Hawaii’s Prepaid Health Care Act

hawaiian islands

The Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act (PHCA) is a state law that was enacted June 12, 1974 in the State of Hawaii to improve health care coverage by employer mandate. The PHCA, which appears in Chapter 393 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, requires private sector employers to provide minimum health care coverage to eligible employees. This insures protection against the high cost of medical and hospital care for non-work related illness or injury.

According to the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act, employers must provide health care coverage to employees who work at least twenty hours per week and earn 86.67 times the current Hawaii minimum wage a month. In contrast, the federal law requires employers to offer coverage to employees working at least 30 hours per week effective January 1, 2014. Under the PHCP, employers may pay the entire cost of the health insurance premium or share the cost with their employees. Except for certain union agreements, the law requires employers to contribute at least half of the premium cost for single coverage.

Prior to President Obama’s signed legislation in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Hawaii was the only state in the country that required employers to provide health insurance for their full-time employees. In fact, this new health care law has a “carve out” for Hawaii employers, which states that the federal law does not “modify or limit the application of the exemption for Hawaii’s Prepaid Health Care Act.” There are, however, some provisions that will still affect Hawaii employers, such as tax credits for small employers, early retiree subsidies, and reporting requirements for tax forms.

Hawaii consistently has one of the lowest medically uninsured rates in the United States, with about 9 percent (or 120,000 people) of the population uninsured. Comparatively, the nation has 46 million uninsured. Many people claim that the state’s low uninsured rate is directly linked to the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act. Health insurance is an investment in the health of your employees, and ultimately an investment in the health of your business. Having access to quality care keeps people healthy.

Posted in Health Insurance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Music Lessons Improve Children’s Memory, Intelligence and Behavior

pianofingers

When I was in first grade, my mother enrolled me in weekly piano lessons. She insisted that it was an important part of growing up, and that it would help me become more cultured. For years I fought with her about practicing every day and having to sit through hour-long lessons, until one day she finally let go of her hopes that I would become a world-renowned musician. As an adult, I am now grateful that my mother exposed me to music theory and instruments at an early age, as it has become an important part of my life.

Now, thanks to new study, I have even more to be thankful for. A new study in England, commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, has found that learning a musical instrument at school improves children’s behavior, memory and intelligence. Brain scanning technologies have allowed neuroscientists to test ideas about the link between music and intelligence. Researchers who conducted the study have discovered that learning to play an instrument enlarges the left side of the brain, which allows these students to remember almost a fifth more information. Studies also show that the brains of musically-trained children respond to music in a different way to those of the untrained children. The musical training also improves the children’s memory as well.

Another study, which contrasted the impact of music lessons with that of drama classes, found that music lessons increased pupils’ IQ by seven points over time, compared to 4.3 points for drama lessons. Not only do musically-trained students show an improvement in musical listening skills, but they also show an improvement in general memory skills that are correlated with non-musical abilities such as literacy, verbal memory, and mathematics. Furthermore, research shows that playing an instrument improves children’s behavior. This is due to the fact that working in musical groups requires trust and respect. Music can also help children gain self-confidence and improve their self-identity.

Music lessons might also enhance intelligence and behavior because they train kids to stay focused for long periods of time, decode a complex symbolic system, recognize patterns of sound across time, and memorize long passages of music. Regardless of the exact correlation between playing an instrument and intelligence, I will certainly enroll my future children in music lessons. Not only is the evidence linking music and intelligence too strong to ignore, but as my mother once told me, playing a musical instrument lays the groundwork for a lifetime of music appreciation.

Posted in Baby Boomer Issues, Health News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Will We Ever Replace Food with a Pill?

Would you take a pill as a meal?

Would you take a pill as a meal?

As far back as the 1930’s, people have been playing around with the idea of reducing the act of eating to swallowing a pill. It is a constant theme of early science fiction: popping a pill and instantly taking care of all of your dietary needs. This concept can be seen in literature, television shows, and even movies, but is this a realistic depiction of our future?

