Bridges to Health

Health--it's what we all have in common:  whether we're trying to maintain our health through good habits or improve our failing health.  "Bridges to Health" is 90.5 WESA's health care reporting initiative examining everything from unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act to transparency in health care costs; from a lack of access to quality care for minority members of our society to confronting the opioid crisis in our region. It's about our individual health and the well-being of our community.

Health care coverage on 90.5 WESA is made possible in part by a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Nicole Steele, clad in a face mask and thin plastic protective cover over her shirt, strung a ukulele while 14-year-old Yaheim Young played alongside her. The two had a jam session on the ninth floor of the UPMC Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Highmark’s Medicare costumers can continue receiving in-network care from nine UPMC hospitals until the end of 2019, due to a Monday ruling by Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Dan Pellegrini.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Parents of 180,000 children across Pennsylvania, including 14,000 kids in Allegheny County, are breathing sighs of relief now that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been renewed for six years.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

No one masters a skill without mistakes, but when you’re a health care provider, screw ups can be deadly. 

In 2016, the National Academy of Sciences found that every year up to 30,000 civilian and military deaths of trauma patients could be prevented if the injured people had received optimal care.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Health care providers enter into dozens of contracts with outside companies, like medical record disposal or storage entities, that have access to patients’ medical information.

Dan Mulholland, senior partner at the health law firm Horty Springer, said these contracts come and go so frequently that they're not always reviewed by a lawyer because of cost and time constraints. But even tiny errors in the documents can create huge liabilities if patient information is mishandled. 

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Shark Snider cut out of preschool early for an appointment with his pediatrician, Dr. Jonathan Weinkle of Squirrel Hill Health Center. The 3-year-old’s snoring had gotten worse, and his parents were worried it could be a symptom of something bigger.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

This year, Avonworth High School students arrived at their first period, for the most part, after sunrise.

The district recently shifted its first period start time from 7:15 to 8 a.m., and Superintendent Thomas Ralston said his students now pass what he calls "the eye test."

“You can see that kids are coming to school, and they’re awake. They’re coming in when it’s light outside,” he said. “Our faculty have reported that kids are more attentive in class … and faculty feel more prepared.”

Crazypaco / Wikimedia

Highmark health insurance has reached a five-year agreement with UPMC to allow its customers to receive care from select UPMC locations at in-network rates.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

It’s been a eventful news year in the Steel City, from hospital booms to repeated flush and boil orders to President Trump's impact on Pennsylvania.

Ryan Kang / AP

Stephen Arch, a 60-year-old filmmaker from Moon Township, is prescribed the drug Klonopin for his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which he said stems from childhood trauma.

Carlos Osorio / AP

Allegheny County begins mandatory blood testing for lead in small children Jan. 1. 

Matt Rourke / AP

Congress has adjourned for the year without fully finishing its spending plan—holding off a government shutdown by passing a few months of stopgap funding.

It includes some money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program—something the deadlock had called into serious question.

But Pennsylvania officials say that doesn’t help much.

In the days leading up to the stopgap agreement, they had warned the program would have to end sometime early next year if federal lawmakers didn’t act.

The agreement hands down $3 billion to states.

Matt Rourke / AP

Fights over federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has states trying to figure out how long their programs can hold out without getting more money.

Judge Temporarily Blocks New Trump Rules On Birth Control

Dec 15, 2017
Evan Vucci / AP

A federal judge in Philadelphia on Friday ordered the Trump administration not to enforce new rules that could significantly reduce women's access to free birth control.

Penn State Health Partners With Highmark Health

Dec 15, 2017
Allyson Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

Penn State Health has partnered with Pittsburgh-based Highmark Health. 

52 Things You May Have Learned From WESA In 2017

Dec 15, 2017
Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

We reported hundreds of stories over the past year—here are the most surprising, world-changing, bizarre, interesting, tragic and important pieces from our reporters.

ERIKA BERAS / 90.5 WESA

Community health clinics in Pennsylvania say they are on the verge of crisis. 

Congress has yet to reauthorize federal health center grant funding to Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs, which provide primary, dental, behavioral and substance abuse services to people with limited access to care. The Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers said this money comprises roughly 13 percent of the total revenue for FQHCs in the commonwealth.

It's a beautiful morning in Pittsburgh, but Ariel Haughton is stressed out. She's worried her young children's health insurance coverage will soon lapse.

"So, we're like a low-middle-class family, right?" she says. "I'm studying. My husband's working, and our insurance right now is 12 percent of our income — just for my husband and I. And it's not very good insurance either."

The policy that covers the couple requires high fees to even see a doctor, and it has a high deductible for further treatment.

Allegheny Health Network

Westmoreland County is getting a new hospital in Hempfield Township at the junction of Route 30 and Agnew Road. 

AHN Hempfield is the first of four so-called “neighborhood" hospitals planned by Allegheny Health Network. 

New Medicaid Feature To Reduce Future Nursing Home Enrollees

Dec 11, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Years in the making, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is rolling out a new Medicaid feature that's designed to reduce the future number of enrollees in nursing homes and, along with it, a fast-growing expense in a state where the elderly population is exploding.

The program takes effect Jan. 1 in 14 southwestern counties. A launch is planned in 2019 for Philadelphia and its four collar suburban counties and in 2020 for the remaining 48 counties across central and northern Pennsylvania.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

Republican-penned legislation in Pennsylvania to prohibit coverage for gender or sex reassignment surgery and services under taxpayer-paid insurance programs is on ice after lawmakers realized their own health insurance covers it.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jesse Topper, said Wednesday he decided to pull the bill from the House's debate calendar a day earlier so he could find out more about the coverage.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

The open enrollment period for people buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace ends next Friday.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

At least 49 genes contribute to whether one’s earlobes are attached or detached.

That's what researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found in a new study. Lead author John R. Shaffer says this work could help shed light on serious genetic syndromes.

"Some of these conditions, like an example is Mowat-Wilson syndrome, the ear involves earlobe malformations," said Shaffer. "In the same genes that affect normal variation in the morphology, when they're disrupted, they lead to genetic syndromes."

Andrew Russell / Tribune-Review

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the beleaguered Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

On a Tuesday night, the first floor of the Cathedral of Learning is brimming with students, their conversations bouncing off the high, arched ceilings. They sit on the ground, in more than a dozen small circles; at the center of each circle is a dog. 

Oliver, a golden retriever, lays on his side as he's pet by five or six people at once. Despite all the attention, Oliver is calm and quiet. That's because he, like every other dog here, is a therapy dog from the College Canines program at Humane Animal Rescue

UW Health/Flickr

When a parent has health insurance through Medicaid, their child is 29 percent more likely to receive an annual physical exam.

That’s according to a new study designed by a University of Pittsburgh Public Health researcher Eric T. Roberts, who calls this correlation between pediatric care and parental health insurance a "spill-over effect."

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House has passed a bill to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers kids from families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford other insurance.

The routine bill became controversial this year, because the Senate included language that would have prohibited CHIP from covering transgender kids’ transition surgeries.

The House axed that provision; now the bill returns to the Senate, where lawmakers will have to decide whether to reauthorize CHIP without banning coverage of gender confirmation surgeries.

As women go through menopause they may express greater interest in trying new ways of being intimate with their partners as a way to adapt to changes in sexual function.

That's according to a new UPMC study, published online this month in the journal Menopause, which looked at 39 women ages 45 to 60, most of whom were heterosexual. During hour-long interviews with researchers, the women answered questions including, "How do you define satisfying sex?" or "What does 'sex' mean to you?"

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