Medical / Health

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Home With Help

Posted By on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 10:28 AM

This January, Pacific Builders will begin construction on the 32-unit Arcata Bay Crossing, a residence for people who need special assistance and, in many cases, face homelessness. The $4.5 to $5.7 million “green,” solar-arrayed project — to be funded by grants and loans — is a joint project of Housing Humboldt, Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation, Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services and Arcata House Partnership.

A news release from the group says 15 of the units will be for people with mental illness who are at risk of becoming homeless, and these folks will have access to on-site supportive services provided by the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services. Four other units will be reserved for people who are chronically homeless, and they’ll have help from the Arcata House Partnership. And the 12 remaining units will house people who make less than 60 percent of the area median income. Twenty-five of the units will be single room occupancy and six will be double occupancy. A resident manager will live in another unit. And there’ll be a laundry room, community room and kitchen and a meeting room. 
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

UPDATE: A Resolve for End of Life Care

Posted By on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Michael Fratkin. - TOBIN PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Tobin Photography
  • Michael Fratkin.
Resolution Care sailed past its crowdfunding goal, and stands at more than $105,000. The funds should allow Resolution Care to build the infrastructure and hire necessary staff to begin the initiative.

Dr. Michael Fratkin's Resolution Care initiative, featured on the coverof the Nov. 6 Journal, recently got a touching radio segment on KQED's California Report. Fratkin's attempt to build a better, farther-reaching palliative care center for the North Coast and beyond is gathering support. He's currently at $44,000 of a $100,000 crowdfunding campaign, with 8 days left.

If you'd like to donate or read more, visit Fratkin's website, You can read the Journal's previous coverage of Fratkin's effort here. And listen to the KQED segment below.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Jog On

Posted By on Wed, Dec 3, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Jogging’s good for you, it turns out. A recent study co-conducted by Humboldt State University researchers shows that people older than 65 who regularly jogged were “less likely to experience age-related physical decline in walking efficiency than those who simply walked.”

The study, published online last month, found that seniors who jog for at least 30 minutes three times a week experience a lower “metabolic cost” of walking — their movements consume less energy and they are able to walk more easily.

Their metabolic cost was similar to that of people in their 20s, according to the research. The study has gathered quite a bit of international press attention since its release.

From HSU:

A new study by researchers at Humboldt State University and the University of Colorado, Boulder is shedding light on an unexpected benefit of jogging in older adults.
The study looked at adults over the age of 65—some of whom walk for exercise and some who run for exercise. The researchers found that those who run at least 30 minutes, three times a week were less likely to experience age-related physical decline in walking efficiency than those who simply walked.

In fact, the older runners were 7-10 percent more efficient at walking than those who didn’t jog.

The paper was published online in the journal PLOS ONE Nov. 20.

Humboldt State Kinesiology Professor Justus Ortega conducts walking efficiency testing.

“What we found is that older adults who regularly participate in high aerobic activities—running in particular—have what we call a lower metabolic cost of walking than older, sedentary adults. In fact, their metabolic cost of walking is similar to young adults in their 20s,” said Justus Ortega, a Kinesiology Professor at Humboldt State and director of HSU’s Biomechanics Lab.

Metabolic cost is the amount of energy needed to move and naturally increases as we age. High metabolic cost contributes to making walking more difficult and tiring. Decline in walking ability is a key predictor of morbidity in older adults.

In the study, researchers looked at self-reported older joggers over the age of 65—those who ran at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week—and self-reported walkers, those who walked three times a week for 30 minutes.

Participants were asked to walk on a treadmill at three speeds (1.6, 2.8 and 3.9 miles per hour) as researchers measured their oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production.

Overall, older joggers were 7-10 percent more efficient at walking than older adults who just walked for exercise. Their metabolic cost was similar to young people in their 20s.

Researchers aren’t yet sure what makes joggers more efficient than walkers but they believe it may have something to do with the mitochondria found in cells. Evidence suggests that people who exercise vigorously have healthier mitochondria in their muscles.

“The bottom line is that running keeps you younger, at least in terms of efficiency,” said Rodger Kram, a Professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a co-author of the paper.

Future studies are planned to examine whether other highly-aerobic activities—such as swimming and cycling—also mitigate age-related physical decline.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Plane Crash Investigation Continues; Autopsy Scheduled for Tomorrow

Posted By on Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 11:55 AM

  • Folsom Urgent Care Center
  • Dr. Douglas Pleatman
The Federal Aviation Administration continues to investigate a small plane crash near Garberville on Friday that killed Jerold Phelps Community Hospital’s chief emergency room doctor.

Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Roy Horton said an autopsy has been scheduled for tomorrow to determine the exact cause of death for Douglas Todd Pleatman, 59, an El Dorado County doctor who commuted by plane to work at the Garberville hospital. Horton said witnesses said they saw Pleatman’s plane circling the area near the Garberville airport before they heard the plane’s engines stop, at which point the plane collided with a tall fir tree, clipping off one of its wings, and crashed into the South Fork of the Eel River.

Pleatman, the plane’s sole occupant, was found deceased when authorities arrived.

According to an Associated Press article, Pleatman was a champion skydiver, whose two true passions in life were skydiving and medicine. He lived in Cameron Air Park Estates, where “wide streets double as taxiways and oversized garages serve as airplane hangers,” according to the story.

Pleatman also worked as a physician at the Urgent Care Center of Folsom, whose webpage included the following bio:

Douglas Pleatman, MD graduated with honors from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He is board certified in both Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine. Having worked in both specialties he feels that Urgent Care is a great combination of both disciplines.

Dr. Pleatman is an instrument-rated private pilot, flies a Piper Comanche and is a member of the Sheriff’s Air Squadron. He is also a national champion skydiver and a former member of a professional air show team. He has been scuba diving in the South Pacific, Asia, the Caribbean and enjoys travel.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Strange, Happy Brews

Posted By on Mon, Nov 10, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Home-brewer Justin Whitaker with a slosh of The Lush. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Home-brewer Justin Whitaker with a slosh of The Lush.
Justin Whitaker's booth, in the lobby, had first grabs at all of us rushing into the Eureka Theater for StrangeBrew Beer Fest 2014 last Saturday night. It helped that he was strategically placed across from Cypress Grove's cheese table.

"Everybody's going for The Lush," said Whitaker, who home brews with his wife, Eryn.

Truth, though: Everybody was going for everything. It was the world's slowest, most gentle riot. A glacially paced mosh pit. And other light-of-day-iffy descriptives that people come up with when they're drunk on the elbowing nearness of other happy people and on endless little shots of weird beer.

  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • So very happy.
StrangeBrew, a fundraiser (in its seventh year) for the dilapidated dear old theater, is, in fact, a love fest. An orgy of I'll-drink-whatever-you-throw-at-me. 

Inside the theater proper, you had to wade your way through the happiness to get from beer stand to beer stand. There seemed an especial madness around Mad River, with people taking extra swipes at the fried chicken pineapple garnish which was supposed to be paired with the Fingerlickin'. Not that the proprietors seemed to care. They were, like everyone else, all teeth (or beard with hidden, implied teeth).

Mark Nicely, left, and Mad River brewmaster Dylan Schatz. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Mark Nicely, left, and Mad River brewmaster Dylan Schatz.
"The barleywine's pretty darned good," said Mad River brewmaster Dylan Schatz. 

"And the Fingerlickin'," said Mark Nicely.

"C'mon, I'll get you some," said Schatz.

The Fingerlickin' was fizzy and crisp and so-fine with the chicken garnish.

It's all about the versatile, multi-beer-friendly garnish. Here the chicken two-times with Mad's mango brew. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • It's all about the versatile, multi-beer-friendly garnish. Here the chicken two-times with Mad's mango brew.
Then there was the Cuban Embargo, a lime-laden hit with weed on the nose. Also good with the chicken garnish. And a mango number, very chicken-welcoming. And then, getting serious, the bourbony barleywine, a licker-lover's dive off the back porch into the best swimming hole. Good, strong, smooth — but having no truck with that chicken. And for dessert? Satan's Bake Sale. Like we always say, don't be afraid of mint-chocolate chip stout. 

What's in it? The Mad River folks will tell you. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • What's in it? The Mad River folks will tell you.
Over at Eel River, some were falling for a delicate number named the Citrarillocoe Clusterfuck. Others were going for the Sassi Hore II. We think they went for the name, then stayed for the taste.

Eel Rivers' genius. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Eel Rivers' genius.
"It's really hoppy but not too hoppy," said Zack Taylor, a forest service fuels specialist from Orleans, about the Cluster-eff. "Very floral but not too much bite."

Zack Taylor, fuels specialist from Orleans, fuels up on an Eel River concoction. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Zack Taylor, fuels specialist from Orleans, fuels up on an Eel River concoction.
Lagunitas, meanwhile, was very popular despite only serving bottled stuff (apparently there was a glitch with their strange-brew delivery). 

