Health

Fitness, well-being, disease, medical research and issues related to Seton and St. David's Healthcare, Austin Regional Clinic and other health care providers in Austin and Central Texas

Oregon might be seen as a complete failure or a surprising success when it comes to its health insurance exchange.

One the one hand, the state's website has yet to allow a single person to enroll. That's a big problem for the folks who are hoping to qualify for subsidies and buy insurance that will start Jan. 1.

A new study shows how Travis County’s low-income areas are home to inadequate prenatal care and troublesome birth outcomes – including a racial disparity in neonatal intensive care unit admissions.

The study, released at the Birth Outcomes Summit at Dell Children’s Hospital, uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Texas Department of State Health Services.

President Obama announced Thursday that Americans who have had their health insurance plans canceled because of his Affordable Care Act can keep those plans for another year if they wish.

Those cancellations — most effective on Jan. 1 — have sparked intense criticism of the ACA, in part because the president pledged many times that if Americans liked the health plans they had, they wouldn't have to give them up under the terms of his program.

Fewer than 3,000 people in Texas signed up for health plans in the first month of enrollment through the Affordable Care Act website, according to data released today [PDF] by the Health and Human Services department.

Other Texas findings in the data:

  • 11,682 Texans were determined to be eligible for CHIP and/or Medicaid through the federal health care marketplace, HealthCare.gov.
  • Almost 54,000 Texans actually completed applications. Those applications would cover more than 108,000 individuals.
  • Most of those applicants – over 80,000 – are eligible to enroll in a health insurance plan available through the federal marketplace– but they haven’t done so yet.  

The woman whose smiling face adorned the HealthCare.gov website in the first days after its launch has stepped forward to tearfully address those who she says cyberbullied her as they took potshots at the Obama administration's troubled online health exchange.

KUT News

Robert Winston knows he has a mental disorder – but he didn’t know that for a long time.

He’s convinced his life would’ve turned out much differently had he been diagnosed as a young adult. He probably wouldn’t have left his wife and kids in California. He probably wouldn’t have become dependent on alcohol. He probably wouldn’t have ended up homeless in Austin.

Winston is African-American and he is 52-years-old. “[I’ve] tried to commit suicide twice,” he says. “And I couldn’t understand why I was having a hard time dealing with just the basic things of life.” 

flickr.com/lidor

University of North Texas student Angela Quijano didn’t think about health insurance much before the Affordable Care Act. She says she didn’t know how the health insurance system worked and found getting coverage confusing.

Quijano did know one thing, though: she couldn’t go to the doctor because she didn’t have any health insurance.

“Nobody ever really talks about it. My parents basically told me when I had it, or (when) I didn’t have it,” Quijano, a 22-year-old senior majoring in political science, says. “Not too many of us think about it until it comes time to get a yearly checkup or something comes up.”

flickr.com/tifotter

Here’s a new Halloween practice some dentists see as a treat: Halloween candy buybacks.

Once the little ones have finished trick-or-treating this year, Austin pediatric dentists are ready to buy back their Halloween candy –  at a buck a pound.

The buyback program is a part of Operation Gratitude. Annually, Operation Gratitude sends more than 100,000 packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and letters of support – including Halloween candy – to U.S. service members deployed in hostile regions.

Following a problem-plagued launch of the HealthCare.gov website, the White House on Monday officially announced a six-week extension to sign up for coverage under the law's individual mandate.

The move has been expected since White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged last week that there was a "disconnect" in the enrollment timeline given the technical issues that have dogged the website.

A subcontractor that built a portion of the HealthCare.gov website that's now working relatively well is being promoted to oversee a thorough revamping of the entire glitch-prone portal, and work will be done by the end of next month, the White House says.

Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin

A report this week in the journal Pediatrics on the risks of  unregulated breast milk – covering sharing between friends, but also Internet sales – found three-fourths of the study samples were contaminated with bacteria.

The populations most at risk from such milk are newborns with significant health issues. They’re children like Nina DeGuire. Now a year old, she was born with a serious heart problem that required a series of surgeries and made it hard for her to take formula. Her mother Lani says she had no choice but to find donated breast milk.

(Click here to jump to our latest updates — including a Democrat accusing Republicans of holding a "monkey court.")

Republicans in the House have framed the central question they want answered about the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act this way, NPR's Ailsa Chang said Thursday on Morning Edition:

Nearly a third of all Mexicans are obese, putting Mexico at the top of the list of overweight nations — ahead of the United States.

In the battle against the bulge, lawmakers are taking aim at consumer's pocketbooks. They're proposing a series of new taxes on high calorie food and sodas. Health advocates say the higher prices will get Mexicans to change bad habits, but the beverage industry and small businesses are fighting back.

President Obama on Tuesday appointed one of his top management gurus, Jeffrey Zeints, to head the team working to fix what ails HealthCare.gov, the troubled website that's supposed to allow residents of 36 states to enroll in coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Donna Spencer and Iliana Gilman work with Austin Travis County Integral Care, the agency that provides mental health services for low-income residents in the area. They recently walked through the site of Integral Care’s soon-to-open $2.4 million facility, inside what used to be a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club.

It’s in the southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs. This low-income, majority Latino neighborhood is getting its first mental health care facility. It’s in large part because of a federal initiative, the Medicaid 1115 waiver program, that funds experimental clinics like this one. It will offer mental health care and substance abuse treatment, along with routine primary care.

KUT News

According to a new report, the number of prescriptions veterans received for powerful opiates has surged since the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Central Texas veterans' prescriptions have jumped by nearly 340 percent, leading to increased risk of abuse, drug overdose and death, according to a report from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the agency charged with helping veterans recover from war [the Department of Veterans Affairs]instead masks their pain with potent drugs, feeding addictions and contributing to a fatal overdose rate among VA patients that is nearly double the national average.

KUT News

It’s been a full week since the opening of the health insurance marketplaces created through the Affordable Care Act. But only certain people qualify to buy insurance through that system.

Immigrants must be “lawfully present” to qualify to buy through the marketplace. That includes Green Card holders, refugees, Cuban or Haitian immigrants, people on worker and student visas and victims of human trafficking. But the 1.5 million undocumented immigrants estimated to live Texas are not included.

healthcare.gov

It’s Day Two for the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace – and things are still slow going for many.

Sarah Bates is one of the uninsured Texans searching for affordable health insurance in the federal marketplace. Working over 40 hours a week as an Austin musician, she approached the marketplace skeptically.

flickr.com/sharynmorrow

Although the Affordable Care Act is now the law of the land, the fight is far from over. Yesterday's launch of insurance marketplace websites saw some hiccups, including long wait times as people jammed onto the sites to sign up for coverage.

Now, the state says, there's another problem: for some families, using the marketplace sites could lead to a delay in children’s healthcare coverage.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Austin officials and health advocates expressed excitement for the launch of the federally-run health insurance marketplace today. But they are also reminding people that outreach efforts have a long way to go.

“It is our responsibility to get the word out," said Central Health’s Rosie Mendoza during a press conference at United Way. "It’s everyone’s responsibility here today to help us do that.”

Pages