Medicaid expansion helps cut rate of older, uninsured adults from 12 to 8 percent

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ACA health reform logoBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

The health law’s expansion of Medicaid coverage to adults with incomes over the poverty line was key to reducing the uninsured rate among 50- to 64-year-olds from nearly 12 to 8 percent in 2014, according to a new analysis.

“Clearly most of the gains in coverage were in Medicaid or non-group coverage,” says study co-author Jane Sung, a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute, which conducted the study with the Urban Institute.

Under the health law, adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,243 for one person in 2015) are eligible for Medicaid if a state decides to expand coverage. Twenty-seven  states  had done so by the end of 2014.

The study found the uninsured rate for people between age 50 and 64 who live in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid was twice as high—11 percent—as for those who live in states that have done so.

More than 2 million people between 50 and 64 gained coverage between December 2013 and December 2014, according to the study. Continue reading

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At-home walking program group support helps people with poor leg circulation | Reuters

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Running shoes full shotGroup sessions that teach and encourage people with poor circulation in their legs to walk regularly on their own improves mobility and prevents its loss, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that supervised activity is not essential for peripheral artery disease (PAD) patients, and doctors and other healthcare providers should not rule out at-home programs, said the study’s lead author.

Source: At-home walking program group support helps people with poor leg circulation | Reuters

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53 people in 9 states sickened after eating raw tuna

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305px-Hiroshige_Bowl_of_SushiA salmonella outbreak likely linked to raw tuna has sickened 53 people in nine states, health officials said Thursday.

Most of the cases – 31 – are in California, officials at the California Department of Public Health said. Other affected states include Arizona, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Source: News from The Associated Press

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The gray areas of assisted suicide

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When J.D. Falk was dying of stomach cancer in 2011, his wife says doctors would only talk about death in euphemisms. (Photo: courtesy of Hope Arnold)

By April Dembosky, KQED

SAN FRANCISCO — Physician-assisted suicide is illegal in all but five states. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in the rest. Sick patients sometimes ask for help in hastening their deaths, and some doctors will hint, vaguely, how to do it.

This leads to bizarre, veiled conversations between medical professionals and overwhelmed families.

Doctors and nurses want to help but also want to avoid prosecution, so they speak carefully, parsing their words. Family members, in the midst of one of the most confusing and emotional times of their lives, are left to interpret euphemisms.

Doctors and nurses want to help but also want to avoid prosecution, so they speak carefully, parsing their words.

That’s what still frustrates Hope Arnold. She says throughout the 10 months her husband J.D. Falk was being treated for stomach cancer in 2011, no one would talk straight with them.

“All the nurses, all the doctors,” says Arnold. “everybody we ever interacted with, no one said, ‘You’re dying.’”

Until finally, one doctor did. And that’s when Falk, who was just 35, started to plan. He summoned his extended family. And Hope made arrangements for him to come home on hospice. Continue reading

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Fast currents, frigid temps make local water dangerous this time of year

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From the Washington State Department of Health

Mountain Stream

Cold and fast waters can be a recipe for drowning and state health officials remind folks that even though the calendar says it’s close to Memorial Day, water temperatures are frigid and river flows are swift.

Springtime river flow is high and swift from rain and snow melt and can easily overwhelm the strongest swimmer.

Many Washingtonians wait for hot weather to dip their toes into lakes, rivers, and the ocean surf, but other people brave the frosty waters and hop into boats, inner tubes, and other floating equipment in search of a late-spring water adventure.

Being unprepared for the freezing water temperatures or the swift flow of the waters can lead to tragedy. Continue reading

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Most enrolled in exchange plans satisfied with premiums, cost sharing and provider networks, survey finds

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Affordability Remains Significant Concern for Many in Non-Group Plans

ACA health reform logoFollowing the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period, most people enrolled in marketplace plans report being satisfied with a wide range of their plan’s coverage and features, finds a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey of people who buy their own health insurance.

A large majority (74%) of those in marketplace plans rate their coverage as excellent or good, the survey finds.

Most (59%) also say their plan is an excellent or good value for what they pay for it, though the share rating the value as “excellent” declined somewhat from 23 percent last year to 15 percent in the current survey.

Majorities also say they are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with seven different features of their plans, including:

  • Their choice of primary-care doctors (75%), hospitals (75%) and specialists (64%);
  • What they have to pay out of pocket for doctor visits (73%), prescription drugs (70%) and annual deductible (60%);
  • And their monthly premiums (65%).

To learn more go here.

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Planning on going on a cruise? Check in here first.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.20.45 AMThe independent investigative journalism website ProPublica has set up a webpage where you can search a database of over 300 cruise ships that make port in the U.S., where you are able to see their health and safety records going back as far as 2010, as well as their current position and deck plans.

To search the database, go here.

 

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Washington state ranked 11th in the nation for senior health

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Washington MapWashington state ranks 11th in the nation for senior health, ahead of Maryland but behind Maine, and up from its 15th-place ranking last year, according to a senior health assessment conducted each year by the UnitedHealth Foundation.

