Posts Tagged ‘health insurance companies’

Maine Allows Insurers to Increase Health Insurance Rates

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

There’s an ongoing debate over whether more or less regulation of the health insurance industry will help to lower customers’ premiums.  The Boston Globe published Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News’ article, “Loosening health insurance rules in Maine has produced mixed results after 6 months.”  Last year, health insurance regulations in Maine changed in an attempt to reverse the fact that they have some of the highest health insurance premiums in the United States.  The promises given to Maine residents with this legislation were that everyone’s premiums would decrease and that more health insurance companies would enter the market to increase competition.  After six months, a little bit has changed, but not much.

No new health insurance companies have entered into Maine’s marketplace, hopefully some will with more time, but they haven’t yet.  And while people under the age of 40 did see lower health insurance rates across the board, older people mostly saw rate increases.  About half of individuals saw health insurance increases averaging 1.7%, but as high as 18%.  An insurance consultant said that regulations are not about lowering overall premiums, but making insurance premiums more fair.  This tends to lower rates for the young and increase rates for the old, since health insurance costs tend to increase the older people get.

Maine’s regulators made three large changes six months ago.  They allowed insurers more freedom to vary premiums, gave them the ability to issue rate increases of less than 10% without state approval, and made a “reinsurance” fund that is meant to protect insurers from the costliest medical bills.  Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the top insurer in Maine, increased the rates of 54% of their policyholders.  They do have 3.5 times more clients over the age of 55 than they do under the age of 40.  Around 10% of small businesses saw their rates go down compared to 3% before the changes, but that means that 90% did not.  Some experts do believe that even those who saw rate increases had lower increases than they would have before Maine’s new regulations.

Many of the new regulations in Maine mimic changes that are likely to occur soon from the Affordable Care Act.  There is a good chance that we will see some similar results nationally, but there will be help in the form of subsidies to help some people pay for their health insurance costs.  Six months is too soon to make a declaration of success or failure with this program, but we’ll continue to watch it closely.

Take Health Cues from Diets in 4 Locations

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Four places in the world have been found to be disease “cold spots,” or places where the prevalence of certain diseases is almost non-existent.  Some of the lifestyle factors taken from people native to these areas may help you live a healthier life free from diabetes, cancer, depression, and heart disease.  In the Yahoo! Health article “Secrets of the world’s healthiest people,” Lisa Collier Cool discusses Daphne Miller, MD’s findings.

Although the Pima Indians in the United States have the highest rates of Type 2 Diabetes in the world, their close genetic relatives the Tarahumara Indians have almost no occurrences of Type 2 Diabetes.  So despite the genetic disposition, the Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon, Mexico live a lifestyle that keeps this disease away.  Some of what they do can be easily transferred into our lives to ward off Type 2 Diabetes.  First, they live an active lifestyle full of exercise.  But their diet is a big contributing factor as well.  They do eat a plethora of carbs, but mostly beans, corn, and hand made tortillas.  In addition to their unrefined carbs, the use of herbs and spices like garlic, cinnamon, parsley, and clove seems to help their blood sugar.

Darkness prevails much of the year in Iceland, which has been attributed to higher rates of depression in many countries.  But the Icelandic people actually have the lowest rates of depression in the world.  Dr. Miller believes that eating a large amount of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids prevents Iceland’s residents from having depression and can even treat symptoms.  They eat a lot of fish, lamb that feeds on omega-3 rich moss, and birds that eat the omega-3 rich fish.  Icelandic people also eat some foods that Americans may see as odd, including pickled lamb testicles and putrefied shark that has been buried in the ground.

In Cameroon, West Africa, cancer is very rare.  Colon cancer and bowel disorders are nearly nonexistent.  This has been attributed to a diet low in red meat and high in fiber.  A recent study of more than 400,000 people determined that eating high fiber diets can lead to a longer life and a lower risk of many health problems like heart disease.  In West Africa, their low red meat and high fiber diet is thought to be a contributing factor to low cancer rates.  They also eat fermented foods frequently, similar to those in Iceland.  Relishes, pickled foods, and other fermented foods improve the immune system with their good bacteria levels.

