Author Archives: LocalHealthGuide

Ending subsidies, water sector graft key for global development – UN – TRFN | Energy & Oil | Reuters

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rain-dropsA crackdown on corruption in the water sector and increasing investment in infrastructure are essential to avoid conflicts over water, “life’s most vital resource”, a United Nations University report said on Tuesday.

Population growth, economic insecurity, corruption and climate change threaten the stability and the very existence of some nations, the report said.

via Ending subsidies, water sector graft key for global development – UN – TRFN | Energy & Oil | Reuters.

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New Mexico’s nurse hotline touted as a model for other states

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red-telephoneBy Christine Vestal
Stateline

If your infant has a high fever or you’re experiencing an unusual pain in your abdomen and you live in New Mexico, you may want to call the NurseAdvice line before you do anything else.

New Mexico is the only state with a 24/7 registered nurse call center that is free to all residents, whether insured or not. In operation since 2006, it has kept tens of thousands of New Mexicans out of emergency rooms and saved the state more than $68 million in health care expenses.

It has provided a basic form of health care to thousands of uninsured people who have no other access to care. It also has relieved demand on doctors and hospitals in a sparsely populated state where all but a few counties have a severe shortage of health care providers.

On top of that, the statewide call center has generated real-time public health data that has served as an early warning system during epidemics and natural disasters.

In April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will recommend New Mexico’s advice line as a national model that other states adopt during an emergency preparedness summit in Atlanta. Continue reading

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Your insurance questions answered

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Share your story flat illustrationBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

May I Move My Son From My Insurance Plan To A Better Option On The Marketplace?

Some readers want to figure out how to become eligible for coverage on the health insurance marketplaces, while others want to figure out how to avoid it.

This week I answered questions from both.

I am covered by my employer’s health plan, but I’m not happy with it. My son is 21 and currently covered under my plan. While I realize that I am not eligible for Obamacare, I am curious if I can terminate my son’s policy so that he might be eligible.   Continue reading

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How much does it cost?

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A new website, www.guroo.com, allows you to find out how much care for common conditions will cost. The site provides local, state and national average charges for these conditions. The site was created by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI), an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization that promotes research and analysis on the causes of rising US health spending.

Guroo.com Demo from Health Care Cost Institute on Vimeo.

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Fancy hospital flourishes don’t impress patients, study

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john-hopkins-570

(Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins Medicine)

By Jordan Rau
KHN

The sleek hospital tower that Johns Hopkins Medicine built in 2012 has the frills of a luxury hotel, including a meditation garden, 500 works of art, free wi-fi and a library of books, games and audio.

As Dr. Zishan Siddiqui watched patients and some fellow physicians in Baltimore move from their decades-old building into the Sheikh Zayed Tower, the internist saw a rare opportunity to test a widespread assumption in the hospital industry: that patients rate their care more highly when it is given in a nicer place.

For decades, hospital executives across the country have justified expensive renovation and expansion projects by saying they will lead to better patient reviews and recommendations. One study estimated $200 billion might have been spent over a decade on new building.

Hopkins’ construction of the tower and a new children’s hospital cost $1.1 billion. Patient judgments have become even more important to hospitals since Medicare started publishing ratings and basing some of its pay on surveys patients fill out after they have left the hospital.

Siddiqui’s study, published this month by the Journal of Hospital Medicine, contradicts the presumption that better facilities translate into better patient reviews. Siddiqui examined how patient satisfaction scores changed when doctors started practicing in the new tower, which has 355 beds and units for neurology, cardiology, radiology, labor and delivery and other specialties.

Siddiqui discovered that for the most part, patients’ assessments of the quality of the clinical care they received did not improve any more than they did for patients treated in the older Hopkins building, which had remained open. Units there were constructed as early as 1913 and as late as 1980, Hopkins officials said. They functioned as the control group in the study, since a hospital’s satisfaction scores often change over time even when a hospital’s physical environment remains constant. Continue reading

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Seattle Children’s and Mayo Clinic team to slash genetic testing costs – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Seattle Children's Whale LogoSeattle Children’s hospital and Mayo Medical Laboratories are creating a partnership to develop ways for children’s hospitals around the country to decrease costs and errors that come from unnecessary lab testing.

via Seattle Children’s and Mayo Clinic team to slash genetic testing costs – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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Few seniors benefiting from Medicare obesity counseling

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ScaleBy Sarah Varney
KHN

VISALIA, Calif. — In the farming town of Exeter, deep in California’s Central Valley, Anne Roberson walks a quarter mile down the road each day to her mailbox. Her walk and housekeeping chores are the 68-year-old’s only exercise, and her weight has remained stubbornly over 200 pounds for some time now.

