Q: Where can my daughter who turns 26 mid-year get coverage?


Question markBy Michelle Andrews

Q. We are going to be covered in July through my husband’s employer.

Our adult daughter will turn 26 in September.

We were told we can make no changes to our policy until open enrollment the following year.

How will this affect her? Will she need to seek other coverage? Continue reading


Health news headlines – June 6th




Death with Dignity Act prescriptions rise 43 percent


Washington MapThe number of Washington state residents who obtained prescriptions for a lethal dose of drugs under the state’s Death with Dignity Act rose from 121 in 2012 to 175 in 2013, a 43% increase over the previous year.

Of the 159 who died

  • 77 percent had cancer
  • 15 percent had a neuro-degenerative disease, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).
  • 8 percent had other conditions, including heart and respiratory disease,

Their ages ranged from 29 to 95 years. Ninety-seven percent were white, and 76% had some college education. Ninety-five percent lived west of the Cascades.

Of the 159 who died, 119 ingested the medication and 26 did not. In 14 cases, it is unknown whether they took the medicines.

Reasons that patients gave for obtaining the lethal prescriptions included

  • Concerns about loss of autonomy – 91 percent
  • Concerns about loss of dignity – 79 percent
  • Concerns about loss of the ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable – 89 percent.

Under the state’s Death with Dignity Act, terminally ill adult patients have had the right to ask their physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to end their life. Since the law’s enactment, 550 people have acted on that right since the law went into effect.

The 2013 Death with Dignity Act Report and information about the Washington State Death with Dignity Act are on the agency website.


Privacy law frustrates parents of mentally ill adult children


Even if parents are providing health insurance, they often can’t find out about what’s happening when their adult children suffer from severe mental illnesses.


Mark, a minister who lives in Northern California, has not been able to communicate with doctors for his son, Scott, since Scott became an adult (Photo by Jenny Gold/ KHN).

By Jenny Gold
KHN Staff Writer

This story was produced in collaboration with NPR

Among the many questions brought up by the horrifying killings in Isla Vista, Calif., last month were what could have parents have done to prevent the tragedy, if anything? And what did they actually know about their son’s mental illness?

Some parents of adult children with mental illnesses fear that their child will go untreated, suffer, or, at worst, become violent.

And often, as the people who care the most about them, many parents want the doctors, social workers and other providers to share protected patient information.

The 1996 privacy law HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was created in part to protect patients’ information, but it also presents a dilemma for families of people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

Family members wonder how they can protect their loved one if they won’t share treatment details. Continue reading


Health news headlines – June 5th


Blue sky and white clouds (Panorama)


Medicaid sign ups surged by more than 1 million in April


ACA health reform logoBy Phil Galewitz
KHN/June 4, 2014

Medicaid enrollment surged by more than 1 million people in April, bringing the total growth in the state-federal health insurance program for the poor since September to about 6 million, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

The increase is significant because it shows Medicaid enrollment continued to grow even after the new state and federal online insurance exchanges closed their open enrollment period for private insurance at the end of March. Continue reading


Jury still out on Medicaid managed care

Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

This story was produced in partnership with the 

In 2008, Centene Corp. took on a contract to manage health care for 30,000 foster children in Texas — a tough new challenge for the Clayton-based Medicaid contractor.

Texas state caregivers had been prescribing a lot of psychotropic drugs to these children and adolescents. As these youngsters were shuttled from one house to another, Centene executives said, state authorities often lost track of which medications the children were taking.

“I think the state understood that their ability to manage this population was limited,” said Keith Williamson, Centene’s general counsel.

Within a year of winning the contract, Williamson and other Centene executives said, the Texas foster care program was being more effectively managed: The state budget for foster children had declined, and the number of psychotropic drug prescriptions was reduced significantly.

One key: Centene created a “health passport” for the children, an electronic medical record that follows them from county to county and into adulthood.

Centene executives cite their success with the foster care program as an example of how a managed care company can provide quality care while saving money.

But in Texas and other states, managed care of Medicaid continues to spark debate. Continue reading


Heads Up — Free concussion app from the CDC


Heads up appThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a free app to help you learn how to spot and what to do if you think your child or teen has a concussion or other serious brain injury.

The “Heads Up” APP will also teach you about helmet safety and features information on selecting the right helmet for your child’s or teen’s activity, including information on what to look for and what to avoid.

To learn more go here.


Hospital prices vary wildly for common treatments


Some heart surgeries have become so common — the angioplasty, for example, to open clogged arteries — you might think the charge for it wouldn’t vary much from hospital to hospital.

You might assume the same about hip or knee replacements, which now hold the top spot in this country as the reason for overnight hospital stays by Medicare patients.

You would be so wrong. Continue reading


Health news headlines – June 4th


Running shoes full shot


Medicare could save billions by changing drug plan assignment

Blue and white capsules spilling out of a pill bottle

Photo courtesy of Pawel Kryj

By Julie Rovner
KHN/June 2, 2014

A new study finds that Medicare is spending billions of dollars more than it needs to on prescription drugs for low-income seniors and disabled beneficiaries.

In 2013, an estimated 10 million people who participate in the Medicare prescription drug program, known as Part D, received government subsidies to help pay for that coverage. They account for an estimated three-quarters of the program’s cost.

Most of those low-income enrollees are randomly placed in a plan that costs less than the average for the region where the person lives.

But even though these are lower-cost plans, they often end up costing the government and the beneficiary more. Continue reading


Health news headlines – June 3


Soccer Ball