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Coronavirus under a microscope
Coronavirus Cases: 1,623,130 Coronavirus Deaths: 97,235 Coronavirus Mortality Rate: 3.9% Recovered: 366,407 Countries with cases: 199 Survey Findings: Some Americans Don’t Have Enough Money Saved to Cover Coronavirus Treatment Costs 04/10/20 - 07:30 AM EST Healthinsurance.com recently conducted a survey to get insights from more than 1,000 respondents about COVID-19 and its economic impact on their personal lives. Respondents were asked about their employment status, health insurance coverage, medical cost concerns and potential use of telemedicine. Some interesting findings: 46% of them would think twice about seeking medical care to treat Coronavirus because of its potential cost. 24% of respondents have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 23% of respondents won’t be able to pay all of their bills this month. 10% of respondents currently do not have any kind of health insurance coverage. And perhaps one of the most striking outcomes of the survey is that more than half of the respondents admitted to not having enough savings to cover COVID-19 treatment costs. This finding is supported by a study that AccessOne conducted in 2019. The study revealed that a large percentage of Americans often pay for medical bills with a credit card, borrow money from friends to pay medical bills, or are sent to collections because of high medical expenses. View our full survey results here. Source: HealthInsurance.com Insurance Companies Cover Certain Coronavirus Disease Treatment Costs 04/09/20 - 09:29 AM EST Cigna and Humana are waiving all Coronavirus treatment costs for: Individual and family customers Customers enrolled in employer-sponsored plans Customers qualified for Medicaid Medicare Advantage customers Some of the costs being waived include hospitalizations, ambulance transfers, medications and even coronavirus vaccines, when available. Both Cigna and Humana promised to cover member’s COVID-19 costs, regardless of if the services are conducted in- or out-of-network. From David Cordani, Cigna’s President and CEO: “Our customers with COVID-19 should focus on fighting this virus and preventing its spread. While our customers focus on regaining their health, we have their backs.” From Bruce Broussard, Humana’s President and CEO: “We’re taking significant action to help ease the burden on seniors and others who are struggling right now. No American should be concerned about the cost of care when being treated for coronavirus.” Meanwhile, Aetna is waiving costs for testing, telemedicine visits and hospital admissions related to novel coronavirus. Source: CNBC 7-Year-Old Maryland Boy Uses $600 of his Own Savings to Make Coronavirus Care Packages 04/08/20 - 12:29 PM EST Cavanaugh Bell, a 7-year-old resident from Gaithersburg, Maryland, took money from his own savings account to spread joy to senior citizens and students in need during the coronavirus pandemic. Bell used $600 saved from birthdays and holidays to make 65 care packages and purchase 31 hot meals from Buca Di Beppo, a local restaurant that’s been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Bell started getting involved in philanthropic activities when he was age five. He gave a TEDX Youth Talk at Lincoln School, New Jersey, where he stated that he’s a kid on a mission to change the world. Encouraged by his mom, Bell started a non-profit, Cool and Dope, that looks to eradicate all bullying and youth suicide through social actions. Source: Fox News The Top 10 States Most Impacted by Coronavirus and How They’re Combating the Spread 04/07/20 - 12:12 PM EST The United States has the most reported COVID-19 cases in the world, with 380,774 confirmed cases. Novel coronavirus has spread across all 50 states. Each state is taking measures to slow the spread of the virus. Here’s a look at what the top 10 states with most cases are doing: 1. New York (138,836 reported cases and 5,489 deaths) Issued a shutdown of all non-essential businesses. This excludes hospitals, pharmacies, news media, transportation companies, financial institutions and other essential businesses. Issued a social distancing order where people must maintain a six-foot distance from each other. Prohibiting unnecessary gatherings of any size. Limiting restaurants to delivery and takeout. 2. New Jersey (41,090 reported cases and 1,003 deaths) Issued a shutdown of all non-essential retail businesses. This excludes pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, banks and others. Advising all residents to stay home, except when seeking medical services, getting necessary food, and exercising. Prohibiting social gatherings like parties. Asking employees to work from home, when appropriate. Limiting restaurants to delivery and takeout. 3. Michigan (17,221 reported cases and 727 deaths) Issued a stay-at-home order asking residents to only leave their homes for essential errands, exercise, among other reasons. Issued a social distancing order where people must maintain a six-foot distance from each other. Advising business employees to work from home, which doesn’t apply to critical infrastructure workers like law enforcement officers and others. 4. California (16,413 reported cases and 395 deaths) Issued a stay-at-home order to all residents except those who work in critical sectors. Essential businesses such as gas stations, pharmacies, banks, grocery stores and others remain open. Issued a social distancing order where people must maintain a six-foot distance from each other. Closed non-essential businesses such as restaurants, bars and gyms. 5. Louisiana (14,867 reported cases and 512 deaths) Ordered residents to stay home unless obtaining supplies and food, going to a place of worship, or commuting to an essential job. Limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. Closed non-essential businesses and places such as beauty shops, gyms, museums, and bars. Limiting restaurants to delivery, takeout or drive-through services only. 6. Pennsylvania (14,559 reported cases and 240 deaths) Closed all non-essential businesses. Encouraging residents to refrain from non-essential travel. 7. Florida (14,504 reported cases and 283 deaths) Issued a statewide order limiting movement to essential activities only. Closed beaches, parks, and other non-essential places. Limiting restaurants to delivery, takeout or drive-through services only. Not requiring places of worship to close. 8. Massachusetts (13,837 reported cases and 260 deaths) Closed all non-essential businesses through at least April 7. Essential businesses in sectors including healthcare, law enforcement, food and agriculture, energy, transportation and others can still conduct business. Limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. Limiting restaurants to delivery, takeout or drive-through services only. Not requiring places of worship to close. 9. Illinois (12,262 reported cases and 307 deaths) Closed all non-essential businesses. Issued a statewide order for residents to only leave their homes for essential activities such as seeking medical care or getting food and supplies. Limiting gatherings to 10 people or less (with some exceptions). 10. Georgia (8,818 confirmed cases and 329 deaths) Declared a public health emergency. Set up mobile housing for people to quarantine away from their homes. Ordered residents to stay at home at least until April 13. Data as of April 7, 2020. Source: The Wall Street Journal U.S. Unemployment Numbers Continue to Rise: 10 Million Job Losses in Just 2 Weeks 04/03/20 - 01:33 PM EST As Coronavirus continues to affect the global economy, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the number of unemployed Americans has soared to 10 million within the past two weeks. The number of Americans that have filed for unemployment benefits is now 6.6 million, a massive increase from 3.3 million last week. And unfortunately, those facing unemployment are also grappling with how to get health insurance coverage during an uncertain time. This tremendous rate of job losses in the U.S. has never been seen before. The record number of unemployment applications was 695,000 in 1982, prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. The current state of uncertainty is leaving many worried about their job security. An analysis by economists at St. Louis Fed estimated that there are nearly 67 million Americans working in high-risk industries that could still face layoffs. The analysis also projected possible employment reductions of 47 million, which would drive the U.S. unemployment rate up to 32%. Source: New York Times The White House to formally reissue nationwide coronavirus guidelines on Tuesday extending lockdown and social distancing another 30 days 04/01/20 - 03:33 PM EST President Trump has decided to extend the nation’s virtual lockdown and social distancing to April 30 to lower the spread of Coronavirus. Dr. Deborah Birx, the principal coordinator on the coronavirus task force, said the team would come to Tuesday's briefing prepared with data to back up their recommendations on the extension. The picture could be bleak, as Birx has previously