Consumer

There’s a new study out of the University of Miami that’s being put into practice at yoga studios in Naples.

The study quantifies the health benefits of yoga for aging populations—particularly the way some poses can help the elderly avoid harmful falls.

Pregnant With Cancer: One Woman's Journey

Feb 10, 2015

After years of debating whether to have a second child, my husband, Mark, and I decided to give it a try. Two weeks later, we found a lump. I was 35.

Experts See Need to Improve, Simplify ACA

Feb 10, 2015
Kaiser Health News

“Repeal and replace” has been the rallying cry for Republicans since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010. But now that most of the law’s provisions have taken effect, some health experts are pitching ways to improve it, rather than eliminate it.

An ideologically diverse panel at the National Health Policy Conference Monday presented somewhat different lists of ideas to make the law work better. But they all agreed on one thing: The Affordable Care Act is too complicated.

Health care offers attractive growth opportunities for cyber criminals looking to steal reams of personal information, as the hacking of a database maintained by the second-largest U.S. health insurer proves.

Wikimedia Commons

Insurers aren't required to encrypt consumers' data under a 1990s federal law that remains the foundation for health care privacy in the Internet age — an omission that seems striking in light of the major cyberattack against Anthem.

Encryption uses mathematical formulas to scramble data, converting sensitive details coveted by intruders into gibberish. Anthem, the second-largest U.S. health insurer, has said the data stolen from a company database that stored information on 80 million people was not encrypted.

Latino ACA Enrollment Still Lags

Feb 9, 2015
Mary Agnes Carey / Kaiser Health News

Norma and Rodolfo Santaolalla have always worked but have never had health insurance.  When the Arlington, Va., couple tried to apply online for coverage under the health care law, it was just too confusing.

“I didn’t understand about the deductibles and how to choose a plan. It’s difficult. It’s the first time we’ve done that,” said Norma, 46, who cleans houses for a living.  Rodolfo, 47, is a handyman. “That’s why we came here, to ask them to help us.”

Insurer Hit by Major Data Breach

Feb 5, 2015
Associated Press

Health insurer Anthem said hackers infiltrated its computer network and gained access to a host of personal information for customers and employees, including CEO Joseph Swedish.

The nation's second-largest health insurer said it was contacting customers affected by the "very sophisticated" cyberattack and was working to figure out how many people were affected.

More than 400,000 Medicare beneficiaries who may have been confused or misinformed about the pharmacy details of their 2015 Aetna prescription drug plans have until the end of this month to find participating pharmacies or switch plans, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

GOP Not Slowing FL Obamacare Enrollment

Feb 3, 2015

When Florida workers promoting President Barack Obama's health care marketplace want instant feedback, they go to an online "heat map." The map turns darker green where they've seen the most people and shows bright red dots for areas where enrollment is high.

"The map shows us where the holes are" and what communities need to be targeted next, said Lynn Thorp, regional director of the Health Planning Council of Southwest Florida. She hands out information about the health care marketplace at rodeos, farmers markets, hockey games and almost any place where people gather.

Associated Press

Holding out the promise of major medical breakthroughs, President Barack Obama on Friday called on Congress to approve spending in medical research that tailors treatment to an individual's genes.

Obama wants $215 million for what he's calling a precision medicine initiative that moves away from one-size-fits-all treatments. The ambitious goal: Scientists will assemble databases of about a million volunteers to study their genetics — and other factors such as their environments and the microbes that live in their bodies — to learn how to individualize care.

Flu.gov

Some new evidence this is a particularly bad flu season: Flu-related hospitalizations of the elderly are the highest since the government started tracking that statistic nine years ago.

  CDC officials released the new flu season numbers on Friday.About 198 out of every 100,000 people 65 and older have been hospitalized with flu-related illness this flu season. That's roughly 86,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preven­tion.

It flew through the Republican-run House in 2012, and a year later 79 of the Democratic-led Senate's 100 members embraced it. With Republicans now controlling both chambers of Congress, the chances for repealing the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices are better than ever.

Yet abolishing the tax won't be easy, even though Republicans rank it a top priority and are backed by Democrats from states that rely on the industry for jobs.

U.S. Senate

In a rare show of bipartisanship over President Barack Obama's health care law, a Senate committee voted unanimously Wednesday to exclude veterans from the 50-worker threshold that triggers required coverage for employees under that statute.

The Senate Finance Committee vote was 26-0, a departure from the usual party-line fights over Obama's showcase 2010 law.

U.S. Navy

U.S. officials say an independent commission is recommending broad changes to the military's retirement and health care systems that could save more than $20 billion over the next four years.

But the proposals, which would allow some of the programs to operate more like existing federal employee systems, are likely to face an uphill battle from members of Congress who vigorously protect military benefits and have so far resisted change.

