Category Archives: News

Psychiatrists unveil new resource for patients

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apa-understanding-mentalBy Lisa Gillespie
KHN

As mental health professionals, policy makers and advocates focus on taking steps to mend the fragmented mental health care system, the role of patients and their friends and families is sometimes overlooked.

That’s why the American Psychiatric Association is releasing a first-of-its-kind book to decode in plain English the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – a guide for mental health providers that is also used to determine insurance coverage.

The resource, Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide To DSM-5, includes in-depth explanations of risk factors, symptoms and symptom management, treatment options and success stories.

This gets at one of APA’s reasons for releasing this volume — to help create a more accurate picture of what a particular illness or disorder might involve. Continue reading

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Running out of money is more than just a worry for many seniors, study finds

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clockBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

For many older people and their families, particularly those dealing with conditions such as Alzheimer’s or cancer that often require long-term, pricey medical care, running out of money is a nagging concern.

Families are right to be worried, according to a new study that analyzed data from nearly 1,200 people who died between 2010 and 2012 and who participated in the University of Michigan’s ongoing national Health and Retirement Study.

Among people who were age 85 or older when they died,  one in five had no assets left apart from their homes, and 12 percent had no assets left at all, only income from sources such as Social Security or pensions.

Among people who were age 85 or older when they died,  one in five had no assets left apart from their homes, and 12 percent had no assets left at all, only income from sources such as Social Security or pensions.

The analysis by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that those who died younger were even worse off.

Among people who died between age 50 and 64, 30 percent were without assets and 37 percent had only their homes. Continue reading

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4 in 10 Americans Breathe Unhealthy Air: Report: MedlinePlus

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620px-AlfedPalmersmokestacksMore than four in 10 Americans, or about 138.5 million people, are breathing unhealthy air, a new report finds.

Despite the fact that many cities have shown improvements in air quality, other metropolitan areas have recorded more days of air that contained high levels of both ozone and particle pollution.

And a handful of cities saw their highest number of unhealthy days ever, according to the American Lung Association’s annual report on air quality.

Source: 4 in 10 Americans Breathe Unhealthy Air: Report: MedlinePlus

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Dropping One Sugary Soda a Day Could Cut Diabetes Risk: Study

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Soda Pop TopPeople who love sugary sodas and flavored milk may have a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes, regardless of their body weight, a large new study finds.

The good news, the researchers said, is that swapping just one of those drinks each day — for water or unsweetened coffee or tea — could lower diabetes risk by up to 25 percent.

Source: Dropping One Sugary Soda a Day Could Cut Diabetes Risk: Study

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Killer Pharmacy: Inside a Medical Mass Murder Case

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Magnifying GlassNewsweek tells the story of a seemingly innocuous Massachusetts pharmacy that was making millions of dollars by cutting corners, fabricating records and ignoring laws designed to keep contaminated drugs off the market.

The company perpetrated what may be one of the most murderous corporate crimes in U.S. history by pumping out deadly medicines that infected more than 800 people with fungal meningitis in 2012, 64 of whom died.

Source: Killer Pharmacy: Inside a Medical Mass Murder Case

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Experts clarify best intervals, ages for cervical cancer screening | Reuters

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“Guidelines recommend not screening prior to age 21, screening no more frequently than every 3 years and ending screening among low-risk women,” said Dr. George F. Sawaya of the University of California, San Francisco Center for Healthcare Value, who coauthored the new guidelines.

Source: Experts clarify best intervals, ages for cervical cancer screening | Reuters

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The Doctor Will Video Chat With You Now: Insurer Covers Virtual Visits – NPR

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you can live stream movies, why not live stream medical care?

Insurance company UnitedHealthcare will start covering visits to the doctor’s office — via video chat. Patients and physicians talk live online — on smartphones, tablets or home computer — to get to a clinical diagnosis.

This move to cybermedicine could save insurers a ton of money — or have unintended consequences.

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An Obamacare payment reform success story

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 One Health System, Two Procedures

By Jay Hancock/KHN

200px-Flag-map_of_TexasTo understand how the health law is supposed to fix the mediocre, overpriced, absurd medical system, you could read wonky research papers on bundled payments and accountable care organizations.

Or you could look at what’s going on at Baptist Health System in San Antonio.

Under the potent lure of profit, doctors, nurses and managers at Baptist’s five hospitals have joined forces to cut costs for hip and knee replacements, getting patients on their feet sooner and saving taxpayers money.

“What we’ve seen is just incredible from a cost savings standpoint.”

“Everybody was aligned on this,” said Michael Zucker, Baptist’s chief development officer. “What we’ve seen is just incredible from a cost savings standpoint.”

Baptist made money doing what used to be industry heresy: reducing patients’ use of the medical system.

The hospital group made a deal with Medicare, the huge government program for seniors, as part of an ambitious array of experiments authorized by the Affordable Care Act.

