Author Archives: LocalHealthGuide

Patients want to price-shop for care, but online tools unreliable


Kate and Scott Savett, of Allentown, PA, at an event of the Greater Delaware Valley chapter of the National MS Society, in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers for NPR)

By Elana Gordon, WHYY

Kate and Scott Savett were trying to be responsible when they needed some medical care.

They live about an hour north of Philadelphia with their dog, Frankie. Scott, 43, is a chemist and designs software for labs; Kate, 37, works in life insurance.

They buy their health insurance through Scott’s work, and, to keep their monthly costs affordable, they chose a plan with a high out-of-pocket maximum.

They understood from the beginning that this would mean shopping carefully when they needed care, because costs can vary a lot among doctors and hospitals.

For years the couple didn’t use their insurance much — but that all changed this year.

Kate was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in January. Doctors did a lot of tests and then follow-up tests. On top of that, Scott needed some imaging tests for a spinal issue.

Under their insurance plan, the two have to pay in full for the first $3,000 of their combined care. After that, they still have to pay 20 percent of the cost, until they reach a total of $8,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

That knowledge made them want to find the best care for the best deal. But how? Continue reading


State AG’s office clears Washington’s Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing | The Seattle Times


Logo_plannedparenthoodAfter allegations that Planned Parenthood has illegally profited from the sale of fetal tissue, the state Attorney General’s Office has found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood in Washington state.

Source: State AG’s office clears Washington’s Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing | The Seattle Times


Screen time, in moderation, not linked to youngsters’ depression | Reuters


Galaxy_Nexus_smartphoneYouth who spent at least five hours a day starting at screens were 80 percent more likely to be depressed than their peers who spent no time in front of screens.

There was, however, little difference in depression risk between children who didn’t have any screen time and those who got about two hours a day.And the connection between screen time and depression was only statistically meaningful for children under 14, the study found.

Screen time didn’t appear connected to depression in older teens.

Source: Screen time, in moderation, not linked to youngsters’ depression | Reuters

Photo: Laihiu


Costco E coli outbreak linked to celery and onion used in chicken salad – CDC


19163An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to rotisserie chicken salad sold at Costco stores may have been caused by contamination of celery and onions used in making the salad, according the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention

The presence of the bacteria was discovered in sample of celery and onion diced blend collected from a Costco store by the Montana Public Laboratory.

The blend was used to make the Costco rotisserie chicken salad eaten by ill people in this outbreak.

Preliminary results indicated the presence of E. coli O157:H7. Laboratory testing is ongoing to isolate the E. coli bacteria and then determine the DNA fingerprint to confirm the link.

As a result of the preliminary laboratory results, on November 26, 2015, Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc., voluntarily recalled multiple products containing celery because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a bacterium that causes a diarrheal illness often with bloody stools. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some people can develop a form of kidney failure called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS).

HUS is most likely to occur in young children and the elderly. The condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.


Help for the holidays: 5 tips to keep your diabetes in control


uncooked-turkey-in-potFrom the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The holidays only come once a year, but they last for weeks—from Thanksgiving all the way to New Year’s Day. Temptations go with the season, from treats at work to food-filled family celebrations to edible gifts.

If you have diabetes, you’re already familiar with managing what you eat to keep your blood sugar levels on target. Use these tips for a little extra help staying on track during this most wonderful—and challenging—time of the year.

1. Stick to your plan: Stay on your regular food, activity, and medication schedule as much as possible. Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast, and if you have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs like potatoes and bread during the meal. If you slip up, get right back on track at your next meal.

2. Stay in control: It’s easier to do if you:

  • Eat more slowly.
  • Start with soup or vegetables to tame your appetite.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, which can open the gateway to overeating.

3. Fit in favorites: Savor a few special treats you can’t get any other time of year.

4. Stay active: Physical activity can help make up for eating more than usual, and it helps you deal with the stress of the season.

5. Get enough sleep: Too little sleep makes it harder to control your blood sugar, and it makes you hungry.

And keep in mind what the season is really about: celebrating traditions and connecting with the people you care about. When you focus more on family and fun, you’re likely to focus less on food. Plan ahead to enjoy the holiday season and take care of your health while you do.

For more information go to:

CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation

National Diabetes Education Program

Eat Right, Be Active, Stay Healthy

Tips for Safe Travels

CDC Diabetes on Facebook

@CDCDiabetes on Twitter



E coli outbreak linked to Costco chicken salad spreads to 7 states


19163As of November 23, 2015, 19 people in seven states have been reported to be infected with a strain of E coli that has been linked to chicken salad sold at Costco, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. The strain is known as known as Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 (STEC O157:H7).

Five have been hospitalized, and 2 have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported, the CDC said.

Evidence available at this time suggests that rotisserie chicken salad made and sold in Costco Wholesale stores in several states is a likely source of this outbreak.

Fourteen of 16 people purchased or ate rotisserie chicken salad from Costco in the week before illness started.

