WBEZ | Insurance http://www.wbez.org/tags/insurance Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Health insurers expand marketing and retail as ACA deadline looms http://www.wbez.org/health-insurers-expand-marketing-and-retail-aca-deadline-looms-109390 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ACA retail.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ryan and Bethany Christie are healthy newlyweds in their 20s. For the time being, Ryan is a server at The Berghoff, a downtown restaurant, while he searches for a permanent job. Bethany&rsquo;s delayed grad school and works as a nanny.</p><p>They live on a tight budget. And even though it could be cheaper to pay the penalty for not getting health insurance, they&rsquo;d rather pay more to be covered.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got friends who do that. Or set aside a little money just in case. But we&rsquo;re definitely not risk takers in that sense. So it&rsquo;s really expensive, but we plan on having children not too far off. We definitely want good health insurance for her,&rdquo; Ryan Christie said.</p><p>An estimated 1.8 million people in Illinois are uninsured, but only 7,000 people in the state signed up in the first two months of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.</p><p>In October, the Christies tried to sign up for health insurance off the federal health exchange. But like many others, they weren&rsquo;t able to get through.</p><p>&ldquo;My parents and a lot of the other people in my family really had negative views about Obamacare and thought it was the worst thing that could happen. I thought it probably won&rsquo;t be great for them, but for me at least I&rsquo;ll have some benefit,&rdquo; Bethany Christie said. &ldquo;But that&rsquo;s not the case.&rdquo;</p><p>The Christies are pretty sure they qualify for a government subsidy, but they&rsquo;re still trying to navigate their eligibility and application. For now, Bethany is on her father&rsquo;s insurance and Ryan&rsquo;s signed up for coverage that&rsquo;s pretty bare bones while they figure things out.</p><p>Insurance companies are expanding their retail and marketing efforts to lure individual consumers like the Christies.</p><p>Andrew Gallan is an assistant professor of marketing at DePaul University. He says insurers are having to expand their focus on individual consumers and not just group plans associated with workplaces.</p><p>&ldquo;Individuals provide a lot more variety in terms of their ability to understand health, their literacy levels, their needs, their understandings, their ability to pay, their language. So that&rsquo;s just a short list of all the variety that health insurers are beginning to see on the consumer side that they hadn&rsquo;t seen before,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>About 10 percent of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois&rsquo; customers were from the individual market. Kurt Kossen, Vice President of Retail Markets says that&rsquo;s growing as the deadline to enroll under the federal law approaches.</p><p>&ldquo;Starting in October, we&rsquo;ve started to experience increased traffic in both our website and in the call center and into customer service and attendance at our community events. This is a very transformational time for the industry and individuals have a lot of questions,&rdquo; Kossen said.</p><p>Kossen says the company has not only upped its telemarketing and internet efforts, but its marketing visibility.</p><p>&ldquo;So from the marketing perspective, we want to be where people live, work, play and shop,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Kossen says the company has conducted 200 community seminars in the state, and it opened a retail store in North Riverside Park Mall, just outside of Chicago. It also has a mobile store that sets up at community events or outside grocery stores.</p><p>Professor Gallan says these strategies can make a difference to people getting insurance for the first time.</p><p>&ldquo;Especially, younger people are going to be more comfortable on the Internet, and a variety of different sites. And trying to put together information, triangulate on which plan might be best for them. But there are significant numbers of people that need people to fill out forms, that need people to explain things in very basic English or even to translate into other languages. And these things are more easily and more efficiently done in person than they can be on the Internet,&rdquo; Gallan said.</p><p>The Affordable Care Act has also put the pressure on insurance companies to deal more with bad publicity. The problems with the federal website and confusion over health premiums had some consumers backing away from the healthcare exchange.