Illnesses due to raw milk on the rise

Share

From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

The average annual number of outbreaks due to drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk have more than quadrupled – from an average of three outbreaks per year during 1993-2006 to 13 per year during 2007-2012. Overall, there were 81 outbreaks in 26 states from 2007 to 2012.

As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.The outbreaks, which accounted for about 5 percent of all food-borne outbreaks with a known food source, sickened nearly 1,000 people and sent 73 to the hospital. More than 80 percent of the outbreaks occurred in states where selling raw milk was legal.

As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.

Continue reading

Share

Many Obamacare plans setting out-of-pocket limits below cap

Share
Photo by nyuszika

Photo by nyuszika

By Michelle Andrews
KHN

Consumers shopping on the health insurance marketplaces will find many plans with out-of-pocket spending limits that are lower than the maximums allowed under the health law, according to an analysis by Avalere Health.

Seventy-four percent of 2015 silver level plans’ out-of-pocket spending caps are below the $6,600 spending limit allowed for individual plans and $13,200 maximum for family plans, according to Avalere, a consulting firm.

The average out-of-pocket maximum for 2015 individual silver plans will be $5,853, says Caroline Pearson, a vice president at Avalere. Silver was the most popular plan type this year, selected by about two-thirds of enrollees.

After a policyholder reaches the out-of-pocket spending limit during the year, the insurer pays all the bills, unless, for example, they involve doctors and hospitals not in the health plan’s network.

The vast majority of other plans also feature lower limits on out-of-pocket spending—which includes deductibles, copayments and co-insurance, but not premiums. S

eventy-one percent of bronze plan spending limits were below the allowed maximum (with an average spending limit for single coverage of $6,381), as were 94 percent of gold plans (average limit, $4,458) and 98 percent of platinum plans (average limit, $2,145).

Avalere said the average spending limits for single coverage were in most cases close to those for 2014 plans: bronze ($6,330); silver ($5,877); gold ($4,443) and platinum, $2,795.

Continue reading

Share

Health news headlines – December 12th

Share

Charles_Darwin_by_Julia_Margaret_Cameron_2

Share

Global health news – December 12th

Share

Globe floating in air

Share

Washington insurance exchange enrolls nearly 60,000

Share

WA_Healthplanfinder_RGBNearly 60,000 residents have signed up for health insurance or renewed their coverage for 2015 through the Washington state health insurance exchange, wahealthplanfinder.org, Washington Healthplanfinder today said Thursday.

In addition, 480,000 new adults have accessed coverage through the state’s Medicaid program, Washington Apple Health, and more than 60 percent of Washington Apple Health clients have been automatically renewed via the online marketplace.

Residents who qualify for coverage must select and pay for a plan by Dec. 23 at 4:59 p.m. for coverage starting on Jan. 1, 2015.

Based on data from the first open enrollment period, enrollments are expected to surge considerably ahead of the Dec. 23 deadline. Washington Apple Health enrollment is year-round.

Washington Healthplanfinder has received approximately 16,000 site visits per day, while the Customer Support Center has received an average of 10,000 calls a day.”

Continue reading

Share

Texting, talking and walking – distracted pedestrian injuries jump

Share

texting walking iPhone cell phone mobileBy Tim Henderson
Stateline

They walk in front of cars, and into tree limbs and street signs. They fall off curbs and bridges into wet cement and creek beds.

They are distracted walkers who, while calling or texting on mobile phones, have suffered cuts and bruises, sustained serious head injuries or even been killed.

As many cities and states promote walkable neighborhoods, in part to attract more young people, some also are levying fines on distracted walkers and lowering speed limits to make streets gentler for the inattentive.

Pedestrian injuries due to cell phone use are up 35 percent since 2010, according to federal emergency room data reviewed by Stateline, and some researchers blame at least 10 percent of the 78,000 pedestrian injuries in the U.S. in 2012 on mobile device distraction.

texting walking graphic

The federal Fatality Analysis Reporting system attributes about a half-dozen pedestrians deaths a year to “portable electronic devices,” including phones and music players.

Continue reading

Share

With 1.5 Million Sign-Ups So Far, Obamacare Enrollment Is Brisk

Share

Shopping CartBy Phil Galewitz
KHN

With less than a week until the deadline to buy individual health insurance that begins Jan. 1, experts say sign-ups are on course to hit or exceed the Obama administration’s projection of about 9 million enrollees in 2015.