Vermont was rated number 1 in the nation, followed by New Hampshire, Minnesota, Hawaii and Utah. West Virginia. The Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana came in at the bottom of the list.

The rankings, which appear in the foundatio’ns “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report,” are based on 35 measures of health, which include such factors as availability and quality of health care services, health behaviors, community and environmental amenities, and state health care policies.

Among Washington’s Strengths were:

  • Low prevalence of physical inactivity
  • High enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Low prevalence of full-mouth tooth extraction

Among the state’s weaknesses were:

  • High prevalence of chronic drinking • Low prescription drug coverage
  • High prevalence of falls

Highlights:

  • In the past year, hip fractures decreased 21% from 6.7 to 5.3 hospitalizations per 1000 Medicare beneficiaries.
  • In the past 2 years, home health care increased 17% from 73.2 to 85.5 home health care workers per 1000 adults aged 75 and older.
  • In the past 2 years, preventable hospitalizations decreased 15% from 46.4 to 39.3 discharges per 1000 Medicare beneficiaries.
  • In the past year, obesity increased 6% from 25.6% to 27.0% of adults aged 65 and older.
  • In the past year, poverty increased 5% from 7.8% to 8.2% of adults aged 65 and older.
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Facing death but fighting the aid-in-dying movement

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Stephanie Packer (Photo by Stephanie O’Neill / KPCC)

By Stephanie O’Neill
Southern California Public Radio

Stephanie Packer was 29 when she found out she has a terminal lung disease.

It’s the same age as Brittany Maynard, who last year was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Maynard, of northern California, opted to end her life via physician-assisted suicide in Oregon last fall.

Maynard’s quest for control over the end of her life continues to galvanize the “aid-in-dying” movement nationwide, with legislation pending in California and a dozen other states.

But unlike Maynard, Packer says physician-assisted suicide will never be an option for her.

“Wanting the pain to stop, wanting the humiliating side effects to go away – that’s absolutely natural,” Packer says. “I absolutely have been there, and I still get there some days. But I don’t get to that point of wanting to end it all, because I have been given the tools to understand that today is a horrible day, but tomorrow doesn’t have to be.”

A recent spring afternoon in Packer’s kitchen is a good day, as she prepares lunch with her four children.

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The Packer family gathers in the kitchen to cook dinner. From left: Jacob, 8; Brian Sr. ; Brian Jr., 11; Savannah, 5; Scarlett, 10; and Stephanie. (Photo by Stephanie O’Neill / KPCC)

“Do you want to help?” she asks the eager crowd of siblings gathered tightly around her at the stovetop.

“Yeah!” yells 5-year-old Savannah.

“I do!” says Jacob, 8.

Managing four kids as each vies for the chance to help make chicken salad sandwiches can be trying. But for Packer, these are the moments she cherishes. Continue reading

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Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue ranked 8th fittest metro area

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Map of SeattleThe Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region is the 8th fittest metropolitan area in the US, just behind Portland, Oregon and just ahead of Boston, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.  Washington, D.C. was ranked number 1. Indianapolis, dead last.

Our good points are we have:

  • Lower death rate for cardiovascular disease
  • More farmers’ markets per capita
  • Higher percent using public transportation to work
  • Higher percent bicycling or walking to work
  • Higher Walk Score®
  • Higher percent of population within a 10 minute walk to a park
  • More dog parks per capita
  • More park units per capita
  • More tennis courts per capita
  • Higher park-related expenditures per capita
  • Higher level of state requirement for Physical Education classes

Our bad points are we have:

  • Higher percent obese
  • Higher percent of days when physical health was not good during the past 30 days
  • Higher percent of days when mental health was not good during the past 30 days
  • Higher percent with asthma
  • Higher percent with angina or coronary heart disease
  • Higher percent with diabetes
  • Fewer acres of parkland per capita
  • Fewer swimming pools per capita

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Telemedicine under attack as abortion rights supporters seek more options for women

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Photo by Brainloc

By Michelle Andrews
KHN

The House of Representatives’ approval last week of a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks brings into sharp focus the issue of early access to abortion.

Abortion rights supporters say more than a dozen states have banned one option that could improve early access: telemedicine.

Opponents say that “webcam” abortions are unsafe and suggest that clinics are using them as moneymakers.

Iowa and Minnesota are the only states that offer so-called “telemed” abortions. Women who choose this option confer with a doctor through an Internet video connection and can then be prescribed two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, which when taken in sequence induce an abortion. Women who opt for a medication abortion can be no more than nine weeks into their pregnancy.

Supporters of telemed abortions say it increases the odds that a woman will be able to get an abortion earlier in her pregnancy, when the procedure is safer and cheaper, and in areas where providers are stretched thin.

In 2011, 89 percent of counties nationwide had no clinics that provided abortion services, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and more than a third of women of childbearing age lived in those counties.

Opponents say that “webcam” abortions are unsafe and suggest that clinics are using them as moneymakers to boost the number of abortions they can provide.

Photo courtesy of Brain Loc

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