Health Care Reform Saves Medicare Patients Millions

prescription pills forming a dollar signLaw’s provisions on closing drug coverage gap affects 460,000 in California.

Written by K Kaufmann    The Desert Sun

More than 460,000 California seniors on Medicare saved millions on their prescription medicines in 2011 under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The California figures were part of a nationwide review of prescription benefits for Medicare patients last year that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released today.

With out the health care refrom law, more than 5.1 million seniors across the U.S. would have faced $3.2 billion in extra prescription costs, federal officials reported. Savings for 464,778 Medicare patients in California totaled $270.1 million, or about $581 per individual.

With the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act coming on March 23, the numbers highlighted the impact of the law’s provisions aimed at closing the so-called “donut hole” in Medicare prescription coverage.

The previous gap in Medicare drug coverage — between a patient’s initial coverage limit and the point where catastrophic coverage kicked in — left many with thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.

The health care reform law was designed to gradually close that gap, with rebates and drug price discounts.

 

California Small Business Owners Unaware of Health Reform Law’s Offerings

First Aid Kit With Green Dollar SignBy Jaime L. Brockway
Small businesses in California admitted in a new survey that they do not understand the benefits available to them through federal health reform.

Exactly 77% of respondents said they were not aware of the small business tax credit in the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, the federal health reform, passed in March 2010, according to the small business climate survey by the Small Business California, a grassroots advocacy organization, based in San Francisco, Calif. The survey results could reasonably be extrapolated to all small businesses.

“Clearly there is a communication problem,” Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California, told IFA. “In talking to a couple of small businesses, they indicated their accountant was not aware of the credit.”

The tax credit is available to small businesses with 25 or fewer employees whose average wage is less than $50,000. It is based on a sliding scale with the maximum 35% being applicable to small businesses with fewer than 10 employees whose average wage is less than $25,000. In 2014 this credit will go up to 50% for two years, Hauge said.

The survey also showed 75% did not know about state health exchanges, scheduled to come online in January 2014. The exchanges are designed to help small business in providing health insurance to their employees.

More than half (56%) of respondents said they do not now provide health insurance benefits to their employees. Yet small businesses rated health care as a top priority for eight years in a row, according to Hauge.
The online survey was based on responses from more than 1,000 small businesses.

Checking Off Symptoms Online Affects Our Perceptions of Risk

Doctor Google logo
Paging Dr. Google

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2012) — You’ve been feeling under the weather. You Google your symptoms. A half-hour later, you’re convinced it’s nothing serious — or afraid you have cancer. More than 60 percent of Americans get their health information online, and a majority of those decide whether to see a doctor based on what they find. “Wow, this is an era of self-diagnosis,” thought Arizona State University psychologist Virginia Kwan, learning that statistic. How might information accessed online affect individual health decisions?

In a new study, Kwan and her colleagues found that the way information is presented — specifically, the order in which symptoms are listed — makes a significant difference. “People irrationally infer more meanings from a ‘streak'” — an uninterrupted series whether of high rolls of the dice or disease symptoms of consecutively reported symptoms. If they check off more symptoms in a row, the research found, “they perceive a higher personal risk of having that illness.” The study — conducted with Sean Wojcik of the University of California, Irvine, Talya Miron-shatz of Ono Academic College, Ashley Votruba of ASU, and Christopher Olivola of the University of Warwick — appears in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Surveying cancer-related sites, the researchers discovered that these vary in the way they present common and mild — or “general” — symptoms and more specific and serious ones. To test how streaks affect risk perception, students were presented with lists of six symptoms of a fictional kind of thyroid cancer (“isthmal”). One group got three general symptoms (such as fatigue and weight fluctuation) followed by three specific ones (e.g., lump in the neck); another the reverse order; and the third group a list alternating between general and specific. Participants checked off symptoms they’d experienced in the previous six weeks and then rated their perceived likelihood of having the cancer. The first two orders yielded similar risk ratings. But the ratings were significantly lower when the list alternated.

