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06/22/12

  11:29:29 am, by MedBen5   , 169 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

More Young People Developing High Blood Pressure

On the heels of news that childhood obesity has resulted in an increase in diabetes comes a study showing that the number of young people sent to the hospital for high blood pressure that nearly doubled during a recent 10-year period.

WebMD reports that hospital stays for Americans 18 and under due to high blood pressure spiked from 12,661 in 1997 to 24, 602 in 2006. And though hospital records usually don’t make a reference to the patient’s obesity, the researchers believe that the ongoing weight crisis is a key reason for this growth trend.

In an editorial published along with the study, Joshua Samuels, MD, of the University of Texas, noted that high blood pressure affects more children than higher-profile conditions like autism or epilepsy. The “significant increases in blood pressure are likely riding the wave of pediatric obesity that is spreading across America,” he wrote.

Samuels added that blood pressure in kids can cause damage to the heart and put them at higher risk for heart disease and stroke in their adult years.

06/21/12

  11:55:10 am, by MedBen5   , 193 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management

Partners Plan: Community Involvement Means Better Care, Better Cost

Real health care reform can only be accomplished by primary care providers and the local community. That’s the message from the new policy paper “Communities of Solution: The Folsom Report Revisited.”

According to Medical Xpress, the paper is a follow-up to the 1967 Folsom Report, which argued for a closer alliance between public health and primary care. “Now, nearly 50 years later, we’re calling for the same thing,” says Kim S. Griswold, MD, MPH, an author of the new report. “We need to inject – and maintain – the public ingredient in medical care.”

MedBen has worked with local communities, primary care providers and hospitals in the creation of Partners Community Health Plan. The plan allows providers to play an equal and integral role in the management of group health benefits, working with employers to control costs both today and in the long term.

Partners offers the full scope of services available from community providers, and combines high-quality, lower-cost health care with wellness discounts from local merchants and the cost containment expertise of MedBen.

For additional information, visit the Partners website or contact MedBen Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

  11:26:53 am, by MedBen5   , 186 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription

Movie Tie-In To Children's Drug Raises Concerns

A bit of Marketing 101: Proceed extra-cautiously when promoting children’s medicines.

According to The New York Times, the drug company Merck is catching flack because of a marketing campaign for Children’s Claritin using animated characters from the movie “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.” The Public Health Advocacy Institute and 10 other groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, calling the promotion for the allergy drug dangerous and deceptive.

Among the campaign components the group objected to: character stickers included in some boxes; activity books that parents can download for their children; and the enlistment of a team of mothers who blog to hold Claritin-themed “Madagascar” viewing parties for their children and friends.

The group also expressed concern that children could confuse the grape-flavored Claritin tablets and syrup for candy, as the same character are used to promote other children’s products, such as candy and gummy snacks.

Kelley Dougherty, a Merck spokeswoman, said the company was reviewing the matter, but added, “We advertised in appropriate venues to reach those parents of children who may benefit from the use of Claritin, and not to the children themselves.”

  10:55:47 am, by MedBen5   , 149 words,  
Categories: Announcements

Court Will Overturn Individual Mandate, Legal Insiders Say

The Supreme Court will strike down the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act, says a survey of legal experts.

USA Today reports that research group Purple Insights asked 56 insiders – 38 former clerks of current Supreme Court justices and 18 attorneys who have argued before the Court – how the Court would vote on the requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. The survey found that oral arguments persuaded the majority of respondents that the justices will kill the mandate.

“In March, our experts believed that likelihood (of an overturn) stood at 35%,” said a memo from Doug Usher of Purple Insights. “After hearing the oral arguments and the justices’ questioning, our experts now place that probability at 57%.”

The survey conclusions also note that “[i]f the mandate is struck down, respondents are more likely to believe other parts of the law will go with it.”

  10:32:36 am, by MedBen5   , 166 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

AMA Says Soda Tax Would Help Reduce Obesity

Reuters reports that the American Medical Association has recommended that government on local, state or federal levels consider imposing a soda tax to aid in the fight against obesity. The physician’s group stopped short of an outright endorsement of such a tax, however.

The AMA stated that sugar-sweetened drinks account for almost half of Americans’ added sugar intake, and reducing their consumption would go a long way in lowering the intake of sugar and empty calories.

