TIME Obamacare

Got Obamacare? Your premiums are (probably) about to go way up

Health insurers on many state exchanges are requesting the right to increase premiums by upwards of 50%.

President Obama’s signature legislative achievement–the healthcare law popularly known as Obamacare–is facing a potentially existential fight in the Supreme Court in 2015.

But it’s not just the courts that supporters of the program need to worry about. According to a report published Friday in the The Wall Street Journal, health insurers are requesting the right in many states to increase premiums by upwards of 50%. Health Care Service Corp.–the leading health insurer in New Mexico, has asked state regulators to allow it to increase its premiums on average by 51.6%, for instance. Customers of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in Maryland may face an average premium increase of 30.4%.

Insurers will have to submit their premium-hike proposals to their state regulators, and potentially the federal government. Regulators will review the requests, and may deny the insurers requests if rising costs don’t justify premium increases. But big rate hikes could be necessary to prevent insurers from taking a loss. According to the report:

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee . . . said it lost $141 million from exchange-sold plans, stemming largely from a small number of sick enrollees. “Our filing is planned to allow us to operate on at least a break-even basis for these plans, meaning that the rate would cover only medical services and expenses—with no profit margin for 2016,” said spokeswoman Mary Danielson.

It’s not all bad news, however. Obamacare insurers in some states–like Indiana, Connecticut and Maine–are asking for minimal or no increases to their premiums.

 

 

TIME cybersecurity

This Massive Healthcare Company Just Got Hacked

Insurer CEOs Head to White House to Discuss Obamacare Woes
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Chet Burrell, chief executive officer of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, waits to go through security near the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Health insurance executives including WellPoint Inc. Chief Executive Officer Joseph Swedish will meet with top White House officials today as President Barack Obama seeks to contain political damage over the rollout of online enrollment for his health-care expansion. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It's the third Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurer targeted in recent years

Hackers have targeted yet another healthcare company.

CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a healthcare insurer that provides service for residents in Maryland, Washington and parts of Virginia, said Wednesday that it’s suffered a cyberattacking compromising the records of 1.1 million customers. Modern Healthcare reported Wednesday that hackers compromised a company database last year and could have accessed member usernames, names, birth dates, e-mail addresses and identification numbers.

Social security numbers, financial records, passwords and credit card numbers were reportedly not accessed, CareFirst said in a statement.

The security firm Mandiant discovered the attack occurred in June of last year and was hired to examine the company after hackers targeted other healthcare insurers in recent days, including Premera Blue Cross and Anthem. According to the article, “CareFirst is the third Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurer to acknowledge a cyberattack this year, following record-breaking hacks at Premera and Anthem, which affected 11 million people and 80 million people, respectively.”

“We deeply regret the concern this attack may cause,” said CareFirst CEO Chet Burrell in a statement. “We are making sure those affected understand the extent of the attack—and what information was and was not affected.”

TIME Healthcare

You Asked: Why Are My Teeth So Sensitive?

You Asked: Why Are My Teeth So Sensitive?
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Sometimes teeth are just touchy. But certain sensitivities are signs of trouble.

You feel it when you sip a hot drink or bite into a cool dessert: an ache, an acute stab of pain. Even a sharp breath of cold air might trigger a twinge. “Any tooth sensitivity is trying to tell us something,” says Dr. Matt Messina, an Ohio-based dentist and spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “It may be easy to treat, but something is still causing it.”

For dentists, the most common (and least alarming) sensitivity is an all-over reaction to very cold stimuli, Messina says. Especially if that cold-induced pain is short-lived, you probably don’t have reason to worry. But if the pain is persistent and confined to a specific tooth or area of your mouth, that’s a problem. “That’s often the sign of a micro-crack, a degraded filling or a cavity,” Messina says.

Those conditions, all of which require a dentist’s attention, become more probable if the tooth or area is also sensitive to heat and biting pressure. “If you have reactions to all three—cold, hot, and biting pressure—we could also be talking about some sort of infection in the tooth,” Messina adds.

If you’re dealing with an all-over ache, your gums—not your teeth—may explain your pain. Exposing your gums to irritants or harsh treatment makes them recede. And when they do, they leave exposed the tender roots near the base of your teeth. “Your roots don’t have the same quality of protective enamel as your crowns, so they’re more sensitive,” says Dr. Eugene Ko of the University of Michigan’s department of oral pathology.

