Weekly Dose of Health News

In this week’s summary, you’ll find details on the Medicaid budget hearing, measures NYS is taking to prevent sepsis in hospitals, a new resource for consumers on how to use new health exchanges, new guidelines in managing type 2 diabetes in children, and more!

2013-2014 Executive Budget

In response to the release of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget proposal, the Senate and Assembly began holding joint budget hearings this week.  The hearing on the health and Medicaid portions of the Governor’s budget was held on Wednesday and featured testimony from DOH Commissioner Shah. A video of the hearing can be found on the NYS Assembly website by following this link.

Governor Cuomo announced that New York will become the first state to require all hospitals to adopt best practices for the early identification and treatment of sepsis, a medical condition which is the number one killer in hospitals and the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States. These measures, which will be implemented through regulations issued by the Department of Health, will save an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 lives per year. The Times Union reports that the DOH’s approval of the regulations is expected by this spring, following a public comment period (Santo, 1/28).

Affordable Care Act

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance exchanges will change the way people buy coverage and are designed to help millions of uninsured people obtain private health insurance. The Washington Post ran a piece this week that provides answers to frequently asked questions regarding exchanges and includes a glossary of the new health terms consumers will need to know (1/27).

The Internal Revenue Service adopted a strict definition of affordable health insurance this week. Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals are required to obtain health insurance starting in 2014. Low to middle income individuals will qualify for tax credits to help them pay the premiums for insurance unless such individuals have access to “affordable coverage” from their employer. In deciding whether an employer’s health plan is affordable, the Internal Revenue Service said it would look at the cost of coverage only for an individual employee, not for a family.

Just 11 of 50 states have made efforts to enforce consumer safeguards under the Affordable Care Act, raising concerns about the implementation of major health insurance provisions such as limits on out-of-pocket costs and coverage of pre-existing conditions, according to a report from the Commonwealth Fund. Thirty-nine states have yet to issue regulations or pass laws on seven provisions covering health insurance (Reuters, 2/1).

You may notice additional information on your W-2 forms this month.  The New York Times reports on a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires the disclosure of the total cost of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. The disclosures are meant to make workers more cost-conscious. The new information appears in Box 12 of the standard W-2 form, with a two-letter code, DD (Pear, 1/29).


Whether they have chronic ailments like diabetes or just want to watch their weight, Americans are increasingly tracking their health using smartphone applications and other devices that collect personal data automatically, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

For the first time ever, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in collaboration with the American Diabetes Association and other groups, is releasing guidelines on managing type 2 diabetes in children. The recommendations, published in the journal Pediatrics, advise screening all obese children for diabetes, encouraging a healthy diet and physical activity, and using early aggressive treatment with medication for some children.

America’s Health Insurance Plans released a report this week that highlights the exorbitant fees charged by some doctors to out-of-network patients. The report contrasts some of the highest bills charged by non-network providers in 30 states with Medicare rates for the same services. Some of the charges, the insurers assert, are 30, 40 or nearly 100 times greater than Medicare rates.

NPR examines whether Medicare should cover the cost of a new drug that helps test for the presence of Alzheimer’s disease. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved a radioactive tracer called Amyvid for use in PET scans to identify clumps of proteins in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. A panel of advisers grappled with whether Medicare should pay for the test (Hensley, 1/31).

-Jaime Venditti, 2/1/13