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Daily Archives: August 19, 2013

Expanded role for pharmacists in Canada is an opportunity to offer better patient care

The newly expanded role of pharmacists in Canada to help manage the health of patients can benefit both patients and physicians, according to an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). The article, written by a physician and a pharmacist, summarizes the opportunities for collaborative care and how physicians can work with pharmacists. Pharmacists in Canada have recently been given broader responsibilities, including in some provinces, prescribing privileges, ability to order and interpret laboratory tests, and ability to vaccinate and inject medications…

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Physician continuity after patients leave hospital for heart failure can help survival rates

Patients with heart failure who see a physician in the first month after leaving hospital are more likely to survive than those who do not see a doctor, reports a new study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). The effect is slightly more pronounced in patients who see their regular physician rather than an unfamiliar physician. In the United States and Canada, more than $20 billion is spent every year on patients who are readmitted to hospital within 30 days after discharge…

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Multiple myeloma: link to gene involved in aging

Researchers say that a gene responsible for helping to control the aging process by regulating a “cell’s internal clock” may be linked to a type of blood cancer. Scientists from The Institute of Cancer Research in the UK found a genetic variant called TERC among four new variants that they linked to multiple myeloma – a form of cancer that affects immune cells produced in the bone marrow for circulation in the blood. Their findings are published in the journal Nature Genetics…

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Caffeinated drinks may be good for the liver

Researchers have discovered that an increased caffeine intake may reduce the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, according to a study published in the journal Hepatology. A team from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (Duke-NUS) and the Duke University School of Medicine used cell culture and mice as models for the effects of caffeine on the liver disease. The study found that consuming the caffeine equivalent of four cups of coffee or tea a day may prevent and protect against the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in humans…

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Most alcohol-related ER visits 'due to beer'

The first research to analyze alcohol intake by brand and type has uncovered the biggest contenders for alcohol-related emergency room visits. Read closely: your favorite beer may be on the list. The pilot study was conducted on Friday and Saturday nights in an East Baltimore ER department between April 2010 and June 2011. The researchers are from The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health In total, 105 patients admitted drinking alcohol within the 6 hours before reporting to the hospital…

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Big Pharma Companies will meet at the Geriatric Safe Medicines Summit to discuss performing clinical trials in older people, 16-17 September, London

Patients over the age of 65 are prescribed the majority of prescription drugs used in the UK but are significantly under-represented in clinical trials. Statistics show that although over 65’s carry 60% of the disease burden they are only represented at a rate of 32% in phase I-III Clinical Trials…

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Have your say: industry wide survey for 'Pre-filled syringes and medical devices' launched

SMi Group announces the launch of Industry Wide Survey for Pre-Filled Syringes and Medical Devices and invites industry professionals to take part in it. The survey launched with the purpose of preparing for theņth Annual Pre-Filled Syringes Conference taking place in London on the 27th-28th of January 2014. The survey consists of 10 questions and will take less thanŅ minutes to complete. All respondents will get a copy of the results and 10% discount to participate in the conference. Closing date for the survey is October, 4, 2013. To take part please go to http://www.surveymonkey…

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Taking A New Tack To Persuade 'Young Invincibles' To Buy Health Insurance

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Robert Bauer is young, lean and healthy – just the kind of person the government wants to buy into its new online health insurance marketplaces.

Bauer doesn’t see the need. The 24 year old, a 2011 graduate of the University of Minnesota, works in organic farm fields three days a week, and prides himself on eating well. He’s uninsured – health covereage just hasn’t been part of his lifestyle.

Robert Bauer, 24, shows off the small garden he tends in front of his house in Minneapolis (Photo by Elizabeth Stawicki/MPR)

“I just don’t think it’s worth the money for me to get health insurance at this point,” he said.

He hopes that if he got seriously ill or had an accident his family would have the resources to help or “maybe I’d just lose my life,and that would be OK, just so other people wouldn’t have to live the rest of their lives in poverty or bankruptcy.”

While Bauer generally doesn’t fear a health crisis, the people building insurance exchanges worry about Bauer and the millions of other healthy Americans whom they fear may simply opt out. The marketplaces are a key part of federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Younger, low-risk people are needed to offset the costs of covering older, sicker Americans.

“It’s important for everybody to participate all of the time and to pay an average amount in premiums so that when something happens to one of us — we have a baby, we get cancer… that will require thousands of dollars of care, the money is there in the pool,” said Karen Pollitz of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

The law requires Americans obtain health insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014. But some young people might just pay the penalty, which in the first year isn’t much, the greater of $95 or 1 percent of income. The fee rises to $695 or 2.5 percent in 2016. While the ACA allows children to stay on their parents’ policy until age Ǻ, that doesn’t help young people such as Bauer, because his mother is uninsured and his father is on disability. And, Pollitz notes, younger people are “systematically uninsured.”

“We boot them off,” Pollitz said. “We kick them out of Medicaid, (or) their parents’ health insurance coverage just when they’re starting off, just when they’re not earning much and the odds are pretty low that they’re going to get that first great new job with new benefits.”

