Health news headlines — April 20th

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Women’s health — Week 33: Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT)

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) refers to use of hormones such asnestrogen alone or estrogen with another hormone called progesterone (progestinin its synthetic form) to reduce menopausal symptoms.

When a woman uses MHT (which some people also call hormone replacement therapy or HRT), she takes hormones that her body no longer produces in her ovaries.

Research supported by the NIH has shown that women taking estrogen alone were more likely to have increased risk of stroke and blood clots and were more likely to have heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes, and to develop obesity. Continue reading

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Managing diabetes with telemedicine

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Glucometer showing a blood sugar of 105By Christine Vestal
Stateline Staff Writer

Diabetes afflicts more than 22 million Americans, or 7 percent of the total population, and the number of people diagnosed every year is skyrocketing.

At a cost of $245 billion in 2012, the disease’s toll on the economy has increased by more than 40 percent since 2007, according to a recent report from the American Diabetes Association.

Mississippi, which ranks second after West Virginia in the percentage of residents affected by the chronic disease, is taking steps to reduce devastating effects on the state economy and the overall health of Mississippians.

Nearly 9 percent of Mississippians were diagnosed in 2012 with diabetes, and the $2.7 billion annual cost of diabetes represents nearly 3 percent of the state’s economy (gross state product).

In January, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and three private technology partners announced a plan to help low-income residents manage their diabetes remotely through the use of telemedicine.

The goal is to help them keep the disease in check and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations while remaining as active and productive as possible.

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Health news headlines — April 19th

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An electronic screen showing the NEWS

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Washington enrolls more than 285,000 in Medicaid. Now how to provide the care?

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Washington Map
Lisa Stiffler, The Seattle Times
APR 18, 201

This story was produced in partnership with 

Washington state has blown past its targets for signing up new Medicaid participants under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The program’s ranks have grown roughly 25 percent in the past six months, helping fulfill one of the act’s key goals to provide health care to nearly all Americans.

By the end of March, more than 285,000 adults who are newly eligible to participate in Medicaid had signed up for coverage.

That’s twice the number officials had hoped to reach by then, and a target they hadn’t expected to hit for three more years.

But with enrollment success comes the challenge of serving more people in a $10 billion program that’s already stretched thin in places. Continue reading

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Obama sharply criticizes Republicans as he announces 8 million have enrolled

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Enrollment in private health insurance on federal and state marketplaces has surged in recent weeks and now totals 8 million, a feisty President Barack Obama said Thursday.

“This thing is working,” Obama said at a White House news conference in which he lambasted Republican critics of the health law, especially those in states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility, as the law allows.

“I’m sorry. I’m going to say one last thing about this — just because this — this does frustrate me, states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite,” Obama said. “You got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now, at no cost to these states — zero cost to these states – [yet] other than ideological reasons, they have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens.” Continue reading

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Pollution halts Vaughn Bay shellfish harvest: 14 other areas threatened

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Pollution to close shellfish harvest in one area; 14 others listed as threatened
Fecal bacteria levels force new restrictions to protect shellfish consumers

From the Washington State Department of health:

Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!OLYMPIA — The state Department of Health has closed harvesting in part of Vaughn Bay in Pierce County due to high levels of fecal bacteria. Health officials also identified 14 more of Washington’s 101 commercial shellfish growing areas that could be closed in the future if fecal pollution continues to get worse.

“The good news is that the pollution problems in almost all these areas can be found and fixed,” said Bob Woolrich, Growing Area section manager. “There have been many successful pollution correction projects using partnerships with local and state agencies, Tribes, and others.”

The agency shellfish program evaluates the state’s shellfish growing areas every year to see if water quality is approaching unsafe limits. If so, areas are listed as “threatened” with closure.

Shellfish harvesting areas threatened with closure include:

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Health news headlines — April 18th

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High-cost hepatitis C treatments hits big insurer

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$100-dollar bill inside a capsuleBy Jay Hancock
KHN

UnitedHealth Group spent $100 million on hepatitis C drugs in the first three months of the year, much more than expected, the company said Thursday.

The news helped drive down the biggest insurance company’s stock and underscores the challenge for all health care payers in covering Sovaldi, an expensive new pill for hepatitis C.

“We’ve been surprised on the volume — the pent-up demand across all three businesses” — commercial insurance and private Medicare and Medicaid plans, said Daniel Schumacher, chief financial officer of UnitedHealth’s insurance wing. Continue reading

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Obama announces 8 million have enrolled in Marketplace plans

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In a White House news conference Thursday, President Barack Obama announced that 8 million people have enrolled in health plans through the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act and that 35 percent of people who enrolled on the federally run healthcare.gov marketplace are under age 35.

A transcript follows. Continue reading

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Tobacco use among Asian and Pacific Islanders varies widely

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Cigarette SmokeBy Stephanie Stephens
Contributing Writer
Health Behavior News

While past research has shown that, as a whole, Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders living in the U.S. smoke at a lower rate than the national average, a new study in American Journal of Health Behaviorfinds significant differences in tobacco use when analyzed by specific Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity.

Dramatic social, demographic and behavioral differences exist between Asian American (AA) and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (NHPI) groups, said lead study author Arnab Mukherjea, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., who was a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Tobacco Control Research & Education at the University of California, San Francisco at the time of the study. Continue reading

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Nearly 350,000 in Washington have enrolled in private plans since Oct. 1

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ACA health reform logoSince October 1, when the open enrollment began under the Affordable Care Act, 324,900 people in Washington state have signed up for private insurance, according to updated enrollment information reported by health insurers to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner this week.

This number includes 178,981 enrolled outside the Exchange and 146,000 enrolled inside the Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, as of March 31. The total is expected to increase as late enrollments through the Exchange are processed and reconciled.  Continue reading

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Health news headlines — April 17

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State disciplines healthcare providers — April 16th

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Seal_of_WashingtonPeriodically Washington State Department of Health issues an update on disciplinary actions taken against health care providers, including suspensions and revocations of licenses, certifications, or registrations of providers in the state.

The department also suspends the credentials of people who have been prohibited from practicing in other states.

Information about health care providers is also on the agency’s website.

To find this information click on “Provider Credential Search” on the left hand side of the Department of Health home page (www.doh.wa.gov).

The site includes information about a health care provider’s license status, the expiration and renewal date of their credential, disciplinary actions and copies of legal documents issued after July 1998.

This information is also available by calling 360-236-4700.

Consumers who think a health care provider acted unprofessionally are also encouraged to call and report their complaint.

Here is the April 16th update issued by the Washington State Department of Health: Continue reading

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Health law’s free contraceptive coverage saved US women $483 million in 2013

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleThe Affordable Care Act provision that requires insurers to cover contraceptives with zero co-pay saved US women $483 million last year — $269 on average, according to a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Overall, 24 million more prescriptions for oral contraceptives were filled in 2013, the first full year the health law’s contraceptive provision was in force, compared to 2012.

“The share of women with no out-of-pocket cost for these forms of birth control increased to 56% from 14% one year ago,” the report says.

To learn more read: 

IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Medicine use and the shifting costs of healthcare: A review of the use of medicines in the United States in 2013. April 2014. LINK:

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