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Chattanooga City Council changes course on health plan

Confronted by a packed room full of upset city retirees, the Chattanooga City Council on Tuesday appeared ready to back off a switch in health insurers for 2018 and stay with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

Last week a group of retirees hammered the switch to United Healthcare, saying they’d been told they might have to switch their longtime doctors or lose access to specialty care at the Chattanooga Heart Institute.
At a planning meeting Tuesday, city Human Resources Director Tina Camba said United Healthcare would not cover services from the heart institute. A late resolution was added to the Tuesday night voting agenda to extend the contract with BlueCross for the coming year.

This is a developing story. Stay with the Times Free Press for updates.

Health dept. fires accountability director

OKLAHOMA CITY — Board members with the health department voted to fire the agency’s director of accountability.

In a closed door executive session, members decided they would terminate Jay Holland, who currently serves as the director of the Office of Accountability Systems.

The office is tasked to receive and fairly investigate complaints or information from Oklahoma State Department of Health employees and other members of the public concerning any possible violations of laws or rules regarding OSDH.

“This position was created out of the previous scandal that involved the department of health,” said acting commissioner Preston Doerflinger. “This board needs to have very good information directly from the reports in those areas and that will happen with the CFO, that will happen with other parts of the agency and it definitely will happen with this role.”

The board did name an acting interim director for the office, but we are told that process is underway.

Clark County School employees sue Teachers Health Trust – Las Vegas Review

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The embattled Teachers Health Trust, which provides health insurance for thousands of Clark County School District employees and their dependents, faces a new legal challenge.

District employees on Tuesday filed a class-action lawsuit alleging breach of contract, consumer fraud and other actions that they say has resulted in employees paying more for their health care and receiving less.

The lawsuit, filed in state District Court in Las Vegas, names both the trust, its seven trustees and WellHealth Quality Care, which manages the trust’s network of doctors, as defendants. It claims that WellHealth violated its contract with the trust by refusing to pay claims, charging a $20 co-pay that was higher than the $10 cap, and leaving teachers with higher yearly out-of-pocket expense than the $6,800 cap that was promised.

“They were paying insurance premiums for something they didn’t ultimately get,” said Mitchell Bisson, one of two attorneys representing the employees. “They were supposed to get product A, they got product Z — if any product at all.”

In some cases, employees were sued over unpaid medical bills or were refused medical treatment, the lawsuit states.

But the lawsuit also lays blame on the trust and its Board of Trustees, claiming that they turned a “blind eye” to the “gross mismanagement and ineptitude” of WellHealth.

“The problems with WellHealth were well known to the Teachers Health Trust, and to its individual trustees, yet nothing was done,” the lawsuit states. “It is estimated that there may be as many as 30,000 union members who, like plaintiffs, paid health insurance premiums to WellHealth but did not receive the promised health care.”

The trust’s chief operating officer, Kim Phillips, said in an email that the trust had no comment. WellHealth did not immediately return a request for comment.

The lawsuit is the latest blow to the trust, which also faces a whistle-blowing legal challenge from members of its former executive board.

The former trust employees — CEO Gary Earl, Chief Operating Officer Felipe Danglapin, Director of Operations Philip DiGiacomo, and executive assistant Michael Ielpi — claim that the trust breached its fiduciary duty by entering into no-bid contracts that hiked its administrative costs from WellHealth and other providers.

The former employees say they witnessed a series of questionable financial decisions by trust managers and alleged that Earl was rebuked when he questioned a proposal to build four clinics that would cost over $1 million each.

The former employees last summer had plans to sue the trust and John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association. But the trust struck first, filing a lawsuit against the plaintiffs that accused them of releasing confidential information to the district and making unauthorized purchases on trust credit cards.

The trust also is locked in battle with the Clark County School District, which filed an unfair labor practice complaint over lack of access to financial information required for contract negotiations, where health care is likely a contentious point.

Teachers have lobbied the district for higher insurance contributions, but the School Board has lost faith in the trust’s financial capabilities. Its proposal to switch to UnitedHealthcare insurance instead, however, has also been met with strong resistance by educators.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

EU health and food safety experts warn of stubborn salmonella

There were 94,530 human cases of salmonellosis reported in the EU in 2016.


The number of salmonella food poisoning cases in the European Union has risen by 3 percent since 2014 in a “worrying” reversal of a decade-long declining trend, EU health and food safety officials said on Tuesday.

Salmonella bacteria was the most common cause of food-borne illness in 2016, accounting for 22.3 percent of outbreaks, compared with 11.5 percent in 2015, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said in a report.

There were 94,530 human cases of salmonellosis reported in the EU in 2016, it said. Salmonella enteritidis, the most common type and one mostly linked with eating eggs and poultry, accounted for 59 percent of cases originating in the EU.


“The increase shown by our surveillance data is worrying and a reminder that we have to stay vigilant,” said the ECDC’s chief scientist, Mike Catchpole.

Salmonella food poisoning can cause diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps and vomiting. These symptoms typically come between one and three days after infection and last four to seven days. More severe cases can cause death. A total of 1,766 people were admitted to hospital with salmonella in 2016 and there were 10 salmonella deaths.

The EFSA and ECDC report, which looked at outbreaks of food-borne disease in the EU, said that overall outbreak numbers were broadly stable, with 4,786 food-borne outbreaks in 2016 compared with 4,362 in 2015.

Campylobacter, common in chicken meat, caused a high number of infections, though fatalities were low, the report said.

Listeria infections, which are generally more severe, led to hospitalization in 97 percent of reported cases. Listeriosis killed 247 people in the EU last year.

