Gov't report: Health care deductibles higher under GOP bill

President Donald Trump promised to make health care more affordable but a government report finds that out-of-pocket costs — deductibles and copayments — would average 61 percent higher under the House Republican bill.

And even though the sticker price for premiums would be lower than under the Obama-era law, what consumers actually pay would edge up on average because government financial assistance would be curtailed.

The report from the Office of the Actuary, a nonpartisan economic unit at the Health and Human Services Department, was released earlier this week with little fanfare.

“It’s fascinating,” said Chris Sloan, a policy expert with the Avalere Health consulting firm. “They actually think that on average people will be paying more even though the underlying premium is less.”

The estimates are for the year 2026, and apply to people who buy their own health insurance policies. That group was a major focus of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Individually-purchased coverage is also key to the GOP’s American Health Care Act, which would roll back much of “Obamacare.”

The report tracks with findings by the Congressional Budget Office, which said millions more would be uninsured under the Republican legislation, in particular due to Medicaid cuts affecting low-income people. But at first blush the impact appears to be less dramatic. The budget office estimate of 23 million more uninsured in 2026 compares with 13 million projected by the experts at HHS.

However, Sloan said much of the contrast appears due to a fairly technical issue: the two groups of experts make different assumptions about the number of people covered as a result of Obama’s law.

The HHS report also finds that the Republican bill would shorten the life of the Medicare hospital trust fund by two years, partly because it repeals a tax on upper-income earners.

In a statement, the Trump administration said the new HHS estimate doesn’t take into account other changes proposed by the president, including relief from burdensome regulations and additional health care legislation.

While Trump celebrated passage of the House bill with a Rose Garden ceremony, lately he’s told senators it’s too “mean,” and he’s urged lawmakers to spend more money on health care. Republican senators are trying to find a compromise that will let them advance their own version.

The HHS experts projected forward nearly a decade, estimating that sticker-price premiums would average $ 801 a month in 2026 if the Obama law stays in place.

Under the GOP bill, that gross monthly premium would drop to $ 695, or about 13 percent less.

Yet financial assistance would also be reduced under House bill, which provides government tax credits based on age, not income. After taking that and other changes into account, net premiums would average $ 380 under the GOP bill, a little bit more than the $ 360 a month consumers would pay under current law.

The GOP bill also would eliminate current subsidies that help reduce deductibles and copayments for people of modest incomes. And it would allow insurers to offer plans that cover fewer benefits, among other changes. Both those shifts lead to higher deductibles and copayments.

When all that is factored in, the HHS estimate found that cost-sharing would average $ 380 a month, 61 percent more than the estimate of $ 236 under current law.

In a Washington Post interview shortly before taking office, Trump promised “much lower deductibles.”

“You can see the promise of lower premiums holding up,” said Sloan. “But there is nothing in this proposal that is going to lead to lower deductibles or lower cost-sharing. There is just nothing there.”

The HHS report cautioned that averages don’t tell the whole story. The impact would vary widely by age, income, and where a consumer lives. For example, among younger people coverage would increase because they’d be able to purchase plans with lower premiums. But premiums would rise for older adults, making it likely that more people in their 50s and early 60s would become uninsured.

The amounts consumers pay out-of-pocket for deductibles and copayments would also vary. The report’s cost-sharing average includes people who use their insurance a lot, and those who don’t go to the doctor.

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HHS Office of the Actuary report: https://tinyurl.com/ycc9cmvt

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ABC News: Health

Murder on Facebook spotlights rise of 'performance crime' phenomenon on social media

A video posted to Facebook that shows the killing of an elderly man in Cleveland has sparked both fear and outrage. Fear because the victim, Robert Godwin Sr., appears to have been chosen at random by his alleged assailant, and outrage because Godwin’s last terrifying moments could be watched over and over again on social media.

Steve Stephens uploaded a video of himself allegedly killing Goodwin. Police launched a nationwide manhunt for Stephens, who ended his life by shooting himself on Tuesday after being pursued by police, according to Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams. The video of Godwin’s murder was up for about two hours before being taken down by Facebook, the company said, prompting the tech giant to re-examine how it flags such content.

