If the diabetes epidemic continues to progress at its current pace, 53 million Americans may have the disease by 2025, a new report states.
According to RedOrbit.com, researchers based their projections for specific states and population subgroups using the most current U.S. Census Bureau forecasts. Should the rate of diabetes (mainly type 2) grow as they predict, it would represent a 64% increase from 2010.
“Diabetes is now a national security issue as it threatens all aspects of our nation’s well-being,” noted Dr. David B. Nash, Editor-in-Chief of Population Health Management, the journal that published the report.
The authors of the report emphasized that if the lessons from the Diabetes 2025 Model are heeded, lifestyle changes can help to slow the growth of the disease, as well as the resultant costs.
“If our health care system were able to persuade 50% of Americans with prediabetes every year to seriously change their lifestyles for the rest of their lives, the result could be about 4.7 million fewer cases of diabetes in 2025 with a cumulative savings of about $300 billion. Yet even if this happened, there would still be 48.4 million Americans living with diabetes,” the authors explained.
While colon cancer can generally be prevented through timely screenings, the unpleasant aspects of pre-test preparations scares many people away. But a new method for performing a “virtual” colonoscopy may persuade those who have so far avoided this important procedure.
The Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports that in recent years, computed tomographic colonography – known as CT or “virtual” colonoscopy – have eliminated the need for invasive instrument, instead scanning the colon externally. But patients still need to take laxatives for the scanning machines to produce an accurate screening.
So to sidestep the laxative issue, researchers have developed a software program to electronically “cleanse” the bowel. In a study of the program, patients ate a low-fiber diet for several days prior to scanning, and drank a special fluid to “tag” the colon’s contents. This method accurately identified 91% of patients with polyps of 10 mm or larger – those at highest risk of becoming cancerous – but was less accurate for smaller lesions.
“No one should be dying from colon cancer, which is almost completely preventable with screening; and if it were sufficiently easy more people would do it,” said Dr. Michael Zalis, a radiologist and lead author of the study.
Dr. James Aisenberg, a gastroenterologist who wasn’t involved with the study, agreed that the laxative requirement can be a barrier to colorectal screening, and a virtual test is definitely better than nothing. But he added that a laxative-free CTC “will miss a subset of precancerous polyps and thus is unlikely to become the gold standard for colorectal-cancer prevention.”
The American Cancer Society recommends that people with an average risk of developing colon cancer get screened starting at age 50. MedBen Worksite Wellness members can check their compliance with colonoscopies and other critical wellness examinations by visiting the MedBen Access website and clicking on the Wellness Plan link under “My Plan”.
According to the U.K. paper Mail, Americans currently consume 80% of the world’s supply of pain pills – enough drugs to give every single American 64 Percocets or Vicodin.
The article notes that opioid prescriptions have spiked 600% in the past 10 years. Therefore it’s hardly a shock that a growing number of individuals are using the drugs for purposes other than alleviating discomfort. And their abuse leads to 14,800 fatalities a year – more than from heroin and cocaine combined.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that when taken as prescribed, opioids can be used to manage pain safely and effectively. However, when abused, even a single large dose can cause severe respiratory depression and death.
Of course, even though who follow instructions to the letter will typically develop physical dependence to some degree. This is a normal adaptation to chronic exposure to a drug and is not the same as addiction – but it does highlight the importance of working with your family doctor to ensure a temporary need doesn’t progress into something much worse.
For additional information about pain pills, visit the NIDA website.
America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) recently released the first of four case studies that demonstrate the consequences of mandating health care reforms in the absence of a personal coverage requirement. It’s a scenario that has already played out on the state level – and one that could potentially occur nationwide if the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate.
“When thinking about the impact of potential Supreme Court rulings, there is no substitute for real-world experience. Washington state’s experience demonstrated that passing market reforms without requiring broad participation in the system does not work. The linkage is essential,” said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni in a press release.