The Mediterranean diet has been thought to lower the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.  A forty year study in Europe found the Island of Crete to be the place where men lived the longest and healthiest lives.  This is the location where the healthy Mediterranean diet came about.  They use a lot of extra virgin olive oil, rarely eat red meat, and eat a lot of omega-3 rich seafood like they do in Iceland.  A high-fiber bread called rusks, wild greens, and yogurt with honey are also items in the Mediterranean diet thought to prevent blood clots and heart disease.

Many of the foods and lifestyle factors in these four places can be easily adopted to help lower your own risk of Type 2 Diabetes, cancers, heart disease, and depression.  Health insurance companies like Aultcare may be well-served to inform their customers of these fairly simple additions to their diet that can keep health problems away.  If doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies help to inform the public, we can hope to lower the rates of many of these often deadly diseases.

Night Shift Can Increase Health Insurance Quotes & Heart Problems

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

A large study reported by BBC News says that night shift workers have a greater risk for heart problems than people who work day shift.  The British Medical Journal analyzed studies involving over 2 million workers and found that there is a serious disruption in your body’s clock that negatively effects your lifestyle.  In “Shift work link to ‘increased risk of heart problems,” it says that you can lessen your problems by reducing night shift work.  That is much easier said than done for many workers, so how damaging is working night shift and what can be done to combat its harmful effects?

This study analyzed information from 34 different studies around the world.  They found that shift workers were 23% more likely to have a heart attack, 24% more likely to have a coronary event, and 5% more likely to have a stroke than non-shift workers.  Interestingly, they did not find an increase in mortality rates related to heart problems for these workers.  The additional factors taken into account for the studies were diet, socioeconomic status and overall health.  People working night shift have interrupted sleep patterns and typically have worse eating habits than those on regular day shifts.  The fact that their nervous system is constantly activated with no regular sleep patterns also leads to increased obesity and higher cholesterol.

I wonder if health insurance companies compare this factor when they give their insurance quotes.  If those working night shift have a higher rate of heart problems, obesity, and high cholesterol; insurers may have a legitimate reason to increase rates for night shift workers.  To combat higher health insurance rates and heart problems, there are some things night shift workers can do.  They should be educated in the possible symptoms that can occur from working night shift.  Many workers turn to sleep aids, have problems with their appetites and digestion, and may even have social or family problems.  If workers know what to look for ahead of time, they can combat the issues that are leading to heart attacks and other coronary events.  Try not work a permanent night shift and make sure to have two full nights of sleep when going between day and night shift.  Also, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding smoking can help combat these heart problems.

Individual Health Insurance Refunds in Texas

Monday, June 25th, 2012

If you live in Texas and you have health insurance, you could be one of the many Texans getting a rebate from your health insurance company.  According to Houston’s Chronicle, David Hendricks writes that “Health insurance rebates (are) coming for Texans.”  Even though the Affordable Care Act health reform is currently under review by the Supreme Court, plans are moving forward as though the reform will remain unchanged.  There was a June 1 deadline for all health insurance companies to report how much of their premiums went towards health care and how much went towards administrative costs.  Any insurance company who spent more than 20% on administrative costs, including pay for executives and profits, has to refund that excess to its policyholders.

There will be $167 million in rebates for 1.5 million Texas residents; this is highest amount in the U.S. accounting for 15% of the total rebates.  Those with individual health insurance policies will receive rebates as refund checks, reductions in premiums for the future, or credit card reimbursements.  For those Texans who have group health insurance through a small business or large employer, the refund process will be different.  The companies will actually receive the health insurance refund and will use that money to improve health insurance as a whole for the company.  One example will be an overall improvement in the health care coverage.  The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released a report with the overall information last week, but there is no listed detail about which health insurance companies will have to pay up rebates and which maintained administrative costs below the 20%.

Going Without Health Insurance to Qualify for Coverage

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

When the federal government stipulated that Americans had to have no health insurance for six months before they would qualify for the government’s high-risk health insurance plan, they weren’t hoping for people to drop any health insurance and go without for six months.  That has been an unintended consequence though.  According to Kaiser Health News’ “Taking A Risk To Secure Health Insurance,” freelance writer Randy Dotinga dropped his California high-risk health insurance in January to go without coverage for six months and qualify for the federal high-risk plan.  The reason is that there is a huge cost and benefits difference when you compare California’s high-risk health insurance and the federal program.

