Bush’s Veto Threats Ignored – Bill Increasing Health Insurance Coverage to Texas Children Passed

President Bush’s threat to veto a bipartisan-supported bill to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program was ignored this week by Congress, who passed the measure.

Drafted over the last six months by senior members of the Senate Finance Committee, the bill is intended to cover the millions of children who will go uninsured if no action is taken when the program expires on September 30th. Eight million children in the U.S. currently lack healthcare coverage, including more than 1.3 million in Texas alone, and 7.4 million are insured under the present program. If not vetoed, the new plan would reduce the number of uninsured children by half — 4.1 million — over the next five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Texas, arguably, may be one of the states most affected by the outcome of changes to the CHIP, with 25% of its total population going without any health insurance whatsoever. Between 2001 and 2003, 21% of Texas children were uninsured, twice the national average of 11%. Cuts in 2003 to the national program discontinued benefits for 36% of Texas’ CHIP caseload; further cuts may absolutely devastate the state’s already-strained healthcare system.

The bill, which is supported by the Democratic majority in Congress, Republican lawmakers, and many governors of both parties was approved, despite presidential protests. “There is no question that the president would veto it,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto earlier this month.

The bipartisan plan would be funded by increasing the federal excise tax on tobacco products, giving the program $35 billion over the next five years, in addition to the $25 billion already slotted. The Democrats originally asked for even more — $50 billion over the next five years.

In contrast, the President’s proposal would add only $5 billion to CHIP’s budget in the same amount of time. Spokespersons for the White House say the plan would insure non-poor children, encouraging parents to drop private coverage and depend on government subsidies. Additionally, the bill does not include Bush’s suggestions for altering the tax treatment of health insurance, making coverage more affordable to millions.

Republican Senator Charles E. Grassley (IA), says he would gladly consider tax proposals, but “it’s not realistic to think that can be accomplished before the current children’s health care program runs out in September.”

But Texas doesn’t have the luxury of losing funding to CHIP, where more children are uninsured than in any other state, according to the Texas Hospital Association. Its percentage of uninsured is the worst in the country, and 86% of Texas voters in 2006 supported making health insurance more affordable and accessible to the wider population. Nearly nine out of ten believed the state should have a responsibility in increasing health insurance access, as a portion of the costs of the uninsured are borne by those who have insurance through higher premiums. In fact, annual health insurance premiums were $1,551 higher in Texas than the national average due to unreimbursed costs of caring for the uninsured, according to a 2005 Families USA study.

The uninsured tend to seek routine care at hospitals, where they cannot be refused an evaluation. These costs, then, are often carried by local taxpayers and by those with health coverage. This is particularly a problem in Austin, Dallas, and Houston, where many travel from rural areas of the state to seek care. But, in contrast to what many believe, most of those who are uninsured in Texas — eight out of ten — are working individuals who simply cannot afford coverage.

To add to the chorus of organizations reporting poor healthcare in the state, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a report stating that the uninsured are “less likely to have a regular source of care, to delay or forgo needed care, and to miss out on preventative care due to lack of coverage.” The American Hospital Association chimed in to state adults who lack health insurance are more likely to report “poor” or “fair” health than adults with coverage. In Texas, that means 27.6% of uninsured reported “poor” or “fair” health. Children are not depended upon to accurately report their own state of health, but translate those results into the juvenile population, and Texas — let alone the rest of the country — has a serious problem, indeed.

Many — uninsured and insured — eagerly anticipate the final outcome of this bill, as it will eventually affect nearly everyone, in some way or another. Premiums for those who already have health coverage may go down due to decreased deflected costs; increases in the budget to CHIP would allow millions of children to have insurance whose families currently cannot afford it. What is absolutely certain is that a response must be made, and soon, by Congress, to a healthcare crisis slowly crushing the nation.

Being aware of current government healthcare policies is an important part of watching out for you, and your children’s, health. How you take care of yourself will certainly affect you as you age, and eventually your wallet, as well. If you’re a young individual who tries to keep informed and maintain a healthy condition and lifestyle, you should take a look at the revolutionary, comprehensive and highly-affordable individual health insurance solutions created by Precedent specifically for you. Visit our website, [http://www.precedent.com], for more information. We offer a unique and innovative suite of individual health insurance solutions, including highly-competitive HSA-qualified plans, and an unparalleled “real time” application and acceptance experience.

