Federal exchange was a comparative bargain – report

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ACA health reform logoBy Julie Rovner
May 8, 2014

Sometimes there really are economies of scale. And the nation’s health insurance exchanges may be a case in point.

As rocky as its rollout was, it cost the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, an average of $647 of federal tax dollars to sign up each enrollee, according to a new report. 

It cost an average of $1,503 – well over twice as much – to sign up each person in the 15 exchanges run by individual states and Washington, D.C. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – May 8th

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Hospitals boost patient safety, but still have a way to go

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Readmissions and patient injuries decrease as new government programs take effect.

H for hospital

By Jordan Rau
KHN Staff Writer
MAY 07, 2014

Two major safety shortcomings in America’s hospitals—the frequency with which patients get hurt during their stays and the large number who are readmitted—have decreased as government penalties and other programs targeting them kick in.

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Medications for allergies – an FDA Consumer Update

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bee on flowerConsumer Update from the FDA

You’re sneezing, your eyes are itchy and you feel miserable. Seasonal allergies aren’t just a nuisance, they are real diseases that can interfere with work, school or recreation, and can range from mild to severe.

May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and many allergy treatment options are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For the first time, these include three sublingual (under the tongue) prescription products to treat hay fever (also called “allergic rhinitis”)—with or without eye inflammation (called “conjunctivitis”)—caused by certain grass pollens and short ragweed pollen.

The new products—GrastekOralair and Ragwitek—can be taken at home, but the first dose must be taken in a health care provider’s office.

About Allergies

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Need a doc? These companies will hook you up in a hurry

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stethoscope and doctorDaniela Hernandez
KHN Staff Writer
MAY 07, 2014
This story was produced in collaboration with 

Last year, Don Sommers was diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, a painful condition that restricts blood flow to the limbs — in his case, causing a blockage in his left leg that persisted despite several surgeries. His doctors told him his options were up.

“I was emotionally and physically really distraught,” said Sommers, 66, a retired chemical engineer. “I was getting to the point where I thought I really would lose my leg.”

On the advice of his son, who works in Silicon Valley, he turned to Grand Rounds, a San Francisco-based healthcare referral network.

The web-based based service hooks patients up with someone on its roster of 30,000 specialists nationwide vetted by the company. A subset of about 1,000 doctors provides second opinions online within 72 hours. Continue reading

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Employers eye moving sickest workers to insurance exchanges

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By Jay Hancock
KHN Staff Writer
MAY 07, 2014

This KHN story was produced in collaboration with 

Can corporations shift workers with high medical costs from the company health plan into online insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act?

Some employers are considering it, say benefits consultants.

“It’s all over the marketplace,” said Todd Yates, a managing partner at Hill, Chesson & Woody, a North Carolina benefits consulting firm. “Employers are inquiring about it and brokers and consultants are advocating for it.” Continue reading

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Health news headlines – May 7th

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An electronic screen showing the NEWS

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King County Healthy Incentives program wins Harvard honor

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King_County_Healthy_IncentivesThe Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University has awarded King County’s Healthy Incentives program the 2013 Innovations in American Government Award, besting more than 600 competing programs.

The 8-year-old program has been credited with:

  • Saving King County $46 million on employee health care.
  • Helping to cut the employee smoking rate from 12 percent to less than 5 percent.
  • Helping 2,000 employees classified as overweight or obese achieve a combined weight loss of 24 tons.

Here are excerpts from the Ash Center’s announcement: Continue reading

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Inactivity linked to chronic disease in adults with disabilities – CDC

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CDC – Vital Signs

Icon of a visually impaired person with a service dog  3x

Adults with disabilities are 3 times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities.

Icon of man and woman1 in 2

Nearly half of all adults with disabilities get no aerobic physical activity, an important health behavior to help avoid these chronic diseases.

Icon of a doctor and a person in wheel chair82%

Adults with disabilities were 82% more likely to be physically active if their doctor recommended it. Continue reading

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Death rate fell in Massachusetts after health reform

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Map of BostonBy Martha Bebinger, WBUR

Fewer people died in Massachusetts after the state required people to have health insurance, according to researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health.

In each of the first four years of the state law, 320 fewer Massachusetts men and women died than would have been expected. That’s one life extended for every 830 newly insured residents. Continue reading

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Can an aspirin a day help prevent a heart attack? That depends, says FDA

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fda-logo-thumbnailAn FDA Consumer Update

Can an aspirin a day help you ward off a heart attack or stroke?

That depends.

Scientific evidence shows that taking an aspirin daily can help prevent a heart attack or stroke in some people, but not in everyone. It also can cause unwanted side effects. Continue reading

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Value of routine dementia screening questioned

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Illustration of the skull and brainMichelle Andrews
KHN
MAY 06, 2014

For the millions of seniors who worry that losing their keys may mean they’re losing their minds, the health law now requires Medicare to cover a screening for cognitive impairment during an annual wellness visit.

But in a recent review of the scientific research, an influential group said there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend dementia screening for asymptomatic people over age 65.

What’s a worried senior to think? Continue reading

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Health news headlines — May 6th

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An electronic screen showing the NEWS

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Four new companies seek to sell plans on Washington exchange

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Coverage is hereFour new companies have submitted proposals to sell health insurance plans inside Washington’s state-based health insurance exchange, wahealthplanfinder.org, possibly raising the number of companies offering plans for 2015 to 12, Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced Monday.

One additional company submitted a proposal to sell health insurance plans in the private individual market outside of the Exchange.

If all are approved, 10 companies would sell policies for 2015 in the outside market versus nine in 2014.

Here’s from the Office of the Commissioner press release:
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Who should get pricey hepatitis C drugs?

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 This KHN story was produced in collaboration with wapo

Simple math illustrates the challenge facing U.S. taxpayers, consumers and insurers following the launch late last year of two expensive new drugs to treat hepatitis C.

If all 3 million people estimated to be infected with the virus in America are treated at an average cost of $100,000 each, the amount the U.S. spends on prescription drugs would double, from about $300 billion in one year to more than $600 billion.

That prospect has inspired an unusually blunt public debate:  Should expensive treatments – one new drug costs $1,000 a pill — be limited only to the sickest patients, or is it appropriate to treat all who want the drugs immediately? And should those in taxpayer-funded programs have the same access? Continue reading

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