Health care heroes honored | News, Sports, Jobs – Youngstown Vindicator

Staff photo / Bob CouplandBishop David Bonnar of the Diocese of Youngstown, left, speaks with Dr. John Popovec and Alberta Popovec of Boardman after the White Mass on Sunday at St. Columba Cathedral in Youngstown to recognize those in the health care field, who have been affected most by the COVID-19 pandemic.

YOUNGSTOWN The past year has been a challenge for many people because of the coronavirus pandemic, but those in the health care field especially have faced difficulties on the front line and were recognized for what they do at the 25th annual White Mass hosted by the Diocese of Youngstown.

Led by Bishop David Bonnar on Sunday at St. Columba Cathedral, the special Mass praised the work of doctors, nurses, aides, support staff and other health care and mental health professionals.

The power was out for most of the Mass after a car hit a nearby telephone pole, but Bonnar said the lit candles in the sanctuary and the sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows provided a sense of peace.

How dark it has been for many this past year during the pandemic, but we have reached for the light to guide us, Bonnar said.

The theme of his homily was dont despair, which he said is a loss of hope. He started his homily with a joke about a nun giving a homeless man outside the convent a $100 bill with a note wrapped around it that said dont despair. The man returned several days later with stacks of $100 bills that he won after betting on a horse named Dont Despair at the racetrack. The congregation, which included about 50 health care professionals, chuckled at the punchline.

Bonnar, however, quickly turned serious, drawing parallels between the COVID-19 pandemic and two of the readings at Mass that were about people with leprosy, who had to isolate themselves because they were unclean.

During the pandemic, it has been very tempting to despair. We pray fervently for all our sick brothers and sisters and also for the doctors, nurses and other health care staff who care for the sick. Health care workers take many risks to help the sick and suffering. This year stands out as a significant one that has stretched beyond belief every health care worker who has been on the front lines. They do this because they care, Bonnar said.

Bonnar said Jesus does not want anyone to despair or to be in isolation despite their status.

Jesus wants us to touch the untouchable, love the unloveable and forgive the unforgiveable, he said.

Those in the health care profession were asked to stand in their pews for applause and recognition.

Deanna Ford of Poland, director of missions for Mercy Health, said, I work for Mercy Health so this is extremely appreciated. We talk about hope all the time. We thank the Diocese for the recognition, especially for this past year.

We all needed this blessing he gave us for what we have faced. It was nice with all the candles being lit even when the power went out. What would we do if we did not have doctors and nurses? Maureen Fogarty of Youngstown, a speech pathologist, said.

Dr. John Popovec and Alberta Popovec of Boardman said it has been a challenging year.

John said in his 41 years in medicine, he has never seen a year like this.

Coming together and realizing how hard everyone has worked and made sacrifices is important. People have put in so much time and energy during the pandemic, Alberta said.

Dr. James Kravec, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health of Youngstown, said the fact the Diocese continues to have this Mass each year shows how much it cares for the many health care workers in the community.

This year is even more important than ever given the fact health care workers are working harder and taking care of more and more patients. It has been a challenging year, and these many heroes are out there doing wonderful work for the patients and taking care of those in their communities. It is wonderful the Diocese is celebrating them at this special Mass, Kravec said.

Kravec said he has attended the White Mass for many years, including while he was in medical school.

He said it is encouraging so many people are getting vaccines as well as continuing to social distance and wear masks.

I am hopeful we will be able to get back to some form of normalcy this year, Kravec said.

He is a member of St. Christine Parish in Youngstown and was there with his wife, Dr. Cynthia Kravec, who did the readings, and their four children.

David Schmidt, director of the Diocesan Office of Pro-Life, Marriage and Family Life, said normally, a reception takes place in the parish hall after the Mass, but it was canceled because of the pandemic.

This is the Dioceses way of honoring health care professionals and celebrating the work that they do. Anyone in the health care professions needs an extra blessing for the work they have done and challenges thay faced this past year, Schmidt said.

