Guest: The fight over funding for a new medical school doesn’t serve medical students | Opinion | The Seattle Times

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Rep. Jim McDermottCreating a new Washington State University medical school in Spokane would undermine our shared goal of bringing more doctors to underserved communities in Washington, writes guest columnist Congressman Jim McDermott.

via Guest: The fight over funding for a new medical school doesn’t serve medical students | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

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Less than two weeks left to enroll in health plan for 2015

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clockFrom the Office of the Insurance Commissioner

The last day to enroll in a health plan for 2015 is Feb. 15. Coverage takes effect March 1 if you enroll before 11:59 p.m.

If you qualify for a subsidy or Medicaid, you should obtain health insurance through the Washington Healthplanfinder, our state’s health benefit exchange.

If you do not qualify for a subsidy, you can buy a health plan directly from an insurance company.

Here’s a list of the plans that are available in Washington.

There are ways to qualify for a special enrollment after Feb. 15, including losing health coverage provided by an employer, adding dependents and consumers who had trouble enrolling through Washington Healthplanfinder. Read more about special enrollments.

Need more information?

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Health news headlines – February 3, 2015

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Global health news – February 3, 2015

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Measles danger to adults overlooked – Chicago Tribune

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measles-cases-616pxMore than half of the cases in the measles outbreak in California, which started in December at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park, have been adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the anti-vaccination campaign seemed to reach a fever pitch in recent years with the help of celebrity endorsements, the movement goes back further, and it may be that the early wave of kids who never had their shots are the adults now at greatest risk.

via Measles danger to adults overlooked – Chicago Tribune.

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Immune system shaped by environment more than genes, twin study suggests

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Diagram_of_a_white_blood_cell_CRUK_028 Cancer Research UK / Wikimedia Commons / CC license

By Carol Torgan, Ph.D.
For NIH Research Matters

The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect our bodies from infection.

The system must fight off invading microbes, infected cells, and tumors while ignoring healthy tissues.

There can be significant variation in immune system function between people. It’s not known how much of the variation is caused by genetic differences (heritable) and how much is due to exposure to environmental (non-heritable) factors such as microbes.

To determine the basis of immune system variation, a team led by Dr. Mark M. Davis at Stanford University School of Medicine applied the most recent advances in immune monitoring technologies to a classic research model: studying twin pairs.

The study was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Results appeared in Cell on January 15, 2015.

Blood samples from healthy twins helped reveal how the environment affects the immune system.

In twin studies, researchers compare identical (monozygotic) twins, who share almost all of their genes, with fraternal (dizygotic) twins, who share about half of their genes. T

win pairs share the same prenatal environment and usually have a similar childhood environment. Thus if identical twins show more similarity on a given trait compared to fraternal twins, it suggests that genes significantly influence that trait.

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Senator to hospitals: Stop suing poor patients

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Prompted by an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, Sen. Charles Grassley asks a Missouri nonprofit hospital to explain why it seizes the wages of thousands of its patients.

Senatore Chuck GrassleyBy Paul Kiel, ProPublica, and Chris Arnold
This story was co-published with NPR.

Sen. Charles Grassley said nonprofit hospitals could be breaking the law when they sue poor patients over unpaid bills and issued a stern warning to one Missouri hospital that he hopes reverberates nationwide.

Citing a ProPublica and NPR report, Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter Friday to Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri, that has seized the wages of thousands of lower income workers who were unable to pay their medical bills.

Under federal law, tax-exempt hospitals are supposed to provide care to those who can’t afford it, but the requirements are fairly vague. Even so, Grassley said the hospital, which recently rebranded as Mosaic Life Care, had, at a minimum, stretched the law to the breaking point.

In his letter to Mosaic’s CEO, Grassley wrote that the hospital “may not be meeting the requirements to be a nonprofit, tax exempt hospital.” He also asked a battery of questions about the hospital’s treatment of lower-income patients, its debt collection practices, and how it administers financial assistance.

“The practices appear to be extremely punitive and unfair to both low income patients and taxpayers who subsidize charitable hospitals’ tax breaks.”

