Defining what ‘Defined Contributions’ mean for work-based Insurance

Share

Question markBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

What if employers started giving workers a chunk of cash to buy health insurance on their own instead of offering them a chance to buy into the company plan? Are workers ready to manage their own health insurance like they do their 401(k)?

The idea that employers might decide to drop their health plans and replace them with a “defined contribution” for employees has been around for years. It’s one way for employers to control their expenses in the face of relentlessly rising health care costs.

Now that the health law has created new online marketplaces where people can shop for coverage and made the individual market more accessible and affordable, the idea is gaining traction. Continue reading

Share

Overused medical services cost Medicare billions – study

Share

By Jordan Rau
KHN

Dollar WheelMedical overtreatment is the inverse of former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography: while easy to define in concept, it can be hard to know it when you see it.

A treatment that is appropriate for one patient can also be unnecessary or even counterproductive for another, depending on the patient’s condition. Continue reading

Share

Health news headlines — May 13th

Share

Picture of a table after a party with wine and beer bottles

Share

Health insurance and death rates

Share

Map of BostonBy Christine Vestal
Stateline Staff Writer

The mortality rate in Massachusetts declined substantially in the four years after the state enacted a law in 2006 mandating universal health care coverage, providing the model for the Affordable Care Act.

In a study released last week, Harvard School of Public Health professors Benjamin Sommers, Sharon Long and Katherine Baicker conclude that “health reform in Massachusetts was associated with a significant decrease in all-cause mortality.”

The authors caution that their conclusions, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, may not apply to all states, and other studies have shown little correlation between having insurance and living longer.

Nevertheless, the Harvard study adds to a growing body of evidence that having health insurance increases a person’s life expectancy.

Mortality rates – in this case, the number of deaths per 100,000 adults between the ages of 20 and 64 that occur in a given year – vary widely among states. Continue reading

Share

Medicare struggling with high-cost hepatitis-C drugs

Share
Walter Bianco, 65, at his Arizona home, has had hepatitis-C for more than 40 years. (Photo by Alexandra Olgin/KHN)

Walter Bianco, 65, at his Arizona home, has had hepatitis-C for more than 40 years. (Photo by Alexandra Olgin/KHN)

By Richard Knox
MAY 12, 2014

This KHN story was produced in collaboration with NPR

Walter Bianco has had hepatitis-C for 40 years, and his time is running out.

“The liver is at the stage next to becoming cirrhotic,” the 65-year-old Arizona contractor says. Cirrhosis is severe scarring, whether from alcoholism or a chronic viral infection. It’s a fateful step closer to liver failure or liver cancer.

If he develops one of these complications, the only possible solution would be a hard-to-get liver transplant. “The alternative,” Bianco says, “is death.”

Previous drug treatments didn’t clear the virus from Bianco’s system. But it’s almost certain that potent new drugs for hep-C could cure him.

However, the private insurer that handles his medication coverage for the federal Medicare program has twice refused to pay for the drugs his doctor has prescribed.

Doctors are seeing more and more patients approaching the end-stage of hep-C infection. “There isn’t day that goes by when I don’t have a story very similar to Mr. Bianco’s,” says Dr. Hugo Vargas of Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, his liver specialist. Continue reading

Share

What surge? Primary care system holding up well so far under Obamacare

Share

doctors-300By Phil Galewitz
KHN
May 12, 2014

This KHN story was produced in collaboration with 

The headlines were ominous: Good luck finding a doctor under Obamacare. Not enough doctors for newly insured. Obamacare, doctor shortage could crash health system.

Despite these dire predictions, the nation’s primary care system is handling the increased number of insured patients without major problems so far, according to interviews with community health centers, large physician practices and insurers nationwide. Continue reading

Share

Health news headlines — May 12th

Share
Rooster looking through the wires of a cage

Photo by dragonariaes

Share

Women’s Health – Week 36: Pelvic Floor Disorders

Share

tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

The term pelvic floor refers to the group of muscles and connective tissue that form a sling or hammock across the opening of a woman’s pelvis.

These muscles and tissues keep all of your pelvic organs in place so that the organs can function correctly.

A pelvic floor disorder occurs when your pelvic muscles and connective tissue in the pelvis is weak due to factors such as genetics, injury, or aging. Continue reading

Share

States that decided to not to expand Medicaid leave health centers, patients in a lurch

Share

Doctor simpleBy Phil Galewitz
KHN

More than 1 million patients who use federally funded community health centers will remain uninsured because they live in one of 24 states that chose not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, according to a study released Friday by researchers at George Washington University.

Most of those patients live in the South, because every state in that region except Arkansas and Kentucky opted against expanding the federal-state program for the poor after the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that it was optional. Continue reading

Share

Health news headlines – May 10th

Share

Newspaper printer print

Share

Patient education tops physician training for diabetes control – study

Share

Glucometer showing a blood sugar of 105People with diabetes who received counseling at clinic appointments had a 49 percent greater likelihood of achieving long term blood glucose control than patients that did not receive counseling. 

Physician training about managing diabetes seemed to be ineffective at helping patients control their glucose levels, whether or not patients received counseling.

By Valerie DeBenedette
Health Behavior News Service

Teaching people with diabetes how to control their blood glucose levels helps them achieve better results, finds a new study in Ethnicity and Disease.

Surprisingly, providing intensive training to physicians of diabetes patients did not help patients achieve blood glucose control. Continue reading

Share

Training police to handle those with mental illnesses

Share
mental health cops 300

Officer Lance Newkirchen on his way to visit the family of a man who, two days earlier, considered suicide (Photo by Jeff Cohen/WNPR).

By Jeff Cohen, WNPR

How do you tell the difference between someone who needs to be taken to jail and someone who needs to be taken to the hospital?

That’s a big concern in Connecticut, where the intersection of law enforcement and mental health has been a huge issue since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown in 2012.

Lance Newkirchen is a regular patrol officer in the nearby town of Fairfield. But he’s also an officer who is specifically trained to respond to mental health calls.

On a recent weekday, he headed in his patrol car on a follow-up call.

“We’re going to go meet with a father whose 21-year-old son, two days earlier, at three o’clock in the morning, through his depressive disorder, was having suicidal thoughts,” Newkirchen explains. Continue reading

Share

Corey to step down as head of Fred Hutch

Share

Starting June 30, Dr. Larry Corey will step down as director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

corey Matt Hagen phot

Cory. (Photo: Matt Hagen.FHCRC)

Corey, an expert in virology with a particular interest in HIV/AIDS and herpes plans to return to full-time research in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutch.

Cory will remain a member of the faculty and will have the title of president and director emeritus.

Fred Hutch Deputy Director Dr. Mark Groudine will serve as interim president and director while the Board of Trustees launches a national search for Corey’s successor.

Share

Q: Where can I find insurance options between open enrollments?

Share

Question markBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

Q. If someone will be seeking insurance options on a health care exchange before the next open enrollment period because her COBRA plan is expiring, where does she find information about insurance plan options?

A. Although the open enrollment period to sign-up for health insurance on a state exchange ended March 31 for most people, the exchanges didn’t shut down.  Continue reading

Share