Health Care

Wendy Rigby/Texas Public Radio

From Texas Standard:

In this installment of our "Spotlight on Health" series, we're looking at access to health care – something that can be a problem for many military veterans. 

Robert Wilkie, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, says wait times at VA clinics have shown "marked improvement" since 2014 when the agency was embroiled in controversy. In one example from that time, a Phoenix VA facility was criticized for having extremely long wait times. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

When lawmakers ended this year’s legislative session, they had addressed their biggest goals: They tamped down property taxes, overhauled school finance laws and gave teachers a pay raise. By various measures, the session was a success.

To health care advocates in the state, however, it was a missed opportunity.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Free-standing emergency rooms have not reduced hospital ER visits or wait times in Texas' major metropolitan areas, according to a new study from Rice University.

Spencer Selvidge for KUT

A surprise medical bill may be a thing of the past for many Texans. In a unanimous vote, the Texas House approved a Senate bill banning health care providers from sending steep medical bills to insured Texans in emergencies.

Margaret Nicklas/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

With Tax Day just five days away, on April 15, some may be scrambling to make a payment, or just trying to get all the right forms filled out. While tax season can be stressful for many, it doesn’t affect most people's health. But it can, for families living in poverty.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

In a significant shift, the Trump administration says the entirety of the Affordable Care Act should be struck down in the courts. Previously, the administration had pushed to remove the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions but had not argued in court that the whole law should be struck down.

Andi Lichterfelde/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The U.S. population is aging, and many older adults have, or will have, some form of dementia. Right now, the health care workforce is not prepared to meet their needs, says sociologist Christopher Johnson. But Johnson is particularly poised to help fix the problem, as professor at the country's first master's of science program in dementia and aging studies, at Texas State University in San Marcos.

Carol Marley wants everyone to know what a life-threatening cancer diagnosis looks like in America today.

Yes, it's the chemotherapy that leaves you weak and unable to walk across the room. Yes, it's the litany of tests and treatments – the CT scans and MRIs and biopsies and endoscopies and surgeries and blood draws and radiation and doctor visits. Yes, it's envisioning your funeral, which torments you day and night.

But none of these is her most gnawing, ever present concern.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin’s health department is taking precautionary steps in case the measles virus arrives in Travis County. So far, officials say, there are eight reported cases in Texas, the closest to Austin being in the Temple area.

At least 11 states have seen measles cases this winter.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A growing number of Texans are turning to a little-known state mediation program to deal with surprise hospital bills. However, the program is likely only addressing a fraction of the surprise medical bills Texans receive in the mail every year. 

Courtesy of Andrea Hernandez

Andrea Hernandez ended up in a McAllen hospital after a drunken driver hit the car she was in.

“I basically got amnesia because of how hard I hit my head,” the 22-year-old says.

Like many families in Texas, Hernandez’s family is from Mexico. Her father speaks only Spanish, so she says it was valuable that her doctor was from Mexico and spoke Spanish, too.

The federal judge in Texas who ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional earlier this month said that the law can remain in effect while under appeal.

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor wrote in his ruling filed on Sunday that "many everyday Americans would otherwise face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal."

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A federal judge in Fort Worth has ruled the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, in a lawsuit filed by 18 Republican state attorneys general and two Republican governors. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

An estimated 17 percent of Travis County residents under the age of 65 were uninsured in 2018, a new report finds. That's up from 15 percent last year. Seventy-one percent of those uninsured were from working families.

ec-jpr/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Over the last two decades, the U.S. has recalled 26,700 medical devices, according to Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad - a team of journalists in Mexico City working in association with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The reason these Mexican journalists are on the case is because these recalled or defective medical devices usually end up back in Mexico.

Reporter Miriam Castillo is one of the reporters on that team, and says Mexicans most likely won't know that these devices – which include pacemakers and orthopedic implants for people with damaged bones or joints – could be harmful because the Mexican equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rarely recalls products.

Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News

With less than two weeks of open enrollment left, Austin nonprofit Foundation Communities says it's reporting a noticeable decline in the number of Latinos signing up for health insurance through healthcare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

After a decade of decline in the rate of uninsured children in Texas, a new study shows that rate is increasing again.