While recognizing that obesity is caused by many factors, the AMA noted that several studies have demonstrated a link to increased body weight, as well as a rise in type 2 diabetes and other health conditions. A tax on sugary beverages, the group said, would help pay for education campaigns and other obesity-related programs.

Raising taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks to a penny per ounce could potentially lower obesity rates by 5% and cut medical costs by $157 billion within a decade, the AMA Council on Science and Public Health said in its report.

06/20/12

  02:30:31 pm, by MedBen5   , 235 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

MedBen Claims Accuracy Exceeds The Norm

Medical claims payment accuracy by U.S health insurers has improved in 2012 compared to last year, according to the American Medical Association.

The AMA’s National Health Insurer Report Card, which uses data from several larger insurers, says that 9.5% of claims were incorrectly processed in the beginning of this year, compared to 19% in 2012. That improvement represents about $8 billion in savings from additional administrative work to correct errors, the report adds.

The Chicago Sun-Times notes that the AMA considers a claim inaccurate based on whether the physician got paid what they were expected to, so its criteria for accuracy differs somewhat from insurers. Still, insurers have take measures to boost effectiveness, says Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans.

At MedBen, we’re all about exceeding expectations. That’s why every aspect of our claims processing operations, from transmission to payment, strictly follows established company standards to ensure efficiency, accuracy and security.

Independent CPAs review every procedure related to MedBen’s claims operating system, and have repeatedly reported no findings in annual SAS 70 audits. In addition, internal staff members review 5% of each examiner’s claims every day – a level unmatched by other health benefit managers.

The results of this attention to detail? Procedural accuracy of 97% in claims processing last year – and financial accuracy of 99%.

For additional information about MedBen’s claims accuracy measures, contact Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

  01:04:17 pm, by MedBen5   , 227 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription

Prescriptions For Young People Decline, Though Some Drugs Go Up

The number of prescriptions dispensed for children and teenagers fell from 2002 to 2010 – but prescriptions for some individual medications saw big increases, WebMD reports.

Overall, doctors wrote 7% fewer prescriptions for children and teens during that period, based on the results of a new study from the U.S. Public Health Service. Among the larger decreases were allergy medicines (a 61% decline in 2010 compared to 2002) and cough and cold medicines without expectorant (down 42%). Both antibiotic and pain medicine prescription both dropped 14%.

Conversely, some prescriptions for younger people went way up, such as contraceptives (a 93% spike), ADHD drugs (up 46%) and asthma drugs (up 14%).

The executive vice president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices is pleased by the falling rate of antibiotic prescriptions. “For the last decade, the pediatric professional societies and infection control groups have been pushing to say, ‘Every time you have the sniffles or a cold, you don’t need an antibiotic,’” Allen Vaida, PharmD told WebMD. He was not involved in the study.

As for the rise in ADHD prescriptions, Donna Halloran, MD, MSPH, of St. Louis University noted that it could be good news – “there are so many kids who respond so beautifully to the medicines,” she said to WebMD – or bad, “because there is plenty of evidence out there that there are plenty of kids labeled as ADHD and it’s not accurate.”

  10:53:00 am, by MedBen5   , 297 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

With Decision Days Away, Health Reform Chatter Grows

With the Supreme Court decision on the fate of the Affordable Care Act expected in just a few days, speculation and commentary is currently running rampant on Internet news sights. Here’s a quick sampling:

Self-Interest Meets Mandate (New York Times): “Advocates of health care reform argue that eliminating the [individual] mandate could gut the president’s plan. Most health economists would probably agree.

“But this consensus is based on a fairly optimistic view that the individual mandate and accompanying fines for failing to comply will be highly effective at persuading Americans to buy health insurance that they would otherwise forgo. On that score, the mandate might matter less than its advocates believe.”

Getting past healthcare’s individual mandate (Los Angeles Times): “[W]hat many Americans don’t realize is that the individual mandate would affect fewer than 2 of every 100 people, according to the best estimates. When all is said and done, a few Americans might still refuse to buy insurance – and nothing much will happen to them […] The mandate brouhaha is truly much ado about almost nothing.”

Regardless Of High Court, No Return To Old Days For Parts Of Health System (NPR): “Efforts to stop paying doctors for procedures and start rewarding them for keeping people healthy began even before the 2010 law. The act’s so-called accountable care organizations of Medicare providers, designed to deliver better health for less money, inspired similar attempts involving commercial insurers and hospitals. Such enterprises will continue even if the court whacks the entire ACA, many argue.”

