health care

Alyssa L. Miller / WNPR

My mother was an Alzheimer's patient. I think it's fair to say the disease killed her although like a lot of people in their 80's with serious illnesses, she got caught in a whirlpool of problems that made it hard to pin the blame on any one thing.

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Parents in the town of Fairfield are locking horns with public school teachers over the best way to keep kids with food allergies safe. Part of that controversy is over who is responsible for reading food labels.

If you have a kid in public school, chances are you might have gotten a note from your teacher about what foods are okay to bring to class, like fresh fruit, and what foods aren't, like peanuts or cheese. But what about packaged or store-bought foods, where sometimes the food labels aren't so clear?

Bortoletto family

Ten million uninsured people nationwide have enrolled in private health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. But it doesn't cover everyone living in the U.S., like undocumented residents. This includes the Bortoletto sisters who live in Connecticut.  

Aundrea Murray / WNPR

America is growing older, and so is its population of HIV-positive adults. This year, for the first time ever, half of Americans living with HIV are 50 years old and older. For many of them, like Michael Hawkins of New Britain, Connecticut, life presents a unique set of challenges, including increased social isolation. I visited Hawkins recently to learn how he's been coping with HIV. 

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Anthem announced that customers will be able to sign up for credit monitoring services starting Friday.

Responding to a letter sent Tuesday by Connecticut’s attorney general, the health insurer said anyone who had a health plan with them in the last ten years will be allowed to access the protection. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut’s Attorney General has joined with nine other states to ask health insurer Anthem to speed up its plan to protect consumers in the wake of what may be the nation’s biggest-ever data breach.

George Jepsen sent a letter to Anthem's CEO on behalf of attorneys general from Rhode Island, Maine, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and several other states, calling on Anthem to step up its response to its customers.

Eighty million people, including more than a million in Connecticut, may have been affected by the cyber hack, and Anthem initially said it will provide two years of credit monitoring for customers.

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For the first time ever, the federal government is penalizing more than 700 hospitals across the country for having high rates of things called hospital acquired infections.

Those are potentially avoidable mistakes in health care, like urinary tract infections.

In Connecticut, 14 hospitals are facing the penalty -- and that means they're losing millions of dollars. 

The Affordable Care Act is well-known as a law intended to get more people on health insurance. But it also has provisions intended to improve health care itself. This is one of them.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Do you know anyone who’s ever had measles, mumps, or rubella? Those diseases have essentially been wiped out in the U.S. because of effective and widespread adoption of vaccines. 

But that might be changing. Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that last year, there were more than 600 measles cases in the U.S., and that was more than there have been for a long time. "This year, there were 100 in January alone," he said.

Javier Villa has worked at his family's used car dealership in San Juan, Puerto Rico, ever since he finished high school.

Villa, 35, always assumed the insurance plan he had through work would take care of him and his family. But a couple years ago, he ran into a problem.

He was taking a shower one morning when he noticed a lump on the side of his throat. "Very big, like maybe a tennis ball," he says.

The call for more systemic changes to prevent mega-hacks is getting louder after hackers hit Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurer. The company says cyberthieves gained access to the addresses, employment information and Social Security numbers of 80 million customers and employees.

Eighty million individuals is a lot — it's roughly the populations of California, Texas and Illinois combined.

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Precision medicine includes all the stuff that makes you, you -- your DNA, the stuff inside your gut, your family history -- into medical care.

Now, President Barack Obama wants to funnel $215 million into a "Precision Medicine Initiative," with the hope of one day incorporating things like a person’s genome into everyday medical treatment. 

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The Department of Consumer Protection has drafted regulations that would add three medical conditions to the eleven already in place, that qualify patients in Connecticut to use medical marijuana. They include sickle cell disease, severe psoriasis, and chronic radiculopathy, a type of recurring back pain after surgery.

Commissioner Jonathan Harris said the approval process for medical conditions is rigorous, and "when you boil it down to its essence, the question is whether the palliative use of marijuana would alleviate the pain, alleviate the symptoms, complications or actually slow down the disease process."

LIz West / Creative Commons

More than a million people get cancer every year in the United States, with about 22,000 new cases in Connecticut in 2014. But, thanks to better detection and more advanced treatment, the number of people surviving cancer is growing rapidly. There are 13 million survivors alive today.

So, most of us likely know someone with cancer...a neighbor, a friend, or more often, a member of our family.

