Health Highlights: July 22, 2010

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Many States Cutting Programs For Elderly And Disabled

Budget deficits have led many states to slash home-care services for the elderly and the disabled, such as housekeeping, meal deliveries and assistance for family caregivers.

The cuts threaten to reverse the long-term trend of helping extend the number of years people can stay in their homes, The New York Times reported.

Since the recession began, at least 25 states and the District of Columbia have curbed home-care services for the elderly and disabled, according to a research group called the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Among the reductions in service:

  • Alabama cut housekeeping services for more than 1,000 elderly people.
  • Meals on Wheels in Illinois stopped accepting new clients because the group wasn't being reimbursed by the state.
  • Last year, Florida put 69,000 people on waiting lists for home or community services and 5,700 of them ended up in Medicaid nursing homes.
  • Arizona reduced independent living supports and respite programs for family caregivers.
  • In the next year, Kansas will cut independent living services for 2,800 people with disabilities.

"The situation is grim, and its safe to say that present trends are expected to continue," said JoAnn Lamphere, the director of state government relations for health and long-term care for AARP, told The Times. "Nearly every state has proposed cuts of some sort to Medicaid. Some might seem small, but it's death by a thousand slashes."

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Magic Johnson, Jacques Chirac Join UNAIDS HIV Prevention Panel

Former NBA star Magic Johnson and a number of other big names have been selected to serve on a UNAIDS panel meant to boost worldwide efforts to prevent the spread of HIV.

The other members include former nuclear agency head Mohamed ElBaradai, former French president Jacques Chirac, Nobel laureates scientists Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, the Associated Press reported.

The panel's objective is to achieve a "prevention revolution" by influencing policymakers and others, according to UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe. The panel was announced Wednesday at an AIDS conference in Vienna, Austria.

More than 7,000 new HIV infections occur worldwide every day, the AP reported.

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Cost of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Up 54% Since 2000

Between 2000 and 2009, the average annual premium for family health coverage provided by employers increased about 54 percent, from an average of $8,437 (adjusted for inflation) to $13,027, says a new U.S. government report.

During that time, the average yearly premium for single plan coverage rose 41 percent, from $3,308 to $4,669, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The analysis of data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey also found:

  • Half of the 59 million workers enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans had single coverage, 30.5 percent had family coverage, and nearly one-fifth had employee-plus-one coverage, which covers the worker plus one family member for a lower premium than full family coverage.
  • Among the 10 largest states, New York had the highest average premiums, ranging from $13,757 for family plans to $5,121 for single coverage. Ohio had the lowest average premiums, ranging from $11,870 for family coverage to $4,261 for single coverage.
  • Average annual worker contributions to premiums were $3,474 for family coverage (26.7 percent of the total cost), $2,363 for employee-plus-one coverage (26.1 percent of the total cost), and $957 for single coverage (20.5 percent of the total cost).
  • About 21 percent of workers with single coverage, 11 percent with family coverage, and 10 percent with employee-plus-one coverage paid nothing toward their health insurance premium.

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Posted: July 2010


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