Washington state enacted health care reforms in 1993 that required individuals to buy their own policies while effectively eliminating waiting periods for pre-existing conditions. Within 18 months, the state legislature repealed the individual coverage requirement, so many healthy people dropped out of the program.
According to the press release, the reforms ultimately resulted in “substantial increases in the premiums charged for individually purchased policies; a dramatic reduction in the number of carriers writing policies for individuals in the state from 19 to only two; and a 30 percent increase in the number of uninsured between enactment of the initial reform law and the turn of the new century.”
Many people have two sets of sleep times – “weekend” and “weekdays". And typically, the former is a few hours longer than the latter.
But while the extra hours of shut-eye on Saturday and Sunday may provide some short-term relief, it’s not a good long-term solution. A new European study suggests that irregular sleep patterns – what the researchers authors refer to as “social jet lag” – triple your odds of being overweight, according to CNN.com.
Social jet lag is “the discrepancy between what our body clock wants us to do and what our social clock wants us to do,” says Till Roenneberg, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology, in Germany. “It almost looks as if people on a Friday evening fly from Paris to New York, and on Monday morning they fly back again.”
The study of 65,000 adults also found that the the body mass index (BMI) of overweight people tended to rise as the gap between their weekday and weekend “time zones” widened. In addition, erratic sleep patterns leave individuals at a greater risk for cancer, diabetes and other diseases.
Poor lifestyle choices have led to an increased prevalence of expensive chronic diseases, according to Rayvelle Stallings, MD, Chief Medical Officer of inVentiv Medical Management. At MedBen’s recent Wellness Conference, Dr. Stallings highlighted the growing health crisis in America, and how a coordinated worksite wellness effort can reduce medical costs and foster a healthier workplace.
“Nearly 9 out of 10 medical claims can be traced to lifestyle decisions that individuals make, so clearly there is an opportunity to help people make smart health choices,” Dr. Stallings stated in her presentation. “That’s why over 70% of employers are looking for employee engagement solutions.”
MedBen, in partnership with inVentiv, offers the iHealth Wellness Education Program to employees. Dr. Stallings noted that through focused, interventional coaching for patients with high-risk, modifiable, and traditionally costly diseases, iHealth helps to educate employees and their family members about positive lifestyle changes and appropriate wellness prevention testing. The program also encourages the establishment of “medical home” for every plan member – specifically, their family doctor.
In contrast to other wellness programs that rely on personal health assessments from plan members, iHealth performs an an electronic analysis of medical claims data using the member’s company claims history. By doing so, iHealth detects health patterns that would benefit from specialized nurse coaching, as well as providing members with customized recommendations for certain wellness screening tests.
Dr. Stallings also discussed the positive effects of wellness incentives to members, such as reduced premiums and gym discounts. “Incentives have powerful behavioral effects,” and even small awards can spur greater participation in a wellness program, Dr. Stallings observed.
To learn more about MedBen Worksite Wellness, we invite you to contact Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.
It comes as no surprise that most people incur higher medical costs in their senior years. But new research suggests a potential way to bring those expenses down by over one-third.
According to HealthDay News, a Dallas, Texas-based study of more than 20,000 people determined that fit middle-aged men and women had, on average, 38% lower medical costs later in life compared to people who failed to stay in shape.
“We found that fitness confers dividends later in life even when other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity are controlled for,” said study author Dr. Justin Bachmann.
Average annual claims for medical costs for the least-fit men, at $5,134, were about 36% higher than the average of $3,277 a year for the most-fit men. The average medical claims of $4,565 for the least-fit women were about 40% higher than the $2,755 average for the most fit.
Levels of fitness were determined by a treadmill test measuring metabolic equivalents (METs), Bachmann said. The higher the METs, the more fit a person is.
As we note the latest health care reform news on this blog, we often use the phrase “health insurance exchange” to describe a government-run place where individuals and small businesses can compare and purchase health care plans. Little did we realize, however, that its use may be confusing prospective consumers.
