Health, Medicine & Nutrition
IOWA FARM BUREAU PARTNERS WITH HEALTH CARE BENEFIT ADMINISTRATOR TO HELP MEMBERS MANAGE RISING HEALTH CARE COSTS PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Laurie Johns   
Monday, 03 December 2012 11:11

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – Dec. 3, 2012 – Farmers, like many self-employed Iowans, are concerned about the rising costs for health care and the changing environment of health care regulations. To kick off Iowa Farm Bureau Week Dec. 2 – 8, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) has added a new benefit partner to help members qualify for an average of over $4,000 in tax savings to reduce out-of-pocket and health insurance premium costs.

BASE, a third party benefit administration company headquartered in Adel, Iowa, will work with Farm Bureau members who are self-employed or small business owners to customize a benefit plan for their specific needs and ensure the plan is in compliance with government regulations. More than 70 percent of self-employed are able to qualify for tax advantaged plans, regardless of how their business is structured.  BASE will also offer exclusive savings to Iowa Farm Bureau members on these plans, providing another tool in Farm Bureau’s suite of supplemental health care benefits designed to ease the pinch of rising costs.

“As farmers, we depend on our certified public accountant to provide us with every legitimate tax deduction we can get. That’s why we’ve been using the BASE Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) to deduct our medical expenses each year,” said Joanne Piercy, a farmer in Lenox. “With such a great tax savings each year, we’ll continue to take advantage of the BASE HRA as long as we’re farming.”

Iowa Farm Bureau members who own a farm or business and pay for health insurance premiums or out-of-pocket health care costs or are looking to provide an additional benefit to employees should contact BASE at (866) 550-5525 to see if they qualify. For more information, go to www.BASEonline.com or www.iowafarmbureau.com.

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The Fiscal Cliff &The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Marilyn M. Singleton, MD, JD   
Monday, 03 December 2012 11:10

It’s doubtful that the country will be popping bottles of champagne on January 1, 2013—we can’t afford it. But we will be throwing confetti printed by the Federal Reserve over a cliff.

As of November 27, 2012, the country's debt was $16.279 trillion—just $115 billion below the $16.394 trillion statutory ceiling. The Treasury predicts that borrowing will reach the current limit near the end of December 2012. Right around the Mayan calendar “end date” of 12-21-12.

Apocalyptic prophecies aside, there are a number of things that are scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. One is the Medicare “Doc Fix,” which postponed until Dec 31 the day that the rates at which Medicare pays physicians will decrease by 27 percent. Another is the “Bush tax cuts.” On January 1, all income tax, estate, and capital gains tax rates will go up substantially, and millions more people will be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Then there are new taxes, compliments of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ObamaCare), some of which take effect in 2013. These include the Medicare surtax on so-called millionaires and billionaires, i.e., individuals making more than $200,000 a year ($250,000 if married), and a new 3.8% tax on capital gains and dividends, interest, and other passive income. The now infamous penalty-that-is-really-a-tax kicks in for those who don’t buy government-approved health insurance in 2014. Another revenue-raising measure is a cap of $2,500 on previously unlimited Flexible Spending Accounts. This discourages Americans from taking personal responsibility for medical spending instead of relying on third-party payments.

And January 2 could ring in sequestration, that is, automatic budget cuts. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) authorized the President to increase the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion in exchange for some $917 billion in cuts, from 2012 to 2021, in “discretionary”—that is, nonentitlement—programs such as defense, education, national parks, the FBI, the EPA, low-income housing assistance, medical research, and many others. Unless Congress and the President agree to modify or repeal the BCA, spending reductions of some $109 billion per year with half coming from defense budget and half from nondefense are triggered. Sequestration for Medicare payments to health care providers and health plans is limited to 2%.

The President does not want cuts to his signature law, the inappropriately named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). It is, however, a financial disaster. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected a cost of $1.4 trillion over 10 years, but if we look at history, such projections are meaningless. In 1967, the House Ways and Means Committee said Medicare would only cost $12 billion in 1990. The actual cost was $110 billion. In 2010, total Medicare expenditures were $523 billion. Medicare spending has been forecasted by the CBO to increase to $922 billion in 2020.

Just the IRS and HHS costs to implement the PPACA, $20 billion over 10 years, exceed the House’s initial estimate for all Medicare spending. And how can we afford a vast new entitlement when the CBO admits in an Oct 1 report, CRS Report R41390, that “even maintaining current funding levels for existing programs with an established appropriations history may prove a challenge under growing pressure to reduce federal discretionary spending.”

In the PPACA, there are about 100 new programs with noble-sounding names or goals: for example, the program to facilitate shared decision making, culture change (to patient-centered care), the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, the Offices of Minority Health, and the Offices on Women’s Health. But none have been evaluated for effectiveness before we start pouring money into them. Under the circumstances, I think we should add more funds to the newly minted Centers of Excellence for Depression.

Fortunately, the PPACA’s discretionary provisions are subject to the congressional appropriations process, which can potentially defund a program. Additionally, appropriations are needed for administrative costs associated with even exempt programs. Thus, Congress has the power to back off from the PPACA contribution to the cliff, if it has the will to do so.

The cliff, however, is not going away. Cliff diving, anyone?

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http://www.aapsonline.org/

 
Digital Eye Exam Machine Needed for QC's PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by M. McNeil   
Monday, 03 December 2012 11:09
The Early Childhood Coalition is hoping the generous Holiday spirit in the Quad Cities will help the group get a new digital eye exam machine this fall

(Moline, IL)  The Early Childhood Coalition (ECC) has been coordinating efforts to offer monthly free Early Learning Screenings for children 4 months to age five at various locations throughout Rock Island County for years.  The group also has spent a decade offering vision, hearing and overall developmental screenings.  Now it wants to make the screenings more effective and quicker.  This can be done with a new digital vision camera called the “Spot”, manufactured by Pediavision.

The Secretary of the ECC, Lisa Viaene, says the current camera the group is using, the ‘Photo Screener’ is becoming obsolete and the film is no longer being produced.  Viaene says the new camera will cost almost eight thousand dollars and she is reaching out to the community for assistance in securing the funds.   Since the group began their monthly screenings in September of 2002 more than 2,200 children have been screened.  Viaene says with the new camera thousands more children will be served.  She says when vision problems are found early children will be more successful throughout their lives.
***The media are invited to hear more information on the new camera on Monday, December 3 at 9:00 at the Early Childhood Coalition/AOK office (4341 18th Avenue Rock Island).

 
Governor Quinn Announces $1.3 Million to Improve Healthcare in Underserved Areas of Illinois PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Monday, 03 December 2012 10:37

Federal Funding will Upgrade Health Information Technology for 1,600 Providers Across the State

CHICAGO – December 1, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced that $1.3 million in federal funding was awarded to three Illinois not-for-profit organizations to help them upgrade health information technology services in underserved areas of the state. The grants made possible by the Illinois Office of Health Information Technology (OHIT) as part of its White Space Grant Program will connect providers in the Metro-Chicago area, Central and Southern Illinois. The OHIT anticipates the grants will enable more than 1,600 individual providers to connect with more than 48 health care organizations serving hundreds of thousands of patients every year.

“Upgrading our health information technology network is a critical part of our efforts to transform our health care system into one that focuses on wellness and keeping people healthy through better preventive care,” Governor Quinn said. “Improving communication among providers is a key to this transformation. These grants are another important step in the direction of a fully connected Illinois and better patient care.”

Federal health officials refer to “White Space” health care providers as those who are practicing in areas that are currently underserved by health information technology infrastructure.

The three grants totaling $1.3 million will be awarded to:

1.  Heartland Health Outreach, the Alliance of Community Health Services and the Chicago Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (CHITREC) in Chicago. Grant amount: $500,000.

2.  The Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network in Princeton. Grant amount: $495,120.

3.  Southern Illinois Healthcare in Carbondale. Grant amount: $338,600.

Funding for these grants is made possible through the $18.8 million in federal funding awarded to Illinois in 2010 under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as part of the HIE Cooperative Agreement Program. Illinois is using the funding to implement the Illinois Health Information Exchange (ILHIE), a network for the secure sharing of clinical and administrative data among health care providers across the state.

The ILHIE will allow for better care coordination among providers, reduced medical errors and duplicative tests, controlled health care costs, and improved health outcomes. The White Space grants will fill in gaps throughout Illinois and connect organizations to health information exchange services that would not otherwise be able to connect.

“Illinois’ health information exchange network is only as strong as the volume and geographic diversity of providers connected to it,” OHIT Director Laura Zaremba said. “Through these projects we are connecting providers in communities that need our assistance the most.”

“Illinois is in an outstanding position to be a national leader in health information exchange for many years to come, “ added ILHIE Authority Executive Director Raul Recarey, who will be working closely with these and other providers all across Illinois. “This is an opportunity to leverage our federal funding in a way that promotes connectivity and improves health care quality and care coordination among providers.”

For additional information about health information exchange in Illinois please visit the ILHIE website at http://hie.illinois.gov.

 

About the Illinois Office of Health Information Technology (OHIT)

and the Illinois Health Information Exchange (ILHIE)

The Illinois Health Information Exchange (ILHIE) is a statewide, secure electronic transport network for sharing clinical and administrative data among health care providers in Illinois. The ILHIE allows providers to exchange electronic health information in real time and in a secure environment to improve health care quality and patient care. The Illinois Office of Health Information Technology  (OHIT) is working with the ILHIE Authority to support its development.

 

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Lung Cancer Proclamation Signed by Governor Branstad PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Mickey Sandquist   
Monday, 03 December 2012 10:11

On Wednesday, November 28, Governor Terry E. Branstad signed a proclamation designating November 2012 as Lung Cancer Awareness and Education Month in Iowa.  Governor Branstad was joined by lung cancer survivors and their families and friends during the ceremony held at the State Capitol in Des Moines.  Also present were representatives from the American Lung Association, Mercy Cancer Center in Des Moines, Des Moines University and the American Cancer Society.

 

“The Governor’s Proclamation is recognition of the significant impact of lung cancer in Iowa and the importance of finding ways to reduce the burden of lung cancer for Iowans,” said Micki Sandquist, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Iowa.

 

Later in the day, the American Lung Association sponsored a free, two-hour workshop, Frankly Speaking about Lung Cancer.  The workshop focused on the latest treatments for lung cancer.  Dr. Bradley Hiatt, a medical oncologist from Des Moines, and Rose Richman, a lung cancer nurse navigator from Mercy Cancer Center, spoke about the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, and about side-effects of care and how to effectively manage those side effects.  Rose and Dr. Hiatt also shared tools to overcome the social and emotional challenges of lung cancer.

 

Two lung cancer survivors, Gail Orcutt and Lori Tassin, shared their personal stories of triumph over lung cancer during the event.  Lori encouraged the audience with the message that a lung cancer diagnosis may be an opportunity to develop stronger ties to support and spiritual systems while battling cancer.

 
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