</p><p>Even in Illinois, the state ramped down its marketing efforts to avoid some of the negative associations. Now that things are running smoother, the state&rsquo;s &ldquo;Get Covered Illinois&rdquo; program is boosting its outreach to get people enrolled by the December 23rd enrollment date.</p><p>Professor Gallan says that&rsquo;s what the insurance companies are doing, too.</p><p>&ldquo;People regardless of whether they attribute this to the government or health insurance companies, are going to have to be reassured that any particular website is 100 percent secure, that is efficient, that is going to provide them with the policy as well as protect them from being penalized in the future before they go on and start buying policies,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>For the Christies, that customer service makes the difference.</p><p>&ldquo;Health care is such a confusing topic right now that there&rsquo;s no amount of research I can do to really understand if I&rsquo;m getting a good deal somewhere,&rdquo; Bethany Christie said. &ldquo;So part of it is I have to trust what someone&rsquo;s telling me because there&rsquo;s so much out there.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Susie An reports on business for WBEZ. Follow her @soosion.</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 17 Dec 2013 10:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/health-insurers-expand-marketing-and-retail-aca-deadline-looms-109390 First day glitches as Affordable Care Act launches http://www.wbez.org/news/first-day-glitches-affordable-care-act-launches-108822 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/getcoveredillinois.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">The government may have shut down today, but the Affordable Care Act is marching forward. The state website, <a href="http://getcoveredillinois.gov/">Get Covered Illinois,</a> was up by early this morning. And the <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/">federal website,</a> where Illinois residents will shop on the marketplace for coverage, was also live. But many people encountered glitches, delays, and error messages.</p><p dir="ltr">Jose Galarza is the billing manager at the Infant Welfare Society on the Northwest side of Chicago. They don&rsquo;t have health navigators in their offices, but staff did receive training to sign people up on the marketplace and the organization is listed on the government&rsquo;s website<a href="http://getcoveredillinois.gov/get-help/"> as an official resource. </a></p><p dir="ltr">Galarza says his organization has been preparing for today for a long time. This morning he says he was full of nervous energy. &ldquo;I was up at 4:30 a.m. this morning, thinking about this the whole process and what to expect,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">When he got to the office the first thing Galarza did was to go to the website and try to fill out an application. &nbsp;He received error messages and never completed the process. Later, he couldn&rsquo;t get to the application at all and instead received a message that the site was overburned by traffic.</p><p dir="ltr">Galarza&rsquo;s experiences were not unique. Organizations and individuals across the city reported similar problems. Before today&rsquo;s launch officials said that some aspects of the site, such as the Spanish language version and small business site, wouldn&rsquo;t be entirely complete.</p><p dir="ltr">By 9:30 a.m. Galarza says three people called to say they would come in for help that day. &nbsp;&ldquo;I put myself in the client&#39;s shoes. If I am excited and I get myself &nbsp;prepared, and then come into a place like this... and [can&rsquo;t fill out an application], it would be very frustrating,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Illinois Governor Pat Quinn cautioned against judging the Affordable Care Act based on first day problems. &nbsp;&ldquo;We understand with any new program there will be glitches and bumps along the way. When Apple unveils a new device, they may have some minor problems and glitches&hellip; but they go forward. They don&rsquo;t stop and say they will take a year off. They understand how important it is to complete the mission,&rdquo; said Quinn.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite his frustrations, Galarza had a positive message for his clients, one that wasn&rsquo;t that different from the Governor&#39;s. &ldquo;I would say just take a deep breath. We have until December 15th, which is the deadline for your coverage to start on January 1st,&rdquo; said Galarza.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the state, as of 6:00 p.m. more than 76,653 visitors &nbsp;had come to the online marketplace.</p><p>If you run into a problem or need help navigating the website, you can contact the state hotline at 1-866-311-1119.