UnitedHealthcare, the insurance giant that largely sat out the health law’s online marketplaces’ first year, said Thursday it may sell policies through the exchanges in nearly half the states next year.
“We plan to grow next year as we expand our offering to as many as two dozen state exchanges,” Stephen Hemsley, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, the insurance company’s parent, told investment analysts on a conference call. He was referring to coverage sold to individuals.
A study found that if UnitedHealthcare had sold policies through the exchanges this year in every state where it already does business, premiums would have been 5 percent lower.
The move represents a major acceleration for the company and a bet that government-subsidized insurance, sold online without regard for pre-existing illness, is here to stay. UnitedHealthcare sells individual policies through government exchanges in only four states now.
Many specialists are balking at what they say are onerous new rules to get recertified, warning the demands will force some physicians out of practice at a time when the nation faces a shortage.
Doctors say the new requirements have made maintaining specialty certifications a process that never ends.
Younger doctors already retake the arduous certification exam every seven to 10 years to keep their credential, long considered the gold standard of expertise.
“I’m at an age where, if anybody does anything to force me to participate, I’d say ‘adios.’ I’d retire. It’s not worth it for me.”
But physicians of all ages must now complete a complex set of requirements every two to three years, or risk losing their certification.
Supporters contend the new process will ensure doctors incorporate the latest medical advances into their practices, but many critics dismiss it as meaningless, expensive and a waste of time.Continue reading →
HIV diagnosis rate falls by a third in U.S.: researchers | Reuters – “The annual rate of diagnosis with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, fell by a third in the United States between 2002 and 2011, researchers reported on Saturday. Fewer people in all U.S. groups tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus except for gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 and over 45, they wrote in a special issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.”
Study: Americans Trust Word-Of-Mouth For Health Recommendations | WNIJ and WNIU – “It finds when it comes to what being a quality health care provider means, there is a disconnect between how experts and consumers define it. According to the study’s authors, most Americans focus on doctor-patient relationships and interactions in the doctor’s office, with fewer thinking about the effectiveness of treatments or health outcomes. People also reported they value provider quality over cost and are willing to pay more for higher-quality doctors, but when asked directly in the survey, few report having done so. “
Mental-Health Risks of Diabetes Underrecognized – “Among the wide-ranging comorbidities associated with diabetes, mental-health issues are probably among the most overlooked, despite their potential to compromise self-management and increase the risk for serious complications, according to a new viewpoint published online July 10 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.”
FDA: Powdered caffeine can be lethal | Health | The Seattle Times – “The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to avoid pure powdered caffeine sold on the Internet after the death of an Ohio teen. Even a teaspoon of the powder could be lethal — it is equivalent to 25 cups of coffee. Eighteen-year-old Logan Stiner of LaGrange, Ohio, died May 27 after consuming it.”
Enjoy the lake this summer but, please, don’t drink the water, say Snohomish health officials
From the Snohomish Health District:
Swimming or playing in water that is contaminated or high in bacteria or natural toxins can affect your health.
Swimming pools, spas, lakes, rivers, or oceans are all potential sources of water-related illness. Recreational water illnesses typically affect a person’s stomach and intestines, causing diarrhea and vomiting. Water quality can also affect your skin or respiratory system.
The recent outbreak of illness at Horseshoe Lake in Kitsap County was caused by norovirus found in the water at the swimming beach.Continue reading →
In just over the past year, the number of abortion clinics in Texas fell from 41 to 20, and watchdogs say that as few as six may be left by September.
Many of those closed because of the requirement that doctors at those clinics obtain hospital admitting privileges within a certain radius of the clinic, and many doctors couldn’t comply. That requirement began November 1. This week marks the one-year anniversary of the law that started it all.
Bitter fighting over the law last summer propelled state senator Wendy Davis into the national spotlight, and she is now running for Texas governor on the Democratic ticket.