Funding Your Own Healthcare

Introduction

More folks including both individual adults and families are on their own to provide funding for healthcare. There is a growing trend of being your own freelance business owner, being a contract employee or being employed by a business that does not offer a health insurance benefit. Many people make the mistake of buying price instead of value in a healthcare funding plan. This article provides an overview of options for funding healthcare with both advantages and disadvantages of each strategy.

How Much does Healthcare Cost?

Understanding what healthcare costs is important to deciding the best strategy for funding your own healthcare needs. Buying based only on price and not value (price vs. benefits) is a common and very grave mistake. Some examples of what healthcare can cost will help illuminate the importance of value and risk transfer (insurance) in funding your own healthcare.

Routine Care: Having an ongoing relationship with a medical doctor is important value and can help you avoid much more costly illness and improve your overall health outcome. I am an example of the benefits of routine medical care with the goals of avoiding cardiovascular disease, diabetes and managing my sinus allergies. My recent doctor visit including blood test = $248 Well Baby Check (price from local pediatrician) = $160 Annual Physical = $500? Cost depends on how elaborate a physical you get.

Rx Drug: Prescription drugs are approximately 10% of total healthcare spending [1]. Prescription drugs can be a large component of treating a major or chronic illness. These are drugs that I take with the list prices from my local drug store. OTC Claratin (equivalent house brand) = $10 / month Crestor = $137.99 / month Astelin = $115.99 / month An example of a more expensive medicine that my wife takes regularly for her chronic migraines: Topamax (generic equivalent) = $566.99 / month

Diagnostic Tests: Diagnostic tests are an important part of most disease identification, management and treatment and are a large component of healthcare costs. My recent blood test (three panels) = $152 X-Rays = $100+ Mammogram = $150+ MRI = $1000+; a complex MRI can cost several thousand dollars

Emergency Care: ER Visit = $1000+; this is based on my experience – I have never had an ER visit that was less than a $1000 in billed costs

Hospital Admission About 30% of healthcare costs are for in-patient hospitalization. The average length of a hospital stay is five days [2] with costs highly dependent on treatment. Heart Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) – Example from one of my clients = $45,000 including an ER admission and then three days in the hospital

Major Illness: Cancer (Lymphoma) – My brother over two years of treatment = $500,000+; It is hard to tell the actual total but when I called to see if my brother was close to exceeding his $1 million lifetime limit the expectation was at least $500,000 in paid benefits to complete his cancer treatment.

Texas Workers Compensation – New Certified Networks

New workers comp laws in Texas have some healthcare professionals changing the way they practice medicine and the injured workers are caught in the middle.

Early in 2006, the Texas Workers Comp legislation made extreme changes from their past operational methods. Certified networks have been established, affording better discounts for employers and insurance carriers.

Healthcare professionals in Texas have major decisions to make as far as how they are going to run their practices. Many have opted out of workers comp altogether, while others are attempting to be a part of these networks, only to be turned away with the statement “our panel is full”.

In researching these provider databases posted by the Networks/Carriers, we have found many descrepancies in providers that are listed, but are not taking work comp cases, or in some cases, it appears that company doctors or company owned medical centers, make up the majority of the healthcare panel, offered to patients and employers. It hardly seems fair, that consumers and injured workers are forced to go to providers that are not of their choosing.

New workers comp laws in Texas have some healthcare professionals changing the way they practice medicine and the injured workers are caught in the middle.

In many states there is an “any willing provider” law that allow any healthcare professional that is willing to take the insurance carrier discounts, may participate in any insurance plan without fail. Unfortunately, Texas is not one of those states.

Providers in most cases are at the mercy of these networks. Many times, former patients try to come in for care only to find that their carrier/network has not allowed their provider to be included for whatever reason. this has been very disturbing to many patients that we have spoken to. In some cases, patients may speak to their HR department or write letters to their insurance carriers, asking for their chosen provider to be allowed in their network. In some cases with some carriers, this may work.

Some healthcare specialties, chiropractors in particular, are forced to apply for network participation through outside entities to even be included in the panels with major carriers. Once again, these providers fight and struggle to be a part of these networks and are not allowed to participate due to the old statement “our panel is full”.

In this day and age of consumer rights, it seems to the author, that all providers should be allowed to participate in which ever network they choose to participate in if they meet the state criteria for participation and are willing to accept the discounts offered by these carrier/networks. Providers are losing patients on a daily basis and losing money that is necessary to continue to offer affordable healthcare to their patients. We have even found in our research where some medical doctors are even going back to “cash” practices because they are so disillusioned with the healthcare systems we are force to accept.

