health care

The Justice Department calls it the largest criminal health care fraud case ever brought against individual suspects: Three people are accused of orchestrating a massive fraud involving a number of Miami-based health care providers.

The three facing charges are all from Florida's Miami-Dade County; they include Philip Esformes, 47, owner of more than 30 Miami-area nursing and assisted living facilities; hospital administrator Odette Barcha, 49; and physician assistant Arnaldo Carmouze, 56, the Justice Department says.

The Justice Department is suing to block two proposed mergers between major health insurance companies, saying the deals violate antitrust laws and would lead to higher health care costs for Americans.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch explained the decision at a press conference:

Psychotherapy Helps People Tune Out The Din Of Tinnitus

Jul 21, 2016

About three years ago, a high-pitched "eeeeeeeee" sound started ringing in Linda Gray's ears. Sometimes, the ring would suddenly turn into a roar, sending Gray into panic mode. Her heart would speed up. She'd try to find a quiet room. "You're trying to escape it. It's like, 'Turn this off!' " she says.

A lot of people experience ringing, roaring or buzzing, also known as tinnitus. It can be maddening.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is in the spotlight this week as the man Donald Trump has picked to be his running mate. Pence's decisions about health and health care in Indiana have drawn attention from within and outside the state. His record could be important in November, because Trump doesn't have a legislative record at all.

Here's a quick look at the governor's history in terms of health policy in Indiana.

Medicaid Expansion

Every night at 8 p.m., 18-year-old Catherine Msimango takes a pill.

It's the same pill that people with HIV take to fight the virus. Only she doesn't have HIV.

Msimango says the pill gives her power against the virus. She can take it even without her boyfriend knowing.

"It's all about my safety because I don't know what he does when I'm not around," she says. "If he doesn't want to use protection [a condom], I know that I'm safe from the pill."

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Roughly 300 registered nurses at Heritage Valley Health System in Beaver began a 24-hour picket Tuesday morning, demanding better working conditions and benefits.

Registered Nurse Molly Romigh, president of the hospital’s local chapter of the Service Employees International Union, said nurses are dissatisfied with the RN-to-patient ratios maintained by their employer.

Kathy Swendiman / flickr

Over half a million veterans are currently facing wait times of more than 30 days to receive care from the VA system. In one attempt to address the problem, the Department of Veterans Affairs has suggested allowing nurse practitioners to treat patients throughout the system.

A majority of working adults say they still go to work when they have a cold or the flu. There are some jobs where doing that can have a big effect on health.

At least half of people who work in very public places, like hospitals and restaurants, report going to work when they have a cold or the flu. Those were among the findings of a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Bethlehem Haven

Bethlehem Haven, a shelter for at-risk and homeless women, is joining the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, in a move that will secure their financial stability and offer a wider range of services to the women it helps.

Bethlehem Haven offers transitional housing with the assistance of federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grants. But Bethlehem Haven President Thomas Herward said HUD’s focus on rapid re-housing has left the shelter under-funded.

Surgery can make anyone anxious, but it is especially hard for young children. Kids going into surgery may be separated from their parents for the first time in a frightening new environment, and they may not understand what's happening.

The Challenge Of Taking Health Apps Beyond The Well-Heeled

Jun 23, 2016

When you hear the phrase "digital health," you might think about a Fitbit, the healthy eating app on your smartphone, or maybe a new way to email the doctor.

But Fitbits aren't particularly useful if you're homeless, and the nutrition app won't mean much to someone who struggles to pay for groceries. Same for emailing your doctor if you don't have a doctor or reliable Internet access.

Alan Levine / Flickr

 

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has fined two health systems for illegally dumping medical waste in a landfill.

The state agency says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has been hit with $451,000 in fines and Allegheny Health Network has been fined $86,900. Officials say the state found 12 of UPMC's hospitals illegally dumped large quantities of needles, bloody dressings and body fluids into a Monroeville landfill.

Abortion is one of the more common procedures performed in the U.S., more common even than appendectomy. But as clinics in Texas close, finding a place in the state where medical residents training to be OB-GYNs can learn to do abortions is getting harder.

We had kids later in life, knowing little about children and with no parents to guide us. I depended upon Sofiya, our stern Russian day care provider, for child-rearing advice. She reminded me of my Lithuanian grandmother who took care of me as a child.

When the children caught colds, my husband took their temperature and carefully measured out a draught of flavored Tylenol. Then the children would demand Sofiya's special treatment — Vicks VapoRub on the soles of their feet.