Some men complained that there were "lots of lemony blondes here" at the fest, but these fellas' sourness wasn't catching. At least, not among those for whom every sip of anything was a delight.

"What's your favorite beer?" asked a university professor.

"Let's see ... I think I like beer," said Denise Burns, a retired Sacramento teacher. She'd just been describing the subtle nuances of several brews, but never mind. "But my favorite beer is more."

Denise Burns likes beer. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Denise Burns likes beer.
But OK, hold on, wait, hold your horses and, please, restrain your jumpy green long-legged insects. Sure, people were saying they loved Six Rivers' Donkey Punch, and it was delicious. But others pretended to swoon for the Dry Hoppered Ale — one made with mild-mannered grasshoppers, the other with spicy — which the Six's master brewer, Carlos ("everybody calls me 'Los'") Sanchez called a collaboration between himself and one of the brewery's chefs, Norby.

Six River's jumpy delights. - HEIDI WALTERS
  • Heidi Walters
  • Six River's jumpy delights.
"He gets these Mexican grasshoppers," Sanchez said. "I dry roasted them and then put 'em in the keg and filled it up with beer."

"Los" Sanchez, master brewer at the Six. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • "Los" Sanchez, master brewer at the Six.
The mild version of the hoppy (ha ha) ale was, um ... . And maybe the spicy version, with chili added, was super good, too, who knows?

"I loved the idea of making it for this event, but ..." admitted Sanchez.

The only answer was to drink more: sweet-tart cider from Humboldt Cider Co. (Cereza Piña Ocho!), Imperial Lips and Assholes from Redwood Curtain (apparently, the fest attracts potty mouthed brewers AND lemony blondes), and a little Humboldt Regeneration.
Cider is the new beer. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Cider is the new beer.
Redwood Curtain gets strange. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Redwood Curtain gets strange.
Humboldt Regeneration Brewers Eric Tschillard and Matt Kruskamp. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Humboldt Regeneration Brewers Eric Tschillard and Matt Kruskamp.
If StrangeBrew didn't make you happy, then that is sad. Unless you just didn't like the situation in the men's room.

Well this is a sad state of affairs for the men. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Well this is a sad state of affairs for the men.
Even so, maybe you should take a cue from Roy Sheppard, who just goes ahead and embodies Happy, whether he's drinking beer or not.

"I was born happy," says Roy Sheppard, and neither 24 years of teaching McKinleyville kids nor retirement have blighted his outlook. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • "I was born happy," says Roy Sheppard, and neither 24 years of teaching McKinleyville kids nor retirement have blighted his outlook.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

HSU Conference Focuses on Addiction, Social Change

Posted By on Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Gabor Mate
  • Gabor Mate
“It's not about quick fixes. It's about commitment, persistence and showing up.”

Virginia Belton, PhD candidate and founder of Redwood Palliative Psychology, says that our community is on the cusp of a change. With one of the highest drug-induced death rates in the state (far above the state average, according to the California Center on Rural Policy), Belton says the time has come to educate healers and community members on an approach to trauma and addiction that moves “beyond the biomedical model.”

Belton says she is “catching my breath and pinching myself, I'm so excited,” about this weekend's conference on trauma, addiction and social change, to be held at Humboldt State University. The conferences features Gabor Mate as a keynote speaker. Mate is a Canadian palliative care physician whose ground-breaking work on addiction and trauma has been chronicled in several best-sellers, including In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts and When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection. Mate's work examines the role of early childhood brain development and inherited trauma on an individual's vulnerability to addiction. He advocates for holistic, society-wide change rather than a punitive approach.

Other noted speakers include Christopher Peters, president and CEO of the Seventh Generation Fund, Dr. Charles Garfield, Dr. Michael Yellowbird, Dr. Brent Potter and Dr. Eric Greene. Locals Betty Chinn, Bill Damiano and Mike Goldsby will also give presentations on Humboldt-specific issues.

The conference starts Thursday evening and ends Sunday. All community members are invited to attend, though registration is required. For more information, visit the conference's website.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gets in Your Eyes, Lungs

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 9:17 PM

  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Near Somes Bar.
Every summer it’s the same, it seems: The woods burn, and the smoke settles in heavily over our inland communities. This season, so far, it’s the Happy Camp and July forest fire complexes, and the Oregon fire in Weaverville, clogging skies and lungs — and the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District has been issuing regular updates on the smoke hazards.

Today’s warning from the air quality folks says there continue to be smoke impacts in and around Orleans, Hoopa, Willow Creek and Weaverville.