Several weeks into the second year of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, about 1.5 million people have enrolled in coverage, according to data from state and federal exchanges.

” . . . sign-ups are on track to “far exceed” the Obama administration’s 9 million projection.”

As of Dec. 5, almost 1.4 million had enrolled through the federal insurance exchange, which serves 37 states, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported Wednesday.

Another 183,000 chose plans through state exchanges, including nearly 49,000 in California, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of state exchange data.  Enrollment figures were not available for exchanges in New York, Idaho and Rhode Island.

“Exchange enrollment is far ahead of 2014’s pace due to improved technology performance,” said Caroline Pearson, vice president of Avalere Health, a consulting firm.

Continue reading

Share

Health news headlines – December 11th

Share

Dollar Wheel

Share

Global health news – December 11th

Share

Globe floating in air

Share

Urban parks and trails most cost-effective ways to promote exercise

Share

small__13075606504By Sharyn Alden
Health Behavior News Service

Providing public parks and walking and biking trails is the most cost-effective strategy to increase physical activity among large populations in urban areas, according to a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Virpi Kuvja-Kollner, lead author of the review, noted that although public budgets for health care and other services are tighter than ever, the most cost-effective approach to increase physical activity among large urban populations is to make changes to the structural environment.

Creation of more outdoor exercise opportunities, such as “pedestrian or bicycle trails en route to public transportation stations or providing public parks in densely populated areas,” can require a substantial public investment but have long life spans.

“The main focus in promoting physical activity should be to get people who are not active to get moving instead of just promoting more exercise to those who are already active.”

“The main focus in promoting physical activity should be to get people who are not active to get moving instead of just promoting more exercise to those who are already active,” added Kuvja-Kollner, a researcher/instructor and doctoral candidate at the University of Eastern Finland. Continue reading

Share

Obamacare co-ops cut prices, challenge traditional insurers

Share

Shopping CartBy Phil Galewitz
KHN

When Anna Duleep went shopping recently for 2015 health coverage on the Connecticut insurance exchange, she was pleasantly surprised to find a less expensive plan.

To get the savings, the substitute math teacher had to change from for-profit giant Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to a fledgling carrier she’d never heard of. Still, Duleep, 37, liked saving $10 on her monthly premium of about $400 and knowing that her new plan, HealthyCT, is a nonprofit governed by consumers. She also liked that all her doctors participate. “I just figured, ‘why not change?’” she said.

Two dozen co-ops, which received $1.9 billion in federal loans, were designed to compete with established carriers and lower prices.

HealthyCT, which cut its 2015 premiums by an average of 8.5 percent, is one of at least a half dozen co-ops created through the Affordable Care Act that have lowered 2015 premiums in a bid to boost membership in their second year of operation.

But those low premiums are upsetting so-called “legacy” insurance plans like Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates that have traditionally dominated insurance markets.

Idaho Blue Cross CEO Zelda Geyer-Sylvia said that while she welcomes competition, it’s not fair to have to compete against a carrier getting millions in low-interest federal loans.

“It’s unfortunate, because this is going to be very disruptive to the market,” Geyer-Sylvia said about Montana Health CO-OP, which moved into Idaho this year and undercut competitors’ rates.

The co-ops say that’s just what Congress intended when it tucked them into the health law to mollify those seeking a government-run insurance plan. “Lower prices for consumers are very good news,” said Jan VanRiper, chief executive of the National Alliance of State Health CO-OPs (NASHCO), a trade group. Continue reading

Share

Wellness programs at work are popular – but do they work?

Share

yoga-office-570By Julie Rovner
KHN

If you get health insurance at work, chances are you have some sort of wellness plan, too.

But so far there’s no real evidence as to whether these plans work.

One thing we do know is that wellness is particularly popular with employers right now, as they seek ways to slow the rise of health spending. These initiatives can range from urging workers to use the stairs all the way to requiring comprehensive health screenings.

The 2014 survey of employers by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 98 percent of large employers and 73 percent of smaller employers offer at least one wellness program. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of KFF.)

What makes wellness plans so popular?

It really is part of their strategy to help employees be healthy, productive, and engaged,” says Maria Ghazal, vice president and counsel at the Business Roundtable, whose members are CEOs of large firms. “And it’s really part of their strategy to be successful companies.”

And there’s another reason wellness has gotten so pervasive, said health consultant Al Lewis. It’s a big industry. Continue reading

Share

Health news headlines – December 10th

Share

Scale

Share

Global health news – December 10th

Share

Globe floating in air

Share