As of today, there is no literal food pill, although your vitamin and mineral needs can be met with a multivitamin. However, meal replacement drinks like Ensure and protein shakes can certainly help sustain you for a long time without food in cases of emergency. While these drinks may not be very tasty, they contain the protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that you need on a daily basis. They cannot, on the other hand, provide us with the other essential nutrients that our bodies need. Realistically, in order to put the 2,000 daily recommended calories’ worth of fat into pill form, you’d need to ingest roughly half a pound of pills a day; and you still wouldn’t be getting your other vital nutrients.

We have a long way to go if we ever decide to live off of food pills, but the military has made a significant step in that direction. The Combat Feeding Directorate, which is a service offer by the U.S. Army Natick Solider Research, Development & Engineering Center (NSRDEC), works hard to keep U.S. soldiers fed. A decade ago it introduced MREs (“meals ready to eat”), which are individually packaged, self-heating food pouches. The most innovation is the compressed meal (CM). A CM is one-third the size and weight of an MRE but has the same number of calories. Weight and volume savings come from dehydrating the main entrée using a combination of freeze-drying, air-drying, and dry-blending. Could a food pill be their next creation?

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is requesting proposals for a pill that will allow soldiers to operate at peak performance during prolonged periods of starvation. This potential pill would artificially manipulate the human body’s metabolism and find ways to better access the energy-rich fat stores.

What about food pills for civilians? A supervitamin pill called LifeCapsule, which is supposed to provide basic vitamins and minerals in a chewable pill that can replace meals in an emergency, is currently being marketed. The pill does not contain the recommended daily intake of over 2,000 calories, so you would still lose weight, but these pills would be a great addition to a survival kit.

It seems that we have the knowledge and technology needed in order to one day create a food pill that can sustain us. However, perhaps a more important issue is whether or not we want to give up our food culture and all of the social benefits that come with sitting down to a meal. Eating can be an important social activity that unites friends and families. If we were to exchange our food with a pill, would we lose our social gatherings and personal connections?

Posted in Diet & Nutrition | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How the Healthcare Industry Can Use Pinterest

What are you pinning?

What are you pinning?

More hospitals and healthcare professionals are embracing social media as a way to connect with their patients and network with other professionals in the medical industry. While there are many different social media platforms, medical professionals should adopt the ones that allow them to engage a specific target audience. Pinterest is one of the newer social media platforms that allows you to show off your organization’s creativity and personality. It is also a great referral source of traffic to your blog.

Pinterest is a curation tool that enables users to create “boards” where they “pin” items of interest and share them. Boards can be about specific areas of interest, for example “Pregnancy” or “Holistic Health.” The user can then “pin” any URL of the image or blog related to the subject that they want to share. The majority of users on Pinterest are women in their 20s and 30s who are sharing pictures in categories ranging from beauty and fitness to science and technology. Pinterest acts like a scrapbook, but it also has the ability to bring individuals together in communities with shared interests.

Healthcare companies can use Pinterest in order to display images of their products or services. It is also a great way to extend a dialogue with current and potential clients. A hospital or rehabilitation center could use images from people recovering from surgery to inspire and motivate others. Many hospitals are already using Pinterest to differentiate themselves in the market. Healthcare professionals who have their own practice can draw in online visitors by posting recipes, exercise tips, and wellness tips.

There are numerous reasons why using Pinterest for healthcare marketing is a good idea, especially considering that Pinterest is generating more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined. The concept of pinning and sharing a brand’s visual images can lead to the building of trusting and loyal long-term relationships.

Posted in Doctors, Hospitals | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Naloxone, an Overdose Antidote, Not Widely Available

naloxone

Naloxone, a drug that most people have never heard of, may be one of the most important items in your medicine cabinet. The drug safely reverses the potentially fatal effects of an opioid overdose, and has successful revived more than 10,000 overdose victims since 1996, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The anti-overdose medication has been available in hospitals and ambulances for a long time, but in 1996 it was suggested that naloxone become more widely available to everyone, especially those at risk of overdose.

