Trump's health subsidy shutdown could lead to free insurance

If President Donald Trump prevails in shutting down a major “Obamacare” health insurance subsidy, it would have the unintended consequence of making free basic coverage available to more people, and making upper-tier plans more affordable.

The unexpected assessment comes from consultants, policy experts, and state officials, who are trying to discern the potential fallout from a Washington health care debate that’s becoming even more complicated and volatile.

What’s driving the predictions? It’s because another subsidy that’s part of the health law would go up for people with low-to-moderate incomes, offsetting Trump’s move.

“It’s a kind of counter-intuitive result,” said Kurt Giesa, a health insurance expert with the Oliver Wyman consulting firm.

Think of pushing down on one end of a see-saw and the other end goes up.

According to one estimate, more consumers would sign up for coverage next year even though Trump says the Affordable Care Act is “virtually dead.”

On Thursday, the fate of the health law’s subsidy for copays and deductibles remained unclear as a bipartisan congressional deal to continue payments faced political roadblocks. Separately, state attorneys general were seeking a federal court order to keep the money flowing.

Trump’s attempt to shut off the subsidy for copays and deductibles would cause a different subsidy to jump up, the one for premiums.

The Obama-era health care law actually has two major subsidies that benefit consumers with low-to-moderate incomes. The one targeted by Trump reimburses insurers for reducing copays and deductibles, and is under a legal cloud. The other subsidy is a tax credit that reduces the premiums people pay, and it is not in jeopardy.

If the subsidy for copays and deductibles gets eliminated, insurers would raise premiums to recoup the money, since by law they have to keep offering reduced copays and deductibles to consumers with modest incomes.

The subsidy for premiums is designed to increase with the rising price of insurance. So government spending to subsidize premiums would jump.

“This is where the counting gets sort of weird,” said Matthew Buettgens, a senior research analyst with the Urban Institute.

The nonpartisan policy research group has estimated that richer premium subsidies could entice up to 600,000 more people to sign up for health law coverage. That depends on how insurers and state regulators adjust, which isn’t totally clear yet.

The group also found that the federal government would end up spending more overall on health insurance through higher premium subsidies.

None of this would be any comfort to people who buy individual health insurance policies but aren’t eligible for government subsidies. Many are still facing significant premium increases for 2018, aggravated by political turmoil that has made insurers fearful they’ll lose more money.

Still, the potential for a subsidy windfall hasn’t been lost on officials at the state level.

“It means many more Californians and people across the country will get a zero-premium bronze plan,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the health insurance marketplace in the nation’s most populous state.

“Bronze” is the health law’s basic coverage level. “Silver” is the mid-range standard plan and the most popular. “Gold” is close to employer health insurance in value.

In addition to free bronze plans, many consumers would be able to buy a gold plan for about the same monthly premium as silver coverage, Wyman and the Urban Institute concluded.

Other states where consumers could see zero-premium bronze plans include Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming, according to an industry estimate.

It’s complicated, but here’s why:

— First, the subsidy for copays and deductibles is provided only if you have a silver plan.

— Next, the other subsidy, the one for premiums, is pegged to the cost of a lower-priced silver plan.

In California, regulators instructed insurers to increase premiums for silver plans sold on the public marketplace to account for the loss of the subsidy for copays and deductibles.

Premiums for bronze plans and gold plans were shielded from that increase.

But because the federal subsidy for premiums is tied to the cost of a silver plan, that subsidy will be higher for everybody whose income qualifies them for financial assistance.

So consumers can use their richer premium subsidy to get a bronze plan for no monthly cost or very little, or a gold plan for much less than they would pay now.

Lee, the California official, said he believes regulators in close to half the states have taken a similar approach.

Final premiums for 2018 have not been officially unveiled yet, and some states are still making adjustments. Sign-up season starts Nov. 1.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: Health

Type 2 Diabetes Breakthrough: New Drug Semaglutide Stops Diabetes On Its Tracks, Relief From Insulin Therapy

Semaglutide stops the progression of diabetes

Researchers have created a new drug, semaglutide, that stops diabetes from getting worse and helps diabetic patients lose weight. Semaglutide is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue that can be taken as a pill or injected. It helps to control blood glucose levels by stimulating insulin production and suppressing the release of glucagon which raises blood glucose.

The weight-loss effect of semaglutide is important because a vital aspect of the control of the progression of diabetes is getting patients to shed weight. The new drug could be available to patients within three years, according to experts

Results from the phase II trial of semaglutide carried out by a team of experts at Leicester Diabetes Center in the U.K. and published in the science research journal JAMA, shows that the drug stopped the progression of diabetes in up to 90 percent of patients. The results also showed that it helped about 71 percent of patients to lose weight from the waistline.

