Category Archives: Health insurance

Dec 27 2013
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New Infographic, Premium Payment Extension Will Help People Signing up for Health Insurance Coverage

Americans Health Insurance Plans, the trade association of many of the U.S. health insurance companies, has released a very easy to understand new infographic that helps simplify the steps for buying health insurance on the federal or state exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

The new infographic is not the only bonus from the trade association this season. Last week the group announced that most insurers are extending the deadline for people purchasing coverage to pay their premiums to January 10, so long as signup for the plan is before January 1. Coverage for those signups will be retroactive to January 1.

Dec 26 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: December 26

Many Still Have Signup Options for Health Insurance Coverage under the Affordable Care Act
Although the December 23 signup deadline for health insurance coverage beginning January 1 has passed, the White House announced on Christmas Eve that signup has been extended for several days for anyone who was unable to complete their online application because of heavy traffic on the site. States and insurers may impose their own deadlines, however, so people not enrolled should reach out to their state insurance hotlines by calling 800-318-2596. Additional information options include clicking the “what is the marketplace in my state” or “live chat” features on the healthcare.gov home page.

The absolute deadline to sign up for 2014 coverage with no financial penalty is March 31, 2014, but signup after Jan 1, 2014 will generally result in coverage beginning a little later in the year. However there is no deadline for people signing up for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Enrollment for those coverage options, for those that qualify, is open throughout the year, with no penalties assessed.  

Healthday.com has a Q&A on what you need to know about signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act as 2013 comes to an end. Read more on the Affordable Care Act.

Professional Truck Drivers Offer Safety Tips for Holiday Travel
America's Road Team Captains, members of the American Trucking Associations who are elite professional truck drivers with millions of accident-free miles, have advice on how to navigate through highway traffic and winter driving conditions during the busy holiday driving season. Their tips include:

  • Prepare your vehicle for long distance travel: Check your wipers and fluids. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Simple maintenance can prevent many of the problems that strand motorists on the side of the road before you leave your home.
  • Plan ahead: Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Drivers making unexpected lane changes to exit often cause accidents.
  • Do not cut in front of large trucks: Remember that trucks are heavier and take longer to make a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.
  • Be aware of truck blind spots: When sharing the road with large trucks, be aware of their blind spots.  If you can't see the truck driver in his or her mirrors, then the truck driver can't see you.
  • Pack your emergency kit: Contents should include a battery-powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, maps, tire repair kit and flares.
  • Check the weather: Be aware of changes in weather during your travel even if it’s just a trip of a few hours. Temperatures can drop and rain and fog can develop since you got started on the road. Check weather conditions before you leave and each time you stop.
  • Keep your eyes on the road: Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic accidents. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident. Use your cell phone when stopped and never text while driving.

Read more on transportation.

CPSC Recommends Checking to See if Winter Gear, Gifts, Have Been Recalled
As you pull out winter clothes or start to use holiday gifts, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends you first check to see if anything you or your family will be using was recalled for a safety hazard. Items recalled in 2013 include children’s clothing with appliques and toys with small pieces that can pose choking risks. Read more on injury prevention.

Dec 23 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: December 23

HHS Will Allow Some to Skip Insurance for 2014 without Penalty
The U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made some key rule changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) late last week. People whose insurance plans were cancelled for 2014 because the plans did not meet the requirements for plans under the ACA — such as covering essential benefits including some preventive care with no copays — will be permitted to buy a “catastrophic” plan which has only minimal coverage or opt for no insurance for the coming year, but pay no penalty. HHS has set up a hotline, 1-866-837-0677, for people whose policies were canceled so they can get advice on coverage for 2014. Read more on the Affordable Care Act.

NIH Study: Drop in Prescription Drug Abuse, Rise in Marijuana Use Among High School Seniors  
The percentage of high-schoolers who think using marijuana regularly poses a major risk to health has fallen dramatically in the past 10 years, according to this year’s Monitoring the Future survey, which measures drug use and attitudes among the nation’s eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. Actual rates of marijuana use have also increased among high school seniors, with 6.5 saying they smoke marijuana daily, up from 6 percent in 2003 and 2.4 percent in 1993.