Even though naloxone is a potentially lifesaving medicine, only a handful of states are currently known to have naloxone-distribution programs, which train people to identify the signs of overdose and prove naloxone to drug users and their families so that it can be used in time to save a life.

The distribution of naloxone has become increasingly important as overdose death rates have steadily risen in the U.S. In 2008, overdose surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death. About 20,000 fatal overdoses in 2008 involved prescription drugs, and in nearly 75 percent of the cases, the victim had taken an opioid like Vicodin or OxyContin. According to the available data, 14,800 lives could have been potentially saved in 2008 if naloxone had been available to every person who overdosed on prescription opioid painkillers.

According to research, most overdoses occur in the company and others, and there is usually time to intervene because they tend to occur over the course of hours. If observers recognize the symptoms and have an antidote available, such as naloxone, they make be able to potentially save people’s lives. Having naloxone on hand is also important, since some users who witness an overdose are reluctant to call 911 for fear of arrest.

Doctors throughout the country are asking for naloxone to be made available over-the-counter and distributed as widely as possible. The drug is safe and nonaddictive, and it cannot be misused. In order to prevent preventable overdoses, take-home naloxone programs should be set up on a local, state, and national level. However, there is currently a shortage of naloxone, which is due to the fact that few companies actually make the drug.

Interestingly enough, while there has been a lot of public interest in potential solutions for overdose death, such as prescription-monitoring programs, little consideration has been given to naloxone, which is the most direct way to prevent overdose deaths.

Posted in Drugs, Medications | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Convert Online Visitors to Patients

Doctor and Patient

Today’s marketing strategies rely mostly on technology and the internet. Almost all medical professionals have some sort of online presence, whether it’s via their website, blog, Twitter account, or all of the above. As I have mentioned before, just having an online presence isn’t enough to compete with today’s most tech-savvy professionals. Medical professionals also invest a lot of money into their marketing efforts in order to have a high page ranking and online advertisements. However, if you are not able to convert online visitors to patients, the time and money that you have invested in your marketing efforts will have been for nothing. While there is no surefire way to guarantee an influx in new patients, there are some methods for bringing online users into your office.

Most of the time, online visitors don’t ever make it to the prospective doctor’s office because of simple issues with the website. For example, some medical professionals do not make their contact information prominent on their websites. To ensure that people can easily get in contact with you, make your phone number easily visible on all pages of your website, especially on your homepage. Investing in a toll-free vanity number is a great way to instill confidence in your patients. Your contact page should have easy directions as well as a map. If you’ve put a lot of effort into making your website easy to find, you should also make sure your actual office is easy to find. If you want to convert online visitors to patients, include a map, and driving directions. To really guarantee that patients will be able to find your office, include a photo of your building/facility in your website. If you choose to include photos of inside your office, make sure that they are all well-lit and professional. These photographs will serve as additional reasons to visit your office.

Doctor and Patient

Offer different methods of scheduling an appointment. Some people prefer making appointments over the phone, while others prefer scheduling them online. If you want to make it as easy as possible for people to come to your office, make sure that you website has a form that allows your prospective patients to schedule or even cancel appointments online. Appointment modules are fairly easily to install or add to any existing website. Being able to manage and schedule appointments online makes it easier for both patients and administration. In terms of making appointments over the phone, make sure that you have established office hours, and that someone is always available to answer the phone. Make sure that your receptionist has good verbal and communication skills; after all, that person represents your office.

To convert online visitors to patients, your contact page should include a straightforward form that patients can use to get in touch with you or seek answers to their questions before they visit your office. While this is a simple addition to your website, it makes you seem more accessible and approachable. If prospective patients are submitting questions, it’s important that you answer them in a timely fashion. If you don’t have the time to personally respond to everyone’s inquiries, include an FAQ section in your website. Finally, if you want to make the transition into the office as easy as possible, include downloadable forms on your website so that people can fill out all necessary forms in advanced.