As a consumer or injured worker, the only answer to make sure you get to see the provider you wish to have treat you is to stand up and speak out to your legislators, employers and your congressmen.

Lack of Health Insurance in Texas is Among Critical Healthcare Shortages

Need for Texas Health Insurance Is Worst in the Nation

In 2008, Texas fell from 37th to 46th on the United Health Foundation’s ranking of the states based on healthcare statistics. According to the Houston Chronicle, Texas is among the states that are best prepared to respond to a public health emergency, but this is the same state that has the highest percentage of residents surviving with no Health Insurance in Texas.

Ironically, literally hundreds of Texas Health Insurance Plans are available, including plans from Aetna, Assurant, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Celtic, Humana, and United Healthcare. The largest health insurance providers in Texas have also added mail delivery of prescription medications to make it easier for members to obtain many of the most common maintenance medications for conditions like diabetes and heart problems. Aetna, Anthem, and Humana are providing these mail-order prescriptions.

A Critical Shortage of Nurses in Texas Is Met with New Nursing Programs

In addition to a lack of Health Insurance for Texas residents, a critical shortage of nurses has been a problem. This nursing shortage is being challenged in South Texas with plans to graduate more nurses at all educational levels.

The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio plans to transform nursing education thanks to the largest donation that their School of Nursing has received in its 40-year history. Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas Inc. gave $3.9 million to fund new nursing education.

A co-owner in Methodist Healthcare System, Methodist Healthcare Ministries is the largest faith-based, not-for-profit, private funding source for health care services to low-income families, and those without health insurance in Southern Texas.

Hiring and supporting qualified nursing faculty had been a problem at the university since many faculty members were retiring, and state dollars failed to cover the university’s expenses. The university plans to use $2.7 million of the donation for faculty and curriculum specialists, and to teach three new nursing degree programs.

One such program will be an accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing for students who currently have a bachelor’s degree in a different field. This program starts in May of this year, and has 70 students. A second program, an accelerated online master’s degree for nurses with an associate’s degree in nursing, begins next January in 2011 with 46 students. That same month, the university is also starting a doctorate in nursing practice with 10 students.

When fully implemented, these new programs will help the school admit an additional 20 traditional undergraduate students, 70 accelerated undergraduate students, 46 additional master’s students, and 10 doctoral students.

New Hospital Opens in Dallas Area

The recent opening of Methodist McKinney Hospital exemplifies the need for nurses in Texas. Methodist McKinney Hospital is a 65,000-square-foot project in the Dallas area. The new hospital offers comprehensive diagnostic imaging with CT and MRI services, six operating rooms, and 15 private patient rooms.

The hospital will also offer a wide range of physician specialties, such as general surgery, gynecology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, otolaryngology, pain management, and primary care. Within a year, the division also expects to begin taking patients at another $60 million hospital in the Dallas-area.

Health Insurance for Texas Residents Needed to Benefit From New Hospital

Health Insurance Quotes for Texas can be found online along with contact numbers to reach expert advisors who can answer questions about how the available plans fit individual needs. Short-term and student health plans are available online, too, for temporary situations.

Texas Ranks In The Bottom Quarter Of The Nation For Healthcare

Texas ranks in the bottom quarter of the nation for healthcare, according to recent reports. As a state with one of the highest rates of uninsured — just over 25% — this comes as no surprise to many.

Just over 15% of all Americans go without health insurance, totaling nearly 48 million. This unfortunate statistic comes at a time when Medicare is experiencing historical funding cuts under the Bush administration. The concern is not so much how many lack insurance, but what kind of healthcare those uninsured receive.

Even officials from high-profile organizations, such as the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, are beginning to admit that receiving quality healthcare in the U.S. is not only dependent on where one lives, but also on whether or not one has healthcare coverage. At least one-quarter of those lacking health insurance, for instance, did not receive a recommended test in 2004 due to cost.

The devastating report released by the Fund this week openly stated a strong link between healthcare coverage and access to quality care. It evaluated such variables as uninsured breast cancer death rates and preventable hospital admissions, among others. If all states implemented wide-sweeping measures designed to grant health insurance to more individuals (such as Hawaii and several East Coast states in which 90% of working-age adults are now insured), as many as 90,000 deaths could be avoided, 22 million more could be insured, and the Medicare program could save $22 billion.

