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The Increasing Surge of Health Care

postWhile sitting back in her blue jeans and wearing a heavy workout sweater at the Legacy Emanuel Hospital’s Emergency room, Angela Jones has her feet prompted up and crossed atop of a small table. When asked about health care issues and how they affect her, Angela explains that there is a portion of people who suffer from not having health care insurance. She makes it clear that some of those who suffer most are young people. Jones, who is a college student, declared her passion for the young because it falls under her own age group.

Says Jones, “The Oregon Health Plan should be open to more people who are under 21 years old. Private insurance shouldn’t be so expensive for young people.”

According to national surveys, the primary reason people are uninsured is the high cost of health insurance coverage. Notwithstanding, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of the uninsured reported changing their way of life significantly in order to pay medical bills. Economists have discovered that increasing health care costs correlate to drops in health insurance coverage.

Jones believes that some of the greatest challenges that people face across this nation is obtaining affordable health care. “I would open an Oregon Health Plan to a variety of people who don’t have insurance. It is hard to get health insurance.”

Terri Heer, a registered nurse at a local hospital, claims that in order to improve America’s health care system a key ingredient is to “make sure that everyone (has) access.”

This would include cutting out on expenses that are not palpable to so called “health care needs”. Heer says, “First, we spend a lot of money servicing people for illnesses that can be prevented. Some of the money spent can go to other things.”

Over the long haul, should the nations health care system undergo significant changes, the typical patient may not necessarily see the improvements firsthand. “I would love to say there will be a lot of changes. I am not a pessimist, but I don’t think there will be any change,” says Heer. Heer does allude to the fact that if more money were spent for people in the health care arena, she says that there is a possibility that the necessary changes would be more evident.

Whether health care is affordable or not is an issue that affects everyone. According to a recent study last year, health care spending in the United States reached $2.3 trillion, and is projected to reach $3 trillion by 2011. By 2016, it is projected to reach $4.2 trillion. Although it is estimated that nearly 47 million Americans are uninsured, the U.S. spends more on health care than any other nation.

The rising tide of health care stems from several factors that has an affect on us all. First, there is an intensity of services in the U.S. health care system that has undergone a dramatic change when you consider that people are living longer coupled with greater chronic illnesses.

Secondly, prescription drugs and technology have gone through significant changes. The fact that major drugs and technological advancement has been a contributing factor for the increase in health care spending. Some analysts suggest that the improvement of state-of-art technologies and drugs increase health care spending. This increase not only attributes to the high-tech inventions, but also because consumer demand for these products has gone through the roof, so to speak.

Thirdly, there is an aging of the population. Since the baby boomers have reached their middle years, there is a tremendous need to take care of them. This trend will continue as baby boomers will qualify for more Medicare in 2011.

Lastly, there is the factor of administrative costs. Some would argue that the private sector plays a critical role in the rise of health care costs and the economic increase they produce in overhead costs. At the same time, 7 percent of health care expenses are a result of administrative costs. This would include aspects of billing and marketing.

Terra Lincoln is a woman who was found waiting in the Emergency room at the Providence Portland Medical Center. When asked about the rising costs of health care, she said, “If you don’t have medical coverage, it’ll cost you too much money. If I leave the hospital right now and I need to buy two (types) of medicines, I couldn’t afford it.” Lincoln says that she is a member of the OHP, but she believes that there are still issues that need to be addressed.

Terra recognizes that to reduce medical costs, she would have to start by getting regular checkups. “Sometimes people of color wait till they’re in pain before they get a checkup,” she said.

A national survey shows that the primary reason why people cannot afford health care is because of soaring costs of health care coverage. In a recent Wall-Street Journal-NBC survey it is reported that 50% of the American public claims that their highest and most significant economic concern is health care. Consequently, the rising cost of health care is the number one concern for Democratic voters.

Regarding the rising tide of health care, Kristin Venderbush, a native Wisconsin, and another patient in emergency at Providence says, “I worry a lot about what happens to the working poor. They don’t have OHP. If you can’t advocate for yourself, you will not get the health care you need…on every level.”

Harvard University researchers conducted a recent study that discovered that the out-of-pocket medical debt for an average consumer who filed bankruptcy was $12,000. This study noted that 68 percent of those who had filed for bankruptcy carried health insurance. Apparently, these bankruptcy’s were results from medical expenses. It was also noted in this study that every 30 seconds someone files for bankruptcy after they have had some type of serious health problem.

