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Health Insurance for Individuals

Archive for May, 2011

The Rise of Mail Order Has Pharmacists Ready for Battle

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Pharmacy

Pharmacists vs. Mail Order

A brutal war has begun between mail order companies and pharmacists over where people should be allowed to fill long-term prescriptions.

Local pharmacists in the state of New York are lobbying for a legislation that prevents health plans from demanding patients with chronic illnesses to have their prescriptions filled via mail order.

While a number of health plans changed to mail order delivery several years ago due to the fact that it was less expensive for consumers and employees alike. However, drugstores have been providing prices that are somewhat more competitive, which pushes lawmakers level the playing field, making sure people are still able to go to local pharmacies to have their prescriptions filled.

The projected legislation banning mandatory mail order programs was first introduced in late February in both state chambers. In addition, the legislation also prohibits health plans from requiring patients to pay more for their prescriptions if they decide to purchase them from a local drugstore.

The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York traveled to Albany in order to plead their case. The executive director, Craig M. Burridge said, “What we are asking is to make mail order an option, not mandatory.” He continued, “We are not opposed to mail order as a convenience to the patients. But right now, they don’t have a choice.”

The big organizations that are responsible for the management of prescription drug programs, pharmacy benefit managers, believe that mail order is so appealing because not only is it more convenient, but it is less expensive as well.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association represents these pharmacy benefit managers. The president Mark Merritt said, “There’s going to be use of more home delivery, not less.” He also said, “It saves money and is pretty popular with consumers.”
Creative Commons License photo credit: dno1967b

Hospital Restrictions on Free Care

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Free Health Care
The Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System could anticipate somewhere in the neighborhood of two hundred patients per month to apply for free care.

Then, in 2009, the number increased to  as many as three hundred patients per month.

The executives at Sarah Bush Lincoln decided to take a closer look and determined that there was a need to set some limits. Beginning in 2010, discounted and free care, with a few exceptions, was limited to patients within a seven-county region.

Craig Sheagren, the Vice President of Financial Services for Sarah Bush Lincoln said, “I will say this: It has not made much of a difference.”

Across the state of Illinois last year, financial aid requests at hospitals rose as jobs dwindled and insurance benefits shrank, leaving less people who are even able to pay for medical care at all.

Free Care Patients on the Rise

The Executive Vice President at the Illinois Hospital Association, Howard Peters said, “We’re hearing from hospitals that they’re having record numbers of people needing charity and record numbers of people on Medicaid.”

The organization released a report last year, revealing that more than one hundred hospitals in Illinois filing community benefit reports in 2008-09 combined dispensed more than $490 million in discounted and free healthcare, which was as much as $70 million more than a year prior.

In addition, those facilities also sustained almost $2.4 billion in uncompensated costs for patients who use health plans sponsored by the government for the elderly or disadvantaged, such as Medicare and Medicaid. This is $150 million more than the year before, with more than $1 billion in bad debt.

A major factor in the uncompensated costs is the rise in Medicaid patients, most of which are children. According to the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services in Illinois, Medicaid enrollment reached a record high of 2.6 million in 2010.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Fibonacci Blue

More Tylenol Recalls

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

The well-known company Johnson & Johnson has been rather busy with the recall of several popular over-the-counter medications. Recently, the company made the announcement that it would be recalling even more Tylenol products due to a problem with the labeling.

More Than 9 Million Bottles Recalled

The McNeil Consumer Healthcare Unit is recalling more than nine million bottles of tylenolTylenol recalls
three different types of Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom medications from pharmacies and other retailers across the country. The reason for the recall is that the labels on the front of the bottles do not show that the products contain a small amount of alcohol from the ingredients that are used to add flavor to the medication.

The presence of alcohol in the product is reflected on the back labels on the bottles as well as on the product boxes. According to the company, the amount of alcohol present in medicine is less than one percent.

The health of consumers is not threatened by the problem with the labels. There is no need to worry about returning the medicine to the manufacturer, nor should you stop usage of the products that you have already purchased. A spokesperson for the company said, “Consumers don’t need to take action and can continue to take the product.”

How Johnson & Johnson To Combat This

Even though, the health of consumers who have purchased or used the recalled products is not a concern this time, this most recent incident only adds to the continuing effects of the problems that have plagued the Johnson & Johnson company of late. The company is aware that many more actions like these are likely as they continue to work to bring their manufacturing standards up to compliance as regulators keep a watchful eye on them.

The products that have been recalled are the eight-ounce Tylenol Multi-Symptom Daytime Citrus Burst, Nighttime Cool Burst and Severe Day Cool Burst. These products were made for Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Unit by a contracted manufacture, which was not named by the company spokesperson.

Creative Commons License photo credit: susivinh

Digital Health Records and Insurance Reform

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Digital RecordsAll too often we go to the doctor when we do not feel well, only to have to provide the details of our health history again and again. Some patients have even taken to storing their health and drug information on smartphones for easy access. When patients come to the doctor for care, they do not want to have to tell their story over and over each time.

Patients long for the day when medical and insurance records will all be collected in one place, where they can be easily accessed with the time comes. It would make the lives of many people a great deal simpler and the odds of an error occurring would be incredibly diminished. With the way most health care offices currently handle patient records, it is easy for details to be entered, or reentered as in some cases, incorrectly into the computer or on paper charts.

Electronic Health Records Save the Day

Fortunately, that day is getting closer and closer. Government and industry are in the middle of a multimillion dollar spending spree on electronic medical records (by some reports, $20 billion from the federal government). Therefore, if it has not already taken place, it may not be long before your medical records become digitized.

Just how beneficial the move to digital medical records will help patients is not apparently clear. The effort to move the health care field into the age of digitization is not yet releasing nurses and doctors from their charting duties. In addition, the headaches from dealing with the old paper patient charts are becoming increasingly replaced by anxieties over new electronics. Instead of issues with illegible handwriting, medical professionals are now faced with incorrect clicks and incompatible software.

A hefty chunk of federal stimulus money for health reform, which was approved back in 2009, is being used to help fund the cost of the switch to electronic medical records.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Phil Roeder