According to Kaiser Health News, Medicare officials would like to see a change in phraseology going forward. “We are recommending not using the word ‘exchange’” in enrollment materials, said Julie Bataille, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Communications. The word, she observed, gives the impression that consumers may have to swap something.
So noted. But what does CMS suggest we use in its place? While no definite substitutes were recommended, Bataille did add that “[w]ords like ‘marketplace’ resonate much more with the consumer and also tend to be something that is all inclusive.”
But really, is “marketplace” any better? It sounds rather antiquated to our ears, like a gathering of ancient Greeks selling goods from pushcarts. Perhaps “health insurance boutique” or “health insurance shopping district” instead? We shall see… and anyway, Bataille said that CMS plans to get public feedback on whether to use the word “exchange” before making any changes.
The Food and Drug Administration is all over the news today:
An FDA advisory panel has recommended approval of the drug Truvada to prevent the spread of HIV infection in high-risk, healthy people, WebMD reports.
The Antiviral Drugs Advisory Committee recommended the agency allow the drug’s use for men who have sex with men; uninfected partners of HIV-positive partners; and others at risk of infection through sexual activity. Truvada was approved in 2004 to treat people already infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The New York Times reports that FDA advisors have recommended approval of the weight-loss drug lorcaserin, saying that its benefits outweighed potential risks. If the agency approves the drug by its scheduled deadline of June 27, lorcaserin would be the first new prescription diet pill to reach the market in 13 years.
Earlier this year, an advisory committee recommended approval of the weight-loss drug Qnexa. The agency is expected to decide whether to approve it by July 17.
The FDA has warned against the use of an experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis, the Los Angeles Times reports. Known as liberation therapy, the treatment is meant to open narrowed veins in the head and neck via the insertion of balloons or stents.
The agency claims that the therapy has caused death, strokes, nerve damage and abdominal bleeding and has no proven benefits for MS sufferers.
Taking care of your teeth is one of the best investments you can make for better health… and you get a dazzling smile to boot. In WebMD the Magazine, David Leader, DMD offers eight ways to keep your mouth in great shape. We summarize his suggestions below.
One more tip: If you have a good dental plan, use it to your advantage. And if you don’t… well, we just happen to know where your group can get one. For information about MedBen Dental, call Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.
Lengthy commutes can do more than drive up your gas budget – it may raise your weight as well, according to a new study.
ABC News reports that people who drive long distances to work tend to be more overweight than non-commuters. In reviewing the medical records of nearly 4,300 Texas commuters, researchers discovered that the more people drove, the less they exercised. In addition, extended time in the car appears to contribute to higher blood pressure.
“It could just be a function of having less discretionary time to be physically active,” said Christine Hoehner of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., lead author of the study. “Or it could be related to people burning fewer calories because they’re sitting longer.”
Hoehner theorized that because commuter have less time to cook and more time to snack in the car, diet could also be to blame.
“I think the message for folks who live a long way from work and have a desk job is to find ways to build physical activity into their day,” said Hoehner, adding that workplaces should “allow and even encourage physical activity breaks.”
Some larger employers are experimenting with a different take on pharmaceutical benefits – one that pays for drugs based on their potential to prevent higher medical costs in the future.
An NPR story says that the approach, known as value-based insurance design, is already popular for lower-cost generic drugs that manage chronic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. By offering reduced copays, companies hope to make these medicines even more affordable for patients, with the goal of avoiding more expensive care down the road.
But how would the concept work with pricier specialty drugs, such as those used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and cancer? Coming up with a working model may be tricky.
One issue that would have to be addressed is whether all patients, regardless of income, should have to pay the same price for a specialty drug. Another challenge: determining a copay for a condition that is uncomfortable but not crippling, such as psoriasis, compared to a more disabling condition, like rheumatoid arthritis.
“If you’ve got psoriasis, maybe you pay a 30% coinsurance for the drug,” suggests James Robinson, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “But if you’ve got rheumatoid arthritis, there’s no copayment.”