“You get to a certain point in your life and you say, ‘What’s the use?’”

For older adults, being mildly overweight causes little harm, physicians say. But too much weight is especially hazardous for an aging body: Obesity increases inflammation, exacerbates bone and muscle loss and significantly raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Dr. Mylene Middleton Rucker, a primary care physician in Visalia, Calif., is using the new obesity counseling benefit with her patients, but many doctors aren’t aware of it yet. (Sarah Varney/KHN)

Dr. Mylene Middleton Rucker, a primary care physician in Visalia, Calif., is using the new obesity counseling benefit with her patients, but many doctors aren’t aware of it yet. (Sarah Varney/KHN)

To help the 13 million obese seniors in the U.S., the Affordable Care Act included a new Medicare benefit offering face-to-face weight-loss counseling in primary care doctors’ offices.

Doctors are paid to provide the service, which is free to obese patients , with no co-pay. But only 50,000 seniors participated in 2013, the latest year for which data is available.

“We think it’s the perfect storm of several factors,” says Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist at George Washington University.

Kahan says obese patients and doctors aren’t aware of the benefit, and doctors who want to intervene are often reluctant to do so. It’s a touchy subject to bring up, and some hold outmoded beliefs about weight problems and the elderly. Continue reading

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Fourth case of measles in Clallam County

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A fourth case of measles was identified in Clallam County. The fourth case is a 14-year old male who is a sibling of the second case. The 14-year old male was quarantined during his infectious period so he had no public contact.

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Dr. Jeanette Stehr-Green, Clallam County Health Officer, again under scored the importance of adherence to quarantine among exposed persons, daily reports to Public Health nurses regarding symptoms, and no contacts with unvaccinated individuals as critical to stopping the spread of measles.

A person with measles is contagious from approximately four days before the onset of rash to four days after the rash appears and should not be in contact with any susceptible persons during this time.

Clallam County Health and Human Service, Public Health Section will continue with no cost clinics on February 23, 24, 26, and 27.

Clinics will be held at 111 3rd St, Port Angeles.

Feb. 23 Feb. 24 Feb. 26 Feb. 27

8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 noon 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

People are encouraged to call 360-417-2274 to make appointments. Walk-ins will be served but there may be a wait.

HHS continues to evaluate when and where to have clinics outside of the Port Angeles area. All parents are encouraged to check the vaccination status of children. Two vaccinations for children are needed for protection.

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Many uninsured don’t realize they may face a tax penalty

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Alert IconBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

A “teachable moment” is one way to describe the  consternation that many uninsured people may feel when they file their taxes this spring and realize they could owe a penalty for not having health insurance.

According to a new survey, the number of people who may need to be schooled is substantial: Forty-four percent of uninsured people who may be subject to the penalty say they know nothing or only a little about the penalty they may face.

Forty-four percent of uninsured people who may be subject to the penalty say they know nothing or only a little about the penalty.

The Urban Institute analysis was based on its December 2014 Health Reform Monitoring Survey of uninsured adults with incomes above the poverty level, a group that might be expected to owe a penalty for not having coverage.

For 2014, the penalty is the greater of $95 or 1 percent of annual income. In 2015, the penalty increases to 2 percent or $325, whichever is greater.

People who don’t become aware of the penalty until they file their 2014 taxes in March or April could end up owing penalties for both years. The open enrollment period to sign up for 2015 health insurance was Feb. 15. – but now has been extended. (See story above.)

Under pressure from consumer advocates, the Obama administration on Friday said it will allow a special enrollment period from March 15 to April 30 for those who realize while filling out their taxes that they owe a fee for not signing up for coverage last year.