He said usually, many retired health care professionals come to the Mass, but they were unable to do so because of the pandemic. They would have watched a livestream of the service, but the power outage just before Mass changed that.

Metro editor Marly Reichert contributed to this report.


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Health care heroes honored | News, Sports, Jobs - Youngstown Vindicator

Black community leaders to discuss vaccines and repairing trust in health care – wcia.com

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) The local Black Lives Matter chapter will host a discussion on the disparities Black people routinely face in the health care system in regards to the COVID-19 vaccination.

The virtual event is open to the public and will take place on Wednesday, February 17th, at 6:30 pm on the groups Facebook page. The discussion will be led by four panelists and a moderator who are all leaders of the Black community, including Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

Sunshine Clemons, president of the Springfield Black Lives Matter chapter, says while the event is during Black History Month, it is open to everyone regardless of their race or age. Clemons believes that more people are traditionally inclined to learning about Black history during this time. She hopes the event helps to educate people on the long standing history of distrust within the Black community toward the health care system due to some horrendous acts that were previously performed and neglected care.

This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, Clemons said. Its not solely on Black people to correct this..So it is open to everyone and you cant really work to rectify an issue if you dont know whats causing the issue. So this will give some historical context and background as to what some of the problems are and how we can all work together to correct this.

Following the discussion, attendees will be able to voice any questions or concerns.

Clemons says she hopes the event will help build comfort for those who are reluctant about receiving the Coronavirus vaccine.

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Black community leaders to discuss vaccines and repairing trust in health care - wcia.com

Gourmet Cookie owner sharing the love with health care workers by donating treats for each dozen cookies sold – WATE 6 On Your Side

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) Heres your chance to help a local business and thank a healthcare hero.

Valentines Day is almost here, but one cookie company is sharing the cookie love all month long.

They are delightful, delectable, edible works of art.

I would describe them as delicious pieces of cookie love, The Gourmet Cookie Knoxville owner Ashley Martinez said.

Ashley turned her love of creating the beautiful cookies into a business four years ago.

Now, shes giving back that cookie love.

Throughout the month of February, when you buy a dozen cookies at http://www.thegourmetcookietn.com, Ashley will send a dozen of the fancy treats to hardworking heroes at area hospitals.

Weve been lining them up, Ashley said. We have UT Medical Center, Parkwest Hospital, also were trying to get East Tennessee Childrens Hospital.

Thanks, Ashley, for creating these scrumptious cookies for all to enjoy.

I just thought what can we do to put a sweet smile on their faces, she said.

There is also a thank you dinner giveaway for one local area healthcare worker. Check the Thank a Health Care Worker section on The Gourmet Cookie Knoxville website to nominate a health care hero in your life.


Gourmet Cookie owner sharing the love with health care workers by donating treats for each dozen cookies sold - WATE 6 On Your Side

Funding for Health Care Providers During the Pandemic: An Update – Kaiser Family Foundation

From the early days of the pandemic, Congress and the Administration adopted a number of policies to ease financial pressure on hospitals and other health care providers. The infusion of funds responded to concerns about the potential fiscal impact of revenue loss due to fewer admissions and other services, coupled with higher costs associated with COVID-19. Nearly one year later, this brief describes the main sources of federal funds for health care providers and how those funds have been allocated. It also reviews what is known about the economic impact of COVID-19 on providers.

The $178 billion provider relief fund originally created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has been a major source of financial assistance for hospitals and other health care providers. Through this fund, virtually all health care providers have now qualified for a general grant that amounted to at least 2% of their previous annual patient revenue. This approach used one formula to distribute funds across a diverse set of providers in a relatively short period of time, but it did favor some providers over others. As previous KFF analysis shows, hospitals with a larger share of revenue from privately insured patients received a disproportionately large share of these grants because private insurers tend to reimburse at higher rates than Medicare and Medicaid. Certain hospitalssafety net hospitals, childrens hospitals or hospitals that treated a large number of COVID-19 patients early in the pandemiclater qualified for additional grants totaling $37 billion (Figure 1). Rural providers also qualified for $11.3 billion in extra grants. In addition, $9.4 billion was allocated for skilled nursing facilities, which account for a disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths.