But Robinson adds that there is no simple method of determining medicinal values. “This stuff is complicated.”
Some dire predictions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Not only will the number of overweight Americans continue to grow, the proportion considered “severely obese” will be more than double the current rate by 2030.
The Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports that the a study by CDC, in partnership with researchers at Duke University and research firm RTI International, estimates that the percentage of obese Americans will climb to 42% within two decades. Currently, one-third of Americans have a body mass index of 30 or more.
Severe obesity – a BMI of 40 and up, which was extremely rare prior to the early 1970s – will increase to 11% of the population by 2030. A severely obese person is at least 50% over their ideal weight.
“The world has changed in a way that allows people to be that overweight,” Eric Finkelstein, lead author of the study and associate professor at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, told the Health Blog. “Sixty or seventy years ago you couldn’t sustain the excess caloric intake needed to be that heavy.”
The CDC is also concerned about the obesity epidemic in children, and how it affects them later in life. An earlier study tracking weights of children to adulthood found that about 50% of severely obese adults were obese as children, said Bill Dietz, director of the agency’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.
A recent Associated Press article says that if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act, employers and insurance companies will drive future health care reform law. And should that scenario come to pass, experts expect that:
A rising number of early induced deliveries is affecting employer health care costs, Employee Benefit News reports.
While there is a definite need for some babies to be induced before full term (40 weeks gestation) because of medical reasons, a recent study by The Leapfrog Group claims that hospitals increasingly elect this option for other seasons, such as convenience for the mother or doctor – or higher fees for the hospital.
Leapfrog, an employer-driven hospital watchdog group, states that the rates of early elective deliveries should be no higher than 5%, yet a handful of hospitals report rates of over 40%. Moreover, studies suggest that increased use of elective induction of labor, combined with cesarean section between 34 and 36 weeks, have contributed to the increase in the late preterm births.
From the article:
“According to the World Health Organization, there is no medical reason for any region to have a cesarean birthrate higher than 15%. However, in November of 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the national cesarean birth rate at 29.1%, which was the highest rate ever recorded, involving more than a quarter of all births. Preterm birth costs total $26 billion annually, or $51,500 for every infant born prematurely. Nearly half of these costs, or almost $13 billion, fall to employers and other private insurers.”
“There are clear financial incentives [for hospitals to induce].” says Leapfrog CEO Leah Binder. She suggests that health plans pay more for vaginal births and less for elective preterm deliveries.
Reuters recently reported on the surge in popularity for consumer-driven health plans, which offer lower premiums and greater participant control of medical care funds in exchange for higher deductibles.
Currently, 59% of companies with 1,000 or more employees offer account-based coverage options, such as flexible spending accounts and health reimbursement arrangements. That’s up from 53% last year, according to a survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health.
The survey also revealed that when employees have a choice between CDHPs and more traditional plan options, an increasing number are going the personal account route. This year, 27% of eligible employees are enrolled, a 35% jump from 2011.
CDHPs continue to gain in popularity for multiple reasons. Certainly, the reduced premiums appeal to employers and employee alike, as does the ability to pay for health care expenses with pre-tax dollars. And with the passage of health care reform, higher deductibles offer businesses a way to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s excise tax on benefit-rich “Cadillac” health plans.
MedBen has administered CDHPs for over a decade. In addition to a full range of account options, we provide seamless plan integration and account coordination. Plus convenient online services that allow easy account management, and tools to make wise health care consumer decisions.
To learn more about the benefits of consumer-driven health plans, we invite you to contact MedBen Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.
The number of scarce drugs is still higher than anyone would like, but the situation has definitely improved since last year. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 42 new shortages have been reported so far this year, compared to 90 in the same period in 2011.
As Reuters notes, the FDA stepped up its efforts to combat shortages last year when 250 medicines were in short supply, up from 56 in 2006. Many of the shortages were for cancer drugs and other vital medications, leaving doctors to find more costly or less effective alternatives, or even postpone care.
