No Health Insurance? Mortality Rates are Higher

If you do not have health insurance, your chances of dying if hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), stroke, or pneumonia are significantly higher than if you are privately insured. An evaluation of more than 150,000 hospital discharges shows higher mortality rates related to these three leading causes of non-cancer, inpatient deaths.

Having no health insurance and dying because of it has been a growing concern. In 2002, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimated that 18,000 American had died in 2000 because they lacked health insurance. In subsequent studies, based on the IOM’s methodology and Census Bureau estimates of insurance coverage, 137,000 people died from 2000 through 2006 because they did not have insurance, including 22,000 people in 2006.

In this new analysis, which was published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, researchers analyzed 154,381 hospital discharge records for people ages 18 to 64 who were admitted for AMI, stroke, or pneumonia. Compared with individuals who have private health insurance, hospitalized patients without health insurance fared worse: hospital mortality among those with AMI was 52 percent higher and for those with stroke, 49 percent higher. Among Medicaid recipients with pneumonia, the mortality rate was 21 percent higher.

Some uninsured patients also had longer hospital stays, including Medicaid recipients who were hospitalized for any of the three conditions studied. Hospital costs were also higher for patients without health insurance who were also Medicaid recipients treated for stroke or pneumonia, but not AMI.

Lead author Dr. Omar Hasan, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, stated that he hoped results of the current study “will provoke policymakers, healthcare administrators, and practicing physicians to consider devising policies to address potential insurance related gaps in the quality of inpatient care.”

Compared with people who have private insurance, those without health insurance or who are Medicaid recipients were generally younger, less likely to be white, more likely to have a lower income, and more likely to be admitted to the hospital through the emergency department (ED). The higher mortality rate could be related to being admitted through the ED, which could indicate more serious illness at the time of admission, which in turn could be due to uninsured people delaying treatment.

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Restaurant Health Care Alliance Offers Health Insurance to Owners, Employees

Restaurant owners and their employees, including wait staff, cooks, and dishwashers, often do not have health insurance because it has not been affordable for a small business like a restaurant. The National Restaurant Association and UnitedHealthcare have teamed up and created the Restaurant Health Care Alliance, which offers various affordable health insurance options to restaurant employees in the United States.

According to UnitedHealthcare, 4 to 6 million people who work in the food service industry do not have health insurance at any given time. That represents a significant portion of the 12.7 million people employed by the restaurant industry, as noted by the National Restaurant Association. In an effort to provide both restaurant owners and their workers easy access to affordable health insurance options, the Restaurant Health Care Alliance launched its new program on May 22, 2010.

Initially, the program will be available only to state restaurant associations in Pennsylvania and Colorado, as well as insurance agents and advisers who represent restaurant clients in those two states. The Alliance plans to expand into other states throughout 2010.

Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, noted in a news release that “Our members will benefit by providing them easier access to affordable health care coverage for their employees and dependents and allow for future opportunities to provide added benefits.” The Alliance will also assist restaurant owners and employees in understanding the ins and outs of their health insurance plan and the options available to them, as well as tax and eligibility changes that are taking place in 2010 and in years to come.

UnitedHealthcare noted that it is offering restaurant workers innovative health plan options that provide significant savings in premiums when compared with traditional health plans. In some markets, UnitedHealthcare Catalyst(SM) is an available option that combines comprehensive catastrophic plan coverage with an up-front benefit allowance for specific preventive-care services.

Employees who do not have health insurance through their employer will be able to choose from a variety of UnitedHealthcare’s affordable individual and family plans beginning at less than $100 per month. Dental plans and discount health cards will be available as well.

The Restaurant Health Care Alliance is a health insurance resource for people employed by the food service industry. “We are excited about this unique opportunity to partner with the National Restaurant Association to tailor health care information and products that best meet the needs of restaurant owners and employees,” said Gail Boudreaux, president of UnitedHealthcare.

