Archive for August, 2008

Two Million Fewer Uninsured in 2007, Says U.S. Census Bureau

August 28th, 2008 by Melanie Matthews

Overall, there were fewer uninsured individuals in the United States in 2007 than in 2006, according to a new report released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau:

Some highlights from the Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007 Report:

  • The number of people without health insurance coverage declined from 47 million (15.8 percent) in 2006 to 45.7 million (15.3 percent) in 2007.
  • The number of uninsured children declined from 8.7 million (11.7 percent) in 2006 to 8.1 million (11.0 percent) in 2007.
  • Both the number and percentage of uninsured for non-Hispanic whites decreased in 2007, to 10.4 percent and 20.5 million, respectively. For blacks, the number of uninsured remained statistically unchanged from 2006, at 7.4 million, while the percentage declined from 20.5 percent in 2006 to 19.5 percent in 2007. The uninsured rate for Asians rose from 15.5 percent in 2006 to 16.8 percent in 2007.
  • Between 2006 and 2007, the uninsured rate for the native-born population declined from 13.2 percent in 2006 to 12.7 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, the percentage of the foreign-born population without insurance was statistically unchanged at 33.2 percent in 2007
  • Rates for 2005-2007 using a three-year average show that Texas (24.4 percent) had the highest percentage of uninsured. No one state had the “lowest” uninsured rate.
  • HospitalCompare Adds Care Measures for Kids

    August 25th, 2008 by Melanie Matthews

    For the first time, CMS’ Hospital Compare Web site is reporting on the quality of children’s care in hospitals, including pediatric hospitals, by adding two care measures for inpatient treatment of children with asthma. Get more details in this week’s Healthcare Business Weekly Update.

    This is good news for parents of children with asthma — 335,000 U.S. children were hospitalized for asthma in 2006, according to an AHRQ analysis, a number that’s about 1.5 percent higher than adult hospitalizations for asthma as a principal condition. Excluding newborns, asthma-related hospital stays accounted for 13.5 percent of all pediatric hospitalizations.

    This is the right direction for Hospital Compare, given the prevalence of the condition and the popularity of the Web site among consumers and caregivers. Page views for the site for this year to date have totaled 20 million. Next, we’d like to see CMS add care measures for inpatient treatment of diabetes in children, which has increased exponentially over the last decade.

    Children with obesity are two to three times more likely than all children to have a hospital stay during the year. To find out what more than 150 of your colleagues are doing to address the obesity epidemic in adult and pediatric populations, take our e-survey of the month. Complete the survey by August 31 and you’ll receive a complimentary e-summary of the results, including emerging trends in obesity management, incentives and reimbursement.

    Study Examines Impact of ‘Doughnut Hole’ on People Enrolled in 2007 Medicare Drug Plans

    August 21st, 2008 by Melanie Matthews

    A new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation quantifies, for the first time, the number of Medicare Part D plan enrollees in 2007 who reached a gap in their prescription drug coverage known as the “doughnut hole,” as well as the changes in beneficiaries’ use of medications and out-of-pocket spending after they reached that gap. The analysis excludes beneficiaries who receive low-income subsidies because they do not face a gap in coverage under their Medicare drug plan.

  • One in four (26 percent) Part D enrollees who filled any prescriptions in 2007 reached the coverage gap. This includes 22 percent who remained in the gap for the remainder of the year, and 4 percent who ultimately received catastrophic coverage. Applying this estimate to the entire population of Part D enrollees, the analysis suggests that about 3.4 million beneficiaries (14 percent of all Part D enrollees) reached the coverage gap and faced the full cost of their prescriptions in 2007.
  • Beneficiaries taking drugs for serious chronic conditions had a substantially higher risk of a gap in coverage under their Medicare drug plan. For example, 64 percent of enrollees taking medications for Alzheimer’s disease reached the coverage gap in 2007, as did 51 percent of those taking oral anti-diabetic medications and 45 percent of patients on antidepressants. As noted above, these percentages are among Part D plan enrollees who did not receive low-income subsidies.
  • More Obesity Links

    August 21st, 2008 by Melanie Matthews

    It is a well-known fact that obesity can lead to other health problems — diabetes, CVD, hypertension and stroke, to name a few. But a link between obesity and ear infections? New research suggests children who are chronic earache sufferers could face a greater risk of obesity as they age. And another study says that sleep apnea — often triggered by obesity — is not always cured after surgical weight loss.

    Greater Burden for Younger Patients with Parkinson’s Disease

    August 20th, 2008 by Melanie Matthews

    A recent study by PatientsLikeMe, the leading health data sharing community for patients with life-changing conditions, reveals Young-Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD) patients (individuals with symptom onset at 40 years or younger) experience more non-motor symptoms than those with “classic” Parkinson’s disease (PD). The study, based on a survey of more than 300 patients, questioned PD and YOPD patients about 30 “non-motor symptoms” including thinking, digestion and mood. Survey results indicate YOPD patients had an average of three more non-motor symptoms than their older counterparts.

