UnitedHealth Group spent $100 million on hepatitis C drugs in the first three months of the year, much more than expected, the company said Thursday.
The news helped drive down the biggest insurance company’s stock and underscores the challenge for all health care payers in covering Sovaldi, an expensive new pill for hepatitis C.
“We’ve been surprised on the volume — the pent-up demand across all three businesses” — commercial insurance and private Medicare and Medicaid plans, said Daniel Schumacher, chief financial officer of UnitedHealth’s insurance wing.Continue reading →
In a White House news conference Thursday, President Barack Obama announced that 8 million people have enrolled in health plans through the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act and that 35 percent of people who enrolled on the federally run healthcare.gov marketplace are under age 35.
By Stephanie Stephens Contributing Writer Health Behavior News
While past research has shown that, as a whole, Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders living in the U.S. smoke at a lower rate than the national average, a new study in American Journal of Health Behaviorfinds significant differences in tobacco use when analyzed by specific Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity.
Dramatic social, demographic and behavioral differences exist between Asian American (AA) and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (NHPI) groups, said lead study author Arnab Mukherjea, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., who was a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Tobacco Control Research & Education at the University of California, San Francisco at the time of the study.Continue reading →
Since October 1, when the open enrollment began under the Affordable Care Act, 324,900 people in Washington state have signed up for private insurance, according to updated enrollment information reported by health insurers to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner this week.
This number includes 178,981 enrolled outside the Exchange and 146,000 enrolled inside the Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, as of March 31. The total is expected to increase as late enrollments through the Exchange are processed and reconciled. Continue reading →
For kids, moving can be mentally tough | Reuters – “Moving to a new area may be hard on the mental health of children, especially adolescents, according to a new U.S. study. Based on analysis of medical records for more than a half million children, researchers found the chances a child will require mental health care rise by as much as 20 percent after a move.”
Misdiagnosis could affect 12M U.S. adults annually, study finds | Modern Healthcare – “An estimated 1 in 20 U.S. adults could be misdiagnosed during outpatient visits, and about half of those errors could prove to be harmful for the patient, finds a new study in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety. Misdiagnoses remain a major problem, healthcare quality and safety experts say, one that is often overlooked and underfunded. “
Periodically Washington State Department of Health issues an update on disciplinary actions taken against health care providers, including suspensions and revocations of licenses, certifications, or registrations of providers in the state.
The department also suspends the credentials of people who have been prohibited from practicing in other states.
Information about health care providers is also on the agency’s website.
To find this information click on “Provider Credential Search” on the left hand side of the Department of Health home page (www.doh.wa.gov).
The site includes information about a health care provider’s license status, the expiration and renewal date of their credential, disciplinary actions and copies of legal documents issued after July 1998.
This information is also available by calling 360-236-4700.
Consumers who think a health care provider acted unprofessionally are also encouraged to call and report their complaint.
Here is the April 16th update issued by the Washington State Department of Health:Continue reading →
The Affordable Care Act provision that requires insurers to cover contraceptives with zero co-pay saved US women $483 million last year — $269 on average, according to a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.
Overall, 24 million more prescriptions for oral contraceptives were filled in 2013, the first full year the health law’s contraceptive provision was in force, compared to 2012.
“The share of women with no out-of-pocket cost for these forms of birth control increased to 56% from 14% one year ago,” the report says.
Washington is one of the few states that has made the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America honor roll of states that have adopted comprehensive public policies supporting people with asthma, food allergies, anaphylaxis risk and related allergic diseases in schools.
In a valley wedged between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, St. Louis often finds itself beset by a stationary air mass that only a severe storm of some kind can dislodge.
St. Louis is also an industrial city with high humidity, so it’s no wonder it usually makes the list of worst places for asthmatics to live.
But the state has also pioneered advances in addressing asthma treatment and costs. Two years ago, the Missouri legislature became the first to allow schools to stock quick-relief asthma medications for emergencies. Continue reading →
Accountable care organizations are practically a footnote in the health law, but advocates say they’ll be critical to holding down the cost of care while improving quality
By Jenny Gold KHN Staff Writer APR 16, 2014
One of the main ways the Affordable Care Act seeks to reduce health care costs is by encouraging doctors, hospitals and other health care providers to form networks which coordinate patient care and become eligible for bonuses when they deliver that care more efficiently.