“Reports detail a number of instances where Mosaic failed to identify patients who would qualify for financial assistance and who have since been subject to abusive billing and collection practices,” Grassley wrote. “The practices appear to be extremely punitive and unfair to both low income patients and taxpayers who subsidize charitable hospitals’ tax breaks.”

As ProPublica and NPR reported, the hospital has its own for-profit debt collection subsidiary, Northwest Financial Services, which files thousands of lawsuits each year. From 2009 through 2013, the company garnished the pay of about 6,000 people and seized at least $12 million.

In response to the story, the hospital announced a review of its debt collection practices. Tama Wagner, chief brand officer for Mosaic, said the hospital expected that new recommendations would be presented to the hospital’s board next month. “Our goal is to do the right thing,” she said. Continue reading

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Why Florida is No. 1 in Obamacare enrollment despite GOP opposition

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enrollment-heat-map-florida-370By Phil Galewitz
KHN

When Florida workers promoting President Barack Obama’s health law marketplace want instant feedback, they go to an online “heat map.”

The map turns darker green where they’ve seen the most people and shows bright red dots for areas where enrollment is high.

Republican-controlled Florida, whose leaders criticize the health law at every turn, is leading the nation in signing people up for private Obamacare health plans.

. “The map shows us where the holes are” and what communities need to be targeted next, said Lynn Thorp, regional director of the Health Planning Council of Southwest Florida. She hands out information about the health law’s marketplace at rodeos, farmers markets, hockey games and almost any place where people gather.

That mapping strategy is one reason why a Republican-controlled state like Florida, whose leaders criticize the health law at every turn, is leading the nation in signing people up for private Obamacare health plans.

With two weeks to go until the deadline for 2015 enrollment, Florida’s tally exceeds that of even Democrat-led California, which has embraced the law building its own online marketplace and has twice the population and uses three times as much federal funding for outreach.

“It’s surprising Florida has done as well compared to other states, and they will be looked at by folks who want to learn lessons to promote enrollment,” said Joel Ario, managing director for Manatt Health Solutions, a consulting firm, who worked for the administration setting up the exchanges soon after the law was passed.

As of mid-January, 1.27 million Floridians had enrolled in exchange plans, according to federal data, compared to 1.2 million Californians. Texas, which has 6 million more people than Florida, enrolled about 919,000 people in private plans.

Both Florida and Texas have a 22 percent uninsured rate. California’s rate is 17 percent, according to latest Census data.

“It is truly ironic that Florida leads the nation in enrollment … with leadership that has actively opposed the law,” said Leah Barber-Heinz, executive director of Florida CHAIN, an advocacy group involved in outreach efforts. “It shows true commitment on the part of many and it portrays an extremely high need for affordable coverage. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – February 2, 2015

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Global health news – February 2, 2015

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Top 5 health stories of the week

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Credit: Dan Shirly

Credit: Dan Shirly

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‘Orthopedic Capital Of The World’ still hiring despite health law tax

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Amy Pritchett, a graduate, and Tom Till, director of the Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center at Ivy Tech Community College in Warsaw, Ind., program one of the school’s computerized milling machines (Photo by Julie Appleby/KHN).

By Julie Appleby
KHN

WARSAW, Ind. – Tom Till eyes the morning’s email to see who’s angling to hire his students: A local employer, which had already hired 23 people in less than a year, says it needs three more to help make the artificial hips, knees and other devices manufactured here in the self-proclaimed “Orthopedic Capital of the World.”

“Everyone is going gangbusters,” said Till, who oversees an advanced manufacturing program at Ivy Tech Community College in this lake-dotted region two hours north of Indianapolis.

Till’s bullish view of the medical device industry – he says he can’t crank out graduates fast enough — contrasts sharply with what industry lobbyists are telling lawmakers in the nation’s capital. They say a 2.3 percent tax on the sale of medical devices put in place two years ago by the Affordable Care Act has already cost more than 30,000 jobs and is stifling innovation.

The tax, projected to bring in $29 billion over 10 years, is the industry’s share of the cost of expanding health coverage to millions of Americans. Other industries expected to gain business from the health law, including hospitals, insurers and drug makers, are also paying a share of its costs, but none has been as vocal in opposition as the device makers, which have poured $30 million a year into lobbying Congress since 2010. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – January 31, 2015

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Global health news – January 31, 2015

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