  • The average age of symptom onset for respondents with classic Parkinson’s is 54, and the average age at onset for YOPD respondents is 33 years old.
  • YOPD patients report suffering from a number of symptoms, which could interfere with work or driving such as daytime sleepiness (33 percent) or dizziness (52 percent).
  • Poor Teen Sleep Habits May Raise Blood Pressure

    August 19th, 2008 by Melanie Matthews

    Teenagers who don’t sleep well or long enough may have a higher risk of elevated blood pressure that could lead to cardiovascular disease later in life, researchers report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. The study of 238 (123 boys and 115 girls) 13- to 16-year-olds is the first to examine insufficient sleep and blood pressure in healthy adolescents. Researchers measured participants’ wrist movements at home for five to seven days and participants completed a daily sleep log to provide estimates of sleep patterns. Researchers also measured sleep quality in a sleep laboratory and took nine blood pressure readings in a two-day period.

  • The odds of elevated blood pressure increased 3.5 times for those with low sleep efficiency and 2.5 times for those with sleeping periods of less than 6.5 hours, even after adjusting for gender, body mass index and socioeconomic status.

  • Adolescents with low sleep efficiency — those who have trouble falling to sleep at night or who wake up too early — had an average 4 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) higher systolic blood pressure compared to children with higher sleep efficiency.
  • Prudential Study Sheds Light on Increasing Costs of Long-Term Care

    August 18th, 2008 by Melanie Matthews

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2030 the number of Americans aged 65 and older will more than double to 71 million, comprising approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population. With an aging population boom, Prudential Financial, Inc.’s newly issued 2008 Long-Term Care Cost of Care research report found an increase in the average cost of long-term care ranging from 5 percent to 13 percent, varying by type of service, in the past two years alone.

  • The average assisted living costs and average nursing home costs in Alaska are the most expensive in the country at $82,956 per year and $183,595 per year respectively. Detroit ranked the highest for home healthcare hourly rate at $38.
  • Average costs for long-term care services increased over the past two years and are expected to continue to rise. The average daily cost for an assisted-living facility is now more than $100, or $3,241 per month. What’s more, the average daily cost of a private room in a nursing home is now $217, or $79,205 annually.
  • The Latest Healthcare Satisfaction Levels

    August 18th, 2008 by Melanie Matthews

    This week brings more evaluations of the healthcare industry in general and primary care in particular. A new study from The Commonwealth Fund finds that most Americans are dissatisfied with the U.S. healthcare system — 82 percent think it should be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt. A common complaint is access to healthcare — nearly three out of four of the 1,000 consumers surveyed (73 percent) said they had a difficult time getting timely doctors’ appointments, phone advice or after-hours care without having to go to the ER.

    This echoes a recent assessment of primary care by healthcare organizations — who reported to us that reimbursement, access and health IT are the greatest challenges facing PCPs. You can download a complimentary summary of responses from the more than 130 hospitals, health systems, physician practices, health plans and others who took our recent e-survey on the state of primary care. The summary offers 10 ideas to rouse your organization from primary care inertia.

    Duke Ellington said, “A problem is a chance to do your best.” A starting point might be The Commonwealth Fund report that grew out of their study, which outlines a seven-point plan for creating a better healthcare system with higher quality and better efficiency. Areas of focus are payment reform, patient incentives, regulatory changes, accreditation, provider training, government infrastructure support and health IT.

    The Impact of Exercise

    August 15th, 2008 by Melanie Matthews

    Exercise and fitness are integral components in the health of any patient. While it might seem obvious that people who exercise are generally healthier than those who do not, two recent studies examine how exercise is improving the health and quality of life of its participants and the role PCPs play in getting their patients to exercise.

    Problem Parents Enable Teens to Abuse Drugs, Alcohol

    August 14th, 2008 by Melanie Matthews

    Problem parents — those who fail to monitor their children’s school night activities, safeguard their prescription drugs, address the problem of drugs in their children’s schools and set good examples — increase the risk that their 12- to 17-year old children will smoke, drink and use illegal and prescription drugs, according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XIII: Teens and Parents, the 13th annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. Almost half (46 percent) of 12- to 17-year olds report leaving their house to hang out with friends on school nights. Among these teens, 50 percent who come home after 10:00 p.m. say that drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana or other drug use occurs. Twenty-nine percent who come home after 8:00 p.m. and before 10:00 p.m. say that drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana or other drug use occurs. But only 14 percent of parents say their teens usually leave the house to hang out with friends on school nights.

  • More teens said prescription drugs were easier to buy than beer (19 vs. 15 percent). The proportion of teens who say prescription drugs are easiest to buy jumped 46 percent since 2007 (13 vs. 19 percent). Almost half (46 percent) of teens say painkillers are the most commonly abused prescription drug among teens. When teens who know prescription drug abusers were asked where those kids get their drugs, 31 percent said from friends or classmates, 34 percent said from home, parents or the medicine cabinet, 16 percent said other and 9 percent said from a drug dealer.
  • Ninety-seven percent of all parents surveyed and 96 percent of parents who believe their teens’ schools are not drug-free say it is important that their teen’s school be drug-free. Yet 42 percent of parents think their teens’ school is not drug-free, and only 39 percent of those parents believe making the school drug-free is a realistic goal. One-third of parents believe that the presence of illegal drugs in their teen’s school does not make it more likely that their teen will try them.