Holiday gift guide 2017: Health & Fitness

Holiday gift guide 2017: Health Fitness

Whether you have a fitness enthusiast, a nutritionist wannabe or a yoga guru on your shopping list, everyone can use the gift of good health. Here are 5 health-inspired gifts ideas.

Whether you have a fitness enthusiast, a nutritionist wannabe or a yoga guru on your shopping list, everyone can use the gift of good health.

Here are 5 health-inspired gifts ideas:

1. 8K Flexwarm Jacket

For your favorite hiker or outdoor enthusiast, pick up a jacket that is guaranteed to keep them warm.

8K Flexwarm jackets are heated apparel designed to let you adjust the heat inside the jacket from a smartphone app. The brand offers jackets and vests with a printable heating technology that provides three different heat zones and heat levels. With a push of a button the interior can heat up as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit in as little as six minutes.

The jackets are powered by a battery pack so users can stay warm for up to 6 hours.

Price: $228, available at 


2. Fitbit Iconic

If you’re shopping for someone who wants to upgrade their fitness tracker or find one that’s a little “smarter,” consider Fitbit Iconic.

The Iconic is Fitbit’s first smartwatch and latest release. It comes with a number of new features like personal workouts you can follow right on your wrist. In its personal coach feature, you can watch sequences that guide you through a 7-minute HITT (high-intensity interval training) type workout, a 10-minute ab series and chest exercises. Plus it includes complete waterproof swim tracking and on board music to keep you motivated.

The built-in GPS has been updated in the Iconic so you can see real-time pace and distance data, as well as elevations.

Another major improvement is their sensor technology. The watch uses a Sp02 sensor that can estimate blood oxygen levels, which could help track important health insights like sleep apnea.

Price: $299.95, available at


3. Upstep Insoles

Finding the perfect-fitting sneaker is not always easy, but a new service called UpStep makes insoles custom designed for all your daily activities and sports.

To give you or your loved ones the perfect fit, the company sends a footprint kit and questionnaire so you can note what activities and injuries you’re working with. Once you send back your impression, UpStep’s podiatrists designs an insole specifically to your feet and needs, which the company says will help you perform at your best and reduce your risk of injury.

Price: $260, available at


4. Halo Sport

If you have a hardcore workout fanatic on your list, take a look at Halo Sport. They’re headphones that stimulate specific learning areas of your brain to optimize your athleticism.

The process is called neuropriming, and it works by putting the brain’s motor cortex in a temporary state of hyperplasticity, or hyperlearning. The company says when you wear them during a workout, it improves neuromuscular output which can lead to more precise, coordinated, and explosive movement.

In one case study, collegiate athletes who combined halo sport with training improved leg strength by 12 percent in two weeks.

Price: $599, available at


5. Moov HR Sweat

One of the new must have fitness accessories this year is your own personalized fitness coach. Moov HR is a wearable with AI-powered voice coaching that pushes you through high intensity workouts based on heart rate so you burn more calories in less time.

Unlike other heart monitors, Moov HR uses LED lights and optical sensors to measure blood density around the temples to give you the most accurate heart rate data. 

It can be worn as a sweatband or swim cap (Moov HR Swim) and works with Moov’s personal coach app to give you move-by-move voice coaching in running, cycling and bodyweight circuit programs. The device also tracks and analyzes your performance during and after your workout so you can see you calorie burn, plateaus and progress.

Price: $99.95, available at  


Prison Sentences Shouldn’t Be Death Sentences: How To Fix Correctional Health Care

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Health Notes: UF Health Jacksonville is among 89 hospitals involved in a national improvement collaborative for … – Florida Times

UF Health Jacksonville is among 89 hospitals involved in a national improvement collaborative for children seen in the emergency room or hospitalized with asthma. Asthma affects nearly 10 percent of American children and is a leading cause of pediatric emergency visits and hospitalizations.

Jennifer Fishe, associate medical director of the pediatric emergency department at UF Health Jacksonville, is leading the Pathways for Improving Pediatric Asthma Care initiative at UF Health Jacksonville, the only hospital in Florida participating in the program.

The project will provide resources that will help health care providers select and provide appropriate medications, choose appropriate tests and effectively counsel families. It will also offer continuing medical education and American Board of Pediatrics Maintenance of Certification credits to physicians who meet qualifying criteria.


The deadline to sign up for 2018 health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is Friday. It is six weeks earlier than last year.

The Florida Blue Centers at St. Johns Town Center and River City Marketplace will be open for people to sign up for coverage 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday. Florida Blue’s office inside the Winston Family YMCA, 221 Riverside Ave., is also enrolling people. Those hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday. People do not need to be members to enter.

Florida Blue recommends making an appointment online at to shorten wait time. People wishing to sign up for coverage should bring their last income tax return, a photo ID and a current insurance card if they have one.


Mayo Clinic is the first medical center in Northeast Florida to achieve recognition and accreditation for critical neurological clinical services such as administering electroencephalograms, which record brain cell communications, among other laboratory and monitoring techniques. The American Board of Registration of Electroencephalographic and Evoked Potential Technologists awarded the certification, which is based on stringent review of the technical quality of EEGs and laboratory policies and procedures.


Stereotactic radiosurgery has emerged as a standard of care in human oncology over the last few decades, but has only recently become available in veterinary medicine. Less than 20 specialty centers across the country possess the technology and clinical expertise to provide it for pets. That list now includes Southeast Veterinary Oncology and Internal Medicine, which has an office at 204 Corporate Way in Orange Park. The upgrade was made possible by a partnership with national cancer care provider PetCure Oncology, an industry leader in radiation oncology for pets.

