It is estimated that 78.8 million people have had their Social Security numbers, names, addresses, and dates of birth accessed by internet hackers who broke into health insurance giant Anthem’s databases, according to Bloomberg Business.

Anthem is the second-largest health insurer in the United States, and is part of the greater network of independently operated Blue Cross Blue Shield plans that provide service in parts of the country where BCBS is not easily accessible, Reuters reports.

The Indiana-based insurance company stated that preliminary investigations do not leave them to believe that costumers’ credit card or medical information was compromised.

The Anthem hack has quickly gone down as one of the largest corporate cyber breaches in history, as not only were Anthem costumers’ personal records stolen, but so too were those of nearly 8 million non-costumers who were on the Anthem databases for being affiliates of Blue Cross Blue Shield, according to CNN.

The FBI was alerted of the security infraction shortly after it was discovered, and has since been collaborating with Anthem very closely, hoping to pin-point the transgressors. While it is too early to tell who committed the cyber-attack, CNN states that a few rumors have pointed fingers at the Chinese government.

Large companies being robbed of costumers’ valuable information has become a trend of late. The Anthem hacking is somewhat reminiscent of the cyber-theft of the credit card data of over 40 million Target shoppers last year. Sony, JPMorgam Chase, Ebay, and Home Depot have also had issues with technological security in the past couple of years, says CNN.

The personal information of the administrative hierarchy of Anthem was stolen as well. In a letter notifying customers of the violation, CEO Joseph Swedish said, “Anthem’s own associates’ personal information – including my own – was accessed during this security breach. We join you in your concern and frustration, and I assure you that we are working around the clock to do everything we can to further secure your data.”

As collateral for the lost information, Anthem has vowed to individually contact victimized customers and provide them with complimentary credit monitoring and identity protection services, according to CNN. With luck, authorities will trace the source of the cyber-attack and prevent credit fraud.

If somebody were to ask you which occupation saw more back and musculoskeletal injuries per year, construction laborers or nursing assistants and orderlies, which would be your guess? Believe it or not, the answer is nursing assistants, orderlies, and healthcare staff- and the margin of victory is not even close. An article by NPR declares that the laborers of this category are prone to suffering approximately three times the amount of back/musculoskeletal injuries as construction workers.

According to surveys by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 35,000 various on-the-job injuries (predominantly in the back and spine) that require a leave from work among nursing and healthcare employees per year.

What is it in a nurse’s workday that causes so many staffing injuries? The culprit is the lifting and transporting of patients. Many orderlies and nurses assistants are tasked with hoisting patients and invalids that weigh in at 300 pounds or more. Doing this day after day takes a veritable toll on the back and spine, and each year thousands of workers feel the consequences.

What’s more, it appears that there is no way to sidestep the mishaps that accompany lifting and moving patients. NPR reveals that hospitals and nursing schools are teaching nurses lifting methods that put them in great risk of inadvertent, career-ending back injuries. William Marras of the Spine Research Institute of Ohio State University tells NPR, “The bottom line is, there’s no safe way to lift a patient manually. The magnitude of these forces that are on your spine are so large that the best body mechanics in the world are not going to keep you from getting a back problem.”

So, the age-old “bend your knees, keep your back straight, and lift with your legs” technique is facing increased scrutiny. Clearly, the new consensus is that hospitals need to find alternate methods of raising and hauling patients. NPR reports that some hospitals, such as Florida’s Baptist Health System and the Department of Veterans Affairs have reduced staffing injuries by nearly 80% by utilizing mechanized processes for patient-lifting.

While there are several progressive medical systems that are implementing machines to perform these task, the majority of hospitals and healthcare facilities are not making a concerted effort to reduce staffing injuries. It appears that until there is a more serious, committed effort to change policy, nurses and orderlies will retain their high rank on the list of occupational injuries.

Up to 200,000 people are expected to lose their Obamacare coverage after failing to produce documented proof of their citizenship or legal residence in the United States, The Fiscal Times reports.

In August of last year, the American government mailed letters to over 310,000 people demanding proof of their status as a legal U.S. resident. Of those original 310,000, nearly 112,000 never responded, and were officially taken off of the coverage policy in September 2014, according to The Fiscal Times.

Currently, those at risk of losing their healthcare coverage are the population of potentially ineligibles who responded to the August letter from the federal government, but never produced sufficient proof of their status as a legal resident of the United States. If officially deemed unqualified for insurance, their coverage will be officially cut off on February 28th.

The push to eliminate all ineligible applicants from the Obamacare roster comes as the federal government is trying to finalize the official list of coverage recipients before the healthcare application deadline ends this Sunday, says The Fiscal Times. As of last week, there were over 9.9 million reported beneficiaries of the healthcare program through a combination of the state and federal systems. That number is expected to fall, of course, as the last-minute ineligible candidates are invalidated.

Aside from determining who ought to be terminated from their coverage policies, the government, and specifically the Internal Revenue Service, must determine whether or not they are going to reclaim the money that they gave to subsidize the majority of the aforementioned 200,000 unqualified persons, nearly all of whom received significant financial aid and healthcare benefits in 2014.