Unfortunately, the author only qualifies for high-risk plans because of his pre-existing condition, atrial fibrillation in his heart diagnosed at age 27.  He has a very low risk for complications, but could not find an individual health insurance company to insure him with his pre-existing condition label.  As a resident of San Diego, he opted for California’s high-risk health insurance plan.  He pays $9,000 a year for his PPO coverage, but its limits are extremely low.  With only $75,000 for annual spending and $750,000 of lifetime coverage, Dotinga would be in deep medical debt if he were to face a medical crisis.  The federal plan he is hoping to qualify for would only cost him $3,180 per year and would offer unlimited yearly and lifetime coverage, quite an upgrade.  Now you see why he is willing to risk going six months without health insurance.

Even if the government were to eliminate its six month requirement, they would have to find another way to keep it so that the numbers of Americans joining their plan was not out of control.  The need for health insurance coverage is high right now and many Americans are looking forward to a certain provision in the Health Care Reform Act that takes full effect in 2014.  Health insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions.  This is good news for the author and others suffering from conditions like diabetes and asthma, but this good news might not come to fruition.  There is a good chance that President Obama’s health care reform will be overturned, leaving Dotinga with no option other than his low coverage, $9,000 a year California high-risk health insurance plan.

Health Insurance Rates Related to WHO and UN Health Findings

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The United Nations recently did a health study which clearly linked the bad health problems of developed nations to those in poorer nations.  The differences in the developed countries’ diets and lifestyles have transferred to the poorer nations, according to Reuters’ Kate Kelland.  In the article, “WHO warns of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity,” it says that one out of every three adults around the world is suffering from high blood pressure.  This high blood pressure causes half of the deaths related to heart disease and stroke.  Some countries in Africa actually have half of their adult population suffering from high blood pressure.

In a World Health Organization (WHO) study, they found that one out of every ten adults in the world is diabetic.  Not only does diabetes affect the health and life of those suffering from it, it costs billions of dollars each year in medical care and treatments.  This means that health insurance rates will be higher not only for diabetics, but for everyone as health insurance companies have to pass their increasing costs on to consumers.

Traditionally, people think that most cases of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer happen in wealthy countries because we eat high fat diets, smoke, and drink more alcohol.  But 80% of the deaths from these chronic diseases occur in low and middle income countries.  They obviously don’t have the health care opportunities that exist in most of the wealthier nations, but this shows how much more prevalent these chronic conditions are now in low and middle income countries.  They have seen increases in smoking as well as more Westernized diets and less exercise in recent years.

Low cost drugs and an increase in diagnosis of high blood pressure has reduced the deaths from this condition in wealthy countries, but those things haven’t been available in lower income countries.  Obesity is another worldwide chronic health condition on the rise.  From 1980 to 2008, obesity rates doubled in every region in the world.  Twelve percent of the overall world population is obese, another cause of higher health insurance rates.  Americans are the worst with 26% of the population being obese, while only 3% of the Asian population suffers from obesity.  Now that we know this information, it is up to health insurance companies and governments to figure out what to do with it.

Increase in Serious Birth Defects with Fertility Treatments

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Most health insurance companies do not pay for fertility treatments, but they do insure any resulting baby under the parents’ plans.  Recent research out of Australia makes an interesting claim that could make health insurance companies wary of their members undergoing certain fertility treatments.  Yahoo! Health article “Fertility treatment babies prone to ‘serious defects’” says that Australian researchers have found a significant increase in serious birth defects for babies born through certain fertility treatments.  Serious defects for the purpose of this study included those that required treatment or handicapped the child, such as cerebral palsy.  While 5.8% of babies conceived naturally had serious birth defects, the number increased to 8.3% of babies conceived through certain fertility treatments.  The researchers believe this to be a very significant difference.

Researchers showed concern that the added risk for birth defects worldwide is not being discussed before fertility treatments.  Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference to the prospective parents, but there should be a discussion between doctors and patients just in case.  There is a different health risk associated with different fertility treatments.  Children conceived through IVF, in-vitro fertilization, had serious birth defects 7.2% of the time.  That number did decrease, however, when parents were younger, non-smokers, and had other ideal characteristics.  For ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, serious birth defects were seen 9.9% of the time.  This percentage did not change when taking other factors into consideration.  Readily available clomiphene citrate, used to induce ovulation, tripled the chances for serious birth defects.  Health insurance rates already take into consideration obesity, smoking, and other risk factors.  I wonder if they will increase rates for members undergoing fertility treatments just in case their babies end up having higher medical costs.