Picture of Health: Can AI Eye Scan Reveal What Ails You?

The light-sensitive layer found at the back of a person’s eyes contains more than just cells that detect shadows and light — it also contains information about the health of a person’s entire body. And now, artificial intelligence can glean this information from a single snapshot, new research suggests.

The new AI algorithm, which analyzes images of this light-sensitive layer of the eye, called the retina, could one day provide on the spot diagnoses of various ailments from diabetes to autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, the researchers claim.

The AI algorithm was presented by Dr. Ursula Schmidt-Erfurth, the director of the ophthalmology department at the Medical University of Vienna, earlier this month at a scientific meeting in Vienna. Research on the algorithm was published Dec. 8 in the journal Ophthalmology.

Schmidt-Erfurth’s research focuses on using AI to detect signs of various diseases in the images of the retina. [‘Eye’ Can’t Look: 9 Eyeball Injuries That Will Make You Squirm]

“From a simple color photo of the retina, you can tell how old the person is, what gender are they, what is their smoking history, their blood sugar level and blood pressure,” Schmidt-Erfurth said. “But we can also use an image from an optical coherence tomography scanner and that gives us much more detail.”

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a technique commonly used in ophthalmology that takes 3D images of the retina and allows the doctor to examine in detail what is happening in each layer of the light-sensitive tissue. Artificial intelligence, however, can do this much more precisely and much faster, Schmidt-Erfurth told Live Science.

In the presentation, Schmidt-Erfurth showed how such an AI algorithm could accurately spot signs of diabetes in the retina. Patients with diabetes frequently develop a condition called macular edema, which is essentially accumulation of fluid in the macula, a layer of the retina responsible for sharp central vision. If left untreated, the macular edema can cause permanent damage and vision loss.

“The algorithm gives you precise information about how much fluid is there, which the image by itself does not provide,” Schmidt-Erfurth said. Doctors could assess how well macular edema treatments are working by looking at these fluid levels — a decrease in fluid over time would show that the treatment is effective, she added.

The same algorithm could also detect the earliest signs of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and even predict how the disease will progress, Schmidt-Erfurth said.

ARMD is the most common cause of vision impairment in elderly people, according to Schmidt-Erfuhrt. About 60 percent of people older than 50 years show early symptoms, Schmidt-Erfurth said. However, only 15 percent of these cases eventually progress to the advanced stages of the disease. Similar to the diabetes-related macular edema, ARMD leads to a blurring of central vision. The person gradually stops being able to distinguish details and may even struggle to recognize faces.

“With this technology, we can predict the risk” of a person progressing to more serious stages, Schmidt-Erfurth said. “By training the algorithm on large data sets of previous patients, we can identify patients that are at risk to develop the disease in comparison to other patients, which will never develop the advanced disease.”

The high-risk individuals would then receive early treatment, which could potentially help them maintain their eyesight into old age.

The biggest advantage of the technology, Schmidt-Erfurth said, is the fact that it doesn’t require a specialist to interpret the results.

“Artificial intelligence will make therapy available to millions of people who until now are not diagnosed,” she said. “It’s very easy, you don’t even need to go to see an eye doctor.”

Schmidt-Erfurth’s earlier technology is already approved for commercial use in Europe and has been deployed in five hospitals across the continent. It uses AI to detect signs of diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which the blood vessels in the retina break down, from 2D color photographs of the eye.

Originally published on Live Science.

No insurance required at Junction City health clinic

Patients pay a monthly fee for Direct Primary Care at UnityPoint Health-Junction Medical

PEORIA — A new model of primary healthcare which skips the insurance company and provides unlimited doctor’s visits for a monthly fee is now available in Peoria.

Dr. Anton Grasch has been providing Direct Primary Care at UnityPoint Health – Junction Medical in the Junction City Shopping Center for about a year and a half. Also at the clinic is Dr. Mike Jongerius, who is in the process of transitioning his patients into the model.

Grasch, who first learned about Direct Primary Care in 2013 while doing his residency with UnityPoint Health, is enjoying the freedom the new model brings to patient interactions. He can now talk to patients about anything without having to figure out how to code it for the insurance company.

“It was always a problem, how to code and bill for a conversation about diet,” said Grasch. The new model also allows him to come up with innovative ways to improve his patients’ health.

“I’m hoping to eventually do things like cooking classes and yoga with patients,” he said.

Direct Primary Care also allows Grasch to talk for as long as necessary — appointment times are not limited — and even consult with patients over the phone or video chat on the computer.

“I can call and talk straight to my doctor and I don’t have to come into the office,” said Rachel Amsbaugh, 32, of Washington, one of Grasch’s patients. “For some things, like a twisted ankle, I can describe fairly well what hurts and where it hurts, and I can get advice without having to go in. Having that relationship with my doctor is very beneficial.”

Patients can even call the doctor in the middle of the night, though Grasch said that doesn’t happen much. Just knowing they can leave a message and then see the doctor first thing in the morning is enough for most non-emergency situations, he said. Being able to reach the doctor at any time helps reduce expensive emergency room visits.

“My five-year-old jumped off a diving board and landed on my sternum, and I thought I broke my sternum,” said Amsbaugh. “It was on the weekend, so I called the office and left a message. The next morning Dr. Garsch ordered an x-ray for me, and it turned out I was fine.”

A growing trend across the country, Direct Primary Care was started by independent physicians frustrated by the limitations of working with the traditional insurance billing system. UnityPoint Health might be the first healthcare corporation to offer the model, said Blake Long, UnityPoint’s Marketing Communications Manager.