Brushing too forcefully, chewing tobacco or allowing the buildup of plaque can all cause your gums to “run away” from your teeth, resulting in temperature sensitivity, Messina says. If you think gum recession might be the cause of your sensitivity, Ko says you may be able to look in a mirror and spot the issue. “The margin where your teeth and gums meet: there may be a change in color, almost like water elevation marks during a drought.”

Of course, there are many more reasons for temperature-sensitive teeth. Those include the excessive use of mouthwash or whitening products, dead or dying nerves, tooth grinding, recent dental work or serious gum issues like gingivitis or periodontal disease. Messina also says eating lots of acidic foods—things like soda, sports drinks, sour candy or citrus fruits and juices—can lead to a loss of tooth enamel that renders your teeth sensitive to temperature.

Apart from ditching those foods, Messina advises carefully reading and following instructions when using whiteners, mouth rinses, or other dental hygiene treatments. “More is not always better,” he warns.

When it comes to brushing, apply gentle pressure with a soft-bristle toothbrush. “You’re trying to massage you teeth all the way to the junction where they come together with your gums,” Messina says. “You should not be scrubbing like you would tub grout.” If changing your brushing technique doesn’t do the trick, he says switching to a sensitive-teeth toothpaste can help. “These contain a chemical agent that fills tubules in teeth and blocks sensitivity,” he says.

No matter what, you should mention the temperature issue to your dentist during your next visit. “Big problems often start out as sensitivities,” Messina says. “The solutions are often simple, but only if we address the problem early.”

TIME Healthcare

What You Should Know About Medical Marijuana for Pets

golden-retriever-lying-down
Getty Images

Be sure to consult your veterinarian first

Now that 23 states have given medical marijuana the green light (with even recreational use now allowed in another four states and Washington D.C.), growing weed has become a growing business. The newest frontier: getting Fido and Fluffy on board with the cannabis revolution.

Relax. We’re not talking about rolling doobies with your dog, or seeing “pretty colors” with your cat. Nope, these are cannabis-containing edible treats and capsules that are meant for sick or aging pets.

“The cannabis plant has many compounds in it,” Matthew J. Cote, brand manager at Auntie Dolores, a San Francisco Bay Area-based edibles manufacturer, told ABC News. Auntie Dolores launched its pet line Treatibles last year. “Most people grow cannabis for the euphoric experience of THC. But they’ve been overlooking cannabidiol—commonly known as CBD—which is non-psychoactive,” he said.

CBD, in fact, does not produce a high, and it’s true that it’s been studied as a potential treatment for epileptic seizures and pain relief for cancer patients.

So, as Cote explained to ABC News, the theory is that since aging canines share a lot of the same health problems as humans, there must be a market for pot-laced dog “medicine.” Sold online ($22 per bag of 40 treats, treatibles.com), Treatibles contain 40 milligrams of CBD per treat and makers advise giving one per 20 pounds of your pet’s weight.

“What we’ve seen is that some of these dogs respond very rapidly,” Cote told ABC News. “One woman from Fort Bragg was ready to put down her dog due to how sick and in pain he was, but the day before he was scheduled to go under, she administered our treats and just like that the dog was up, walking around, and acting normally again.”

Canna Companion, another pot-for-pets proprietor based in Sultan, Washington, also boasts of amazing results for customers. One such testimonial posted on their website reads: “It seems as though [Canna Companion] is the best kept secret in the animal world for pain management and anxiety issues. I originally ordered it for my cat Robbie for anxiety/inflamed bladder issues and it works! Robbie has had issues for the past year or so, and now they are all but gone.”

High (ahem) praise, indeed.

Even so, the American Veterinary Medical Association hasn’t taken an official stance, and even in states where marijuana is legal, veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe cannabis products to their patients. (Though that may change: In Nevada, where medical use for humans is legal, the legislature is currently debating a bill that would allow vets to prescribe it to pets.)

Producers of these treats and capsules also have to be careful about any claims they make about their products. According to ABC News, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent Canna Companion’s co-owner (and a veterinarian) Sarah Brandon a notice, stating that the capsules were an “unapproved new animal drug and your marketing of it violates the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic] Act.”

