health

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Whether health insurers Aetna and Humana can merge will likely soon be decided, and the outcome might just have an impact on the price you pay at the doctor’s office.

A new study from researchers at Harvard shows what could happen to the amount policyholders have to pay for a doctor’s visit.

The findings, published in Health Affairs, show that the lower prices consumers pay shopping wholesale — for example, at Costco — also apply to health care. Insurance companies with more buying power – through having more policyholders – pay lower prices for health care services. For instance, insurers with more than 15 percent of a market population paid the least amount for an office visit: $70. That increased to $88 for an insurer with less than 5 percent of marketshare.

Six Lesser-Known Obamacare Provisions That Could Evaporate

Jan 11, 2017
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The outcome of the repeal-and-replace Obamacare debate could affect more than you might think, depending on just how the GOP congressional majority pursues its goal.

Beyond the Affordable Care Act's marquee achievements like guaranteeing health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on parents' plans until age 26, the roughly 2,000-page law created a host of other provisions that affect the health of nearly every American.

Some of these measures are evident every day. Some enjoy broad support, even though people often don't always realize they spring from the statute.

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Health officials in Lexington and Louisville are urging people who haven't gotten flu shots to get vaccinated.

A statement from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department says two recent flu-related deaths have been reported. In Louisville, health officials are reported a spike in the number of flu cases. Both agencies sent an appeal urging people to get vaccinated as flu season ramps up. It typically peaks in late January or early February.

In Fayette County, officials say there have been at least 13 confirmed cases of the flu. In Louisville, officials say there have been 20 cases confirmed in less than two weeks compared to eight cases in the preceding seven weeks.

Rand Paul Might Stop An Obamacare Repeal. Here’s How

Jan 6, 2017
MSNBC

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday that he would not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known to many as Obamacare, without voting for a replacement plan on the same day. He made the comments on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“Here’s the great irony, this week we’re going to vote on a budget,” he said. “Everybody is hot and heavy to vote on this budget because they want to repeal Obamacare. But the budget they’re going to introduce will add $8.8 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years. So I told them look, I’m not going to vote for a budget that never balances.”

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To get a glimpse of where Medicaid may be headed after Donald Trump moves into the White House, it may be wise to look to Indiana.

That’s where Seema Verma, Trump’s pick to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, comes from. And that’s where she put her stamp on the state’s health care program for the poor.

Verma is a private consultant who was hired by Indiana Governor and Vice President-elect Mike Pence to design a Republican-friendly expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The state paid her almost $5 million over four years through 2017, according to the contracts.

Jeff Young

The Ohio Valley’s opioid epidemic has effects far beyond the individuals struggling through addiction, with families and children suffering as well. An organization that helps children in abuse cases now sees substance abuse as a leading contributor, and could be overwhelmed by the addiction crisis.

Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children --CASA for short-- is a nationwide organization in which community volunteers are designated by judges to serve as the voice for children involved in abuse and neglect cases.


Lisa Gillespie

Vickie Sheehan is one of the lucky ones.

She gained health insurance in 2013 through the Affordable Care Act, buying coverage on the health exchange. Since then, Sheehan has undergone treatment for anal cancer.

“Everyone complained about Obamacare… to me, it saved my life,” Sheehan said.

She still feels that way. But this year, for the first time since the ACA, or Obamacare, was implemented, there are fewer choices for Sheehan and the more than 82,000 Kentuckians who get their insurance on the exchange. Fewer companies are selling insurance to these customers, and the lack of options means higher prices and fewer benefits.

Healthcare.gov Enrollment Deadline Extended To Dec. 19

Dec 16, 2016
healthcare.gov

The deadline to sign up for Healthcare.gov coverage has been extended to Monday, Dec. 19 at 11:59 p.m. The federal government made the announcement Thursday night, citing a high volume of people who have left requests to get enrolled.

The deadline is for coverage starting Jan. 1. The final deadline is March 1 for coverage starting April 1. The Affordable Care Act allows for a two-month grace period that consumers can go without health insurance and not receive a tax penalty.

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Republicans in Congress say they'll vote to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act early next year — even though they don't yet have a plan to replace it.

But they also insist that they don't want to harm any of the millions of people who got their health insurance under the law.

The lawmakers' strategy? Vote to repeal, and fulfill their top campaign pledge. But delay the changes, and keep running Obamacare for as long as two years while they figure out how to fill the hole they'll create in the insurance market.

Healthcare.gov

More than 30,000 Kentuckians have signed up for health insurance since the state transitioned to the federal exchange on November 1.  Healthcare.gov replaced the state’s previous insurance portal known as Kynect.  This time last year, more than 27,000 Kentuckians had enrolled in coverage, according to state officials. 

Melissa Grimes works for Community Action of Southern Kentucky, which serves 11 counties.  She oversees the assistors who are trained to help enrollees navigate the online process.  Grimes says it’s taking longer to enroll people under the federal exchange.

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More than 8,500 people with expanded Medicaid coverage got breast cancer screenings in May and June of this year. And more people covered under the expansion received dental, diabetes, Hepatitis C and colorectal cancer screenings.

That’s according to a report released Monday by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

In a news release, foundation president and CEO Ben Chandler said one of the benefits of getting more people covered is that they can take advantage of preventive services “that can lead to improved health and lower health care costs in the long run.”

“That positive trend is what we’re seeing in Kentucky in terms of breast and colorectal cancer screenings, preventive dental services and diabetes and Hepatitis C screenings for Kentuckians with low incomes,” Chandler said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear expanded Medicaid in 2014 to childless adults earning up to around $15,000 a year. Gov. Matt Bevin submitted a proposal to the federal government earlier this year to trim back benefits like dental and vision.

Sarah Jane Sanders

Candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. Those are the four basic food groups according to Buddy the Elf. And this time of year, the gluttonous season, it seems like he is onto something.

But researchers say that mindful eating –choosing quality over quantity and savoring your meals instead of, say, plowing through another pint of Ben & Jerry’s while watching “Westworld” — can make a difference.

That’s especially important because the Ohio Valley has a serious problem. In Ohio more than a quarter of adults are obese. In Kentucky it’s about a third. And in West Virginia, it’s even higher.

 

“For this exercise let’s just go ahead and close our eyes.” University of Kentucky Professor Dr. Geza Bruckner starts his class on Mindful Eating at Lexington Healing Arts.

There are about 20 people in the class, mostly middle aged women, although there are a few men and, as might be expected, some Birkenstocks are in view. The strain shows on their faces as they try to clear their heads and do what should come naturally: breathe.

Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health News

For Freida Lockaby, an unemployed 56-year-old woman who lives with her dog in an aging mobile home in Manchester, Ky., one of America's poorest places, the Affordable Care Act was life altering.

The law allowed Kentucky to expand Medicaid in 2014 and made Lockaby – along with 440,000 other low-income state residents – newly eligible for free health care under the state-federal insurance program. Enrollment gave Lockaby her first insurance in 11 years.

"It's been a godsend to me," said the former Ohio school custodian who moved to Kentucky a decade ago.

Lockaby finally got treated for a thyroid disorder that had left her so exhausted she'd almost taken root in her living room chair. Cataract surgery let her see clearly again. A carpal tunnel operation on her left hand eased her pain and helped her sleep better. Daily medications brought her high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol level under control.

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Consumer advocates are advising people to not buy into the name “multi-state” plan when shopping for individual market health insurance for next year because the plans don’t necessarily offer coverage across state lines.

Susan McConkey, a health insurance broker, said many consumers assume “multi-state” means coverage across state lines at in-network prices. But that isn’t true in most states, including Kentucky.

“They think they can use it in any state, and that’s not the case,” McConkey said.

The Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. was assigned the task of getting insurers to offer these plans because of the agency’s experience managing federal employee health insurance.

Beth Hadley is in charge of multi-state plans at OPM. She acknowledged that the name is misleading, and said the agency is considering changing the name.

Pinterest

Kentucky has earned the unhealthy distinction of being the fifth “fattest” state in the U.S.  

A report from the consumer website WalletHub shows that only Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and South Carolina have a higher percentage of obese or overweight residents than Kentucky.

The Bluegrass State ranks second in the nation for the number of residents with high cholesterol, fourth for diabetes, and fifth for high blood pressure.

Bonnie Hackbarth is a spokeswoman for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. She says creating a healthier state starts with consistent health care.

“Part of the answer in improving Kentucky’s health is getting more Kentuckians insured, so that they’ll take advantage of the kind of preventive services that will improve our health overall.”

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