Health Scare in the Skies

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Passengers must have been pretty scared when their Delta flight landed in Chicago yesterday and was quarantined on the runway for hours.  According to Fox News article “Airplane quarantine scare reminds us we’re all at risk,” Dr. Manny Alvarez said that health and fire department officials from Chicago responded to the flight after concerns arose over a passenger’s rash.  Local officials said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was handling the potential issue.  Luckily, the situation turned out to be nothing and passengers were able to exit their flight without the risk of a health scare following them.

This really makes us wonder what could happen on a plane flight if someone were carrying some type of contagious disease.  The article says that the issues most worrisome right now are chicken pox, scarlet fever, Parvovirus, Coxsackie viruses, Impitigo, and scabies.  Influenza and SARS are two other problems concerning the CDC.  Those who have any of these diseases should not fly on an airplane, but what can you do as a passenger?  Health insurance companies push vaccines for reasons like this.  Make sure that you and your family are vaccinated against any of the viruses and diseases that you can.  This will greatly reduce the risk that you’ll have to worry about catching something on a plane.  Otherwise, be aware of your surrounding passengers and report any rash or illness that seems highly questionable.

Health Insurers Watch Battle Over Arthritis Drugs

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

With record numbers of Americans suffering from arthritis, three drug manufacturers have been trying to get certain arthritis drugs approved by the FDA for years.  According to Matthew Perrone of the Associated Press in the article “Arthritis drugs linked to bone decay,” FDA approval won’t be coming any time soon.  It has been almost two years since testing was allowed for this experimental drug because of concerns for peoples’ safety.  The FDA has found a strong correlation between these nerve-blocking arthritis medications and bone decay.  They did find that the side effects were much less common when smaller doses were used.

Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals meet next week in a public forum to discuss the safety of their arthritis drugs.  These particular drugs are nerve growth factor inhibitors.  When injected, they block the proteins carrying sensation through the body.  In the past, arthritis has been treated with painkillers such as Advil and aspirin.  While effective, Advil and other anti-inflammatories can cause bleeding in the stomach and opiates like aspirin are quite addictive.  People looking to compare health insurance will likely take into account what drugs will be covered under their plans.  Health insurance companies closely follow disputes between the FDA and drug manufacturers to see what drugs they will pay for in their insurance plans.

The FDA is again allowing trials of these drugs to treat cancer pain, but is still banning trials for osteoarthritis.  The three drugmakers plan to argue that the side effects almost always occurred in cases where the patient was taking both the nerve growth factor inhibitor and other painkillers.  The FDA admits that they found the symptoms to be worse when two drugs were combined, but they found bone problems when Pfizer’s drug wasn’t taken with anything else.  Pfizer will likely argue for more testing to be allowed, with the stipulation that patients cannot combine painkillers.  They will also stop testing if no improvement is seen after a few doses of the pain medicine.

Drink Coffee to Prevent Diabetes

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The Los Angeles Times published an article by Marni Jameson of The Orlando Sentinel about coffee preventing Type 2 Diabetes.  In “Coffee helps prevent diabetes, now scientists learn why,” the author says that scientists believe they have figured out why coffee helps prevent diabetes.  It is not new information that those who drink four cups of coffee a day lower their diabetes risk, but this is the first time that scientists think they have figured out why.

The substance hIAPP, human islet amyloid polypeptide, is linked to diabetes.  This new research out of China shows that coffee inhibits the substance hIAPP.  The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry published the Chinese researchers’ study.  Many scientists have been trying to find a way to block hIAPP and this research found that the caffeine and caffeic acid in coffee significantly block hIAPP.  The pancreas of a diabetic has very high levels of that substance.

While it may be a stretch to suggest that health insurance companies will start recommending coffee drinking to their plan participants, they sure aren’t likely to deter them.  Four cups of coffee per day lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 50%.  With each added cup of coffee per day, your risk is lowered by another 7%.  Since 95% of the cases of diabetes are Type 2, this is important research for everyone.  Paula Deen’s recent announcement that she is a Type 2 diabetic has the disease as a top headline in the news right now.  Eating healthy and exercising are great preventative measures, and it looks like we can add coffee to that list as well.