Young people aren’t against being insured. A recent KFF poll found that about three quarters of 18-30 year olds believe having insurance is something they need and is important to have. The top reason younger people didn’t have it: too expensive. But the law does provide subsidies for people earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line, $46,000 for a single person or $94,000 for a family of four. And, officials and advocacy groups are searching for ways to lure younger people in.

“What really appeals to that younger age group is both affordability — they feel they just can’t afford it — and also communicating the value of insurance and how valuable it is to have that insurance and why you need,” according to April Todd-Malmlov, the executive director of MNsure, Minnesota’s online insurance marketplace. Minnesota is one of the 16 states that’s building its own exchange.

Todd-Malmlov said Minnesota will target young adults in two ways — in the social media they use, such as Twitter and Facebook, and the messages themselves.

Massachusetts found that out the value of targeted messages. The Bay State’s 2007 law requires residents to obtain health care coverage or pay a fine, just like the federal law.

Looking to reach a wider audience, the state partnered with the Boston Red Sox and its New England Sports Network to encourage residents who lacked insurance to sign up through its online insurance marketplace, the Connector, Massachusetts’ version of MNsure, which will launch Oct 1.

Fans at Fenway Park were a captive audience for ads touting the Connector on the Jumbotron or articles tucked inside game day programs. The public relations pitch stumbled at first as the public reacted poorly to TV ads featuring baseball players.

Uninsured people “didn’t want anyone who had insurance and was making a good salary to sort of lecture them. It came off as ‘you better do this,'” said Tara Murphy of the public relations firm Weber Shandwick, which devised the Massachusetts campaign.

The campaign switched gears. The Red Sox still provided the platform but the messages came instead from young people who’d suffered serious illnesses or crashes and others who were able to find affordable coverage on the state’s new marketplace. TV ads featured a young woman sitting in a green stadium seat at Fenway talking about her life following a breast cancer diagnosis.

Minnesota officials have been talking with its pro teams, including the Twins, Timberwolves, Vikings and the Lynx to encourage residents to sign up for coverage, borrowing a page from the Massachusetts playbook.

And, just yesterday, MNsure announced that Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox will be the faces of the exchange.

The state is contracting with BBDO Proximity Minneapolis for the website’s roughly $9 million marketing campaign. At the campaign’s launch Sunday, BBDO creative director Brian Kroening said he wanted the advertising to be easy to understand, local, and upbeat.

“Because this is in fact great news for those that are uninsured. We liked Paul and Babe because everybody seems to recognize them. They were easy to work with. We were looking for what was unique to Minnesota,” Kroening said.

Billboards with Bunyan and Babe’s images are going up, along with MNsure advertising on buses and in skyways and newspapers. The campaign’s motto will be “The Land of 10,000 Reasons to get Health Insurance.”

Meanwhile, Robert Bauer may get health coverage after all. Starting next week, he’ll be attending graduate school at Virginia Tech to study plant and soil science where, he says, insurance will cost him $200 a year in out of pocket costs. That’s only about $100 more than the penalty he would have to pay if he chose not to get insurance.

MPR reporter Rupa Shenoy contributed to this story, which is part of a collaboration that includes Kaiser Health News, NPR, and MPR News.

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Detailing The Health Law's Implementation Hurdles

Continued opposition to the overhaul is one of the administration’s biggest challenges. In addition, many consumers eligible to buy insurance in new online marketplaces still don’t understand their benefits and obligations under the law. Meanwhile, insurance companies are gearing up to sell policies.

Politico: Obamacare Tougher To Launch Than Medicare
President Barack Obama says he’s not worried that all the Obamacare fights will kill the law — because people fought the creation of Medicare and Social Security too, and now they’re more popular than ever. … But this time there’s a difference. Political opposition to Obamacare is still as strong as ever, more than three years after it was signed into law. That means the administration’s task in launching the health care law — the biggest new social program since the creation of Medicare in 1965 — is harder than anything its predecessors had to face (Nather, 8/18).

Los Angeles Times: As Healthcare Overhaul Nears, Many Consumers Still In The Dark
While government officials tout the broad benefits of the Affordable Care Act to drum up enrollment, many consumers are eager to know how the overhaul will affect them personally, from pocketbook concerns to worries about whether their local doctor and hospital will be included. And, so far, there have been considerably more questions than answers, as officials and insurers scramble to get ready and clarify many of the details that people care about the most (Terhune, 8/17).

NPR: You Ask, We Answer: More Of Your Questions About The Affordable Care Act
The Oct. 1 launch of the new health insurance exchanges is now less than two months away, and people are starting to pay attention to the changes these new marketplaces may bring to the nation’s health care system. We know it’s confusing, so we’re spending part of the summer and fall answering at least some of your questions about the law (Rovner, 8/19).

Cleveland Plain Dealer: How Obama’s Health Plan Will Affect Ohioans: Four Real Cases
Health care reform will affect everyone in different ways. Some people will pay much less than they are currently paying for their insurance and get better coverage. Those with chronic conditions will no longer be denied coverage or face higher rates, plus they will benefit from caps on out-of-pocket costs. Still, all of this information can seem abstract and difficult to wade through. To help understand its real impact, The Plain Dealer examined four real-life case studies(Villacorta, 4/17).