“We’ve done some research and haven’t found any others doing it,” he said.

Participants in the UnityPoint plan pay according to their age, ranging from $59 a month for patients 17 years and younger, to $89 a month for patients over 65. The monthly fee includes an array of routine tests and procedures, including EKG, urinalysis, joint injections, and rapid strep screening. While insurance is not required for patients to sign up for the program, it is encouraged to pay for things not covered under the plan, including hospitalizations and visits to a specialist.

UnityPoint Health is currently talking to several area employers interested in including Direct Primary Care in their health insurance program, said Long.

“There are some studies which suggest that Direct Primary Care leads to healthier employees,” he said. Healthy employees are more productive and cost less. Another plus is that employees miss less work if they can consult with their doctor over the phone.

Amsbaugh has been seeing Dr. Grasch for about a year and she is very happy with the Direct Primary Care plan.

“It’s just nice to be able to have someone there when you need it. If something does go down in the middle of the night and and you need your doctor, you will be able to get your doctor, not someone who doesn’t know you. That continuity of care is something other types of health plans don’t give you.”

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or Follow her on, and subscribe to her on



Oregon just average on health, report says

(Above: Despite the hikers and climbers who flock to Mount Hood and the state’s other outdoor enthusiasts, Oregon is average in an overall health rankings.)





The health of Oregonians remains in the middle of the pack among states, pulled down by low rates of immunization and high school graduation, but boosted by physical activity and fewer drug deaths, according to an annual report.


America’s Health Rankings found that Oregon improved by a notch, moving from 21st place in 2016 to 20th this year.


This is the 28th annual report from the United Health Foundation, which promotes health nationwide. The report, based on federal, state and local data, rates a wide range of factors such as deaths, infections, obesity, smoking, pollution and the number of health care providers per capita.


Massachusetts, Hawaii and Vermont, in that order, rank in the top three for health with Arkansas, Alabama and West Virginia at the bottom of the heap.


Here’s a look at the key findings for Oregon:

Generation at risk: America’s youngest facing mental health crisis

Alex Crotty was just 11 when things started feeling wrong.

It wasn’t just a matter of being unhappy. She always felt empty and miserable — never content or connected to other children. For years, she suffered alone, filled with shame. She switched schools, but that didn’t help. Generation at risk: America's youngest facing mental health crisis

“I didn’t feel unloved. I just felt numb to the world. Like, I was surrounded by great things, but just I couldn’t be happy. And I didn’t know why that was,” Alex told NBC News.

Finally, at 14, she decided to break her silence. “I can’t feel anything,” Alex simply told her mother, Heather Olson of New York. “So she just gave me a hug, cradled me in her arms on the bed, and was like, ‘Well can you feel me? Can you feel my love?'”

“A hug and kisses was the only thing that came to mind at the spur of the moment, but that was precisely what she needed to start the journey forward,” Olson said.

Alex was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. Now 16, she is in therapy and on medication. She’s far from alone. Generation at risk: America's youngest facing mental health crisisCourtesy Heather Olson

There is an acute health crisis happening among members of the youngest generation of Americans, with critical implications for the country’s future.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 5 American children ages 3 through 17 — about 15 million — have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in a given year.

Only 20 percent of these children are ever diagnosed and receive treatment; 80 percent — about 12 million — aren’t receiving treatment. Generation at risk: America's youngest facing mental health crisis

Recent research indicates that serious depression is worsening in teens, especially girls, and the suicide rate among girls reached a 40-year high in 2015, according to a CDC report released in August.

“Child and adolescent mental health disorders are the most common illnesses that children will experience under the age of 18. It’s pretty amazing, because the number’s so large that I think it’s hard to wrap our heads around it,” said Dr. Harold Koplewicz, founding president of The Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit children’s mental health advocacy group.

Over the next few months, NBC Nightly News will examine the state of American children’s mental health, including reports on what has led to this increase — especially in anxiety and depression — treatment obstacles, promising research and innovative programs to help children.

Is your toddler depressed?

Mental health problems may actually start much earlier than previously thought.

A toddler who is crying for hours and angrily stomping his or her feet may not be having a temper tantrum, but showing signs of depression. Research suggests that 1 percent to 2 percent of children 2 to 5 years old have depression, said Dr. Joan Luby, director of the Early Emotional Development program at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a pioneer in the study of the condition in preschoolers.

She believes untreated depression in toddlers can lead to more depression later in life.

“Young children are more cognitively sophisticated, more emotionally sophisticated, than we previously understood. They have complex emotions. They’re aware of emotions in their environment. They feel emotions like guilt,” Luby said. “They have all the prerequisites of what depressive symptoms are.” Generation at risk: America's youngest facing mental health crisis

That may show up as constant sadness and low self-esteem. A child may not want to play with a favorite toy or with friends over a sustained period of time.

Vickey Harper of St. Louis became worried when her 2-year-old daughter, Myla, began having “scary” tantrums that sometimes lasted almost an hour. The girl would scream, kick and hit her mother in the face.

“My gut was just telling me that something was not right,” Harper said. Mental illness runs in the family, but she was surprised when doctors suggested Myla had depression.

The girl is taking part in Luby’s research to see whether early intervention can make a difference. Parents are coached on how to play with and respond to their kids — exercises meant to help kids recognize their emotions, like being sad, angry or nervous. The hope is that will help them learn to control those feelings and “change a lifelong trajectory,” or prevent episodes of depression later in life, Luby said.

Now, Myla’s long tantrums are gone.

“She is not the same kid that walked into those therapy sessions,” Harper said. “She can tell me when she’s feeling something. She still yells sometimes, but it’s on a much smaller scale.”

