Health

Health Insurance
8:44 am
Sun April 14, 2013

New Highmark Insurance Plan Channels Patients to Specific Hospitals

A new insurance plan from Highmark allows employers to nudge their employees toward particular hospitals when they need risky surgeries.

Employers using the "Blue Distinction" program can give incentives, such as waived deductibles and co-pays, to employees who choose hospitals that have proven track records for certain surgeries.

The company can also choose to increase co-pays or even “carve out” coverage for any other hospital when the specialty surgery is needed, according to Highmark Vice President of Regional Sales Eric Hays.

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Health
4:05 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

Cancer Plan For Pennsylvania Built During Pittsburgh Meeting

State administrators, health care providers and researchers gathered in Pittsburgh Thursday to work on building a comprehensive plan to do battle with cancer in Pennsylvania. 

The five-year plan is required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Director Nancy Davidson said the plan is being built with the center’s input. 

Davidson said the group is using the standards put forward by the CDC to set the tone, but she stressed that it is Pennsylvania’s plan, not the CDC’s plan.

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Health Insurance
3:30 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Got Insurance Questions? New Website Tries to Provide Answers

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has unveiled a new website aimed at helping Pennsylvanians with questions about their health insurance.

Department spokeswoman Rosanne Placey said the site was born out of questions being asked by callers.

“We were getting considerable calls on health insurance,” Placey said. “And so what we did is we recapped every question that we got from consumers and basically answered via this website.”

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Physical Therapy
3:37 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Electrical Stimulation Could Zap the Need for Some Physical Therapy

A study completed at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville could lead to physical therapy sessions being replaced with a device you would use in your home.

The study was done to see if electrical muscle stimulation, or EMS, is as effective as standard physical therapy in helping patients recover from joint replacement surgery.

Dr. Michael Levine, the principal investigator, said he wanted to have an alternative treatment for patients.

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Veterans Affairs
6:45 am
Thu April 4, 2013

At a House Inside the VA, Injured Vets Prepare to Return Home

Ron Dambrosia, 68, of East McKeesport, was in the Army for 11 years. Dambrosia developed a subdural hematoma, or a brain lesion, a few months ago and underwent surgery twice. While at MyHome, he worked with therapists to practice daily living tasks like making coffee.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

There is a house inside a building at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affair’s Aspinwall campus.

The house has everything one would expect – a doorbell, cable, flatware, a bedroom. There’s even a garage (but with half of a car).

The 1,100 square foot house, called MyHome, is a part of the VA’s Community Living Center, and it's designed to help patients recovering from physical or mental injuries transition safely back to their homes.

But that transition takes practice, according to VA Pittsburgh Rehab Site Supervisor Jason Fay.

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Medical Technology
5:20 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

UPMC Officer Discusses Disparities Created by New Medical Tech

Some patients prefer a certain type of doctor. Others don’t understand how to find their medical information via the internet.

Advances in medical technology, specifically in how medical information is given to patients, create a new medical disparity, especially for the elderly, according to Candi Castleberry-Singleton, the chief inclusion and diversity officer at UPMC.

Castleberry-Singleton, who spoke at the University of Pittsburgh today, doesn’t see new technology as a problem, but as an opportunity to be proactive. 

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Medicine
3:29 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Pitt Research Finds New Protein, Could Lead to New Drug to Fight Inflammation

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have discovered a new biological pathway, or protein, that ramps up inflammation. They also have identified agents that can block it.

This could be effective in fighting the damaging inflammation that results from conditions such and pneumonia.

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Affordable Care Act
3:30 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Backers of Medicaid Expansion Want Corbett to 'Stop Fooling Around'

Labor and healthcare advocacy groups are using this April Fool's Day to make a point: that Gov. Tom Corbett's decision to forego a federally funded expansion of Medicaid in Pennsylvania is, well, foolish.

Members of three groups — Working America, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network and the Consumer Health Coalition — plan to deliver 9,000 petitions to Corbett's office urging the administration to lower eligibility requirements for the federal program.