That kind of cautionary approach makes sense, say some experts, who point out that since these products aren’t regulated by the FDA, there’s no real way of knowing what you’re getting—or what the potential side effects might be. Says Tina Wismer, medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, in an interview with Health: “These products show potential, but there’s not a lot of research at this point. No one is even sure what the correct therapeutic dosage is. For example, in the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section on one of the websites, a customer asks, ‘How much should I give my pet?’ And they answer—I’m paraphrasing here: ‘Whatever you think would help.’ Well, that’s extremely vague.”

Not to mention, potentially dangerous: A 2012 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care found that the number of dogs treated for marijuana overdoses at two Colorado veterinary hospitals quadrupled in five years following the legalization of medical marijuana in the state.

Sometimes it’s a case of owners deliberately administering cannabis products (hash-laced brownies, for example) to their pets, experts note. Other times, ingestion happens by accident—say, animals inhaling second-hand pot smoke or getting into their owner’s unattended stash. Wismer, who hasn’t heard of any problems with Treatibles or Canna Companion specifically, says she has fielded more than a few panicked calls at poison control about accidental exposures to pot in general—with sometimes scary results.

“You would think they’d become sedated and wobbly, but almost a quarter of them become quite agitated,” says Wismer. “They’re trying to pace. They’re panting. You reach out to pet them and they jerk their heads away.” In fact, Wismer adds, dogs that ingest large amounts of THC sometimes need to be put on fluids and have their heart rate monitored. Scary, right? (Although the commercial dog treats contain little or no THC, according the manufacturers.)

The bottom line here: You probably shouldn’t feed your pet cannabis—in any form—without talking to your vet.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

TIME Healthcare

Most Americans Don’t Know the First Thing About Miscarriages

157613779
Getty Images

Miscarriage is far more common than most people think, finds a new survey

A new survey reveals that many American men and women have vast misconceptions of miscarriages.

Despite the fact that miscarriage is the most common complication in pregnancy, the new survey published in Obstetrics & Gynecology reveals that most of the 1,000-plus people surveyed believed that miscarriage happened in 6% or fewer of pregnancies. The actual number is closer to 30% of pregnancies, says study author Dr. Zev Williams, director of the Program for Early and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System. “Most people think it’s an incredibly rare event, so when it happens to them they feel very isolated and they will look to themselves and think they must have done something wrong,” he says. Nearly one million miscarriages occur in the U.S. each year.

Twenty-two percent of the people surveyed said they thought lifestyle choices during pregnancy, like smoking or drinking, were the most common causes of miscarriages. All of the following suspected causes are incorrect, but 76% of the participants thought that a stressful event could cause a miscarriage; 64% thought lifting heavy objects could cause a miscarriage; 41% believed it could be caused by an STD; 22% thought past oral contraceptive use could be a cause; and 21% thought a pregnant woman could miscarry from getting into an argument.

A lot about miscarriages remains unknown, the authors say, but genetic problems are responsible for most.

“Patients who had been suffering from miscarriages would come in and I would explain to them that miscarriages were common, and this was a shocking revelation for them,” says Williams. “On top of that, when I would explain to them that there wasn’t anything that they did to cause a miscarriage, you would see this tremendous sense of relief come over them. I think invariably what happens in miscarriages is that patients sort of look back at the week leading up to the miscarriage, and women generally blame themselves for it.”

Many people who had a miscarriage felt a lot of guilt or shame, the results of the survey showed. Forty-seven percent of men and women who reported that they or their partner had experienced a miscarriage said they felt guilty, and 41% said they felt they had done something wrong. Forty-one percent reported feeling alone and 28% felt ashamed. Just under half of those individuals felt that they had been given adequate medical community support.

Williams says these misconceptions about miscarriage persist because people don’t talk about them. “I’ve taken care of siblings where each of them didn’t realize they were both suffering from recurrent miscarriages,” he says. “Because there is a degree of self blame and guilt, people don’t want to talk about it. The effect of that is people feel really isolated and alone when it happens to them.” When women who had miscarried had a friend who revealed that they too had a miscarriage, 46% of participants said they felt less alone.

It can feel less lonely, too, when celebrities disclose their own miscarriages, 28% of the women reported. The fact that a celebrity’s miscarriage can become a major news story speaks to how rare it is that someone shares their own experience, Williams says.

Initially, the survey was intended for the scientific community as a way to provide physicians with a better understanding of the mindset of their patients. But Williams says he thinks the general public will benefit the most since there is a clear need for greater awareness. He says he hopes it also spurs demand for more knowledge about the complication.

