The Forgotten Civil Right – Healthcare

MLK - I have a dreamIn honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Dan Munro wrote a wonderful column on Forbes reminding us that King saw healthcare as a civil right. Sadly, we have made little progress on healthcare inequality, with roughly 50 million Americans without health insurance and another 40 million under-insured.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is poised to relieve some of that, with the individual mandate to buy healthcare insurance and subsidies for low-income Americans. But individual states are still allowed to choose whether or not to support and fund a key component of the ACA – Medicaid expansion. Many will, but some won’t.

Many doctors have walked away from taking Medicaid patients, and some have abandoned Medicare patients too. Read More …

As Boomers Age, Who Will Care for Seniors?

the romanian mob

Photo by Flickr user jonrawlinson

Guest article by Albert Lester (editor enhanced)

Americans keep living longer. According to the CIA World Factbook, 26% of Americans are older than 55. Just more than 40% fall in the 25-54 age range, double the rate for those under age 14, and dwarfing the number of 15-24 year olds. Moreover, our population growth is less than one percent. For baby boomers, some of whom have already entered retirement, this brings an interesting question: will there be enough entitlement funds to help support them in old age, and will there be enough caregivers in the smaller generation groups that follow them to meet the demand? Read More …

Middle Generation: Rising Cost of Care for America’s Elderly

Middle Generation LadiesBy Caroline Montague

With an aging population and a generation of young adults struggling to achieve financial independence, the burdens and responsibilities of middle-aged Americans are increasing. Nearly half (47 percent) of these adults have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). In addition, about one in seven middle-aged adults (15 percent) are providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.

Adult children, worried about costs and the loss of their parents’ independence, must make difficult decisions about the best options for care for their loved ones. Assisted living communities, such as Emeritus assisted living, allow individuals to remain independent as long as possible in an environment that maximizes the person’s autonomy, dignity, privacy and safety. These types of communities also encourage family and resident involvement. (Editor: Emeritus is one of the largest and most well known, but you can also compare facilities in your area by zip code.)  Read More …

Understanding Confusing Medical Bills for Seniors

Senior couple studying Confusing Medical BillsThe rising cost of medical bills is a concerning issue, particularly if you are retired and are facing health challenges. As the cost of medical procedures increases, a large number of American adults are filing for bankruptcy. The high cost is expected to cause 1.7 million individuals and families to file for bankruptcy, reported Today.com. Although the numbers are troubling, it does not mean you do not have options to help improve your personal situation.

Check For Obvious Errors

Before you assume that the price given on your medical bill is accurate, read through the details and check it for accuracy. Roughly 80 percent of medical bills have an error, according to Mint.com. The errors can come from simple mistakes in inputting data, coding errors or bugs in the system. Read More …

Tips to Beat Out Health Insurance

InsuranceBy D.Smith

Paying health insurance can be a big financial burden. However, it is something that you need to have if you want help with the cost of medical procedures. Although it may not pay for everything, it can help to spread the cost of health care. It can seem like a lot of money disappearing each month, but you have to consider that it will cover the health costs for you and your family. There are some things that you can do though, to bring the cost down or make sure that it stays lower for longer as you age. Read More …

Long-term Care – 11 Myths and Facts

Long-term Care Myths & FactsMost people over 65 will need some kind of help with the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, or moving around. The need for such help can stem from a chronic illness or the natural decline of eyesight, hearing, strength, balance, and mobility that comes with aging. It’s never too early, or too late, to start planning for long-term care.

Many people think the phrase “long-term care” refers to an insurance policy. While insurance may be part of your strategy, long-term care encompasses many other decisions. You will need to decide where you will live, how you will navigate the myriad of legal, family, and social dynamics along the way, and the many options for paying for everyday help. Though a number of government programs may help pay for some long-term care services, many people are faced with significant out-of-pocket costs.

In partnership with LongTermCare.gov, Huffington Post took a look at eleven myths that may be keeping some from planning for long-term care, and ways you and your loved ones can prepare for the future.

Myth 1: I won’t need it

About 70 percent of Americans over 65 will need some kind of help with the activities of daily living for months or years as they age. It may be due to an illness, chronic disease, or disability. But often, the care is required because of the natural decline due to aging of one’s eyesight, hearing, strength, balance, or mobility. Read More …

Affordable Care Act tests home care for Medicare patients

Health care reform law aims to improve care,
lower costs for seniors and people with disabilities.

House Call

The Problem

3-4 million seniors living with multiple chronic illnesses such as diabetes, lung and heart disease are too ill or disabled to easily visit their physician when they need care. Instead, they go to the ER or are hospitalized. These seniors represent about 10% of Medicare beneficiaries but account for two thirds of Medicare’s expenditures, and it’s a problem that’s not going away. The number of people with multiple chronic illnesses will grow to 6-8 million by 2025.

The Solution

House calls, directed at these highest cost patients first, are a solution to the rising Medicare costs. The average $1,500 per ER visit, for example, can more than justify the cost of 10 house calls. Savings are even greater for avoided hospitalizations. Home-based primary care programs have the potential to save 20-40% on Medicare’s most expensive patients by bringing them care in their homes. But this is a new and relatively unproven healthcare delivery model.