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Heart Disease
3:30 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Take a Walk to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke

Wednesday is National Walking Day, and organizers in Pittsburgh are hoping to get people in the good habit of taking a daily constitutional as warmer spring weather begins in the region.

Sandy McCurdy, board member of the American Heart Association, said walking is the easiest way to reduce one's risk for heart disease and stroke — two diseases that account for a combined 870,000 deaths in the United States each year.

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Sequestration
2:59 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

As Sequester Cuts Kick In, Hospitals to See Less Revenue from Medicare Payments

Starting April 1, Medicare payments to hospitals, doctors and other health care providers will be reduced by 2 percent as sequestration cuts kick in.

These cuts come after a slew of other cuts and subsidy reductions for under- and un-compensated care in preparation for the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will implement the cut, reimbursing Medicare claims at 98 cents on the dollar. Medicare already reimburses less than most private health insurance plans.

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Health
6:24 am
Thu March 28, 2013

In Pittsburgh, an Effort to Bring Down the Black Community's Infant Mortality Rate

Dorretta Lemon, a registered nurse, visits at-risk, pregnant first-time mothers every month at their homes. She maintains her relationship with the mother and her infant until the child is 2 years old.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

When Sarah Murphy found out she was pregnant, she was initially shocked.

"I didn’t think I would have kids, and then I ended up having him when I was 39," she said. 

Her advanced age led to a medically complicated pregnancy. Her income wasn’t as high as she thought it should be to cover the associated costs.

And as the child of a black woman living in Allegheny County, Murphy’s baby was three times more likely than a white woman’s child to die before reaching his first birthday.

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Health
3:07 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Pennsylvanians Eligible for Health Insurance Tax Credits

A new report from Families USA, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of health care consumers, says that 896,000 Pennsylvanians will be eligible for new health insurance premium tax credits in 2014.

These tax credits will pay for health coverage under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Families will no longer have to pay for more than a set percentage of their income for health coverage.

“The lower your income, the higher your tax credit subsidy,” said Ron Pollack, Director of Families USA, “so it's tailored to help the people who need it the most.”

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Health
3:30 am
Fri March 22, 2013

Downtown Stair Climbers to Raise Lung Health Awareness, Research Dollars

Many organizations say to accomplish their goals they take it one step at a time. The American Lung Association (ALA) means that literally.

This Saturday in downtown Pittsburgh 478 participants are expected to climb 897 steps to raise $120,000 for the ALA in the organization’s second annual "Fight For Air Climb."

The numbers don’t stop there.

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Health
3:30 am
Wed March 20, 2013

Pilot Program Aims to Provide Preventative Care Through EMTs

The newly announced Community Paramedic Program, from Pitt’s Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT), retools the image of emergency medical service personnel.

Instead of racing through city streets, sirens screaming, EMTs participating in the pilot initiative will provide regular in-home care for area residents with chronic conditions.

CONNECT is part of the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs’ Center for Metropolitan Studies and represents the City of Pittsburgh and 37 contiguous communities.

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Single Payer Healthcare
4:09 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Could Pennsylvania Become a Single Payer State?

State Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) is once again trying to convert Pennsylvania’s healthcare system to a single payer one. Ferlo said he will reintroduce legislation that failed to come up for a vote in 2009.

Titled the Pennsylvania Family and Business Healthcare Security Act of 2013, the legislation was drawn up with the help of the non-profit single payer advocacy group Healthcare 4 All PA.

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Health
3:36 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Report: Pennsylvania Fails When It Comes to Hospital Transparency

A new report out this week says Pennsylvania fails when it comes to making hospital fees transparent, resulting in patients not knowing what their hospital fees are until they are billed.

Pennsylvania, along with 28 other states, got an "F." Seven states got a "D." Only 2 states got an "A."

The report was compiled and released by The Catalyst for Payment Reform, a consortium of health care providers and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, a nonprofit that works to improve the affordability and quality of health care.

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Child Abuse Laws
4:13 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

PA Task Force Looks to Update Child Abuse Laws

Sixteen new pieces of legislation are being introduced in the Pennsylvania State Senate this week in an effort to update and improve the state's child abuse laws.