Poll: Vast support for new health care effort (Associated Press): “Americans overwhelmingly want the president and Congress to get to work on a new bill to change the health care system if the Supreme Court strikes down President Barack Obama’s 2010 overhaul as unconstitutional, a new poll finds.”

  10:11:14 am, by MedBen5   , 145 words,  
Categories: Wellness

Stay Sun-Safe This Summer

Happy first day of summer! Here in the Midwest, the season has come in full force, with temperatures expect to exceed 90 degrees.

Chances are, you’ll want to spend some time outside enjoying the warm weather. But when you do, remember to apply sunscreen in order to avoid the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these guidelines (via HealthDay News):

  • Lather your skin with sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go outside, and always reapply after you swim or sweat heavily.
  • If you spend a lot of time outdoors, reapply sunscreen several times throughout the day.
  • Thoroughly shake the bottle before applying.
  • Apply a thick, thorough layer of sunscreen, and don’t scrimp.
  • Don’t forget to use sunscreen on your ears, shoulders, back and the backs of your knees and legs.
  • Don’t get sunscreen in your eyes.

06/19/12

  01:07:41 pm, by MedBen5   , 184 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Wellness

Painkiller Restrictions Dropped From Congressional Bill

The New York Times reports that pharmacy and drugstore representatives have successfully lobbied against efforts to impose stricter controls on painkillers and other commonly abused prescription drugs.

The new restrictions, had they been passed by Congress, would have required patients to seek new prescriptions for refills of Vicodin and other hydrocone products, required a higher level of security for the storage and transportation of the drugs, and increased penalties for misuse.

Though the Senate approved the controls as part of a bill reauthorizing user fees for the Food and Drug Administration, the House of Representatives didn’t include a similar provision in their legislation. Negotiators from both houses reached a bipartisian agreement on the overall bill, omitting the restrictions.

Senator Joe Manchin III (D.-WV), who led the push for new controls, said in an interview that chain pharmacies and drugstores should rethink their business model in regard to painkillers. “These are legal drugs needed by some people. But they can also be addictive. They are so readily accessible, so easy to obtain, that they are ravaging society and ending many young lives,” he said.

  12:18:42 pm, by MedBen5   , 178 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Obesity Exhausting Global Resources, Researchers Caution

Here’s a rather unsettling fact: Scientists have deduced that that global effect of overweight and obese people is like adding half a billion to the 7 billion humans on the Earth.

Using data from the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), British researchers estimated that the cumulative weight of every adult human on this planet is 287 million tons – 15 million of which is due to overweight, and 3.5 million to obesity.

A Medical News Today article on the study notes that “[a]round half the food a human being eats is burned up in physical activity. But the more mass a person has, the more energy he or she needs for the same amount of physical activity, because it takes more energy to move a heavier body. Even when not moving, a heavier body burns more energy.”

The additional resources required to generate this additional energy threatens food security and ecological sustainability, the researchers warned.

The study also determined that North America is responsible for 34% of global obesity, even though it holds only 6% of the world’s population.

06/18/12

  10:51:26 am, by MedBen5   , 231 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management

CDC Says Health Reform Will Increase Preventive Care Use

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Affordable Care Act has increased accessibility to preventive care, HealthDay reports (via Medical Xpress).

Prior to the passage of the health care reform law, CDC says that only about half of U.S. adults received screenings, consultations, prescriptions and other preventive health services, based on an analysis of national data from 2007 to 2010.

Because the agency only reviewed information through the first year the law was in effect, it didn’t offer evidence that more people were taking advantage of great preventive care availability. But it estimated that increased use could save tens of thousands of lives.

Among the findings:

  • Only 47% of patients with heart disease primarily affecting the blood vessels were prescribed the recommended daily use of aspirin.
  • Only 44% of patients with high blood pressure had it under control.
  • About 33% of men and 25% of women didn’t get a cholesterol screening during the previous five years, and only 32% of men and women with high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol had it under control.

“Clinical preventive services prevent heart attack, stroke, cancer and other diseases and save lives,” CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in an agency news release. “This report provides a snapshot of preventive services for U.S. adults before 2010. As we look to the future, we can track how our nation’s health is progressing through better prevention in health care.”