The most recent FDA list states there are currently about 120 drugs regarded as being in short supply. And the scarcity of drugs like leucovorin, used in the treatment of childhood leukemia, or fentanyl, used in anesthesia, are still affecting patients. The FDA is working with companies to resolve the issue.
Earlier this year, the agency loosened its rules regarding foreign medicines to allow temporary importation of needed cancer drugs.
The Supreme Court may have already decided the fate of the Affordable Care Act – and to the surprise of many, there’s a halfway decent chance that the entire law could be thrown out. Which would suit many Republicans in Congress just fine.
But should health care reform go back to square one, what do GOPers suggest as an alternative? Not much of consensus there.
As POLITICO notes, Republicans haven’t collectively embraced a full-fledged replacement strategy for health care reform, instead agreeing on a few basic tenets of health policy. For example, most Republicans support the ACA requirement that insurance companies accept all applicants. Most, but not all.
“It’s a terrible idea,” Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) told POLITICO. He has offered a replacement plan that he said emphasizes voluntary coverage rather than requiring Americans to carry insurance.
Price has been pushing his plan since 2009, and as such, it has more traction than other health agendas. He proposes that Americans receive tax credits, based on income, to help them buy coverage. Groups could pool together to buy health care, and consumers could shop for insurance across state lines.
Of course, presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney also has an alternate plan in mind – one that relies more on state-level reforms and private competition than the existing law.
Jogging regularly can improve your life expectancy, a new long-term study suggests.
According to HealthDay, Danish researchers compared the mortality of joggers and non-joggers who took part in the population study of 20,000 people aged 20 to 93 that began in 1976. Included in that group were 1,878 joggers, who were asked about how fast and how often they jogged.
In the ensuing 35 years, 10,158 non-joggers died, compared to 122 joggers – a 44% drop in the risk of death for joggers. Male joggers extended their life by 6.2 years, and women by 5.6 years.
“We can say with certainty that regular jogging increases longevity,” Peter Schnohr, chief cardiologist of the Copenhagen City Heart Study, said in a news release from the European Society of Cardiology. “The good news is that you don’t actually need to do that much to reap the benefits.”
The researchers determined that simply jogging at a slow pace for one to two and a half hours weekly provided the most significant benefits. “You should aim to feel a little breathless, but not very breathless,” said Schnohr.
In 2007, MedBen launched a Worksite Wellness with a simple idea – detect and treat health risks as early as possible. Five years later, employers who have put the plan in place are seeing real results. At last week’s Wellness Conference, representatives from two MedBen clients talked about the success of their respective programs.
Yesterday, we highlighted Park National Corporation’s presentation. Today, we offer an overview of Fisher-Titus Medical Center’s approach to wellness.
Phil Annarino, Vice President of Human Resources at Fisher-Titus Medical Center‘, believes that hospitals not only have a vital interest in keeping their own employees healthy, they also should serve as the central coordination point for population health management. “Hospitals are best positioned to promote a message of community wellness and personal accountability for good health,” he said in his presentation.
By using Fisher-Titus’ company claims history, MedBen Worksite Wellness detected health patterns that would benefit from specialized nurse coaching. Employees and dependents who have been identified with high cholesterol, diabetes and other key conditions are contacted by home phone or letter for disease-specific education.
To encourage participation, Fisher-Titus pays for all required wellness tests at 100% when rendered through a participating provider. As a further inducement, employees who do not complete required tests by a specific date must pay a premium surcharge for the following plan year.
Like Park National, Fisher-Titus uses a variety of communication tools to keep employees in compliance, including bulletin boards, Intranet and the company newsletter. Employees also receive a Wellness Guidelines brochure, and are advised to use the MedBen Access website to check their wellness compliance status.
MedBen thanks Phil for providing his insights at the Wellness Conference. For additional information about MedBen Worksite Wellness, we invite you to call Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at (888) 627-8683.