health care

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People who retire early may be tempted to purchase so-called “skinny” health insurance plans before Medicare kicks in because they’re less expensive, but Pennsylvania’s Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman told an AARP audience in Penn Hills on Wednesday that they should be careful when considering this type of insurance, as it’s not compliant with the Affordable Care Act.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Alex and Jess Welker sat on a plush tan couch in their McCandless home and recounted their first date. The two tell the story together, going back and forth with details of their earliest interaction.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

At the northeast corner of US Route 30 and Agnew Road in Westmoreland County, there’s a sloping, nine-acre lot of mostly gravel and overgrown brush.

Former CEO Indicted In Mega-Mansion Tax Fraud Scheme

Feb 14, 2018
Keith Srakocic / AP

A former Pennsylvania health services company executive accused of claiming his luxury cars and 39,000-square-foot mansion as business expenses has been charged with tax fraud, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Joseph Nocito Sr. listed the millions of dollars it cost to build a mega-mansion near Pittsburgh he called "Villa Noci," as well as payments for a personal butler and a Jaguar, Maserati and Rolls Royce as corporate business expenses, authorities said.

FracTracker Alliance

Gov. Tom Wolf drew support from both environmentalists and energy insiders when he promised to ease the state's permit application backlog and better enforce regulations by hiring 35 more Department of Environmental Protection inspectors.

Jessica Hill / AP

Two dental clinics in northern Pennsylvania have reduced hours due to the instability of federal funding.

Keystone Rural Health Consortia operates the clinics in Elk and Cameron counties. The Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers said KRHC is one of 50 community health centers in the state.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Nicole Steele, clad in a face mask and thin plastic protective cover over her shirt, strung a ukulele while 14-year-old Yaheim Young played alongside her. The two had a jam session on the ninth floor of the UPMC Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Highmark’s Medicare costumers can continue receiving in-network care from nine UPMC hospitals until the end of 2019, due to a Monday ruling by Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Dan Pellegrini.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Parents of 180,000 children across Pennsylvania, including 14,000 kids in Allegheny County, are breathing sighs of relief now that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been renewed for six years.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Health care providers enter into dozens of contracts with outside companies, like medical record disposal or storage entities, that have access to patients’ medical information.

Dan Mulholland, senior partner at the health law firm Horty Springer, said these contracts come and go so frequently that they're not always reviewed by a lawyer because of cost and time constraints. But even tiny errors in the documents can create huge liabilities if patient information is mishandled. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

This year, Avonworth High School students arrived at their first period, for the most part, after sunrise.

The district recently shifted its first period start time from 7:15 to 8 a.m., and Superintendent Thomas Ralston said his students now pass what he calls "the eye test."

“You can see that kids are coming to school, and they’re awake. They’re coming in when it’s light outside,” he said. “Our faculty have reported that kids are more attentive in class … and faculty feel more prepared.”

Crazypaco / Wikimedia

Highmark health insurance has reached a five-year agreement with UPMC to allow its customers to receive care from select UPMC locations at in-network rates.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

It’s been a eventful news year in the Steel City, from hospital booms to repeated flush and boil orders to President Trump's impact on Pennsylvania.

Carlos Osorio / AP

Allegheny County begins mandatory blood testing for lead in small children Jan. 1. 

Matt Rourke / AP

Congress has adjourned for the year without fully finishing its spending plan—holding off a government shutdown by passing a few months of stopgap funding.

It includes some money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program—something the deadlock had called into serious question.

But Pennsylvania officials say that doesn’t help much.

In the days leading up to the stopgap agreement, they had warned the program would have to end sometime early next year if federal lawmakers didn’t act.

The agreement hands down $3 billion to states.

Matt Rourke / AP

Fights over federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has states trying to figure out how long their programs can hold out without getting more money.

Judge Temporarily Blocks New Trump Rules On Birth Control

Dec 15, 2017
Evan Vucci / AP

A federal judge in Philadelphia on Friday ordered the Trump administration not to enforce new rules that could significantly reduce women's access to free birth control.

Penn State Health Partners With Highmark Health

Dec 15, 2017
Allyson Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

Penn State Health has partnered with Pittsburgh-based Highmark Health. 


Community health clinics in Pennsylvania say they are on the verge of crisis. 

Congress has yet to reauthorize federal health center grant funding to Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs, which provide primary, dental, behavioral and substance abuse services to people with limited access to care. The Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers said this money comprises roughly 13 percent of the total revenue for FQHCs in the commonwealth.

It's a beautiful morning in Pittsburgh, but Ariel Haughton is stressed out. She's worried her young children's health insurance coverage will soon lapse.

"So, we're like a low-middle-class family, right?" she says. "I'm studying. My husband's working, and our insurance right now is 12 percent of our income — just for my husband and I. And it's not very good insurance either."

The policy that covers the couple requires high fees to even see a doctor, and it has a high deductible for further treatment.

Allegheny Health Network

Westmoreland County is getting a new hospital in Hempfield Township at the junction of Route 30 and Agnew Road. 

AHN Hempfield is the first of four so-called “neighborhood" hospitals planned by Allegheny Health Network. 

New Medicaid Feature To Reduce Future Nursing Home Enrollees

Dec 11, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Years in the making, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is rolling out a new Medicaid feature that's designed to reduce the future number of enrollees in nursing homes and, along with it, a fast-growing expense in a state where the elderly population is exploding.

The program takes effect Jan. 1 in 14 southwestern counties. A launch is planned in 2019 for Philadelphia and its four collar suburban counties and in 2020 for the remaining 48 counties across central and northern Pennsylvania.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

Republican-penned legislation in Pennsylvania to prohibit coverage for gender or sex reassignment surgery and services under taxpayer-paid insurance programs is on ice after lawmakers realized their own health insurance covers it.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jesse Topper, said Wednesday he decided to pull the bill from the House's debate calendar a day earlier so he could find out more about the coverage.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

The open enrollment period for people buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace ends next Friday.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

At least 49 genes contribute to whether one’s earlobes are attached or detached.

That's what researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found in a new study. Lead author John R. Shaffer says this work could help shed light on serious genetic syndromes.

"Some of these conditions, like an example is Mowat-Wilson syndrome, the ear involves earlobe malformations," said Shaffer. "In the same genes that affect normal variation in the morphology, when they're disrupted, they lead to genetic syndromes."

Andrew Russell / Tribune-Review

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the beleaguered Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

UW Health/Flickr

When a parent has health insurance through Medicaid, their child is 29 percent more likely to receive an annual physical exam.

That’s according to a new study designed by a University of Pittsburgh Public Health researcher Eric T. Roberts, who calls this correlation between pediatric care and parental health insurance a "spill-over effect."

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House has passed a bill to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers kids from families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford other insurance.

The routine bill became controversial this year, because the Senate included language that would have prohibited CHIP from covering transgender kids’ transition surgeries.

The House axed that provision; now the bill returns to the Senate, where lawmakers will have to decide whether to reauthorize CHIP without banning coverage of gender confirmation surgeries.

As women go through menopause they may express greater interest in trying new ways of being intimate with their partners as a way to adapt to changes in sexual function.

That's according to a new UPMC study, published online this month in the journal Menopause, which looked at 39 women ages 45 to 60, most of whom were heterosexual. During hour-long interviews with researchers, the women answered questions including, "How do you define satisfying sex?" or "What does 'sex' mean to you?"

James Doyle / NPR

UPMC announced a $2 billion plan last week to build three specialty hospitals focused on cancer; vision and rehabilitation; and heart and transplants.