Why adolescents are so vulnerable

Teens are known for their moodiness, and adolescence — a particularly turbulent time of life — is one of the most vulnerable periods to develop anxiety and depression. About 50 percent of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, according to the American Psychiatric Association. A tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

But for teens like Alex Crotty, depression is very different from adolescent angst, Koplewicz said.

“Teenagers have a different kind of depression. They don’t seem sad. They seem irritable,” he said. “This really has an effect on your concentration, which will affect school. It will affect your desire to continue playing sports. It’ll affect your desire of being with your friends.” Generation at risk: America's youngest facing mental health crisis

Warning signs also include the duration and the degree of symptoms, he said. Take notice if your teen is experiencing moodiness or irritability for more than two weeks and it’s occurring every day, for most of the day, and if you see a change in sleep patterns and a change in desire to work and socialize.

Teenagers also think about suicide more often — and 5,000 young people take their own lives every year in the United States, Koplewicz added.

For years, Alex was too scared to reach out for help because she thought that if she told her parents about her depression, they wouldn’t believe her or they would overreact and send her to a “psych ward,” she said.

It’s why The Child Mind Institute is collecting brain scans from 10,000 children and teens, hoping to identify biological markers of psychiatric illness. The project could improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.

After medication and therapy, Alex is doing great.

“I am so much stronger after coming out of this,” she said, urging other kids to speak up. “If you always feel like something’s wrong, talk to somebody. If you feel like you’re blaming things on yourself all the time, talk to somebody. Just if things don’t feel good, talk to somebody.”

Broward Health leaders indicted on charges of violating open-meetings law

The top leaders of Broward Health have been indicted on charges of violating Florida’s open-meetings law, throwing the public hospital system into the worst turmoil of its years of crises and investigations.

Summonses were issued Tuesday.

A grand jury indictment names Broward Health board chairman Rocky Rodriguez, interim CEO Beverly Capasso, General Counsel Lynn Barrett, board member Christopher Ure and former board member Linda Robison. The charges are second-degree misdemeanors, carrying maximum penalties of a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.

Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed all of the board members, typically suspends public officials who face criminal charges. The governor made no announcement as of Tuesday afternoon. If he suspends the two current board members, it would leave Broward Health with just three of its seven seats filled.

Will Congress Keep Children’s Health Insurance Program Afloat …

4c201_chip.art_wide-efff10e9c070df1927e4bdbb2776fda8a193e149-s1100-c15 Will Congress Keep Children's Health Insurance Program Afloat ...

It’s a beautiful morning in Pittsburgh, but Ariel Haughton is stressed out. She’s worried her young children’s health insurance coverage will soon lapse.

“So, we’re like a low-middle-class family, right?” she says. “I’m studying. My husband’s working, and our insurance right now is 12 percent of our income — just for my husband and I. And it’s not very good insurance either.”

4c201_chip.art_wide-efff10e9c070df1927e4bdbb2776fda8a193e149-s1100-c15 Will Congress Keep Children's Health Insurance Program Afloat ...

The policy that covers the couple requires high fees to even see a doctor, and it has a high deductible for further treatment.

In contrast, her young children — 2-year-old Nonnie and his big sister, Rose — are covered right now through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, a federal-state program that was created two decades ago to ensure that kids whose parents don’t have a lot of money, yet make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, can still get health care.

Right now, that coverage for the children doesn’t cost the family anything.

But Pennsylvania’s CHIP program is forecast to run out of money in February.

Though 9 million kids across the U.S. get their health insurance through CHIP, Congress let the program expire Sept. 30.

Since then, states have been burning through the cash that remains in their CHIP accounts, and parents, doctors and state officials are wondering whether Congress will save what has traditionally been a popular program with strong bipartisan support.

“CHIP is probably one of the most successful government programs we’ve enacted in the last couple of decades,” says Timothy McBride, a professor of health economics at Washington University in St. Louis and chairman of that state’s Medicaid oversight committee, which also oversees CHIP.

Keeping kids insured doesn’t cost much, he says, and it sure pays off.

It’s extremely important,” he says, “because it’s developmental — it’s vaccines. You know it can reduce the likelihood that a person has a lifelong chronic disease.”

The experience of Ariel Haughton’s daughter, Rose, bears that out.

Haughton says her own insurance policy charges $150 for each of her doctor visits, but her kids’ policy doesn’t. That allows her to take Rose and Nonnie for care when they need it.

“That’s not a small deal to a family like mine,” Haughton says. “A hundred and fifty dollars. If you have to pay that, you kind of ask yourself, like, ‘Are they sick enough? Does this merit a doctor visit?’ “

A few years ago, Rose came down with a fever and a rash on her face. It didn’t seem severe, but Haughton took Rose to the pediatrician anyway, just to check.

“The doctor looked at her and she said, ‘She has Lyme disease,’ ” Haughton recalls. “And she found a little tick!”

The doctor put Rose on antibiotics immediately and the little girl’s symptoms went away. If left untreated, Lyme can turn into chronic arthritis or other chronic problems.

“I know that if I had had to pay $150, I would have thought, ‘You know, let’s wait,’ ” Haughton says.

Dr. Todd Wolynn is the Haughtons’ pediatrician. He says families all over Pittsburgh are worried about the lapse in the federal insurance program’s funding.

“Parents are literally telling us they don’t know what to do,” Wolynn says. “They make too much to get Medicaid and they don’t have jobs or earn enough to get the commercial insurance. I don’t know what to tell them to do.”

Doctors and patients around the country are worried as CHIP money runs out in one state after another.