Click here to continue and read more…

The Inquisitr

Could Your Morning Banana Or Avocado Slash Your Risk Of Heart Disease? New Research Says Yes!

Your Morning Banana Or Avocado May Slash Your Risk Of Heart Disease [Featured Image by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for CBD For Life]

According to a recent study, regularly eating foods that are high in potassium will help protect your body from heart disease. A diet high in potassium will most likely keep arteries from becoming hard.

The study, conducted by the University of Alabama Birmingham, using mice, revealed that those fed with a minimal amount of potassium were discovered to have hardened arteries.

In contrast, mice that consumed a normal amount of potassium, or a higher amount of potassium, did not suffer from hardened arteries. They determined there was a “direct effect” between low and high potassium consumption.

“Bananas and avocados — foods that are rich in potassium — may help protect against pathogenic vascular calcification, also known as hardening of the arteries.”

The study also revealed that “they unraveled the molecular mechanism underlying the effects of low or high dietary potassium.”

Although this particular study was done on mice, the researchers state that they will now use human test subjects in the next phase of research.

Click here to continue and read more…

The Inquisitr

What life is like now for formerly conjoined twin sisters after separation surgery

Like many toddlers, Eva and Erika Sandoval spent their third birthday party playing with friends and family, laughing and eating cake — a Princess Sofia cake from the Disney TV series, “Sophia the First,” for Eva and a Woody from “Toy Story” cake for Erika.

The twin girls each had their own party outfits — Eva was dressed as Princess Sophia, Erika was dressed as Woody.

But for their parents, Aida and Art Sandoval, this was more than just their daughters’ birthday. It was a miracle.

Watch the full story on ABC News “Nightline” tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET

This was the first birthday the twins, who were born conjoined and who had spent most of their young lives in a hospital, had celebrated as separate individuals. Doctors weren’t certain they would make it this far.

When then-44-year-old Aida Sandoval found out she was pregnant three years ago with twins, she and her husband were surprised but “so excited.” But as they started to plan to add two more to their family of five, the couple received devastating news. Her doctor referred her to a specialist who told her that the twins were conjoined and may not survive.

“[The doctor] asked me to call Art,” Aida said. “And I couldn’t. Like, how do I tell him? … So the doctor had to call him.”

Conjoined twins are a rare phenomenon, and their chances of survival are even rarer. About half are stillborn and only 35 percent survive beyond their first day, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The Sandovals, who live outside of Sacramento, reached out to Dr. Gary Hartman at Lucile Packard Stanford Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California, an expert in the world of conjoined twins and who had six successful separation surgeries under his belt. When Dr. Hartman reviewed the Sandovals’ case, he said he was honest with the couple about the twins’ chances of survival.

“What we told them was [what] we thought [which was] we didn’t know that they could be separated,” he said. “We said, ‘You would need to assume … that they would never walk’ … We weren’t real optimistic about quality of life.”

Doctors gave the Sandovals the option of terminating the pregnancy.

“We talked about it, we talked about it,” Art said. “It was like – let’s give them a chance….You know? It’s- if it was meant to be, it’s meant to be.”

At 33 weeks, Aida gave birth to Erika Rose and Eva Victoria. The girls were joined from the sternum all the way down to the pelvis and they shared a third leg.

The first time seeing them was “very emotional,” Aida Sandoval said.

“They have tubes, they had the little covers over their eyes,” she said. “You can’t carry them, they’re very fragile … you feel helpless because you question yourself, ‘Are we doing the right thing?’ But then you talk to them, you say, ‘You are strong, and you’re going to get through this.’”

The twins spent the first few months of their lives in the neonatal intensive care unit. They weren’t deemed strong enough to go home until they were 7 months old.

When the Sandovals were allowed to finally take them home, Aida said she dressed them in little gowns. Over time, they reached milestones together — their first words, learning to stand and developing their own personalities, with Eva as the talkative one and Erika as the observer.

But by the time they reached 2 years old, Eva had grown stronger than her sister, and then their health started to decline, so the decision was made to attempt to separate them.

In trying to explain the surgery to the girls, Aida said, “I would always role play, and [say], ‘Some magic is going to happen, and Dr. Hartman is going to be your magician.’”

The surgery was very risky. The American Pediatric Surgical Association said that at that point, only 250 separation surgeries have been successfully performed in the world, and doctors told the Sandovals that there was a 30 percent chance one of the twins would die.

Art Sandoval said they weighed the odds, but in the end they knew their girls were fighters, and he said they believed, “They will pull through this.”

On the morning of the surgery, Dec. 7, 2016, the medical team, led by Hartman, started with a prayer asking for unity, strength and guidance. Hartman’s plan was to separate the organs in the girls’ chests first and then move down the abdomen and finish with the pelvis.

