There’s still time to get a health plan for 2016

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From the Office of the Insurance Commissioner

Coverage is hereConsumers have until Jan. 31 to sign up for a health plan for 2016 coverage. People who do not have a health plan for 2016 face a penalty on their taxes of 2.5 percent of their income or $695 per person, whichever is higher. Read more about the tax penalty.

If you are still looking for a health plan, you check our state’s health insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder to find out if you qualify for financial help, including tax credits that may lower the cost of coverage. Continue reading

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How I almost poisoned my family with holiday leftovers

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white-bean-and-ham-soupBy 
Public Health – Seattle & King County

A white bean and vegetable soup seemed the perfect use of the last of the remaining ham from the holidays. I felt pretty pleased with myself for cooking it two days before parents came for a visit–that would give it the right amount of time to reach full flavor, and it would be ready to heat when I got home from work.

By shutting the soup in the cooler, I had created the perfect laboratory for toxins to form.

When I finished cooking, I realized that I didn’t have room in the fridge for the enormous pot of soup. But the outside temperature was plenty cold, so I decided to store it on the outside deck, protecting it from raccoons by putting it inside a cooler. I once again felt pleased with my cleverness as I shut the cooler lid tightly with my soup safe inside.

Second thoughts

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Hay Fever: Symptoms, causes, prevention and treatment

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By David Jeong, MD
Virginia Mason University Village Medical Center

Although many think of spring as the time of year when most people are bothered by allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, the condition can affect folks year round depending on what an individual is allergic to at any given time. In fact, as an allergist, I see children and adults with allergic rhinitis all 12 months of the year.

What is Hay Fever?

Hay fever is the group of uncomfortable symptoms that occur when your body is exposed to a specific allergen. An allergen is a typically harmless substance that causes an allergic reaction.

When your body comes into contact with an allergen, the immune system recognizes it and signals the release of histamine, among other natural chemicals, from the body. Unfortunately, an excess of histamine can cause uncomfortable symptoms.

As a result, it is important to seek treatment since this condition can interfere with your everyday quality of life.

Types of allergens 

Common allergens that can cause this condition include:

  • Grasses and weeds
  • Dust mites
  • Animal dander (old skin) and saliva
  • Mold
  • Pollens (Pollens are the biggest allergen culprit during certain seasons – trees during early and mid-spring, grasses during summer and weeds in fall)

Risk factors for allergic rhinitis 

Although allergies can affect anyone, they are often inherited. You are more likely to develop allergic rhinitis if your family has a history of allergies.

Other risk factors for developing hay fever include:

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There’s still time to get covered for 2016

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There’s still time to get covered for 2016

--Apply-- tracker

Good news! Although the December 17 deadline to enroll in a health plan for coverage starting in January has passed, you still have time to get coverage starting February 1. 

Join the millions who have already picked their 2016 plans.

Just select your state, and you’re on your way to submitting your application for 2016.

((Submit))

Get covered and save: 8 out of 10 people who enrolled in a health insurance plan qualified for financial help. In fact, most people can find plans for $75 or less per month.

Don’t miss your chance to get quality coverage — enroll in a 2016 plan today!

Deadline: January 15, 2016 for coverage starting February 1 

The HealthCare.gov Team

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Gonorrhea may soon be untreatable, Britain’s chief medical officer warns – The Washington Post

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A medical illustration of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. (CDC)

The sexually transmitted infection is increasingly caused by strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae that resist antibiotic treatment. “Gonorrhoea is at risk of becoming an untreatable disease due to the continuing emergence of antimicrobial resistance,” Davies wrote.

The Guardian reports that a recent outbreak of a superbug strain of the disease — one that doesn’t respond to the antibiotic azithromycin — has put Britain on high alert. Davies urged doctors to use proper treatment protocols. A recent study found t

Source: Gonorrhea may soon be untreatable, Britain’s chief medical officer warns – The Washington Post

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Unhappiness may lead to bad choices, but it probably won’t kill you | Reuters

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After researchers adjusted for a host of factors independently linked to mortality – like hypertension, diabetes, smoking, drinking, asthma, arthritis, depression and anxiety – mere unhappiness wasn’t associated with increased mortality from all causes, or specifically from cancer or heart disease.

Source: Unhappiness may lead to bad choices, but it probably won’t kill you | Reuters

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Hazing still common in collegiate and youth sports | Reuters

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Two drawings of the "Scenes of Hazing", as printed in the 1880 Massachusetts Agricultural College yearbook.

Two drawings of the “Scenes of Hazing”, as printed in the 1880 Massachusetts Agricultural College yearbook.

The authors found that definitions and reporting of hazing behavior can vary, but one large study found that 47 percent of students reported being hazed during high school. The numbers were highest for students involved in sports, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), and band.

Source: Hazing still common in collegiate and youth sports | Reuters

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Top 5 stories of the week

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Mosquito

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Worlds Apart: Vast disparities in treatment separate Americans with HIV

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Loren Jones, 63, lives in a government-subsidized studio apartment in downtown Berkeley. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Loren Jones, 63, lives in a government-subsidized studio apartment in downtown Berkeley. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

By Barbara Feder Ostrov

A major insurer said recently it would offer life insurance to HIV-positive people because of their rising life expectancies, prompting cheers from AIDS activists.

But on the very same day,  the nation’s top disease control official described an America falling far short in its fight against AIDS.

Compared to white men, African American men were more than seven times and Latino men were almost twice as likely to die from HIV-related complications.

It might seem a jarring disconnect — but it reflects very different realities dividing the estimated 1.2 million Americans living with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.

