Weekly Dose of Health News

In this week’s summary, you’ll find details on a new website with info regarding NY’s health exchange, the slower rise in health care premiums, the increased prevalence of Lyme decease, and more!

Affordable Care Act/Health Insurance Exchanges

This press release from the New York State Department of Health announces a name change for the state’s health benefit exchange, “NY State of Health”, as well as a list of participating health and dental plans, a calculator function for individuals to determine if they are eligible for tax credits and a mechanism to compare health plans.  The newly-named website can be found here.

Obamacare swing states are the subject of this article from Politico, which maintains that California, Texas and Florida are home to one-third of the country’s uninsured, estimated at 46 million.  If significant portions of the uninsured in these three states are not enrolled in health coverage, the shortfall will be considered a negative indicator of enrollment success overall.  Texas will present the biggest challenge, since Governor Rick Perry is vehemently opposed to Affordable Care Act implementation.

Health Insurance/Health care Premiums

Health care premiums are rising slower than in the recent pass, which may be a sign that health care inflation has eased for now.  Premiums rose, on average, four percent in 2013 for family coverage.  This is compared to double-digit increases over the last decade.  Although modest, the 2013 increase is still above the rate of inflation and the current rise in wages.  Experts believe that the new data suggests that the new health care law is not resulting in an escalation of health insurance costs.

Kaiser Health News reports that United Parcel Service (UPS) is removing health insurance coverage for thousands of employees’ spouses, who will be eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  This action is expected to affect about one-quarter of UPS’ United States workforce, or roughly 15,000 employees.  UPS has said that they will share some of the savings with those employees whose spouses will lose coverage through a reduction in health care premiums.

Primary Care Shortage Continues

Politico’s Pulse provides a link to a study that claims nurse practitioners and physician assistants are being siphoned off into subspecialty care, instead of choosing primary care and helping to solve the provider shortage anticipated there.  Policy makers are moving ahead with legislation that will provide incentive payments for all providers to work in primary care.  Hope remains that nurse practitioners and physician assistants will fill the anticipated gaps.


The Boston Globe reports that cases of Lyme disease, primarily in the Northeast, are much more prevalent than previously reported.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 300,000 are afflicted each year, which is ten times greater than previous estimates.  These new estimates will likely increase calls for greater government funding for prevention and controlling the deer tick population.

The New York Times reports that several pilots are underway in New York State to make Naloxone, and antidote for opioid overdose, more accessible through emergency medical technicians (EMTs).  Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1971, the drug is described as extremely safe and if given quickly, is highly effective in reversing overdoses.  The pilots are scheduled for two years, or until 2014, when the state Department of Health will decide if all EMTs should be trained in administering Naloxone.  Another effort is underway to make it accessible to people without medical training.  It is available as a nasal spray as well as an injectable.

-Jaime Venditti, 8/23/13