Health care costs are increasingly squeezing American workers, especially those in Georgia and the South, a new report released Thursday finds.
Nationally, workers’ out-of-pocket costs for premium contributions and deductibles in 2013 accounted for a higher percentage of median family income in all states compared to 2003.
According to the report from the Commonwealth Fund, this higher burden for workers comes despite a slowdown in health insurance premium growth in most states, including Georgia, since 2010.
In Southern states, where incomes are below the national average, worker costs for premiums and deductibles are especially high compared with median income, the report found.
Combined costs for premiums and deductibles ranged from 6 percent to 7 percent of median household income in the District of Columbia, Hawaii and North Dakota, to 12 percent or more in Texas and Florida. The average was 9.6 percent.
Those worker costs were 10.8 percent in Georgia in 2013, up from 5.5 percent a decade earlier.
“Incomes haven’t grown as much as health care costs, so we’re all feeling it,” said Bill Custer of Georgia State University, when he was asked to comment on the report by GHN. full story
The federal government is cutting payments to 29 Georgia hospitals for high levels of infections and patient injuries in the facilities.
The new Medicare crackdown on hospital-acquired infections and preventable injuries is similar to the existing federal penalties on excessive readmissions of patients within 30 days after discharge.
Overall, 721 U.S. hospitals are getting the new penalties, which means they will have their Medicare payments lowered by 1 percent.
WellStar Kennestone in Marietta
The Georgia hospitals being penalized include some of the largest and best known in the state.
In the metro Atlanta area, Emory University Hospital, Grady Memorial, WellStar Kennestone, Piedmont Hospital and Atlanta Medical Center are among those receiving cuts. full story
Outwardly, Kerry Tucker of Atlanta looks perfectly healthy.
But for the past 25 years, Tucker has battled constant stiffness and pain from psoriatic arthritis.
“Mornings are the toughest,’’ Tucker said at an Atlanta arthritis conference last week. Then there are the flare-ups that leave her in bed for days.
She’s among patients taking a breakthrough “biologic” drug – medications that have made a major difference in their ability to handle arthritis symptoms.
Yet these specially engineered drugs have a hefty price tag for insurers, employers and patients. That cost has consumer advocates alarmed about the potential financial impact on families.
Roughly one in four Georgians are estimated to have a form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the Atlanta-based Arthritis Foundation. More than 800,000 of them are “limited’’ by the condition, the CDC says.
Thousands of Georgia children have a form of juvenile arthritis. full story
The Affordable Care Act exchange, which begins its second open enrollment period this Saturday, will offer many Georgians lower prices this time around.
Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University, said Thursday that the average premium statewide for a 40-year-old nonsmoker for the second-lowest “silver” plan will rise by 2 percent from the 2014 figure.
But in some Georgia regions, the premium for that plan will drop by double-digit rates, he said.
Still, people looking for a second year of coverage in the exchange – or to get a policy for the first time – need to pay attention to many factors besides premiums. Deductibles, co-insurance, prescription drug coverage, and whether specific hospitals and physicians are in a network are among the major considerations.
One thing is almost certain: Healthcare.gov, the federal enrollment website, will work more smoothly during this enrollment period. Last year, the site was plagued with massive technical problems – so much so the federal government extended the open enrollment window. full story
My recent sinus infection came on suddenly and painfully. After diagnosing it, my physician e-prescribed me an antibiotic.
This is tricky territory for me. I’m sensitive to some antibiotics. Years ago, I took a couple of varieties to treat similar infections, and wound up with oral thrush in one case and C. difficile in another. Both were 100 times worse than the original ailment.
My physician knew this history. He prescribed a two-week supply of doxycyline hyclate, a dependable antibiotic that he felt I could tolerate well, partly because I had handled it well in the past.
So I headed to my pharmacy to pick up the “doxy.”
“It’s one seventeen,’’ said the clerk, in an oddly sheepish way.
I pulled a dollar from my wallet and extracted some change from my pants pocket.
She looked at the money and said, “No. It’s a hundred and seventeen dollars.’’
“Whoa,’’ I said. “$117?” full story