Utah announced it will end CHIP at the end of January if Congress doesn’t come up with money for the program. West Virginia’s CHIP board voted to end the program Feb. 28. And Colorado sent letters to its CHIP families saying that without new money the program will be cut off at the end of January.

Oregon has already run out of federal money and is borrowing from its Medicaid budget to ensure that its 80,000 CHIP kids keep their coverage through April.

“I’m absolutely opposed to kicking these vulnerable families off of access to health care,” says Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. “It’s appalling to me that Congress is not taking action and is not doing their jobs on this issue.”

Measures to fund the program passed in their relevant committees in the House and Senate in October, but then hit a snag when lawmakers couldn’t agree on other budget cuts to pay for CHIP.

Ariel Haughton says lawmakers should have gotten ahead of the problem.

“They could have worked on something in August or July, and passed it in September,” she says, “instead of just letting funding lapse and playing this game of chicken with our children’s health insurance.”

Lawmakers and staffers in Congress say CHIP funding will likely be included in an end-of-year spending bill. But as of now, there is no CHIP funding bill scheduled for consideration.

Heat-not-burn tobacco ‘is a health risk’

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The health risks are lower than smoking cigarettes

“Heat-not-burn” tobacco products are harmful to health even though they are safer than regular cigarettes, say UK experts.

The advisory panel to the government said the devices produce “a number of compounds of concern”, including some that can cause cancer.

Manufacturers say their products are aimed at smokers who want the “taste of tobacco with no smoke and less smell”.

The panel was concerned that young non-smokers might start using the products.

There were also worries that the products could lead people to take up smoking cigarettes.

The Committee on Toxicity (Cot) looked at the available evidence about the risks of two heat-not-burn products that have recently gone on sale in the UK – IQOS and iFuse.

Harmful compounds

The devices heat tobacco to a high enough temperature to create a vapour but not smoke.

They are different to e-cigarettes, which vaporise a liquid containing nicotine – the highly addictive compound in tobacco smoke.

The committee found that people using heat-not-burn products are exposed to between 50% to 90% fewer “harmful and potentially harmful” compounds compared with conventional cigarettes.

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Philip Morris Limited

But it was unable to quantify the exact health risk.

Prof Alan Boobis, committee chairman, said: “The evidence suggests that heat-not-burn products still pose a risk to users. There is likely to be a reduction in risk for cigarette smokers who switch to heat-not-burn products but quitting entirely would be more beneficial.”

There was not enough evidence for the committee to compare heat-not-burn with e-cigarettes.

But the committee noted: “If people perceive e-cigarettes as safe this perception could transfer to heat-not-burn tobacco products, despite a lack of data on which to establish this.”

Public Health England says there is a large amount of evidence that shows e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking – at least 95%.

“We encourage smokers to try e-cigarettes as a way of stopping smoking. People who combine e-cigarettes with support from their local stop-smoking service have some of the highest quit success rates.”

Quitting tobacco-use completely is still the healthiest option, say health experts.

A spokesman for Philip Morris Limited, which makes IQOS, said: “We are encouraged by today’s statement of the UK’s Committee on Toxicity and will continue to share our scientific evidence.

“We believe that smoke-free alternatives, including heated tobacco products like IQOS and e-cigarettes, have significant potential to be less harmful than cigarettes and can play an important role for smokers and public health.”

Simon Clark from the smokers’ group Forest said: “Electronic cigarettes are a step too far for many smokers so if the government wants smokers to quit there has to be a range of products that fills the gap between combustible tobacco and e-cigarettes.”

Californians like single-payer health care — until they learn taxes must rise to pay for it

0c7b0_920x1240 Californians like single-payer health care — until they learn taxes must rise to pay for it

The single-payer system under consideration by the Legislature would
require the 18 million Californians who have employer-sponsored health
plans to give them up. The 4.5 million Golden State seniors on Medicare —
and 13 million people on Medi-Cal — would have to do the same.

The single-payer system under consideration by the Legislature…

Whether to establish a state-run, single-payer health-care system is shaping up to be one of the main differences among the candidates for governor in California in the run-up to the June primary election. The front-runner, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, says the only thing stopping single-payer in California is a lack of political leadership. The candidate running second in the pack, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, says he supports single-payer but has concerns about how to pay for it.

The cost is more than concerning, it’s catastrophic. Implementing a single-payer system would require tens of billions of dollars in new taxes — and thereby lead the Golden State into financial ruin.

The state Senate has admitted as much. The chamber passed Senate Bill 562 in June to create a system that provides “free” care to all California residents, including undocumented immigrants. The bill would eliminate co-pays, deductibles and all other forms of cost-sharing.

The price tag for the single-payer plan envisioned by SB562, per a Senate Appropriations Committee report, is $400 billion per year. Half of that figure would come from new taxes.

To put those figures in perspective, the state’s total expenditures next year are projected to be about $183 billion. So single-payer would effectively double the state budget.

Californians do not want to shoulder all these extra costs. According to a May survey from the Public Policy Institute of California, two-thirds of Californians backed a single-payer system earlier this year. But support plummeted by more than a third when respondents were told the plan would raise taxes.

Hefty new taxes aren’t the only reason why ordinary Californians are leery of single-payer.

Many voters don’t realize that single-payer means there would be only one health insurance plan statewide — a government-run one. Forty-seven percent of all Americans, and 52 percent of Democrats, mistakenly believe they’d be able to keep their current plans in a single-payer system, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

The single-payer system under consideration by the Legislature would require the 18 million Californians who have employer-sponsored health plans to give them up. The 4.5 million Golden State seniors on Medicare — and 13 million people on Medi-Cal — would have to do the same.