As of February 10, 2021, about $26 billion remains in the fund. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 requires that 85% of remaining funds be made available to providers to help cover revenue losses or additional expenses due to COVID-19. This same law also changed the rules regarding how the provider relief funds can be used, making it easier for providers to keep their grants even if they were more profitable in 2020 than in previous years.

In addition to the Provider Relief Fund, the federal government has provided financial support to health care providers in response to the pandemic through other programs and policies.

Together, these programs and policies were adopted early in the COVID-19 pandemic in response to the dramatic drop in health care consumption and revenues. Recent studies show that health care spending has since rebounded and overall health spending was up slightly in the third quarter of 2020, as compared to 2019. Year-to-date health services spending was down by 2.4% as of the third quarter of 2020 (relative to year-to-date spending as of third quarter in 2019). Changes in year-to-date spending varied by type of service, with physician office revenue down 4.0% and hospital revenue down 1.7%.

The federal financial assistance for providers has helped them cope with the financial impact of the pandemic. With year-to-date hospital revenue down by 1.7% by the third quarter of 2020, the CARES ACT grants, based on a minimum of 2% of patient revenue, would offset revenue losses for the average hospital. Reports in the press and earnings statements for hospitals suggest that some hospitals have done well and were profitable in 2020. Analysis from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission found that new federal funds made available to skilled nursing facilities and health professionals likely offset a majority of their financial losses caused by COVID-19.

When hospitals and other health care providers experienced steep drops in revenue early in the pandemic, Congress stepped in with an infusion of funds to bolster these providers. Health care spending has now largely stabilized, though health care providers may still be facing increased expenses to respond to the pandemic and remain a sympathetic constituency. However, many other parts of the economy continue to suffer, and COVID-19 is still negatively impacting the labor market. This suggests that it may be time to shift more resources to help individuals weather the COVID-19 pandemic, creating significant resource needs elsewhere as well.

This work was supported in part by Arnold Ventures. We value our funders. KFF maintains full editorial control over all of its policy analysis, polling, and journalism activities.

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Funding for Health Care Providers During the Pandemic: An Update - Kaiser Family Foundation

City adds disabled residents, home health care providers to list of groups eligible for vaccinations | City of Detroit – City of Detroit

Residents of Detroit with documented intellectual or developmental disabilities are now eligible to be vaccinated at TCF Center, Mayor Mike Duggan announced today. The city also is adding to the eligibility list home health care providers who live in Detroit.

The announcement is the latest move by the city to reach its most vulnerable populations. Earlier this week, the Mayor announced Senior Saturdays, as series of weekend vaccination events for Detroiters age 65+ starting this Saturday, as well as a program to provide $2 rides to TCF center for Detroit residents who may not have their own transportation. That program includes wheelchair accessible vehicles for individuals with physical disabilities.

As a city, we recognize that individuals with certain conditions are more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to a weakened immune system or being unable to properly socially distance, said Mayor Duggan. Only four states in the country have specifically opened access to disabled residents and in Detroit we are making them among our highest priority.

Disabled residents wishing to make an appointment at TCF can do so starting today by calling 313-230-0505. Wheelchair accessible transportation can be arranged after your vaccination appointment is scheduled by calling 313-208-7364. Among the conditions covered by the Mayors directive are:

When they arrive for their appointment at TCF, the patient will be asked to show evidence of their condition, such as a health provider note, insurance record, prescription bottle or any other document that verifies their condition.

The Mayor also added home health care providers living in Detroit to care for their patient to the eligibility list. Part time care providers and those working at congregate settings have been eligible since January 28th in Detroit.

It is required that the home health care provider make his or her appointment at the same time as their patient and that they arrive at TCF in the same vehicle.

The City recently partnered with the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network to begin delivering vaccines on site at adult foster care homes and other group settings with highly vulnerable populations.