“This is not just an issue of increased daily use,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. “It is important to remember that over the past two decades, levels of THC — the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — have gone up a great deal, from 3.75 percent in 1995 to an average of 15 percent in today’s marijuana cigarettes. Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago.”

Other findings of the survey include:

  • For the first time, the percentage of students in all three grades combined who say they smoked cigarettes in the past month is below 10 percent (9.6 percent) compared to 16.7 percent 10 years ago and 24.7 percent in 1993.
  • Continued abuse of Adderall, commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, with 7.4 percent of seniors reporting taking it for non-medical reasons in the past year.
  • Five percent of seniors report abuse of cough products containing dextromethorphan, down from 6.9 percent in 2006, the first year it was measured by the survey.
  • For cocaine and heroin, while there was no significant change from the 2012 rates, there continues to be a gradual decline in use, with both drugs at historic lows in all three grades.
  • Use of alcohol by teens continues a steady decline. For 12th-graders, alcohol use peaked in 1997, with more than half (52.7 percent) reporting drinking alcohol in the past month. Only 39.2 percent of seniors reported past month use this year.

Read more on Substance Abuse.

Earlier Cataract Surgery for Seniors Could Reduce Car Accidents
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have found that earlier surgery cataract surgery may reduce car accidents among older drivers by about 16 percent.

Currently, most U.S. insurers cover the surgery based on both findings of an eye exam and vision complaints by patients. However, the researchers say that cognitive deficits, age, insurance coverage, income, or simple procrastination, may keep older people from telling their doctor about their vision problems.

The researchers developed a model to simulate a common vehicle collision for people 60 to 89 and implemented control conditions of earlier and later cataract surgery and found that the change to earlier surgeries would increase cataract surgery expenditure for people ages 65 and older by eight percent and for people ages 60-64 by about 47 percent. However, those expenses would be offset by reductions in medical and emergency services costs following car accidents. The study was published in Accident Analysis and Prevention. Read more on aging.

Nov 5 2013
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APHA 2013: Public Health System Transformation Under the Affordable Care Act

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The changing environment for health departments under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was the focus of a very well attended early morning session at the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting in Boston today, moderated by APHA public health policy analyst Vanessa Forsberg, MPP.

Hospitals and private health care providers will soon be competing with health departments for clinical services such as immunizations for a newly insured population, according to Forsberg. However collaboration may help departments keep and grow clinical services, as well as collaborate with new partners under other new ACA rules, such as community benefit requirements for hospitals to improve population and individual health.

“There’s a lot of innovation, a lot of people moving into that space and this is a clarion call to say public health had a head start and don’t let the space be taken from you, learn the finance side,” said James Corbett, M.Div, JD, an ethics fellow at the Harvard Medical School and vice president of charity care and ethics at the Steward Health Care System in Boston.

Opportunities for health departments, says Corbett, include focusing on addressing disparities, preventive health, innovative programs and partnerships that improve care and reduce costs.

A key example Corbett shared was a decision by Steward to hire community health workers whose services can be billed for under the ACA beginning January 1. Corbett says he looked at the hospital’s bad debt documentation by language and found trends, then convinced the hospital’s CEO to allow him to hire community workers who got iPads and then went out into the community to visit patients who hadn’t paid bills. They were able to use the devices to record identification and other information, then help the patients sign up for Medicaid and other assistance that allowed them to be covered and the health system to be paid.

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Oct 18 2013
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Twentysomething? Have We Got an Affordable Care Act Story For You

Alarmed at recent surveys that show only about ten percent of young Americans who say they are very familiar with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), staff reporters at Kaiser Health News (KHN) have crafted a clever article—winsome graphics included—aimed at getting the attention of millennials about the new health law in time for them to sign up before looming deadlines.  

Getting the attention of millennials on the state or federal health insurance exchanges, recently launched and going through overhauls, is crucial for two key reasons. One is that young adults no longer on their parents' plan (now allowed until age 26 under the ACA) often don’t bother with health insurance because they believe they’re invincible, so why shell out hundreds to thousands in premiums and deductibles? That works fine unless an accident or illness ensues, which can cost hundreds of thousands or more.  

file Kaiser Health News graphic aimed to appeal to "young invincibles"

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