Consumer

Income inequality is taking a toll on state governments.

The widening gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else has been matched by a slowdown in state tax revenue, according to a report released Monday by Standard & Poor’s.

Even as income for the affluent has accelerated, it’s barely kept pace with inflation for most other people. That trend can mean a double-whammy for states: The wealthy often manage to shield much of their income from taxes. And they tend to spend less of it than others do, thereby limiting sales tax revenue.

Hospital Observations Favor Privately Insured

Sep 11, 2014

An increasing number of seniors who spend time in the hospital are surprised to learn that they were not "admitted" patients -- even though they may have stayed overnight in a hospital bed and received treatment, diagnostic tests and drugs.

Family Premiums Rise Modestly: Survey

Sep 11, 2014

Premiums for job-based insurance rose modestly for the third consecutive year, reflecting slowed spending, even as key elements of the federal health care law went into effect.

Family premiums rose 3 percent in 2014, one of the lowest increases tracked since the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust began surveying employers in 1999. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Many people newly insured by Medicaid under the federal health care law are seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms, one of the most expensive medical settings, a study released Monday concludes.

The analysis by the Colorado Hospital Association provides a real-time glimpse at how the nation’s newest social program is working.

It also found indications that newly insured Medicaid patients admitted to hospitals may be sicker than patients previously covered under the same program, which serves more than 60 million low-income and disabled people.

Hackers successfully breached HealthCare.gov, but no consumer information was taken from the health insurance website that serves more than 5 million Americans, the Obama administration disclosed Thursday.

Instead, the hackers installed malicious software that could have been used to launch an attack on other websites from the federal insurance portal.

Perdue Farms says it has ditched the common practice of injecting antibiotics into eggs that are just about to hatch. And public health advocates are cheering. They've been campaigning against the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture, arguing that it's adding to the plague of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The CVS retail chain is no longer selling tobacco products in its 7,700 stores -- including at more than 700 stores in Florida -- about a month before schedule, according to the South Florida Business Journal. The company, which stands to lose about $2 billion in annual tobacco sales, is also changing its name to CVS Health.

More women are choosing to have bilateral mastectomies when they are diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, even though there's little evidence that removing both breasts improves their survival compared with more conservative treatments.

The biggest study yet on the question has found no survival benefit with bilateral mastectomy compared with breast-conserving surgery with radiation.

If you got health coverage through President Barack Obama's law this year, you'll need a new form from your insurance exchange before you can file your tax return next spring.

Some tax professionals are worried that federal and state insurance marketplaces won't be able to get those forms out in time, creating the risk of delayed tax refunds for millions of consumers.

The same federal agency that had trouble launching HealthCare.gov last fall is facing the heaviest lift.

Insurers can no longer reject customers with expensive medical conditions thanks to the health care overhaul. But consumer advocates warn that companies are still using wiggle room to discourage the sickest — and costliest — patients from enrolling.

Some insurers are excluding well-known cancer centers from the list of providers they cover under a plan; requiring patients to make large, initial payments for HIV medications; or delaying participation in public insurance exchanges created by the overhaul.

A recent fundraising challenge has gone viral on social media, calling attention to research into Lou Gehrig's disease. Audie Cornish talks with Forbes contributor Dan Diamond about the state of that research and where it goes from here after the fundraising success.

Rachel Swinehart has commandeered her family's living room in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It's filled with large plastic tubs containing stuff like pink bedding and a coffee maker.

Rachel, 18, is about to head off to Shenandoah College, a small arts school in Virginia, where she'll study harp performance. In many ways, organizing her stuff is the easy part. Talking about the risks of college life — that's a bit harder.

HMO, PPO, EPO: Which Plan Is Best?

Aug 19, 2014

What’s in a name? When it comes to health plans sold on the individual market, these days it’s often less than people think. The lines that distinguish HMOs, PPOs, EPOs and POS plans from one another have blurred, making it hard to know what you’re buying by name alone - assuming you're one of the few people who know what an EPO is in the first place.

“Now, there’s a lot of gray out there,” says Sabrina Corlette, project director at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

When we picture hungry Americans, we may see the faces of children, or single moms. But many of the people who struggle to fill their bellies are beyond age 65. Some of them are even malnourished, a condition that sets them up for all kinds of other health risks, like falling.

Malnutrition may go undetected — by the general public and by doctors — until the seniors show up in the emergency room, often for an injury or other reason.

Hospitals May Help Pay ACA Premiums

Aug 14, 2014

Low-income consumers struggling to pay their premiums may soon be able to get help from their local hospital or United Way.

Some hospitals in Florida, New York and Wisconsin are exploring ways to help individuals and families pay their share of the costs of government-subsidized policies purchased though the health law’s marketplaces – at least partly to guarantee the hospitals get paid when the consumers seek care.

