Australia Just Had a Bad Flu Season. That May Be a Warning for the U.S.

October 4, 2019, The New York Times, Donald G. McNeil Jr. -  Australia had an unusually early and fairly severe flu season this year. Since that may foretell a serious outbreak on its way in the United States, public health experts now are urging Americans to get their flu shots as soon as possible. “It’s too early to tell for sure, because sometimes Australia is predictive and sometimes it’s not,” said Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, director of the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But the best move is to get the vaccine right now.” The number of cases of flu in this country is still quite low, according to the weekly C.D.C. FluView released Friday. But as the weather cools, it is expected to ramp up. In 2017, Australia suffered its worst outbreak in the 20 years since modern surveillance techniques were adopted. The 2017-2018 flu season in the United States, which followed six months later as winter came to the Northern Hemisphere, was one of the worst in modern American memory, with an estimated 79,000 dead.

Why Hospitals Are Getting Into The Housing Business

October 4, 2019, Kaiser Health News, Markian Hawryluk -  One patient at Denver Health, the city’s largest safety net hospital, occupied a bed for more than four years - a hospital record of 1,558 days. Another admitted for a hard-to-treat bacterial infection needed eight weeks of at-home IV antibiotics, but had no home. A third, with dementia, came to the hospital after being released from the Denver County Jail. His family refused to take him back. In the first half of this year alone, the hospital treated more than 100 long-term patients. All had a medical issue that led to their initial hospitalization. But none of the patients had a medical reason for remaining in the hospital for most of their stay. Legally and morally, hospitals cannot discharge patients if they have no safe place to go. So patients who are homeless, frail or live alone, or have unstable housing, can occupy hospital beds for weeks or months - long after their acute medical problem is resolved.

Medicare Shopping Season Is Almost Here

October 4, 2019, The New York Times, Mark Miller -  If you’re enrolled in Medicare but worry about the cost of health care, your chance to do something about it is right around the corner. Most people enroll in Medicare when they become eligible at age 65. But every fall, they have the opportunity to change their coverage during an enrollment season that runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. This is the time of year when you can switch between original fee-for-service Medicare and Medicare Advantage, the all-in-one managed care alternative to the traditional program. You also can re-evaluate your prescription drug coverage - whether that is a stand-alone Part D plan, or wrapped into an Advantage plan.

She wanted to die. She needed to go to a hospital. ‘We can’t afford it,’ her husband said

October 3, 2019, Mississippi Today, Julie Whitehead - At school one day when Susan Wright’s son was young, he drew a picture of her with circles covering her arms. Wight recognized immediately what those marks were. They were the scars and scabs where she had gouged her skin, and the physical evidence of the mental illness she had struggled with since she was a child. “I was horrified,” Wright recalled.“They’re all over me,” said the 51-year-old Brandon woman, turning her arms over to show open sores from where she continually picks at her skin. Excoriation disorder. That’s the name of the condition that developed during Wright’s 45-year struggle with mental illness. It’s part of a cluster of anxiety and panic disorders - a diagnosis she didn’t receive until March 2009 during a five-day stay at a local hospital. Already anxious, Wright became increasingly distressed whenever she went home from work to a house that was falling apart. “Termites were flying out of the ceiling; the foundation was crumbling,” Wright said. “We couldn’t fix it, and we couldn’t sell it.” And she couldn’t afford the mental health treatment she needed to cope.

Five Northeast Mississippi counties will have second choice on federal exchange

October 3, 2019, Daily Journal, Michaela Gibson Morris - Residents of Lee, Lafayette, Marshall, Pontotoc and Union counties who shop for health insurance on the federal marketplace will have a second choice for 2020 coverage.  Molina Healthcare of Mississippi will offer health plans, commonly called Obamacare, through in 19 Mississippi counties, the Mississippi Insurance Department announced on Thursday. Magnolia by Ambetter will continue to offer plans in all 82 counties on the exchange as it has since Humana exited the exchange at the end of 2017.

CDC: Cases of vaping-related illness top 1,000

October 3, 2019, The Hill, Jessie Hellmann - The number of vaping-related lung illnesses has topped 1,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday. As of Oct. 1, there have been 1,080 confirmed and probable cases of lung illness tied to vaping reported to the CDC, including 18 deaths. The outbreak, which started early this summer, is showing no sign of slowing. “The increasing number of lung injury cases we see associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, is deeply concerning,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield. “Unfortunately, this may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the escalating health threat this outbreak poses to the American public, particularly youth and young adults,” Redfield added. “CDC will continue to work with FDA and state health partners to investigate the cause, or causes, of this outbreak and to bring an end to these lung injuries.” Most of the 578 patients who have been interviewed by health officials said they had vaped THC with or without nicotine products, the CDC said.