Can’t find a doctor in your hometown? Sen. Murray wants to help – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Washington MapSen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is making the rounds in her home state, meeting with local healthcare leaders to promote legislation that would help train 1,500 primary care doctors to help treat people in underserved communities in the U.S.

via Can’t find a doctor in your hometown? Sen. Murray wants to help – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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‘Pastoral counselors’ help fill mental health gap in rural states

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Mental health therapists most often leave issues of faith outside their office doors, even for patients who are religious. But one class of counselors believes a nonsectarian model doesn’t serve everyone equally well.

“On a feeling level, people want a safe, respectful place, to ponder the tons of questions that come begging in hard times,” said Glenn Williams, a pastoral counselor in Kentucky and chair of the Kentucky Association of Pastoral Counselors. “Where is God?  Why did this happen?  Is it karma, sowing-reaping, happenstance?  What purpose does this suffering serve?”

Six states allow these counselors – who include faith and spirituality in their work – to be licensed mental health counselors, which can make it easier for them to get health insurance reimbursements.

Williams, who works at the St. Matthews Pastoral Counseling Center outside Louisville, said many of his patients are quite “intentional” about their preference for pastoral counselors over other mental health professionals.

Kentucky recently became the sixth state (joining Arkansas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Tennessee) to allow pastoral counselors to become licensed mental health counselors. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – August 20th

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Global Health News – August 20th

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Led by medical school, UW ranked No. 15 among world’s best universities – Puget Sound Business Journal

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University-of-Washington-Logo-300x300UW was ranked No. 3 in clinical medicine and pharmacy in 2014, behind Harvard and the University of California, San Francisco, and ahead of Johns Hopkins University. UW was ranked No. 6 in life sciences in 2014.

via Led by medical school, UW ranked No. 15 among world’s best universities – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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HMO, PPO, or EPO – Which Health Plan Is Best?

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What’s in a name? When it comes to health plans sold on the individual market, these days it’s often less than people think.

The lines that distinguish HMOs, PPOs, EPOs and POS plans from one another have blurred, making it hard to know what you’re buying by name alone–assuming you’re one of the few people who know what an EPO is in the first place.

“Now, there’s a lot of gray out there,” says Sabrina Corlette, project director at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

Ideally, plan type provides a shorthand way to determine what sort of access members have to providers outside a plan’s network, including cost-sharing for such treatment, among other things.

But since there are no industry-wide definitions of plan types and state standards vary, individual insurers often have leeway to market similar plans under different names.

In general: Continue reading

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San Antonio police take radical approach to mental illness — Treat It

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Officers Ned Bandoske, left, and Ernest Stevens  (Photo by Jenny Gold/KHN).

This KHN story also ran on NPR.

SAN ANTONIO — It’s almost 4 p.m., and Officers Ernest Stevens and Ned Bandoske have been driving around town in their black unmarked SUV since early this morning.

When it first came out, I was very skeptical. I thought, well this is ridiculous.

The officers are part of San Antonio’s mental health squad – a six-person unit that answers the frequent emergency calls where mental illness may be an issue.

The officers spot a call for help on their laptop from a group home across town.

“A male individual put a blanket on fire this morning, he’s arguing with them, and is a danger to himself and others, he’s off his medications,” Stevens reads from the blotter.

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Officer Stevens talks to a young man named Mason, who has set his blanket on fire and says he is hearing voices (Photo by Jenny Gold/KHN)

A few minutes later, the SUV pulls up in front of the group home in a run-down part of the city.  A thin 24-year-old sits on a wooden bench in a concrete lot out back, wearing a black hoodie. His bangs hang in damp curls over his forehead.

“You’re Mason?” asks Bandoske. “What happened to your blanket?”

Eight years ago, a person like Mason would have been heading to the emergency room or jail next. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – August 19th

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Global health news – August 19th

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More Hospitals Use the Healing Powers of Public Art – WSJ

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Researchers are learning more about the precise ways paintings and other works of art help patients and families in the healing process. With studies showing a direct link between the content of images and the brain’s reaction to pain, stress, and anxiety, hospitals are considering and choosing artworks based on the evidence and giving it a higher priority than merely decoration for sterile rooms and corridors.

via More Hospitals Use the Healing Powers of Public Art – WSJ.

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Premera, Seattle Children’s Hospital reach agreement; Regence is in the works

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MKreidlerPhotoBy Mike Kreidler
Seattle Children’s Hospital and Premera Blue Cross today reached an agreement to include the hospital in its medical networks, effective Sept. 1.

Seattle Children’s Hospital initiated legal proceedings about a year ago when Premera, Regence Blue Shield and Coordinated Care decided against including the hospital and research facility in their medical networks because of cost concerns.

Regence is working with the hospital on its own agreement, which could be done this week. Continue reading

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Premera to include Children’s in its networks – PSBJ

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Seattle Children's Whale LogoSeattle Children’s Hospital will be included in the Premera Blue Cross health insurance networks through 2017 as a result of an agreement that ends a lengthy legal dispute.

via Legal wrangling pays off: Seattle Children’s, Premera make nice – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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West Nile virus infection confirmed in Washington resident

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West nile virus wnvFrom the Washington State Department of Health

A Walla Walla County man is the first Washington resident in 2014 known to have been infected with West Nile virus in our state, Washington State Department of Health officials said Monday.

The man in his 20s was likely exposed near his home and was hospitalized. The infection was confirmed by testing at the Washington State Public Health Laboratories in Shoreline.

So far, 34 mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile virus in 2014, including Benton County (11), Franklin County (11), and Grant County (12).

Two other Washington residents have been diagnosed with the infection this year, both with exposures in other states.

A King County man in his 70s and a Grays Harbor woman in her 50s were infected with West Nile virus this year while traveling out of state.

Additional reports of possible infections are currently under investigation. Continue reading

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Are nurse practitioners, physician assistants encroaching on specialists’ turf?

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One of the hopes embedded in the health law was to expand the role of nurse practitioners and physician assistants in addressing the nation’s shortage of primary care providers. But a new study questions whether that’s actually happening in doctors’ offices.

Mid-level providers – PAs and NPs – “are doing invasive procedures and surgery. I’m not sure they were trained to do that.”

Of the more than 4 million procedures office-based nurse practitioners and physician assistants independently billed more than 5,000 times in a year to Medicare – a list including radiological exams, setting casts and injecting anesthetic agents – more than half were for  dermatological surgeries. Continue reading

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Hospitals rethink charity care for those declining coverage

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This KHN story also ran in wapo.

As more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t.

The move is prompted by concerns that offering free or discounted care to low-income uninsured patients might dissuade them from getting government-subsidized coverage.

“Applicants who refuse to purchase federally-mandated health insurance when they are eligible to do so will not be awarded charitable care.”

If a patient is eligible to purchase subsidized coverage through the law’s online marketplaces  but doesn’t sign up, should hospitals “provide charity care on the same level of generosity as they were previously?” asks Peter Cunningham, a health policy expert at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Most hospitals are still wrestling with that question, but a few have gone ahead and changed their programs, Cunningham says. Continue reading

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