After they finalize the whittling-down of the unqualified enrollees due to residency status, the government must also shift their attention to sorting out discrepancies related to people who recorded erroneous information about their income. Having accurate income levels on the applications of enrollees is imperative to efficiently apportioning Obamacare’s funds, since the money granted via subsidies is directly proportional to a recipient’s income level.

After all is said and done, the Obamacare roster will be significantly smaller than its current 9.9 million that currently have policies on both the federal and state exchanges. As of now, the government has only been working on revising the list of federal beneficiaries. It still has yet to shift its focus to the recipients on the state exchange systems.

The Obama Administration recently announced a rapid reconstruction of the American Medicare system by the year 2018. The president intends to change the way that the enormous Medicare program makes payments to hospitals and physicians, shifting away from a “fee-for-service” system, which simply encourages to see a large volume of patients rather than deliver each one the best possible care.

According to the LA Times, Medicare will start making 30% of its direct payments to hospitals and doctors through alternative payment models. These models offer a rewards system to doctors and hospitals that provide care to patients under budget while simultaneously delivering excellent care to the patients. The overall goal of this transition is to transform the American healthcare system into a quality-based institution. The LA Times also reports that such a change to the Medicare system is paramount, as finding an efficient way to pay for healthcare will become more and more important as the baby boomer generation starts to retire.

In 2014, only 20% of Medicare spending (about $72 billion, according to Kaiser Health News) was done through alternative payment models. The shift to 30% will raise the total sum to about $113 billion. On January 26th, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell wrote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in which she announced that by 2018, she hopes to have 50% of all Medicare payments done through alternative payment models.

The ramifications of this plan are already being felt throughout the private sector of the healthcare industry, as commercial insurers and prominent employers have begun to invest in new payment models, the LA Times reports.

Most influential figures in the healthcare world have heralded this as a progressive and necessary step. Ensuring that the Medicare system spends its money wisely is remarkably important, as this year it is estimated that the program will spend over $600 billion to insure nearly 50 million different disabled and retired Americans. Kaiser Health News reports that with these aforementioned changes implemented, 90% of all Medicare spending will be linked to quality of care in some regard.

In the wake of the Ebola situation in the United States, vendors of electronic medical record (EMR) technology are making improvements to how their systems identify and flag patients who may be suffering from a serious disease. These updates will allow practitioners to respond more quickly to outbreak scenarios.

Hospital administrators laud the change as a way to overcome the information decay caused by shift changes by keeping every fact about a case in the system. EMR advances include notifications about potential issues, such as an “Ebola” notification for a West African patient experiencing flu-like symptoms, and more targeted questions to establish a patient’s more recent travel and living history.

Healthcare technology developers are continuously working on new ways to collect and use patient information in EMR systems through applications and better data collection. Though doctors complain that the systems are still difficult to navigate, developers maintain that doctors are equally critical to the effective use of an EMR system.

EMR development is an important positive outcome of the Ebola situation and will hopefully prompt vendors to make their systems even more responsive to future outbreaks of infectious disease.

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Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of the disease to affect women. Fortunately, new genetic research may provide a better way to identify those at risk before a diagnosis.

Researchers have identified a genetic variant that results in less dense breast tissue, eliminating one of the key risk factors associated with breast cancer. The gene is present in women of Hispanic descent in varying proportions based on their ancestry.

Women whose genetic code shows the variant in question are between 40 and 80 percent less likely to contract breast cancer in their lifetime, depending on whether they inherited the code from one or both sides of their family.

While non-Hispanic women are less likely to benefit from the gene, the confirmation of this research could help doctors target screening and prevention measures more effectively toward women based on their respective level of risk. In addition, further research will lend insight into how the genetic variant actually protects carriers – ideally, a finding that doctors could then replicate in future preventive treatments.

Regardless of ethnic heritage, all women are encouraged to follow a recommended screening schedule including self-tests and mammograms. The National Cancer Institute has identified a list of risk factors as well as a risk assessment tool that women over 35 can use to estimate their risk of contracting breast cancer. (The online tool should not take the place of an exam by a licensed physician.)

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CVS Health made waves in the pharmacy industry earlier this year with their announced cessation of tobacco sales. Now, they are drawing fire over a prescription plan that features higher co-pays for prescriptions filled at tobacco-vending pharmacies.

The plan, which has already been adopted by the city of Philadelphia, would give patients a discount as high as $15 per prescription if patients fill them at pharmacies in the “smoke-free” network including CVS pharmacies, of course, but also some local pharmacies as well as retail giant Target Corp. Customers at larger rival chains such as Walgreens and Rite Aid, which have chosen not to end tobacco sales, would pay the higher out-of-pocket cost.

For some smaller pharmacies, the plan could jeopardize their sales even if they don’t sell tobacco products – without sufficient marketing to advertise their smoke-free status, customers may choose to visit a verified smoke-free pharmacy to avoid the risk of higher co-pays.

CVS Health’s vice president of corporate communications explained that the network developed at the request of Caremark clients, but that hasn’t stopped a backlash from independent pharmacy associations and concerns that CVS Health will be reducing competitiveness if customers are pushed toward using CVS pharmacies for their prescriptions.