“For today and Thursday the forecast high pressure system cause, daytime stagnation, increasing smoke impacts in communities throughout the region,” says the district in a news release. “There will also be strong nighttime drainage inversions in areas near the fires. Periods of smoke levels may reach levels unhealthy for sensitive individuals in the afternoon and evening … . Nighttime conditions will again allow smoke to settle into valley locations through the early morning.”

This warning is especially important to those sensitive to smoke, with health issues – like asthma and heart disease – or who are very young or old, or pregnant. Those folks should stay indoors, or get out of the smoky region altogether if they can.

“All others should limit prolonged or heavy activity and time spent outdoors,” says the district. “Even healthy adults can be affected by smoke. Seek medical help if you have symptoms that worsen or become severe.

Specific precautions from the district:

Minimize or stop outdoor activities, especially exercise.

Stay indoors with windows and doors closed as much as possible.

Do not run fans that bring smoky outdoor air inside – examples include swamp coolers, whole-house fans, and fresh air ventilation systems.

Run your air-conditioner only if it does not bring smoke in from the outdoors. Change the standard air conditioner filter to a medium or high efficiency filter. If available, use the “re-circulate” or “recycle” setting on the unit.

Do not smoke, fry food, or do other things that will create indoor air pollution.

If you have lung disease (including asthma) or heart disease, closely monitor your health and contact your doctor if you have symptoms that worsen.

Consider leaving the area until smoke conditions improve if you have repeated coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea, unusual fatigue, lightheadedness.

For 24-hour Air Quality Advisory Information, call toll-free at 1-866-BURN-DAY (1-866-287-6329). More info:
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Algae Toxins in the Trinity

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 4:59 PM

Keith Bouma-Gregson is one of many scientists and citizen scientists trying to learn more about toxic blue-green algae. Here he examines an algae-coated rock at the south fork of the Eel River. - PHOTO BY JACOB SHAFER
  • Photo by Jacob Shafer
  • Keith Bouma-Gregson is one of many scientists and citizen scientists trying to learn more about toxic blue-green algae. Here he examines an algae-coated rock at the south fork of the Eel River.

These may be the dog days of summer, but ol' Rex and Rusty better be careful about what rivers and lagoons they go jumping in to celebrate: The poor dogs don't want to encounter toxic blue-green algae, which can thrive in the low flows and warm water conditions we're seeing now on local rivers including the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mad, Klamath and Trinity. In fact, a news release from the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) warns that toxins associated with blue-green algae have recently been detected in the Trinity River. 

"Blue-green algae can be present in any fresh water body," says the release. "It looks like green, blue-green, white or brown scum, foam or mats floating on the water. Usually it does not affect animals or people. However, warm water and abundant nutrients can cause blue-green algae to grow more rapidly than usual. These floating algal masses or 'blooms' can produce natural toxins that are very potent. Dogs and children are most likely to be affected because of their smaller body size and tendency to stay in the water for longer periods of time."

The DHHS says it knows at least 11 cases since 2001 in which dogs died possibly because of exposure to the toxin after swimming in Big Lagoon, the South Fork Eel River and the Van Duzen River. 

Kids, other pets, livestock and adults also should avoid swimming in or drinking from water bodies containing the tell-tale algal scum mats. Not all algae is toxic, such as green algae, notes the DHHS, but it says to play it safe.

Blue-green algae that produce liver toxins have been documented in Klamath River reservoirs and the Klamath River this year and in past years. You can look up the status of such reports at the Klamath Basin Monitoring Program website:

You can learn more about other efforts to understand blue-green algae in North Coast Journal freelancer Jacob Shafer's Sept. 19, 2013 piece, "Slime Questions." 

Here's more on the possible symptoms of blue-green algae toxin exposure, and on the things that you — you people — can do to help reduce the growth of toxic algae, from the news release:

Potential symptoms in dogs following exposure to blue-green algae toxins can include lethargy, difficulty breathing, salivation, vomiting, urination, diarrhea, or convulsions. People can experience eye irritation, skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, and cold or flu-like symptoms. While there is no antidote for exposures, persons should see their physician and those with pets which may have been exposed should go to their veterinarian for supportive care.

DHHS officials recommend the following guidelines for recreational users of all freshwater areas in Humboldt County: 

Keep children, pets and livestock from swimming in or drinking water containing algal scums or mats.

Adults should also avoid wading and swimming in water containing algal blooms. Try not to swallow or inhale water spray in an algal bloom area.

If no algal scums or mats are visible, you should still carefully watch young children and warn them not to swallow any water.

