Health news headlines – October 27th

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Flu virus - courtesy of NAIAD

Flu virus – courtesy of NAIAD

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Global health news – October 27th

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Globe floating in air

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Top five stories of the week

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Credit: Dan Shirly

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Health news headlines – October 25th

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Illustration of a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream (Yum!)

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Global health news – October 25th

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Globe floating in air

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Beyond the ‘Private Option’ for Medicaid Expansion

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Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 9.53.58 AMBy Christine Vestal
Stateline

Less than a year after low-income Arkansans started receiving health coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s controversial Medicaid expansion, the state is declaring its so-called “private option” experiment a success.

Hospitals saw fewer uninsured patients, state coffers were spared millions in health care costs and private insurers reported record-low premium hikes.

Most important, Arkansas’ uninsured rate fell from 23 percent to 12 percent, the sharpest drop in the country.

Arkansas calls its ‘private option’ Medicaid plan a success, and early estimates indicate next year’s insurance rates in the state will be an average of 2 percent lower than this year.

But lawmakers in Arkansas, where Gov. Mike Beebe is a Democrat and the legislature is controlled by Republicans, have already asked the federal government for adjustments to their groundbreaking plan, under which Arkansans used Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance on the insurance exchange created under the ACA.

Meanwhile, other states are customizing their own alternative approaches to expanding Medicaid to cover adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,105 for an individual). Continue reading

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Forget Ebola — What you need is a flu shot

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KHN / October 24, 2014

Take a break from worrying about Ebola and get a flu shot this fall.

While the Ebola virus has so far affected just four people in the United States, tens of millions are expected to get influenza this season.

More than 200,000 of them will be hospitalized and up to 49,000 will likely die from it, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu shots are recommended for just about everyone over six months of age, but less than half of people get vaccinated each year.

A new HuffPost/YouGov poll of 1,000 adults found that the flu is perceived as only slightly more threatening than the Ebola virus, however.

Forty-five percent of people polled said that the flu posed a bigger threat to Americans than Ebola, but a substantial 40 percent said it was the other way around. Fifteen percent said they weren’t sure.

“Ebola is new, mysterious, exotic, highly fatal and strange, and people don’t have a sense of control over it,” says William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University.

Influenza, on the other hand, is a familiar illness that people often think they can easily control, Schaffner says. “They think, ‘I could get vaccinated, I could wash my hands’ and prevent it.”

Yet that familiarity may lead to complacency. Flu shots are recommended for just about everyone over six months of age, but less than half of people get vaccinated each year.

Now there’s even more reason to get a shot. The health law requires most health plans to cover a range of preventive benefits at no cost to consumers, including recommended vaccines. The flu shot is one of them. (The only exception is for plans that have been grandfathered under the law.)

The provision making the vaccine available with no out-of-pocket expense is limited to services delivered by a health care provider that is part of the insurer’s network.

Depending on the plan, that could include doctors’ offices, pharmacies or other outlets.

Medicare also covers flu shots without patient cost sharing.

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.

khn_logo_lightKaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Health news headlines – October 24th

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Silhouettes of U.S. Soldiers at night in Iraq

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Global Health News – October 24th

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Globe floating in air

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Website helps you support retailers that don’t sell cigarettes

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Cigarette thumbThe Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which supports the supported Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has launched a new mobile-friendly website, shoptobaccofree.org, that will allow shoppers to take their business to retailers that don’t sell tobacco products.

Plug in your ZIP code, city or state, and you’ll get a handy interactive map showing where to find tobacco-free shops and stores in your area.

Shoptobaccofree.org

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Seattle-area nurse monitored for possible Ebola infection | Local News | The Seattle Times

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The number of cases with Ebola, shown here, could double by the end of the month. There is a one in five chance it will reach the U.S. in that same time, researchers predict. Photo:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A Seattle-area nurse being monitored for possible Ebola infection has shown no sign of the disease and is voluntarily restricting her movements to minimize the risk to others, health officials say.

Editors note: Even if a person has contracted Ebola, they are not contagious if they do not have symptoms.

via Seattle-area nurse monitored for possible Ebola infection | Local News | The Seattle Times.

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What would happen if you ended the Obamacare subsidies? The individual mandate?

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Question MarkWhat would happen if you ended the tax credits that subsidize premiums for health insurance purchased on the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act?

Or ended the requirement that everyone buy insurance or pay a fine — the much maligned individual mandate?

The RAND Corporation, a non-partisan research organization, looked at how various tweaks to Obamacare would likely play out.

Some of their key findings:

Eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) tax credits would cause large declines in enrollment and substantial increases in premiums.

Without the ACA’s premium support, premiums rise by nearly 45 percent, and enrollment falls by nearly 70 percent.

Without the ACA’s individual mandate, the number of people enrolled in the individual market falls by more than 20 percent, and premiums rise by about 7 percent.

To learn more read their study: Assessing Alternative Modifications to the Affordable Care Act

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Paul Allen boosts his donations to fight Ebola to $100 million, creates donation website

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Paul Allen

Paul Allen

Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist Paul G. Allen today increased his commitment to efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to at least $100 million and called on the global community to join the cause.

“The Ebola virus is unlike any health crisis we have ever experienced and needs a response unlike anything we have ever seen,” Allen said. “To effectively contain this outbreak and prevent it from becoming a global epidemic, we must pool our efforts to raise the funds, coordinate the resources and develop the creative solutions needed to combat this problem. I am committed to doing my part in tackling this crisis.”

To help individuals contribute to the effort, Allen has created crowd-sourcing website — TackleEbola.com.

The donation platform is designed to coordinate and optimize individual global giving, Allen said

Donations of all sizes will go to funding the solutions required to treat, contain and prevent the spread of Ebola.

Donors will be able to select the need that they are most interested in funding and 100 percent of that contribution will be applied to that need.

The site also offers a way for donors to view the impact of their combined contributions with updates on progress towards goals.

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Nearly half of Americans over 65 need help with daily tasks

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Clinic elderly doctor nurse office couchBy Millie Dawson
Health Behavior News Service

Nearly half of Americans age 65 and older, totaling about 18 million people, require help with routine daily activities like bathing, handling medications or meals.

A new study in Milbank Quarterly reveals a growing need for improved services and support for older Americans, their spouses, their children and other “informal caregivers.”

While 51 percent of older Americans in the study reported no difficulty with routine tasks, “29 percent reported receiving help with taking care of themselves or getting around in the previous month,” said co-author Vicki A. Freedman, Ph.D., a research professor with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

“Another 20 percent reported that they had difficulty carrying out these activities on their own,” she said.

KEY POINTS

  • Nearly half of Americans age 65 and older require help with routine daily activities such as bathing, meals or taking medications.
  • Substantial numbers of older adults living outside of nursing homes experience adverse consequences from unmet care needs.
  • There is a growing need for improved community-based services and support for older Americans and their caregivers.

Continue reading

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