After weeks of debate, Canadian lawmakers have passed legislation to legalize physician-assisted death.

That makes Canada "one of the few nations where doctors can legally help sick people die," as Reuters reports.

The new law "limits the option to the incurably ill, requires medical approval and mandates a 15-day waiting period," as The Two-Way has reported.

Vermont Insurers Must Now Cover Vasectomies

Jun 18, 2016

Vermont has become one of several states working to make sure vasectomies are among the birth control options couples can afford.

Gov. Peter Shumlin last month signed into law a bill that adds vasectomies to the list of procedures that most health insurance coverage in Vermont must pay for.

OpenBiome

They're not as ubiquitous as blood or sperm banks, but another kind of biological substance also sits in cold storage ready to treat desperately ill or ailing patients. In Pittsburgh, the use of stool banks for fecal transplants is on the rise.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Health insurer Highmark is launching a new mobile health clinic in an attempt to bring care to those who find it difficult to get to the doctor’s office.

Flickr user jrgcastro

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has signed a letter of intent to pursue an affiliation with a north-central Pennsylvania hospital network.

Susquehanna Health and UPMC jointly announced the letter of intent Thursday.

The details of the affiliation have yet to be determined.

Susquehanna serves 11 counties through four hospitals, Divine Providence, Muncy Valley, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial and Williamsport Regional Medical Center.

Flickr user Lindsay Fox

This story was updated May 5, 2016 at 9:55 a.m.  

County health officials want to ban the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices everywhere regular cigarettes are already prohibited.

Members of the Allegheny County Board of Health have instructed health department officials to come up with a policy by the board's next meeting in July.

Charles Williams / Flickr

While much of the testimony at a state Senate hearing in Pittsburgh on Thursday focused on the need for the state to fund opioid addiction treatment regimens, one expert recommended the state take legal action against insurers who illegally deny coverage of long-term rehabilitation programs for those addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers.

Mark Goebel / Flickr

A Hershey boarding school for low-income students is calling for greater transparency and dialog from public and private schools on how much they spend on student health.

The new position paper from the Milton Hershey School recommends greater collaboration between schools and health institutions like hospitals and nonprofits, as well as more research on the special physical and mental health needs of children living in poverty.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If your primary care physician says you need a test or procedure, and he suggests a location to get it done, what do you do?

“There is data that shows that patients do what their doctor says,” said Mark Roberts, chair of the department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “When your doctor tells you, ‘I want you to see a cardiologist and I want you to see this cardiologist,’ that’s who you go see.”

Every morning since I arrived in Brazil to cover the Zika outbreak, the first thing I do is douse myself with insect repellent before venturing outside.

I know the chances I'll catch Zika are pretty low, and the disease tends to be relatively mild for most healthy adult males. But with all the alarm about the virus, it's hard not to start to get a little paranoid about catching Zika from a mosquito.

Legislation that was intended to require more people who work with children to get criminal background checks might have actually created a loophole for doctors and other hospital personnel.

“Something just got lost” when the bill was crafted, said state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, an Allegheny County Republican.

The bill was one of 20 approved over the last three years to update the Child Protective Services Law in the wake of the child molestation scandal involving former Pennsylvania State University Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky.

stclair.org

St. Clair Hospital in the South Hills is making at least one portion of the health care system a little more transparent. 

The hospital has just rolled out an online tool that allows potential patients to find out what the hospital will charge them for more than 150 procedures.

Jennifer Morrow / Flickr

  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill to increase the penalty for attacking a health care practitioner.

Under House Bill 1219, the legal charges in such assault cases would be elevated from misdemeanors to felonies.

Pennsylvania Medical Society President Scott Shapiro said health care workers face a disproportionate amount of violence in the workplace.

Alex / Flickr

Replacing sitting with light housework or a stroll may be the new recommendation for severely obese adults looking to reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

That’s what a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health-led team found after a week long study tracking 927 patients before their weight-loss surgery.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

 

Gov. Tom Wolf says the 500,000 Pennsylvanians who have signed up for health care under the Medicaid expansion are part of keeping a campaign promise he made in last year's election campaign.

Wolf joined state Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas and health care advocates to mark the milestone Thursday at a news conference at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Wolf, a Democrat who expanded Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Health Care Act soon after he took office in January, says he hopes the number of enrollments will continue to grow.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council’s Wage Review Committee, spearheaded by Councilman Ricky Burgess, is recommending some of the region’s biggest employers increase their minimum wage.

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