It remains to be seen whether more clients will sign on to a smoke-free network, but CVS Health assures that those who do will be provided with a full list of smoke-free pharmacies that their plan members can visit.

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Healthcare is one of a few industries that never quit. Hospitals and nursing homes are open through weekends, holidays, weather catastrophes and emergencies, with shifts running 24/7. The need for constant staffing and a shift in priorities toward increasing profits has combined to create a staffing maelstrom in which unpredictability is the norm – sometimes, to the detriment of workers and patients.

In their new book Unequal Time, University of Massachusetts sociologists Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel break down the movement toward unpredictability as it affects different healthcare workers. Through interviews with multiple workers they determined that while most are experiencing greater unpredictability, the greatest impact is felt by nurses, nursing assistants, and other low-wage healthcare workers.

As mentioned above, the dueling priorities of constant staffing and showing profits lead many healthcare facilities to schedule the minimum possible number of staff for a given shift. When a nurse or aide becomes ill or is otherwise unable to come in, it creates a coverage gap that others must scramble to cover – there is no overlap of extra hands to help out.

Low-wage healthcare workers are often at a greater disadvantage. Demographically, nurses and nurse assistants are overwhelmingly female, with children, and may or may not have a support system in place to handle personal emergencies. Restrictive sick time and attendance policies force these workers to come in even when they are ill, as one of the subjects of Unequal Time shared with Clawson and Gerstel. It should go without saying that workers who come in while ill then put the patients in their care at greater risk.

While this book covered healthcare workers in a facility setting, home care workers often suffer from similar issues of unpredictability and low wages. However, beginning January 1, 2015 home care workers in most circumstances will be covered under federal and state labor laws governing minimum wage and overtime. (Workers can use the Department of Labor’s self-assessment to determine eligibility.)

Nurses and healthcare workers in some states are pushing for changes in staffing ratios, but healthcare staffing agencies can take a proactive approach with their workers by clearly communicating staffing schedules (and not changing them unless absolutely necessary) and implementing less stringent policies governing sick days.

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In the midst of confusion and concern about the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the United States, the nation’s attention is focused on the practices and protocols of nurses and other healthcare workers who comprise the front line in patient care.

However, Ebola is merely a high-profile example of the risks that healthcare workers face every day. There is the obvious risk of infection from a blood-borne pathogen through contact with bodily fluids, as is the case with Ebola. However, there is also the potential for injury from biohazardous materials, chemicals, and drugs. According to the World Health Organization, unintentional contact with contaminated needles affects approximately six percent of the global health workforce each year resulting in nearly 100,000 new infections.

Even less serious day-to-day interactions can cause illness or injury to healthcare workers – heavy lifting, patient altercations, and the transmission of far more common airborne illnesses among them.

The healthcare industry can take an important lesson from their current battle against Ebola, including vendors that provide healthcare staffing services to hospitals. While vendors may not have a say in the protocols that their clients have in place, it is their responsibility to educate the nurses and other staff members they employ so policies and protocols can be followed properly. In addition, invest in continuing training to keep nurses at a heightened state of readiness should any serious situation occur.

Comprehensive nurse training and preparation will pay off greatly with fewer days missed, greater nurse confidence, and overall healthier and safer practices. If your nurse staffing agency needs a boost in working capital to invest in your workforce, PRN Funding’s nurse staffing factoring program can work for you. Contact PRN Funding today to apply for immediate funding through nurse staffing factoring.

While mid-size employers (those employing 50-99 full-time employees) have another year of breathing room, employers with 100 or more employees are quickly closing in on a large Affordable Care Act deadline.

The ACA’s Employer Shared Responsibility provision goes into effect on January 1, 2015 for large employers. By that date, those employers must offer a qualifying health insurance plan to at least 70 percent of their employees and dependents. A qualifying policy must:

  • Be affordable – cost less than 9.5 percent of an employee’s salary
  • Provide “minimum value” – cover the benefits considered by the ACA to be “minimum essential coverage”

The threshold for policy offerings rises to 95 percent of eligible employees in 2016.

Employers that do not offer a qualifying policy will be subject to fines: for non-coverage, they will owe $2,000 per full-time employee after the first 30. In addition, employers will be assessed a fine of $3,000 per full-time employee who qualifies for a subsidy on the healthcare marketplace. MI Health Answers offers a simple graphic to break down the Employer Shared Responsibility provision.

While consultants studying the implementation of the ACA estimate that most employers will eventually comply or do already, there are still many business owners nationwide who are weighing the costs of alternatives to providing qualifying policies. Options include cutting personnel and employee hours to remain exempt or paying applicable penalties.

Some employers fear that they will face penalties if their employees choose other, more affordable coverage; however, the benchmark for determining whether a policy qualifies as affordable is the law and not the actions of eligible employees.

Is your company facing the healthcare deadline, and are you prepared to offer the required coverage to your employees? If cost is keeping you from complying with the employer mandate, healthcare factoring can provide the necessary cash flow to cover the expense. PRN Funding has more than a decade of experience navigating the healthcare industry and can help you access the working capital you need to cover all of your employees. Visit us to learn more about healthcare factoring and apply today.