Posted in Doctors | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Down Syndrome on the Decline Thanks to Prenatal Blood Tests

down-syndrome

Pregnancy is an exciting and nerve wracking experience for many reasons, but especially because of all of the “what ifs.” There are a variety of complications or problems that could occur during and after the pregnancy, not to mention all of the surprises that parents are not expecting. One of those surprises is learning that your newborn has a genetic disorder or disability after birth, such as Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down Syndrome. It occurs when some or all of a person’s cells have an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21; this additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. The genetic disorder is associated with mild to moderate learning disabilities, developmental delays, characteristic facial features, and low muscle tone in early infancy. People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems.

Some of the most difficult decisions that parents have to make occur after receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome, especially during early pregnancy. The number of babies born with Down syndrome has been shrinking for at least two decades, and new, non-invasive prenatal blood tests that can be administered as early as 10 weeks have the potential to reduce the number even further. The DNA-based test, called MaterniT21, identifies 98.6 percent of Down syndrome pregnancies, with a false-positive rate of 0.2 percent.

There are many factors at play in this situation. First, it goes without saying that parents want the best for their children, which means that they would not want their children to have a handicap of any kind. However, thanks to early educational intervention and an emphasis on mainstreaming affected kids into typical classrooms, children with Down syndrome are living fuller lives than ever before.

Now that recent advances in prenatal screening are upending the way pregnant women learn about the genetic makeup of their unborn babies, their decisions are becoming harder. Since there now is an easy and risk-free way of identifying Down syndrome early, women are learning more about the genetic contents of their womb than ever before. Plus, with the lowered rate of children born with Down syndrome, parents of children with Down syndrome may wonder whether the services they’ve fought for could fade away if there are fewer kids like theirs.

It is inevitable that as more women try the new testing method, a growing number of expectant parents will be faced with ethical dilemmas when the news is not what they expected. What is the value of life? Which disabilities are tolerable and which are not?

Posted in Childhood Diseases | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Medical Tattoos Replace Medical ID Bracelets?

diabetic-tattoo-idea

For years it has been the norm that patients who suffer from a chronic disease that can exacerbate suddenly and may require immediate specialist treatment, such as diabetes or a severe food allergy, wear medical ID bracelets (or other types of jewelry) to alert others to their condition. In many cases, these bracelets have single-handedly saved peoples’ lives. In the case of a medical emergency, medical responders have been trained to know where to look for medical jewelry and what the various engraved symbols mean. However, for those looking for a more permanent or personal solution, there is a new way of identifying your medical condition.

Recently, mostly younger patients have been choosing to get permanent medical tattoos instead of wearing traditional medical ID jewelry. These medical tattoos are just like normal tattoos, except for the fact that they indicate the illnesses or allergies an individual has. Indicating medical conditions through medical tattoos is becoming increasingly trendy in tattoo shops throughout the country, especially among teenagers. While the medical tattoo trend is on the rise, it does bring up some logistical questions.

There is a definite lack of established guidelines in the medical community on how medical tattoos should be administered and effectively used. For example, it would be helpful if tattoos were uniform or placed in the same area of the body so responders would know where to look. Another problem is that many patients’ medical information changes over time and a permanent tattoo is not conducive to changing information. In terms of legal complications, there is no law regarding the obligation of doctors to honor end-of-life instructions in a tattoo. Furthermore, laws on do-not-resuscitate orders, which vary widely from state to state, do not address medical tattoos. In this situation, in order to validate a medical tattoo a patient would also have to also sign legally binding papers.

While medical tattoos are not as widely accepted as medical ID jewelry, it is important to note that any additional medical information is helpful for emergency professionals who are looking for information about a patient’s condition and treatment preferences. In order for medical tattoos to be more widely used and accepted, specific medical tattoo guidelines need to be written up.

Would you get a medical tattoo to indicate a medical condition?

