Archive for February, 2015

Anthem Insurance Hack Impacts over 78 Million People

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

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.

Nursing Ranks Among the Most Dangerous Careers

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

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.

Thousands Set to Lose Obamacare Coverage

Friday, February 13th, 2015

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.

Medicare Payment Overhaul is in the Works

Friday, February 6th, 2015

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.