Impatient | Helping make the health care system work for you

California job-based health insurance costs grew more slowly after Obamacare


This week, the headlines have been filled with angst over the increase in premium prices for 2017 insurance plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act. Here in the Golden State, premiums for Covered California plans are increasing an average of 13.2 percent.

But nationwide, most people get their insurance through their jobs, not through a state or federal exchange, and prices in the employer-sponsored insurance market tell a different story.

A new report from the Commonwealth Fund finds that if you're a single person in California and you get your health plan through your job, your health insurance costs have increased at a much slower pace in the five years after the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, compared with the five years before it.

Consider this: In California between 2006 and 2010, single employees' contributions to their premiums increased an average of about 12 percent each year. But between 2010 and 2015, employees' share of their premiums increased by an average of about 1 percent each year.


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Prop. 61, the drug pricing initiative, explained


One of the 17 statewide propositions facing California voters on the November ballot is Proposition 61, which is intended to lower prescription drug prices.

Below, Impatient breaks down this initiative, which besides being one of the most complicated ballot measures, has sparked by far this year's most expensive campaign fight over an initiative.

In a nutshell

Under Prop. 61, certain state agencies would pay no more than what the Department of Veterans Affairs pays for prescription drugs.

Conventional wisdom is that the VA gets steep discounts on drugs; the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which wrote the measure, says this proposition would provide people with better access to life-saving drugs and save taxpayers a lot of money by lowering what the state pays for drugs.

The measure would apply to programs in which the state is the ultimate payer for a drug, including Medi-Cal fee-for-service plans and CalPERS, which provides health benefits to current and retired state employees. (It would not cover Medi-Cal managed care plans.) Adding in prison inmates and people receiving AIDS medications from the government, the initiative would affect drug prices for programs serving some 5 million people, according to its proponents.


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Here's why your pediatrician won't recommend FluMist this season

Fourth-grader Jasmine Johnson got a FluMist spray at her Annapolis, Md., elementary school in 2007. This year, the nasal spray vaccine isn't recommended.
Susan Biddle/Washington Post/Getty Images

For more than a decade, millions of children have avoided the prick of the flu shot by getting the vaccine sprayed up their noses. But this fall, most parents taking their kids in for flu vaccination will find that their pediatricians are not offering the FluMist spray. 

I've been looking into what's going on and have answers to all of your questions below.

What is FluMist and why has it been so popular?

FluMist was initially licensed in 2003. Instead of being injected into their arms, it's sprayed into their noses.

It's proved to be a popular alternative for shot-averse kids: Data from recent flu seasons suggests that the nasal spray accounted for about one-third of all flu vaccines given to children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Beyond the way it's administered, there's another difference between the nasal spray and the flu shot: The nasal spray is a live, attenuated vaccine, meaning it contains live, but weakened, flu viruses. The flu shot, meanwhile, is an inactivated vaccine.


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FAQ: What is West Nile virus?

In Orange County, mosquitoes have been breeding "at an alarming rate and volume throughout the winter months," says Jared Dever, with the county's Mosquito and Vector Control District.
Sean McCann via Flickr Creative Commons

What is West Nile virus?

West Nile virus is almost always transmitted from mosquitoes to people. It usually causes no symptoms; some people will get headaches, body aches and other relatively mild symptoms. A very small number of those infected will develop serious complications, particularly people over 60 with other medical conditions.

In rare instances, West Nile has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, and from mother to baby during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.

How do the mosquitoes get infected?

West Nile cycles between mosquitoes and birds: Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on birds that have the virus. The mosquitoes spread it to other birds, and to humans.

How great is my risk of serious illness?

The risk of serious illness is very small. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of people who contract the virus never develop any symptoms.


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As more parents refuse vaccines, more doctors cut ties with families

Between 2006 and 2013, the percentage of parents who refused to give their kids some vaccines almost doubled, according to a national survey of pediatricians.
Photo by Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr Creative Commons

School is back in session, and for the first time, all California kindergarteners, seventh graders and new students must be vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption. A new state law bans vaccine exemptions based on personal or religious beliefs.

We've got the latest on this law and other developments in this Impatient vaccination news roundup.

California's new vaccination law

A group of parents and non-profit organizations have filed suit in an attempt to have the law nullified. They argue the law violates the state constitution's guarantee that all California children have the right to an education.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in an attempt to block the law while their case moves forward. Last week, a judge denied their motion.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District says that on the first day of school, just four 7th grade students were sent home for not having their Tdap shot, which prevents tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.


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