Stephens’ alleged crime has drawn attention to a number of other illegal acts that have been documented on social media. In recent years, sexual assaults, random attacks and murders have been uploaded to social media platforms, sometimes drawing large audiences.

In 2015, Vester Lee Flanagan, aka Bryce Williams, recorded video of himself shooting two former co-workers and then put the video on Twitter.

Earlier this year, Chicago police arrested four people for allegedly torturing a teen and livestreaming the incident on Facebook Live.

Ray Surette, a professor in the department of criminal justice at the University of Central Florida, has called some of these acts “performance crimes,” in which perpetrators essentially commit violent acts as if they were playing to an audience for attention.

He told ABC News that there have “always been people committing crimes with an audience in mind,” although those crimes were not publicized as much before the rise of social media.

The tactic had been more commonly used by terrorist groups or political protesters to try to publicize their causes, Surette said, but now there are a growing number of people posting violent acts online who are not affiliated with larger political or armed groups.

“My reaction was, ‘Oh geez, there’s been another one,'” he recalled after learning of Godwin’s death.

Surette said he worries that media coverage of crimes like this one and of mass shootings can contribute to a rise in copycat crimes. Research on mass shootings has found that a desire for attention and recognition can motivate some attackers. In a 2015 study, researchers looked at mass shooting data and found that after a mass shooting, it was more likely that there would be another within the next 13 days.

During a presentation at a 2016 American Psychological Association meeting, researchers from Western New Mexico University outlined similar findings. The researchers found that when there were more mentions on Twitter about a mass shooting, chances increased that there would be another mass shooting in the next few days. Additionally, the authors reviewed published material and found that “most shooters desired fame and wished to emulate a previous mass shooter.”

But understanding the motives behind committing a horrific murder and then uploading video of it to the web is difficult. Such crimes are often the result of multiple factors, some of which may never be known.

Naftali Berrill, the director of the New York Center for Neuropsychology and Forensic Behavioral Science, told ABC News that the decision to upload video of a crime to social media may stem from a perpetrator’s desire to take control of a situation. He said that in general, people who commit random acts of violence may do so to fight feelings of powerlessness.

“One of the things that you’re communicating is that you’re powerless,” he said. “One of the surefire ways of trying to enhance one’s sense of power and efficacy is to do something as brazen … as commit a random murder online.”

Berrill said by sharing the crime online, a perpetrator is also aiming to reach a sort of celebrity status or notoriety, even if it is for the worst possible reason.

“It elevates you for a moment,” he said. “You have let the world know that you have not only the power but the wherewithal to take someone’s life and to take someone’s life in the most absurd nonsensical [way.]”

Cleveland police said they are still investigating what prompted Stevens to allegedly attack Godwin.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the killing in comments he made during a conference on Tuesday.

“We have a lot more to do here, and we’re reminded of this this week by the tragedy in Cleveland,” he said. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin Sr. … We will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.”

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ABC News: Health

Steroid Use For Conditions Like Bronchitis Linked To Higher Rates Of Adverse Events Sepsis, VTE and Fractures

Univeristy of Michigan study find five times the risk of sepsis among short term steroid users.

People are often given short-term corticosteroids like prednisone to treat symptoms of conditions like bronchitis or back pain. Short term steroid use often helps people feel better quicker and can save lives. Still, these popular drugs are not without adverse effects. No drugs are. University of Michigan researchers would like people to be aware of a new link they found between serious conditions and short-term steroid use.

Short-term use of steroids like prednisone has been linked to significantly higher rates of sepsis, venous thromboembolism (VTE) and fractures, according to University of Michigan experts. New findings indicate that people taking oral steroids for short-term relief are more likely to develop a potentially dangerous blood clot, develop sepsis in the months after treatment, and even break a bone compared to adults in similar circumstances who were not given the steroids.

