Archive for March, 2013

Here’s to Hoping Health Care Costs Don’t Soar

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

There were many purposes for the Affordable Care Act, not the least of which was to lower health care costs for Americans.  By creating insurance pools to increase competition among health insurers, the idea was that the cost of health care services and premiums would decrease.  While that is still President Obama’s hope, The Society of Actuaries just released a report saying that many consumers may see just the opposite effect.  The Motley Fool’s Sean Williams asks “Is Obamacare About to Skyrocket Your Health Care Costs?”

Some of the other changes being made in addition to creating insurance pools are banning insurers from denying people coverage for pre-existing conditions, mandating individuals to carry health insurance, and  requiring insurance companies to spend 80% or more of the premiums they collect on actual care.  The law also qualifies more patients for Medicaid and creates a medical device excise tax of 2.3% from medical device makers’ revenue.  That last change will help to pay for the expansion of the government sponsored Medicaid program.

So, all of these changes sound great right?  The problem that The Society of Actuaries found is an estimated 32% increase in the cost of underlying claims by the year 2017.  This is an estimated cost for non-group members, or those who don’t have insurance through their employer.  These prices can and should go down with the competition from the created pools, but some states may still see increases.  Ohio and Wisconsin are forecasted to see the cost of their claims go up by 80%.

32 million people who were uninsured will now be able to afford and carry health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.  In addition to that, many consumers who had very basic health coverage will be able to get better insurance.  But there are some companies and individuals negatively affected by this and making changes because of it.  Stryker, a medical device manufacturer, cut its workforce by 5% because of the new tax imposed upon them.  Aetna increased some premiums by 21% in anticipation of the impending caps on pricing from the law.  Many other companies, including Papa John’s pizza, have complained to lawmakers about the increase in costs to them because of the law.  Is there really any sweeping change that could positively effect everyone involved?

Most Prediabetics Have No Idea About Their Condition

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Can you believe that 9 out of 10 people who are prediabetic don’t even know it?  That number was pretty staggering to me, although it shouldn’t be given the amount of Americans who avoid going to the doctor.  Whether it’s because they lack health insurance or are afraid of what they’ll find out at a doctor visit, too many Americans don’t take care of themselves.  My Health News Daily’s Rachael Rettner wrote about recent results from a CDC study in Live Science’s “90% of People with Prediabetes Don’t Know It.”

The Centers for Disease Control state that 79 million people in the U.S. are prediabetic.  This means that although their sugar levels are not high enough to be classified as a diabetic, the levels are abnormally high.  High sugar levels mean that a prediabetic has a greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future.  There are easy steps that prediabetics can take to nearly eliminate their chances of developing diabetes in the future.  Exercising, eating healthy foods, and maintaining a healthy weight are good ways to stop your prediabetes.  Of those prediabetics who don’t take steps like this to  manage their blood sugar, the CDC says that up to 30% of them will develop diabetes within five years.

While it seems dismal that just under 11% of people with prediabetes know they have it today, that number is actually an increase from the last study in 2005-2006.  At that time, only 7% of those with prediabetes were aware of their condition.  Those who were  most likely to know about their prediabetes also had other conditions being treated by doctors.  Fourteen percent of people taking medicine for either high cholesterol or high blood pressure were aware of their prediabetes versus 6% of those not taking medication for those conditions.  Ten percent of obese people were aware of their prediabetes versus 4% of people who were normal weight.

The CDC is looking for ways to increase the awareness of prediabetes in Americans, so that more people can take healthy steps before becoming diabetic.  Insurance companies have a stake in improving this knowledge as well because each person who doesn’t develop diabetes saves them loads of money.  Many insurers are working to increase the good health programs offered to their policyholders.  Our last blog about free preventive health services being offered by insurance companies because of the Affordable Care Act is important in this story as well.  The earlier people see the doctor for routine visits and find out they might be prediabetic, the better chance they have to take better care of themselves and avoid developing life threatening conditions.

Health Insurers Offer Free Preventative Care

Monday, March 18th, 2013

The Affordable Care Act made a lot of changes in the health insurance industry when it was passed by President Obama and the rest of the government agencies.  One big change that has been measured over the past two years is the number of people who have gotten free preventative care because of the new health care law.  Providence Business News’ Richard Asinof discussed these recently released statistics in the article “many with health insurance received free preventative care under Affordable Care Act.”  These are people who have health insurance from private plans and were able to get care like flu shots and mammograms for free after the health care changes.

U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last week that 105 million Americans received some type of free treatment in 2011 and 2012.  Around 71 million of those people have some type of private health insurance, while the other 34 million or so participate in Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans.  The reason that this three year old health care law made the change to require free preventative services such as yearly wellness check-ups is to stress the importance of taking care of yourself.  By offering certain care for free under health insurance plans, the idea is that money will be saved overall when Americans don’t get sick as often and don’t get preventable diseases like diabetes.

Some Americans were making the tough choice between paying their co-pay for wellness visits or flu shots and buying gas for their car or putting groceries on the table.  With free preventative health care services, Americans don’t have to put their health and wellness on hold during these financially tough times.  Sebelius says that the changes from the Affordable Care Act are a huge contributing factor to the lowest growth in health care costs over the past five decades.  While health insurance companies and employers may be shelling out more money now to offer these free services, in the long run they will save money as fewer Americans get diseases that could have been prevented with routine care.

Man Denied Hospital Admittance, Not for Lack of Health Insurance

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

There a tons of people worried about not getting health care services because they don’t have insurance, but what about not being cared for because the hospital is full?  A man in Japan just died because 25 different hospitals denied caring for him in his time of weakened health.  My first thought was that he didn’t have health insurance, but that wasn’t the case at all.  According to The Christian Post’s Jessica Rodriguez, the 75 year old Japanese man who died had lived somewhere north of Tokyo.  I also learned that he was denied emergency room care at the 25 different hospitals a total of 36 times in a two hour span in the article “25 Hospitals Turn Man Down: Man Dies in Healthcare Fiasco in Japan.”

The man lived alone and called for emergency help because he was having a severely hard time breathing.  Although the ambulance arrived in plenty of time and began caring for him, their calls to hospitals so the man could receive more in-depth treatment were denied.  Emergency workers spent two hours almost begging a hospital to take the elderly man, sometimes calling hospitals a second time as his condition deteriorated.  They finally found a hospital to take him in that was out of the prefecture in which he lived.  But the two hour delay in finding a hospital coupled with the farther drive to the one that would actually accept the man were too much for his body to handle.  He was pronounced dead soon after arriving at the only hospital that would accept him.

So why were these hospitals denying a man treatment, especially if it wasn’t because of a lack of health insurance coverage?  Each hospital said that they either didn’t have enough doctors working to care for all of the patients or they didn’t have enough beds to accommodate him.  Maybe they were not clear of his dire situation, but this lack of health care has likely caused a death that could have been prevented.  Supposedly, the city of Kuki has told its hospitals that they must increase their emergency room capabilities so that something like this doesn’t happen again.  But it makes me wonder if this is going to become a bigger problem in Japan.  Their population has been steadily growing, but their health care system may not be keeping up if this is the kind of treatment patients receive.