  10:27:25 am, by MedBen5   , 143 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Wellness

Older People More Likely To Ignore Rx Warning Labels, Study Says

The older a person is, the less likely he or she is to read the warning labels on pill bottles, researchers have found.

MedPage Today reports that a study of medication vial reading tendencies determined that only 54% of older participants (ages 51 to 77) concentrated on the prescription warning labels, compared with 91.8% of the younger group (ages 20 to 29).

Laura Bix, PhD, of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and colleagues say that based on the results, many older patients fail to grasp the information on the warning label and act on it – an even greater danger considering that it’s common for that group to take multiple medications. By paying less attention, they put themselves at higher risk for adverse drug events.

The researchers also observed that the color of the warning label had no effect on the probability that participants would notice it.

  10:08:54 am, by MedBen5   , 203 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Daily Breakfast Helps Weight, Reduces Diabetes Risk

A new study demonstrates once again that breakfast may be the most important meal of the day. WebMD reports that researchers found that people who start each day with a healthy meal are less likely to have weight issues or develop diabetes.

The multi-decade study monitored the health of over 5,000 men and women, none of whom had type 2 diabetes at the start of the study. The researchers noted that, compared to people who ate breakfast three or fewer times a week, people who ate breakfast daily were:

  • 34% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes
  • 43% less likely to become obese
  • 40% less likely to develop fat around the tummy (abdominal obesity)

The chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association agrees a sensible breakfast is good advice, but not to read too much into the findings. “Having regular eating habits with three balanced meals is probably better than random eating, which may lead to weight gain and dangerously high or low blood sugar,” Ratner told WebMD. “But scientifically, the study does not offer proof.”

Ratner, who was not involved with the study, suggested that people who eat three meals a day may make healthier lifestyle choices to begin with, which could explain the association.

06/15/12

  11:25:52 am, by MedBen5   , 642 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

Event Timeline for SBC Distribution Requirements

We have previously discussed on this blog the new Summary of Coverage and Benefits (SBC) that are required to be furnished by all health plans after September 21, 2012, either in time for distribution with their materials for their next open enrollment, or 30 days prior to the beginning of their next plan year, whichever is first. What you may not be aware of is that there are additional distribution requirements for these SBCs that could affect how you handle future plan changes.

In addition to the initial distribution requirement listed above, a plan is also required to distribute new SBCs to their eligible plan members in accordance with the following chart:

SBC Timeline

The SBC must be provided to all persons covered under the plan, but one copy sent to the employee’s address is sufficient for all family members residing at that address.

Full story »

  11:03:57 am, by MedBen5   , 255 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Wellness

Fish Oil Research Roundup

With all the fish oil studies popping up on Internet news sites, one can’t help but wonder if researchers are purposely working 24/7 until every last bit of information about its effects has been gleaned. In the past couple days alone, we’ve stumbled across these articles – none of them particularly positive about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (the type found in fish oil):

Fish oil supplements may not prevent mental decline (Reuters): Taking daily omega-3 fatty acid supplements doesn’t seem to provide any protection against declines in thinking and memory skills in older adults, a new review of medical evidence suggests. Researchers theorized that because the brain is rich in the type of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil, adding more could boost memory – but trials have been disappointing.

Fish oil won’t save diabetics’ hearts, research suggests (HealthDay): People with type 2 diabetes who take omega-3 fatty acid supplements are neither helping nor harming their heart, a new study finds. Researcher Dr. Hertzel Gerstein speculated that diabetics may react differently to these supplements, or their risk of cardiovascular disease is so severe that a higher dose of the supplement would be needed to see an effect.

Fish oil no help for heart patients’ depression (Reuters): A new clinical trial has found that fish oil pills and B vitamins don’t appear to help ward off depression symptoms in people with a history of heart attack or stroke. In fact, men who were randomly assigned to take fish oil actually displayed increased signs of depression.

  10:38:09 am, by MedBen5   , 213 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management

Employers Concerned About Behavioral Health Costs

The unpredictable – and often prolonged – aspects of depression, stress and other types of behavioral health make insuring patients a unique challenge. Add the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act to the mix, and employers are understandly concerned about its affect on health plan costs.

