Premera to include Children’s in its networks – PSBJ

Share

Seattle Children's Whale LogoSeattle Children’s Hospital will be included in the Premera Blue Cross health insurance networks through 2017 as a result of an agreement that ends a lengthy legal dispute.

via Legal wrangling pays off: Seattle Children’s, Premera make nice – Puget Sound Business Journal.

Share

West Nile virus infection confirmed in Washington resident

Share

West nile virus wnvFrom the Washington State Department of Health

A Walla Walla County man is the first Washington resident in 2014 known to have been infected with West Nile virus in our state, Washington State Department of Health officials said Monday.

The man in his 20s was likely exposed near his home and was hospitalized. The infection was confirmed by testing at the Washington State Public Health Laboratories in Shoreline.

So far, 34 mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile virus in 2014, including Benton County (11), Franklin County (11), and Grant County (12).

Two other Washington residents have been diagnosed with the infection this year, both with exposures in other states.

A King County man in his 70s and a Grays Harbor woman in her 50s were infected with West Nile virus this year while traveling out of state.

Additional reports of possible infections are currently under investigation. Continue reading

Share

Are nurse practitioners, physician assistants encroaching on specialists’ turf?

Share

One of the hopes embedded in the health law was to expand the role of nurse practitioners and physician assistants in addressing the nation’s shortage of primary care providers. But a new study questions whether that’s actually happening in doctors’ offices.

Mid-level providers – PAs and NPs – “are doing invasive procedures and surgery. I’m not sure they were trained to do that.”

Of the more than 4 million procedures office-based nurse practitioners and physician assistants independently billed more than 5,000 times in a year to Medicare – a list including radiological exams, setting casts and injecting anesthetic agents – more than half were for  dermatological surgeries. Continue reading

Share

Hospitals rethink charity care for those declining coverage

Share

This KHN story also ran in wapo.

As more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t.

The move is prompted by concerns that offering free or discounted care to low-income uninsured patients might dissuade them from getting government-subsidized coverage.

“Applicants who refuse to purchase federally-mandated health insurance when they are eligible to do so will not be awarded charitable care.”

If a patient is eligible to purchase subsidized coverage through the law’s online marketplaces  but doesn’t sign up, should hospitals “provide charity care on the same level of generosity as they were previously?” asks Peter Cunningham, a health policy expert at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Most hospitals are still wrestling with that question, but a few have gone ahead and changed their programs, Cunningham says. Continue reading

Share

Health news headlines – August 18th

Share

Running shoes full shot

Share

Global health news – August 18th

Share

Globe floating in air

Share

Six tips for college health and safety – CDC

Share

Tips for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

BooksGoing to college is an exciting time in a young person’s life. It’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. College is a great time for new experiences, both inside and outside the classroom. Here are a few pointers for college students on staying safe and healthy. Continue reading

Share

Top five stories of the week

Share

The number five 5

Share

Women’s health – Week 49: TMJ

Share

tacuin womenFrom the Office of Researcher on Women’s Health

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and muscle disorders are a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement.

Some estimates suggest that TMJ disorders affect over 10 million Americans and appear to be more common in women than men.

The exact cause of TMJ is not clear. Trauma to the jaw or temporomandibular joint plays a role in some TMJ disorders but, in most cases, symptoms seem to start without obvious reason.

A variety of symptoms may be linked to TMJ disorders. Pain in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint is the most common symptom. Continue reading

Share

Hospitals seek to help patients with Obamacare premiums

Share

This KHN story also ran on .

Low-income consumers struggling to pay their premiums may soon be able to get help from their local hospital or United Way.

Some hospitals in New York, Florida and Wisconsin are exploring ways to help individuals and families pay their share of the costs of government-subsidized policies purchased though the health law’s marketplaces – at least partly to guarantee the hospitals get paid when the consumers seek care.

But the hospitals’ efforts have set up a conflict with insurers, who worry that premium assistance programs will skew their enrollee pools by expanding the number of sicker people who need more services.

“Entities acting in their [own] financial interest” could drive up costs for everyone and discourage healthier people from buying coverage, insurers wrote recently to the Obama administration. Continue reading

Share

Variation in hospital charges for blood tests called ‘irrational’

Share

RedBloodCellsBy Roni Caryn Rabin
KHN

One California hospital charged $10 for a blood cholesterol test, while another hospital that ran the same test charged $10,169 — over 1,000 times more.

For another common blood test called a basic metabolic panel, the average hospital charge was $371, but prices ranged from a low of $35 to a high of $7,303, more than 200 times more.

The wide disparity in hospitals’ listed charges for routine blood tests at California hospitals was revealed in a study published in the August issue of BMJ Open. The study examined the listed charges for routine blood tests performed in 2011. Continue reading

Share

Global health news – August 16th

Share

Globe 125X125

Share

Health news headlines – August 16

Share

CDC lab shot egg

Share

More employers limit health plan networks but seek to preserve quality, says adviser

Share

Dr. Robert Galvin is chief executive officer of Equity Healthcare, where he works with executives of nearly 50 companies that purchase health coverage for 300,000 people.

Question Q&AGalvin says the 2010 Affordable Care Act has made employers more engaged in health benefits while encouraging their workers to be savvier health care consumers.

“I think what the ACA has done more than anything is it has made every employer examine their strategy and in every case it’s bringing the CFO and the CEO” into decisions about the company’s health care, which often didn’t use to happen, he said.

Galvin also sees the move to offer workers plans with limited numbers of doctors, hospitals and other providers as increasing, but says most companies are eager to make sure those networks offer adequate quality assurances and that employees are given the option of using other providers if they want to pay more for their care.

Equity Healthcare is a wholly owned subsidiary of Blackstone, a global investment and advisory firm.

Galvin spoke recently with KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey to discuss the Affordable Care Act and how it is changing the way companies of all sizes purchase health insurance.  What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation. Continue reading

Share