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Study Shows Employers Shifting More Medical Costs to Workers

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This 2009 photo provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows CEO Drew Altman. Most companies now offer health coverage that requires employees to pay an annual deductible before insurance kicks in, and the size of that deductible has soared in the past decade, according to a survey released Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust. (Robin Holland/Kaiser Family Foundation via AP)

This 2009 photo provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows CEO Drew Altman. Most companies now offer health coverage that requires employees to pay an annual deductible before insurance kicks in, and the size of that deductible has soared in the past decade, according to a survey released Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust. (Robin Holland/Kaiser Family Foundation via AP)

TOM MURPHY, AP Business Writer

Employers are leaving a bigger chunk of the bill for care to workers who use their health insurance, and benefits experts see few signs of this trend slowing.

Most companies now offer health coverage that requires employees to pay an annual deductible before insurance kicks in, and the size of that deductible has soared in the past decade, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust.

The average general deductible for workers with single coverage totaled $1,077 this year, compared to only $303 in 2006. That deductible has climbed nearly seven times faster than wages, on average, over the past five years.

“That has an impact on family budgets,” Kaiser CEO Drew Altman said.

The study also found that 46 percent of workers with single coverage have a deductible of $1,000 or more. That’s up from only 10 percent in 2006. Kaiser’s study didn’t measure family coverage deductibles, which can be more complex, but researchers say they those have grown as well.

Altman calls this cost shift a “quiet revolution in health insurance,” obscured in recent years by the health care overhaul’s coverage expansion for people who don’t have coverage through work.

“It’s funny, we used to think of $1,000 as a very high deductible, and now it’s almost commonplace,” he said. “Consumers have much more skin in the game, and that may be fine if you’re healthier and don’t use a lot of health care. That could be a real problem if you’re chronically ill.”

Employer-sponsored health insurance is the most common form of coverage in the United States, with about 147 million people enrolled. Companies of all sizes offer coverage as a way to keep workers and make sure they stay healthy. But years of rising costs have forced many businesses to scale back their coverage. One of the quickest ways they have to control the growth in premiums, or cost of coverage, without significantly changing the insurance is to raise an employee’s deductible.

Altman said the increase in deductibles has helped restrain premium growth for the past several years. In 2015, premiums rose an average of 4 percent for single and family coverage.

The employer generally pays most of the premium and has the remaining share taken out of the employee’s pay check before taxes.

Kaiser’s research found that the size of a health plan’s deductible can depend on the employer. Small firms had an average of $1,836, while big businesses had $1,105. Many companies pair that coverage with accounts that let employees set aside money before taxes for medical expenses.

Commercial painting company Steve Reiff Inc. offers single coverage with a deductible of $5,950. The South Whitley, Indiana, company also helps cover about half the cost of that deductible with contributions to an employee health reimbursement arrangement account, Controller Eric Trump said.

The business switched to a high-deductible plan several years ago to help restrain premium growth. That move helped, but Trump worries about leaving the roughly 30 people on their coverage with the high deductible.

“It’s really hard to like a lot of health insurance options right now,” he said. “It’s still a big expense for people that are making $10 to $15 an hour.”

Paducah, Kentucky, resident Emmett Krall says the annual deductible of $3,500 on his employer-sponsored health insurance makes him think about cost more than he wants to, especially since his 10-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes last year.

Krall said he has to come up with about $200 a month to cover his son’s insulin, needles and pump. The 46-year-old carpet manufacturer sales representative said he has cut down on going out to eat, and he’s watching where he spends his money.

“It causes an anxiety and a stress on my part, because I do get stressed about it, and I don’t want him to know about it,” he said.

College professor Bill Cantor said he’s seen his premium fall to only $95 a month for family coverage from around $300 since he switched to a high-deductible health plan a few years ago. He uses a health savings account to set aside money for expenses, and he likes how the plan has made him more aware of costs.

The 53-year-old said he caught a $200 mistake on a medical bill that he might have missed if insurance had just covered the claim.

“I think it would hold down insurance rates more if people thought about their spending,” said Cantor, who teaches information science and technology at Penn State’s York, Pennsylvania, campus.

Kaiser’s survey focused on benefits for this year and doesn’t predict what will happen in 2016, something many workers will learn about in a couple of months when their employers detail coverage plans for the new year.