While life expectancies are approaching the national norm among white, affluent gay men, about 66 percent of the 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States are not in treatment, imperiling their health and putting them at risk for infecting others.

African-Americans, mostly gay or bisexual men, account for nearly half of the approximately 45,000 Americans infected with HIV each year.

Both African-Americans and Latinos are less likely to remain in treatment than whites.

Compared to white men, African American men were more than seven times and Latino men were almost twice as likely to die from HIV-related complications.

HIV/AIDS activists and physicians say that despite the significant medical advances in treating the disease, many patients are being left behind because of their life circumstances.

Groups that once held angry demonstrations against government agencies and pharmaceutical companies to speed access to affordable, life-saving HIV medications now emphasize the socioeconomic barriers that keep some people living with HIV from consistently obtaining and using those drugs to remain healthy.

“There is an extreme disparity when it comes to treating HIV and AIDS,” said Anthony Hayes, managing director of public affairs and policy for GMHC, formerly Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Continue reading

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Learning soft skills in childhood can prevent problems later

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Pat-a-cake,_pat-a-cake,_baker's_man_1_-_WW_Denslow_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_18546 (1)By Lynne Shallcross

Academic learning is usually in the spotlight at school, but teaching elementary-age students “soft” skills like self-control and how to get along with others might help to keep at-risk kids out of criminal trouble in the future, a study finds.

Duke University researchers looked at a program called Fast Track, which was started in the early 1990s for children who were identified by their teachers and parents to be at high risk for developing aggressive behavioral problems.

The students were randomized into two groups; half took part in the intervention, which included a teacher-led curriculum, parent training groups, academic tutoring and lessons in self-control and social skills.

The academic skills turned out to have less of an impact on crime and delinquency rates than did the soft skills, which are associated with emotional intelligence.

The program, which lasted from first grade through 10th grade, reduced delinquency, arrests and use of health and mental health services as the students aged through adolescence and young adulthood, as researchers explained in a separate study published earlier this year.

In the latest study, researchers looked at the “why” behind those previous findings. In looking at the data from nearly 900 students, the researchers found that about a third of the impact on future crime outcomes was due to the social and self-regulation skills the students learned from ages 6 to 11.

The academic skills that were taught as part of Fast Track turned out to have less of an impact on crime and delinquency rates than did the soft skills, which are associated with emotional intelligence. Soft skills might include teaching kids to work cooperatively in a group or teaching them how to think about the long-term consequences when they make a decision. Teaching physics is an example of a hard skill.

“The conclusion that we would make is that these [soft] skills should be emphasized even more in our education system and in our system of socializing children,” says Kenneth Dodge, a professor of public policy and of psychology and neuroscience at Duke who was a principal investigator in this study as well as in the original Fast Track project. Parents should do all they can to promote these skills with their children, Dodge says, as should education policymakers. Continue reading

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Medicare payment changes lead more men to get colonoscopies

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Illustration of the colon from Gray's AnatomyBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

Medicare Payment Changes Lead More Men To Get Screening Colonoscopies

Men are getting more screening colonoscopies since the health law reduced how much Medicare beneficiaries pay out of pocket for the preventive tests, a recent study found. The change, however, didn’t affect women’s rates.

, published in the December issue of Health Affairs, compared rates of screening for colorectal cancer among people age 66 to 75 before and after the health law passed in 2010.

Starting in 2011, that law waived the Medicare Part B deductible (which totals $147 annually in 2015) and eliminated the requirement that beneficiaries pay 20 percent of the cost for screening colonoscopies.

The study found that in men, colonoscopy screening rates increased from 18 to 22 percent following implementation of the health law, a 20 percent increase.

The data came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

The study found that in men, colonoscopy screening rates increased from 18 to 22 percent following implementation of the health law, a 20 percent increase. In women, however, the rate didn’t budge, remaining at 18 percent even after the law passed. Continue reading

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Hands off that frozen pizza! Docs advise customers as they shop

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Lisa Tamura discusses her shopping habits with Phil Cecchini, a family doctor who works for St. Joseph Hoag Health in Orange County.  Cecchini spent the afternoon advising shoppers on what foods to buy and what to avoid at the Ralphs supermarket in Laguna Hills, California, on Thursday,  November 12, 2015 (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Lisa Tamura discusses her shopping habits with Phil Cecchini, a family doctor who works for St. Joseph Hoag Health in Orange County. Cecchini spent the afternoon advising shoppers on what foods to buy and what to avoid at the Ralphs supermarket in Laguna Hills, California, on Thursday, November 12, 2015 (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

By Anna Gorman
KHN

When Lisa Tamura goes to the grocery store, she usually picks up a few frozen pizzas for the nights she doesn’t want to cook.

But on a recent Thursday afternoon at the Ralphs supermarket in Laguna Hills, California, she strolled right by the frozen food and headed straight to the fruits and vegetables.

Grocery stores are an ideal place to teach people that they can become healthier by making small dietary changes and eating in moderation.

That’s because she had some help from the ultimate personal shopper – a family doctor named Phil Cecchini.

“What do you like to eat?” he asked.

“Bad food,” she responded, laughing.

Cecchini, who works for St. Joseph Hoag Health in Orange County, spent the afternoon advising shoppers on what foods to buy – and what to avoid.

“If you stick with the periphery, you are probably doing okay,” Cecchini told Tamura, who recently moved from Hawaii to California. “You are avoiding all the pre-packaged, processed foods.”

Hospitals and health clinics around the country are increasing their efforts to promote exercise and healthy eating. They’re offering yoga and cooking classes, sponsoring farmers’ markets and writing prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables. Continue reading

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