GOP bill to raise Obamacare full-time worker threshold to 40 hours will increase uninsured, add to budget deficit – CBO


GOP ThumbnailRepublican legislation to change the Obamacare definition of full-time work from 30 hours-a-week to 40 hours-a-week, will increase the number of people without health coverage and raise the federal deficit by more than $53 billion, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, businesses that employ more than 50 full-time workers will be required this year to provide their employees with health insurance. The requirement, Republican charge, will discourage hiring by businesses. Supporters of the requirement say the higher threshold will make it easier for employers to avoid insuring their workers by simply having them work just shy of 40 hours.

Specifically, in years after 2015, the CBO estimate concludes the GOP proposed change would:

  • Reduce the number of people receiving employment-based coverage—by about 1 million people;
  • Increase the number of people obtaining coverage through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or health insurance exchanges—by between 500,000 and 1 million people; and
  • Increase the number of uninsured—by less than 500,000 people.
  • Add $53.2 billion to the federal deficit over the 2015-2025 period

Read the report here.



States going beyond federal law to protect pregnant workers


Blue Pregnant BellyMany states are approving new protections for pregnant workers, requiring employers to give them more or longer bathroom breaks, rest periods, light duty, job transfers, leave time or other accommodations.

By Marsha Mercer

Decades after a federal law banned discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace, some states are providing additional protections to pregnant workers who want to stay on the job.

After Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, many state legislators thought the problem had been solved.

“Women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job.”

But as the number of women in the workforce has increased—and more of them have stayed on the job through their pregnancies—they have encountered obstacles not covered by the federal law.

Recent federal court rulings that have sided with employers who support a narrow interpretation of the law have added fuel to efforts in state capitals.

“Women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job,” outgoing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois said in August when he signed that state’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

As of Jan. 1, employers in Illinois must provide pregnant workers who request them more or longer bathroom breaks, rest periods, light duty, job transfers, leave time or other accommodations, unless doing so creates an undue hardship for the employer.

“These are women who are healthy and want to continue working,” said Democratic state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, a sponsor of the Illinois bill. “They’re not looking to get out of work. What they want is a temporary accommodation.”

Eleven other states also have passed laws requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. In 2014, laws took effect in Delaware, Minnesota, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Since 2011, Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey also have approved laws. Continue reading


Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue ranked 4th healthiest metro area – Annual Nerdwallet survey


Running shoes full shotThe healthiest places are Boston and the West Coast. Boston came in as the healthiest place in the U.S. by scoring well in all of the variables. Four of the other nine places in the top 10 are West Coast metro areas: San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and San Jose.

The unhealthiest cities are in the South. Seven of the bottom 10 places on the list are metro areas in Southern states, including three in Texas — Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Residents in most of these places lag behind in terms of fitness and physical activity levels, while the rate of health insurance coverage is also lower than in many of the healthier places.

via Healthiest Places in America – Health.


Start-up helps employers find out if their workers are eligible for Medicaid

Photo: Tony Webster

Photo: Tony Webster

By Phil Galewitz

The Gold ‘N Silver Inn in Reno, Nev., has long offered health coverage to its employees — but many of the cooks, dishwashers and waiters who make close to minimum wage can’t afford the $100 monthly premium.

Last January, when Nevada became one of more than two dozen states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 10 of the diner’s 55 employees qualified for the government insurance program for low-income Americans.

Most employers do not understand Medicaid and the eligibility requirements,” said BeneStream CEO Benjamin Geyerhahn.

None of them realized it, however, until the family-run restaurant hired BeneStream, a New York-based start-up funded partly by the Ford Foundation.

BeneStream uses software to quickly determine which employees are eligible for Medicaid, then helps those workers sign up for the state-federal health program that covers 70 million people.

The goal is to help employers and workers make the most of two key provisions of the health law — the Medicaid expansion that’s making millions of working adults eligible for Medicaid and the requirement that medium and large-sized employers provide coverage in 2015 or face a penalty.

“Most employers do not understand Medicaid and the eligibility requirements,” said BeneStream CEO Benjamin Geyerhahn. “We are a way to help employers manage this cost and resolve a big issue for their low-income workers.” Continue reading


Alcohol poisoning kills six Americans a day – CDC


From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

whiskey-glassAlcohol poisoning deaths are caused by drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time.

This can result in very high levels of alcohol in the body, which can shutdown critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature – resulting in death.

Despite the risks, more than 38 million U.S. adults report binge drinking an average of four times per month and consume an average of eight drinks per binge.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on an occasion.

The more you drink, the greater your risk of death.

Key findings of this Vital Signs report include:

  • There are more than 2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths in the U.S. each year – an average of 6 alcohol poisoning deaths every day.
  • Three in four alcohol poisoning deaths involve adults ages 35-64, and most deaths occur among men.
  • While the majority of deaths are among non-Hispanic whites, American Indians/Alaska Natives have the most alcohol poisoning deaths per million people.
  • Deaths rates from alcohol poisoning vary widely across states, from 5.3 alcohol poisoning deaths per million residents in Alabama to 46.5 deaths per million residents in Alaska.