stated. The task force’s data shows up to 200,000 people could still die, despite the measure to extend social distancing "perfectly.” Source: CNN Secretary DeVos Directs FSA to Stop Wage Garnishment, Collections Actions for Student Loan Borrowers, Will Refund More Than $1.8 Billion to Students and Families 04/01/20 - 11:43 AM EST U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today that The Department of Education will halt collection actions and wage garnishments to provide additional assistance to borrowers during the Coronavirus pandemic. Beginning March 13, 2020, this effort will last for a period of at least 60 days. From Secretary DeVos: "These are difficult times for many Americans, and we don't want to do anything that will make it harder for them to make ends meet or create additional stress. Americans counting on their tax refund or Social Security check to make ends meet during this national emergency should receive those funds, and our actions today will make sure they do." Source: U.S. Department of Education U.S. Confirmed Coronavirus Cases Have Almost Doubled in Just 4 Days 03/31/20 - 02:11 PM EST The United States continues to lead the world in Coronavirus infections with 176,518 and 3,469 deaths, which reflects a 1.9% mortality rate. But there’s a lack of testing of asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic people, so the mortality rate for Coronavirus is likely far lower. In any event, it’s challenging to calculate these numbers right now. After the United States, here’s a breakdown of the top 10 countries with COVID-19 cases: 1. Italy - 105,792 2. Spain - 94,417 3. China - 81,518 4. Germany - 68,180 5. Iran - 44,605 6. France - 44,550 7. UK - 25,150 8. Switzerland - 16,186 9. Turkey - 13,531 10. Belgium - 12,775 Source: WorldoMeter New York Tests Over 18,000 People for COVID-19 in One Day 03/31/20 - 10:33 AM EST With over 200,000 tests and 19 million people, the state of New York is currently testing more per capita than China and South Korea. Current New York hospitalizations statewide: 75,795 tested positive 10,929 people currently hospitalized (+1,412) 2,710 ICU Patients (+358) (+771) Despite these numbers, there’s still good news regarding Coronavirus cases in New York: 4,975 patients have recovered and been released, which is an increase of 771 patients. Source: Governor Cuomo Press Conference U.S. Has Highest Number of Reported Coronavirus Cases in the World 03/30/20 - 01:33 PM EST On March 26, the United States officially surpassed China and Italy with its number of reported Coronavirus cases. - United States: 96,968 confirmed Coronavirus cases, with 1,477 deaths - most of them happening in New York. - Italy: 86,498 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 9,134 deaths - the highest number of fatalities. This could be because Italy is the fifth oldest country in the world with a median age of 46.5 years. - China: 81,340 confirmed cases and 3,292 deaths, most occurring in the city of Wuhan. [The above figures reflect data as of March 27, 2020]. During a White House press briefing, President Trump said the high number of confirmed Coronavirus cases is a “tribute to the testing” being done in the country. Although the United States has the highest number of confirmed novel Coronavirus cases globally, it has lower death rates than other highly infected countries. Source: New York Times U.S. Unemployment Applications Reach Historic High of 3.3 Million as Coronavirus Impacts Economy 03/27/20 - 11:33 AM EST As businesses shut down because of Coronavirus disease, the United States has reached a record 3.3 million unemployment filings, raising the nation’s unemployment rate to 5.5% - an increase from 3.5% in February. Some economists predict that this may mark the start of an unemployment rate that could result in more than 40 million Americans losing their jobs by April 2020. On March 16, President Trump urged Americans to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. This forced restaurants, gyms, hotels, beauty salons and other small businesses to completely shut down or lay off some of their employees. And these mass layoffs left many Americans uninsured at a time when they need it most. Some health insurance alternatives are: COBRA: A program designed to maintain your employer health insurance coverage, but these could have much higher out-of-pocket costs that many can’t afford. Medicaid: A program available to families with limited income. Visit Medicaid.gov to see if you qualify. Medicare: A program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End Stage Renal Disease. Learn more about Medicare. Obamacare: Major health insurance plans that can only be purchased during the annual open enrollment period, which begins in November each year. U.S. officials are considering reopening Obamacare enrollment due to Coronavirus spread. Short-term health Insurance: Temporary health insurance coverage that’s available year-round to help fill gaps in coverage. Learn more here. Though telemedicine isn’t a form of insurance, it’s another option people are turning to during a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Telemedicine is a healthcare service that connects individuals with doctors for diagnosis via phone calls or video chats. Source: CNN More Americans Willing to Use Telemedicine Services During the Coronavirus Pandemic 03/27/20 - 10:20 AM EST As government leaders push to practice social distancing nationwide, more Americans are turning to remote health care. The CDC recommends getting virtual care for non-emergency health conditions during the Coronavirus outbreak. In a recent survey conducted by HealthInsurance.com, 63% of respondents said they’re willing to use telemedicine while practicing social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic. Telemedicine users have 24/7 access to virtual healthcare, which can be a time-saver that keeps people safe from germs and the exposure to COVID-19. In a CNBC interview, Jason Gorevic, CEO of Teladoc Health, discussed how the American healthcare system is entering a new era of virtual care. He emphasized Teladoc’s focus on Coronavirus health care by creating remote “COVID clinics” to limit in-person visits. “It’s fortunate that we’re able to be here for the American people during this crisis. We’re certainly seeing a significant increase in volume, and I didn’t exactly expect the president to be talking at a White House press briefing about telehealth,” Telemedicine is the delivery of healthcare services via phone, mobile devices or video chat systems. It enables medical experts to virtually diagnose and treat patients in real time. Americans can get standalone telemedicine coverage whether they have health insurance or not. Get a telemedicine quote in minutes here. Source: HealthInsurance.com CDC Epidemiologist Estimates that Coronavirus Deaths in the United States Could Reach Peak in Less than a Month 03/25/20 - 09:33 AM EST Leading epidemiologist and CDC advisor, Ira Longini, estimates that U.S. deaths caused by Coronavirus are likely to reach their maximum numbers in approximately three weeks from now. At that time, it may be possible to allow many back to work and only isolate at-risk groups like senior citizens. "I would guess the U.S. will hit a peak in deaths in the next two-three weeks, as the doubling time seems to be about two-three days,” said Longini. “Maybe a partial lifting of the shelter-in-place for those less vulnerable may make some sense, in about three weeks. By then, much of the damage will have been done." The Coronavirus death toll in the United States is 785, with 54,996 identified Coronavirus cases as of March 25, 2020. Source: CNN A 103-Year Old Grandmother Healed from COVID-19 After Six Days of Treatment 03/25/20 - 09:20 AM EST Zhang Guangfen, a 103-year-old woman from China, quickly recovered from Wuhan Coronavirus. She is the oldest COVID-19 patient to survive this deadly disease in China so far. After experiencing Coronavirus symptoms, Guangfen was admitted into Liyuan Affiliated Hospital of Tongji Medical College in Wuhan, China. At the time of admission, Guangfen was in critical condition, but she was released due to her speedy recovery - after less than a week of treatment. Her doctors attribute the round-the-clock and the fact that she did not have many pre-existing conditions to worsen the virus. Source: Daily Mail Environment Sees Positive Effects due to Coronavirus Shutdowns 03/24/20 - 03:20 PM EST The Coronavirus disease has caused many lockdowns and travel restrictions worldwide. But the reductions on vehicular, air, sea and foot traffic have led to positive effects for the environment. Countries around the world, especially those in lockdowns, are seeing significant drops in CO2, nitrogen dioxide and pollution levels, resulting in things like better air quality and clearer river waters. 