Archive for May, 2011

Health Care Law Makes Medicaid Reform Urgent

May 31st, 2011

The health reform law that will take full affect starting in 2014, will have a huge impact on Medicaid eligibility.  Many Americans that take advantage of the Medicaid program will have increased benefits as well because of the new legislation passed by the Obama administration.  In New Jersey, because of the changes proposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, about 500,000 new residents will become eligible for Medicaid.  This will put a huge strain not only the health care system, but in the delivery of the services demanded by the participants.  This change in eligibility requirements will also put a strain on the already out of control budgetary problems most states are facing now.  Because of the projected increase in participation, critics are saying that management of the new Medicaid program will be very difficult. 

In states like Rhode Island, they are taking more of a proactive approach.  They are enrolling qualified participants to receive care inside their home as opposed to inside a clinic or nursing home.  This is saved over $150 million over the past two years.  Many states have to take similar innovative approaches if they wish to combat the large projected cost increases starting in 2014.

Workplace Cited As A New Source In Rise In Obesity

May 27th, 2011

Researchers are identifying that the workplace is another contributor to obesity in America.  Especially since the introduction of the computer into the workplace in the early 1980s, people have really started to move around less, particularly at work.  In 1960, about 50 percent of jobs required at least moderate physical activity, today that number has dropped to 20 percent.  That means that 80 percent of jobs in today’s working environment are doing nothing to keep you healthy and promote physical activity.  That also translates into a decline or loss of calories burned of 120 to 140 per day.  That adds up real fast when you consider that the daytime is when you are supposed to be the most active and burning the most calories. 

Today, it is estimated that one out of every three Americans is considered obese.  Researchers do say that workplace activity only accounts for one piece of the puzzle and that people have to take a proactive approach to their health.  Diet is also another important factor.  Many Americans are not eating the right way and they do not have healthy behaviors on an everyday basis.  Each state in the United States has an average of 25 percent prevalence of obesity.  But some very unhealthy states are pushing those averages way up.

States Cut Back Efforts To Provide Drugs For HIV, Aids

May 26th, 2011

Most states in the United States are already experienced deficits and also have limited cash on hand for new state funded programs.  These states are forced to make decisions on which programs or projects to keep funding and which ones to scale back on.  Unfortunately, some states are scaling back on funding for HIV and AIDs drugs that would help save lives.  Recently it has been reported that over 8,000 people are currently on the waiting list to receive drugs that are very crucial to their survival.  These people on the waiting list span over 13 states in the U.S.. 

Some states have made their eligibility requirements for receiving these drugs and that has caused the amount of people that actually receive treatment lower than it has been in years.  States are forced to make these tough decisions because of the last 4 years of the tough economic climate. 

The executive director of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors reports that is costs states over $11,000 per person to fund there drug treatments.  In many instances, it is less expensive for the individual to get treatment on their own.  This is partly why states are force to look at the efficiency of the program and what eligibility requirements people must have moving forward to receive aid.

Most Americans Want Medicaid To Stay The Same

May 25th, 2011

Majority of Americans do not want to see any reductions in Medicaid.  Additionally, most are against the proposal to convert the health program to block grant financing in an attempt to reduce the federal deficit.  According to the survey conducted by May Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, 60% want Medicaid to stay the same and do not want to see any changes moving forward at all.  Many rely on Medicaid to help them with everyday activities and way of living.  The federal government issues guaranteed coverage for many Americans. 

Only 13% favor a change to the current Medicaid program in place, partly because they want to help reduce the federal deficit.  It has been showed that nearly half of all Americans either have someone in their household or know of someone who has received Medicaid assistance.  Many Americans rely on Medicaid very heavily and would be crushed if there were decreases to the health program.

‘Obamacare” Is Working

May 24th, 2011

Rick Ungar of Forbes is reporting that because of the Affordable Care Act passed by Washington, there are big numbers of Americans now getting into the health insurance system.  According to the data provided by the nations’ largest insurance companies, about 600,000 Americans have purchased health insurance in the first quarter.  This number is particularly high because of the 26 year old provision.  The new law permits young adults under the age of 26 to remain under their parent’s plan.  This has increased the amount of new applications for health insurance significantly.  Wellpoint, who is the largest health insurance carrier in the U.S., added over 280,000 new members in the first quarter of 2011.  Aetna reported that they added just short of 100,000 members to their customer base.  And Kaiser Permanente added another 90,000 members. 

The Health & Human Services Department estimated that because of the new health reform laws, that an estimated 1.2 million Americans will purchase insurance in 2011.  However, after these new numbers that are reported by the largest insurers, the estimates will most likely be exceeded.  A good benefit from adding a lot of younger individuals to the insurance pools is that they are generally a healthy demographic.  This is very important because they are not driving the cost of health care up for everyone else.