At his briefing today, Mayor Duggan introduced his new Director of Disability Affairs, Chris Samp. Samp, who is deaf, will be leading the citys efforts to ensure that Detroits disabled community is considered across the spectrum of city services to recommend, develop and implement new policies and practices to support them. The Office of Disability Affairs is a division of the Department of Civil Right, Inclusion & Opportunity, led by Charity Dean.

The opening of the office of disability affairs is a major milestone for the City of Detroit. Together, we will strengthen accessibility, employment and housing opportunities and make pedestrian routes safer, Samp said. Mayor Duggans expansion of equitable access to vaccinations for individuals with disabilities is a huge step in the right direction. The disability community is not expendible and they are a valued part of our community."

Starting this weekend, the Detroit Health Department will be partnering with two of the citys largest churches to hold weekly vaccination fairs exclusively for Detroit residents ages 65 and older. Fellowship Chapel will hold its first fair this Saturday, February 13, from 9 AM to 1 PM and Second Ebenezer will hold its event the same day from 1 -5 PM

The events at both churches will repeat each Saturday on February 20th & 27th and March 6th. Up to 500 vaccinations will be scheduled at each location, each day. Eligible residents can call 313-230-0505 to schedule their appointment at either church.

Vaccinations will be administered by appointment only. Workers and residents will not be vaccinated without having first made an appointment. Individuals must call 313-230-0505 to schedule.

Grocery store and security guard employees scheduling appointments will be required to provide their name, residence address and age. For greater efficiency and convenience, the city is recommending that when possible, eligible members of the same family or neighbors schedule jointly and arrive in the same vehicle. Group B essential workers will be required to provide the name of their employer and their most recent pay stub to verify their eligibility.

Second vaccination requiredWhen they schedule their appointment, individuals will be provided TWO appointment dates, one for the first dose and another for the required second dose. Call center staff will contact each scheduled person prior to their second appointment to remind them. Individuals also will be provided specific instructions on when and where to arrive to the TCF Center, where they will be required to fill out a basic consent form.

After receiving their vaccination, individuals will be required to remain in their vehicles inside the TCF garage for a period of approximately 15 minutes to make sure they are not experiencing any side effects. Medical staff will be on hand to assist any who may experience any side effects. Appointments should last approximately one hour once the person enters the TCF garage.

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City adds disabled residents, home health care providers to list of groups eligible for vaccinations | City of Detroit - City of Detroit

Vaccine rollout wont be equitable unless health care reckons with racism – The Verge

The pandemic has been anything but the great equalizer that some people called it when it started more than a year ago. Here in the US, COVID-19 has sickened and killed a disproportionate number of Black, Native American, and Latinx people. Vaccine rollout is proving to be inequitable, too. Black and Latinx elders in Los Angeles, for example, have been vaccinated at a lower rate than their white and Asian American counterparts.

Distrust in vaccines has been a challenge across the board. But Black Americans were less inclined than other racial and ethnic groups to want to get vaccinated, according to a Pew Research Center survey from December. To fix a system that isnt fully serving Black Americans and other people of color, There really needs to be some healing, says Melva Thompson-Robinson, executive director of the Center for Health Disparities Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The Verge spoke with Thompson-Robinson about the roots of that distrust and how to heal.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How does distrust for vaccines in communities of color differ from white celebrities or conspiracy theorists who are anti-vaxxers?

Its not just a simple matter of, Oh, I dont believe that something works because this is what I heard. This is about that deep-rooted, historical trauma that has been carried down through generations. That distrust comes out of the racism that they experience. When youre talking about African Americans, in particular, youre talking about a group of people who are descendants of slaves.

And so its a different kind of thing. Its not I believe that these vaccines arent effective because I heard thats what somebody said. This is Im not trusting because of the experience that my family has had under slavery.

A big thing now is people are looking at whos in charge. Whos running the vaccine trials? Whos participating in the trials? They say, Well, I dont see people who look like me. Or I do see people who look like me. And all of that is huge. We need to see people who look like us who are involved.

What are some of those historical traumas that have led to distrust of vaccines among some people of color?