3 examples: China: Nitrogen dioxide levels have reached a reduction of up to 30%, compared to 2019. Italy: Nitrogen dioxide has plummeted by 40% - a reflection of the clear waters and dolphins we’ve more recently seen in Venice. New York: CO2 levels have dropped between 5% and 10%. Drops in methane levels and other major US cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and Atlanta are also experiencing these drops. Satellite images by NASA show dramatic drops in nitrogen dioxide in China. Source: BBC News HI.com VP Covers Telemedicine and Coronavirus on MSNBC and Newsmax TV 03/20/20 - 04:14 PM EST On March 19, Jan Dubauskas, Vice President of Healthinsurance.com, appeared as a guest on MSNBC and Newsmax TV, addressing the rising telemedicine trend in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Dubauskas covered everything from what telemedicine is and how telemedicine doctors can diagnose Coronavirus symptoms, to privacy concerns and more. Watch: Source: MSNBC and Newsmax TV Coronavirus Vaccine Trials Begin in Seattle 03/19/20 - 01:05 PM EST The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) scientists have collaborated with biotech company, Moderna, to develop a trial for a Coronavirus vaccine, which is running out of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. The vaccine to treat COVID-19 uses genetic material called messenger RNA. The first dose was given to the first Phase I trial participant on March 16. From NIAID Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci: "Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with (the novel coronavirus) is an urgent public health priority. This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal." Scientists are hoping to prove the vaccine’s success with preventing the novel coronavirus, which may take many months according to experts. In the meantime, social distancing and maintaining proper hygiene are the most effective prevention measures. Source: CNN Coldplay, John Legend and Other Musicians Host Virtual Concerts Amid Coronavirus Quarantines 03/19/20 - 12:26 PM EST The CDC urged Americans to avoid gatherings of 50 or more people, causing concerts to cancel worldwide. But a growing number of artists and musicians are holding free virtual concerts on platforms like Instagram to spread positivity and hope amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Among the artists joining in are: Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin John Legend Pink Keith Urban Coldplay’s Martin was one of the first musicians to start the free, virtual concert trend, coined “Together at Home” - a partnership with Global Citizen and the World Health Organization. Martin then passed the baton to John Legend. View this post on Instagram Social distancing is important, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring. I did a little at-home performance to help lift your spirits. @Miguel, @CharliePuth - you want next? Learn more about how you can take action to help slow the spread of coronavirus with our partners at @WHO and @GlblCtzn globalcitizen.org/coronavirus #TogetherAtHome A post shared by John Legend (@johnlegend) on Mar 17, 2020 at 9:48pm PDT Source: Los Angeles Times Medicare Beneficiaries Now Have Expanded Telehealth Benefits During Coronavirus Pandemic 03/19/20 - 11:25 AM EST On March 17, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), under President Trump’s leadership, announced that it will broaden access to telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries to help prevent their exposure to the Coronavirus pandemic. Medicare beneficiaries across the country will now be able to virtually access telehealth services, from preventive health screenings and mental health counseling, to the diagnosis and treatment of certain conditions. Prior to this announcement, Medicare was only allowed to pay doctors for telehealth services only under certain circumstances. Seema Verma, CMS Administrator said: “The Trump Administration is taking swift and bold action to give patients greater access to care through telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak. These changes allow seniors to communicate with doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility so that they can limit risk of exposure and spread of this virus. Clinicians on the frontlines will now have greater flexibility to safely treat our beneficiaries.” Source: CMS.gov 5.7 Magnitude Earthquake in Utah Knocks out Coronavirus Hotline and Shuts Down Airport 03/18/20 - 01:34 PM EST On March 18, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake shook Utah, unsettling residents even more as they continue to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. The earthquake’s epicenter was located near Magna, just outside of Salt Lake City. The earthquake was the largest Utah has seen since 1992, causing more 50,000 residents to lose power. The earthquake also knocked out the state’s Coronavirus information hotline, which was established by the Utah Department of Health to help residents stay safe from COVID-19. The Salt Lake City airport was also temporarily shut down due to the devastating earthquake. Assessments are being made to buildings, health centers, and the state’s public health lab to resume operations against Coronavirus as soon as possible. Fortunately, there were no immediate reports of injuries. Damage from Salt Lake City earthquake Source: ABC News HealthInsurance.com V.P. Addresses Coronavirus Myths Surrounding Health Insurance on The Chip Franklin Show 03/18/20 - 01:07 PM EST On March 13, Jan Dubauskas, Vice President, Senior Counsel of HealthInsurance.com, appeared as a guest on “The Chip Franklin Show,” a KGO-810 AM radio show serving the San Francisco market. During the show, Dubauskas addressed certain health insurance topics and how they relate to the Coronavirus pandemic. Among them: how Telemedicine can help, health care options for those who are uninsured, and common misconceptions about health insurance. Listen: Source: The Chip Franklin Show Target, Whole Foods and Other Stores are Now Setting a Dedicated Shopping Time for Seniors 03/18/20 - 12:36 PM EST The Coronavirus pandemic has caused many to panic shop, leaving stores empty or with limited essential supplies for the elderly and other at-risk groups. To help remediate the issue, grocery stores like Target, Whole Foods, Dollar General, Safeway, Alberstons, Acmen and Vons, are dedicating special shopping hours for Seniors, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. From Whole Foods Market: "We are setting aside this time to help these customers, who national health authorities have identified as among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, feel more comfortable shopping our stores and helping to ensure they are able to get the items they need in a less-crowded environment." Source: USA Today Italians Sing from their Balconies to Lift Each Other’s Spirits During Coronavirus Lockdown 03/16/20 - 03:41 PM EST Italy is one of the countries most affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, with over 17,000 COVID-19 cases and over 1,200 deaths. On March 9, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced Italy’s lockdown to prevent and slow the Coronavirus spread. Italian schools, restaurants, bars, shops, universities, museums, and all non-essential businesses have been closed. And, all large events, like sporting events and weddings, have been canceled or rescheduled. Although Coronavirus is weighing heavily on the country’s economy, Italians don’t lose their sense of community. Instead, they sing and play instruments from their windows and balconies in a beautiful display of unity and hope amidst the chaos. Watch: Source: Kiro 7 News The CDC Urges Canceling Gatherings of 50+ People for the Next 8 Weeks to Prevent COVID-19 Spread 03/16/20 - 03:26 PM EST The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all U.S. events with 50 or more people be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The new guidance is an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus in communities already affected and prevent its introduction into new communities. From the CDC: “Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals. Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.” Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19’s Impact on Sports: MLB canceled, NBA Season Suspended, NHL Pausing due to Coronavirus Concerns 03/13/20 - 03:38 PM EST In light of the rapid spread of Coronavirus, major announcements were made this week, including the cancellations and postponements of top sports leagues such as: Major League Baseball (MLB): Cancelled the remainder of its spring training and postponed the start of the regular season - set to begin March 26 - for at least two weeks. National Basketball Association (NBA): Suspended its regular season on March 11. The situation will be re-evaluated after 30 days. National Hockey League (NHL): Paused its current season on March 12. The NHL commissioner is hoping to resume the season as soon as it’s prudent. NCAA:Canceled its men and women’s basketball tournaments, also known as March Madness. Notable sporting events that were also postponed include: The 2020 Masters Tournament The Augusta National Women’s Amateur The Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals Source: NY Times Disney World Resort and Park in Orlando Closing to Prevent Coronavirus Spread 03/13/20 - 02:45 PM EST In a tweet yesterday, theme park officials announced that Disney World Resort and Parks will close on Sunday, March 15 as a precautionary measure against the Coronavirus pandemic. Disney Cruise Line will also suspend all new trips on Saturday, March 14. Historically, this is one of the only few times that the parks and resorts have closed down. The decision came after a Disney resort in California also closed due to COVID-19 concerns. Source: WTSP News CDC Guarantees Coronavirus Testing for all Americans, even those Uninsured 03/13/20 - 01:38 PM EST Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that all Americans will receive COVID-19 testing at no charge, regardless of health insurance coverage, if it's deemed medically necessary. Redfield made the announcement on March 20, during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Coronavirus preparedness. “Our intent is to make sure every American gets the care and treatment they need at this time in this major epidemic, and I am currently working with HHS to see how to best operationalize it,” Redfield said. It’s not yet clear what the exact process will be for CDC to cover the testing costs for uninsured Americans, but those who are uninsured are encouraged to visit their community health centers for medical care. Medicaid will extend emergency coverage to people who qualify in many states. Source: Fox 13 News Novel Coronavirus Outbreak is now Officially a Pandemic, WHO says 03/11/20 - 02:08 PM EST The World Health Organization just declared the Coronavirus, COVID-19 to be a pandemic at the media briefing this afternoon. The assessment was made because of the alarming levels of spread, severity and the increasing number of deaths by the virus. There are over 118,000 cases of Coronavirus and over 4,200 deaths; the organization stated that those numbers are expected to climb even higher over the next weeks. “In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled. WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.” The World Health Organization officials emphasize how “all countries can still change the course of this pandemic” by detecting, testing, treating and isolating those affected to prevent the Coronavirus pandemic from further spreading. Watch: Source: World Health Organization Florida Department of Health Confirms 8 New Cases of Coronavirus with cases in Pinellas and Pasco counties 03/11/20 - 10:48 AM EST The Florida DoH announced yesterday that there are 8 new cases of COVID-19, summing up to a total of 21 Coronavirus cases in Florida with 2 of them resulting in deaths. Out of the 8 new cases, 7 of the cases involve people between the ages 64 and 73 and one of them is a Georgia resident visiting Florida. The COVID-19 cases are spread across different Florida counties: “According to the Department of Health, the eight new cases are a 46-year old male in Pasco County; a 73-year old male in Collier County; a 68-year old female in Collier County; a 64-year old female in Collier County; a 67-year old male in Pinellas County; a 64-year old male in Pinellas County; a 68-year-old male in Nassau County. and a 68-year old female Georgia resident who is in Alachua County.” Measures are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. All eight individuals have been isolated until cleared by state health officials. Source: Fox 13 News Coronavirus, COVID-19 symptoms take about 5 days to appear 03/10/20 - 04:07 PM EST An analysis conducted by Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that the median incubation period for the COVID-19, Coronavirus is approximately 5 days, similar to SARS. The study analyzed confirmed cases of Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 reported between January 4th and February 24th, 2020 to identify its public health implications. "The median incubation period was estimated to be 5.1 days (95% CI, 4.5 to 5.8 days), and 97.5% of those who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days (CI, 8.2 to 15.6 days) of infection. These estimates imply that, under conservative assumptions, 101 out of every 10 000 cases (99th percentile, 482) will develop symptoms after 14 days of active monitoring or quarantine." Source: Annals of Internal Medicine New York creates a Novel Coronavirus "containment zone" 03/10/20 - 03:34 PM EST The "containment zone" is a one-mile zone at The Young Israel of New Rochelle Synagogue in New York created by New York State officials to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. The state plans to deploy the National Guard to the containment areas to deliver food to quarantined residents, clean the schools, and more. Sschools, churches and other large gathering facilities in the area will also be closed for two weeks beginning on March 12 said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Source: NY Times Nursing homes and assisted living facilities should restrict family and friend visits 03/10/20 - 03:01 PM EST Industry officials recommend nursing homes and assisted living communities to limit family and friend visits which, while reducing residents' exposure to staff members, contractors, and government officials. "The mortality rate is shocking," said Mark Parkinson, president, and CEO of the American Health Care Association. The recommendations are an effort to slow the spread of the virus -- which is more threatening to seniors -- after a Coronavirus outbreak caused the deaths of 18 residents at long-term care facilities in Seattle. Source: NY Times All of Italy is now on lockdown because of the Coronavirus Disease 03/09/20 - 05:08 PM EST Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced at a news conference on Monday that the entire country is now on lockdown as a preventive measure to the COVID-19 disease. This is part of the European country's efforts to prevent and protect its citizens. Source: The Guardian California woman in her 60s dies from Coronavirus 03/09/20 - 04:58 PM EST A woman in her 60s is the first coronavirus-related death in Santa Clara County. The woman, who had been hospitalized for several weeks, is believed to have contracted the virus through community transmission, according to a statement from the county’s health department. This case was previously announced on February 28. “This is a tragic development. The Public Health Department is taking necessary, carefully considered steps to slow down the spread of the disease and to protect those at greatest risk,” said Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County. “We are facing a historic public health challenge and know this is a very difficult time. Our top priority continues to be protecting the health of our community.” Source: CNN Ohio's first Coronavirus cases: All involve people in their 50s in Cuyahoga County 03/09/20 - 04:47 PM EST Three people in Ohio have tested positive for coronavirus, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said on Monday. He also declared a state of emergency. All three people are from Cuyahoga County, the governor said. "The state of emergency that I've declared in Ohio is a legal necessity that allows state departments and agencies to better coordinate in their response," DeWine said. Cuyahoga County Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan said the three patients, who are ages 54 to 56, are isolated. Two of them were on a trip to Egypt and one was at a conference in Washington D.C. Six additional people who had close contact are also on home quarantine. There are five people under investigation for the virus, the Ohio Department of Health said. Novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19, emerged in Wuhan City, China in December. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Source: Fox News Most coronavirus deaths in the United States involve patients 70 or older 03/09/20 - 03:25 PM EST The vast majority of US deaths from coronavirus appear to involve patients ages 70 and up, based on broad age range information provided by health authorities. Officials provided basic age information in only 18 of the 22 US death cases. Of those 18, seven were in their 70s, five were in their 80s, three were in their 90s, two were in their 50s and one was in their 60s. A 19th patient was described as “elderly,” but no age range was given. This is in line with what US Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN Sunday about the pandemic in general — that the average age of those who died from the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus was 80, and that the average age of those seeking medical treatment was 60. Source: CNN Germany reports its first coronavirus deaths 03/09/20 - 1:11 PM EST Two people have died of coronavirus in Germany — the first deaths in the country from the virus. The deaths occurred Monday in the district of Heinsberg and the city of Essen, the health ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia told CNN. In a statement to CNN, health minister Karl-Josef Laumann said he "was shocked to learn about the two deaths." "My thoughts are with the relatives. I wish the families a lot of strength in this difficult time. The deaths show that we have to take the situation very seriously," On Sunday, a German national from Hamburg died while on vacation in Egypt. About Germany's cases: There are 1,112 people in Germany who have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the country's disease control agency. Source: CNN Georgia identifies state park for isolating coronavirus patients 03/09/20 - 11:37 AM EST Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced that out of an abundance of caution the state has identified Hard Labor Creek State Park in Morgan County as a location for isolating and monitoring patients who may have been exposed to coronavirus, according to a statement released by his office. The state park is located about an hour east of downtown Atlanta. No patients are currently scheduled to be transferred to this location. State officials are currently preparing the site for the placement of future patients having already delivered and installed seven emergency trailers, according to the governor’s office. Source: CNN Read our What is Coronavirus? article to learn more about this virus and how to stay healthly. bold text