California Health Insurance Debate

May 23rd, 2011

Last week federal authorities announced that each state will have regulators scrutinize health insurance rate hikes of greater than 10 percent.  In California, the new change in landscape did little to reduce the threat of large rate hikes for consumers.  The new health reform law allows regulators to question and analyze hikes greater than 10 percent, and each carrier will have to justify the increase if asked to do so. 

Even after this new change was announced, California insurers such as Anthem Blue Cross of California and Blue Shield of California might still have rate hikes greater than 10 percent.  Some critics say even though the rate hikes might not be actuarially sound by authorities, they can do little to actually stop the increase.  Last month, a state regulator tried to stop Anthem Blue Cross from increasing there rates by 16 percent, but he could not stop it. 

The new health reform law will take awhile for it to pay dividends.  Their has to be synergy both on the federal and state level.  Also, health insurance companies have to take the responsibility of following the new legislation and making health care more affordable for consumers.

Insurers Told To Justify Rate Increases

May 20th, 2011

The Obama administration demanded on Thursday that all insurers must justify rate increases of more than 10%, starting in September.  The ruling established that state and federal insurance experts will scrutinize health insurance premium increases moving forward.  Part of why this timing is so crucial is because insurers have caught the attention recently of the American public with record profits last quarter.  Insurance companies are seeing these record profits partly because many consumers are delaying or canceling health care because of the high deductibles on their insurance plans.  The environment has shifted to high deductible plans because of the affordability of the premiums.

Consumers hope that this new ruling will help stop rate increases in the double digits every quarter.  Some consumers last year have reported increases of more than 40 percent.  The new process will put political pressure, at the very least, on these large health insurance companies.  Health insurance companies such Anthem Blue Cross of California and Blue Shield of California will be under heavy scrutiny moving forward.

Employers To See 2012 Medical Costs Jump

May 19th, 2011

According to the consulting firm PwC, medical costs is expected to increase by over 8.5% next year, up from 8% the year before.  This translates into health insurance premium increases for employers.  The study showed that many employers are starting to reduce the benefits offered to employees to off-set the rising cost of providing group health insurance plans.  A few years back, most employers did not provide plans with in network deductibles; it is now becoming a much more common theme among employers.  When deductibles are added to health insurance plans, the premiums usually decrease because of the reduced plan benefits.  Deductibles are simply the amount you have to pay before insurance coverage kicks in. 

PwC said that of the 1,700 companies interviewed, 28 percent are expected to only offer plans with deductibles of $1,000 or greater.  That number is up significantly from 2009 when it was only around 11 percent.  Companies that offer plans with deductibles of $400 or greater is expected to rise to 54 percent, up from 31 percent in 2009. 

Employers are obviously shifting some of the health insurance expenses on to the employees as the economy continues to struggle.  With no real end in sight, PwC forecasts that it is only going to get worse.  Employees are also seeing this shift as well.  They are forced to delay or even cancel doctor visits that they normally would of gone to.  Because of the reduced benefits, consumers are hesitant to use health care as much as they thought they would.

Drinking Coffee Helps Avoid Prostate Cancer

May 18th, 2011

According to a study out of Harvard School of Public Health, men should drink coffee regularly to avoid developing prostate cancer.  The research shows that men who drink coffee on a regular basis are 20 to 60 percent less likely to develop any form of the disease.  The study was conducted over a 12 year span and 45,000 participants were researched and studied over that time. 

Over 250,000 men per year on average get prostate cancer in the United States.  And about 15 percent of those cases turn fatal.  For the study, caffeine did not appear to be a factor, because many of the men reported to drink both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.  Then what causes the rates of prostate cancer to go down?  Researchers said that the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds contained in coffee, that affect the insulin and sex hormone levels, were a big factor.

How Health Insurance Is About To Change

May 17th, 2011

Starting in 2013, states will be required to have a full service health insurance exchange operating and functional.  By 2014, people will be mandated to have health insurance in the United States.  Their have been many critics of the new health reform laws.  Many say that it is unconstitutional to force people to purchase health insurance against their will.  Additionally, many believe that the cost of health insurance premiums will rise as a result of the new laws.  Why is that?  A deeper look helps uncover some possible reasons. 

First, the federal government will be getting huge tax revenues from the drug companies as a result of the new health reforms laws.  Most agree, that these additional costs imposed by the government on drug companies will be passed along to the consumers.  Second, the plans inside the exchange have to be government approved.  Meaning, many plans will be more generic in nature and cannot be customizable for the needs of the consumers.  Some people may have maternity coverage when they do not want to have kids, or drug coverage when they do not take prescription drugs. 

