Author Archives: LocalHealthGuide

Health reform has not reduced employer-sponsored coverage, study

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ACA health reform logoFrom Health Affairs

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, some of its critics have predicted that businesses would discontinue offering employer-sponsored health insurance, moving employees into the individual Marketplaces.

If widespread dropping of employer-sponsored health insurance were to occur, government costs could increase since many low-wage workers would qualify for federal subsidies in the Marketplaces.

A new study, released today as a Web First by Health Affairs, examined data from the Health Reform Monitoring Survey for June 2013 through September 2014, assessing any early changes of employer-sponsored insurance under the ACA.

Study found that the percentage of workers with employer offers for health insurance was basically unchanged.

It found that the percentage of workers with employer offers for health insurance was basically unchanged between June 2013 and September 2014: 82.7 percent versus 82.2 percent. Worker take-up of employer coverage and overall coverage rates also remained constant.

There were no changes in offer, take-up, and coverage rates among low- and high-income adults working at small (fewer than fifty workers) or large firms.

This is the first peer-reviewed study to analyze changes in employer-sponsored insurance after the ACA was implemented and the launching of the health insurance Marketplaces.

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Medicare Cuts payments to 721 hospitals with highest rates of infections, injuries

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Physician and Nurse Pushing Gurney

By Jordan Rau
KHN

In its toughest crackdown yet on medical errors, the federal government is cutting payments to 721 hospitals for having high rates of infections and other patient injuries, records released Thursday show.

Medicare assessed these new penalties against some of the most renowned hospitals in the nation, including the Cleveland Clinic, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa.

One out of every seven hospitals in the nation will have their Medicare payments lowered by 1 percent over the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and continues through September 2015. The health law mandates the reductions for the quarter of hospitals that Medicare assessed as having the highest rates of “hospital-acquired conditions,” or HACs.

These conditions include infections from catheters, blood clots, bed sores and other complications that are considered avoidable.

The penalties, which are estimated to total $373 million, are falling particularly hard on academic medical centers: Roughly half of them will be punished, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.

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Public easily swayed by arguments for and against employer mandate, poll

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Yes-No-MaybeBy Julie Rovner
KHN

Just days before the requirement for most large employers to provide health insurance takes effect, a new poll finds the public easily swayed over arguments for and against the policy.

Six in 10 respondents to the monthly tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation) said they generally favor the requirement that firms with more than 100 workers pay a fine if they do not offer workers coverage.

But minimal follow-up information can have a major effect on their viewpoint, the poll found.

kaiser poll

For example, when people who support the “employer mandate” were told that employers might respond to the requirement by moving workers from full-time to part time, support dropped from 60 percent to 27 percent.

And when people who disapprove of the policy were told that most large employers will not be affected because they already provide insurance, support surged to 76 percent.

Opinion also remains malleable about the requirement for most people to have health insurance – the so-called “individual mandate.”

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DON’T PANIC: The world might not be as bad as you might believe!

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Don’t Panic – is a one-hour long documentary produced by Wingspan Productions and broadcasted on BBC on the 7th of November 2013.

The visualizations are based on original graphics and stories by Gapminder and the underlaying data-sources are listed here. Hans presents some results from our UK Ignorance Survey described here.

 

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Vera Whole Health to run employee clinic for City of Kirkland

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Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.35.36 PMVera Whole Health has signed an agreement with the City of Kirkland to offer primary, preventive and acute care to City of Kirkland employees at a new worksite clinic.

The Seattle-based company offers on-site and near-site health clinics for organizations. Employers pay monthly fee for their employees to receive unlimited primary care, acute care and health coaching.

The company staffs the clinics with physicians, nurse practitioners, medical assistants and health coaches. The goal of the employer-funded clinics is to help employees develop and maintain healthy lifestyles, reversing the trend of rising overall health care costs, the company says.

In the Puget Sound region, the company maintains clinics for Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Trident Seafoods in Ballard and a Seattle-based investment company.

The City of Kirkland clinic is expected to open in the spring of 2015 and will be located in the Totem Lake area.

 

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Avoid powdered pure caffeine, FDA warns.

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From the US Food and Drug Administration

The FDA is warning about powdered pure caffeine being marketed directly to consumers, and recommends avoiding these products.

In particular, FDA is concerned about powdered pure caffeine sold in bulk bags over the internet.

The FDA is aware of at least one death of a teenager who used these products.

1000px-Main_symptoms_of_Caffeine_overdose

These products are essentially 100 percent caffeine. A single teaspoon of pure caffeine is roughly equivalent to the amount in 25 cups of coffee.

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State wins $65 million to improve health care

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Washington MapFrom the Washington State Health Care Authority

Washington won a $65 million grant to bolster health care innovation in the state, Gov. Jay Inslee announced today.