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Free Clinics Serve Nearly 2 Million without Health Insurance

More than 1,000 free clinics offer medical and dental care to about 1.8 million people in the United States who do not have health insurance. These facts and more are reported in the first comprehensive survey of free clinics done in about 50 years and now published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Every state except Alaska operates free clinics, which the survey found number 1,007. According to Julie Darnell, a researcher at University of Illinois at Chicago who conducted the study, free clinics hosted an estimated 3.1 million medical visits and nearly 300,000 dental visits during the study period, which was October 2005 through December 2006.

The study results were based on data concerning patients, services offered, staff and volunteers, and operating practices from more than 75 percent of the free clinics that were operating during the study period. The definition of a free clinic, according to the study, was one that targets care to people who do not have health insurance, provides direct health care services, care is delivered by volunteers, and the care is never contingent on any type of payment.

Darnell believes there will still be a strong need for free clinics after the health care reform legislation takes hold, “because it is estimated that 23 million people may still be uninsured. We can anticipate that people will have problems accessing primary care, especially given the workforce shortages that we are likely to encounter in primary care.”

The problems with access to primary care Darnell refers to relates to the decline in the number of primary care physicians. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the number of medical school students entering primary care has dropped 51.8 percent since 1997. The organization is predicting a shortage of 40,000 family physicians by 2020, when the demand is likely to peak, as noted in USA Today.

Based on Darnell’s findings, free clinics vary in their profiles. On average they are open 18 hours per week, and they allow very flexible patient scheduling, including walk-ins. Operating budgets for most clinics are less than $125,000, noted Darnell, and they primarily utilize volunteer medical professionals. Mental health volunteers, such as social workers and psychologists, are in short supply.

Funding of free clinics usually comes from non-governmental sources, such as civic groups, churches, foundations, private contributions, and corporations. Services are generally limited to providing medications (mainly samples and through pharmaceutical assistant programs), physical examinations, urgent and acute care, eye and dental care, and health education. Free clinics often assist patients who need laboratory testing and X-rays by finding them free or low-cost services in other locations.

A look at the patients generally served in free clinics reveals that most are females between the ages of 18 and 64, they are at or below 200 percent of the poverty line, and half of all patients are white. Clinic patients generally do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare.

Darnell believes that it is important to integrate “free clinics more formally into the health care safety net” to accommodate people who do not have health insurance. She also explains that “policy makers and other safety net providers need to acknowledge the valuable role that free clinics currently play.” To find a free clinic in your area, visit the National Association of Free Clinics website and click under “Find a Free Clinic.”

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Affordable Health Insurance In Tampa Not Extinct

Finding affordable health insurance these days is very hard in the light of the rising health care costs, but the case may be different in Tampa, Florida. Many people think there are many barriers to obtaining affordable health insurance, but this is not the case. By utilizing a health insurance broker you can obtain affordable health insurance in the Tampa, FL area.

High deductible coverage plans are available in Tampa for individuals and families. The plans start from $40 per month for individuals and $250 for families. These plans are designed to give families health insurance coverage at an affordable price and prevent huge medical bills from causing financial problems.

Cobra coverage is always of great concern to many people. Cobra costs can be extreme making health insurance something not affordable for many people. With the new guidelines for COBRA set forth by the Obama administration there are new incentives for employers, which can make obtaining affordable health insurance through COBRA a reality for more employees. In Tampa, FL there are many employers who will be feeling the effects of the new laws and will see their COBRA elections begin to rise.

Contrary to common knowledge health insurance for small businesses in Tampa and the nearby areas in Florida is extremely affordable. Health insurance plans have begun to adapt to the changing market conditions and make the coverage more affordable. With the current economic climate it is even more important for the small business to look at its expenses. Insurance companies have created new plans designed to give employees benefits that they use most often. They include office visit co-payments and prescription coverage. They also raise deductibles on ones they don’t, which include hospital visits and advanced diagnostic services. Doing these things reduces the employers month insurance premiums.

