As college and graduate school students turn the tassels on their graduation caps, many will instantly find themselves without health insurance -- even in Massachusetts with its insurance mandate. Some students were insured through their school policies, which run out after graduation. Others may have been on their out-of-state parents' plan, but may be stuck without a local primary care physician if they settle in Mass. permanently.
Keith Mendoza, consumer specialist with the online insurance broker eHealthInsurance provides some tips for Mass. graduates on finding affordable coverage for those currently without jobs that offer health plans.FULL ENTRY
Google has become so popular that we use it more commonly as a verb, so it makes sense that researchers would begin studying our googling behavior to see what insights they can glean. For instance, turn outs cigarette tax increases don't necessarily lead us to quit smoking but rather to search feverishly online for tax-free cigarettes, according to a paper published this week in PLoS ONE.
And I'm sure experts will be interested in this week's spike in searches for iodine pills as Americans mistakenly assume they need to protect themselves from radioactive iodine emitted from Japan's crisis-ridden nuclear reactors. Dr. James Thrall, president of the American College of Radiology and radiologist-in-chief at the Massachusetts General Hospital, tells me that the online searches for this are ridiculous.FULL ENTRY
Certainly, it makes sense that hospitals and other workplace establishments have no-smoking policies. And university campuses in Massachusetts are required by law to be smoke-free. But not hiring workers who smoke takes this a step further.FULL ENTRY
Updated on March 14, 2011
Massachusetts Health Quality Partners released its annual grades on over 150 medical practices across the state, covering about 50 percent of folks. You can read the full report here, but don't expect to find your individual doctor assessed -- only his or her practice.
The rating reflects how well practices provide preventive care like colon cancer and cholesterol screening and manage chronic diseases like diabetes and depression. Overall, MHQP, a nonprofit health care quality organization, concludes in the report, "Massachusetts physicians excel, performing above the national average on 28 of 31 measures." On 13 out of 31 measures, practices score in the top 10 percent nationwide.
Megan McArdle, business and economics editor for The Atlantic, wrote an interesting take on a new finding from the Physicians for a National Health Program: The Massachusetts health law hasn't led to a significant decline in medical bankruptcies.
Plenty of folks are still going bankrupt due to medical bills. The authors of the study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Medicine wrote in a statement that, "even before the changes in health care laws, most medical bankruptcies in Massachusetts, as in other states, affected middle-class families with health insurance. High premium costs and gaps in coverage -- copayments, deductibles, and uncovered services -- often left insured families liable for substantial out-of-pocket costs. None of that changed."
Public health experts have a pretty clear understanding of what it will take to reduce health care costs: prevent readmission to the hospital once a patient is discharged. They've been studying the problem feverishly -- since it affects one in five hospitalized patients and accounts for $17.4 billion of the current $102.6 billion Medicare budget. But two new findings published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest it will be tough to solve.
The first, from the Harvard School of Public Health, found that black seniors were more likely than whites to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged following a heart attack, heart failure, or pneumonia. And the second, from Children's Hospital Boston, found that just 3 percent of pediatric hospital patients accounted for nearly 19 percent of hospital admissions since the same group of patients -- disproportionately black -- keep getting admitted again and again.FULL ENTRY
(Those without flexible spending accounts can deduct the cost of pumps if their total medical costs exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income.)
Portland Shellfish Co. agreed to temporarily stop shipping its ready-to-eat lobster, shrimp and crab products to retailers in Massachusetts and other states, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday. The company violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the FDA alleges, by shipping food across state lines that was "prepared, packed or held under unsanitary conditions."
So you may not see Claw Island lobster products for a while or Portland Lighthouse shrimp or crabmeat.FULL ENTRY
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius continued her pitch for the health law providing new freedoms to patients, traveling up to Boston on Friday to participate in a roundtable discussion at Health Care for All, a nonprofit health care advocacy organization. She's trying to keep Congress from repealing the law and, more pressing, keep the law adequately funded.
Oddly, the press release announcing her visit made no mention of the fact that Mass. had already implemented many of the federal provisions in its own 2006 state law.
Sure it's nice that Health Care for All was awarded a federal grant provided by the health law to assist consumers with their coverage questions and dilemmas via its free help line 1-800-272-4232. Yet, I'm fairly certain that Mass. residents would be far less impacted than Virginians or Iowans -- who don't have universal coverage laws -- if the federal law was repealed.FULL ENTRY
Several new provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect January 1 (or last fall if you signed up for a policy back then), and you could take advantage of some of the new benefits -- or be burdened with some of the changes. FYI: The federal health law supersedes Massachusetts law, so any provisions that conflict with your current state health plan will likely mean adjustments in your coverage.
At my request, experts at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services culled through a list of the biggest changes being implemented this month and determined how they would impact state residents.FULL ENTRY
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