After five-and-a-half hours, the girls were separated successfully, but the surgery was far from over. The medical team realized they didn’t have enough skin to close the girls’ incisions so they had to turn to their once shared third leg.

“They had told us earlier that they may have been able to use that third leg and keep it and give it to Erika, but when it came down to it, there wasn’t enough tissue to cover up Erika. So they had to use the tissue of the leg,” Art said.

“That was really hard,” Aida added. “It’s just like a punch in the gut.”

After 13 hours of surgery, Eva was wheeled into recovery. Her sister Erika followed two hours later. Their parents were on pins and needles until they saw the girls.

“I was excited just to know that they were alive still,” Aida said. “Just to know — see them breathing.”

In the weeks that followed, Erika, the once smaller twin, thrived, making tremendous progress in physical therapy, but recovery was a bigger challenge for Eva.

Through all of this, Aida was mostly parenting solo as Art, who had to keep working full-time to cover the medical bills, drove the three hours from their home in Sacramento to the hospital in Palo Alto every weekend to visit her and the twins.

Finally, three months after their separation surgery, the twins were allowed to go home. Under the care of their local hospital, Eva and Erika continued to go to physical therapy and were fitted for wheelchairs. At home, the family settled into a new routine, with Aida being able to walk outside with a stroller built for two for the first time.

The best part of this whole journey, Aida said, was “finally bringing them home and being a family.”

“We’ll still say, ‘Dr. Hartman and his team performed magic,’” she continued. “Eva will see her scar and she goes, ‘My sister was right here.’ And I said, ‘Yes, your sister was right there.’”

The girls made amazing progress, surpassing all expectations, but they still have more challenges ahead. They have been on feeding tubes since birth and are just now getting used to eating solid foods.

But they are embracing their independence as typical toddlers, full of curiosity and mischief.

“The worst part is over,” Aida said. “We’re here. We’re done … when you think about it or when you talk about it, those emotions do come back. But right now, it’s just looking forward, looking to the future … and they are vivacious, they are just — they’re spunky little girls.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: Health

The 2017 Global Lyme Alliance NYC Gala Honors Joseph Abboud And Marisol Thomas

The GLA's New York Gala honored Marisol Thomas and Joseph Abboud

Here is the bad news first: As of October 12, 2017, there is no cure for Lyme’s Disease. According to the Global Lyme Alliance, 200 children are diagnosed with Lyme’s disease every day. However, the Connecticut-based Global Lyme Alliance is working to make statistics like that a thing of the past.

At the Global Lyme Alliance’s New York City Gala 2017, the focus of the evening was on the positive developments meant in finding that needed cure. Presented by producer Larry Scott, this event was full of both star power and the people working to find that cure. A true multimedia experience, the gala was simultaneously entertaining, enlightening, emotional, and inspiring.

Click here to continue and read more…

The Inquisitr

Puerto Rico investigates post-hurricane disease outbreak

Four deaths in Hurricane Maria’s aftermath are being investigated as possible cases of a disease spread by animals’ urine, Puerto Rico’s governor said Wednesday amid concerns about islanders’ exposure to contaminated water.

A total of 10 people have come down with suspected cases of leptospirosis, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said at a news conference.

On a U.S. territory where a third of customers remain without running water three weeks after the hurricane, some became ill after turning to local streams to relieve their thirst.

Jorge Antonio Sanyet Morales, a 61-year-old bus driver, took a drink from a stream near his concrete home on a hillside in Canovanas a week after the Sept. 20 storm. He then developed a fever, his skin turned yellow and within a week, he died at a hospital in Carolina, according to his widow, Maritza Rivera.

Dr. Juan Santiago said Sanyet was among five patients who came in his emergency clinic last week with similar symptoms after drinking from streams in Canovanas and Loiza.

The water was still not running at Sanyet’s house this week, but Rivera, said she and her family were drinking only bottled water, including some delivered by the town. Her husband was the only one who drank from the stream, she said.

“He was a friend to everyone,” Rivera said. “I don’t know how I’ll face everything without him.”

Forty-five deaths in Puerto Rico have been blamed on Hurricane Maria, which tore across the island with 150 mph (240 kph) winds. Ninety percent of the island is still without power and the government says it hopes to have electricity restored completely by March.

Leptospirosis is not uncommon in the tropics, particularly after heavy rains or floods. Rossello said the symptoms can be confused with those of other illnesses, including dengue, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was helping to investigate. Two of the deaths were in Bayamon, and one each in Carolina and Mayaguez. Other patients have been receiving treatment with antibiotics.

Rossello said that fliers with instructions on how to disinfect water will be sent to mayors for distribution with food supplies in towns across Puerto Rico.

“For people that have access to internet and have access to printers, be good citizens and help us distribute this information,” Rossello said.

The Health Department and the U.S. military also will be distributing pills to purify water, he said.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: Health