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Coronavirus under a microscope
It’s no secret that the Coronavirus pandemic is impacting our economy and unemployment rate in unprecedented ways. In fact, our unemployment claims have reached 17 million over the past two weeks alone. That’s why we recently launched a coronavirus economic impact survey to more than 1,000 respondents who answered personal questions about their concerns on medical costs, unemployment and the loss of health insurance, especially in light of COVID-19. One thing that stood out: While some of our respondents reported losing their health insurance during this pandemic, more than half of them said they don’t know their health insurance options if they were to lose their job-based coverage. Survey Highlights Other findings Will you be able to pay all of your bills this month? Yes: 77% No: 23% Do you think everyone should be able to be tested for Coronavirus? Yes: 81% No: 19% Do you have health insurance? Yes: 90% No: 10% Have you lost your job due to the coronavirus pandemic? Yes: 24% No: 76% If yes, have you lost your health insurance too? Yes: 9% No: 91% Are you aware of your health insurance options if you lost your health insurance during this pandemic? Yes: 44% No: 56% Have you used telemedicine before the coronavirus pandemic? Yes: 20% No: 80% Do you intend on using telemedicine during the coronavirus pandemic? Yes: 47% No: 53% Have you received correspondence from your regular doctor about telemedicine? Yes: 33% No: 67% Have you received correspondence from your health insurance company about telemedicine? Yes: 28% No: 72% Are you aware you can just buy a telemedicine plan? Yes: 15% No: 85% Would you use a telemedicine appointment for your pet? Yes: 45% No: 55% Are you following your state's stay-at-home guidelines? Yes: 92% No: 8% Are your neighbors, friends and family following your state’s stay-at-home guidelines? Yes: 81% No: 19% One silver lining that's worth noting during this difficult time: The final question of our survey asked respondents if they think healthcare workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 deserve a “bonus” from the federal government. And 87% said yes - a real testament to the hard work of our everyday healthcare heroes - and one thing mostly everyone can agree on. Our Methodology The above results were gathered through an online poll of more than 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18-64. The poll was conducted from April 3, 2020 to April 7, 2020, gleaning representative samples from each state based on population. More Resources 6 Health Insurance Options if You’ve Lost Your Job Due to COVID-19 Telemedicine 101: Understanding the Basics Get Coronavirus Updates
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More than 6.65 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over the last week alone – a bleak result of the Coronavirus pandemic. But those impacted aren’t just losing their jobs: They’re often losing their health insurance benefits too. And now is the time, especially, when health insurance may be extra crucial to you as you work to maintain good health or need coverage if you do get sick. Before weighing your options, take these steps: Know your budget and what you can afford each month. Make a list of your current health conditions and medications. List any doctors any healthcare providers you want to keep. Determine if you need dental or vision coverage. If you’ve lost your job and job-based insurance coverage, here are six options for you: 1. Join your spouse’s plan You may be able to obtain coverage through your spouse’s job-based health insurance plan, as long as your spouse or partner is already covered, which can be a cost-effective option. Ask your spouse to talk to his or her HR or benefits team to see if this is an option and what the associated healthcare costs may be for you. 2. COBRA You’ll likely receive a COBRA enrollment notice that includes information to continue your health insurance through your employer. Pros: You can keep your current health plan and continue to use your doctors and pharmacists under a policy you’re already familiar with. Your copays and deductibles will remain the same. Your spouses and children are eligible. Cons: You will likely face a higher premium because your employer will not subsidize the cost, and you’ll be charged a 2% administrative fee for continuing the plan. You can stay on COBRA for a limited time – typically up to 18 months. Some employers don’t offer this option, so be proactive and ask about it if you’re interested. 3. ACA (Obamacare) Plans Though the 2020 open enrollment period has ended, losing your job may qualify you for a special enrolment period exception. You can see if you can get coverage for an ACA plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Pros: Offers comprehensive major medical coverage for the 10 essential health benefits. You can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions. Tax credits are available if you meet the qualifications. Cons: You may not qualify to enroll in a plan at this time.* Can be costly if you don’t qualify for a subsidy. Plans can have narrow networks, so it’s wise to check if your doctors and providers are in-network. *Note: U.S. officials are also considering a special enrollment period to help uninsured Americans during the COVID-19 crisis. 4. Short-Term Health Insurance This type of temporary health insurance is designed to be a cost-effective and flexible insurance option if you’ve lost your job and have a gap in health insurance coverage. Pros: Flexible plan duration: Your coverage period can range from 30 to 364 days, with policy renewal of up to three years, depending on your state’s rules. Cancel anytime: You can choose how long you want to be covered (anywhere from 30 to 364 days). Plus, you can cancel your plan anytime. Enroll anytime: You can apply for and enroll in a temporary health insurance plan any time of year. And you can get coverage as soon as the day after you apply. Cons: There’s no coverage for pre-existing conditions. There are limits on prescription drug coverage: Most short-term health plans do not cover prescription drugs, but a few do offer add-on benefits and include prescription drug coverage after a deductible is met. There are limits on the number of covered doctor visits. Does not cover all of the 10 essential health benefits. You can be denied coverage. 5. Medicaid Medicaid is based on your income, family size and asset level. Though each state can set its own requirements, the limit is typically 133% of the Federal Poverty Level. If you do qualify for Medicaid, you’ll receive low-cost health insurance through your state which may cover you for: Inpatient care (hospital-type visits) Outpatient care (doctor’s office visits) Home health care Nursing care Dental, vision and hearing (in many cases) Again, benefits vary by state. And Medicaid should not be confused with Medicare (here’s how to know the differences between the two). 6. Telemedicine (not health insurance – but a way to get care) Though telemedicine isn’t a form of insurance, it’s a helpful service that people are turning to during a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders. With telemedicine, you pay a monthly membership fee and, when you use the service, you may also pay a charge for the ‘televisit.’ Telemedicine connects you with virtual doctors who can diagnose and treat your non-emergency medical conditions, including: Allergies Asthma Behavioral and mental health services Common cold Fever Flu Men’s health issues Nausea and vomiting Pink eye Sore throat Skin conditions Sinus infections Women’s health issues Telemedicine doctors can also prescribe medications for certain conditions and submit the order to your pharmacy of choice. You can get a telemedicine quote with no obligation to you. We will continue to provide educational resources to you throughout the Coronavirus pandemic: Follow us on Facebook for news about COVID-19, telemedicine, health insurance and more. Visit our feed to get frequent updates on COVID-19 news.