Posted in Health News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Facts about Childhood Obesity

baby-child-obesity

Most parents take every precaution to ensure that their children are safe, but they sometimes overlook the deadliest problems. Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the United States. Up to one out of every five children in the U.S. is overweight or obese, and this numbering continues to grow. Overweight children are at high risk of becoming overweight adolescents and adults, which puts them at risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Children become overweight and obese for a variety of reasons. The most common causes are genetic factors, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits, or a combination of these factors. A child’s total diet and activity level play an important role in determining a child’s weight. As computers and video games become more popular, the number of hours of inactivity may increase. It can be difficult for children to make healthy food choices and get enough physical activity when they are exposed to environments in their home, school, or community that are influenced by unhealthy lifestyle choices.

As a parent, it is your responsibility to make sure that your children are developing healthy habits. There are many things that you can control, in terms of their diet and activity level. Kids are more likely to become obese when they consume processed, high-energy-dense foods and sugary drinks. Parents need to be aware of not only the food in their kitchen, but also the food that their kids are eating at school. Packing a healthy lunch every day for your children can help promote a healthy diet. It is also important to be aware of portion sizes, which have increased in restaurants, grocery stores, and vending machines.

Parents should also become involved in monitoring their kids’ physical activity. Most adolescents fall short of the recommendation of at least 60 minutes of aerobic physical activity each day. It is equally important to be aware of children’s inactivity. Children 8 to 18 years of age spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, including TV, computers, video games, cell phones, and movies. TV viewing is a contributing factor to childhood obesity because it takes away from time spent engaging in physical activities; it also leads to snacking and eating meals in front of the TV.

If you have an overweight or obese child, it is important that you act supportive, because children’s feelings about themselves are often based on their parents’ feelings about them. Talk to your children about their weight, and allow them to share their concerns with you. Parent should focus on gradually changing their family’s physical activity and eating habits, especially because children learn through example. By involving the entire family, everyone is taught beneficial habits and the overweight child does not feel singled out.

Involving your family in healthful habits are extremely important for both the present and the future. All children, regardless of their weight, should be aware of the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle. These habits will help in preventing future conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint problems, breathing problems, and even premature death.

Posted in Childhood Diseases, Obesity | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trending Discussion: Should Parents Lose Custody of Super Obese Kids?

How active are your kids?

How active are your kids?

The recent obesity epidemic among young children has led people to question nature versus nurture. Some medical professionals believe that if a child is severely obese, then the government should be able to intervene and remove the child from his or her home. Putting children temporarily in foster care is said to be more ethical than obesity surgery. While it seems easy under this logic to blame the parents for their children’s obesity problem, the act of putting these children in foster care is not to promote blame. Instead, it is in the children’s best interest that they receive the help their parents couldn’t give them elsewhere. Does the government have a right to take these children away?

Roughly 2 million U.S. children are extremely obese, and many have obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties and liver problems that could kill them by age 30. Normally, when the state places super obese children in foster care, they are given three balanced meals a day, a snack or two, and moderate physical activity. Many physicians believe that child protection services should be considered if parents are neglectful or actively reject efforts to control an extremely obese child’s weight. However, questions can be raised as to at what point parents become neglectful.

There are many cases in which parents do not have the financial means to provide their children with healthy foods, and others where parents who have to work two jobs are not home enough to watch what their kids are eating. Healthier foods usually costs more and trying to monitor kids’ weight can often be difficult. While removing children from the home may be beneficial in the short run, what happens when they return? It cannot be assumed that all parents will find a way to buy healthier foods or correct the family’s eating habits.

Some people believe that parents should be blamed for their weight of their children. Among other things, it’s the parent’s job to teach their children how to be responsible and safe. Parents understand the dangers of giving their children sharp objects, and the same principle should be applied to unhealthy food. Furthermore, if the state punishes parents for starving their children, shouldn’t they also be punished for overfeeding them? It seems that in most cases, protecting the well-being of the child overshadows the sanctity of the family.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Posted in Obesity | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment