Archive for 2011

Baby Dies From Cronobacter Infection: Formula?

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Parents everywhere are wondering if it is possible that an infant’s formula actually killed the baby.  After purchasing Enfamil at a Walmart in Missouri, the infant’s parents fear that feeding the baby that very formula killed it.  The infant died from cronobacter sakazakii infection, which has previously been linked to powdered baby formula.  This wouldn’t be the first time that an infant was killed after contracting cronobacter from powdered formula.  This information comes from Daniel J. DeNoon’s WebMD article, “Infant Formula Investigated in Baby Death.”

While that particular lot has been pulled from store shelves at Walmart, it hasn’t been recalled so it is still available for purchase elsewhere.  A spokesman for Enfamil says that each and every batch is tested for cronobacter before it goes out the door.  The company is looking at records from the manufacturer’s batch and date to ensure that it was indeed tested for cronobacter before it left.  Enfamil’s maker, Mead Johnson, does not expect a widespread recall because they are confident that the cronobacter did not come from their formula.  While cronobacter is very rare, it is fatal anywhere from 50-80% of the time so it is a horrible infection.  See all of the latest health care and health insurance information here.

Unexpected Health Benefits of Coffee

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Most of us love our morning, or afternoon, or evening cup of coffee.  Lucky for us, Woman’s Day has given us “7 Surprising Health Facts About Coffee.”  Amanda Greene Kelly writes that these benefits and facts are sometimes unexpected and always interesting.  Women who drink coffee have 20% fewer cases of depression than those who do not.  And the more coffee consumed, the less likely those studied were to suffer from depression.  Coffee can also help you keep your weight in check.  Sipping on caffeine after a meal causes your body to process the food more slowly and could be a small help in keeping a healthy weight.

Regardless of the amount taken in, caffeine has also been shown to increase fertility in males because it helps with sperm motility.  The least deadly form of skin cancer was reduced by drinking caffeine.  Basal cell carcinoma risk was 20% less for women and 9% less for men who drank caffeine.  While coffee can increase the pain you feel from heartburn, it is unlikely to cause other stomach problems like ulcers and increased pains.  You might have some fatigue or irritability without your daily coffee, but that will go away within a few days because coffee is not truly addictive like drugs.

A random coffee fact is that your coffee maker is one of the germiest places in your house.  Practically no one cleans it, so make sure to follow your instructions and clean your coffee maker once a month or so.

While the article is not suggesting that you only drink coffee to protect against skin cancer or keep your weight in check, it’s kind of nice to know some positive side effects from your morning cup of joe.  If you have taken on any healthier living habits, compare health insurance quotes and see if you can lower your premiums.

Morning After Pill Still Behind the Counter

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The Plan B morning after pill actually won’t be available on the shelves of drugstores, according to the Associated Press article “Morning-after pill stays behind counter after all, by Lauran Neergaard.  Plans were in place to make the morning after pill available on store shelves after a recommendation by the FDA, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stopped those plans.  Her decision is backed by the Obama administration.  Sebelius said that she worries a product like the morning after pill will confuse 11-year olds shopping at drugstores.  While the FDA wanted the age 17 limit lifted, Sebelius said that there is not significant proof that younger girls would use the morning after pill properly.  One pediatrician countered that even the youngest girls would not be negatively affected by the hormones in the morning after pill.

While those arguments are questionable, the Plan B morning after pill is still available over the counter to anyone over the age of 17 who needs it.  You don’t have to have a prescription for Plan B or for Next Choice, a generic 2 pill version of the morning after pill.  For the pill Ella, you do have to have a prescription and whether or not it will be covered under your insurance depends on your particular health insurance rates and plan.  The pill is expensive, $50 for Plan B, but is 89% effective at preventing an unwanted pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.  The political debate on this issue is hot, with conservatives pleased and liberals irritated.  Although some consider Plan B an abortion pill, it has no effect if a woman is already pregnant.  This debate surely will rage on.

Giuliana Rancic’s Health Care Woes Continue

Monday, December 5th, 2011

After undergoing a double lumpectomy last month, Giuliana Rancic of E! News is now planning for a double mastectomy.  This information is from MSNBC’s Today Show website.  The original procedure did not eradicate all of her breast cancer, so after much thought she has decided to go the route of more radical treatment.  Her breast cancer was found in a routine mammogram required before undergoing fertility treatments at her clinic in Colorado.  After the breast cancer was found this year, Rancic opted for a double lumpectomy, followed by radiation.  She learned recently that the lumpectomy had not gotten all of the cancerous cells on one side and was faced with a tough decision.  She could either have another lumpectomy in hopes that it would get all the cancer or opt for the double mastectomy.

To me it seems like a no-brainer; get the double mastectomy and you have less than a 1% chance of your cancer returning.  But I have not been in the position to make this awful decision and I realize that everyone has their own process and reasoning when it comes to treatment choices.  When you compare health insurance companies’ costs for treatment, the lumpectomy with radiation is less than a double mastectomy with reconstruction.  With a higher likelihood of the cancer returning after a lumpectomy and more frequent follow up screening though, health insurers could end up with similar costs regardless of the treatment course.  In this situation it is up to the patient to decide what they will do because those with health insurance will have their procedures covered according to plan.  While the cost is hardly Giuliana’s main concern, for many Americans without adequate health insurance, that might be part of their decision making process.  We wish Giuliana all the best health in the future.

Health Insurers Push to Continue Polio Vaccine

Monday, November 21st, 2011

World Polio Day is a reminder that while the Salk vaccine helped diminish the crippling of children in 1955, there are still places in the world where polio cripples and kills children.  According to the Skokie Review’s “Rotary Club of Skokie Valley fights polio,” Skokie Valley’s Rotary Club has made a large contribution to help rid of polio worldwide.  They are working to get more routine vaccination of children as well as helping support the medical staff, volunteers, and others working with children stricken with polio.  While polio is still a problem in parts of the world, it has been gone from America for years.  There is a slight worry by some that it could return.

Polio vaccinations are given in four doses between 2 months of age and 6 years.  A fear of autism has brought many parents to delay and even skip some of their children’s vaccinations altogether.  Health insurance companies like Aultcare are opposed to most parents deciding not to vaccinate their children.  They fear that stopping vaccinations, like that for polio, will bring about outbreaks of many diseases that we haven’t seen in America in decades.  The debate between those who are for vaccinations and those who are against it is very complicated and far-reaching, but insurance companies tend to lean towards the pro-vaccination side.  Vaccinating children against diseases saves money because the diseases stay gone.

No More Elective C-Sections

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Elective c-sections and inductions have become increasingly popular over the last few decades.  Women who were uncomfortable, wanted their baby born on a certain day for a tax break or a special number, or hoped to be home from the hospital by a holiday or special event were scheduling to have their babies earlier than full term.  There are definitely medically necessary early c-sections and inductions performed, and that will not change.  But those women hoping to have their babies early for the convenience factor are going to find it harder to get an elective c-section or induction.  This is according to Lylah Alphonse’s Parenting article posted on Yahoo! Shine, “More Hospitals Banning Elective C Sections.”

Massachusetts’ top hospitals have banned elective c-sections and inductions before 39 weeks gestation.  Hospitals in New York, California, Oregon, Texas, Arizona, and Illinois have also started banning these elective procedures.  Compare health insurance companies’ reactions and this is good news for them.  Statistics show that 39 to 40 weeks of gestation yields the healthiest babies with the lowest rate of complications.  The brain, lungs, and gastric system of babies are all developing rapidly in the last few weeks of pregnancy.  Since babies born before 39 weeks have greater chances of complications, it just doesn’t make sense to perform elective c-sections or inductions earlier than 39 weeks for a trivial reason.  Obviously there are circumstances where the mother or baby’s health is in danger and those babies need to be delivered prior to 39 weeks, but that is not considered an elective procedure.

Health Insurance Rates for 20 Duggar Kids

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

With most health insurance companies like CareFirst, you either pay for an individual or family plan.  As the Duggar family of Arkansas announced today that they will be having their 20th child in the spring, I was wondering if their health insurance plan would cost the same as mine.  Their last baby was born very prematurely and spent a great deal of time in the hospital before being released to go home.  But she still requires more medical care than a healthy child at nearly two years old.  It’s possible that their 20th child will also have health complications with a mother who is at the high end of the age range for pregnant women at 45.  But they say that Michelle Duggar is healthy and has a good chance of a healthy pregnancy.  If not, their medical costs could be steep just like with the last pregnancy and birth.

The Duggars likely have individual health insurance rather than employer-sponsored health insurance because they are self-employed.  Health insurance rates vary on many factors, but they would likely pay the same as another family with individual health insurance that only has two children.  Since every plan is different and every insurer has different rules, it is possible they pay more because of their nearly 20 kids.  When looking for individual health insurance rates, it’s really important to see what kind of treatments and products are covered by your insurance.  For instance, some companies don’t cover circumcisions because they consider them to be cosmetic procedures.  Look into all of the details before purchasing a health insurance plan from a company like CareFirst.

Mandatory Contraceptive Coverage from Aultcare Health Insurance

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Certain groups are fighting President Obama’s standards mandating health insurance companies to cover contraceptives without charging a deductible or a co-payment.  In a New York Times editorial, “A New Battle Over Contraception,” the writer is against those who are fighting to eliminate or weaken the mandate.  Some members of the Catholic Church and some Republicans are fighting the fact that companies like Aultcare health insurance will be forced to cover contraceptives.

All churches and other religious places are already released from this mandate, so the author questions why groups like the Catholic Church are fighting this mandate for others.  Leaders of the church want to add employees of Catholic hospitals, charities, and schools from elementary through college to the list of exemptions.  There are people who disagree with contraceptive use that want to extend exemptions to any employer who says that contraceptives are against their beliefs.  The problem with this is that all of the employees working for Catholic hospitals, charities, schools, and companies with an employer against contraceptives don’t necessarily hold the same beliefs.

The group Catholics for Choice says that nearly all Catholic women who are sexually active have used some form of contraception that is banned by the church.  President Obama based this mandate partly on the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine’s recommendation.  They found that mandating all health insurance companies, like Tonik health insurance for young, healthy individuals, to cover contraceptives could help to lower the rate of unwanted/unplanned pregnancy and abortions.  This battle will rage on as both sides fight for what they believe.

Long Term Health Care Costs Rise More Than 5%

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

The long term care health costs in this country are out of control, causing the government to throw out their long term care insurance plan and many companies to stop selling long term health care insurance.  According to Business Week’s “U.S. Long-Term Health Costs Rise at Faster Pace, MetLife Reports,” Maryellen Tighe reports an increase of 5.6% in assisted living costs last year.  It costs more than $41,000 a year for someone to be cared for in an assisted living facility.  Nursing home costs increased 4.4% last year, for an average yearly expense of more than $87,000.  Adult day care services increased in cost by 4.5% to an average of $70 per day.  The cost of having a health aide come into your home stayed the same at $21 per hour.

This year’s increases have been more than in the past, likely because of a struggling economy and skyrocketing health care and energy costs.  MetLife, Guardian Life Insurance Co., and Allianz SE have all stopped offering new long term care insurance plans because of skyrocketing costs.  There are still 7 million adults with long term care insurance to help cover assisted living or home health care expenses though.  Medicaid and Medicare do cover some long term health care expenses, but there are strict qualifications for those programs.  Aultcare has to worry about medical inflation rates, but long term health insurance rates have increased even higher than the average medical inflation rates.

 

Part of Health Care Reform Down the Drain

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

The CLASS Act, part of the health care law passed last year, has just been suspended.  Tom Curry of MSNBC.com’s article “Obama administration halts part of health care law,” says that the decision is seen as controversial to some Republicans.  The CLASS Act was supposed to be a big part of keeping the costs associated with the health care law under control because people would be paying into it immediately, but would not be withdrawing money until at least 2016.  It may have been a big reason that the bill was passed in the first place, but Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius says that she doesn’t foresee any way to make the CLASS Act work.

CLASS is short for Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, and was supposed to be a long term care insurance program.  It was still part of the health care bill even though Medicare’s chief actuary raised a red flag about the act in April of 2010.  He said that it had an extremely high risk of failure because the sickest people would likely be the ones to sign up for it and the system would be drained.  So even though the Congressional Budget Office said that the CLASS Act would reduce federal deficits by $86 billion in 10 years, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius has found that the program is just not sustainable.