When you start to talk particularly about slaves, one of the men who is credited as being the founder of gynecology actually did surgery on Black women because they were considered property. He was doing gynecological surgery with no anesthesia because part of the thought was Well, they dont experience pain.

Thats not true. All people experience pain.

You can jump the Tuskegee syphilis study. You could also even look at the story of Henrietta Lacks, who had cervical cancer. And they harvested her cells at Johns Hopkins and still to this day still use her cells for research.

So people are saying, Well, you need to trust the health care system. But health care systems, health care facilities, and health care providers need to act in a trustful manner. You cant just expect people to say, Oh yeah, Ill now trust you after centuries of mistrust.

How do we see inequities playing out today when it comes to vaccine rollout in the US?

The challenge has been with some of the vaccines that you have to have very specialized storage capabilities, which then has limited where some of these can be distributed. Communities of color dont always have access to those storage facilities.

For people working in grocery stores or other retail and food outlets, its not as simple for them to take time off to go to an appointment. If they dont have sick leave or they have a limited amount of leave, they cant go and stand in line for hours at a time.

Another challenge is the messaging thats going out to people. You already know that you have populations that are concerned about getting the vaccine. So the messaging for that population needs to be different.

Theres no one size fits all prescription for how to reach out to different communities of color. But what should solutions or outreach strategies look like?

Here in Clark County where Las Vegas is located, the governor just came out last week with an equity initiative. Because if you look at the data, where the cases are versus where people are who are getting the vaccine its two different places within the same city. Its not the same group of people. Were seeing this inequitable distribution of resources. Were in this perfect storm, and in order to survive it, I think there has to be some relinquishing of power.

There really needs to be some healing and some stepping back. Not rushing, but stepping back and saying: You know what, we hear what youre saying. We understand where weve done wrong, and we want to do better.

Heres what else is happening this week.

The fast-spreading coronavirus variant is turning up in US sewersSome researchers are tracking coronavirus variants through US sewer systems. For more on sewers and COVID-19, check out Verge Sciences video from last year. (Antonio Regalado / MIT Tech Review)

Doctors and lawmakers call on FDA to address racial disparities in pulse oximetersPulse oximeters can measure the amount of oxygen in peoples blood through their skin, but they arent as accurate in people of color. Some experts are calling on the FDA to review these devices effectiveness. (Erin Brodwin and Nicholas St.Fleur / STAT)

Childhood Colds Do Not Prevent Coronavirus Infection, Study FindsFor a while, some people thought that children might be less vulnerable to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 because they had been exposed to other coronaviruses that cause colds. This is not the case. A study found that those other coronaviruses didnt produce antibodies that were effective against the new coronavirus. (Apoorva Mandavilli / The New York Times)

How Merck, a Vaccine Titan, Lost the Covid RaceA look at why a pharmaceutical giant dropped out of the vaccine race and where they might go from here. (Katie Thomas / The New York Times)

AstraZenecas COVID-19 vaccine has been confusing from the startEarlier this week, South Africa decided to pause the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after it performed poorly against a widespread variant in a small trial. Later this week, the WHO recommended that the vaccine should still be used. (Nicole Wetsman / The Verge)

Covid-19 vaccination rates follow the money in states with the biggest wealth gaps, analysis showsStates with large wealth gaps, like Connecticut, are seeing huge disparities in vaccination rates. In Connecticut, theres a 65 percent difference in vaccination rates between the wealthiest and poorest communities. (Olivia Goldhill / STAT)

I do my shift, wash my face, change my clothes and then get on the app.

Emergency room doctor Daniel Fagbuyi tells Bloomberg about his voluntary second shift: countering vaccine misinformation on social media app Clubhouse.

To the more than 108,030,043 people worldwide who have tested positive, may your road to recovery be smooth.

To the families and friends of the 2,377,268 people who have died worldwide 479,458 of those in the US your loved ones are not forgotten.

Stay safe, everyone.

