By 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
Many People With Gluten Sensitivity Haven’t Had Proper Tests – ” People who believe they are sensitive to gluten have often not been adequately tested to rule out celiac disease, reports a new study. Jessica R. Biesiekierski told Reuters Health that people with trouble digesting gluten who are not tested for celiac disease may not get proper treatment, which could lead to health problems down the line.”
U.S. Drug Agents Make Wide Crackdown on Synthetic Drugs – “U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents served hundreds of search and arrest warrants in at least 25 states on Wednesday as part of a crackdown on synthetic drug producers and distributors, the Associated Press reported.”
Scientists Add Letters to DNA’s Alphabet, Raising Hope and Fear – NYTimes.com – “Scientists reported Wednesday that they had taken a significant step toward altering the fundamental alphabet of life — creating an organism with an expanded artificial genetic code in its DNA. The accomplishment might eventually lead to organisms that can make medicines or industrial products that cells with only the natural genetic code cannot.”
Insurers: High Proportion of Health Plan Enrollees Paid Premiums – WSJ.com – “Insurance company executives on Wednesday told Congress that high proportions of people signing up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act paid their first month’s premium, fueling the partisan fight over the impact of the health law.”
FiveFingers Maker Vibram Moves to Settle Suit Over Health Claims – WSJ.com – “Vibram USA Inc., maker of those glovelike FiveFingers running shoes with separate spaces for each toe, has moved to settle a lawsuit alleging it overstated the shoes’ health benefits. The privately held company offered to pay a total of $3.75 million to people who bought the shoes and said it would stop making health claims in its advertisements.”
Readmissions and patient injuries decrease as new government programs take effect.
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.
Consumer 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—Grastek, Oralair and Ragwitek—can be taken at home, but the first dose must be taken in a health care provider’s office.
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
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
U.S. backslides in maternal deaths, bucking global trend | Reuters – “American women are more likely to die in childbirth than they were two decades ago, making the United States one of the few countries where the risks from childbirth have risen in the past generation, World Health Organization data showed on Tuesday.”
Number of U.S. elderly to double by 2050 -reports | Reuters – “The number of people age 65 and older in the United States is expected to almost double by 2050, a shift that is expected to drastically alter the nation’s racial makeup and pressure its economy, two government reports released on Tuesday said.”
Lawmakers propose incentives for end-of-life planning | Reuters – “The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, would encourage people on Medicare to register advance directives with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicare beneficiaries would receive a one-time payment of $75 for creating an online directive, or $50 for creating one manually in 2015. The payment from CMS would come either as a check or direct deposit.”
Getting and staying active good for older hearts: study | Reuters – “People in their 60s and 70s who regularly engaged in physical activity, such as walking, had the healthiest hearts in a new study.”
The 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
CDC – Vital Signs
Adults with disabilities are 3 times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities.
1 in 2
Nearly half of all adults with disabilities get no aerobic physical activity, an important health behavior to help avoid these chronic diseases.
Adults with disabilities were 82% more likely to be physically active if their doctor recommended it. Continue reading
By 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
An FDA Consumer Update
Can an aspirin a day help you ward off a heart attack or stroke?
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
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
Fewer in U.S. Lack Health Insurance, but Issues Remain: Poll – “The percentage of adults in the United States who lack health insurance has fallen to its lowest rate since 2008, down to about 13% in April from a peak of 18% last year, according to a Gallup poll released on Monday.”
Online Sex Supplements Linked to Serious Psychoactive Effects – “A review of 108 Web sites and other online resources showed that the most common of these products contained the active ingredients yohimbine, maca, ginkgo biloba, and/or horny goat weed. These 4 substances were linked to the induction of anxiety, panic, mood changes, hallucinations, and/or addictive behaviors.”
Baby gates injure 2,000 kids in the U.S. every year: Study : LIFE : Tech Times – “Although more than 97 percent of the patients did not require hospitalization, the researchers urged parents to observe precaution when using baby gates. Pressure-mounted gates, for instance, can be used in doorways or in between rooms but they should not be used at the top of the stairs.”
Teenage pregnancy, birth, abortion rates all falling, report says - Los Angeles Times – “The teenage pregnancy rate, birth rate and abortion rate have all dropped sharply since their respective peaks in the 1990s, according to new research by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on reproductive health.”
Four 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:
This KHN story was produced in collaboration with
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