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Despite the rapidly spreading Coronavirus pandemic, some Americans would think twice about seeking medical care due to cost, according to our recent survey. But, they're open to the idea of using telemedicine services as an alternate way to talk to a doctor online for treatment and care. More than 1,000 respondents answered questions about their personal interest in telemedicine, especially in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Though many of our respondents are aware of this virtual healthcare alternative, many have not used it as an option yet. Telemedicine connects people with board-certified medical professionals via phone or video chat, allowing doctors to virtually evaluate, diagnose and treat their patients who have non-emergency medical needs. And using telemedicine to avoid the waiting room means reducing your exposure to germs and COVID-19. Here are our survey results. Survey Highlights Other Findings Who should pay for testing in the case of an epidemic like the Coronavirus? The Government: 34% Health insurance companies: 12% Combined effort: 54% Do you ask "Dr. Google" about an ailment before making an appointment to see an actual doctor? Yes: 52% No: 48% Does your doctor offer visits by telephone? Yes: 39% No: 61% Do you think you should be able to text your doctor directly? Yes: 67% No: 33% Do you think telemedicine visits are as good as in-person doctor office visits? Yes: 35% No: 65% Our methodology The above results were gathered through an online poll of more than 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18-64. The poll was conducted from March 20, 2020 to March 23, 2020, gleaning representative samples from each state based on population. Learn more about telemedicine Get Coronavirus updates
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It’s very likely that you’ve heard about the famous Coronavirus pandemic in the news and media but do you really know what it is? What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Coronaviruses are large groups of viruses that can infect mammals and birds. This type of virus is zoonotic, meaning it’s transmitted between animals and people. Coronaviruses are believed to cause about 20% of common colds. The novel coronavirus behind the current outbreak is a new, more severe strain known as “COVID-19,” which hasn’t yet been seen in humans How Did Coronavirus Start? The outbreak of this new virus and disease began in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The name coronavirus is derived from the Latin corona, meaning "crown" or "halo", which refers to the characteristic appearance of the virus particles which bear a slight resemblance to a crown or a solar corona. “Novel coronavirus” refers to the fact that the disease has never been seen before and crossed from infecting animals to humans. How Long Does the Coronavirus Disease Last? The duration of coronavirus infection can vary depending on your immune system. Some won’t notice anything, others may experience mild symptoms that last a few days, and some people will face symptoms for 2 weeks or more. There is also an incubation and shedding period where you can be contagious for much longer than the time you were symptomatic, so it is best to continue following federal guidelines for as long as they are in place. Is Coronavirus Contagious? Yes. And people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). 3 things to know: Coronavirus is spread just like the common flu: Person to person between people who are within 6 feet of each other. The virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These respiratory droplets can then be inhaled into the lungs or land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. The virus can possibly spread before people show symptoms. But this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Is Coronavirus Deadly? Yes. At this time: There have been 7,066 fatalities out of 179,223 known cases, which is a 3.9% mortality rate (data as of March 16, 2020). While that rate is 40 times higher than the common flu at .1%, the actual mortality is likely much lower due to the unreported cases of coronavirus and the lack of testing available in the United States. Time will tell, but the biggest difference between the flu and coronavirus is how much information we have: The flu has caused far more illness and fatalities than COVID-19, an estimated 32 million illnesses and 18,000 deaths this season alone, according to the CDC. But we know very little about COVID-19, which plays into the absence of treatment and vaccines. Meanwhile, the flu vaccine was first licensed for use in 1945. What Are the Coronavirus Signs and Symptoms? Common signs and symptoms of the COVID-19 infection include fever, cough, and respiratory system issues like shortness of breath or labored breathing. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even become fatal. Simply put: If you are experiencing mild symptoms, stay home. If you want to get tested, call your doctor. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. How Long Does Coronavirus Live on Surfaces? It’s not yet certain how long the virus survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses -- including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus -- may persist on surfaces for a few hours or several days. This may vary under different conditions such as type of surface, temperature, or humidity of the environment. To protect yourself and others, follow these steps: Clean all surfaces with a simple disinfectant to kill the virus. Thoroughly wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. Coronavirus Prevention Do Antibiotics Treat Coronavirus? No, antibiotics don’t work against viruses, only bacteria. There’s promising new research that identifies several antiviral drugs that scientists could repurpose to treat Coronavirus infections like teicoplanin, oritavancin, dalbavancin, monensin, and emetine. Is There a Coronavirus Vaccine? There are no vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent or treat human coronavirus infections (as of March 16, 2020). But there are some vaccines in development that may be FDA approved in 12 months. Japan has a flu drug called favipiravir - developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm - which produced efficacy in outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients. The patients who received favipiravir turned negative in a median of 4 days after first being infected, compared with 11 days for those who did not receive the drug. X-rays also confirmed improved lung conditions in 91% of the patients who received the drug, compared to 62% who did not. How do I get tested for coronavirus? It’s important to understand the difference between higher-risk groups of people and those who may not be as impacted by the disease. High-risk groups include: Older adults (ages 65 and up) People who have serious underlying medical conditions like: Heart disease Diabetes Lung disease Those under 65 experiencing severe symptoms: Call your doctor if you experience severe symptoms such as: Worsening cough and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath Persistent pain or pressure in the chest New confusion or inability to arouse Bluish lips or face Those under 65 who are not experiencing severe symptoms: It’s very important that those who are not experiencing severe symptoms stay home and follow the CDC’s guidelines. How do I treat coronavirus? Treating Coronavirus comes down to several factors like your age and underlying medical conditions. If you’re under 65 and relatively healthy, the best solution is to stay home and treat it like you would any other cold or flu: 1. Hydrate. Fevers and coughing will deplete your body of water much faster than normal so you need to balance that with water and drinks with electrolytes like Pedialyte. 2. Rest. Your body needs all the strength it can to fight off the virus, so avoid physical exertion. 3. Try over-the-counter meds. Dayquil and Nyquil won’t cure you, but they’ll bring relief to your fever and suppress your cough so you can get appropriate rest. What should I do if I think I have Coronavirus? If you have mild symptoms like a low fever, cough, or sore throat, than you should isolate yourself and stay at home, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Don't go to work, school, or public areas, and avoid using public transportation or ride-sharing services. Separate yourself from other people as much as possible: Stay in a specific room, and use a separate bathroom, if one is available. If you have had Coronavirus and recovered and want to help, the FDA is working on experimental treatments that involve blood transfusions and you can donate blood to them. What is more deadly: the common flu or Coronavirus? The biggest difference between the flu and coronavirus is how much information we have. The flu has caused far more illness and fatalities than COVID-19, an estimated 32 million illnesses and 18,000 deaths this season alone, according to the CDC. But we know very little about COVID-19, which plays into the absence of treatment and vaccines. Meanwhile, the flu vaccine was first licensed for use in 1945. Can my dog or cat get Coronavirus? No. There currently is no evidence that pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes COVID-19. Coronavirus Resources Live updates from Healthinsurance.com on Coronavirus latest news, mortality rates, infection rates, and recovery rates. Monitor Coronavirus statistics in the world. WHO information on Coronavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of a medical professional for questions concerning your health. Do not delay seeking medical attention.
