Obamacare birth control coverage saves women significant money

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CONTRACEPTIVEBy Julie Rovner
KHN

Women are saving a lot of money as a result of a health law requirement that insurance cover most forms of prescription contraceptives with no additional out-of-pocket costs, according to a study released Tuesday.

But the amount of those savings and the speed with which those savings occurred surprised researchers.

The study, in the July issue of the policy journal Health Affairs, found that the average birth control pill user saved $255 in the year after the requirement took effect.

The average user of an intrauterine device (IUD) saved $248. Those savings represented a significant percentage of average out-of-pocket costs.

“These are healthy women and this on average is their No. 1 need from the health care system,” said Nora Becker, an MD-PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study. “On average, these women were spending about 30 to 44 percent of their total out of pocket (health) spending just on birth control.” Continue reading

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States move to limit patient costs for high-priced drugs

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pills-spill-out-of-bottle

By Michael Ollove
Stateline

As more expensive specialty drugs come on the market to treat some of the most serious chronic diseases, more states are stepping in to cushion the financial pain for patients who need medicine that can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Continue reading

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‘A terrible way to end someone’s life’

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By Stephanie O’Neill, Southern California Public Radio

Nora Zamichow says if she and her husband, Mark Saylor, had known how doctors die, they may have made different treatment decisions for him at the end of his life (Maya Sugarman/KPCC).

“I felt like I was beating up people up at the end of their life,” she says.

It looks nothing like what people see on TV. In real life, ribs often break and few survive the ordeal.

A Stanford University study shows almost 90 percent of doctors would forgo resuscitation and aggressive treatment if facing a terminal illness.

“I felt like I was beating up people up at the end of their life,” she says.

It looks nothing like what people see on TV. In real life, ribs often break and few survive the ordeal.

Gorlitsky now teaches medicine at the University of Southern California and says these early clinical experiences have stayed with her.

“I would be doing the CPR with tears coming down sometimes, and saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, goodbye.’ Because I knew it very likely was not going to be successful. It just seemed a terrible way to end someone’s life.”

Gorlitsky wants something different for herself and for her loved ones. And most other doctors do too: A Stanford University study shows almost 90 percent of doctors would forgo resuscitation and aggressive treatment if facing a terminal illness. Continue reading

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Doctors order fewer preventive services for Medicaid patients – study finds

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Blue doctorMichelle Andrews
KHN

Gynecologists ordered fewer preventive services for women who were insured by Medicaid than for those with private coverage, a recent study found.

The study by researchers at the Urban Institute examined how office-based primary care practices provided five recommended preventive services over a five-year period.

The services were clinical breast exams, pelvic exams, mammograms, Pap tests and depression screening.

The study used data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a federal health database of services provided by physicians in office-based settings.

It looked at 12,444 visits to primary care practitioners by privately insured women and 1,519 visits by women who were covered by Medicaid between 2006 and 2010.

That difference reflects the fact that the share of women who are privately insured is seven times larger than those on Medicaid, the researchers said. Pregnancy-related visits and visits to clinics were excluded from the analysis.

Overall, 26 percent of the visits by women with Medicaid included at least one of the five services, compared with 31 percent of the visits by privately insured women. Continue reading

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Use only approved prescription ear drops, FDA warns

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ucm453229FDA consumer update

For years health care providers and pharmacies have sold ear drops that contain ingredients like benzocaine and hydrocortisone that have not been evaluated for safety and effectiveness by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Now the FDA notifying companies to stop marketing 16 unapproved prescription drugs labeled to relieve ear pain and swelling.

FDA wants to make sure that the next time your child has ear pain requiring a prescription drug, the product has been approved by FDA as safe and effective.

“If we don’t know whether these drugs have any benefits, we should not accept any possible risk of side effects,” says FDA’s Charles E. Lee, M.D. Continue reading

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Measles led to death of Clallam Co. woman; first in US in a dozen years

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From Washington State Department of Health

Tragic outcome for immunocompromised patient shows need for community protection

Measles Virus

The death of a Clallam County woman this spring was due to an undetected measles infection that was discovered at autopsy.

The woman was most likely exposed to measles at a local medical facility during a recent outbreak in Clallam County.