Alcohol poisoning CDC Continue reading


Majority Of Autism Increase Due To Diagnostic Changes, Finds New Study


Dye with Yes, No and Maybe of the three visible sidesAlmost two thirds of the increase in autistic Danish children results from how autism is diagnosed and tracked, found a new study in JAMA Pediatrics, lending more support to the idea that the apparent rise in autism rates, or at least most of it, is unlikely to be “real.” That is, the increase is likely more about previously-unidentified autistic individuals getting an autism diagnosis than more individuals actually developing autism.

via Majority Of Autism Increase Due To Diagnostic Changes, Finds New Study.


Health news headlines – January 7, 2015


IVF egg thumb


Ignore predictions of lethal pandemics and pay attention to what really matters – LA Times


Ebola NIAIDPredictions of lethal pandemics have — since the swine flu fiasco of 1976, when President Ford vowed to vaccinate “every man, woman and child in the United States” — always been wrong. Fear-mongering wastes our time and our emotions and diverts resources from where they should be directed — in the case of Ebola, to the ongoing tragedy in West Africa. Americans have all but forgotten about Ebola now, because most people realize it isn’t coming to a school or a shopping mall near you. But Sierra Leoneans and Liberians go on dying.

via Ignore predictions of lethal pandemics and pay attention to what really matters – LA Times.


Snohomish County offers free flu shot clinic for low-income and uninsured adults

Flu virus - courtesy of NAIAD

Flu virus – courtesy of NAIAD

Snohomish County will be offering a free flu vaccination clinics, Jan. 10 & 14

Vaccinations will be first come, first served and offered only to low-income and uninsured adults.

Uninsured and low-income adults can take advantage of two upcoming vaccination clinics for flu, whooping cough, and pneumonia in Everett, Wash.
Continue reading


Global health news – January 7, 2015


Globe floating in air


Doctor, Shut Up and Listen –


Doctor in white coat writes on clipboardA doctor’s ability to explain, listen and empathize has a profound impact on a patient’s care. Yet, as one survey found, two out of every three patients are discharged from the hospital without even knowing their diagnosis. Another study discovered that in over 60 percent of cases, patients misunderstood directions after a visit to their doctor’s office. And on average, physicians wait just 18 seconds before interrupting patients’ narratives of their symptoms. Evidently, we have a long way to go.

via Doctor, Shut Up and Listen –


Many insurers do not cover drugs approved weight-loss drugs


ScaleBy Michelle Andrews

In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new anti-obesity drug, Saxenda, the fourth prescription drug the agency has given the green light to fight obesity since 2012.

But even though two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese — and many may need help sticking to New Year’s weight-loss resolutions — there’s a good chance their insurer won’t cover Saxenda or other anti-obesity drugs.

The health benefits of using anti-obesity drugs to lose weight—improvements in blood sugar and risk factors for heart disease, among other things—may not be immediately apparent.

“For things that are preventive in the long term, it makes plan sponsors think about their strategy,” says Dr. Steve Miller, the chief medical officer at Express Scripts, which manages the prescription drug benefits for thousands of companies. Companies with high turnover, for example, are less likely to cover the drugs, he says.

“Most health plans will cover things that have an immediate impact in that plan year,” Miller says.

Miller estimates that about a third of companies don’t cover anti-obesity drugs at all, a third cover all FDA-approved weight-loss drugs, and a third cover approved drugs, but with restrictions to limit their use. The Medicare prescription drug program specifically excludes coverage of anti-obesity drugs.

Part of the reluctance by Medicare and private insurers to cover weight-loss drugs stems from serious safety problems with diet drugs in the past, including the withdrawal in 1997 of fenfluramine, part of the fen-phen diet drug combination that was found to damage heart valves. Continue reading


Health news headlines – January 6, 2015




Global health news – January 6, 2015


Globe floating in air


Public health appoints new interim Local Health Officer


Jeffrey Duchin

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, MD, was appointed today as Interim Local Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Duchin is a familiar figure in the health field, having held the position of chief of the department’s Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Immunization Section since 1999 and frequently serving as a department spokesperson.

In his new role, Duchin will provide leadership in developing priorities and setting strategies for the health department, with a particular role as the key science advisor on program and policy development.

Duchin will split time between his Health Officer duties and his continued direction of communicable disease and immunization activities. He will also maintain an affiliation with the University of Washington as a Professor of Medicine.

As part of his Health Officer duties, he will work with other health officers in Washington State on health issues that cross county borders.

In addition, Duchin will represent Public Health – Seattle & King County on external committees, task forces, and as a liaison to regional and national professional organizations.

Duchin’s is currently the Chair of the Public Health Committee of the Infectious Disease Society of America and has served in many other advisory roles, including the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Institute of Medicine.

The Interim Local Health Officer reports to Patty Hayes, Interim Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County.  Prior to Duchin, the position was held by the previous Director, Dr. David Fleming.