Kaiser Vice President Gary Claxton said he doesn’t expect the trend toward higher deductibles to ease much in 2016. He noted that employers tend to make their coverage more generous as the economy improves. But companies still will be intent on controlling costs to prepare for an overhaul-imposed tax on expensive benefit plans that starts in 2018.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Afro

Bill Introduced to Improve Maternal Healthcare

THE AFRO — Expectant mothers face challenges when seeking quality prenatal care in the District of Columbia.  Economic and transportation barriers contribute to the District’s infant mortality rate which is amongst the worst in the nation. In 2018 there were an average of 36.1 deaths for every 100,000 live births while nationally the rate is 20.7.

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D.C. City Council member Charles Allen wrote a bill in support of expanding maternal health care opportunities to expectant mothers. (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray

Expectant mothers face challenges when seeking quality prenatal care in the District of Columbia.  Economic and transportation barriers contribute to the District’s infant mortality rate which is amongst the worst in the nation. In 2018 there were an average of 36.1 deaths for every 100,000 live births while nationally the rate is 20.7.

The D.C. City Council is pondering a bill that pushes for better maternal health care services that would be covered under all forms of insurance in an attempt to provide better prenatal care for expectant mothers in the District.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen introduced legislation that proposes expanding the list of medical care provisions for expectant mothers. The Maternal Health Care Improvement and Expansion Act of 2019 would also create a Center for Maternal Wellness and includes a travel stipend to aid in transportation so patients can reach their preferred health care provider consistently during pregnancy.

“We know women need more access to health care during and after a pregnancy,” Allen said in his statement. “We know community-centered health care can improve outcomes.”

However, Black mothers are facing more dangerous outcomes during their pregnancies.  Figures reported by Allen’s office state Black women are dying at a rate that is three to four times higher than White expectant mothers.  Low income mothers are struggling to gain consistent regular preventive, prenatal and postpartum care which is contributing to the D.C.’s high maternal mortality rate also.

“Last year, this Council created a Maternal Mortality Review Committee, but we don’t have to wait for results to make improvements,” said Allen.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Councilmember Vincent Gray, would require private insurers, Medicaid, and the D.C. Healthcare Alliance to add pre and post natal services to it’s benefits.  It would cover at least two postpartum health care visits and home visits for maternal care and fertility preservation services. Currently, Medicaid only includes one postpartum visit after six weeks and ends postpartum medical coverage at 60 days.

Allen’s proposal addresses the barriers facing patients who find it difficult when traveling to their health care provider by offering financial assistance for travel to and from prenatal and postpartum visits.  Transportation availability is seen as a vital cog in the hope of improving infant survival rates in D.C.

“We know for some women transportation is a barrier,” Allen stated. “That’s why this bill also includes a travel stipend to get to their preferred health care provider. If we can’t get people there, none of these other changes will make a difference.”

This bill would extend coverage to one full year for extremely low income residents who are living well below the federal poverty line.

The bill also calls for establishing a Center on Maternal Health and Wellness. Allen wants to build community among women who are pregnant and would consolidate a portion of services to be conveniently available in one location.  The Center would offer childcare onsite while making its services available through telehealth and online.

At the Center, a group of maternal care coordinators would advise pregnant mothers on how to navigate through the services available in the District during pregnancy and postpartum.  It will promote maternal support groups and provide health and nutrition counseling, and distribute prenatal vitamins. Group counseling services would also be available for individuals or family members who have been impacted by an infant’s or mother’s death. This is similar to the District’s comprehensive breastfeeding center. 

“We know a sense of community can help pregnant women and new mothers talk through challenges,” said Allen.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Community

The future of health begins with you

MILWAUKEE TIMES WEEKLY — The All of Us Research Program is a large research program that may last for at least 10 years. It is collecting information for the largest ever data bank of information. The goal is to help researchers understand more about why people get sick or stay healthy. People who join will share with us information about their health, habits, and what it’s like where they live. By looking for patterns, researchers may learn more about what affects people’s health. We hope you will get involved.

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By The Milwaukee Times Weekly

The All of Us Research Program is a large research program that may last for at least 10 years. It is collecting information for the largest ever data bank of information. The goal is to help researchers understand more about why people get sick or stay healthy. People who join will share with us information about their health, habits, and what it’s like where they live. By looking for patterns, researchers may learn more about what affects people’s health. We hope you will get involved.