Testing the Solution

The Independence at Home Demonstration, authorized by the Affordable Care Act, will test the viability of a new service delivery model that utilizes physician and nurse practitioner directed primary care teams to provide services to certain Medicare beneficiaries in their homes. Up to 10,000 Medicare patients with chronic conditions will now be able to get most of the care they need at home.

“This program gives new life to the old practice of house calls, but with 21st Century technology and a team approach,” said Marilyn Tavenner, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator.

The new Independence at Home Demonstration greatly expands the scope of in-home services Medicare beneficiaries can receive. It’s a voluntary program for chronically ill Medicare beneficiaries that will provide them with a complete range of primary care services.  Read More …

What is a Fair Price for your health care needs?

Hospital Charges can vary widelyAccording to a new report from the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, there are vast differences in how much you will pay depending on which hospital you use. Where one might charge $7,000 for a procedure, another just down the road may charge $100,000 or more for the same care quality. (see Secret Hospital Charges)

Now there are ways to find the Fair Price on your own. One is like the Kelly Blue Book of healthcare, and it’s appropriately called Healthcare Blue Book. If you’re dealing with some major healthcare procedures, it’s certainly worth checking out. It never hurts to get informed when it comes to dealing with health care providers.

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Obamacare: What’s at Stake if it’s Repealed

Obamacare Pre-existing ConditionsBy Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

More than three years ago, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act and President Obama signed it into law. Last year, the Supreme Court upheld it. Millions of Americans have already benefited from its provisions, and millions more are looking forward to benefits that will soon go into effect. And in November, the American people re-elected the president as an affirmation of the law’s promise that no person should go broke if they get sick.

Yet today, for nearly the 40th time since it’s been the law of the land, House Republicans staged yet another repeal vote in their latest attempt to turn back the clock on progress and deny Americans health insurance coverage they can count on.

For the 37th time, Congress is voting to repeal the health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
Learn what’s at stake for Americans if the law were repealed.

Read More …

Nine States Deny The Poor Health Care

GOP Governors Deny The Poor Health Care
In Opposing Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion

 

Where states stand on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

By Peter S. Goodman and Jeffrey Young

RUSTON, La. — With no health insurance and not enough money for a doctor, Laura Johnson is long accustomed to treating her ailments with a self-written prescription: home remedies, prayer and denial.

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Texas Rankings Disappoint

Texas on the Brink: How Texas ranks among the 50 states (2011 version)
Click on the image to view:
“Texas on the Brink,” a 2001 report from the Texas Legislative Study Group that includes many more rankings and supporting statistics.
Not much has changed.

Texas near the Top:

Blessed with an abundance of land, rivers, oil and other natural resources, Texas pioneers built a great state, and even today, it seems that everything is bigger in Texas. I’ve lived in this “Great State of Texas” for most of my live, moving here from Arlington, VA in 1976, and I now live in the state capitol of Austin. So I call myself a Texan, but in many ways I’m not proud of my state. Here’s why. We relish in being #1 in many things, but not these:

  • Texas is #1 in the percent of population uninsured
    (as if that would be something to brag about).
  • We have the largest number of uninsured children (#1).
  • We have the most toxic chemicals released into water (#1).
  • We generate the most hazardous waste (#1).
  • We have the most carbon dioxide emissions (#1).
  • We also have the most executions (#1).
  • We have the second highest birth rate
    and are 4th in the number of kids living in poverty.
  • We have the second highest percent of population under 18.
  • We’re #2 in percent of population with food insecurity.
  • We’re #4 in percent of population living below poverty.

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Health Care Waste: What $750 billion could buy.

What could $750 billion buy?According to the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM), “Thirty cents of every dollar spent on U.S. health care – a total of $750 billion – was wasted in 2009 on unnecessary services, excessive administrative costs, fraud and other problems.”

There are many ways to portray healthcare inefficiencies. One way is to ridicule the industry by reflecting its waste onto other industries, as listed below. Another is to explore what the $750 billion in wasted money could buy, as Allison McCartney did in her infographic (below). We could also examine what’s possible if healthcare were to adopt best practices from other industries, including the computer industry.

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Social Media in Politics

Social Media In Politics - an InfographicI’ve posted several articles about social media in HEALTHCARE, including:

This article is about social media in POLITICS. While I try not to subject you to my own political views, they probably shows sometimes when I discuss things Obamacare, Medicare, regulatory oversight, and the future of medicine. But no matter what side of the issues you’re on, you may enjoy this infographic, because so many health-related issues are at stake in this year’s election. And if you feel  compelled to do so, share your thoughts below and justify your views to others.

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Understanding Obamacare

Healthcare became a hot potato during this political season, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. Governor Romney wants to repeal “Obamacare,” but what’s actually in the law and why was introduced in the first place? To address these common questions, I’m reposting one of my first articles on the topic.

This article describes a great presentation by Dr. James Rohack on Health System Reform. Rohack is a practicing cardiologist and Director of Scott & White Center for Healthcare Policy. He is also a professor at Texas A&M Health Science Center and was the president of the American Medical Association from 2009 to 2010 during debates over Obama’s Healthcare Law.