“I think there also needs to be a much bigger push for research in miscarriage,” says Williams. “We essentially are living with the same understandings that we had 50 years ago.”

TIME medicine

Doctors Used Lab-Printed Splint to Save 3 Babies From Suffocation

Human lungs, illustration
Getty Images

The fairly inexpensive procedure could save countless young lives, medical officials say

Three small children with weak airways that were constantly collapsing are alive and well thanks to a “4-D” printed splint that saved them from almost certain suffocation.

Three years after the splints were custom made and attached to their tracheas, the children are able to breathe on their own, a team of doctors reported on Wednesday. The splints are not only precisely fitted to the children, but they’re made to grow as the children grow. (That’s the fourth dimension, the researchers say.)

Now they want to try their method in kids who are not so close to death, to see…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Healthcare

Teen Forced to Undergo Chemotherapy Released from Hospital

Photo shows Cassandra, a teen who does not want to give her last name, confined in a room at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., where she is being forced to undergo chemotherapy.
Cassandra C.—AP Photo shows Cassandra, a teen who does not want to give her last name, confined in a room at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., where she was forced to undergo chemotherapy.

Cassandra C. had said she wanted to pursue alternative treatments

The 17-year-old Connecticut girl who was forced to undergo chemotherapy after she refused treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma is expected to be released from the hospital Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Child services removed the girl, known as Cassandra C., from her mother’s home in January to force her to undergo treatment, an action upheld by several state courts.

Cassandra had said she wanted to pursue alternative treatments to her condition and her mother vocally supported her daughter’s decision. Now, after the treatment, doctors say Cassandra’s cancer is in remission, and she has an 85% chance of survival.

“I’m at a loss for words with how happy I am that I’m finally coming home,” she told the AP in a text message. “This day seemed like it would never come. I can finally start putting my life back together, and I look forward to spending time with my mom, friends and heading back to school/work.”

Cassandra will be able to make her own medical decisions when she turns 18 in September.

Read More: When Can a Person Be Forced to Receive Medical Care?

Busy parent? Sign up here for TIME’s free weekly parenting newsletter.
TIME public health

4 Health Products You Should Never Buy Online

online-purchase-tablet
Getty Images

Beware these sketchy online purchases

Whatever you need, you can get it online. That can make shopping for health products a little bit, shall we say, sketchy. “The people selling certain products to you don’t care about your health and just want money. With greed comes a lot of fraud,” says Josephine Dlugopolski-Gach, assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Loyola University Health System. While you have to be careful with whatever you buy, these four products below can run you into a lot of trouble—and harm:

Certain prescription medications

If a site will let you buy meds without a prescription, that’s a big red flag—especially for certain medications. Listen to this warning from the Drug Enforcement Administration: “Buying online could mean doing time.” Even if you have good intentions, you can’t legally buy “controlled substances” online like Xanax or Ambien without an Rx. And prescriptions from cyber docs won’t cut it, says the DEA. The law is different depending on your state, but most require you to see a doctor you have a relationship with in person. In addition to that, buying from a bad site could leave you with medication that’s fake or contains dangerous ingredients. For example, the FDA purchased the flu-stopping medication Tamiflu online in order to test it. They found it wasn’t Tamiflu at all, but a combination of talc and acetaminophen.

It’s perfectly fine to buy prescription medication from a state-licensed US-based online pharmacy; these sites often can help you save money. To know if they’re legit, Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach suggests making sure they have an actual phone number, have a licensed pharmacist on staff, and require an Rx to fill your order. You can check the legitimacy of the site at the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. And use common sense. “If the deal sounds too good to be true, you’re probably not going to get the right medication,” she says.

Weight loss supplements

You never know what you’re going to get when you buy a weight loss supplement online. The FDA points out that in their testing, they’ve discovered supplements—even herbals—were tainted with hidden and unsafe ingredients. Many are also not FDA-approved, meaning their claims haven’t been checked out and aren’t regulated. (It’s on the individual companies to tell the truth. They don’t always do that.) “A lot of times, these weight loss pills are just stimulants. They contain a lot of caffeine, which is not safe, especially if you have a cardiac condition,” says Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach. “I’ve seen people go into the ER on the verge of a heart attack.” While building long-term healthy habits is often the best way to keep weight off, if you want to check out something that promises to help you lose weight or rev your metabolism, “tell your doctor what you’re interested in before you buy it, even if it’s marketed as natural,” she adds.