It’s strange to think that, in a nation basing its moral principles on the belief that all citizens are to be treated equally — and that everyone, regardless of citizenship, has certain “unalienable rights” — tens of thousands are literally dying due to lack of insurance.

The problem cannot be blamed on any one factor. Most healthcare professionals, for instance, are compassionate individuals working their hardest to provide quality care. But many facilities treating low-income individuals lack the proper staff, resources, equipment, and time to administer to all their patients effectively. Cities like Houston, Dallas, and Austin are experiencing enormous pressure to deliver care to more individuals than their facilities can realistically handle, due, in part, to the growing number of uninsured commuting from rural areas in the hopes of receiving more effective treatments. To make matters worse, Texas is experiencing a devastating shortage of young, qualified physicians.

Many would like to blame illegal immigrants for the Lone Star State’s healthcare standing — implying that if only there weren’t such a border-crossing problem, the healthcare system could be relieved of its pressure. And while Texas, like other border states, does take on certain financial responsibilities when caring for illegal immigrants, it’s not the worst aspect of the problem by any means. Texas also ranks high in the nation for poverty levels, unemployment, and expensive chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes.

Sixty-one percent of adults in Texas are obese. Thirty-five percent of children are also afflicted, and the numbers just keep increasing. That’s well over half of Texans considered extremely overweight. The condition is so costly due to its secondary effects, such as higher rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers, like breast cancer. Some would also argue that the psychological effects — depression, anxiety, social disorders, low productivity, to name a few — are rarely documented as linked with the disease at all.

The issue was once publicly avoided by officials, for fear of being accused of insensitivity, but obesity, is, in fact, a legitimate health concern that needs to be addressed. Its varied causes are only exasperated by recent reports that eating healthy is far more expensive than not. If many uninsured are of low income, and a certain percentage of those are, obviously, also obese, then it is becoming increasingly difficult for those with this problem to take the necessary steps to improve their condition. Not only can many obese Texans not afford proper healthcare, but neither can they afford health club memberships, or the healthier, more expensive foods. Neglecting the issue in the low-income population is not helping. In fact, it’s costing the state millions.

The rate of diabetes in Texas, too, deserves considerable attention. As of 2004, nearly 500,000 Texans had been diagnosed with diabetes, with the expectation that the number would grow. It’s the leading cause of kidney disease and blindness for those between the ages of 20 and 74, and is the sixth leading cause of death, though many officials believe it’s actually much higher. Diabetes can cause vascular disease, neurological problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. When we make the logical conclusion that many suffer from both, obesity and diabetes, that much statistical data on disease is based on those who actually made it to the doctor for diagnosis, and that many of those sufferers are going without insurance (and, therefore, quality care), we begin to get a true sense of this issue.

Improved healthcare in Texas is entirely within reach. Such a dishearteningly low national ranking does not need to be permanent. But better healthcare is not attainable without first addressing the situation, or the real causes of it. More effective government programs need to be instituted, a stronger recruitment plan for quality physicians put into action, and more affordable health insurance policies made available.

Watching out for your own healthcare is important in such difficult times. How you take care of yourself will certainly affect you as you age, and eventually your wallet, as well. If you’re a young individual who tries to keep informed and maintain a healthy condition and lifestyle, you should take a look at the revolutionary, comprehensive and highly-affordable individual health insurance solutions created by Precedent specifically for you. Visit our website, [http://www.precedent.com], for more information. We offer a unique and innovative suite of individual health insurance solutions, including highly-competitive HSA-qualified plans, and an unparalleled “real time” application and acceptance process.

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Texas Health Insurance: Children Win In The War Over Healthcare

Texas has the lowest percentage of residents protected by health insurance in the entire country. Only one in four have any form of Texas health insurance at all. Media coverage has been scant regarding the future of more than half a million Americans who have been through bankruptcy court, largely due to medical bills. So, what will the future look like for Texas?

Although the rest of the industrialized world has left “for-profit” health insurance behind, every Texas Republican in the U.S. Congress voted no on the healthcare reform that could protect the vast majority of Texans with access to medical care.

Nevertheless, children in Texas have just gained coverage under their parents’ Texas insurance plans until their 26th birthday. Those in the next generation who suffer from pre-existing conditions like asthma finally won the right to healthcare when insurers were barred from refusing to cover these children.

