Americans Overwhelmingly Want Federal Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills

Three-quarters of the public — including a majority of Republicans — want the federal government to protect patients from being stuck with surprise medical invoices after they are unwittingly treated by doctors or medical facilities that are out of their insurance network, a poll released Wednesday found.

These unexpected bills, which can be financially crippling, may arise when a patient is taken to the emergency room by an out-of-network ambulance; when the emergency room is not in their insurer’s network; or when their hospital is in their network, but a doctor or specialist within that facility who treats them is not.

Destination Limbo: Health Suffers Among Asylum Seekers In Crowded Border Shelter

Immigrants from Mexico and Central America seeking asylum in the United States frequently end up at border shelters in Tijuana, Mexico. They stay in them for weeks as they wait for the U.S. government to approve or deny their applications.

Most of the refugees get sick during their journeys due to insufficient food, a lack of clean water and poor sanitation at camps and shelters along the way. But perhaps their biggest health problem is depression and anxiety: They have suffered violence and been threatened by gangs and left behind everything they know in the world.

Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ You Have Questions, We Have Answers

This week, KHN’s “What the Health?” panelists answered questions submitted by listeners.

Among the topics covered were what might happen to parts of the Affordable Care Act if a lawsuit now working its way through the courts succeeds in declaring the health law unconstitutional, and how Medicare and Medicaid deal with surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Jennifer Haberkorn of the Los Angeles Times, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner.

The panel addressed questions including the following:

Planned Parenthood’s ‘Risky Strategy’ To Update Its Image

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Trump administration is pushing ahead with its reproductive health agenda. It has rolled out changes to the Title X program, which funds family planning services for low-income people, that are designed to have a chilling effect on organizations that provide abortions or include this option in counseling. It also has nominated federal judges widely believed to support state-level abortion restrictions.

Workplace Wellness Programs Barely Move The Needle, Study Finds

Workplace wellness programs have become an $8 billion industry in the U.S. But a study published Tuesday in JAMA found they don’t cut costs for employers, reduce absenteeism or improve workers’ health.

Most large employers offer some type of wellness program — with growth fueled by incentives in the federal Affordable Care Act.

A host of studies over the years have provided conflicting results about how well they work, with some showing savings and health improvements while others say the efforts fall short.

Heavy Rains, End Of Drought Could Help Keep West Nile Virus Subdued — For Now

The end of California’s drought, announced last month amid one of the rainiest winters in memory, could offer a surprising benefit: reduced transmission of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus.

Longer term, however, more severe droughts associated with climate change could contribute to an increase in the number of infections in the state and nationally.

Drought is the most important weather-related factor that affects the rate of West Nile infection, researchers say. Even though mosquito eggs need water to hatch, dry conditions tend to spur greater transmission of the virus.

Making Smarter Decisions About Where To Recover After Hospitalization

Every year, nearly 2 million people on Medicare — most of them older adults — go to a skilled nursing facility to recover after a hospitalization. But choosing the facility can be daunting, according to an emerging body of research.

Typically, a nurse or a social worker hands out a list of facilities a day or two — sometimes hours — before a patient is due to leave. The list generally lacks such essential information as the services offered or how the facilities perform on various measures of care quality.

Mourning Paradise: Collective Trauma In A Town Destroyed

One of the final memories Carol Holcomb has of her pine-shaded neighborhood was the morning sun that reflected red and gold on her trees last Nov. 8. That day, she said, promised to be a beautiful one in the Butte County town of Paradise.

So she was surprised to hear what sounded like raindrops tapping her roof a short time later. Holcomb, 56, stepped outside to investigate and saw a chunk of pine bark floating down from the sky.

“It was about 3 inches by 2 inches,” she said. “And it was smoking.”

On The Border, Volunteer Doctors Struggle To Provide Stopgap Care To Immigrants

EL PASO, Texas — It wasn’t the rash covering Meliza’s feet and legs that worried Dr. José Manuel de la Rosa. What concerned him were the deep bruises beneath. They were a sign she could be experiencing something far more serious than an allergic reaction.

Meliza’s mom, Magdalena, told the doctor it started with one little bump. Then two. In no time, the 5-year-old’s legs were swollen and red from the knees down.

Fixing Surprise Medical Bill Problem Shouldn’t Fall To Consumers, Panel Told

One point drew clear agreement Tuesday during a House subcommittee hearing: When it comes to the problem of surprise medical bills, the solution must protect patients — not demand that they be great negotiators.

“It is the providers and insurers, not patients, who should bear the burden of settling on a fair payment,” said Frederick Isasi, the executive director of Families USA. He was one of the witnesses who testified before the House Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee of the Education & Labor Committee.