Seniors’ obesity-counseling benefit goes largely unused

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ScaleBy Phil Galewitz
KHN

Three years ago, the Obama administration offered hope to millions of overweight seniors when it announced Medicare would offer free weight-loss counseling.

Officials estimated that about 30 percent of seniors are obese and therefore eligible for counseling services, which studies have shown improve the odds of significant weight loss.

But less than 1 percent of Medicare’s 50 million beneficiaries have used the benefit so far. Experts blame the government’s failure to promote the program, rules that limit where and when patients can go for counseling as well as the low fees for providers.

Since November 2011, about 120,000 seniors have participated, including about 50,000 last year, according to federal data.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist at George Washington University.

“It’s a huge lost opportunity,” said Bonnie Modugno, a registered dietician in Santa Monica, Calif., who advises doctors how to provide weight loss counseling.

By  comparison, about 250,000 seniors last year used Medicare’s tobacco cessation counseling benefit, which started in 2005 and offers greater flexibility about how providers can offer it. Nationally, 9 percent of seniors smoke, while 30 percent are obese. Continue reading

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Fred Hutch recruits D. Gary Gilliland as its new president and director

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1416499943573Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced today that it has named an expert in cancer genetics and precision medicine. D. Gary Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist with a background in academic medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, as its new president and director. Gilliland will take the helm as Fred Hutch’s new leader on Jan. 2.

via Fred Hutch recruits D. Gary Gilliland as its new president and director.

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Graco recalls nearly 5 million strollers after fingertip amputations – Chicago Tribune

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Graco recalled nearly 5 million strollers Thursday after 11 reports of finger injuries, including six fingertip amputations.

The company recalled 11 models of Graco and Century branded strollers and travel systems with model names Aspen, Breeze, Capri, Cirrus, Glider, Kite, LiteRider, Sierra, Solara, Sterling and TravelMate. The strollers were made from August 2000 to Sept. 25, 2014.

via Graco recalls nearly 5 million strollers after fingertip amputations – Chicago Tribune.

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Health news headlines – November 20th

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Glucometer showing a blood sugar of 105

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Global health news – November 20th

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Boeing’s new accountable care health plans with UW Medicine and Providence-Swedish take off – Puget Sound Business Journal

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boeing-logoThe accountable care plans aim to lower costs for both employees and the company by incentivizing employee wellness and creating a more coordinated system to provide health care. By creating contracts directly between the employer and the health systems, the goal of these new systems is to reduce costs and confusion that often come from dealing with third parties while also improving care.

via Boeing’s new health plans with UW Medicine and Providence-Swedish take off – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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11-country survey finds U.S. seniors sicker, have the most trouble paying medical bills

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A survey of older people in 11 countries finds that U.S. adults are sicker than their counterparts abroad, as well as the most likely to have problems paying their medical bills and getting needed healthcare. U.S. adults also reported difficulty getting care in a timely fashion and using emergency departments for issues that a primary care physician could treat. Among the bright spots for the United States: having a care plan for chronic illness, and planning for end-­of-­life care.Medicare_Cost_Protection_v3_872px

via International Survey of Older Adults Finds Shortcomings in Access, Coordination, and Patient-Centered Care – The Commonwealth Fund.

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New Medicaid rule could hinder shift away from nursing homes

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A younger man holds an elderly man's handBy Christine Vestal
Stateline

For more than 30 years, states have been finding new ways to care for aged and disabled Medicaid beneficiaries without confining them to nursing homes.

In fact, the number of people living in skilled nursing facilities has declined significantly over the last decade, despite a marked increase in the ranks of the elderly in the U.S.

Starting this year, a new federal rule will require states to ensure that long-term care alternatives to nursing homes—such as assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, group homes and adult day care—work with residents and their families to develop individual care plans specifying the services and setting each resident wants.

The overarching goal is to create a “home-like” atmosphere, rather than an institutional one.

The overarching goal is to create a “home-like” atmosphere, rather than an institutional one and to give residents choices about their care.