Over the next few years, the Affordable Care Act will start to take more shape and the results will be evident.  We will have to wait and see what happens to health insurance premiums and the cost of health care moving forward.

Health Insurers Making Record Profits

May 16th, 2011

The leading health insurance companies in the United States are posting record profits in the third quarter.  This is due partly because even though people have health insurance, the high cost of medical care is still deterring people away from care.  Many people have purchased high-deductible plans recently so they can have health insurance for catastrophic events.  However, for everyday uses of health insurance, consumers are either forgoing or postponing medical care because it is simply too expensive.  This has led to record profits for the large health insurance carriers. 

The UnitedHealth Group, which is one of the largest insurers in the United States, showed decreased use of hospital care and also doctor care.  Cigna also showed the same.  The utilization rates are also at all-time lows.  Their are also some other factors that people are taking into consideration.  The high costs of living is making people postpone the everyday medical care that they might need.  Such things like high gas prices, food prices, housing etc., is taking its toll on households.  As health insurance participants switch to higher deductible plans, its makes it much more expensive to go to routine doctor visits. 

In 2010, over 10% of participants on employer plans had deductibles over $2,000.  This will discourage people from visiting the doctor’s office.  Some critics are wondering if insurers are simply raising premiums as much as they can now before the health reform laws take into effect starting in 2014.

Health Care Costs Higher For Women

May 13th, 2011

Women have been hit harder than men have with increases to their medical costs over the past few years.  Historically, women have always had more necessary office visits every year because of the complexity of the reproductive process and other physiological issues.  From a private health insurance standpoint, women when compared to men of the same age and health, are still a little bit more expensive to insure.  Health insurance carriers know that women have more health care needs than men, especially when it comes to maternity care. 

To make matters worse, many women do not have health insurance because of the high cost of premiums.  In 2010, an estimated 27 million women ages between 19 and 64 did not have health insurance.  Also, many of them said that they avoided getting health insurance because of the high costs associated with private plans.  Health insurance premiums have increased consistently over the years.  In fact, since 2000, average premiums for family coverage has increased about 114 percent.

The Affordable Care Act, enacted by the new health reform laws, will try to decrease the cost of health care overall and make health insurance more affordable.  These new laws are especially important to women who will be relying on these new initiatives so they can get access to affordable health care coverage.

Young Children Can Access Earliest Memories

May 12th, 2011

A new study indicates that children can recall memories as far back as late infancy.  However, these memories fade away as the child gets older.  The Canadian study, conducted out of Memorial University of Newfoundland, asked 140 children ages between 4 to 13 the three earliest memories that they could recall, and the parents verified the information.

Some of the children in the study could identify memories before the age of two.  The interested thing to point out is that the memory loss as the kids gets older.  The same kids were asked the same questions two years later and many were not able to recall the same memories.  As kids get older, they take on much more exciting life events that start to take over long-term memory space in the brain.

Health Reform Law Will Insure Nearly All Women By 2014

May 11th, 2011

The new health reform law is meant to provide insurance to all Americans by 2014.  It will expand health insurance coverage to all women and provide premium subsidies to make insurance more affordable.  The report suggests that the Affordable Care Act makes this possible.  Women are historically more expensive to insure because of the maternity process.  It is very expensive to get ultrasounds and other baby care services during the reproductive process.  The report shows that millions of women are struggling to pay their medical bills and also that there are a lot of single mothers that especially need the help. 

When the law is fully implemented by 2014, women will be able to obtain health insurance at a lower cost which will help with maternity care.  Also, other services like mammograms that women go through when they get older is very costly.  For women that are uninsured, only 31% of women ages 50-64 reported going to get a mammogram screening within the past two years, compared to 79% for insured women.  The report also shows that 44% of women are struggling to pay down their medical debt.  That means that over 42 million women are struggling to pay their medical bills.  The Affordable Care Act will help ease the pressure for women starting in 2014.

Most Without Insurance Do Not Pay Hospital Bills

May 10th, 2011

A recent report found that most of the 50 million uninsured Americans also have virtually no savings.  This is not very surprising.  In fact, about half of the families that have income at 400% of the poverty level, report having savings of less than $4,100

As health insurance premiums continue to increase, so does the cost of living.  Unpaid medicals bills is one of the top reasons people file for bankruptcy in California and other states as well.  Majority of families in the U.S. do not have the financial assets to pay very expensive hospital bills.  Moreover, most individual health insurance plans do not have favorable hospital benefits unless you pay much more per month.  Once patients are admitted to the hospital, the bills can skyrocket as the cost of delivering health care to people gets more expensive.