In spite of all the social and economic bureaucracy in the health care arena, some changes were made in Washington on January 28, 2008. In his State of the Union address, President Bush made inquired Congress to eliminate the unfair bias of the tax code against people who do not get their health care from their employer. Millions would then have more options that were not previously available and health care would be more accessible for people who could not afford it.

Consequently, the President believes that the Federal government can make health care more affordable and available for those who need it most. Some sources suggest that the President not only wants health care to be available for people, but also for patients and their private physicians so that they will be free to make choices as well. One of the main purposes for the health care agenda is to insure that consumers will not only have the freedom to make choices, but to also enable those to make decisions that will best meet their health care needs.

Kerry Weems, Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, oversees the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as SCHIP. This is a critical program because it pays for the health care of more than six and a half million children who come from homes that cannot afford adequate health insurance. These homes exceed the pay scale for Medicaid programs, therefore are not able to participate.

During SCHIP’s ten year span, states have used the program to assist families with low-income and uninsured children for their sense of well-being in the health care arena. The Bush Administration believes that states should do more of an effort to provide for the neediest children and enable them to get insurance immediately. The SCHIP was originally intended to cover children who had family incomes ranging from $20,650. This amount would typically include a family of four. According to sources, all states throughout the U.S. have SCHIP programs in place and just over six million children are served.

Children and Health Care

Washington’s Perspective

What is driving health care costs?

The fact that the U.S. faces ever increasing health care woes, has left many to believe that the country’s current crisis is on a lock-step path toward insolvability.

Hiring a Home Health Care Employee

postProviding the primary care for an elder loved one can be difficult. When you cannot deliver all the elder care yourself and support from friends, family, and community organizations is not enough, it may be useful to hire a home health care worker. He or she can offer care from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day, and can provide many other helpful services. Types of in-home health care services include:

  • General Health Management like administration of medication or other medical treatments
  • Personal care such as bathing, oral hygiene, dressing, and shaving
  • Nutrition help like preparing meals, assisting eating, and grocery shopping
  • Homemaking services including laundry, dishwashing, and light housework
  • Companionship for example reading to the senior or taking them on walks

Recruiting and Interviewing Applicants

There are many avenues for hiring a home health care employee. Generally, home health care workers can be hired directly or through an agency. Home health care agencies often have a staff that includes social workers and nurses that will manage your care. However hiring an independent home health care worker is generally more cost effective, it will also give you more control over the type of care you receive.

Senior home care workers should be carefully screened for proper training, qualifications, and temperament. Fully discuss the needs of the elder care recipient during an interview with a prospective home health care employee.  There should be a written copy the job description and the type of experience you are looking for.

References

Have applicants fill out an employment form that includes the following information:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Educational background
  • Work history

Before hiring, you should ask to see the senior home care worker’s licenses and certificates, if applicable, and personal identification including their social security card, driver’s license, or photo ID.

References should be checked out thoroughly.  Prospective employees should provide the employer with names, dates of employment, and phone numbers of previous employers and how to contact them.  It is best to talk directly to previous employers, rather than just to accept letters of recommendations. Also ask the applicant to provide or sign off on conducting a criminal background check

Special Points to Consider

Make sure the person you are considering hiring knows how to carry out the tasks the elder care recipient requires, such as transferring the senior to and from a wheelchair or bed.  Training may be available, but make sure the worker completes the training successfully before hiring him or her.

No one should be hired on a seven-day-a-week basis.  Even the most dedicated employee will soon burn out.  All employees need some time to take care of their personal needs.  No worker should be on call 24-hours a day.  If the elder care recipient needs frequent supervision or care during the night, a family member or second home health care worker should be able to help out or fill in.

Live-in assistance may seem to be more convenient and economic than hourly or per-day employees but there can be drawbacks.  Food and lodging costs must be calculated into the total cost of care, and it could be difficult to dismiss someone without immediate housing alternatives.  If you decide to utilize a live-in arrangement, the employee should have his own living quarters, free time, and ample sleep.

Job Expectations and Considerations

Before hiring a senior home health care worker, you should go over the tasks you expect them to perform and other issues, such as promptness, benefits, pay scale, holidays, vacations, absences, and notification time needed for either employer or employee before employment is terminated. If you work and are heavily dependent on the home health care worker, emphasize the importance of being informed as soon as possible if he or she is going to be late or absent so that you can make alternative arrangements. Be clear about notification needed for time off, or what to do in the case the home health care worker experiences a personal emergency that requires them to abruptly leave work.  It is important to have a backup list of friends, family, other home care workers, or a home health care agency you can call on.