She was there at the same time as a person who later developed a rash and was contagious for measles.

The woman had several other health conditions and was on medications that contributed to a suppressed immune system.

The last confirmed measles death in the United States was reported in 2003.

She didn’t have some of the common symptoms of measles such as a rash, so the infection wasn’t discovered until after her death. The cause of death was pneumonia due to measles.

This tragic situation illustrates the importance of immunizing as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles. Continue reading

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Use extreme caution this Fourth of July

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FireworksFrom the Office of the Insurance Commissioner 

This year’s Fourth of July festivities in Washington are complicated by the statewide drought we are experiencing.

As a result, many local and state government officials are asking Washington citizens to forego fireworks, even where they are legal.

Many municipalities in Washington have banned the use of fireworks.

Continue reading

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After court victory, Obama asks GOP to work with him to improve health care

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Obama July 10_2By Mary Agnes Carey
KHN

President Barack Obama called on Republicans Wednesday to find a bipartisan way to fix problems in the nation’s health care system rather than continue to fight over the health law.

“Part of what I’m hoping is with the Supreme Court case now behind us what we can do is … focus on how we can make it even better because it’s not as if we’ve solved all the problems in our health care system,” Obama said in remarks at an elementary school in Nashville, Tenn. “America still spends more on health care than any other advanced nation and our outcomes aren’t particularly better.”

Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday found 43 percent supporting the law and 40 percent in opposition, much as it has been for the past several months.

In a 6-3 ruling, the high court last week rejected a challenge that would have ended federal premium subsidies in at least 34 states for individuals and families buying insurance through the federal government’s online marketplace.

Such a result would have made coverage unaffordable for millions and created price spirals for those who kept their policies, many experts predicted.

While the president’s law survived its second Supreme Court test in three years, the decision by no means has ended the legal and political assaults from opponents.

Several GOP presidential hopefuls and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, among others, have continued to call for the law’s repeal. Continue reading

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Waterborne diseases pose a risk during swimming and other outdoor fun

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From the Washington State Department of Health

infant-swimmingSwimming pools, beaches, lakes, and streams provide an opportunity to cool off during a summer that’s warmer than usual.

Yet germs in the water can make people sick, especially young children, elderly people, and people with weak immune systems.

Chlorine in swimming pools kills most germs, but some types of germs can resist chlorine for many days.

Germs that can cause waterborne illness include Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, E. coli, and norovirus. In the past three years, three outbreaks of waterborne illness have been reported to state health officials – two in lakes and one in a swimming pool.

“It’s important to do all we can to protect ourselves and others from waterborne diseases when we take a dip into local pools, lakes, and rivers,” said State Epidemiologist for Communicable Disease Dr. Scott Lindquist. “Stay out of the water if you’re ill or have recently had diarrhea.” Continue reading

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Religious freedom, states’ interest clash over autopsies

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Minnesota_population_map_croppedBy Jake Grovum
Stateline

When Tadd Johnson got a call in February that a Native American tribal elder in northern Minnesota had died and authorities were preparing to do an autopsy over his family’s objections, the message was simple.

“They’re going to do an autopsy on Mushkooub, and you need to stop it,” said Johnson, an attorney and chairman of the American Indian studies department at the University of Minnesota’s Duluth campus, a reference to deceased elder Mushkooub Aubid.

It had been years since Johnson, who also is a Native American, had practiced law. But he soon found himself poring over the state’s medical examiner guidelines and religious freedom statutes.

He got in touch with Aubid’s family members, who were trailing the medical examiner’s car on its way to Duluth. That’s where the autopsy would be performed within a few hours unless they could stop it. Continue reading

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Your colonoscopy is covered — but surprise! The prep kit may not

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Question Q&ABy Michelle Andrews
KHN

With summer vacations coming up, one reader this week asked about travel insurance, while others had questions about coverage of preventive services, including costs related to colonoscopies.

Q. We know now that anesthesia for a screening colonoscopy is covered with no cost sharing  as a preventive service under the health law. As a plan administrator, I am also struggling to find guidance on how to handle bowel prep kits for colonoscopies. Can you help? Continue reading

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