Awarded by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), the federal grant supports the Healthier Washington project developed through a collaboration of state leaders, the Legislature, health care systems and community members.

Healthier Washington’s purpose is to achieve the “Triple Aim” for the state’s population: better health, better care, and lower costs.

Goals of the plan:

  1. Build healthier communities and people through prevention and early attention to disease
  2. Integrate care and social supports for individuals who have both physical and behavioral health needs
  3. Reward quality heath care over quantity, with state government leading by example as Washington’s largest purchaser of health care

Washington is one of 11 states to get the four-year testing grant, which begins in February 2015. The Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) will serve as lead agency for the grant.

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10 reasons why healthcare isn’t a free market – Modern Healthcare

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Photo by Sanja Gjenero

Photo by Sanja Gjenero

No. 1: Nobody in the middle of a heart attack shouts, “Let’s go shopping!” Some other reasons, writes Merrill Goozner in Modern Healthcare are: Comparison shopping is complex, doctors belong to professional guilds, and most care is delivered locally so foreign competition can’t drive down prices.

10 reasons why healthcare isn’t a free market – Modern Healthcare.

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Teen prescription opioid abuse, cigarette, and alcohol use down, but e-cigarette use up

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Two white tabletsFrom the US Department of Health and Human Services

Use of cigarettes, alcohol, and abuse of prescription pain relievers among teens has declined since 2013 while marijuana use rates were stable, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, released today by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). However, use of e-cigarettes, measured in the report for the first time, is high.

These 2014 results are part of an overall two-decade trend among the nation’s youth. The MTF survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, is funded by NIDA, and is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“With the rates of many drugs decreasing, and the rates of marijuana use appearing to level off, it is possible that prevention efforts are having an effect,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D.

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International Community Health Service recognized as ‘National Quality Leader’

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International Community Health ServicesInternational Community Health Services (ICHS)  been cited by the federal government as a “National Quality Leader” for exceeding national clinical benchmarks for chronic disease management, preventive care, and perinatal/prenatal services.

The Seattle-based health center also was recognized for achieving some of the best overall clinical outcomes nationally for health centers and for showing significant improvement in clinical quality measures between 2012 and 2013.

ICHS is a non-profit community health center that specializes in providing affordable health care services to Seattle and King County’s Asian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and other underserved communities.

It operates medical and dental centers in Seattle’s International District and Holly Park neighborhoods, as well as in the cities of Bellevue and Shoreline; a school-based health center at the Seattle World School, and a primary care clinic at ACRS, a social and mental health services agency in Seattle.

In recognition of its accomplishment and to fund further quality improvement, ICHS will receive $84,169 in Affordable Care Act funding by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Boeing, Starbucks demand and get better healthcare for their workers – LA Times

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starbucks-logoSeattle’s big companies have pushed local hospitals and doctors to meet the kinds of rigorous standards they use to build airplanes or brew coffee, reports The Los Angeles Times. Also in the news are a look at the SHOP exchanges for small businesses and the rate increases some of those employers are facing.

Where employers use quality control to shape healthcare – LA Times.

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Some states retreat on mental health spending

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By Michael Ollove
Stateline

Fewer states increased their spending on mental health programs this year compared to last year, when a spate of horrific shootings by assailants with histories of mental illness prompted a greater focus on the shortcomings of the country’s mental health system.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 9.49.48 AM

From State Mental Health Legislation 2014 Trends, Themes & Effective Practices – NAMI

Some states slashed their mental health budgets significantly this year. At the same time, however, a number of states adopted mental health measures in 2014 that won plaudits from behavioral health advocates.

survey of state spending published last week by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that 29 states plus the District of Columbia increased their spending on mental health in fiscal year 2015. A year earlier, 37 states plus D.C. increased their mental health budgets.

NAMI warned that the momentum to improve state mental health services, which was especially powerful after the December 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut, has slowed.

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Flu on the rise in King County

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Flu virusesFlu is here—and it’s a nasty one!

By Meredith Li-Vollmer
Public Health – Seattle & King County

Influenza is noticeably on the rise in King County, according the Public Health – Seattle & King County” sCommunicable Disease and Epidemiology unit.

Last week, the number of laboratory tests for flu rose sharply and a handful of schools, daycare programs, and long-term care facilities reported flu outbreaks.

A severe flu forecast

The flu season has only just begun, but the CDC is finding that so far, seasonal influenza A H3N2 viruses have been the most common flu viruses circulating. What’s the significance? In flu seasons in which H3N2 viruses predominate, there often are more severe flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.

On top of that, roughly half of the H3N2 viruses that the CDC analyzed to date are drift variants: viruses with genetic changes that make them different from this season’s vaccine virus. This means the vaccine’s ability to protect against those viruses may be reduced.

So should you still get this year’s flu vaccine? Continue reading

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