The American Cancer Society says that three-out-of-four families have at least one person in their family who has survived cancer...and that number is rising every year. 

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When the Affordable Care Act came into being many people wondered about the future of employer sponsored health coverage, but it turns out that company coverage has been declining for more than a decade. 

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Reportedly, younger women of child-bearing age are paying $10,000 to freeze their eggs, hoping to preserve their viability until the women find mates, or their careers and finances allow them to become pregnant. That's just one issue addressed by Faith's guests, regular contributor Dr. Mary Jane Minkin and new guests Dr. Erin Wysong Hofstatter and Dr. Elena Ratner, all affiliated with Yale's School of Medicine.

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Tenet Healthcare said it is open to resuming talks with the state of Connecticut over its failed deal to buy five hospitals. The company pulls no punches in its response to Governor Dannel Malloy’s invitation.

NPR and ProPublica have been reporting about nonprofit hospitals that seize the wages of lower-income and working-class patients. Now, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says hospitals could be breaking the law by suing these patients and docking their pay. And he wants some answers.

Are you thinking about tax day yet? Your friendly neighborhood tax preparer is. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen declared this tax season one of the most complicated ever, partly because this is the first year that the Affordable Care Act will show up on your tax form.

Tax preparers from coast to coast are trying to get ready. Sue Ellen Smith manages an H&R Block office in San Francisco, and she is expecting things to get busy soon.

"This year taxes and health care intersect in a brand-new way," Smith says.

Oscar Annermarken / Creative Commons

Connecticut’s diabetes rate ranks lower than the national average, but Hispanics and African-Americans are more than twice as likely to have the disease compared with their white neighbors, and are at greater risk of dying from diabetes-related causes.

The Massachusetts doctor who was cured of the deadly Ebola virus is going to return later this week to West Africa to work in the missionary hospital where he was infected.             

 Four months after he was declared Ebola-free, and with his strength and stamina now back, Dr. Rick Sacra will leave Thursday for Liberia, where he had spent much of the last two decades working for a missionary organization.

Mamata.mulay / Creative Commons

Leaders in the state senate say there may be hope of reviving the Tenet Healthcare deal to buy five Connecticut hospitals.

The Texas-based hospital company pulled out of the partnerships after the state’s Office of Healthcare Access specified unacceptable conditions for a deal involving Waterbury Hospital. 

The head of the Massachusetts health connector is stepping down after a tumultuous year in which the state's health care exchange failed and was later rebuilt.

Diane Orson / WNPR

The Connecticut Supreme Court will decide whether state officials were right to force a 17-year-old girl to undergo chemotherapy against her and her mother's wishes. 

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Connecticut hospitals reported record numbers of patients killed or seriously injured by hospital errors in 2013, with large increases in the numbers of falls, medication mistakes and perforations during surgical procedures, a new state report shows.

When the Affordable Care Act passed, many people focused on the law's creation of marketplaces to help the uninsured buy coverage, often with the help of federal subsidies.

Her head draped with thin white fabric in the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, Konjit walked to the stately entrance to the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa. But the soft-spoken 26-year-old did not go inside to pray because of her "sin." Days before, she had had an abortion; she had become pregnant after her birth control failed.

Like many women in Ethiopia, Konjit felt caught between two powerful forces when making decisions about reproductive health: the church and the state [note: we are using only her first name to protect her privacy].

Kathleen Schassler

Candid online posts describing the challenges of breastfeeding fill the Facebook page of Breastfeeding USA’s Connecticut chapter. The daily stream of anecdotes, questions and comments alternate in tone from exasperated to celebratory.

A Split View On Obamacare's Past And Future

Dec 29, 2014

Kevin Counihan and Michael Cannon look at the Affordable Care Act and see very different things.

Cannon is part of the brain trust behind a Supreme Court case that could result in the repeal of a part of the exchanges he says is illegal.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

Kevin Counihan began 2014 as the head of Connecticut's health care marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. Now, he's the head of the entire federal Obamacare effort. WNPR checked in with him recently.

This time last year, federal officials were scrambling to get as many people enrolled in health insurance through HealthCare.gov as they could before the start of the program on Jan. 1.

Now, with the technical problems mostly fixed, they're facing a different problem: the possibility that the Supreme Court might rule that the subsidies that help people afford coverage are illegal in the 37 states where the federal government is running the program.

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