Vital Signs

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California health insurance ballot measure gets dirty, literally

6:45 pm, Oct. 24 |

The Proposition 45 debate is hitting the fan in California. (Consumer Watchdog)
Summary goes hereIn less than two weeks, California voters will decide the fate of Proposition 45, a ballot measure allowing the state's insurance commissioner to approve or deny premium rate hikes proposed by health insurers. Consumer advocates made an unusual effort Thursday to persuade people—through the power of poop.



Health insurance policyholders, nurses and others who support Prop 45 went to the San Diego offices of Blue Shield of California to “deliver a pickup truck containing a ton of steer manure,” according to advocacy group Consumer Watchdog. The group did the same thing Oct. 14, attempting to deliver the droppings to Blue Shield's offices in El Segundo.
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CMS adds language to give insurers an out if subsidies disappear

Whether the government should be allowed to widely subsidize insurance plans sold on the HealthCare.gov website is still being debated in the courts, but the CMS is preparing for an ultimate decision that could eliminate the subsidies.

New contracts between the CMS and insurers offering plans on HealthCare.gov now include language that would allow insurers to stop offering their plans should judges rule that the federal government should not be allowed to offer subsidies to people in states without their own exchanges.
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Medicaid managed-care enrollment expected to soar

4 pm, Oct. 23 |
Thanks to Medicaid expansion and a greater push from some conservative states looking to reduce healthcare costs, enrollment of Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries in managed care will increase by 13.5 million by 2016, according to a new report from consulting firm Avalere Health.



In total, managed-care enrollment will increase from a previous 67% of Medicaid and CHIP enrollees in 2013 to 76% in 2016. Under Medicaid managed care, which is essentially an HMO for these beneficiaries, the state pays a fixed rate to the insurer, which administers payment for care.
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Nurse Pham's dog tests negative for Ebola virus

4:15 pm, Oct. 22 |

Bentley
Dog lovers worldwide got good news Wednesday when Dallas nurse Nina Pham's King Charles spaniel was pronounced free of the Ebola virus that infected his owner, according to the Associated Press.



The city of Dallas said 1-year-old Bentley will be tested again before his 21-day quarantine period ends Nov. 1.
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Castlight Health tool saves money for patients, JAMA study shows

3 pm, Oct. 22 |

Reinhardt
Using Castlight Health's price discovery tool results in strong savings for customers shopping for the best deal in imaging—but not in clinician office visits or lab results, a study released in JAMA shows.



The results provide an “early glimpse of the potential ability of greater price transparency to influence the choices patients make,” Princeton professor Uwe Reinhardt wrote in an accompanying editorial.
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What's essential in some states isn't in others, study finds

4 pm, Oct. 21 |
President Barack Obama's healthcare law mandated that certain health plans start covering common services. But because the federal government offered states latitude in those initial determinations, the definition of an essential health benefit ranges widely across the country, a report finds.



For example, a person with an Obamacare plan in Illinois can receive coverage for nutrition counseling, hearing aids and infertility treatments. However, someone in neighboring Indiana doesn't have any of those in his or her standard plan.
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Consumers want an improved online healthcare experience

2:15 pm, Oct. 21 |
Consumers want online healthcare and insurance shopping to be as easy as other online shopping experiences, but currently almost half are not happy with their overall online healthcare customer experiences.



“In healthcare, consumers have been conditioned to feel powerless and routinely dissatisfied, and have never really felt in control,” the authors of a 16-page report said.
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Consumers cheer wearables, but don't wear them, yet

2:45 pm, Oct. 21 |

(Jawbone)
Consumers are highly optimistic about wearable devices' potential to improve healthcare, even though most now are not using wearables to track their own health, PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute says in a new report.

Approximately 56% of respondents to a PwC 2014 survey (PDF) of 1,000 people said that average life expectancy will be boosted by 10 years because of wearables' ability to monitor vital signs. This response comes despite such devices not yet being widely adopted; only 21% of survey respondents own a wearable product, PwC's survey found. Of that group, only about half wear it every day.
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Unless they change, devicemakers may see shrinking profits

12:01 am, Oct. 20 |
A leading consulting firm is warning medical-device companies that they either embrace the changes taking place in the global healthcare system or they will face sharply declining operating margins in the years ahead.

The study, released Monday by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, estimates that the device industry faces a $34 billion decline in profits due to disruptive changes in healthcare.
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Joint Commission calls on C-suite to promote healthcare safety

12:15 pm, Oct. 20 |
The term “culture of safety” has become commonplace in the vernacular of U.S. healthcare facilities, yet variation in safety remains prevalent. As organizations pursue efforts to boost quality, improve outcomes and reduce patient harm, a new Joint Commission resource is aiming its message at hospital leadership.

The C-suite often struggles with creating the top-down infrastructure needed to drive an integrated safety system, the Joint Commission says. “Some hospitals have figured it out,” said Dr. Ana Pujols-McKee, executive vice president of the Joint Commission, which accredits more than 3,300 U.S. hospitals. “We see some that are well on the journey toward high reliability. But we also have organizations that are struggling, and there are many more somewhere in between.”
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