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Wed, 02 Oct 2013 09:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/first-day-glitches-affordable-care-act-launches-108822 Allstate to trim retirement benefits http://www.wbez.org/news/allstate-trim-retirement-benefits-108085 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Allstate_130717_AYC.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Less than a month after it laid off more than 300 workers, Allstate Corp. announced on Monday plans to trim employee retirement benefits.</p><p>The Northbrook-based company said the move will boost its book value from $1.70 to $2 per share.</p><p>Jim Ryan, a senior analyst at Morningstar Inc., said the move will be difficult for employees but that it&rsquo;s what the market dictates.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s certainly something common among a lot of companies,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;To the extent that if a lot of companies do it and others don&rsquo;t, those [who] don&rsquo;t are disadvantaged on a cost basis.&rdquo;</p><p>Ryan also said he believed that Allstate would have a strong future because of plans to broaden its e-surance and online customer base.&nbsp;</p><p>Beginning this summer, the company will no longer offer life insurance to its retirees and introduce a new formula for employee pensions, reducing its contribution obligation.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid--6673237-ed63-921a-926c-01b586830a17"><em>Aimee Chen is a WBEZ business reporting intern. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/AimeeYuyiChen">@AimeeYuyiChen</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 11:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/allstate-trim-retirement-benefits-108085 Uninsured patients sue Chicago nonprofit hospital http://www.wbez.org/news/uninsured-patients-sue-chicago-nonprofit-hospital-104105 <p><p>A lawsuit filed Thursday claims a nonprofit hospital in northwest Chicago failed to provide charity care to two low-income, uninsured patients, reopening a longstanding controversy in Illinois over whether hospitals are doing enough charitable work to qualify for lucrative tax exemptions.</p><p>Swedish Covenant Hospital repeatedly lost one patient&#39;s financial assistance application and threatened to send her bill to a collection agency, according to the lawsuit. The hospital incorrectly told another patient she was ineligible for assistance and demanded cash from her, the complaint alleges.</p><p>The practices amount to &quot;bureaucratic barriers&quot; that prevent eligible patients from getting free care, according to the lawsuit, and the hospital has a policy of attempting to collect from &quot;even the poorest of patients&quot; through bill collectors and wage garnishment.</p><p>The hospital gets about $8 million in annual tax breaks and owes the community a more reliable charity care system, the plaintiffs&#39; attorney Alan Alop of the legal services group LAF said at a press conference Thursday in Chicago. The lawsuit claims unfair practices under the Illinois consumer fraud law and seeks $50,000 in punitive damages and a change in hospital policy.</p><p>Swedish Covenant spokeswoman Leigh Ginther said Thursday she couldn&#39;t comment on the lawsuit, but she said every patient who is identified as uninsured is given an application for charity care and a personal explanation of the process.</p><p>&quot;It is the patient&#39;s responsibility to return the completed paperwork,&quot; Ginther said. The hospital reported $6.2 million in charity care expenses last year, nearly 3 percent of its net revenue.</p><p>Nearly 2 million Illinois residents are uninsured, or about 15 percent. The state constitution, court decisions and state law require Illinois hospitals that receive tax exemptions to provide charity care, but until this year the definition of charity wasn&#39;t clear.</p><p>The lawsuit comes as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is writing new standards on hospital charity care as required by a law passed earlier this year.</p><p>A Chicago-based advocacy group, the Fair Care Coalition, wants Madigan to recommend that a standard, universal financial assistance application be used by all Illinois hospitals. The group also wants a thorough reporting mechanism so the public can check that hospitals are obeying the law, said Janna Simon of the coalition.</p><p>At the press conference, plaintiff Ramona Ortiz-Patino described filling out multiple applications for financial assistance and later being told the hospital hadn&#39;t received them. An unemployed diabetic, she was facing charges for emergency room visits for extreme pain in her right leg.</p><p>After Ortiz-Patino submitted a third application, a hospital employee telephoned her and &quot;let me know that my bill would be going to collections because I hadn&#39;t paid it,&quot; she said. &quot;I didn&#39;t understand why the hospital was threatening me when they knew I had zero income and I submitted three applications&quot; for financial assistance.