If you get health insurance quotes in Texas right now, you can protect your children under your plan regardless of any pre-existing condition they may have. Fewer people are finding health insurance in Texas through employment now, but you can keep your young adult children on your own plan until their 26th birthday.

Health Insurance In Texas Has More For Adults

Even adults without growing families got something when healthcare reform kicked in this fall. Insurers can no longer limit the amount of coverage you receive over a lifetime. If you got a new plan after healthcare reform passed, your insurer cannot charge you higher out-of-network rates for emergency medical treatment, either.

Because too many people were not getting regular preventive care, like cancer screenings and vaccinations, insurers are now required to cover recommended preventive care without any co-pay charges. The catch is that you have to get a new plan after the passage of healthcare.

If you are thinking about looking into new plans for the extra coverage, you may see higher premiums when you run health insurance quotes in Texas now. Weigh that against what it would cost you to pay for preventive care out of your own pocket before you make a decision. Most importantly, do not cancel your old policy until your new Texas health insurance is effective. Adults with pre-existing conditions will not be guaranteed coverage until 2014!

Can The U.S. Afford Health Insurance For Texas?

If you were part of the middle class in 2000 earning between $50,000 and $75,000, you gave the same share of your income to the IRS as the people who made more than $87 million. Tax breaks for the wealthiest in the country just increased again in 2007.

In countries in Europe, residents may pay taxes as high as 50 percent of their income, but they are guaranteed free healthcare and a college education, including books. The people of Denmark were singled out in a Frontline documentary because more people there reported they were happy with state of their lives than people in any other country. Danes pay some of the highest taxes in the world, but they enjoy the security they feel and trust in their future.

In the U.S., states like Texas are waging war over healthcare, including expanding Medicaid to help people under 65 who are struggling with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty line. With the recession, Medicaid enrollment surged and that spending rose at the highest rate in eight years, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

What Is The Future Of Texas Health Insurance Plans?

New requirements that will cover more adults in Texas are scheduled to kick in by 2014, such as the Texas health insurance state exchange. The idea there was to offer more citizens coverage similar to what those in Congress already enjoy. The federal government will provide the initial funding, but states like Texas will eventually have to maintain their exchanges.

After gaining ground in the November 2010 election, Texas Republicans proposed to drop out of the federal Medicaid program. What will happen to the 3.6 million children, people with disabilities and impoverished Texans now enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP?

This battle goes far beyond the state of Texas having to spend money to protect citizens with health insurance in Texas. Why would Republican state legislators try to deny Texans billions in federal tax dollars?

How to Become a Sonographer in Austin

Austin, Texas is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” and offers a seemingly unlimited array of music venues. Musicians play everything from Reggae and rock to classical and contemporary. People living in, attending school, and working in Austin will also find plenty of other types of activities in this Texas state capital, like the visiting the Austin Zoo and kayaking on Lady Bird Lake. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers will appreciate the fact that the Austin, Texas healthcare industry is dedicated to providing access to quality and affordable medical services to all in need.

Sonography Education in Austin, Texas

The best Diagnostic Medical Sonography programs in Austin, Texas are the ones accredited through the Committee on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The nationally recognized accreditation is proof each program meets the highest standards for training future healthcare professionals who plan on sitting for the ARDMS exams and eventually working in the field of ultrasound technology.

There are two CAAHEP accredited programs in Austin offering a variety of degrees and certifications. Austin Community College has strict minimum entrance requirements and limited enrollment so it is important to apply well in advance of the desired start date. The Virginia College Diagnostic Medical Sonography program takes 88 weeks to complete and has a job placement rate of 69 percent.

Austin is home to the University of Texas at Austin with over 46,000 students and the Austin Community College District with an enrollment of approximately 11,000 students. There are numerous smaller schools in the area, and Texas State University-San Marcos is only 31 miles from Austin and has an enrollment of over 23,000 students. Allied Health students specializing in sonography in 2014 will find that Austin host an active student population.

Salary and Job Outlook for Sonographers in Austin, Texas

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers are in high demand in Texas, and that includes Austin and the surrounding area. The statistics for the federally designated metropolitan area of Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas report that ultrasound technicians earned an average annual salary of $62,440 or $32.02 per hour. The average annual salaries are on a scale ranging from $49,150 to $81,350 or $23.63 per hour to $39.11 per hour, both of which are excellent rates. Healthcare practitioners and technical positions, including sonographers, make up 4.5 percent of the total metropolitan area employment, and that figure is expected to grow as Austin strengthens its efforts to make healthcare accessible to all residents.

