Tag Archives: elderly

Report shows consumers could save even more on health insurance

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform. He welcomes questions and suggestions and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Image courtesy of The Commonwealth Fund

Reporting on how much consumers will save on health insurance under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has never been easy, but last week, it got more complicated.

Previous studies on how ARPA would affect household spending on health insurance underestimated the effects of the law, according to a report on Oct. 6 from the Commonwealth Fund. That means consumers could spend much less out of pocket for copayments and deductibles if Congress passes the reforms being debated now under budget deliberations. The increased savings come because of a recalculation of the effects of ARPA, the fund reported.

Although the recalculation didn’t get much coverage, this story is important for journalists because the increased savings could be in the billions of dollars. In addition, the reforms proposed in Congress would cut the number of Americans without health insurance by 7 million, the fund reported.

In a report the fund published in September, “The Coverage and Cost Effects of Key Health Insurance Reforms Being Considered by Congress,” researchers from the Urban Institute noted that members of Congress have proposed a budget this year that includes reforming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in two ways. One reform would make permanent the enhanced premium subsidies in ARPA that otherwise would expire at the end of next year. The other reform would fix what’s called the Medicaid coverage gap by extending eligibility for subsidies on the ACA marketplaces to people earning below 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL) in the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid.

In those 12 states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming), Medicaid eligibility for adults is strictly limited. The median annual income limit for a family of three is just 41% of the FPL, or $8,905. Also, childless adults are ineligible.

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Tips for reporting on what experts say could be a tough flu season for the elderly

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

As cases of the Delta variant start to wane, infectious disease specialists have a new concern this fall — flu and pneumonia, especially in vulnerable populations like older adults.

Experts from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and the CDC expressed concern about a potentially serious flu season at a video press briefing on October 7.  Flu cases during 2020-21 were extremely low— just 2,124 confirmed cases between Sept. 27, 2020, and May 15, 2021— thanks in large part to people working from home, wearing masks, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene.

But as more communities ease restrictions, the flu could surge this year, impacting many more people. For seniors, whose immune systems are weaker than younger adults, that could mean an increase in hospitalizations, cases of pneumonia, or even deaths.

“The medical and public health community are preparing for a potentially vigorous respiratory virus session in the United States,” said William Schaffner, M.D., NFID medical director, who moderated the briefing. “The best way to prepare is to get your flu vaccine.”

Vaccination is especially important among at-risk populations, including adults 65 and older, and those with certain chronic conditions according to Schaffner.

Currently, the U.S. is on track for similar flu vaccination rates as 2020, about 52% overall, according to CDC director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., who participated in the briefing.  That rate may not be good enough this year to keep case rates low.

A recent NFID survey revealed that even among those who are at high risk for complications, nearly 1 in 4 (23%) were not planning to get vaccinated this season. While most people over age 65 (71%) said they will get a flu shot, 30% of seniors would remain unprotected, leading to potentially serious consequences.

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Reporting on suicide among the elderly — a major public health issue even before the pandemic

About Katti Gray

Katti Gray (@kattigray) is AHCJ's core topic leader for behavioral and mental health. A former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, Gray is providing resources to help AHCJ members expand their coverage of mental health amid ongoing efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness and to place mental health care on par with all health care.

Photo by Borja via Flickr

The pandemic’s assorted pressures have caused a spike in suicidal thoughts among subsets of people, including older Americans whose risk for suicidal ideation — and suicide itself — is linked to some of the particularities of aging.

According to a March 2021 analysis by geriatric researchers at Adelphi and Columbia Universities, 28% of U.S. adults who were at least 65 years old, or 14.7 million people, resided alone. That tally of older people living solo — and often enduring the gut punches of isolation and loneliness — only went up from there. Approximately 44% of women ages 75 and older lived alone.

There’s a kind of pile-on effect at play, researchers suggest, as societal and health problems circle in and out of each other. Social isolation can and does often worsen chronic illness, which disproportionately besets older people. The CDC calculates 85% of those age 65 and older have at least one chronic illness; 60% have two or more.

Men 75 and older had the highest risk for suicide, according to the CDC’s most recent data, with 39.9 such suicides per 100,000 Americans. The comparable figure for women in that age group was 4.3 per 100,000. For those ages 65 through 74, the respective rates were 26.4 and 5.9. (This 2018 analysis in Clinical Interventions in Aging put the rate for white men who were 65 and older at 48.7 per 100,000.)

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Older health care professionals at risk during COVID-19 outbreak

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: Medical Reserve CorpsA member of the Medical Reserve Corps of
Puerto Rico conducts a medical assessment in response to an earthquake.

Retired physicians, nurses and other health care professionals have been asked to volunteer for duty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, many of these retirees fall into the high-risk group for contracting COVID-19. They face a difficult choice: stay away and stay safer, or put aside the potential risk to help care for an increasingly sick population. Continue reading

Simple language helps convey health information

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: Ed Yourdon via Flickr

As I was scanning posters during last spring’s American Society on Aging’s conference, I spotted one presentation that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t about a novel piece of research or a study which made overarching claims about a new drug or program.

Rather, it was a simple, straightforward demonstration from Alzheimer’s Los Angeles on the importance of communicating with family caregivers in plain language. Continue reading