Many patients would lose access to their doctors. Some physicians would retire early to avoid the pay cuts and administrative headaches that a government-run system would no doubt bring. Others would move to other states, where their earning power would be greater. And the most talented medical graduates would think twice before coming to California, where the state could micromanage their practice of medicine — and would pay them less.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have balked at the plan. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from Los Angeles County, shelved the bill this summer, calling it “woefully incomplete” on “financing, delivery of care, cost controls” and more.

“Free” health coverage that covers every service and procedure sounds wonderful. But the single-payer system that’s captivated so many progressives in California would be far from free. It’d impose tens of billions of dollars in new taxes, deprive millions of Californians of the health plans they have and like, and result in rationed care when demand outstrips what the state is willing and able to pay for.

Sally C. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute and author of “The Way Out of Obamacare” (Encounter 2016). Twitter: @sallypipes

12 governors urge Congress to fund children’s health program





There’s a Hoosier connection on nation’s health policy

INDIANAPOLIS — When Indiana was hit by an opiate-fueled HIV outbreak and an ensuing statewide opioid crisis, then-Indiana Health Commissioner Jerome Adams traveled numerous times to the epicenter in Scott County.

“He made countless trips down there where it was all about the people in that town who were affected by it and not just what it meant exclusively for the state,” said Julie Reed, vice president of the Indiana State Medical Association.

“We saw his compassion for people affected by that and the need for local solutions in a town that was so small it barely existed,” she said.

By July 2016, Adams had issued a standing order that provided easier access to Naloxone to help reverse opioid overdoses.

“He recognized that as health commissioner, he could issue a standing order for people to be able to have, including family members, quick access to Naloxone, to really address that rather than people having to individually one by one be motivated to go to physicians,” Reed said. She called it “a great solution to a current crisis.”

Adams, now serving as the nation’s surgeon general, is one of many Hoosiers called to Washington to set national health policy for the Trump administration.

In his current position, Adams often talks about the opioid crisis to underscore that putting a human face on health helps the public to better identify with issues. He has said he wants to “reframe” how America talks about health.

Adams, an anesthesiologist and Maryland native, was sworn into the national post on Sept. 5 by his former Indiana boss, Vice President Mike Pence.

“Dr. Jerome Adams has an extraordinary gift for empathy,” Pence said at Adams’ ceremony. “I saw that empathy for which he is so widely known when he worked directly with the citizens who had been infected, worked with the CDC and brought the widest range of resources, policies and care to stem that epidemic that affected that community.”

In October, in one of his first speeches as the country’s 20th surgeon general, Adams acknowledged the opioid crisis had hit home for him.

Wearing his formal Public Health Service dress blues, Adams personalized the crisis for about 50 people inside a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services auditorium in Washington, D.C.

His close family members had contracted HIV and one contracted hepatitis C, he said, “as a result of this epidemic.”

One of the most prone groups to assist, he said, are baby boomers, many infected with hepatitis C as children during otherwise routine checkups years before infection controls were in place.

“We aren’t doing nearly enough for this group, but also it puts a face on hepatitis C that helps us overcome stigma,” Adams said. “If we can look at hepatitis C not as a disease for folks who many people unfortunately stigmatize and see as having moral failings but as a disease that affects a whole swath of folks, I think that we can help come further together.”

Indiana links

Adams and Pence are among at least seven Hoosiers working on national health policy.

One of them is Seema Verma, a former Carmel-based health consultant, who was sworn in as the 15th administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on March 14. With a budget over $1 trillion, CMS covers health costs for one-third of all Americans.

Verma has called herself the “architect” behind former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Healthy Indiana Plan for Medicaid beneficiaries.

During her confirmation hearing in February, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Verma about a reported $8.3 million she received in contract work with the state. While avoiding a direct answer to the question, she said she would recuse herself from issues posing a conflict of interest.

In that confirmation hearing, she said her mother was a breast cancer survivor due to early diagnosis and treatment.

“And a few years back, my neighbor, Aidan, was diagnosed with a stage 4 neuroblastoma. He was only 4 years old. A large tumor had been growing for some time, maybe since he was born, and it was wrapped all around his kidney. Aidan went through excruciating, painful chemotherapy, radiation, stem-cell treatment and surgeries, all experimental.

“This May, Aidan will celebrate his 12th birthday. And both my mom and Aidan are testaments to the grace of God and the ingenuity of the American health care system. I want to be part of the solution, making sure that the health care system works for all Americans so that families like my own and Aidan’s have the care that they need,” she said.

The ISMA’s Reed finds a common trait between Adams and Verma.

“They’ve been really solution-oriented in their roles. They have been quick to recognize what the challenges were and really come up with solutions to address those,” Reed said.

Other Hoosiers in Washington include Brady Brookes, former legislative director for Pence, who is deputy chief of staff for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of the Administrator (Serma’s agency), and Brian Neale, former health care policy director for Indiana, as the CMS deputy administrator and director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services.

If he’s confirmed, Alex M. Azar II, former president of Indianapolis-based Lilly USA, will join them as secretary of Health and Human Services.

Racial equity

But Adams may be the leader who could best personalize health policy.

On Dec. 1, he talked in Indianapolis not from a podium but while sitting in a comfortable chair on the same level as his audience at the annual conference of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. He recommended that medical marijuana be tested by the FDA similar to other pain-relieving drugs and called for racial equity in addressing the opioid crisis.

He also told his audience of 125 of his approach in tackling the HIV outbreak in Scott County.