Be clear about issues concerning salary, payment schedule, and reimbursement or petty cash funds for out of pocket expenses.

You should spend the day with the home health care worker on his first day to make sure you are both in agreement over how to carry out daily tasks.  It would also be helpful to supply the home health care worker with a list of information on the elder care recipient such as: special diets, likes, dislikes, mobility problems, health issues, danger signs to monitor, possible behavior problems and accompanying coping strategies, medication schedule, therapeutic exercises, eye glasses, dentures, and any prosthetics.

You should also provide the following information to your home health care worker: your contact information, emergency contacts, security precautions and access to keys, clothing, and locations of washing/cleaning supplies, medical supplies, light bulbs, flashlights, fuse box, and other important household items.

Transportation

Another big consideration in hiring a senior home care worker is how he or she is going to get to work.  If they do not have a reliable car or access to public transit, then you might want to consider hiring someone to drive him or her, which might be more economical than using taxis.  Inform your insurance company if the home health care worker is going to drive your car when caring for the senior.  Your insurance company will perform the necessary driving background checks.  If the home health care worker is using his or her car to drive the elder care recipient, then discuss use of her or his car, and conduct a driving background check.

Insurance and Payroll

Check with an insurance company about the proper coverage for a worker in your home.

Make sure all the proper taxes are being drawn from the employee’s check by contacting the Internal Revenue Service, state treasury department, social security, and the labor department.  If you do not want to deal with the complexities of the payroll withholdings yourself, than you can hire a payroll company for a fee.

Even if your home health care worker is working as a contractor, you are still obligated to report the earnings to the IRS.  Talk to your accountant or financial adviser about making sure you are following IRS rules.

Ensuring Security

You should protect your private papers and valuables in a locked file cabinet, safe deposit box, or safe. If you are unable to pick up your mail on a daily basis, have someone you trust do it, or have it sent to a post box. You should check the phone bill for unusual items or unauthorized calls. You should put a block on your phone for 900 numbers, collect calls, and long-distance calls.

Keep checkbooks and credit cards locked up. Review credit card and bank statements on a monthly basis, and periodically request credit reports from credit reporting agencies.  Lock up valuable possessions or keep an inventory of items accessible to people working in the house.

You can help to prevent elder abuse to your loved one by:

  • Make sure the home health care worker thoroughly understands his or her responsibilities, the elder care recipient’s medical problems and limitations, and how to cope with stressful situations.
  • Do not overburden the home health care worker.
  • Encourage openness over potential problems.

The following are possible signs of elder abuse or neglect:

  • Personality changes
  • Crying, whimpering, or refusing to talk
  • Sloppy appearance
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Disorganized or dirty living conditions
  • Signs of inappropriate sedation, such as confusion, or excessive sleeping
  • Mysterious bruises, pressure sores, fractures, or burns
  • Weight loss

If you suspect abuse, act immediately.  Do not wait until the situation turns tragic.  Investigate the situation by talking to the elder care recipient in a safe situation, or install monitoring equipment. Examples of abusive behavior include yelling, threatening, or over controlling behavior that could involve isolating the senior from others. If the situation is serious, you should replace the home health care worker as quickly as possible. If you fear the elder care recipient is in danger, he or she should be separated from the home health care worker as soon as possible.  Place the elder care recipient with a trusted relative or in a respite care facility. Make sure your loved one is safe before confronting the home health care worker, especially if there is concern about retaliation.

Report the situation to Adult Protective Services after ensuring the safety of the elder care recipient.  The police should be contacted in the case of serious neglect, such as sexual abuse, physical injury, or misuse of funds.

Supervising a Home Health Care Worker

The most important thing to remember after hiring a home health care worker is to keep the lines of communication open.  You should explain the job responsibilities clearly, and your responsibilities to the home health care worker. Do not forget that the home health care worker is there for the elder care recipient and not the rest of the family.  For live-in arrangements, the maximum amount of privacy should be set up for the home health care worker’s living quarters. Meetings should be set up on a regular basis to assure that problems are nipped in the bud.  If conflicts cannot be resolved after repeated attempts, than it is best to terminate the employee.  In such a case, you may have to either place the elder care recipient in a nursing home temporarily or hire a home health care worker through an agency.  Reserve funds should be kept on hand in the case of such an emergency.