The ongoing investigation has not identified what specific ingredient in the chicken salad is linked to illness.

Costco reported to public health officials that the company had removed all remaining rotisserie chicken salad from all stores in the U.S. and stopped further production of the product until further notice.

Consumers who purchased rotisserie chicken salad from any Costco store in the United States on or before November 20, 2015, should not eat it and should throw it away.

Even if some of the rotisserie chicken salad has been eaten and no one has gotten sick, throw the rest of the product away.

This product has a typical shelf life of 3 days and is labeled “Chicken Salad made with Rotisserie Chicken” with item number 37719 on the label.


Costco chicken salad connected to King County E. Coli case


E coli - Photo NIAIDBy Lindsay Bosslet
Public Health – Seattle & King County

The Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in conjunction with local health officials, are currently investigating a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 cases that has been connected to Costco chicken salad.

One case has been reported in Washington state. This person, a King County resident, is a teen male who was not hospitalized. He reported eating the implicated product, which he purchased from the Shoreline Costco.

For more information on this outbreak, read this press release from Washington State Department of Health.

If you purchased this product (number 37719) from a Washington Costco, discard it and do not eat it.

People who have eaten this product and feel ill should consult with their health care provider. People usually get sick 2-8 days after getting E. coli.

PHOTO: E coli courtesy of National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease


End of Medicare bonus will cut primary care doc pay


Doctor at deskBy Michelle Andrews

Many primary care practitioners will be a little poorer next year because of the expiration of a health law program that has been paying them a 10 percent bonus for caring for Medicare patients.

Some say the loss may trickle down to the patients, who could have a harder time finding a doctor or have to wait longer for appointments.

But others say the program has had little impact on their practices, if they were aware of it at all.

The incentive program began in 2011 and was designed to address disparities in Medicare reimbursements between primary care physicians and specialists.

It distributed $664 million in bonuses in 2012, the most recent year that figures are available, to roughly 170,000 primary care practitioners, awarding each an average of $3,938, according to a 2014 report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

Although that may sound like a small adjustment, it can be important to a primary care practice, says Dr. Wanda Filer, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“It’s not so much about the salary as it’s about the practice expense,” she explains. “Family medicine runs on very small margins, and sometimes on negative margins if they’re paying for electronic health records, for example. Every few thousand makes a difference.

Doctors who specialize in family medicine, internal medicine and geriatrics are eligible for the bonuses, as are nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Continue reading


Most Americans say they have a personal tie to prescription drug abuse



By Lisa Gillespie

The growing abuse of prescription painkillers now touches home for a majority of Americans, according to a poll released Tuesday.

One in three say either they have been addicted to painkillers or they have known a family member or close friend who was.

More than 56 percent of the public say they have a personal connection to the issue, reports the latest monthly tracking poll of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That share includes those who say they know someone who died from a painkiller overdose, have been addicted themselves or know someone who has and those who know someone who took painkillers not prescribed to them, the poll’s results show. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.)

Details from the poll:

— 16 percent say they know someone who has died and 9 percent say that person was a close friend or family member.

— 27 percent say either they have been addicted to painkillers or they have known a family member or close friend who was.

— 63 percent of whites say they have a personal connection to the abuse of prescription painkillers compared with 44 percent of blacks and 37 percent of Hispanics.

Half of those surveyed rank prescription painkiller and heroin abuse as a top priority for their governor and legislature, behind improving public education and making health care more accessible and affordable, which drew 76 percent and 68 percent shares, respectively.

Sixty-two percent of those polled said the drug Naloxone, which can reverse an overdose and is handed out in some states without a prescription and for little or no cost, should only be available via prescription.

Efforts to reduce painkiller abuse would be at least somewhat effective, many Americans say. Providing treatment for addicts is cited by 85 percent, monitoring doctors’ prescribing habits by 82 percent and encouraging people to dispose of leftover medication by 69 percent.

Kaiser’s tracking poll was conducted Nov. 10 to 17 among 1,352 adults.The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 3 percentage points.

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.

khn_logo_lightKaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


Costco takes chicken salad off Washington shelves due to E. coli


Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaFrom Washington State Department of Health

Chicken Salad made with Rotisserie Chicken” from Costco has been connected with at least one case of E. coli O157:H7 in Washington. Consumers who purchased this product – item number 37719 – from any Washington Costco location should discard it.

The Department of Health, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other western states, are investigating E. coli illnesses from chicken salad purchased from various Costco stores in late October. Washington has confirmed one case of E. coli O157:H7 from King County, who became ill in late October. This confirmed case was not hospitalized.

Others states with confirmed E. coli cased linked to Costco chicken salad include Colorado, Montana, and Utah.

“We take E. coli very seriously in Washington,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist, “and we are working with CDC and state partners to determine the source.”

Others states with confirmed E. coli cased linked to Costco chicken salad include Colorado, Montana, and Utah. In addition to CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture are working with Costco to determine the source of the contamination. Continue reading