In late 2014, the largest HIV outbreak in Indiana history was identified in the rural county where there had been three cases in the prior decade. By Dec. 31, 2015, 189 individuals tested positive for HIV, leading then Gov. Pence to declare a public health emergency and initiate a syringe exchange program. Early reports linked a majority of the cases to drug abuse injections of opana, an opioid painkiller stronger than oxycontin.

Adams recalled, “I called a pastor. I called the local head of the chamber of commerce. I called the sheriff. Why did I call them?

“We know the science on almost any issue that you all want to bring up from a health point of view. We know the science. That’s not the challenge. The challenge is how do we implement the science.”

Hoosiers working on national health policy

• Vice President Mike Pence, who is tasked with leading President Donald Trump’s repeal and replace efforts for former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, was Indiana governor.

• U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams was Indiana State Health Commissioner

• Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was a former Carmel-based health consultant and “architect” of former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Health Indiana Plan.

• Brady Brookes, deputy chief of staff for CMS, is former legislative director for Pence when he was governor.

• Brian Neale, CMS deputy administrator and director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, was Indiana health care policy director.

• Tyler Ann McGuffee, special adviser to the assistant secretary for legislation in Health and Human Services, was health care policy director for Pence.

• Matt Lloyd, principal deputy assistant secretary for Public Affairs for Health and Human Services, was Pence’s deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office.

What a Complete Blood Count Says About Your Health

Your complete blood count (CBC) is a quick, easy and practically painless blood test. “It gives your doctor an overview of your health,” explains family medicine physician Daniel Allan, MD. Tap or click to learn more:

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One of the most common blood tests

The CBC is typically part of your regular checkup. “I also order a complete blood count for patients who are weak or tired; have swelling, bruising or bleeding; or who may have an infection,” Dr. Allan. explains. “This test also can help me check how a patient’s body is responding to medication.”

What if your test results are abnormal? Don’t worry. They don’t necessarily mean you’re sick.

Diet, menstrual cycle, medication and other factors can affect your scores. Talk to your doctor about your CBC results. He or she will explain any areas of concern and help you determine next steps.

Keep pets safe from holiday health hazards

  • 8b22d_920x920 Keep pets safe from holiday health hazards



Holidays should be a joyous time for the whole family — including pets. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautions that this festive time holds a variety of dangers for furry loved ones.

For instance, pet treats are a fun stocking stuffer for a dog, but can be a hazard if the animal eats them whole or eats too many at once. According to the FDA, unchewed pet treats can get stuck in the windpipe or the gastrointestinal tract, which is comprised of the esophagus, stomach, and intestines, particularly in small dogs.

If a dog is in obvious distress from eating too much too fast, experts urge contacting a veterinarian immediately. Some telltale signs are drooling, choking, or vomiting.

If a bone or chew toy lodges in your dog’s stomach or intestines, the symptoms might not be immediate. Hours to days later, he may vomit and have diarrhea, be less active, not want to eat, and have stomach pain. If the blockage stays there too long, your dog may become very ill.

Holiday decorations can also be troublemakers for pets. The FDA recommends keeping a close eye on where you leave the leftover tinsel, string and ribbons. Pets can eat them, again leaving them vulnerable to intestinal problems. Play it safe by keeping tinsel off the tree and collecting all ribbons and strings after gifts are opened.

Poinsettias, holly and mistletoe are also potentially harmful to pets, so keep them out of reach of furry loved ones.

The FDA states you should also resist the temptation to give your pet table scraps that are high in fat, such as fat trimmed from meat or skin from your roasted turkey or chicken. Rich fatty foods can cause a potentially life-threatening and painful disease called pancreatitis, which carries such symptoms in dogs vomiting, stomach pain, restlessness, shaking, diarrhea, fever, and weakness.

In cats, the symptoms are less clear and harder to notice, such as decreased appetite and weight loss.

So, when dinner is done, be sure to leave leftovers — including those with small bones animals choke on — where Fluffy and Fido can’t reach them.

Alcohol, chocolate and holiday mints are also all potentially harmful to animals.

Pets can still have a fun holiday, but a little extra care can make it a safe one as well.

EU health and food safety experts warn of stubborn salmonella

LONDON (Reuters) – The number of salmonella food poisoning cases in the European Union has risen by 3 percent since 2014 in a “worrying” reversal of a decade-long declining trend, EU health and food safety officials said on Tuesday.

Salmonella bacteria was the most common cause of food-borne illness in 2016, accounting for 22.3 percent of outbreaks, compared with 11.5 percent in 2015, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said in a report.

There were 94,530 human cases of salmonellosis reported in the EU in 2016, it said. Salmonella enteritidis, the most common type and one mostly linked with eating eggs and poultry, accounted for 59 percent of cases originating in the EU.

“The increase shown by our surveillance data is worrying and a reminder that we have to stay vigilant,” said the ECDC’s chief scientist, Mike Catchpole.

Salmonella food poisoning can cause diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps and vomiting. These symptoms typically come between one and three days after infection and last four to seven days. More severe cases can cause death. A total of 1,766 people were admitted to hospital with salmonella in 2016 and there were 10 salmonella deaths.

The EFSA and ECDC report, which looked at outbreaks of food-borne disease in the EU, said that overall outbreak numbers were broadly stable, with 4,786 food-borne outbreaks in 2016 compared with 4,362 in 2015.

Campylobacter, common in chicken meat, caused a high number of infections, though fatalities were low, the report said.

Listeria infections, which are generally more severe, led to hospitalization in 97 percent of reported cases. Listeriosis killed 247 people in the EU last year.

Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by David Goodman

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