Ken Carlson

United Way will assist Covered California with second enrollment campaign

United Way of Stanislaus County will assist with promoting the second enrollment period for health coverage through the Covered California exchange this fall.

The Stanislaus group was among eight United Way chapters to receive Covered California navigator grants. It will receive $26,000 of the $424,495 in funding awarded to United Way of California and eight of its chapters.

According to a press release, United Way navigators will educate consumers about health coverage and show them how to shop for and compare health plans.

Local residents with health insurance have better access to doctors and protection against huge hospital bills.

“Californians are not as healthy as they could be,” said Francine DiCiano, president of United Way of Stanislaus County. “Having health care coverage is associated with a longer, healthier life and we are now positioned to help them find the health coverage they need to thrive.”

Covered California is the state exchange for enrolling people in health plans through the federal health care reform law. The exchange said more than 1.3 million California residents chose one of its health plans during the inaugural sign-up period a year ago. The enrollment opportunity for coverage in 2015 begins Nov. 15 and closes Feb. 15.

Consumers meeting income guidelines are eligible for co-payment assistance or tax credits to lower their monthly premiums.

Covered California is projecting enrollment growth to 1.7 million customers by mid-February. The estimate is based on assumptions about health plan renewals, eligible consumers taking advantage of subsidies, people dropping coverage and workers moving from employer coverage to exchange plans.

To meet with an outreach and education specialist, call United Way at (209) 523-4562.

Beware of enterovirus

Friday, the California Department of Public Health released an update on enterovirus D68 infections in the state.

None of the 14 confirmed cases were in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, but it might be just a matter of time. Enterovirus is a concern for parents because it can cause serious respiratory illness in children and is suspected in recent cases of paralysis.

Health officials were not surprised to see cases in California this year because the virus has spread to most states since an outbreak began in August. The virus usually causes a cold or flulike illness in infants, children and teenagers, including a runny nose, sneezing and cough. Patients may or may not have a fever.

Some children, including those with asthma, are susceptible to more serious illness with difficulty breathing and wheezing, the state said. Parents are advised to seek immediate medical attention if a child has trouble breathing, speaking or eating, or is blue around the lips.

The cases of enterovirus illness were in Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Solano and Southern California counties. Officials said 13 patients had respiratory illness and one had “acute flaccid paralysis” or a sudden onset of weakness in the limbs.

Health experts continue to investigate whether the virus is to blame for neurological problems. State public health looked at 35 cases of acute flaccid paralysis with spinal cord lesions since 2012. Three of those patients had been infected with the strain called enterovirus D68.

The virus is likely spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or leaves germs on objects.

There is no treatment or vaccine. The recommended precautions are: wash hands with soap; avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth; don’t kiss, hug or a share drink with a person who’s sick; and disinfect toys and other surfaces at home.