Several different companies provide health insurance in the Tampa Florida area. The most popular and most affordable health insurance carriers in Tampa are Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Humana, United Health Care, Aetna, Avalon, Coventry, and AvMed. Each health insurance provider has its advantages and disadvantages. Most people will find the pros and cons to be the monthly premium for each companies given plan. It is important when you are shopping for health insurance to use a company that is allowed to do business in the State of Florida and has a strong network in the Tampa, FL area. There is no value in having an affordable health insurance plan that has no provider in the area or a contract full of holes.

Health insurance plans are more accessible than ever before. With the modernization of health insurance company websites and use of technology it has become easier than ever before to understand what is happening with your insurance policy. It is important to take an avenue to obtaining affordable health insurance that is appropriate for your needs. Many people enjoy the ease of shopping for their insurance online. This ease of use is comfortable, but it lacks the personal attention that insurance brokers provide. Brokers understand what makes certain policies more affordable than others and know what companies get the best discount in the Tampa, Fl area saving you money when you do need treatment.

Options for affordable health insurance in Tampa, FL are out there and ready for online or agent analysis. Knowing how to find the correct plan for you is the key. While many companies many seem like they have affordable health coverage you may end up paying for it when you least expect and when you least need it, after you have had a claim. Contacting a qualified health insurance broker is important when trying to find affordable health insurance. Tampa has many insurance companies to choose from with many affordable options the important part is to know what plan provides the best value for you when you need it.

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Smoke from fireworks is harmful to health

The metallic particles in the smoke emitted by fireworks pose a health risk, particularly to people who suffer from asthma. This is the conclusion of a study led by researchers from the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC), published this week in the Journal of Hazardous Materials. “The toxicological research has shown that many of the metallic particles in the smoke from fireworks are bio-reactive and can affect human health”, Teresa Moreno, a researcher from the IDAEA (CSIC) and lead author of a study that has been published this week in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, tells SINC.

The different colours and effects produced in these displays are achieved by adding metals to the gunpowder. When a pyrotechnic display takes place it releases a lot of smoke, liberating minute metallic particles (of a few microns in size, or even less), which are small enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs.

“This poses a risk to health, and the effects are probably more acute in people with a background of asthma or cardiovascular problems”, Moreno explains. “The effects in healthy people are still unknown, but common sense tells us it cannot be good to inhale the high levels of metallic particles in this smoke, even if this only happens a few times a year”.

The study focused on the San Juan fiestas (the night of 23 June through to 24 June, 2008) in the Spanish city of Girona. The researchers analysed the levels of more than 30 chemical elements and compounds in May and June in order to confirm that the levels of lead, copper, strontium, potassium and magnesium skyrocketed after the fireworks were launched.

The team found the results were similar in other towns too. During the Mascletà (18 March), for example, in the Las Fallas fiestas in Valencia, levels of these elements rose once again, as well as others such as aluminium, titanium, barium and antimony, and also concentrations of nitric oxide (NO) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).

Other studies have confirmed that the smoke from fireworks increases the presence of metallic particles in the skies over L’Alcora and Borriana (Castellón), Barcelona and even London (United Kingdom) during the Guy Fawkes’ Night celebrations.

“People who live in cities already inhale significant amounts of contaminant particles stemming from traffic emissions, chimneys and cigarettes, and the dense smoke caused by fireworks only worsens this situation”, points out Moreno.

Possible solutions

The researcher compares the problem with that of tobacco. “The less you expose yourself to the smoke, the fewer negative effects it will have on your health, and so the best solution is to avoid inhaling it”.

According to the scientists, in the absence of a ban on fireworks, spectators should stay well back in a place not affected by the smoke and pay attention to the wind direction. They also recommend that fireworks displays should be sited in a place that ensures the plume of smoke will blow away from densely populated areas.

An added problem is the chemical mixtures in the different kinds of fireworks, since some contain extremely toxic metals such as lead. “There should be strict controls on fireworks imports so that those with the potentially most dangerous chemical composition can be avoided”, concludes Moreno.

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