Need new health insurance NOW?

If you experience certain life changes, you don’t have to wait for Open Enrollment in November to enroll in affordable health coverage on or your state’s marketplace. You have 60 days after the following events to apply for a Special Enrollment Period and enroll:

• Moving to a new zip code or county
• Getting married or divorced
• Having a baby, adopting or becoming a foster parent
• Becoming a U.S. citizen or getting a green card

You have 60 days before or after the following to enroll: 

• Losing your health insurance from your job
• Turning 26 and aging off your parent’s health plan

And if you are experiencing domestic violence and want to apply for your own health plan, you can do so at any time.

Learn more about Special Enrollment Periods at or call 1-800-318-2596.


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Health savings accounts haven't caught on

Four years ago, the hot new idea for reining in health costs was the health savings account, a savings vehicle tied to a high-deductible insurance policy and designed to make patients more responsible for – and more aware of – the expenses involved.  The thinking was that such accounts would slow spiraling medical costs for both employers and consumers.

Today, with only 5 percent of the 114 million Americans covered at work opting for such health plans, their future is in question. In Texas, regarded as the birthplace of the HSA, only 387,000 people have signed up out of the 12 million with employer-provided insurance.  Proponents point to small companies – including some in Texas – that have used the lower-cost plans to offer coverage for the first time.

Meanwhile, critics argue that the plans benefit only the healthy and wealthy, with sick patients who can't afford deductibles of more than $2,000 doing without care.  Under the 2003 federal law that established them, HSAs must be coupled with high-deductible health plans carrying at least a $1,050 deductible for an individual or $2,100 for a family.

Read more on the topic here.

Home health aide union steps up campaign

The union that represents home health aides—one of the fastest growing occupations in the city—is intensifying its drive to secure higher wages and benefits for 30,000 workers.
Members of 1199 SEIU will hold a rally inside the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 7 and have threatened to strike if contracts are not agreed upon with 25 New York City-area home care agencies by the middle of September.
Some 8,000 aides never had contracts and the rest are working under expired deals. Negotiations have begun with a few employers, but the union says the majority have not come to the table.
“When you look at the work they do, even the standards we’re fighting for aren’t enough,” said 1199 SEIU president George Gresham, whose mother worked as a home health aide. “But you have to start somewhere.” The union is looking to raise the minimum pay for a unionized home health aid above $8 and to maintain health benefits that have already been cut over the last few years.


Black AIDS epidemic rages in NYC

The rate of HIV infections among African Americans in New York City is higher than that of several third-world countries, including Nigeria, according to a report issued this week by the nonprofit Black AIDS Institute.

About 3.3% of the city’s black population is infected with the virus, compared with 3.1% of blacks living in Nigeria. In Manhattan alone, one in six African American men between the ages of 40 and 54 are infected.

“People think the AIDS epidemic is over, but it’s not,” said Phill Wilson, chief executive of the nonprofit institute. “We’ve known that African Americans have been disproportionately impacted by AIDS for a while, but what’s distressing is that this trend is continuing.”

The report comes at a time when the state Department of Health is preparing to make the controversial move of shifting HIV/AIDS patients who receive Medicaid into managed care plans. Some nonprofit officials have decried the move because many of the best doctors specializing in AIDS care do not participate in managed care plans.


PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH | Detroit News Examines Debate Over Certified Professional Midwives' Qualifications

The Detroit News on Tuesday examined the debate between the medical community and home birth advocates over where women should give birth and who is best qualified to perform deliveries. According to CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, about 1% of births annually are performed outside of hospitals.The American Medical Association last month issued a statement that said the "safest setting for labor, delivery and the immediate postpartum period is in the hospital, or a birthing center within a hospital complex." AMA and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also have said a hospital is the safest place to give birth because medical staff are readily available if complications arise. The groups also have said that physicians and certified nurse midwives, who have formal nursing certification, are the most appropriate professionals to oversee deliveries. Certified nurse-midwives are licensed in all states and most often practice in hospitals or medical centers.However, many home birth advocates have said that formal nursing certification is not necessary for a midwife to oversee home births and that certified professional midwives, who do not have nursing certification, are able to oversee births successfully. About one-half of states license CPMs, although many midwife advocates are calling for universal licensure of CPMs to expand birthing options for women. Many medical groups have said CPMs, who must deliver 40 infants to be certified, do not have enough training to handle complications. Steffany Hedenkamp, communications coordinator for The Big Push for Midwives Campaign, said medical groups' efforts to limit CPMs are "anti-competitive," adding, "With this integration of [CPMs] we see increased access to care." Erin Tracy, an ob-gyn at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the 40 deliveries CPMs are required to oversee is "less than ... interns do in one month," adding, "You need more of a medical background to understand medical complications" (Detroit News, 7/29).

Public funds make up bulk of health outlays: study

Public spending—including safety net insurance, tax exemptions and deductions, and subsidies for medical research and education—made up roughly 56% of U.S. health expenditures, according to an analysis published online in the journal Health Affairs. The estimate, by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality economists Thomas Selden and Merrile Sing, shows public spending for those not in long-term care or other institutions was $752.9 billion in 2002, or $2,612 per person, on average.
Of that, the economists said that tax subsidies, which aid middle- and upper-income families to a greater degree than the poor, accounted for $214.8 billion, or nearly 30% of public spending. For those earning at least 400% of the federal poverty threshold, or $21,200 for a family of four, public spending covered 46% of expenditures. That’s compared with 80% for those with incomes that fall below the poverty level. The poor were more likely to receive means-tested public benefits, the authors said. “Clearly, the distribution of overall public spending across income groups depends upon more than just the incidence of means-tested public insurance programs,” the authors wrote.
Public spending for seniors easily outpaced aid for children. On average, seniors received $6,921 in 2002 compared with $1,225 for children. -- by Melanie Evans

Article from Modern Healthcare