A List of Best Schools for Diagnostic Medical Sonography Study in Austin, Texas

School Name: Austin Community College
Address: 3401 Webberville Road, Building 9000, Room 9202, Austin 78702
Contact Person: Regina Swearengin
Contact Phone: (512)223-5944
Program: Certificate and Associates Degree
Accreditation: CAAHEP

School Name: Virginia College
Address: 6301 East Highway 290, Austin 78723
Contact Person: Dianna Sequeira
Contact Phone: (512)279-2835
Program: Associates Degree
Accreditation: CAAHEP

Nearby Cities List

There are three cities within a two-and-half drive from Austin that have CAAHEP accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography programs:

Temple, Texas (closest city, approximately one-hour from Austin)
Cypress, Texas
Houston, Texas

Texas May Be Handing Out More Death Sentences

The United States may be infecting Mexico with H.I.V., not the other way around. According to 2006 United Nations’ statistics, Mexico’s AIDS rate is about half of the U.S.’s, and a high percentage of new HIV infections in Mexico are traced back to migrant workers returning home from America. Twenty-two percent of patients with HIV at Puebla General Hospital (Puebla, Mexico) can trace their infections back to the U.S.

The news may come as a shock to many in the border regions of Texas, where illegal immigrants are often blamed for the state’s growing healthcare crisis. Texas’ healthcare system is overloaded with uninsured patients commuting from rural areas to the larger cities of Dallas, Houston, and Austin to seek care. As a result of these, and other, unreimbursed costs for the uninsured, most private, family health insurance premiums in Texas are higher than the rest of the nation’s.

In the thirty-two counties comprising Texas’ border region, 85% of the population was Hispanic in 2003, but only 9.8 in 100,000 were infected with HIV. In contrast, more than twice — 22 in 100,000 — on average, in the same year were infected statewide. In fact, Harris County accounts for the highest rate of HIV infections in the state.

Between 41% and 79% of Mexicans infected with HIV lived in the U.S., according to statistics collected from 1983 to the early ’90s. Mexico has not reported comprehensive studies since then, however, and it seems up to joint initiatives, such as studies conducted by the California-Mexico AIDS Initiative, to gather information that reflects the current state of affairs.

Mexico’s AIDS epidemic is still mostly confined to prostitutes and their clients, gay men, and IV drug users. Infected individuals between the ages of 15 and 49 account for only 0.3% of the population, as opposed to 0.6% in the U.S. Rural migrant workers, however, are slowly becoming a high-risk category on their own. Rural areas, where there is the least access to healthcare and testing, also boast the highest migration rates due to the poor economy. Combined, such factors create a near-perfect atmosphere in which the virus can explode. In fact, for most Mexican women, their greatest risk of contracting the disease is from having unprotected sex with their migrant-worker husbands.

“Migration leads to conditions and experiences that increase risks,” said George Lemp, an epidemiologist and director of the University of California’s AIDS research program. He and colleagues are studying the spread of HIV/AIDS among migrants, and says that isolation, different sexual practices, language barriers (including to health services), depression, loneliness, and abuse all contribute to the growing rate of infection. Migrants tend to have more sexual partners than those who stay at home, and there is a considerable lack of condom usage among this population, due, in part, to cultural factors. Migrant women may also be particularly vulnerable, as their risks of sexual abuse and rape are much greater.

Jennifer S. Hirsch, professor of public health at Columbia University, published an article earlier this month in the American Journal of Public Health citing evidence supporting the notion that part of the problem may actually be the emotional fidelity of many Mexican migrant-worker husbands. Rather than forming long-lasting relationships with women in the U.S., they instead seek sexual outlet with high-risk individuals providing short-term interaction, such as prostitutes.

But the subject is often taboo among couples, and routine HIV screenings are still not common. Many women, in fact, only discover they are infected after giving birth to an HIV-positive child. Mexico does provide antiretroviral drugs to even the poorest of migrant workers once diagnosed, but sacrificing the time and finances to travel to cities where they are distributed is a major obstacle. Lack of testing and treatment, in turn, increase the risk of transmitting the disease, especially in a culture in which condom usage is limited, infidelity not discussed, and screenings not routine.