Breast milk

You hear “breast is best”—but it’s not if it comes from an online source, suggests an editorial in The BMJ. The problem is, breast milk online is an unregulated industry, so it can be contaminated with viruses (like hepatitis or HIV), bacteria (if not stored or shipped properly) alcohol, prescription medication, and illegal drugs, notes Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach. What’s more, in a new study in the journal Pediatrics, researchers tested 102 samples and found 10% were topped off with cow’s milk, which can cause an allergic reaction. It’s understandable that people might want to buy breast milk–aka “liquid gold”–if they can’t produce their own due to cancer treatment or other reasons. Or that other women would want to donate or sell their milk if they produce more than enough. However, the temptation to make more money by adding cow’s milk might be too much for some online sellers. Organizations like Eats on Feets and Only the Breast (which broker such sales) do recommend pasteurizing all milk and screening donors for HIV and other diseases (among other safety suggestions), but many people don’t follow the guidelines, according to a CNN report. “If you can breastfeed that’s wonderful, but if you can’t, formula is the next best thing,” says Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach. “It’s not worth risking going to an online source and getting breast milk from a stranger.” If you do want to donate milk, there are nonprofit milk banks that collect, test, pasteurize, and store human milk for infants, mostly at-risk neonates in hospitals; go to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America for more information.

Hormone products

If you are approaching menopause, you might be tempted to buy hormone replacement medications, creams, or herbs online. “Some women want a quick fix to get their sex drive or chutzpah back,” explains Diana Bitner, MD, an ob/gyn at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids, MI. “I have patients who have bought testosterone pellets on their own. They end up taking so much of the hormone they have really bad side effects, like hair growth, voices deepening, and rage issues,” she explains. Many of these products are not effective, safe, and contain variable amounts of active ingredients.

Same goes for buying soy. “Women will buy a ton of this online and say it doesn’t make them feel better, so they buy more and more,” Dr. Bitner explains. Only about 30% of women’s bodies can actually utilize soy to lessen menopause symptoms, so you may be wasting your money. For any hormone treatment, even if it’s labeled “natural” you need a doctor’s guidance; she can ensure you get the right hormones in the right amount every time that work.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

TIME Healthcare

Inside the Hospital Room of the Future

Go inside the hospital room of the future with Andrew Quirk, a senior vice president at Skanska, to find out what inpatient care might look like by the year 2020

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

4 Surprising Tricks to Beat Pain

woman-headache
Getty Images

Give acupressure a try

You’ve slammed your finger in the door (ouch!), and in that first minute, well, you pretty much think you’re going to die. But don’t freak: Instead, stay calm and cross your fingers. That simple move may be enough to numb the pain a bit, according to a recent study study published in Current Biology.

Really.

After inducing a harmless burning sensation in the fingers of volunteers, researchers found that it’s possible to lessen the feeling by crossing one finger over the other. Why? Turns out how you feel pain is related to where you feel it. By crossing your fingers, you change where your fingers are in relation to one another, and that confuses your brain (in a good way).

“[The burning] feels painful because of a three-way interaction between the nerve pathways that tell the brain about warmth, cold, and pain,” study co-author Elisa Raffaella Ferrè, a research student at the University College London, explained to Health. Having volunteers cross their fingers helped them feel better, suggesting that “changing body posture might trick the brain” in a way that reduces pain, Ferrè added.

But what about all your other aches and pains? There are plenty of other surprising natural tricks to try when you’re hurting. Here are three more science-backed tactics to fight back.

Listen up

Putting on some tunes you love can help soothe your aches, according to a recent study in the journal Plos One. Researchers applied heat to people’s skin in order to cause discomfort. Those who got to jam to their favorite songs reported less pain than those who listened to other sounds or silence, even when the researchers controlled for the placebo effect.

Press here

After giving people with recurring headaches a chance to try either muscle relaxants or acupressure, researchers in a 2010 study found that those in the acupressure group had less pain than those treated with pills. Try it: When you feel a head pounder coming on, apply steady pressure with both thumbs at the base of your head on either side of your spine on and off until you feel better.

Fantasize about food

Next time you have killer menstrual cramps, try imagining chocolate ice cream or your mom’s perfectly buttery mashed potatoes—a 2008 study found that food visualization worked better for pain relief than other imagery, like scenery, or walking around.

Additional reporting by Amelia Harnish

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com