</p><p>How much charity care should nonprofit hospitals provide? The issue has been brewing for years in Illinois.</p><p>In 2009, two large Illinois hospital systems settled class-action lawsuits that claimed they had overcharged uninsured patients. In separate settlements, Resurrection Health Care and Advocate Health Care agreed to pay refunds to tens of thousands of individuals.</p><p>Next, a 2010 Illinois Supreme Court ruling suggested nonprofit hospitals that behave like businesses shouldn&#39;t qualify for tax exemptions. Citing that court decision, the state Department of Revenue denied tax exemptions to three hospitals in 2011 and signaled more denials for other hospitals could follow.</p><p>That set off a storm of controversy the Legislature addressed this year.</p><p>Nonprofit hospitals won a broad definition of charity care from Springfield in a new state law that will allow them to continue their tax-exempt status. Hospitals were required to provide free care to patients of certain income levels, and the attorney general was directed to write standards for hospital financial assistance applications.</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 10:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/uninsured-patients-sue-chicago-nonprofit-hospital-104105 Helping keep dancers on their (healthy) toes http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/helping-keep-dancers-their-healthy-toes-100857 <p><p>A social service group for performers is trying to increase the number of dancers with health insurance in Chicago.</p><p>The Actors Fund says nearly one in every three dancers is uninsured. &nbsp;</p><p>Christina Gonzalez-Gillett is assistant director of The Seldoms, a small dance company here that can&rsquo;t afford to provide health insurance.</p><p>&ldquo;If there is coverage for individuals, I think the dancers would be really happy about that because we have to work so many jobs just to be able to afford stuff,&quot; Gonzalez-Gillett said. &quot;Starbucks is like the ultimate &#39;dream job&#39; because they offer health insurance.&rdquo;</p><p>The Actors Fund is holding a <a href="http://eighteenthstreet.org/blog/2012/07/12/at-work-forum-health-insurance-options-in-chicago/">forum</a> Monday evening at the Chicago Cultural Center to talk about new options under health care reform and how to get insurance here.</p><p>James Brown, who directs the Fund&#39;s Artists&#39; Health Insurance Resource Center, said health care coverage would allow dancers to focus on their art. He said by 2014, insurance companies won&#39;t be allowed to deny coverage because of old dance injuries.</p><p>&quot;Just a few days in the hospital could put them a few thousand dollars in debt,&quot; Brown said. &quot;So that anxiety and that threat that&rsquo;s there from being uninsured is removed.&rdquo;</p><p>Brown said dancers are more likely to be uninsured because they are young and often have low incomes.</p></p> Mon, 16 Jul 2012 05:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/helping-keep-dancers-their-healthy-toes-100857 Uninsured largely unaware of benefits coming from overhaul http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-29/uninsured-largely-unaware-benefits-coming-overhaul-91408 <p><p>When it comes to last year's Affordable Care Act, there's not much people agree on. Except, says <a href="http://www.kff.org/">Kaiser Family Foundation</a> President and CEO Drew Altman, this one thing: "It really does help the uninsured; 32 million uninsured people will get coverage."</p><p>But according to the foundation's latest monthly <a href="http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/8217.cfm">tracking poll</a>, it appears that only about half of uninsured people have any idea that help is on the way. And fewer than a third (31 percent) say they think the law will help them obtain health insurance.</p><p>Those two things are clearly linked. Among those lacking insurance, 41 percent incorrectly think the law lacks provisions to help those with modest means pay for health insurance (7 percent said they didn't know) and 37 percent incorrectly said the law doesn't include an expansion of the Medicaid program to low-income, able-bodied adults (16 percent weren't sure).</p><p>The logical conclusion, Altman wrote in an accompanying <a href="http://www.kff.org/pullingittogether/uninsured_informed_altman.cfm">column</a>, is an apparent "communications failure" on the part of the law's supporters to explain how the measure will actually work. But in that column and a subsequent interview, Altman said there's more to it than that.</p><p>"What's going on here is people who are uninsured are busy just trying to make it through the week, paycheck to paycheck," he says. Meanwhile, he adds, "they're listening to a confusing political debate."