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Health – The Inquisitr

Mumps outbreak in Texas reaches 23-year high

Texas health authorities are trying to combat a record-breaking outbreak of mumps that has swept through the state.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported there have been 221 cases of mumps in the state this year, the highest number since 1994 when 234 cases were reported. College students in particular have been among the hardest hit by the virus, which spreads through close personal contact and can result in swollen glands, fever and headache.

“State, regional and local health departments are currently investigating multiple outbreaks throughout the state, including one involving possible exposures on South Padre Island, a popular spring break destination,” the health department said in a statement.

Texas is just the latest state to be hit with a large mumps outbreak. Last year the U.S. had multiple outbreaks of the mumps resulting in 5,748 total reported cases. Comparatively there were just 229 cases in 2015. Washington state has has 756 mumps cases since the start of an outbreak last October.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said unlike other outbreaks of diseases like measles, the recent mumps outbreaks appear to be occurring in populations with high vaccination rates.

“Although people are vaccinated, after about 15 years there is some waning of immunity and if you get a strong exposure that exposure can overcome that diminished protection and you’ll get a case of mumps,” said Schaffner.

People are usually immunized against mumps as children when they get two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.

Schaffner said college students are at particularly at risk since they live and go to school in close proximity to others. Additionally if they travel together for spring break, football games or other events the virus can spread from school to school.

“The college environment is such that it provides so many opportunities for close face to face exposure,” he explained.

In a statement to ABC News last month, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) plans to examine why mumps cases are increasing and determine if a third dose of the mumps vaccine during an outbreak could help prevent the virus from spreading.

“CDC is investigating the factors that may be contributing to the increase in cases, including that the vaccine prevents many but not all cases of mumps; the disease spreads more easily in crowded settings; and the possibility that the protective effect of the vaccine decreases over time,” the CDC said.

Schaffner said in recent years epidemiologists have wondered if the virus has mutated enough that the current vaccines are not effective enough at providing protection, although he clarified that it’s far too early right now to know for sure.

“You can see minor variations and the question is, is that enough to evade the protection provided by this vaccine?” he said.

The CDC said last month that the vaccine continues to work well in children and pointed out that prior to the mumps vaccine there were approximately 186,000 cases of the virus annually in the U.S.

“Since the pre-vaccine era, there has been a more than 99% decrease in mumps cases in the United States,” the CDC said.

The mumps virus is spread through close personal contact and through coughing, sneezing, or talking. While most people infected with the virus recover without serious complications, in rare cases the virus can cause swelling of the testes, the ovaries, the membrane surrounding the brain and the brain itself.

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ABC News: Health

Why Are Some People ‘Night Owls’? Gene Mutation Could Explain Preferences For Sleeping Late

Why Are Some People 'Night Owls'? Gene Mutation Could Explain Preferences For Sleeping Late

For some people, waking up in the morning is the ultimate definition of a chore, especially if one tends to be more productive or creative late in the evening. To some, it may seem like personal preference, but a new study suggests that being a “night owl” can be chalked up to gene mutations.

Researchers analyzed a total of 70 subjects from six families, and, as Live Science reported, some of the subjects were found to have a condition called delayed sleep phase disorder, or DSPD. This is a condition where the body clock tends to lag behind that of the average person, causing sufferers to sleep late and wake up similarly late. Based on the research, those with DSPD had a “night owl” gene mutation in the CRY1 gene, one that wasn’t present in family members who didn’t have DSPD.

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Health – The Inquisitr

Parasitic Worm Infections Multiply In Hawaii: Is Climate Change The Cause Of Rat Lungworm Spread?

Local officials in Hawaii are concerned due to a parasitic worm infection called rat lungworm disease that has sickened six people in recent months, as compared to only two people in the previous decade.

According to a report from ABC News, the rat lungworm is known by the scientific name Angiostrongylus cantonesis, and once people are infected, there is no known treatment. People can get the infection by eating raw or undercooked snails, or fruits and vegetables that have been contaminated by the worm, and once this happens, it could result in meningitis, and in some cases, death.

Over the last three months, there have been six cases of the worm-related infection reported or three times the number of infections recorded in the previous decade.

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Health – The Inquisitr