Fish should be consumed only after removing the guts and liver and rinsing fillets in tap water.

Never drink, cook with or wash dishes with water from rivers, streams or lakes.

Get medical attention immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins. Be sure to tell the doctor about possible contact with blue-green algae.

Human activities can have a big effect on nutrient and water flows in rivers, streams or lakes. Phosphorous and nitrogen found in fertilizers, animal waste, and human waste can stimulate blooms. Excessive water diversions can increase water temperatures and reduce flows. People can take the following measures to prevent algal blooms in our waters:

Be very conservative with the use of water, fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn, garden or agricultural operation.

Recycle any “spent” soil that has been used for intensive growing by tilling it back into gardens. Or protect it from rainfall to avoid nutrient runoff.

Plant or maintain native plants around banks. These plants help filter water and don’t require fertilizers.

Pump and maintain your septic system every three to four years.

Prevent surface water runoff from agricultural and livestock areas.

Prevent erosion around construction and logging operations.

Join or support one of the many watershed and river organizations.

Contact the Humboldt County DHHS Division of Environmental Health at 445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241 for more information. People may report unusual blooms or conditions, including pictures, to Environmental Health by emailing For more details, visit the California Department of Public Health’s website:

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

UPDATED: Nonprofit Sues Blue Cross Over Obamacare Networks

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 3:37 PM

A Southern California nonprofit filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday alleging that Anthem Blue Cross misled millions of customers when rolling out its plans under the Affordable Care Act, leaving many enrollees on the hook for large out-of-pocket expenses.

According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, the suit alleges that the insurance giant published inaccurate provider networks, causing many customers to purchase plans thinking their current doctors and health care providers were classified as “in-network.” The suit also alleges Anthem failed to inform customers that many of its Covered California policies wouldn’t reimburse for care provided outside of its approved network.

Anthem spokesman Darrel Ng is quoted in the Bee story saying the company has agreed to pay out-of-network claims from folks who received treatment from inaccurately listed doctors during the first three months of this year. Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica-based nonprofit that filed the suit, countered that the company intentionally misrepresented and concealed the limitations of its plans in order to capture a big market share in the newly created insurance exchange.

News of the suit may be of special interest here on the North Coast, where customers have had their share of frustrations over Anthem Blue Cross’ inaccurate provider lists, as detailed in past Journal coverage here. Currently, the lawsuit’s class consists of six plaintiffs from Los Altos Hills, Moraga and San Jose.

Laura Antonini, a staff attorney for Consumer Watchdog, said the lawsuit will be opened up to include all Anthem Blue Cross customers who purchased plans through the insurance exchange if it is ultimately certified by the court as a class action suit. But, Antonini said, that process could take years.

The suit was filed amid a recent flurry of concern surrounding Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California’s handling of their Covered California plans that resulted in the state’s launching an investigation into the companies’ practices last month. The California Department of Managed Health Care began its formal investigation June 20, with spokeswoman Marta Green telling the Los Angeles Times, “Our preliminary investigation gave us good cause to believe there are violations of the law.”

As a part of its investigation, the department has reportedly contracted with a consulting firm, PMPM Consulting, to call health care providers to survey the accuracy of the two insurance companies provider network directories. The California Medical Association sent out a letter to its members late last month, which was forwarded around locally by the Humboldt-Del Norte Medical Association, urging physicians to cooperate with PMPM’s survey. “This is an investigation into the accuracy of the plan directories and whether the plans have violated any laws, not an investigation of physician practices,” the letter states.

The CMA urges patients having trouble finding in-network providers under their Covered California plans to call the Department of Managed Health Care’s help center at (888) 466-2219.
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Friday, June 20, 2014

State Launches Insurance Investigation

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 10:23 AM

Regulators have launched an investigation into whether Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California violated state law by misleading consumers with inaccurate provider lists, the Los Angeles Times is reporting this morning.

The California Department of Managed Care has begun a review looking into provider access issues with the two insurance giants' plans offered under Covered California, the state insurance exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act. "Our preliminary investigation gave us good cause to believe there are violations of the law," agency spokeswoman Marta Green told the Times.

According to the report, the department is expected to wrap its investigation within 60 days after which the companies will have 45 days to respond to its findings.

The Journal covered issues with Anthem Blue Cross' flawed in-network provider lists in Humboldt County in our June 12 cover story, "Bait and Switch," and followed up with a guest views piece in the June 19 edition, "The Insurance Leech," in which local physician Emily Dalton shares her frustrations. The full Los Angeles Times story can be found here.
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