Medicare let Baptist take responsibility for the whole process of replacing knees and hips, from admission to surgery to rehab and anything else that happened within a month. (Traditionally the system, essentially tied with Methodist Health System as the region’s biggest, managed only what happens within its doors.)

Then Medicare lowered the average amount of what it pays for all that care by 3 percent, giving Baptist a lump sum for each patient getting the procedures. If the system and its orthopedic surgeons reduced costs below that price, they could keep the difference and divvy it up so long as quality didn’t suffer. If costs went up, Baptist was on the hook.

This is a purified form of the health law’s recipe to save health care: Get hospitals, doctors and other providers to work together. Cap their costs. Offer incentives to save and penalties for breaking the budget. Repeat.

preliminary study of the tests at Baptist and elsewhere, overseen by the health law’s Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, found substantial savings along with shorter patient stays in the hospital and lower use of expensive nursing facilities afterward. Continue reading

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More evidence health plans stint on mandated birth control coverage

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Woman's HeadBy Julie Rovner
KHN

Women’s health advocates were thrilled when the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, because it required insurance companies to cover a broad array of women’s health services at no additional out-of-pocket cost beyond premiums.

Five years later, however, that requirement is not being enforced, according to two new studies. Health insurance plans around the country are failing to provide many of those legally-mandated services including birth control and cancer screenings.

The studies by the National Women’s Law Center looked at health plan coverage documents and consumer complaints in 15 states. One of the studies focused on contraception, while the other looked at a range of women’s health issues, including maternity care, breast-feeding support and other services.

“We found some very clear violations of the law,” said Karen Davenport, the group’s director of health policy. Among the companies named as not complying with the law’s requirements in at least some states are Aetna, Cigna, Physicians Plus and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Continue reading

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Gonorrhea cases jump 40% in Washington state

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Gonorrhea bacteria - Photo CDC

Gonorrhea bacteria – Photo CDC

Cases of the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea continued to climb in Washington state last year, rising to 6,136 cases in 2014, up from 4,395 cases in 2013 – a jump of almost 40 percent.

The latest increase follows a 33 percent increase from 2012 to 2013, Washington state health officials said Wednesday.

The latest increase follows a 33 percent increase from 2012 to 2013. Rates of infection in Washington have more than doubled since 2009 rising from 34 cases per 100,000 people to a rate of 88 cases per 100,000 people in 2014. State and local health officials have yet to learn why the number of infections keeps climbing.

“The continued increase in cases is concerning,” said Zandt Bryan, infectious disease coordinator for the department. “We’re working closely with local health partners to monitor the situation, and to share information about the importance of routine screening, getting exposed partners treated quickly, and the need to practice safe sex.”

Increases in gonorrhea diagnoses have been seen in men and women of various age groups, but young adults continue to be the most affected. Most counties around the state saw an increase in cases of the disease. However, some have seen bigger spikes. Clark, Kitsap, Snohomish, Yakima, Grant, and Spokane counties all experienced outbreaks during 2014.

  • Gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted disease in the state after chlamydia.
  • The disease is spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner.
  • The infection often has no symptoms, particularly among women.If symptoms are present, they may include discharge or painful urination.
  • Serious long-term health issues can occur if the disease isn’t treated, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and increased chances of HIV transmission.
  • Drugs that are currently available are effective against the disease, but gonorrhea can become resistant to medications.

The Department of Health urges anyone who is experiencing symptoms, or has a partner that has been diagnosed, to be tested. Sexually active individuals with multiple partners are encouraged to have routine screenings. Prevention methods include consistent and correct use of condoms, prompt treatment of partners, mutual monogamy, and abstinence. Continue reading

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Women’s Group Says Insurers Aren’t Meeting Health-Law Requirements – WSJ

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Woman's HeadThe National Women’s Law Center, a feminist group that strongly backs the health law, said in a report that it had found widespread violations across more than a dozen states where it investigated new plans sold on the exchanges.

The center, which is based in Washington, D.C., also said it had received complaints on a hotline from women in every state about how the rules were working, including in coverage provided by an employer.

Source: Women’s Group Says Insurers Aren’t Meeting Health-Law Requirements – WSJ

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Only 1 day left to get 2015 coverage

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HCGOV Medium Seal Update

Only 1 day left to get 2015 coverage

The Special Enrollment Period ends this Thursday, April 30.

If you owed the fee for not having coverage in 2014, take advantage of this chance to get covered for 2015. To beat the deadline, you must enroll by April 30.

Get covered, avoid the fee. The fee for people who don’t have health coverageincreases in 2015 to $325 per person or 2% of your household income – whichever is greater. If you don’t sign up for health coverage, you won’t be covered this year and will risk having to pay the fee again next year. Take a few minutes today to learn about the options that are available and enroll in a plan that meets your needs.

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Financial help is available: With tax credits through the Marketplace, 8 out of 10 people can find coverage for $100 or less a month.

We hope you take advantage of this extended opportunity to get quality coverage this year.

The HealthCare.gov Team

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