“We’re seeing delays,” said Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. “We’re seeing people being pushed further into pregnancy, having to leave the state, having to drive and sleep in their cars in parking lots because of these barriers to access.”Continue reading →
HPV test better than Pap for assessing cervical cancer risk: study | Reuters – “Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) may be the best way to know whether a woman is at risk of developing cervical cancer in the near future, according to a new study. Negative HPV tests provided women with more reliable assurance that they wouldn’t develop cancer or other abnormal cervical changes in the next three years, compared to traditional Pap tests, researchers report.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The health care community is not doing enough to track and prevent widespread harm to patients, and preventable deaths and injuries in hospitals and other settings will continue unless Congress takes action, medical experts said today on Capitol Hill.
“Our collective action in patient safety pales in comparison to the magnitude of the problem,” said Dr. Peter Pronovost, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “We need to say that harm is preventable and not tolerable.”Continue reading →
Despite predictions of an impending nurse shortage, the current number of working registered nurses has surpassed expectations in part due to the number of baby-boomer RNs delaying retirement, a study by the RAND Corp. found.
The study, published online Wednesday by Health Affairs, notes that the RN workforce, rather than peaking in 2012 at 2.2 million – as the researchers predicted a decade ago – reached 2.7 million that year and has continued growing.
The trend of nurses delaying retirement accounted for an extra 136,000 RNs in 2012, the study suggests.Continue reading →
Q. It is my understanding that people who are employed and have insurance through their jobs that offer individual coverage for less than 9.5 percent of their income are not eligible to enroll through the state exchange. Am I confused?
A. Yes, you are, but yours is a common misperception. Almost anyone can buy a health plan on the health insurance marketplaces. As long as you live in the United States, you’re a U.S. citizen or someone who’s lawfully present here, and you’re not in jail, you can probably buy a marketplace plan.Continue reading →
Send the kids outside to play: study | Reuters – “Researchers found that Canadian kids who spent most of their after-school time outside were three times more likely to meet guidelines for daily physical activity and were in better shape than those who spent all of their after-school time indoors.”
Healthy living may slow early dementia: study | Reuters – “A program that emphasizes healthy eating, brain and social engagement, physical activity and heart health may slow dementia among people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, says a new preliminary report from Sweden. The findings can’t guarantee that healthy living will prevent Alzheimer’s disease but they add to growing evidence that suggests overall health is tied to dementia risk.”
Many Sexually Active U.S. Teens Not Tested for HIV: CDC – “Only one in five sexually active U.S. teens has been tested for HIV, a new government report shows. That percentage is concerning because teens make up a significant share of new HIV infections, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.”
Buckyball magnetic toys recalled, ending legal fight | Reuters – “Magnetic toys called Buckyballs, which can be swallowed and have been blamed for numerous injuries, are being recalled at the end of a years-long legal fight, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Thursday. Millions of the loose, high-powered rare earth magnets were sold as toys and desktop accessories. When swallowed, their powerful attraction can pinch or trap intestines and require surgery to remove. “
Primary care doctors have reported problems making referrals for patients who have purchased some of the cheaper plans from the federal insurance marketplace.
Complaints about narrow networks with too few doctors have attracted the attention of federal regulators and have even prompted lawsuits.
‘Oh by the way, when you sign up, make sure you sign up for the right plan.’
But they’re also causing headaches in the day-to-day work of doctors and clinics. “The biggest problem we’ve run into is figuring out what specialists take a lot of these plans,” said Dr. Charu Sawhney of Houston.Continue reading →
Chilling new details on cold-storage smallpox – “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed that more than 300 other sealed vials containing biological materials such as dengue, influzena, Q fever, ricksettsia and other possible unknown viruses were found alongside the six forgotten smallpox vials in the storage room on the National Institutes of Health campus.”
Too Many Antibiotics, Too Few Antivirals for Influenza – “Antiviral medications may have been underprescribed for patients presenting to outpatient clinics with influenza during the 2012-2013 influenza season, according to an article published online July 17 in Clinical Infectious Diseases. In contrast, the authors find that antibiotic medications were overprescribed, despite repeated calls for more appropriate use.”