Being aware of your HIV status is an important part of monitoring your health. How you take care of yourself will certainly affect you as you age, and eventually your wallet, as well. If you’re a young individual who tries to keep informed and maintain a healthy condition and lifestyle, you should take a look at the revolutionary, comprehensive and highly-affordable individual health insurance solutions created by Precedent specifically for you. Visit our website, [http://www.precedent.com], for more information. We offer a unique and innovative suite of individual health insurance solutions, including highly-competitive HSA-qualified plans, and an unparalleled “real time” application and acceptance experience.

The Return of Sci-Fi

Your doctor may soon be a robot, or so the whispers warn. Sound like something out of a bad science-fiction movie? Well, maybe you should ask whichever physician shows up on-screen of the RP-7 Remote Presence Robotic System by InTouch Technologies, a maneuverable robotic system designed to allow physicians to videoconference with their patients from remote locations.

Dr. Alex Gandsas, of Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital and holder of stock options with InTouch Technologies, introduced the machine to hospital administrators as a way to closely monitor patients after the weight loss surgeries in which he specializes. Since its introduction, the length of his patients’ stays has been shorter. In Gandsas’ study published earlier this month in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 92 of 376 patients had additional robotic visits, and all 92 of them were medically cleared to return home faster than those who did not receive check-ins with the teleconferencing system. Shorter patient stays would be a welcome change for hospitals, health insurance companies, and patients alike — all of which have a vested interested in sending patients home faster.

While further studies should, without a doubt, be performed by physicians who do not hold a financial interest in the technology, these preliminary results do show promise. The robotic visits were not used by Gandsas to replace his personal check-ins with patients — only to add to them. Neither InTouch Technologies, nor Dr. Gandsas envisions the “Bari,” or so it’s nicknamed, as completely replacing personal visits with healthcare professionals. Instead, the joystick-controlled system, which employs cameras, a video screen, and microphone, is intended to supplement physicians’ traditional visits, and to allow patients and healthcare workers to receive advice from qualified physicians and specialists when it may otherwise be impossible. Doctors may soon be able to provide their patients with additional daily check-ins and answer questions much faster, all while sitting in their own homes or while away from the area.

Sinai Hospital isn’t the only one with this technology, however. In fact, robots have been in use for some time to assist with patient care, including guiding stroke patients through therapy, and helping them play video games. Many prosthetic devices are now at least partially robotic, and if it weren’t for a certain amount of robotic technology, the public would not be able to communicate with such great minds as Steven Hawkins.

Johns Hopkins also has a robotic teleconferencing system to help communicate with patients who need a translator when one is not available at the hospital itself. Use of such technology could have tremendously positive effects on Texas’ healthcare system — particularly in Dallas, Houston, and Austin — which handles a high volume of patients who do not speak English. Lack of adequate communication is a major obstacle to receiving quality healthcare for many immigrants in Texas. Lack of quality healthcare, in turn, can lead to serious public health issues, including the transmission of communicable diseases.

Approximately 120 RP-7 Remote Presence Robotic Systems are currently in use around the world, with plans to implement many more in the coming years. China is already using similar systems to help deal with the lack of medical care in rural, inaccessible areas.

Dr. Louis Kavoussi, chairman of the urology department at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, took a special interest in this new trend and conducted a study monitoring the effect of the technology on patient care. The study showed no decrease in patient satisfaction, and no increase in complications due to teleconferencing visits. The technology, Kavoussi said, is “rudimentary,” really, in comparison to other developing systems. The need for fear is minimal.

There are relatively few of InTouch Technologies’ systems available, and further studies have yet to be conducted. If robotic teleconferencing is used as a supplement to personal physicians’ visits, however, it has the potential of dramatically improving many aspects of healthcare — from how quickly patients’ questions are answered, to how many visits, in total, they receive, to whether or not rural residents receive proper care, to how well (or even if) they are provided with a translator to explain their symptoms. States like Texas, in particular, with shortages of doctors and high volumes of patients who do not speak English, stand to benefit. So maybe robots in hospitals aren’t something one needs to fear. In fact, they may even get your unpleasant stay over with a few days faster.

Being aware of medical technology is an important part of taking care of your health. How you take care of yourself will certainly affect you as you age, and eventually your wallet, as well.