The special period applies to people in the 37 states covered by the federal marketplace, though some state-run exchanges are also expected to follow suit. Continue reading

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Why I love family-run restaurants: Insights from a food inspector

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cropped-eyob-in-idBy Eyob Mazengia, PhD, RS, Food Protection Program
Public Health – Seattle & King County

When I started as a food inspector, I was assigned to the International District. And I liked it. It was almost like walking into a new culture, a new era.

What fascinated me was that as a public health worker, I had permission to walk into people’s personal spaces. I liked the smells, the sounds of their languages, their wall hangings and the way things looked.

It was a privilege, really, to be allowed into their personal spaces. Going on food inspections in the I.D., it was like walking into 3-4 different countries every day, without traveling outside the neighborhood.

Over the years, I established good relationships with the restaurant establishments. They were no longer just restaurant operators—they were mothers, fathers, grown kids. They’re not just businesses—there’s a family behind every door, people who had often gone through difficult times to be here.

And as I got to know them, I could recognize the sacrifices they made to give their children better opportunities in the U.S., and what they left behind. Even those born and raised here, you could recognize the sacrifices they were making. Continue reading

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Obamacare Is Barely Denting Corporate Profits – Bloomberg Business

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ACA health reform logoThe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — otherwise known as Obamacare — is putting such a small dent in the profits of U.S. companies that many refer to its impact as “not material” or “not significant,” according to a Bloomberg review of conference-call transcripts and interviews with major U.S. employers.

via Obamacare Is Barely Denting Corporate Profits – Bloomberg Business.

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Pregnant and uninsured? Don’t count on Obamacare

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Blue Pregnant BellyBy Phil Galewitz
KHN

The Obama administration often touts the health benefits women have gained under the Affordable Care Act, including the option to sign up for coverage outside of open enrollment periods if they’re “having a baby.”

But advocates complain the special insurance enrollment period begins only after a birth. As a result, uninsured women who learn they are pregnant outside of the regular three-month open enrollment period, which this year ended Sunday, can get stuck paying thousands of dollars for prenatal care and a delivery — or worse, going without  care.

The special insurance enrollment period begins only after a birth.

The advocacy groups, including the March of Dimes, Planned Parenthood and Young Invincibles, are asking the administration to allow women to sign up whenever they become pregnant – a change opposed by the insurance industry. They say they’ve sought the change unsuccessfully for several years. Continue reading

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Even with insurance you can get hit with big medical bills

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Twenty-dollar bill in medicine bottleBy Julie Appleby
KHN

After Pam Durocher was diagnosed with breast cancer, she searched her insurer’s website for a participating surgeon to do the reconstructive surgery.

Having done her homework, she was stunned to get a $10,000 bill from the surgeon.

“I panicked when I got that bill,” said the 60-year-old retired civil servant who lives near Roseville, Calif.

Like Durocher, many consumers who take pains to research which doctors and hospitals participate in their plans can still end up with huge bills.

Sometimes, that’s because they got incorrect or incomplete information from their insurer or health-care provider.

“It’s not fair and probably not legal that consumers be left holding the bag when an out-of-network doctor treats them.”

Sometimes, it’s because a physician has multiple offices, and not all are in network, as in Durocher’s case.

Sometimes, it’s because a participating hospital relies on out-of-network doctors, including emergency room physicians, anesthesiologists and radiologists.

Consumer advocates say the sheer scope of such problems undermine promises made by proponents of the Affordable Care Act that the law would protect against medical bankruptcy.

“It’s not fair and probably not legal that consumers be left holding the bag when an out-of-network doctor treats them,” said Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University. Jost said it’s a different matter if a consumer knowingly chooses an out-of-network doctor.

Strategies to protect yourself from surprises. Continue reading

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Measles outbreak continues

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From January 1 to February 13, 2015, 141 people from 17 states and Washington DC were reported to have measles, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

State tallies: [AZ (7), CA (98), CO (1), DC (1), DE (1), IL (11), MI (1), MN (1), NE (2), NJ (1), NY (2), NV (4), OR (1), PA (1), SD (2) TX (1), UT (2), WA (4)]†. Most of these cases [113 cases (80%)] are part of a large, ongoing multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

state-measles-cases

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