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Blog Posts from October 2016

Blog Posts from October 2016

California’s Office of the Patient Advocate just released new 2016-17 health plan report cards to help guide and inform consumers as they shop for coverage during the open enrollment season which is set to begin: November 1, 2016.

The report cards rate California’s 10 largest HMOs, five largest PPOs and over 200 commercial medical groups on quality and patient experience. In addition, county-level ratings of medical groups with newly added cost ratings are also included. This on-line tool makes it easier for employers and consumers to make side-by side comparisons for choosing the right plan.  

What do the Report Cards Measure?

OPA uses data from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), a non-profit that that works to improve health care quality through the administration of evidence-based standards, measures, programs, and accreditation. To arrive at these ratings NCQA analyzes scores on clinical performance and patient satisfaction data.

Earlier this week in Sacramento, the California Strategic Growth Council approved $289.4 million in grants to 25 housing developments and transit-friendly infrastructure projects that aim to help reduce greenhouse gases in the communities the projects are located. The grants awarded were made available through the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program (AHSC), which is overseen by the California Department of Housing and Community Development as well as the Strategic Growth Council and the California Air Resources Board.

The AHSC Program is aimed at providing competitive grants to projects that would benefit Disadvantaged Communities through a number of criteria. The law requires half of the AHSC funding be dedicated to building affordable housing, and states that 50% percent of grants must be invested to benefit Disadvantaged Communities directly.

However, there has been ongoing discussion that the grant process does not consider objections community members may have to the proposed projects. Despite the program’s intent to support sustainable, affordable housing, some have raised concerns about displacement and gentrification caused by the new developments.

Still, the projects funded through the AHSC Program provide much needed affordable housing as well as transportation improvements that encourage walking, bicycling, and transit use that result in fewer passenger vehicle miles traveled (VMT). The reduction in VMTs will directly benefit the disadvantaged communities in which the projects are located by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that these vulnerable populations are susceptible to.

To be [Black] in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time.
-James Baldwin

If you’re in a rage all the time, what does that do to your blood pressure? What does it do to your health? I was talking to my own doctor recently about my blood pressure, which is higher than either of us would like, and he was running through the various medical treatment options to lower blood pressure when I asked him, “Isn’t it possible that this crazy election with the racist Trump campaign has me really stressed out? And couldn’t that explain my high pressure?” We set another appointment for after the election, and my fingers are crossed, but the whole experience has heightened my appreciation for the health impacts of America’s racial realities.

America is coming to the realization that we are going through a demographic revolution that has profound implications for government, non-profits, businesses, media, and academia. And it also has transformative implications for our public health. Fortunately, the transformation of the racial composition of our society also provides the potential political power to pass public policies to make life better for people of all racial and cultural backgrounds.

Frustrated. Mad. Those were just two of the ways I felt as I toured the recently opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

It was a homecoming of sorts for me. I live in California, but I was born and raised 10 miles from the museum, in Alexandria, Va., in a black neighborhood affectionately referred to as Mudtown.

As I walked the halls of the beautifully curated museum, the exhibits brought back vivid — and painful — memories of my childhood in the early 1960s. Memories that made me angry about how much we sometimes take our hard-won rights for granted.

For decades, Virginia chose a path of massive resistance to civil rights, putting up barrier after barrier to disenfranchise its black residents. One of the state’s most effective tools was the poll tax, a shameful policy whose sole purpose was to keep people — African Americans specifically — from having a vote or a voice.

I remember eavesdropping on election-time conversations at church or around the dinner table as my parents and their friends and neighbors talked about the tax. Many said they couldn’t afford it and wouldn’t vote. Others talked about refusing to pay in a show of protest. A few advocated compliance, citing the importance of voting at any cost. But even those with money in hand were often denied the right to cast a ballot as new requirements were dreamt up to shut them out.

In general, Virginia was a tough place for black people to live back then. Not only was there a state-sanctioned campaign to keep blacks from voting, segregation was firmly entrenched. I was born in a segregated hospital. My mom was so outraged by the shoddy treatment she received that when it came time to deliver my younger siblings, she made the trek across the river to D.C., to Howard University’s Freedmen’s Hospital, founded in 1862 to aid in the medical treatment of former slaves.