If you’re a young individual who tries to keep informed and maintain a healthy condition and lifestyle, you should take a look at the revolutionary, comprehensive and highly-affordable individual health insurance solutions created by Precedent specifically for you. Visit our website,for more information. We offer a unique and innovative suite of individual health insurance solutions, including highly-competitive HSA-qualified plans, and an unparalleled “real time” application and acceptance experience.

Another Heart Attack Waiting To Happen

As if there weren’t enough things giving us chest pain, new studies reveal that Prilosec and Nexium, made by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, increase the risk of fatal heart attacks after years of use.

The heartburn medications follow closely in the wake of controversies surrounding Vioxx, a painkiller also believed to raise the likelihood of heart attack and cardiovascular problems, and Avandia, a diabetic medication thought to elevate similar risks. Prilosec and Nexium are nearly identical in formula, and belong to a group of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, which reduce or eliminate heartburn by decreasing the stomach’s production of acid. Prevacid, Protonix, and Aciphex are also in this group.

The effect these court and media battles have had on the health care, health insurance, and pharmaceutical industries is significant, and if similar trends continue, could be astronomical. Giants like Merck, the makers of Vioxx, are seeing their stock market prices recover, but for a while, it was questionable.

The issues extend beyond just Wall Street, however, and certainly are a concern to residents of Dallas, Houston, Austin and throughout Texas. Health insurance companies may be less likely to cover drugs from pharmaceuticals with a history of liability problems.

For states like Texas, where twenty-five percent of the population is already going without any health coverage whatsoever, more bad news could crush the state’s ability to provide adequate care. If, for instance, state medical programs began to limit accessibility to medications made by giants like Merck, healthcare facilities already on the edge may go under entirely due to unreimbursed costs, or, worse, be unable to provide sufficient care at all.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was heavily criticized for not warning the public against Avandia, when it knew for more than a year about studies suggesting its link with higher risks of heart attack and angina. Merck faced formidable damage-control issues over Vioxx, and, in fact, is still in court over the fiasco. AstraZeneca might as well take notes; lawsuits are sure to come.

AstraZeneca recently sent the FDA the results of its fourteen-year study on different treatment options for acid reflux disease. It compared patients who elected to have surgery with those taking Prilosec, and found evidence within one year of the study’s inception that those choosing the medication were more likely to have heart attacks, heart failure and heart-related sudden deaths than those who underwent surgery. These findings continued throughout the study.

Several factors could have led to false negatives, reported the drug company, including the fact that surgery patients are often younger and healthier, and fourteen other studies on Prilosec showed no elevated risk at all.

That AstraZeneca knew of the possibility of these risks thirteen years ago, but did not reveal them, only adds to the lack of trust building against the pharmaceutical industry in general. A study on Nexium found similar risks early on, but the effect seemed to dissipate as the trial continued.

“It’s hard to know if this will play out similarly [to Avandia] until we have completed our analysis,” said Dr. Paul Seligman, the FDA’s associate center director for safety policy and communication, when questioned about Prilosec and Nexium.

In a written statement, the agency said that, “based on everything we now know, the FDA’s preliminary conclusion is that the observed difference in risk of heart attacks and other heart-related problems seen in early analyses of the two small long-term studies is not a true effect.”

The course of these analyses eerily parallels that of Avandia, however — just in reverse. Three dozen short-term studies on the diabetes medication revealed heart risks, but the FDA dismissed the evidence after a long-term trial did not produce similar data. Prilosec’s long-term trial, on the other hand, revealed heart risk, while fourteen shorter-term studies did not. The fact that the FDA seemed, in both cases, to have conveniently ignored one set of data in exchange for emphasizing the other, more profitable one, calls the agency’s process of analysis into question. The FDA has since asked for safety data from all makers of proton pump inhibitors.

“We were cognizant from the earliest submission [on Prilosec and Nexium] about whether and how we should say something,” said Seligman.

It’s hard to know whether or not to be comforted by that.

Being aware of safety issues affecting your health is an important part of taking care of yourself. Minding your health will certainly affect you as you age, and eventually your wallet. If you’re a young individual who tries to keep informed and maintain a healthy condition and lifestyle, you should take a look at the revolutionary, comprehensive and highly-affordable individual health insurance solutions created by Precedent specifically for you. Visit our website, [http://www.precedent.com], for more information. We offer a unique and innovative suite of individual health insurance solutions, including highly-competitive HSA-qualified plans, and an unparalleled “real time” application and acceptance process.