Month: June 2011

Childless adults to get new health coverage

By Daniel Weintraub

In an early and major step toward implementing the federal health reform bill, about half a million low-income Californians will soon be eligible for benefits that are expected to address their health problems before they reach an emergency room.

Single childless adults with incomes up to about $14,500, who up until now have depended largely on emergency rooms for their care, will be moved into the health care system with a basic package of benefits paid for with an increase in federal funding.

Summer sees counties using tools from GIS to goats to reduce wildfire risk

Last year, the Merced City fire department colored in maps by hand to identify potential fire hazards from owners who don’t clear their property of weeds during the dry season. This year, the department is putting away the colored pencils and starting to gather GIS data. The city of Merced is joining counties across California that use GIS to track properties that don’t meet weed abatement requirements. The maps let fire departments get a jumpstart on intervention when owners don’t act to protect property from the ever-present threat of summer wildfires.

But the shift to GIS mapping doesn’t mean that all fire-prevention has gone high-tech. Counties continue to use tactics from homeowner education to dispatching herds of munching goats to tamp down fire risk through weed abatement.

New program for seniors in limbo

Mariv Tesoro is trying to stay positive. Working as a registered nurse and program director for an Adult Day Health Care Center in Downey, where families bring their elderly relatives for health care and social activities during the workday, Tesoro works to help her patients as they face their inevitable mortality. Working with the sick and the dying, positive thoughts can be hard to come by.

“It’s very fulfilling…you just have to try and hope you don’t go down with them, emotionally,” said Tesoro.

But while people like Tesoro are able to control their attitudes and emotions, they have less control over the daunting fate of their industry at large. California’s budget chasm has already forced legislators to cut the Adult Day Health Care program’s entire working budget and now even a last ditch effort to reinstate a new ADHC program looks as though it may get the cut as it sits on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk unsigned.

New budget, same old problem

The state budget Democratic lawmakers presented Tuesday relies largely on a newly optimistic revenue projection that assumes California’s economy will return to health with gusto in the coming months. That’s a big assumption, and if it doesn’t pan out, up to $2.6 billion in spending cuts will be automatically triggered early next year. But even if the tax revenue grows as much as the Democrats hope or the spending cuts are implemented, the state will almost certainly face a multi-billion shortfall a year from now.

Long Beach Communities, Clinics Drive to Extinguish Asthma Problem

As surfers cruise on blue-green surf and seagulls perch on the soft sand, it’s hard to see Long Beach as anything other than a picturesque beach town, especially when it’s teaming with summer tourists. But some of the city’s 450,000 residents say that their environment is less than idyllic and that the air they breathe is making them sick.

Diesel fumes from the Port of Long Beach—one of the busiest in the nation—mingles with a constant stream of exhaust from the 710 and 405 freeways, hiking the region’s ozone smog and fine particulate matter levels which pose serious health risks to residents.

Democrats unveil new budget plan

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders in the Legislature have reached agreement on a budget for the fiscal year that begins Friday. After failing to agree with Republicans on a plan to ask voters to extend temporary taxes that expire this week, Democrats decided to raise revenue projections for the coming year, based in part on tax collections that have exceeded expectations since January.

City planner makes listening his cornerstone

On a recent afternoon, Keith Woodcocks, Delano’s community development director, drove through the dusty Central Valley streets, passing Mexican restaurants and bungalows draped with pink roses.

He pulled over to point out freshly-widened sidewalks and colorful new playgrounds. When he neared the empty field where a Wal-Mart will be built, he paused to explain local sentiments. Even though constructing the big box retailer was controversial, many residents wanted somewhere to buy plentiful, low-cost goods.

“You have to look at the community,” said Woodcock, 60, who is tall with ruddy cheeks and a white beard. “Government does a lot of talking and not a lot of listening.”

AB 52 would regulate insurance rates

As health insurance premiums continue to escalate, consumer groups and patient advocates are asking the California Legislature to regulate the price of coverage. Yet outspoken opponents — including health insurers, doctors and hospitals — claim that rate regulation may not lower rates and could instead harm the quality of care Californians receive.

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