Dallas Morning News: Economic Snapshot: The Affordable Care Act And You
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s biggest impact so far begins on Jan. 1, when millions of Americans will be added to the rolls of health insurers. People on Medicare, Medicaid and other government insurance programs are not affected. Those who get insurance at work will basically see no change. Here’s a look at how it will work (Landers and Hogue, 8/18).

Arizona Republic: Health-Care Taxes Are Complicated Calculation
The Affordable Care Act is a complex piece of legislation. How complicated? The Internal Revenue Service has just launched a separate website, irs.gov/aca, to help explain it. The site is worth perusing, especially if you make a lot of money or run a business. Otherwise, if you can remember three key numbers about the new law, also known as “Obamacare,” that should go a long way toward simplifying things. Those numbers are $125,000, $200,000 and $250,000 (Wiles, 8/DZ).

Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.Com: Insurers Gearing Up For Obamacare Business
With new federal rules and mandates, you’d think that health insurers would be beating the loudest drum in the repeal-the-Affordable Care Act band. But they’re not, and there are a couple of reasons why (Calandra, 8/18).

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Rates Released For Colorado's Online Insurance Marketplace; MNsure Launches Paul Bunyan Ad Campaign

The Wall Street Journal explains to readers about the two types of health exchanges – run either by the state or federal government – which are scheduled to begin operating on Oct. 1. Other news outlets report on developments regarding these marketplaces in Minnesota, Colorado, Alabama, New Mexico, Oregon and Virginia.

The Wall Street Journal: Get Ready For Enrollment In Health Exchanges
In about six weeks, Americans will have a new kind of open enrollment to consider. Starting Oct. 1, people without health insurance can sign up for standardized coverage through new health-insurance marketplaces run either by their state, the federal government or a combination of the two—the centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Gerencher, 8/17).

Kaiser Health News: Taking A New Tack To Persuade ‘Young Invincibles’ To Buy Health Insurance
Robert Bauer is young, lean and healthy – just the kind of person the government wants to buy into its new online health insurance marketplaces. Bauer doesn’t see the need. The 24 year old, a 2011 graduate of the University of Minnesota, works in organic farm fields three days a week, and prides himself on eating well. He’s uninsured – health coverage just hasn’t been part of his lifestyle. … While Bauer generally doesn’t fear a health crisis, the people building insurance exchanges worry about Bauer and the millions of other healthy Americans whom they fear may simply opt out (Stawicki, 8/19).

MPRnews: Paul Bunyan And Babe The Blue Ox New Faces Of MNsure
The state is contracting with BBDO Proximity Minneapolis for the website’s roughly $9 million marketing campaign. At the campaign’s launch Sunday, BBDO creative director Brian Kroening said he wanted the advertising to be easy to understand, local, and upbeat. “We liked Paul and Babe because everybody seems to recognize them. They were easy to work with. … The ball of twine’s agent was harder,” Kroening said (Shenoy, 8/18)

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange Aims For A Big Ad Splash
James Delles is about to become a fixation of the nation’s health care marketers…As summer winds down and the Oct. 1 launch of Minnesota’s new MNsure health care exchange draws near, the state is betting millions that a pair of venerable Minnesota icons can grab the attention of young people like Delles and persuade them to buy coverage (Crosby, 8/19).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Colorado Exchange Releases Health Insurance Rates
Colorado released its Obamacare insurance rates on Friday, joining 13 states and the District of Columbia in making rates public. The state earlier made the call to be a clearinghouse exchange, rather than an active purchaser, and so, it has approved all 242 health plans submitted for sale on its marketplace (Whitney, 8/19).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Rates Higher In Resort Areas, College Towns
People living in resort areas of Colorado will have to pay higher health insurance rates than those in other regions when plans start being sold through the state’s health exchange on Oct. 1. An average 40-year-old non-smoker living in a resort area who is buying a mid-level “silver” plan could be charged a base rate as high as $667 per month compared to the least expensive silver plan for a comparable 40-year-old in Greeley, whose base rate would be about $232 per month. … But, insurance companies aren’t even offering the platinum plans in resort areas. The base rates don’t tell the whole story. Many new buyers of health insurance will pay less than the base rates because they’ll qualify for federal tax rebates designed to make insurance more affordable (Kerwin McCrimmon, 8/16).

In related news –

Medpage Today: ACA’s Mandated Benefits Create Few Problems
Insurance plans are adapting well to the new benefit mandates under the Affordable Care Act and are able to meet tight federal and state filing deadlines, according to a study from the liberal Urban Institute. Furthermore, consumers are unlikely to see dramatic changes in their covered benefits and cost next year because states had their own benefit mandates in place before the ACA, the study released Wednesday found. In the study, researchers at the Urban Institute and at Georgetown University assessed experiences in five states — Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Virginia — with meeting the development and regulatory requirements for the now mandated benefits. The work was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Pittman, 8/16).

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