The Disability Management Employer Coalition recently surveyed small, mid-sized and large companies about behavioral health coverage in the workplace. Employee Benefit News reports on the group’s findings:

“The survey found that direct costs of mental health care represent around 6% of overall health care costs and nearly 30% of young adults (those aged 18 to 25) were estimated to have had a diagnosable disorder, which is more than any other age group. The estimates for adults between the ages of 26 and 49, and those 50 and over, were 22.1% and 14.3%, respectively.

“Overall, 11.4 million U.S. adults – about 5% of the adult population – have a disorder that greatly impairs their ability to function in daily life. According to the DMEC survey, 47.7% of respondents believe behavioral risk is an important emerging area of concern. Forty percent include a behavioral component in their integrated or coordinated disability/absence management program.”

The majority of respondents also expressed reluctance to add or develop behavioral health programs given rising costs and the undetermined fate of health care reform.

  09:59:30 am, by MedBen5   , 302 words,  
Categories: News

Celebrate Men's Health Week In Style

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. And Happy Men’s Health Week, too.

Haven’t heard of the latter? Created by Congress in 1994 to promote male health, it occurs every year on the week leading up to and including Father’s Day. So while you dads are taking well-deserved kudos, also take some time to think about your diet, exercise and overall health. (Non-dads are welcome to do this, too.)

Harvard Health Blog offers five tips for celebrating Men’s Health Week, which we summarize below:

  1. Get moving. Can you walk at a brisk pace for two miles? If so, you have a level of fitness sufficient to lower your chances of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease. If not, you can get there by putting one foot in front of the other, and going a bit further each day.
  2. Get checked for colorectal cancer. If you are age 50 or older and have not been screened for colorectal cancer, you should. Of the various cancer screenings available to men, this one is the best deal because it can prevent, not just diagnose, cancer.
  3. Know your blood pressure. If you don’t know your blood pressure, get it checked — and do whatever you have to do to keep it in a healthy range (less than 120 over 80).
  4. Cut back on sodium in your diet. The average American man can easily take in six grams of sodium a day – more than twice the recommended level. To reduce sodium intake, cut down on processed and pre-packaged food, and cook some fresh meals during the week that include a vegetable.
  5. Don’t ignore the warning signs. If you experience an unusual pain, ache, or other possible warning sign or symptom, don’t brush it off—as men are prone to do—as “probably nothing.”

06/14/12

  12:49:09 pm, by MedBen5   , 203 words,  
Categories: Announcements

Health Care Spending Will Jump In 2014, Fed Forecast Says

If federal projections are to be believed, the slowdown in the growth of health care spending won’t last too much longer.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has forecasted that growth will stay low for two more years, but would increase if most of the Affordable Care Act takes effect in 2014. After that, the rate would drop, but remain at a higher level than that of the past several years.

From the WSJ article: “National health-care spending growth was 3.8% in 2009, the smallest increase on record, and was followed by a similar 3.9% in 2010. Economists in the new report projected similar rises averaging 4% annually for 2011, 2012 and 2013. (Actual 2011 spending hasn’t yet been calculated.)

“Spending would jump 7.4% in 2014 when the health-care law is scheduled to be fully implemented […] Spending growth would slow again starting in 2015 and average 6.2% each year through 2021, the analysts said.”

With the future of health care so uncertain, more than ever it pays to have a knowledgeable benefits management partner. MedBen uses a variety of plan design and cost containment methods to help your business save money, regardless of national spending trends. To learn more, contact Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

  12:01:14 pm, by MedBen5   , 186 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Childhood Obesity Epidemic Has Led To Increase In Diabetes

Among the many disturbing aspects of the rising obesity crisis in this country is that more children suffer from weight issues, and the health problems that result from them. Now, researchers say that the number of kids with diabetes has jumped over 20% for both type 1 and type 2 diseases.

According to HealthDay News, the more common type 2 diabetes is linked to excessive weight and sedentary lifestyles – so it’s not surprising that with 17% of U.S. children and teens obese, disease numbers have spiked 21%. But the reasons for the 23% growth of type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease not linked to lifestyle factors, are less clear.

“For type 2, we have some clues as to why it’s increasing, but for type 1, we still need to better understand the triggers of this disease,” said study co-author Dr. Dana Dabelea, associate dean for faculty affairs at the University of Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora.

To reduce the risk of developing diabetes and other chronic conditions, Dabelea recommended a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and an active lifestyle, not just for the children, but for the whole family.

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