The All of Us Wisconsin consortium is asking you to get involved as the information you share will be contributing to research that may improve health for everyone and for generations to come. All of Us will ask you to share basic information like your name and where you live; questions about your health, family history, home, and work. If you have an electronic health record (EHR), All of Us may ask for access. You may also be asked to give samples, like blood or urine.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has created a national educational tour with a bus load of information. The All of Us Journey Bus will tour in Milwaukee. We invite families from across the Milwaukee community to visit the All of Us Journey Bus while it’s here in Milwaukee at one of the following locations:

Wednesday, August 7, 2019
94th Annual Session – Community Resource Fair General Baptist State Convention of Wisconsin Way of the Cross Missionary Baptist Church
1401 West Hadley (corner of Center Street and Teutonia Avenue)
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Thursday, August 8, 2019
United Community Center (UCC)
1028 South 9th Street
11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Friday, August 9, 2019
Milwaukee Health Services
2555 North Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
1 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Saturday, August 10, 2019
UMOS
2701 South Chase Avenue
9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Sunday, August 11, 2019
St. Ann’s Intergenerational Care- Bucyrus Campus
2450 West North Avenue
1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

If you are interested in learning more about the All of Us Research program, we invite you to a community lunch and learn on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. For details and reservations, please call (414) 264-6869 no later than Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

To learn more and to enroll:

Visit us at: JoinAllofUs.org
Email us at: allofus@mcw.edu
Call: 414-955-2689

This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Times Weekly
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Family

Why do fewer blacks survive childhood cancers?

MILWAUKEE TIMES WEEKLY — The relationship between race and the outcome for a number of cancers among whites, Hispanics and blacks in the United States have certainly started to become more evident and clearer. A new study finds, poverty is a major reason why black and Hispanic children with some types of cancer have lower survival rates than white patients.

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By The Milwaukee Times Weekly

The relationship between race and the outcome for a number of cancers among whites, Hispanics and blacks in the United States have certainly started to become more evident and clearer. A new study finds, poverty is a major reason why black and Hispanic children with some types of cancer have lower survival rates than white patients.

Researchers examined U.S. government data on nearly 32,000 black, Hispanic and white children who were diagnosed with cancer between 2000 and 2011. For several cancers, whites were much more likely to survive than blacks and Hispanics.

Rebecca Kehm and her University of Minnesota colleagues wondered whether those differences were due to socioeconomic status – that is, one’s position based on income, education and occupation.

Their conclusion: It had a significant effect on the link between race/ethnicity and survival for acute myeloid leukemia as well as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, neuroblastoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

For blacks compared to whites, socioeconomic status reduced the link between race/ethnicity and survival by 44 percent and 28 percent for the two leukemias; by 49 percent for neuroblastoma; and by 34 percent for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

For Hispanics compared to whites, the reductions were 31 percent and 73 percent for the two leukemias; 48 percent for neuroblastoma; and 28 percent for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Socioeconomic status was not a major factor in survival disparities for other types of childhood cancer, including central nervous system tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Wilms tumor and germ cell tumors, the researchers said.

“These findings provide insight for future intervention efforts aimed at closing the survival gap,” Kehm said in a journal news release.

“For cancers in which socioeconomic status is a key factor in explaining racial and ethnic survival disparities, behavioral and supportive interventions that address social and economic barriers to effective care are warranted,” she said.

“However, for cancers in which survival is less influenced by socioeconomic status, more research is needed on underlying differences in tumor biology and drug processing,” Kehm added.

For more information on acute myeloid leukemia, visit the Health Conditions page on BlackDoctor.org.

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, Aug. 20, 2018

This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Times Weekly
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#NNPA BlackPress

Dr. Patrice Harris Sworn-In as the American Medical Association’s First Black Female President

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “And I hope to be tangible evidence for young girls and young boys and girls from communities of color that you can aspire to be a physician. Not only that, you can aspire to be a leader in organized medicine,” said Dr. Patrice A. Harris, a psychiatrist from Atlanta, was sworn-in as the 174th president of the American Medical Association (AMA).

