Global health news – February 24, 2015

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Seattle Children’s and Mayo Clinic team to slash genetic testing costs – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Seattle Children's Whale LogoSeattle Children’s hospital and Mayo Medical Laboratories are creating a partnership to develop ways for children’s hospitals around the country to decrease costs and errors that come from unnecessary lab testing.

via Seattle Children’s and Mayo Clinic team to slash genetic testing costs – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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Few seniors benefiting from Medicare obesity counseling

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ScaleBy Sarah Varney
KHN

VISALIA, Calif. — In the farming town of Exeter, deep in California’s Central Valley, Anne Roberson walks a quarter mile down the road each day to her mailbox. Her walk and housekeeping chores are the 68-year-old’s only exercise, and her weight has remained stubbornly over 200 pounds for some time now.

“You get to a certain point in your life and you say, ‘What’s the use?’”

For older adults, being mildly overweight causes little harm, physicians say. But too much weight is especially hazardous for an aging body: Obesity increases inflammation, exacerbates bone and muscle loss and significantly raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Dr. Mylene Middleton Rucker, a primary care physician in Visalia, Calif., is using the new obesity counseling benefit with her patients, but many doctors aren’t aware of it yet. (Sarah Varney/KHN)

Dr. Mylene Middleton Rucker, a primary care physician in Visalia, Calif., is using the new obesity counseling benefit with her patients, but many doctors aren’t aware of it yet. (Sarah Varney/KHN)

To help the 13 million obese seniors in the U.S., the Affordable Care Act included a new Medicare benefit offering face-to-face weight-loss counseling in primary care doctors’ offices.

Doctors are paid to provide the service, which is free to obese patients , with no co-pay. But only 50,000 seniors participated in 2013, the latest year for which data is available.

“We think it’s the perfect storm of several factors,” says Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist at George Washington University.

Kahan says obese patients and doctors aren’t aware of the benefit, and doctors who want to intervene are often reluctant to do so. It’s a touchy subject to bring up, and some hold outmoded beliefs about weight problems and the elderly. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – February 23, 2015

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Global health news – February 23, 2015

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UCLA outbreak highlights challenges of curbing infections

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carbapenem-resistan, Enterobacteriaceae - CDC

Carbapenem-resistan Enterobacteriaceae – CDC

By Jordan Rau
KHN

The bacterial outbreak at a Los Angeles hospital highlights shortcomings in the federal government’s efforts to avert the most lethal hospital infections, which are becoming increasingly impervious to treatment.

Government efforts are hobbled, infection control experts say, by gaps in monitoring the prevalence of these germs both within hospitals and beyond. The continued overuse of antibiotics — due to over-prescription by doctors, patients’ insistence and the widespread use in animals and crops — has helped these bacteria evolve into more dangerous forms and flourish.

In the outbreak at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center, two patients have died and more than 100 may have been exposed to CRE, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria commonly found in the digestive tract. When this germ reaches the bloodstream, fatality rates are 40 percent. The government estimates about 9,000 infections, leading to 600 deaths, are caused each year by CRE, which stands for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.

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Close up of ERCP endoscope tip

UCLA Health says the infections probably were passed around by inadequately sterilized scopes used to peer inside a body.

Previous CRE outbreaks have occurred elsewhere in the country, including hospitals in Illinois and Seattle.

The immediate public health response has focused on the safety of the scopes and tracking down people who may have been exposed.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Thursday issued a warning about the devices. But the California outbreak comes amid the government’s broader struggle to spot and battle the swelling ranks of bacteria that are resistant to most, if not all, antibiotics. Continue reading

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Top five stories of the week

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Credit: Dan Shirly

Credit: Dan Shirly

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Fourth case of measles in Clallam County

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A fourth case of measles was identified in Clallam County. The fourth case is a 14-year old male who is a sibling of the second case. The 14-year old male was quarantined during his infectious period so he had no public contact.

640px-Map_of_Washington_highlighting_Clallam_County.svg

Dr. Jeanette Stehr-Green, Clallam County Health Officer, again under scored the importance of adherence to quarantine among exposed persons, daily reports to Public Health nurses regarding symptoms, and no contacts with unvaccinated individuals as critical to stopping the spread of measles.

A person with measles is contagious from approximately four days before the onset of rash to four days after the rash appears and should not be in contact with any susceptible persons during this time.

Clallam County Health and Human Service, Public Health Section will continue with no cost clinics on February 23, 24, 26, and 27.

Clinics will be held at 111 3rd St, Port Angeles.

Feb. 23 Feb. 24 Feb. 26 Feb. 27

8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 noon 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

People are encouraged to call 360-417-2274 to make appointments. Walk-ins will be served but there may be a wait.

HHS continues to evaluate when and where to have clinics outside of the Port Angeles area. All parents are encouraged to check the vaccination status of children. Two vaccinations for children are needed for protection.

