|Issue of the Day Posts Tagged ‘Health Care’|
According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report in June 2009, compensation costs for civilian workers increased 0.4%, seasonally adjusted, for the 3-month period ending in June 2009. For businesses, wages and salaries, comprising 70% of compensation, increased 0.4%. Benefit costs, 30% of compensation, increased 0.3%, a feat considering inflation for that time was nearing -2.1% in July. With healthcare benefits costs climbing despite negative inflation, many employers are passing some of the increased cost onto their employees. In fact many employers are increasing the premiums, annual deductibles, and prescriptions co-pays.
Civilian worker’s compensation wages and salaries costs increased 1.8% (compared to a 3.2% increase in June 2008), and benefits costs rose 1.8% (compared to 2.9%) in the 12 months ending in June 2009. Private industry workers fared worse as wages and salaries increased 1.6% (3.1% in June 2008) and benefits cost increased 1.3% (from 2.6% June 2008) over the same 12 months. Public administration wages and salaries, however, increased 3.0% in June 2009 (3.4% June 2008) and benefits cost rose 3.6% (3.5% June 2008) over the same 12 months.
The conclusion of a study conducted by Wolters Kluwer Health suggests that fewer Americans are filling their drug prescriptions. In the beginning of 2008, patients neglected to fill 6.8% of non-generic prescriptions, a 22% increase from 2007. The reason cited by the report was the increase in patients’ out of pocket costs and co-pays. Plus, since 1999 health insurance premiums have risen 120%, compared to the cumulative inflation of 44%. Further, in 2008, employer health insurance premiums increased by 5.0 percent – two times the rate of inflation—to $12,700 for an employer health plan for a family of four and $4,700 for single coverage.
Higher consumer prescription costs and insurance refusal to pay for some non-generic drugs have left many with the decision to drop their prescription drug treatments. A study by the Oregon Health and Science University found that a slight $2 to $3 co-payment reduced Medicaid patients prescription drug use by 17%. Also, a study by Integrated Benefits Institute regarding arthritis suffers in 17 organizations found that with higher co-pays for medicines—as much as $18,000 a year for arthritis medicine—led many to abandon their drug use, costing their employers $17.2 million in lost business productivity.
Many Adults Lack Vaccinations That Could Save Their Lives
Published Monday, July 27th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
A survey of adult vaccinations completed by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases reported that diseases which are easily preventable by adult vaccines kill more Americans, over 50,000 adults, each year than car wrecks, breast cancer, or AIDS. The surveys show that generally Americans are unaware or misinformed about the dangers and vaccines available for diseases like the flu, Hepatitis B, Pneumococcal disease, Meningitis, Shingles, Human Papillomavirus, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough). One of the major problems is that Universal Coverage of vaccines stops at age 19. Plus, many adults think that vaccines are just for children, or they are concerned with vaccine safety. The CDC states that vaccines are among the safest medical products available. The result is that of the vaccines for adults are used no greater than 32% by high risk Americans baring the flu shot and tetanus shots.
Over the years of successful campaigns, the CDC has reported that over 95% of children have been vaccinated for various diseases. The CDC states that lack of awareness, resources and knowledge about adult vaccines, infrastructure, and access to health care are causes for low vaccination percentages among adults. The average annual health care expenditures per American has nearly tripled since 1990 to approximately $3,000 per annum. To compound the problem, nearly 15.3% of the population does not have health care insurance, which makes preventative care “unimportant” to some who believe they cannot afford non-emergency medicine.
One proposal to pay for national health insurance calls for imposing a surtax on income tax bills of the top 1.2% of American households. The tax would start at 1% for couples making $350,000 – $500,000. The surtax would rise to 5.4% for households making more than a million dollars; this is lower than depression era recovery efforts. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, very few small businesses would be affected. Plus, according to the proposal, small businesses that offer health insurance will see their cost reduced under the new plan. The tax increases of the House bill won’t take effect until 2011.
The Obama administration hopes that this tax increase will help pay for the record budget spending increases of the federal government, which has reached a total of $2.9 trillion in 2008. Mandatory spending now equals $1.788 trillion, an increase of 4.2%, this includes Social Security (+4.5%), Medicare (+5.2%), Medicaid and SCHIPS (+5.6%), Unemployment (+1.8%) and Interest on the National Dept (+9.2%). Discretionary spending equals $1.114 trillion, an increase of 3.1%, which includes double digit increases of 45.8% on the Global War on Terror, 12.1% on the Department of Defense, 18.7% for the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22% for the Department of State, and 13.1% for the Department of Transportation.
The Centers for Disease Control has issued a report stating that obesity is still growing since last year’s reports of 25.6% adult obesity. The report suggests we have grown to 26.1% adult obesity in 2008. Topping the scale is Mississippi, which registered at 32.8%; Colorado weighed in at 18.5% obese, the only state to remain under 20%. The CDC report comes as a study calls for senior citizens to participate in progressive resistance training. Beyond the obvious need for us all to be more active, senior citizens who exercise build up muscle mass that is typically lost as they age. The clinical review saw a moderate to large improvement in doing simple to complex daily activities, in addition to less pain and osteoarthritis symptoms that also plague the obese.
In the 16 years that the CDC has tracked the obesity levels there has been a steady increase of 47.7% to 67.1% in adolescents and adults. The level of activity vary as much as 10 percentage points between major race groups as 50% of White and Non-Hispanics exercising, 40% black, and 43% Hispanic. Likewise, age groups follow the same pattern as 60% of 18-29 year olds, 47% of 30-74 year olds and 40% of 75 and older workout.