Per year, an estimated $73 billion goes through the system that the hospitals cannot recoup because of unpaid medical bills.  Every year about 2 million uninsured Americans are hospitalized.  With over 50% of the hospital stays resulting in medical bills over $10,000.  Health insurance is the key to helping lower these rates of unpaid medical bills.  Not protecting your financial assets is even more risky when families have no health insurance.

Study Finds Higher Rate Of Autism In U.S.

May 9th, 2011

A new study in South Korea suggests that 1 in 38 children have traits of autism.  This particular study took a deeper look than a study that came out of U.S. last year suggesting 1 out of 100 have traits relating to autism.  In the United States, they look at medical records and education only, the study out of South Korea was much more complex.  The study was both time consuming and expensive, but the South Koreans believe that it will help better educate the mainstream public about autism.

The CDC did not help fund the study.  However, both the National Institute of Mental Health and Autism Speaks helped with funding the research.  The research polled about 55,000 children with a 63% participation rate.  The results will be published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Secondhand Smoke May Trigger Nicotine Craving

May 6th, 2011

A new study suggests that exposure to smokers may trigger nicotine cravings and make it that much harder for smokers to quit.  A study done by researchers at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that secondhand smoke has a direct impact on the brain, similar to people that actually smoke.  The findings also showed that exposure to smoke for about one hour is enough to allow nicotine to reach the brain.  This study is further evidence that secondhand smoke is very dangerous for adults and children.  Exposure to smoke as a child also may increase the probability of them smoking at a later age.

Secondhand smoke claims nearly 50,000 lives each year in the United States.  These deaths are caused by major health problems such as: heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory infections and severe asthma.

Supplements Don’t Prevent Prostate Cancer

May 5th, 2011

A new study by Canadian researchers found that certain nutritional supplements do not prevent prostate cancer in men.  The second most common cancer for men is prostate cancer.  The Canadian researchers found that vitamin E, selenium and soy, that was taken daily for three years, provided no evidence to benefit men who were at a higher risk for having prostate cancer. 

A previous study in 2008 had linked that men taking those vitamins showed some benefit from the daily usage.  The studies differ from each other and scientists are puzzled as to why.  Dr. Neil Fleshner, from the University of Toronto, had high hopes for these supplements helping men in the long run.  In 2008, he randomly assigned 303 men to either take some of the supplements or a placebo and after three years, their were positive signs.  The recent study tells us that more research needs to be done so we can find some consistency.

Medicare Proposal Different Than Federal Employee Plan

May 4th, 2011

House Republicans say that their proposed budget on Medicare is very similar to the health insurance programs that cover federal employees, including members of Congress.  However, some critics are finding major differences and it is starting a political war between the two sides.  Under the federal health insurance plans, 8 million people have coverage and the government contributes a fixed amount so federal employees can have cheaper health insurance.  Under the Republicans plan for Medicare, their is no such guarantee. 

Under the latest proposal by Republicans, stating in 2022, Medicare beneficiaries would receive coverage from the private insurance market and Medicare would reimburse or subsidize the costs.  As of right now, in 2022 the federal payment for Medicare per year would be $8,000 per individual.  Moreover, this would be linked to CPI so the contribution can be closely tied to inflation.  The new proposal states that the share that seniors would pay would actually grow over time and put more of the burden on beneficiaries.  The current Medicare program tries to keep contribution uniform over time so seniors can keep living the same lifestyle throughout the years.  Medicare and all the issues surrounding it will be a high priority when Congress meets this week.

Today Is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

May 3rd, 2011

The National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is a great annual day where parents can take charge of their kid’s health and be proactive if they see early warning signs of mental issues.  Staff members at Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services in Sandusky County are encouraging parents to look out for early warning signs such as: sudden changes in child’s behavior, excessive sadness, anxiety, destroying objects, difficulty interacting with peers, a growing inability to cope with daily activities or events. 

Warning signs like these and others can be any sort of mental issues that can affect a child throughout his or her youth and adulthood.  These mental health problems can lead to problems in school and also with their ability to learn.  Early recognition is the key to preventing problems down the road.

Anthem Proceeds With Premium Increases

May 2nd, 2011

The California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) has stated that the latest rate increase by Anthem Blue Cross of California to be unreasonable.  Anthem said the increase in premium will affect 120,000 policy holders with an overall increase ranging between 14.4% to 16.7%.  State officials did not have the authority to stop the premium increase. 

The DMHC requested that Anthem Blue Cross of California explain the latest rate increase to Californians.  The rate increase is related to policies overseen by the DMHC.  Other policies that are overseen by the Department of Insurance might not be seeing an increase like this one.

Anthem states that these health insurance increases do not affect all plans and that most customers will not be affected by these changes.  State lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would give state commissioners more power to control these rate increases.  They will be meeting by the end of this month.