While nearly everyone supports the concept, states, providers and even some consumer advocates are complaining that the rule could make it difficult for health care providers to fulfill increasing demand for long-term care outside of nursing homes.

Under the rule, for example, elderly people with dementia who enter assisted living facilities should not be subjected to constraints, such as locked exits, unless they are at risk for wandering.

But if they share living space with other residents with dementia who do need to be prevented from wandering, it will be difficult to allow them to leave the building whenever they want without jeopardizing the safety of others.

“The goal was completely laudable,” said Martha Roherty, director of the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities, which works to help elders and people with disabilities live in their communities for as long as possible.

“Unfortunately, what’s happened is that it is limiting individuals’ choice of what and where to receive (long-term care) services rather than broadening it, especially as it relates to seniors,” she said. Continue reading

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Big changes for 2015 workplace plans: Watch out for these six possible pitfalls

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sixBy Jay Hancock
KHN

You don’t get a pass this year on big health insurance decisions because you’re not shopping in an Affordable Care Act marketplace. Employer medical plans — where most working-age folks get coverage — are changing too.

Rising costs, a looming tax on rich benefit packages and the idea that people should buy medical treatment the way they shop for cell phones have increased odds that workplace plans will be very different in 2015.

“If there’s any year employees should pay attention to their annual enrollment material, this is probably the year,” said Brian Marcotte, CEO of the National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers.

In other words, don’t blow off the human resources seminars. Ask these questions.

1. Is my doctor still in the network?

Some employers are shifting to plans that look like the HMOs of the 1990s, with limited networks of physicians and hospitals. Provider affiliations change even when companies don’t adopt a “narrow network.”  Continue reading

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Health news headlines – November 19th

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Global health news – November 19th

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Small business plans now available on the SHOP marketplace

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Small business owners: SHOP coverage is now available online at HealthCare.gov.

Start your SHOP application 

Need help? You can contact a SHOP-registered agent or broker in your area or call 1-800-706-7893 (TTY: 711), Monday – Friday 9am – 7pm ET.

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Eight Washington hospitals identified for Ebola care

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ebolaAlthough all hospitals in the state are making plans to rapidly identify, isolate and safely evaluate people with suspected Ebola, eight hospitals are preparing to care for a person with Ebola for the duration of the illness.

These are:

  • CHI Franciscan Health (Harrison Medical Center – Bremerton campus),
  • MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital,
  • Providence Regional Medical Center Everett,
  • Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital in Spokane,
  • Seattle Children’s Hospital,
  • Swedish Medical Center (Issaquah),
  • Virginia Mason Hospital, and
  • UW Medicine (Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, Valley Medical Center)

“The chance of a confirmed case of Ebola in Washington is very low, but in the event it happens we want to be sure we have the capacity to provide ongoing care to a patient,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state Health Officer. “Patients with Ebola can become critically ill and require intensive care therapy. Care needs to be delivered using strict infection control practices. We are working with each of the committed hospitals to ensure we are coordinated and thorough in our response.” Continue reading

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More states adopting law allowing terminal patients to try experimental treatments

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One dye showing 2By Michelle Andrews
KHN

Earlier this month, Arizona voters approved a referendum that allows terminally ill patients to receive experimental drugs and devices. It’s the fifth state to approve a “right-to-try” law this year.

Supporters say the laws give dying patients faster access to potentially life-saving therapies than the Food and Drug Administration’s existing “expanded-access” program, often referred to as “compassionate use.”

Supporters say the laws give dying patients faster access to potentially life-saving therapies. Critics charge such ‘right-to-try” acts are  feel-good laws that don’t address some of the real reasons patients may not receive experimental treatments.

But critics charge they’re feel-good laws that don’t address some of the real reasons patients may not receive experimental treatments.

The legislatures in Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri also passed right-to-try laws this year as part of a nationwide effort spearheaded by the conservative Goldwater Institute, which hopes to get right-to-try laws on the books in all 50 states.

The measures generally permit a patient to get access to an experimental drug after it’s passed through phase 1 of a clinical trial, the initial testing in which a drug is given to a small group of people to evaluate its safety and side effects. Continue reading

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