Last week, the President hosted a town hall meeting with TV network ABC called “Prescription for America” in the East Room of the White House. There were 164 people: doctors, businessmen, patients, Republicans, Democrats, and independents. The President stressed access to health care and talked about a Medicare-like system that would allow patients to choose doctors and hospitals. Second, the President stated that nearly a third of what we spend on Health Care is unnecessary and that we should focus on strengthening primary care and coordination between doctors, specialist and patients. Finally, one of the obstacles is the reform’s costs, already projected to run between $1 and 2 trillion over the next 10 years.
Access for all Americans is an issue not just for the 15.3% of the population who are uninsured as of 2007. Access can also mean the number of hospitals, which as of 2006 came to 5756 in 2006, down from 6965 in 1980. Demand has given to a meteoric rise in consumer expenditures for public and private health care, which as of 2007 reached a combined price tag of $2.32 trillion. Averaged cost per patient per stay has increased to $8,793; even without hospital visits the average American annually spends nearly $3,000 on health care expenditures. The group who visits the ER most is the group 15-44 years old; this group is most likely to be uninsured.
Obama Orders Benefit Extention to Federal Same-Sex Partners
Published Friday, June 19th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
In a move, “the first step” that partially confirmed a campaign promise, President Obama directed administrative agencies to extend family sick-leave policies such as visitation or dependent-care rights to same-sex partners, but not health benefits. The new policy now allows for federal employees to use sick leave to care for same-sex partners and their children, plus partners can be added to a government insurance program that pays for long-term care. The Administration has pledged to work for a law that would extend full health benefits to same-sex partners and children. The President explained that to act unilaterally will not cement lasting change in benefits. He hopes to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and replace it with a law enacted by Congress that would fulfill his promise and make it lasting.
The percentage of workers who have access to benefits never equals 100%; in fact the Unions are the only group to achieve 92% covered by any kind of medical plan. Unions also have high percentages for drug care coverage at 87% and vision coverage at 57%. Non-union workers fared worse, with 68% covered by medical, 61% with drug care, and 26% with visual. Between white collar and blue collar workers, there is only 1-3 percentage points difference in coverage.
Congress has successfully — after a decade of political wrangling — passed a bill that gives the FDA wide powers to regulate the tobacco industry’s manufacture, marketing and selling of cigarettes. This bill overcame the Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that said that the agency did not have the right to regulate the industry on its own. The bill highlights: bars the use of terms like “lite” and “low tar”, bans all flavorings except menthol, sets new restrictions on advertising, requires larger warning labels, allows the FDA to lower the level of nicotine but not to zero, and bans sponsorship of sporting events or entertainment events. This bill neither raise taxes on cigarettes nor bans them. Also, this year 16 states are considering raising cigarette taxes to cover the near $47.4 billion shortfall that will exist at the end of FY2009.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking attributes to about 400,000 deaths per year in the US; nearly 25% of the US adult population smokes. The number of youth and adult smokers has dropped over the last several decades, yet it has leveled off in recent years. Updated information on the survival rate from cancer has risen slowly yet steadily to top 67.5% for whites and 57.5% for blacks. Studies suggest that reasons for the gap range from biological differences to sociological factors.
One of the major problems of mapping and prevention efforts facing the Centers for Disease Control’s effort to battle the spread of HIV/Aids happens to be accurate tracking. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the CDC’s efforts to monitor trends in new HIV infections has been hampered by HIV diagnosis occurring years after infection. New technology developed by the CDC can now distinguish recent from long-standing infections. Called Serologic testing algorithm for recent HIV Seroconversion (STARHS), the technology is used to develop the nation’s first surveillance system that is based on more concise estimates of the annual number of new HIV incidence than before. The first estimates from this system, issued in August 2008, revealed that the rate of HIV infections in 2006 were roughly 40% higher than former estimates reported. Also, as of April 2008, reporting for new infections has been nationalized as all 50 states, D.C. and territories all comply with the confidential Name-Based Reporting system.
Better diagnostics and reporting systems will help health care officials focus plans and evaluate prevention care and treatment programs on persons most at risk. According to the CDC, even with the new diagnostics, the rate of cases of HIV per year has remained steady since the late 1990’s. Analysis of the data points to a male to female ratio of 4-1 for new cases, plus new cases are rising for nearly every age group. Of those new cases, those infected are more likely to be of a minority or gay or bisexual.
The American Cancer Society has announced this week that 650,000 cancer deaths have been averted between 1991 and 2005. Overall this means a total of a 19% drop in men’s overall cancer death rates and an 11% drop for all types of women’s cancer death rates over the 15 year period. The drop in death rates was gradual but steady, the report stated, at about 1 to 2% a year. The decline can be attributed to increased access to screening and health care. However, the ACS states that cancer is still the leading cause of death for those who are younger than 85 and estimates 562,340 people will succumb to cancer in 2009—1500 people a day. For men the top types of cancer remain prostate cancer, at 192,280 new cases a year; for women, breast cancer is the most diagnosed at 192,370 cases a year. Yet, for both men and women, lung cancer will be the most deadly.
Despite the improved rate of cancer deaths overall, the survival rate divided by race states that white cancer patients survive more often than black patients. A 14 percentage point gap existed between black and white survival rates in 1987 to 1989, yet that gap has narrowed to 10 percentage points between 1996 and 2004.