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From Obamacare to the opioid epidemic, healthcare-related issues have made headlines over the past decade. And it’s inevitable that they’ll only continue to evolve and impact the decade ahead. With the 2020s underway, let’s take a look back at five key milestones and issues that marked the evolution of healthcare over the past decade. 1. The Affordable Care Act became the law. Just months into 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) into law. The Affordable Care Act, often referred to the ACA or Obamacare, changed the nation’s health insurance landscape as we knew it. The healthcare reform law brought about numerous changes to help make health insurance more affordable and accessible to as many Americans as possible. Some key provisions include: The creation of a health insurance marketplace in every state to provide consumers with a place to purchase health insurance. Income-based subsidies, including premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, for those who purchase individual coverage through the health insurance marketplace (i.e., the state-based and federal exchanges). A requirement that insurance plans cover young adults on their parents’ policies to age 26. Guaranteed issue and renewal of policies. Premium rating rules that limited pricing to five things: location, age, tobacco use, individual or family enrollment, and plan category (i.e., bronze, silver, gold, platinum, catastrophic). An individual mandate requiring most Americans to have health insurance that qualified as minimum essential coverage or pay a tax penalty, unless they qualified for an exemption. (As of Jan. 1, 2019, the tax penalty has been rescinded). Medicaid expansion to those with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level, in participating states. Ten years later, uninsured rates have declined. In 2010, nearly 16% of Americans were uninsured. But in 2016, the uninsured rate hovered just above 8% -- its lowest point in the decade. It started to increase again slightly in 2017. But premiums increased 105% from 2013 to 2017 while the market adjusted to enrollment numbers and the resulting risk pool. Premiums have begun to stabilize over the past two years. 2. Short-term health insurance kept its stride. Short-term health insurance is temporary insurance that provides coverage in certain medical situations like an unexpected accident or illness. However, it doesn't include the same essential health benefits that ACA plans do, making them a more affordable insurance option for many. Short-term health insurance remained a relevant health insurance option throughout the decade, despite renewed scrutiny. Short-term medical plan sales increased sharply after the ACA took full effect in 2014. And these plans became an attractive option for people who were exempt from the individual mandate or opted to pay a penalty for not having an ACA-compliant health plan. Obama limits short-term policies Concerned that short-term health insurance was impacting ACA enrollment, the Obama administration created regulations that limited their availability. In 2016, short-term policies were capped at three months. Trump expands short-term policies In 2018, the Trump administration lifted Obama-era limits. Policies can now last up to 12 months and can be renewed for up to 36 months, depending on state laws. Arizona, for example, has adopted the Trump administration’s regulation. Some states, such as Oregon, still limit short-term plans to less than 90 days. 3. High-deductible health plans grew in popularity. High-deductible health plans were introduced in the early 2000s, but they were considered "mainstream plans" by 2012. In fact, HDHP enrollment jumped from 10 million people to 11.4 million people in one year (from January 2010 to January 2011). People can obtain HDHP plans through their employer/group based plan (if offered), the healthcare exchange, or private insurers. By 2015, HDHPs accounted for 60% to 80% of plans offered in the individual health insurance marketplace. In 2019, the IRS high-deductible health plan as any plan with a deductible of at least $1,350 for an individual and $2,700 for a family. The average annual deductible for individual coverage through a group plan was $1,655 in 2019. But while consumers can appreciate the lower monthly premium of a high-deductible insurance plan, they also tend to delay or skip medical care because of the high out-of-pocket costs associated with HDHPs. The popularity of HDHP may be slowing - at least in the group market. The percentage of employers offering a high-deductible health plan as the only option is projected to decrease in 2020, with more and more employers beginning to offer additional coverage options once again. 4. Healthcare spending continues to climb. If it seems like your healthcare costs increased throughout the past decade, it probably did. In 2018, the average American household spent $5,000 on healthcare, with nearly 70% of the $5,000 going towards health insurance. The more staggering fact? Medical bills are reported to be the number one cause of bankruptcies nationwide. And today, medical costs are considered America’s "real healthcare crisis". And while politicians continue to debate issues including health insurance reform and prescription drug pricing, they have not agreed upon a clear solution. Until things change, consumers must continue to find ways to save on their own, from finding flexible and affordable health insurance options and taking advantage of preventive care, to comparing provider rates before seeking services and seeking alternative healthcare through things like telemedicine. 5. An Opioid epidemic devastates our nation. The opioid epidemic might be the most daunting and complex public health crisis of our time. Heroin-related overdoses increased 286% from 2002 to 2013, with a significant spike around 2010. Another wave of opioid-related deaths hit around 2013 - this time, synthetic opioids like fentanyl were behind the surge. The crisis continued to escalate from there, with prescription drugs playing a significant role. Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths and increased to 47,600 people in 2017. By 2019, more than 90 Americans per day were dying from opioid overdose. And prescription opioid abuse was costing the nation $78.5 billion per year. The epidemic impacted people in both rural and urban environments. But overdose deaths in rural communities surpass deaths in urban settings. So what’s being done about it? In early 2019, the Trump administration launched a $353 million initiative to cut opioid overdoses by 40% over the next three years. The federal government is also working to hold drug companies accountable. For example, top executives at Insys Therapeutics were found guilty of racketeering conspiracy— a charge typically assigned to drug dealers and mob bosses. In 2018, the CDC reported that drug overdose deaths decreased for the first time since 1990. The healthcare debate continues Discussions about healthcare reform and our healthcare landscape did not stop when the ACA was passed. Conversations about legal challenges continue to this day. And, there has been proposed legislation to repeal and replace the ACA under the Trump administration. While no legislation has passed so far, new tax legislation did pass in December 2017, changing one key aspect of the ACA. Previously, you could be penalized for not having health insurance, but the Congress and President eliminated the mandate rule for all coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The 5th Circuit also recently ruled in Texas vs. United States that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. A Texas Judge will be deciding what, if any, of the ACA still stands. And it’s unclear if the case will head to the Supreme Court. With 2020 being an election year, the future of healthcare in America stands at a crossroads: Democrats remain divided on the best course of action moving forward. Their focus is on the expansion of health insurance coverage with tactics like Medicare for all, building on the ACA’s foundation, and rethinking the entire system. Republicans do not have a healthcare plan in place. Should Trump be reelected, his administration would likely continue its efforts to dismantle the ACA and pass new legislation in its place. What happens in November 2020 will no doubt influence how healthcare plays out over the next decade. We’ll continue to follow the trends and changes as well as their impacts on our nation.