The presentation was held in Sun City, a planned community north of Austin for retirees with active lifestyles. It didn’t include handouts, but I was able to find some of Rohack’s slides online and offer them below with my notes.

Read More …

The Waiting Room, a feature length documentary

 

The Waiting Room - Title Text

Certified Nurse Assistant Cynthia Y. Johnson at Highland Hospital in The Waiting Room

Certified Nurse Assistant Cynthia Y. Johnson at Highland Hospital in The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room is like a punch to the gut for people cast off and left out of our U.S. medical care system, what some call the best in the world. When Democrats and Republicans vie for your votes and debate healthcare reform, remember that these are not the people they are talking about. Most don’t even notice the plight of those at the bottom — this ugly underside. But our politicians, and the billionaires who set their agenda, should be made to watch this documentary, because these are the 47 percent they talk about — the people left out of the American Dream. They’re real people.

This character-driven documentary film uses unprecedented access to go behind the doors of Oakland’s Highland Hospital, a safety-net hospital fighting for survival while weathering the storm of a persistent economic downturn. Stretched to the breaking point, Highland is the primary care facility for 250,000 patients of nearly every nationality, race, and religion, with 250 patients – most of them uninsured – crowding its emergency room every day. Using a blend of cinema verité and characters’ voiceover, the film offers a raw, intimate, and often uplifting look at how patients, staff and caregivers cope with disease, bureaucracy, frustration, hope and hard choices during one typically hectic day.

The ER waiting room serves as the grounding point for the film, capturing in vivid detail what it means for millions of Americans to live without health insurance. Young victims of gun violence take their turn alongside artists and uninsured small business owners. Steel workers, cab drivers and international asylum seekers crowd the halls. (movie trailer follows)

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Healing America’s Health Care System

By Susan Blumenthal, M.D., Former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General
Written in Collaboration with Jenny Shelby
(Original text and statistics graphic from Huffington Post)Healing Health Care

Not all threats to our nation are overseas. Within our own borders, enemies such as chronic and infectious diseases, as well as rising medical costs, threaten individuals, families, communities, and the national security of our country. Health care costs constitute 18 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States, amounting to $2.6 trillion. In comparison, approximately 6 percent of the GDP is spent on defense. Although the U.S. spends twice as much on health care as any other nation, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the United States ranks 50th in life expectancy and 39th on the overall health status of its citizens worldwide. America’s health care system is in crisis: It is a “sick care” system, not a health care system. However, healing has now begun. Just over a month ago, the United States Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling to largely uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, a major step toward redesigning the U.S. health care system and improving the health of all Americans. Read More …

Now the Real Work of Healthcare Reform Begins

Roberts Saves Obamacare: Now the Real Work of Reform BeginsArianna Huffington
By Arianna Huffington

The narrow survival of the Affordable Care Act last week was certainly cause for celebration. But as the jubilation subsides, it’s important to realize that having avoided what would have been a giant step backward doesn’t mean we’ve taken a giant step forward. Because the law as it now stands is only the first step toward health care reform.

On Sunday’s This Week, Vicki Kennedy (Ted Kennedy’s widow) spoke movingly of how “health care reform was the cause” of her husband’s life. “He believed that it was a moral issue,” she said, “that it defined the character of who we were as a society, who we were as a country, and that decent, quality, affordable health care should be a fundamental right and not a privilege.” She went on to say, “Families can go to sleep relaxed and happy knowing that their children who have asthma or diabetes or allergies are covered by insurance and aren’t barred because they have a pre-existing condition.” Read More …

Govt. role in Health Reform & Electronic Health Data

This important video from TEDMED was uploaded yesterday and is a Must See, especially for health practitioners. Mostashari, National Coordinator for Health IT at the DHHS, and Chopra, the U.S. CTO, talk about how open access to electronic health data can reform physician pay and patient care. Infrastructure and Rules-of-the-Road are two of the keys to encouraging innovation. Most critical is belief in the potential of health reform.

While the “over-the-top” enthusiasm of these guys may be a put-off for some of you, the message is compelling and inspiring.

Hospital-Insurer-Doctor lines start to blur

In The Future of U.S. Health Care, Wall Street Journal reporter Anna Wilde Mathews writes a wonderfully comprehensive report about innovation in different models of delivering healthcare with aims at containing or lowering costs.

The story includes a close look at what five people are doing to help remake the $2.6 trillion U.S. health-care industry. They include a doctor, a hospital CEO, an insurance-company official, a human-resources executive, and a patient, and each of their stories and audio interview are provided.

Qualcomm Life connects Wireless Medical Devices & Cloud

Qualcomm announced this week that Qualcomm Wireless Health is now Qualcomm Life,  a wholly-owned subsidiary whose mission is to define and connect the global wireless health network and bring medical devices to life by securely connecting them to cloud-based services. The encrypted and HIPAA compliant bimetric data is then remotely accessible by device users, their health care providers and caregivers. (video & illustration below)

Read More …