Texas A&M Health Science Center/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From Texas Standard:

Texas' population is growing rapidly, especially in its cities. But much of Texas is rural, and as longtime listeners know, we try to explore what it means to live those parts of the Lone Star State. When it comes to health care, rural Texans are increasingly going without: Rural hospitals, for example, have been closing, and when it comes to mental health, psychiatrists are few and far between.

Cheryl Gerber for The Texas Tribune

NEW ORLEANS ­— The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Monday morning about whether Texas should be able to ban doctors from performing the most common second-trimester abortion procedure, called dilation and evacuation.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texans who want to buy health insurance plans on the individual marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, can start enrolling today through Dec. 15 on healthcare.gov.

In a span of less than 24 hours this past week, the Trump administration took two seemingly contradictory actions that could have profound effects on the insurance marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act.

Health analysts say that at least one of the efforts, coupled with previous changes initiated by the administration, could help transform the insurance market to be much more like it was before the 2010 federal health law took effect — when regulation, coverage and consumer protections varied widely across the United States.

New Town Pharmacy

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Dr. Albert D. Chester, owner of New Town Pharmacy and founder and director of Capstone Institute, both located in Jacksonville, Fla.

Chester talks about training future heath care workers, opening a pharmacy in the neighborhood his grandfather grew up in, and being the primary resource for all health care needs.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County commissioners have decided to push back a decision on whether Central Health should shut down its nonprofit health insurance company, known as Sendero. They said they will wait to vote until there is a public hearing.

American Medical Association

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Dr. Patrice A. Harris, MD, a psychiatrist and president-elect of the American Medical Association. She'll serve for a year as president-elect and become the first African-American woman to lead the organization in 2019.

Harris talks about becoming a physician, her vision for the organization, mental health in the African-American community, and being the first African-American woman to lead the AMA.

A Texas hospital that charged a teacher $108,951 for care after a 2017 heart attack told the patient Thursday it would slash the bill to $332.29 — but not before a story about the huge charge sparked a national conversation over what should be done to combat surprise medical bills that afflict a growing number of Americans.

The story of Drew Calver was first reported by NPR and Kaiser Health News on Monday as part of the "Bill of the Month" series, which examines U.S. health care prices and the troubles patients run up against in the $3.5 trillion industry.

A hospital in Texas has cut ties with a nurse who apparently posted about a young patient with the measles in a Facebook group dedicated to "anti-vaxxers," people who reject the scientific evidence of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

Screenshots show a self-identified nurse saying the sick child's symptoms helped her understand why people vaccinate their children, but that "I'll continue along my little non-vax journey with no regrets."

Editor's note: Shortly after this story by Kaiser Health News and NPR was published and broadcast on Monday, St. David's said it was now willing to accept $782.29 to resolve the $108,951 balance because Drew Calver qualifies for its "financial assistance discount." In a statement, the hospital said this offer was contingent on Calver submitting his application for a discount based on his household finances. Calver disputed that he owes any additional money to St. David's and said this situation should have been resolved long before now.

Omolara Uwemedimo says it's hard to imagine what her parents, who immigrated to New York from Nigeria decades ago, would have done if they had had to choose between food stamps and getting their green cards.

Her parents worked factory jobs back then, but when her mother got pregnant with her, Uwemedimo says, the doctor put her on bed rest.

"She actually used food stamps when she was pregnant," Uwemedimo said. "And she says that pretty much saved them in terms of not having to move out of their apartment because of the fact that they had that help."

Caroline Covington

From Texas Standard:

Putting mental health services into primary care clinics is an idea that’s gained traction in recent years. In Texas, it came about partly out of necessity after the state mental health care system streamlined its services over a decade ago. An unintended consequence was that people with less severe mental health issues ended up seeking care in community clinics that weren’t fully equipped to care for them.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Researchers and data experts at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin say a new database will help doctors treat children with asthma, while helping parents better understand how to reduce the frequency of attacks.

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