A second experiment compared lists of 12 or 6 symptoms, this time for a real cancer, meningioma. The three orders were the same as in the first experiment. The effect of order disappeared for the longer, but not the shorter, list — that is, the influence of streaks was diluted when the list was longer. It’s possible that even if a participant checked a series of symptoms — leading to suspicion of disease — boxes left unchecked offered reassurance of to the contrary, the authors think.

The findings could prove useful for public health education, Kwan says. “With certain types of illnesses, people tend to seek medical attention at the latest stage.” Meanwhile, “people also go to doctors asking all the time about illnesses that are very rare.” To encourage people to seek earlier health screenings, grouping common and mild symptoms might be wise. To limit overreaction, the rare ones should top the list. Reaching particular populations is also a public health challenge. “College students think they are invincible,” says Kwan. “There are ways to structure information to help them realize there are diseases that don’t discriminate.”

Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided byAssociation for Psychological Science.

Consider Computer Ergonomics to Reduce White Collar Work Comp Claims

illustration of good computer egronomicsRepublished with permission from ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

Blue-collar employees are not the only ones that have workers compensation claims. Office workers, especially those that sit in front of a computer all day, are having their share of workers compensation claims. Carpal tunnel syndrome, neck aches, and back aches are common musculoskeletal disorders and they are on the rise.  Additionally, eye strain, headaches and stress on the body from poor computer mechanics can interfere with the employee’s productivity

The wrong placement of the keyboard, the monitor, the mouse, the chair or the work surface can produce unnatural stress on the body, especially if the employee is forced to sit and work in an unnatural position.  Poor posture, tilting to either side, leaning forward or stretching to work, all produce pressure on the neck and spine.

Proper body positioning at the computer is important enough that OSHA has put forth guidelines designed to reduce the number of injury claims that result from improper body alignment with the keyboard and monitor.  The goal of the guidelines is to create neutral body positioning.  When the body is in a neutral position, the joints of the body are naturally aligned.  This minimizes the stress on the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

The OSHA guidelines for computer ergonomics include:

  • Hands, wrists and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Head is level or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced.
  • The head is in-line with the neck and torso.
  • Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
  • Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  • Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.
  • Back is fully supported with the appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.
  • Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.
  • Knees are about the same height at the hips with the feet slightly forward.

In addition to having the body properly aligned with the keyboard and monitor, the employee should all take the following steps to reduce the likelihood of creating a musculoskeletal problem:

  • Stand up and walk around for a few minutes periodically.
  • Stretch the torso, legs, arms, hands and fingers.
  • Dangle the arms by their side, shift the position of their legs and shrug the shoulders.
  • Make small adjustments to the chair and backrest.
  • Look away from the computer and refocus the eyes on a distant point.
  • Vary the work in order to utilize different muscles Continue reading Consider Computer Ergonomics to Reduce White Collar Work Comp Claims

Workers’ Compensation Issues Prominent In National Summit On RX Drug Abuse

illustration of how opioids act upon the brain
This is your brain on opioids

Orlando, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Several national workers’ compensation experts will lead 1.5 hour sessions during the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit April 10-12 at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Fla.

·         Joseph Paduda, principal of Health Strategy Associates and president ofCompPharma, LLC, and Dr. Richard Victor, Executive Director of the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, discuss factors leading to opioid abuse in workers’ compensation, regional variations of narcotics use and strategies employers are using to help addicted employees regain control of their lives and return to work. The session starts at 1:30 p.m. on Wed., April 11.

·         Showcasing Washington State’s guidelines, Dr. Gary M. Franklin, MD, MPH, Medical Director, Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and Dr. Alex Cahana, MD, MAS, DAAPM, FIPP, Endowed Professor with University of Washington Medical Center explore ways to curb the use of narcotics through physician education, treatment guidelines and community-wide integration of care.  This also starts at 1:30 p.m. on April 11 in a different track.

·         Phil Walls, R.Ph., Chief Clinical and Compliance Officer for MyMatrixx, a workers’ compensation pharmacy benefit manager, and Drug Recognition Expert/Pharmacy Fraud Investigator Detective Ryan Buzzini discuss how to identify employees at risk of opioid dependency and addiction, starting at 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10. Continue reading Workers’ Compensation Issues Prominent In National Summit On RX Drug Abuse