Vicki Hornbuckle used to play the piano at her church. But that was before her liver started failing.

"I had to give it up because I couldn't keep up," says Hornbuckle, 54, of Snellville, Georgia. "I didn't have the energy to do three services on Sunday. You're just too tired to deal with anything. And so, it's not a life that you want to live."

But Hornbuckle hasn't given up. She's fighting to stay alive long enough to get a liver transplant.

Some Workers Could Be Auto-Enrolled

Aug 5, 2014

Newly hired employees who don’t sign up for health insurance on the job could have it done for them under a health law provision that may take effect as early as next year.

But the controversial provision is raising questions: Does automatic enrollment help employees help themselves, or does it force them into coverage they don’t want and may not need?

A group of employers, many of them retail and hospitality businesses, want the provisions repealed, but some experts say the practice has advantages and is consistent with the aims of the health law.

Fears of possible listeria contamination have led to a national recall of whole peaches, nectarines and other fruits packed by a California company. No illnesses have been reported, but the Wawona Packing Co. has told retailers such as Wal-Mart, Costco and Trader Joe's to pull its products.

The Hope Clinic in southwest Houston is in the very heart of Asia Town, a part of the city where bland strip malls hide culinary treasures — Vietnamese pho, Malaysian noodles, Sichuan rabbit and bubble tea.

Inside the clinic, internist Charu Sawhney sees patients from many countries and circumstances. She's a big believer in the Affordable Care Act since most of her patients have been uninsured. She actively pushed many of them to sign up for the new plans.

People often talk about how their friends feel like family. Well, there's some new research out that suggests there's more to that than just a feeling. People appear to be more like their friends genetically than they are to strangers, the research found.

A baby who generated great excitement last year because it appeared she had been cured of HIV is infected with the virus after all, health officials say.

This discovery is a setback for the child known as the "Mississippi baby." It also complicates efforts to test what had seemed like a promising new treatment for infants born with HIV.

When NPR host Diane Rehm’s husband John Rehm could no longer bear his worsening Parkinson’s, she says he asked a doctor to help him die, but he was refused. NBC News reports. Receiving medical assistance to die is illegal in Maryland, where the Rehms lived. So Diane Rehm said it took nine painful days of refusing her husband food and water, and he died of dehydration, NBC reports.

Four Florida insurers allegedly discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS by structuring their prescription drug benefits so that patients are discouraged from enrolling, according to a complaint filed by health advocacy groups.

Cancer research groups, dermatologists and sunscreen makers are urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to move forward on approving more effective sunscreen ingredients, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Suncare products currently available in the United States contain effective protection against UVB rays, but are weak against UVA rays, something products widely available in Europe and Asia already address, the Times reports.

People are worried about being able to pay for health insurance. So the insurance industry and a group of Democratic senators have proposed offering cheaper, skimpier "copper plans" on the health law's marketplaces that could draw in people who were unhappy with the cost of available plans.

But consumer advocates and others who study the insurance market suggest that there may not be a big demand for these plans and that they could expose people to unacceptably high out-of-pocket costs if they got sick.

Obamacare Attracted Uninsured:Survey

Jun 20, 2014

Nearly six in 10 Americans who bought insurance for this year through the health law’s online marketplaces were previously uninsured—most for at least two years, according to a new survey that looks at the experiences of those most affected by the law.

That finding is higher than some earlier estimates, and counters arguments made by critics of the law that most of those who purchased the new policies were previously insured.

AP

Under pressure from Congress, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz on Tuesday offered to help "drain the swamp" of unscrupulous marketers using his name to peddle so-called miracle pills and cure-alls to millions of Americans desperate to lose weight.

Oz appeared before the Senate's consumer protection panel and was scolded by Chairman Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., for claims he made about weight-loss aids on his TV show, "The Dr. Oz Show."

Even if you can't keep a beat, your brain can. "The brain absolutely has rhythm," says Nathan Urban, a neuroscientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

When you concentrate, Urban says, your brain produces rapid, rhythmic electrical impulses called gamma waves. When you relax, it generates much slower alpha waves.

The Commonwealth Fund has released a survey that -- as in the past -- found U.S. health care the most expensive among 11 countries studied but the lowest-ranking on most performance measures. The United Kingdom ranked first followed closely by Switzerland.

There were times a few years back when the emergency room at SUNY Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse looked like a scene from a zombie movie. Dr. Ross Sullivan, a physician there, recalls one afternoon when staff wheeled in a man with dilated pupils who was covered in sweat.

"The patient was screaming obscenities, and anybody he would pass, he was threatening and saying he was going to kill them," Sullivan recalls.

Police suspected the patient had taken "bath salts," the notorious synthetic stimulants that were ravaging scores of American communities at the time.

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