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“We are no longer at a place where we can tolerate the disparities that plague communities of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. But we are not yet at a place where health equity is achieved in those communities,” she said. (Photo by Reginald Duncan)
“We are no longer at a place where we can tolerate the disparities that plague communities of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. But we are not yet at a place where health equity is achieved in those communities,” she said. (Photo by Reginald Duncan)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

In June, Dr. Patrice A. Harris, a psychiatrist from Atlanta, was sworn-in as the 174th president of the American Medical Association (AMA). She is the first African-American woman to hold the position.

During her inauguration ceremony in Chicago, Dr. Harris said she plans to implement effective strategies to improve healthcare education and training, combat the crisis surrounding chronic diseases, and eliminate barriers to quality patient care.

She also promised to lead conversations on mental health and diversity in the medical field.

“We face big challenges in health care today, and the decisions we make now will move us forward in a future we help create,” Dr. Harris said in a statement.

“We are no longer at a place where we can tolerate the disparities that plague communities of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. But we are not yet at a place where health equity is achieved in those communities,” she said.

According to her biography on the AMA’s website, Dr. Harris has long been a mentor, role model and an advocate.

She served on the AMA Board of Trustees since 2011, and as chair from 2016 to 2017.

Prior to that, Dr. Harris served in various leadership roles which included task forces on topics like health information technology, payment and delivery reform, and private contracting.

Dr. Harris also held leadership positions with the American Psychiatric Association, the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association, the Medical Association of Georgia, and The Big Cities Health Coalition, where she chaired this forum composed of leaders from America’s largest metropolitan health departments.

Growing up in Bluefield, West Virginia, Dr. Harris dreamt of entering medicine at a time when few women of color were encouraged to become physicians, according to her bio.

She spent her formative years at West Virginia University, earning a BA in psychology, an MA in counseling psychology and ultimately, a medical degree in 1992.

It was during this time that her passion for helping children emerged, and she completed her psychiatry residency and fellowships in child and adolescent psychiatry and forensic psychiatry at the Emory University School of Medicine, according to her bio.

“The saying ‘if you can see it, you can believe it’ is true,” Dr. Harris said during her swearing-in ceremony.

“And I hope to be tangible evidence for young girls and young boys and girls from communities of color that you can aspire to be a physician. Not only that, you can aspire to be a leader in organized medicine,” she said.

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Community

Best Buddies offers hope, friendship to those with special needs

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Michelle found Best Buddies International in June 2018 as an intern with high hopes of building skills that would help her transition from the low-paying, temporary positions that gave her lots of anxiety, into a stable, well-paying job. After a few weeks in the program, she secured a position with Silicon Valley Bank and her friendly personality and hard work ethic quickly endured her to her co-workers and managers.

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Best Buddies International (Photo by: bestbuddies.org)

By Angela N. Parker

MAKING A DIFFERENCE:

Michelle found Best Buddies International in June 2018 as an intern with high hopes of building skills that would help her transition from the low-paying, temporary positions that gave her lots of anxiety, into a stable, well-paying job.

After a few weeks in the program, she secured a position with Silicon Valley Bank and her friendly personality and hard work ethic quickly endured her to her co-workers and managers.

For Michelle, who lives with intellectual and developmental disabilities, securing the job has been a turning point in her life, helping her come out of her shell and become the independent woman she always wanted to be. Since starting her job, she has gotten married, and her increase in income has allowed her to move out of her parents’ home into an apartment with her husband.

“Because of my job at Silicon Valley Bank, I was able to move into my own apartment with my husband,” Michelle said. “Having my own home made me feel more independent. Best Buddies is important to me because they helped me get my dream job at SVB.

Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has grown from one original chapter to nearly 2,900 chapters worldwide, positively impacting the lives of more than 1.25 million children and adults with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Best Buddies programs engage participants in each of the 50 states and in 54 countries around the world.  The organization is dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement through its four pillars that focus on creating opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living for individuals.

“We are an organization that live out our mission every day,” said Erica Mangham, California state director. “I’m proud about everything we do at Best Buddies. Most recently, we hired a person who has autism as our office assistant in the Los Angeles Office. We are living out our second pillar.”

Mangham has worked in nonprofit spaces for more than 20 years as either an employee, a volunteer, or a member of a board, but working at Best Buddies is a personal and a conscious decision for the mom whose youngest daughter has special needs.

“[Best Buddies works to give participants] a sense of independence, freedom and a feeling of belonging,” Mangham said. “[We want them to] have a friend, a true friend, it’s just that simple. Everyone needs a friend or someone who believes in them and with the help of Best Buddies we make that hope or wish a reality.”