The bills, sponsored by a bipartisan mix of 24 senators, come as a response to recommendations made by the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection in its November 30th report.  

State Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) said the effort was born out of a 2011 Senate Aging and Youth Committee meeting where members were informed that current laws are vague, confusing and focus on perpetrators rather than victims.

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Health
9:23 am
Wed March 13, 2013

Sen. Smith Wants State Tax Dollars Better Used for Nursing Home Care

A study released today by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare PA found that Pennsylvania nursing homes generated $511 million in net income for 2011, but one in three failed to fully spend state funds on direct resident care.

State Senators Matt Smith (D-Allegheny / Washington) and Sean Wiley (D-Erie) proposed three bills that would mandate minimum spending levels of state appropriations as well as require nursing homes to meet and report on staffing levels.

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Tuberculosis Screening
4:03 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

TB Screenings Halted in Allegheny County Due to National Shortage

A nationwide shortage of a product used for tuberculosis (TB) screenings is forcing the Allegheny County Health Department to limit the skin test to only those at high-risk for contracting the disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that there is a shortage of Tubersol across the country.  The company that manufactures the product, Sanofi Pasteur Limited, did not immediately return requests for comment.

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Medicaid
9:57 am
Fri March 8, 2013

Medicaid Debate in PA Could be Shifting

As state lawmakers wrap up three weeks of budget hearings in Harrisburg, the issue of a possible Medicaid expansion has come up framed as a matter of dollars and cents. But the possible political ramifications also loom over the issue.

Democrats have been hammering the governor on the issue of a Medicaid expansion. They support it and, in recent weeks, it looks like Corbett could be swayed. He is expected to meet with federal authorities to go over what an expansion could mean for Pennsylvania.

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Essential Pittsburgh
9:00 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Medicaid Expansion & Women in PA

When it comes to Medicaid Expansion, what's the potential impact on lower-income women?
Credit Ben Ostrowsky / Flickr

As more Republican governor's adopt the Medicaid Expansion, Governor Corbett is under more pressure to adopt the program. We'll discuss the impact of the Medicaid Expansion program on Pennsylvania women and low-income families with Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health Policy and Reproductive Rights for the National Women's Law Center.

AdultBasic
4:31 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

A "Victory for the Working Poor"

A day after a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that the Corbett administration has to spend tobacco settlement proceeds on health care programs such as adultBasic, plantiffs celebrated what they call a victory for the working poor.

AdultBasic, a health insurance plan, launched in 2002 for low-income people earning too much to qualify for Medicaid.  Two years ago, when the Corbett administration cancelled the program, 41,000 people lost their health insurance coverage.

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Health
12:20 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Corbett Proposal: Close State Health Centers, Save Millions

As part of Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed 2013-2014 budget, about half of the state’s sixty health centers will be shuttering, consolidating or morphing. Lay-offs of personnel are also part of the proposal; which state officials say is an effort to modernize Pennsylvania’s public health services and save money.

Michael Wolf, Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health says this move would be a way to deliver services to people who can’t get to the health centers.

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Health Insurance
11:00 am
Tue March 5, 2013

Lawyers Say Court Ruling Gives adultBasic New Life

A portion of Pennsylvania's tobacco settlement proceeds must fund the defunct adultBasic health insurance program for lower-income adults or a similar plan, rather than be used to help balance the government budget or pay for teacher pensions, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini, applying a previous and related court ruling, declared unconstitutional two state laws that siphoned the money away from adultBasic and Medicaid for disabled workers.

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Health
11:00 am
Mon March 4, 2013

Allegheny Valley Hospital Program Reduces Readmissions

In its first year, a program at Allegheny Valley Hospital in Natrona Heights has substantially reduced readmission rates for its sickest patients.

Allegheny Valley Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas McClure said the High-Risk Care Team (HRCT), created February 2012, singles out the patients who have the highest risk of returning to the hospital. McClure said the five team members do everything they can to ensure those high-risk patients don't have to come back for more treatment.

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