</p><p>But the bottom line, he says, is that the health overhaul will probably start to sink in in 2014, "when there are benefits out there, real coverage out there that people can look at — and can get...."</p><p>That's when people without insurance will really make a judgment about whether they can afford insurance or they like the law or it helps them. "Until then," Altman says, "it's just a political debate."</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Mon, 29 Aug 2011 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-29/uninsured-largely-unaware-benefits-coming-overhaul-91408 Allstate hikes rates for Illinois homeowners http://www.wbez.org/story/allstate-hikes-rates-illinois-homeowners-89229 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-15/house.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Northwest suburban-based Allstate is hiking it's rates for Illinois homeowners. Allstate has nearly half a million home-owner policy-holders in Illinois. They can expect hikes between two and a half percent and nine percent.</p><p>Spokeswoman Shaundra Turner said the climbing costs of paying claims are to blame. "Factors such as the number of claims, the frequency of claims and weather over the past several years all result in these increases in cost," she said.</p><p>Turner said severe Midwestern storms mean higher rates for Minnesota and Wisconsin customers, too. This is the third summer in a row the insurance giant has raised homeowner rates in the state.</p><p>To reduce the hit to customer pocketbooks, the company is offering discounted rates for those who bundle various Allstate insurances, pay their premiums in full or have premiums automatically withdrawn from their bank accounts.</p></p> Fri, 15 Jul 2011 20:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/allstate-hikes-rates-illinois-homeowners-89229 Writer Patricia Hitchens reflects on reaching Medicare age http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-05-31/writer-patricia-hitchens-reflects-reaching-medicare-age-87223 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-May/2011-05-31/Pill box Flickr Dvortygirl.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There may be less choice when it comes to where patients get their healthcare. But there is certainly no lack of entities who want to handle your insurance, from the government to private insurers.</p><p>That’s true especially as you get older.&nbsp;</p><p>Writer Patricia Hitchens finds it all adds up to feelings that range from annoyance to dread.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The Medicare come-ons BEGAN coming in January.&nbsp; <em>How odd</em>, I think, Mother died four years ago.&nbsp;&nbsp; What a pain, getting her junk mail again.</p><p>Actually, it is <em>my </em>junk mail.&nbsp; I discover that the intended “Medicare Recipient” is not my mother, but <em>me.</em></p><p>Most of the Medicare mail is not from the government or Social Security, but from companies hoping to cash in on the profit potential of baby boomers. <em>Why be satisfied with government insurance</em>? the pile of envelopes seems to say.&nbsp; <em>We’ve got you covered! </em>Their contents include scads of grinning oldsters making the most of their sunshine years -- all exuding heart-felt relief at having made the “right” choice in healthcare coverage.</p><p>Because I’ve been fending off AARP since my kids were in middle school, I decide to give them first crack at me. Featuring a photo of a forty-something woman under an ominous thunderhead, it begs urgently for attention.</p><p><em>Turning 65</em>? asks the envelope. <em>Worried about your health care coverage?</em></p><p><em>Well, yes, </em>I admit, and <em>No. </em>My health and my health insurance are both excellent.</p><p>The inside cover invites me to <em>Meet Ava – </em>who, coincidentally, also turns 65 this year!&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Instead of cowering under a fearsome thunderhead like the AARP woman, the Blue Cross people are all smiling, some even laughing over some shared funny story.&nbsp; Often they are also clutching a spouse, adorable grandchild, fishing rod or golf club. One couple is even rolling around on the grass, like the people in those erectile dysfunction commercials.&nbsp; I can almost hear the announcer intoning, <em>Will you be ready? </em></p><p>Humana Healthcare’s packet is more down-home, with a snapshot-style picture of a heavily made-up celebrant behind a birthday cake. <em>This </em><em>birthday</em>, remarks the adjacent copy, brings with it a <em>Special Opportunity.&nbsp; </em></p><p>But I don’t want this special opportunity, not from Humana, Blue Cross or United HealthCare.&nbsp; At least, not yet. Because I’m not ready for what it comes packaged with: a peer group I don’t like the sound of.