
Improved mammography technology that pinpoints more abnormalities has led to an increase in the number of biopsies, Aguilera writes in another story. But according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, pathologists' analyses of certain types of breast biopsies are wrong about half the time, she reports.
So what’s a woman to do?
Aguilera spoke with study co-author Dr. Joann Elmore, and writes:
Elmore said women should listen to their doctors when they advise surveillance instead of a biopsy following a questionable mammogram. Surveillance means a woman returns for another mammogram within a shorter period of time than the once-a-year recommendation.
If a woman chooses to go ahead with a biopsy and receives a result that says she is at risk for breast cancer, Elmore said she should get a second opinion before starting treatment.
Jaywalking isn't what you think in West Hollywood
I was going to end this post with Aguilera's story and this AirTalk segment about Blue Shield of California being stripped of its tax-exempt status. That’s important news. But it's Friday, and I want to leave you with some news you can really use.
"You can cross the street in between intersections as long you're not making vehicle traffic stop for you," Lt. David Smith of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department-West Hollywood division told Duran. "That is technically not jaywalking."
Check out Duran's post for more tips for pedestrians in West Hollywood.
Which health stories are you reading and talking about this week? E-mail us at Impatient@scpr.org or ping me on Twitter at @rebeccaplevin.