General Eligibility Requirements for Home Care Benefits

Hiring a home health care worker directly is usually less expensive than hiring through a home health care agency; but if the elder care recipient is eligible and you wish to use assistance from Medicare, you must hire someone through a certified home health care agency.  For the senior patient to be eligible, three or more services must be ordered by a physician. Other factors or eligibility are the required need for skilled nursing assistance, or one of the following therapies: physical, speech or occupational. The elder care recipient’s medical needs will determine asset and income requirements.

Hiring Home Health Care Workers through Home Health Care Agencies versus Independently

Different health professionals can assess the elder care recipient’s needs.  A nurse or social worker can help with design and coordination of a home care plan.  Your care manager, doctor, or discharge planner can help with services being covered by Medicare.  They generally help make the arrangements with a home care agency.

You should ask the home health care agency how they supervise their employees, and what kind of training their employees receive. Find out the procedures for when an employee does not show up.  Also ask about the fee schedule and what it covers, there may be a sliding fee schedule. Furthermore, find out if they have a policy for minimum or maximum hours. Ask the agency if there are any limitations on the types of tasks performed.

Especially if you have to pay for the care services yourself, find out if there are any hidden costs such as transportation.  If all the costs for hiring a care worker through an agency become too much, you may want to consider hiring directly.

Hiring independent home health care workers is not only more economical than using an agency, but it also allows more direct control over the elder care.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/3018941

How To Save on Health Insurance

postWith health care costs soaring through the roof, the cost of health insurance premiums are increasing as well. Health insurance is a necessity, however, when you consider the costs of one visit to the emergency room, surgery to set a broken bone, scans, lab and other costs. When your budget is limited, how can you keep the costs of your health insurance premiums down? There are several steps you can take to reduce your health insurance costs and still maintain adequate medical coverage when you need it.

First step is to consider what health insurance options you have. Does your employer offer a group medical benefit? Many employers (and/or labor unions) offer health benefits to full-time employees. Group health insurance is usually the cheapest way to get medical coverage; an employer can negotiate with health insurance companies to get a group health plan at cheaper rates. In addition, many employers will pay part of the premium, reducing your health insurance cost even further. Another consideration is whether your spouse has health coverage available through their employer? If so, compare your health benefits plan to that of your spouse, and decide which health plan is the better buy. It may be possible to have one spouse carry family health insurance coverage and the other drop their health benefits. Many employers have multiple health insurance options, so review these plans as well. Choose the health plan that best meets your needs at the cheapest rate.

If no health insurance coverage is available through your employer, there are other ways to obtain health insurance coverage. Individual and family private health insurance policies are available. Shop and compare benefits and premiums from each health insurance plan. If you and your family are generally healthy, the new Health Savings Account (HSA) may be worth consideration. The HSA is an account that allows you to save tax-free dollars for your medical/health expenses. Similar to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), you are limited in the amount that you are allowed to contribute each year; however, with the HSA, withdrawals for health expenses are not penalized, and no tax is paid on the withdrawal. When paired with a health insurance policy that has high deductibles and low rates, the HSA may be ideal for you. Save money in the HSA for deductibles and co-pays, and you’re set.

For those over 65 or permanently disabled, Medicare is available through the federal government. The original Medicare is an 80/20 plan (they pay 80% of eligible expenses and the insured pays 20%) with an annual deductible and a monthly premium. Supplemental health plans are available to cover this deductible and co-pay. These supplemental health plans are usually private and the insured pays a premium. In addition to the original Medicare plan, there are Medicare HMOs. In these Medicare HMO health plans, the Medicare premium is paid to an HMO to provide benefits to the insured. HMO plans are more restrictive in that patients must get care through a network provider, but often these plans cover more prescription drugs and preventive care than original Medicare does.

Recently some employers have offered lower premiums to employees who do not smoke cigarettes. This is currently a controversial topic for some, but it certainly may begin a trend. In the future, employers and their health insurance providers could offer reduced premiums for employees who maintain normal weight, exercise regularly, and receive certain wellness benefits. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle lowers the risk to the health insurance company that they will be paying big bucks in health care down the road. And health insurance, as any other insurance, is all about risk.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/157302