HHS Quickens Pace to Quality-Based Medicare Pay

Jan 27, 2015
Kaiser Health News

The Obama administration Monday announced a goal of accelerating changes to Medicare so that within four years, half of the program’s traditional spending will go to doctors, hospitals and other providers that coordinate their patient care, stressing quality and frugality.

Solid economic growth will help the federal budget deficit shrink this year to its lowest level since President Barack Obama took office, according to congressional estimates released Monday.

The Congressional Budget Office also projects a 14 percent drop in the number of U.S. residents without health insurance, largely because of Obama's health law.

With virtually no hard proof that medical marijuana benefits sick children, and evidence that it may harm developing brains, the drug should only be used for severely ill kids who have no other treatment option, the nation's most influential pediatricians group says in a new policy.

Some parents insist that medical marijuana has cured their kids' troublesome seizures or led to other improvements, but the American Academy of Pediatrics' new policy says rigorous research is needed to verify those claims.

HealthCare.gov

The Obama administration appears to be making broader changes to protect consumer information on the government's health insurance website, after objections from lawmakers and privacy advocates.

The Associated Press reported last week that details such as consumers' income and tobacco use were going to private companies with a commercial interest in such data.

AP also reported that a number of companies had embedded connections on HealthCare.gov, raising privacy and security issues for some tech experts.

In his State of the Union speech earlier this week, President Obama pitched a plan to boost what he called "middle-class economics." He asked Congress to help him make community college free, cut taxes for the middle class — and also do this:

"Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave," Obama said. "It's the right thing to do."

High Court Considers If Providers Can Sue States For Higher Medicaid Pay

Jan 21, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could block hospitals, doctors — or anyone else — from suing states over inadequate payment rates for providers who participate in the Medicaid program for low-income Americans.

Federal law requires Medicaid, which covers 70 million people, to provide the same access to care as that given to people with private insurance. But many doctors avoid seeing Medicaid recipients, saying the program pays too little. That can lead to delays and difficulties in getting care for millions of poor people.

HealthCare.gov

A little-known side to the government's health insurance website is prompting renewed concerns about privacy, just as the White House is calling for stronger cybersecurity protections for consumers.

Associated Press

Renewing a push for paid leave for workers, President Barack Obama on Thursday will call on Congress, states and cities to pass measures to allow millions of workers to earn up to a week of paid sick time a year, the White House said.

He'll also ask Congress for more than $2 billion in new spending to encourage states to create paid family and medical leave programs.

Not only do more Americans have health insurance, but the number struggling with medical costs has dropped since President Barack Obama's health care law expanded coverage, according to a study released Thursday.

The Commonwealth Fund's biennial health insurance survey found that the share of U.S. adults who did not get needed care because of cost dropped from 43 percent in 2012 to 36 percent last year, as the health care law's main coverage expansion went into full swing.

Though the United States is still leading the world in research related to diseases, it is rapidly losing its edge, according to an analysis in the American Medical Association's flagship journal JAMA.

If you look at biomedical research around the globe, the United States funded 57 percent of that work a decade ago. The U.S. share has since dropped to 44 percent, according to the study published online Tuesday.

If you're among the millions of consumers who got financial help for health insurance last year under President Barack Obama's law, better keep an eye on your mailbox.

The administration said Monday it has started sending out tax reporting forms that you'll need to fill out your 2014 return. Like W-2s for health care, they're for people who got health insurance tax credits provided under the law.

The Associated Press

In the midst of a worrisome flu season, health officials are pushing doctors to prescribe antiviral medicines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday sent a new alert to doctors, advising prompt use of Tamiflu and other antivirals for hospitalized flu patients and those at higher risk for complications like pneumonia.CDC research suggests doctors prescribe antivirals to one in five high-risk flu patients. CDC officials say the number should be higher.

Adjusting medications before someone gets sick enough to visit the doctor. Updating outside specialists so one doctor's prescription doesn't interfere with another's.

Starting this month, Medicare will pay primary care doctors a monthly fee to better coordinate care for the most vulnerable seniors — those with multiple chronic illnesses — even if they don't have a face-to-face exam.

The goal is to help patients stay healthier between doctor visits, and avoid pricey hospitals and nursing homes.

Sign-ups under President Barack Obama's health care law grew slowly but steadily over the New Year's holiday, as the share of Americans still lacking coverage hit its lowest level in years.

The Obama administration reported Wednesday that nearly 103,000 people signed up last week in the 37 states where the federal government is running online health insurance markets, bringing total enrollment for 2015 to 6.6 million in those states. The remaining states are running their own exchanges.

On the new Congress' first day, the House unanimously approved Republican legislation Tuesday making it easier for smaller companies to avoid providing health care coverage to their workers by hiring veterans.

The measure was approved 412-0 and is the first of many expected GOP bills aimed at President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, which was enacted over uniform Republican opposition.

Despite the buzz about paleo and raw food diets, a new ranking of the 35 top diets puts these two near the bottom of the list.

Why?

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