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Health news headlines – February 21, 2015

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Egg cracked

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Tax time reprieve for Obamacare procrastinators

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clockBy Phil Galewitz
KHN

The Obama administration said Friday it will allow a special health law enrollment period from March 15 to April 30 for consumers who realize while filling out their taxes that they owe a fee for not signing up for coverage last year.

The special enrollment period applies to people in the 37 states covered by the federal marketplace, though some state-run exchanges are also expected to follow suit.

People will have to attest that they first became aware of the tax penalty for lack of coverage when they filled out their taxes. They will still have to pay the fine, which for last year was $95 or 1 percent of their income, whichever was greater.

Some people may not realize they face a penalty for not having coverage until they file their tax returns.

This year, the penalty for not having insurance coverage is $325 per person or 2 percent of household income, whichever is greater. By signing up during the special enrollment period for 2015 they can avoid paying most of the tax penalty for this year.

The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a financial penalty.

But some people may not realize they face a penalty for not having coverage until they file their tax returns ahead of the April 15 tax deadline. Continue reading

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Many uninsured don’t realize they may face a tax penalty

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Alert IconBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

A “teachable moment” is one way to describe the  consternation that many uninsured people may feel when they file their taxes this spring and realize they could owe a penalty for not having health insurance.

According to a new survey, the number of people who may need to be schooled is substantial: Forty-four percent of uninsured people who may be subject to the penalty say they know nothing or only a little about the penalty they may face.

Forty-four percent of uninsured people who may be subject to the penalty say they know nothing or only a little about the penalty.

The Urban Institute analysis was based on its December 2014 Health Reform Monitoring Survey of uninsured adults with incomes above the poverty level, a group that might be expected to owe a penalty for not having coverage.

For 2014, the penalty is the greater of $95 or 1 percent of annual income. In 2015, the penalty increases to 2 percent or $325, whichever is greater.

People who don’t become aware of the penalty until they file their 2014 taxes in March or April could end up owing penalties for both years. The open enrollment period to sign up for 2015 health insurance was Feb. 15. – but now has been extended. (See story above.)

Under pressure from consumer advocates, the Obama administration on Friday said it will allow a special enrollment period from March 15 to April 30 for those who realize while filling out their taxes that they owe a fee for not signing up for coverage last year.

The special period applies to people in the 37 states covered by the federal marketplace, though some state-run exchanges are also expected to follow suit. Continue reading

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Why I love family-run restaurants: Insights from a food inspector

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cropped-eyob-in-idBy Eyob Mazengia, PhD, RS, Food Protection Program
Public Health – Seattle & King County

When I started as a food inspector, I was assigned to the International District. And I liked it. It was almost like walking into a new culture, a new era.

What fascinated me was that as a public health worker, I had permission to walk into people’s personal spaces. I liked the smells, the sounds of their languages, their wall hangings and the way things looked.

It was a privilege, really, to be allowed into their personal spaces. Going on food inspections in the I.D., it was like walking into 3-4 different countries every day, without traveling outside the neighborhood.

Over the years, I established good relationships with the restaurant establishments. They were no longer just restaurant operators—they were mothers, fathers, grown kids. They’re not just businesses—there’s a family behind every door, people who had often gone through difficult times to be here.

And as I got to know them, I could recognize the sacrifices they made to give their children better opportunities in the U.S., and what they left behind. Even those born and raised here, you could recognize the sacrifices they were making. Continue reading

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Figuring out if a doctor is in your plan is harder than you think

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Photo: Willi Heidelbach

By Michelle Andrews
KHN

“Is this doctor in my insurance network?” is part of the litany of questions many people routinely ask when considering whether to see a particular doctor. Unfortunately, in some cases the answer may not be a simple yes or no.

That’s what Hannah Morgan learned when her husband needed surgery last fall to remove his appendix. When they met with the surgeon at the hospital emergency department near their Lexington, Ky., home, Morgan asked whether he was in the provider network for her husband’s individual policy, which he bought on the Kentucky health insurance exchange. The surgeon assured her that he was. When she got home, Morgan confirmed that he was in network using the online provider search tool for her husband’s plan.

But when she read the explanation of benefits form from the insurer, the surgeon’s services were billed at out-of-network rates, leaving the couple on the hook for $747. Continue reading

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Obamacare Is Barely Denting Corporate Profits – Bloomberg Business

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ACA health reform logoThe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — otherwise known as Obamacare — is putting such a small dent in the profits of U.S. companies that many refer to its impact as “not material” or “not significant,” according to a Bloomberg review of conference-call transcripts and interviews with major U.S. employers.

via Obamacare Is Barely Denting Corporate Profits – Bloomberg Business.

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Health news headlines – February 19, 2015

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