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Notwithstanding the youthful types in these Medicare brochures, they are aimed at senior citizens. Citizens otherwise known as “old”. “Senior citizen” is supposed to have been trotted out during a political rally as a pleasing euphemism for “elderly”. I remember when “senior” sounded terrific: I yearned to be a “senior” in high school<em>,</em> couldn’t wait to become a “senior producer” at my TV studio, and later at my consulting firm, preened when promoted to “senior consultant.”&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>If adding “senior” to “citizen” once sounded honorific, today it sounds anything but - which is why I balk at my prospective new packaging.&nbsp; Take the deprecating “senior moment”: it means not an idyllic interlude - but terrifying seconds of lapsed recall. While I am considered productive now, in one month will I automatically stop functioning, disappearing “over the hill” into senior-citizen land?&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>My husband and I have wills, long-term care insurance, beefy retirement accounts.&nbsp; All against a far-off need, sometime in the distant future. Yet with all that get-ready-for- Medicare mail jamming the front porch mailbox, said future no longer seems way down the road. Instead, it squats just outside our door, a thief lying in wait.</p></p> Tue, 31 May 2011 14:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-05-31/writer-patricia-hitchens-reflects-reaching-medicare-age-87223 Among rich countries, U.S. rates worst for patients http://www.wbez.org/story/health/among-rich-countries-us-rates-worst-patients <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/ER.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When it comes to health care, it's generally the case that the care in wealthy countries is better than in impoverished ones.</p><p>But a country's GDP only goes so far in predicting how things will go, as a <a href="http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/Publications/In-the-Literature/2010/Nov/How-Health-Insurance-Design-Access-Care-Costs.aspx">survey</a> of the some of best-off countries finds.</p><p>Take a guess which rich country's health system provides the worst experience for patients?</p><p></p><p>Yep, it's the United States, according work released today by the <a href="http://www.commonwealthfund.org/">Commonwealth Fund</a>. Not only do Americans avoid doctors when ill for fear of being slapped with big bills, but they also shell out far more when they do go, even if they have insurance.</p><p>The findings, published in the journal <a href="http://www.healthaffairs.org/"><em>Health Affairs</em></a>, looked at 11 developed countries and compared the experience of patients -- from costs, to paying medical bills, to dealing with insurance companies.</p><p>The U.S. came out at the bottom on almost every count, sometimes with shocking gaps between it and the next country.</p><p>Here's a rundown of the various ways the U.S. is falling behind Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom:</p><p><ul></p><p><li>Only 58 percent of U.S. adults said they thought they could afford the care they needed</li></p><p><li>A solid 20 percent of U.S. adults had major problems paying medical bills, compared to 9 percent in France, with the next highest figure</li></p><p><li>31 percent of U.S. adults reported getting caught in insurance problems: either dealing with mountains of paperwork, having their insurer deny a claim, or receiving a lesser payment than expected</li></p><p><li>Americans are coughing up more from their own wallets: one-third of U.S. adults paid $1,000 or more out-of-pocket in the past year for medical bills, much higher than all of the other countries.</li></p><p><li>Among the worst-off are uninsured Americans: nearly half of them went without needed care and one third had problem with bills</li></p><p></ul></p><p>But some of this should change with the passage of the health care overhaul, which will make sure the 32 million Americans without coverage get it. According to Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, the bill will make new insurance options for the uninsured affordable, ensure insurance pays for essential care, and improve financial security for millions of Americans.</p><p>Even amid the gloom of survey, there was one bright spot for beleaguered Americans: we do seem to have pretty good access to <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/08/03/128949167/pick-doctor-word-of-mouth">specialists</a>. Outscored only by Germany and Switzerland, 80 percent of U.S. patients who need a specialist see one in less than four weeks.</p><p>A year ago, <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2009/12/america_land_of_good_cancer_ca.html">an analysis</a> by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reached some similar conclusions. America got good marks for cancer care and not-so-hot grades for primary care. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1290538766?&gn=Among+Rich+Countries%2C+U.S.+Rates+Worst+For+Patients&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=International+Health,Policy,Insurance,Health+Headlines+Newsletter,Shots+-+Health+News+Blog,Health,World+Health,Health+Care,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=131416416&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20101118&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=126567816,126567581,126567457,121027244,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Thu, 18 Nov 2010 12:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/health/among-rich-countries-us-rates-worst-patients Auto collisions with deer pose a health risk http://www.wbez.org/story/around-nation/auto-collisions-deer-pose-health-risk <p><p>In Maryland, where I live, there's a 1 in 119 chance that I'll hit a deer with my car in the next year.</p><p>Overall, there's a 1 in 183 chance of an American driver doing the same thing, according to <a href="http://www.statefarm.com/aboutus/_pressreleases/2010/deer-vehicle-collision-frequency.asp">claims data crunched</a> by insurer State Farm. As the deer population has <a href="http://wildlifecontrol.info/DEER/Pages/DeerPopulationFacts.aspx">zoomed in recent years</a>, so has the number of crashes.</p><p>State Farm figures the collisions -- more than 1 million annually -- are up 21 percent in the last five years. And beware: now through the end of the year is peak crash season.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Nobody wants to hit a deer. It's probably curtains for the animal and may not be so good for you. More than 1,000 people died in collisions with animals during the five years that ended in 2009, according to federal data the folks at the <a href="http://www.iihs.org/about.html">Insurance Institute for Highway Safety</a> passed along.</p><p>About 3 in 4 collisions between <a href="http://www.iihs.org/news/2004/iihs_news_111804.pdf">cars and animals</a> involve deer. The <em>Washington Post's</em> Allan Sloan, who <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/01/AR2010110107194.html">zeroed in on the economic cost</a> of the deer overpopulation problem, put the annual human death toll from crashes into the animals at 140.</p><p>The likelihood of an accident with a deer varies a lot by state. West Virginia, for the fourth year in a row, leads the deer-crash pack with a driver's annual odds of a collision at 1 in 42, according to State Farm.</p><p>Out in the West, the risks subside. And in Hawaii, the chances for a crash are pretty darned slim at about 1 in 13,000. (Check out <a href="http://www.statefarm.com/aboutus/_images/images/likelihood_collision_with_deer.jpg">the map</a> from State Farm for info on your state.)</p><p>Just because you hit something doesn't mean you have to get seriously hurt.</p><p>&quot;In most cases the fatal crashes could have been prevented had the motorists taken the basic precaution of putting on a seat belt,&quot; IIHS spokesman Russ Rader tells Shots.</p><p>Also, he says, the research shows deaths aren't usually a direct result of hitting the animal. It's the secondary impact with another vehicle or going off the road that proves fatal.</p><p>Motorcyclists also hit deer, and Rader says not wearing a helmet is a big factor in which of those collisions lead to drivers' deaths.</p><p>Deer, while the biggest problem, aren't the only road hazard. There are also wild boar to worry about. Dr. Billy Higginbotham, a wildlife specialist with Texas A&amp;M's AgriLife Extension Service, <a href="http://agnews.tamu.edu/showstory.php?id=2227">figures a vehicle plows</a> into feral hogs at an annual rate of about 1 percent.</p><p>He says nobody knows exactly how many feral hogs are out there, but it's a big and growing number. &quot;Feral hogs are the most prolific large mammal on the face of the Earth,&quot; he said in statement. &quot;There's no question about that.&quot;</p><p>Check out the video for more info. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1288808499?&amp;gn=Auto+Collisions+With+Deer+Pose+A+Health+Risk&amp;ev=event2&amp;ch=103537970&amp;h1=Your+Health,Insurance,Public+Health+%26+Prevention,Shots+-+Health+News+Blog,Health,Around+the+Nation,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&amp;c3=D%3Dgn&amp;v3=D%3Dgn&amp;c4=131014043&amp;c7=1128&amp;v7=D%3Dc7&amp;c18=1128&amp;v18=D%3Dc18&amp;c19=20101102&amp;v19=D%3Dc19&amp;c20=1&amp;v20=D%3Dc20&amp;c31=126567525,126567457,126567402,103537970&amp;v31=D%3Dc31&amp;c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001" alt="" /></p></p> Tue, 02 Nov 2010 16:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/around-nation/auto-collisions-deer-pose-health-risk