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You might remember when the price tag of the EpiPen made headlines in 2016. The cost of this life-saving medication, used to treat severe allergic reactions, went from $93.88 to $608.61 in a seven-year timeframe - a 500% price increase by drug manufacturer Mylan Pharmaceuticals. While the EpiPen story was an extreme case, it's not uncommon for prescription drugs to increase in price and become unaffordable. In 2019, prescription drug costs totaled $360 billion in the United States. The average American consumer spends $1,220 each year just filling prescriptions. In comparison, Canadians spend about $882 per year while France comes in at just $653 annually. That's why you inevitably want to make sure you're paying the best price for your prescriptions. Here are some ways to be a savvy shopper and save money on your prescription drugs. Buy generic brands This may be a no-brainer for some, but it's a cost-saving tip worth remembering. Generic drugs can be significantly cheaper than brand-name versions. While everyone benefits from generic drug prices, people over age 65, especially, saved $75 billion in 2016 by choosing generic drugs. It's important to know that you're not compromising the quality of the drug if you choose a generic brand: The FDA says that generic drugs have the same active ingredients and effectiveness of brand-name drugs - a part of the FDA's approval process. So if your doctor prescribes a brand-name drug, ask if there's a generic equivalent. The savings are worth the effort. Shop around If the price of your prescription seems high, know that you don't have to "just accept" your pharmacy's costs. One pharmacy may charge $7 for amoxicillin, while the other charges $12 for the same thing. And big-box stores may have bigger discounts than smaller pharmacies. Be sure to compare prescription drug costs at different pharmacies. Drug manufacturers or insurers may also offer discounts for certain medications, so be on the lookout for special prices. Reward programs Certain stores or pharmacies may offer coupons or reward programs. Every rewards program is different, but in general: You can join a store's program (sometimes for free or for a small monthly payment) and earn points based on purchases. You can then use those points towards in-store purchases. You might also receive other perks like free 1 – 2 day shipping for prescriptions, 24/7 pharmacy consultations, or points for reporting wellness activities like walking or running. There are many reward programs to choose from - CVS ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health Rewards, Meijer mPerks, and Rite Aid wellness+ rewards are three examples. Buy in bulk You might think of paper towels or tissues when buying in bulk. But you can also be a bulk shopper with certain prescriptions - the more you buy, the less they cost. The bulk buying principle might make sense for maintenance drugs that treat chronic conditions. Let's say you have a prescription to treat your chronic heartburn: If you buy 14 tablets of Prilosec, each tablet is $1.43 - a total of $19.98. But if you buy 40 tablets, each one is $0.79 - a total of $33.04. That's 44.75% saved. Anyone can benefit from buying in bulk: Just be sure to consult with your doctor before you buy a 90-day supply of your prescriptions. Prescription savings cards Prescription savings cards provide discounts or coupons for medications at thousands of retailers nationwide. Many companies such as GoodRx and WellRx now offer them. Some even allow you to use them for pet prescriptions. Prescription savings cards typically show you where a drug is available and what the prices are at certain pharmacies. Simvastatin is a popular drug used to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. The average retail price of Simvastatin is around $66.39, but it can be about $3.64 with a prescription savings card. Prescription savings cards are suitable for almost everyone, including Medicare recipients who want to receive further discounts, those experiencing gaps in medical coverage or students on a tight budget. However, it's important to check out the fine print to see what's covered. Apply for assistance You may qualify for prescription drug assistance programs (PAPs) if you're an early retiree, in between jobs, a senior on a fixed income, or a college student. PAPs offer low-cost or free medication to those who don't have health insurance, are underinsured or can’t afford their medications. Assistance may be available through the drug manufacturer or through independent non-profits offering financial aid, such as NeedyMeds and National Council on Aging (NCOA). The cost-benefit varies by drug and PAP. Prescription home delivery You might save cash if you get your prescription drugs shipped directly to your home. In some cases, you can order a 60- to 90-day supply for a better price than buying the drug in person at your local pharmacy. Prescription home delivery makes sense for anyone who wants the convenience of not having to travel to the pharmacy to pick up medications. College students living away from home or those without a car might especially benefit from this option. But first: Check with both your doctor and your insurance company to make sure the home delivery option is available for your specific prescription drug. If you need to ask questions about your medication, picking it up in person at the pharmacy might be a better option for you. Free trial programs Some pharmaceutical companies offer free trial programs for those in between jobs or facing gaps in insurance. Think of being a first-time subscriber to Hulu, for example. Hulu might offer you a free week or month before you officially sign up. After all, the goal is to make you a long-term customer. This same concept applies to free trial programs through certain drug companies. Free trial programs might help you get the medication you need until you enroll in an ACA insurance plan or find a short-term health insurance plan with prescription coverage that works for you. Medicare recipients If you have Medicare, you may not have prescription drug coverage. Medicare has four different parts: A, B, C and D. When you enroll in Medicare, you can choose to enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and B) or Medicare Advantage Insurance (Part C). However, you can't enroll in both. If you choose Original Medicare and want prescription coverage, you must purchase a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D) from a private company for a monthly fee. A Medicare Advantage plan is all-in-one insurance and most plans include prescription drug benefits. But not all have this benefit, so it's essential to check the fine print. The good news is that when you're ready to shop for Medicare, you have a few different options. Medicare recipients can also use "preferred pharmacies" to shop for their prescriptions. Preferred pharmacies are in-network pharmacies that offer lower out-of-pocket costs on medications. If you leave the network, your prescription drugs might not be covered, costing you more money. Preferred pharmacies may offer other benefits like a home delivery for a 90-day supply of your prescription drug. Final thoughts You don't want to be in a situation where you have to skip taking your medications or put your health in jeopardy. Know that there are ways to save on prescription drugs. And not all health insurance plans include a prescription drug benefit, so review each option closely.
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