Mangham credits the success of the program to its dedicated and mission-focused staff, volunteers, donors and founder. However, like most nonprofits, the organization is in need of continuous funding to continue the programs that are critical to its mission.

Each year, Best Buddies host a Friendship Walk in May and they also put on an annual gala called Champion of the Year.

“We hope that people reading this will think about supporting us by coming to these events and helping us raise much-needed funds,” Mangham said. “In addition to the funding, we need more employer partnerships and expansion of schools.

Mangham hopes that the support of the community will allow Best Buddies to continue to transform the lives of men and women who want to live full, independent lives. Right now, 84% of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are unemployed, and the organization has made its mission for the future to lower that statistic.

“My wish for Best Buddies is that we continue to be laser focused on the mission to ensure that our participants are living out an inclusive life, in the workforce and in school, in ways that are the norm, not the exception,” Mangham said.

INFORMATION BOX

Name: Erica Mangham

Title: California State Director

Organization: Best Buddies International 

Social Media:  https://www.bestbuddies.org/

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers

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Afro

Bodden Foundation to Address Mental Health

THE AFRO — Former NFL defensive back and Prince George’s County native Leigh Bodden knows all too well about dealing with pain and putting on a brave face.  Most of Bodden’s contemporaries hid behind the mask on the field and in the locker room, as it was recognized as a sign of weakness if there were moments of vulnerability that exposed mental health issues.

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The Leigh Bodden Foundation in partnership with Lauryn’s Law, is collaborating to raise awareness about the causes of suicide and mental illness in Maryland. (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray

Former NFL defensive back and Prince George’s County native Leigh Bodden knows all too well about dealing with pain and putting on a brave face.  Most of Bodden’s contemporaries hid behind the mask on the field and in the locker room, as it was recognized as a sign of weakness if there were moments of vulnerability that exposed mental health issues.

Bodden has also seen how the effects of not dealing with mental health issues can have fatal consequences.  So as he did during his eight-year pro football career, he’s attacking the unspoken killer of so many people in his community head on.

The Leigh Bodden Foundation in partnership with Lauryn’s Law, is collaborating to raise awareness about the causes of suicide and mental illness in Maryland.  It will kickoff during a charity kickball game August 4 at Bowie Baysox Stadium. A group of local celebrities and former professional athletes will compete following the Baltimore Orioles Minor League affiliate’s game.  Their goal is to address these very personal issues that plague so many Americans and raise money to help those who have been affected.

“There are stresses in life that affect people in different ways,” Bodden told the AFRO.  “People need to understand when they need to talk to someone about their problems they shouldn’t be ashamed.  Suicide is not like cancer or HIV, its a silent killer.”

Bodden personally understands the devastation of mental health issues leading to suicide.  When he played for the New England Patriots, two of his former teammates would ultimately take their lives prematurely.  He recalls how Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau was one of the most gregarious and fun loving players in the locker room.  However, after he retired his life spiraled downward to the point where he committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest in 2012.

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez also led a destructive life, which ended his career as he appeared to be on the cusp of greatness.  After signing a massive free agent contract he was convicted of killing Odin Lloyd and sentenced to life in prison in a well publicized case. He also ended his life by committing suicide while in jail.

Those deaths were attributed to chronic traumatic encephalopathy

known as CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to repeated hits to the head and is common in former NFL players who have taken their lives.  The onset of CTE developed because of brain damage that began while Seau and Hernandez were playing football.

However, the game changer for Bodden was the death of his best friend Barry who committed suicide after struggling with personal issues that he never talked about.  Barry never opened up about the feelings that were beneath the surface after he had been bullied. Bodden still recounts how he could have been an ear to listen for his fallen friend.

To honor that relationship, “Barry’s Game” is what the charity kickball game will be known as, and it also served as the impetus for his foundation to partner with Lauryn’s Law.  Lauryn’s Law requires that school counselors receive proper training to spot warning signs of mental illness, trauma, violence or substance abuse.

The law was passed in 2013 after Lauryn Santiago took her own life at 15 years-old. In the months leading up to Lauryn’s death, her mother Linda Diaz, was aware that her child was facing difficulty at school. Lauryn’s mother reached out to the school and asked for the counselor to set up a meeting with Lauryn about being bullied but it was too late.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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