Weekly Dose of Health News

In this week’s summary, you’ll find new guidelines for cholesterol treatment, Pres. Obama’s answer for individuals losing their insurance plans, positive news for NY’s exchange, and more!

Affordable Care Act/Health Exchanges

The New York Times reports that several big health insurers are pushing the Obama Administration to allow them to directly enroll persons eligible for subsidies, instead of through the federal exchange web portal.  This plan emerged over concern with the Administration’s ability to fix their enrollment process.  The Administration remains resistant to the idea but claims that it is open to ideas to facilitate enrollment.

The New York State Department of Health announced that almost 50,000 people have enrolled in the state’s health exchange, which is roughly equal to the amount of people enrolled in all 36 states using the federal exchange.

Read this editorial from the New York Times on the modest fix announced by President Obama on Thursday to deal with the rash of cancellations of individual insurance policies by health insurers.  The President explained that his earlier promise that consumers would be able to keep their present health insurance was directed at those with group health coverage, not those with individual coverage.  The fix is temporary and allows insurers to extend individual health policies for one to two years instead of expiring at the end of this year.  There are two caveats: insurers must inform consumers of certain protections their current policies lack and also let them know that they can purchase better policies on the health exchange.

New Cholesterol Treatment Guideliens

New clinical guidelines on the treatment of high cholesterol levels were released this week by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.  Medical professionals are now urged to assess patients’ overall risk for cardiovascular disease and prescribe statin drugs for people falling into one of 4 categories.  Statins are designed to lower LDL, or bad cholesterol, blood levels.  The four categories are: those that have had a heart attach, stroke or other cardiovascular problems; persons with an LDL of 190 or higher; persons with diabetes; and, anyone aged 40-79 who has a risk score of 7.5% over the next ten years.  The risk score examines cholesterol level, smoking status, blood pressure and other factors.


President Obama signed the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act this week, which provides funding preference to states for asthma treatment programs if their schools maintain emergency supplies of epinephrine, permit trained personnel to administer epinephrine and develop a plan to ensure that trained personnel are available to administer epinephrine during school hours.  States must also show that they have laws that provide civil liability protection for personnel administering epinephrine in schools.

President Obama has nominated the next Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy.  Dr. Murthy was an early supporter of the Affordable Care Act.  He is currently a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and on the faculty of Harvard Medical College.  He is a leader in HIV and AIDS prevention and education in the U.S. and in India.  If approved, he will replace outgoing Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris D. Lushniak.

-Jaime Venditti, 11/15/13