The law takes a carrot-and-stick approach by encouraging the formation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in the Medicare program. Providers make more if they keep their patients healthy. About four million Medicare beneficiaries are now in an ACO, and, combined with the private sector, more than 428 provider groups have already signed up.
An estimated 14 percent of the U.S. population is now being served by an ACO. You may even be in one and not know it.
While ACOs are touted as a way to help fix an inefficient payment system that rewards more, not better, care, some economists warn they could lead to greater consolidation in the health care industry, which could allow some providers to charge more if they’re the only game in town.
ACOs have become one of the most talked about new ideas in Obamacare. Here are answers to some of the more common questions about how they work: Continue reading →
AMA: Docs Add $1.6 Trillion to Economy – “U.S. physicians produced $1.6 trillion in direct and indirect economic activity in 2012 and supported an average of more than 13 jobs apiece, according to an economic impact analysis released Wednesday by the American Medical Association. But some outside observers say the AMA’s analysis — meant to put a dollar figure on doctors’ real-world impact — may be making unrealistic assumptions and be based on unreliable information.”
CDC: Drowning deaths have declined, except among older Americans – “Unintentional drowning deaths in the United States decreased 9 percent between 1999 and 2010, according to figures released Tuesday morning, with the sharpest decline among infants under 1. Deaths also reduced among older children and young adults. But deaths increased nearly 10 percent for one group – people ages 45 to 84.”
Census Survey Revisions Mask Health Law Effects – NYTimes.com – “The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said.”
National event urges Americans to plan for the end | Reuters – “With taxes filed, Americans today are being asked to consider life’s other certainty: death, and the myriad complications that often now accompany it. National Health Care Decisions Day, marked on this date for the seventh year, is one in which patients and health providers are encouraged to think about their own end-of-life preferences. The man behind it, health care attorney Nathan Kottkamp, says such considerations have never been more critical.”
Want to know how many people have signed up for private insurance under Obamacare? Like the health care law itself, the answer is exceedingly complicated.
The Obama administration is tracking the number of plans purchased on the federal website healthcare.gov and on the state marketplaces, and this month reported that It had exceeded expectations by signing up 7.5 million people. In addition, federal officials have said that 3 million people have enrolled in Medicaid since October.
But often overlooked is that enrollment in private health plans outside the marketplaces is also booming. The federal government hasn’t been counting the number of people who buy new plans directly from insurance carriers — and that number could be substantial. Continue reading →
E-Cigarettes Are Targeted at Youths, Report Says – NYTimes.com – “An investigation by Democratic members of Congress into the marketing practices of electronic cigarette companies has found that major producers are targeting young people by giving away free samples at music and sporting events and running radio and television advertisements during youth-oriented programs.”
Prices Soaring for Specialty Drugs, Researchers Find – NYTimes.com – “Even as the cost of prescription drugs has plummeted for many Americans, a small slice of the population is being asked to shoulder more and more of the cost of expensive treatments for diseases like cancer and hepatitis C, according to a report to be released on Tuesday by a major drug research firm.”
Why We Misplace Our Keys, Phones, Wallets – WSJ.com – “You’ve put your keys somewhere and now they appear to be nowhere, certainly not in the basket by the door they’re supposed to go in and now you’re 20 minutes late for work. Kitchen counter, night stand, book shelf, work bag: Wait, finally, there they are under the mail you brought in last night.”
U.S. healthcare usage and spending resumes rise in 2013: report | Reuters – “Americans used more health services and spent more on prescription drugs in 2013, reversing a recent trend, though greater use of cheaper generic drugs helped control spending, according to a report issued on Tuesday by a leading healthcare information company. Spending on medicines rose 3.2 percent in the United States last year to $329.2 billion. While that was far less than the double-digit increases seen in previous decades, it was a rebound from a 1 percent decline in 2012, the report by IMS Health Holdings Inc. found.”
The surgeons also condemned an infrequently performed procedure where doctors wash a pained knee joint with saline.
“They could have chosen many surgical procedures that are commonly done, where evidence has shown over the years that they don’t work or where they’re being done with no evidence,” said Dr. James Rickert, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Indiana University. “They chose stuff of no material consequence that nobody really does.”Continue reading →