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Vaccine rollout wont be equitable unless health care reckons with racism - The Verge

Delawareans Will Have New Opportunity to Gain Health Insurance Through HealthCare.Gov from Feb. 15 to May 15 – State of Delaware News -…

NEW CASTLE (Feb. 9, 2021) Delawareans looking for affordable health insurance will have an additional opportunity to sign up for coverage including tax credits for eligible enrollees that help to reduce monthly premiums significantly from Feb. 15 to May 15 on HealthCare.gov, the federal online Health Insurance Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In light of the exceptional challenges and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, President Joe Biden signed an executive order Jan. 28 that created a three-month special enrollment period (SEP) to give Americans greater access to health insurance, including those who lost their job or their coverage as part of the fallout from the pandemic.

Access to affordable health care remains a critical need for all Delawareans as we continue to fight the spread of the coronavirus. I am grateful to President Biden for giving state residents this additional opportunity to get the coverage they need, said Delaware Gov. John Carney. I encourage everyone to spread the word about the benefits of enrolling in coverage through HealthCare.gov during this three-month sign-up period.

This special enrollment period provides a great opportunity for Delawareans who are looking for high-quality, affordable health insurance, especially those impacted by the pandemic, said DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik. Despite the success of the Health Insurance Marketplace since it opened eight years ago, many state residents still lack insurance, and some might remain unaware that they can access comprehensive care and, in many cases, get financial help to afford it through HealthCare.gov.

The marketplaces annual open enrollment period for 2021 coverage ended Dec. 15, and since then individuals could get coverage only if they experienced a life event that qualified them to apply for a special enrollment period. The new three-month enrollment period is open to all eligible applicants who want to apply for coverage or change their existing coverage for any reason; applicants wont be required to provide documentation of a qualifying event (e.g., loss of a job or birth of a child).

Individuals currently covered under a marketplace plan will be able to change to any plan available in Delaware without being restricted to the same level of coverage as their current plan. Current enrollees will need to go through their existing application and make any necessary changes then submit their application in order to receive an updated eligibility result.

Eligible individuals who enroll under the special enrollment period will have 30 days after they submit their application to choose a plan. Note that even after the special enrollment period ends May 15, individuals who experience qualifying life-changing events will be eligible to enroll for marketplace coverage. (It is also worth noting that proof of insurance is not required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, once your group becomes eligible.)

Delaware is one of 36 states that use HealthCare.gov for eligible residents to sign up for coverage. More than 25,000 Delawareans signed up for 2021 coverage during the recent open enrollment period.

The special enrollment period is available to all marketplace-eligible individuals who are submitting a new application or updating an existing application. You can enroll in marketplace coverage at http://www.HealthCare.gov or http://www.CuidadodeSalud.gov or by calling 1 (800) 318-2596 (TTY: 1 855 889-4325).

Applicants will need to provide the following when applying for coverage:

About 6.6 percent of Delawareans remain uninsured, according to the 2020 Americas Health Rankings. Thats down significantly from the nearly 10 percent who lacked insurance in 2010 before the ACA and the Health Insurance Marketplace existed.

For nearly a year, we have hoped that the Health Insurance Marketplace would allow for greater enrollment opportunities in response to the pandemic and economic conditions. President Biden has made it happen, said Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro. This Special Enrollment Period will help ensure Delaware residents have access to comprehensive health insurance that protects pre-existing conditions. And, because weve reduced rates by more than 19% over the past two years, these plans are more affordable for residents.

Support from Congressional delegation

Delawares U.S. senators and representative urged uninsured or underinsured Delawareans, especially those who may have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, to find out whats available for them on the marketplace during the three-month enrollment period.

President Biden understands that it is critical for Americans to be able to access the care and coverage they need during an unprecedented pandemic. Thats why hes beginning a new open enrollment period so that Delawareans, and families across this country, have another chance to enroll in a health insurance plan and get covered this year, said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, who helped pen the Affordable Care Act that created the marketplaces. Dont leave your familys well-being to chance. Enroll in an affordable, high-quality health insurance plan today that meets your needs and your budget.

I commend the Biden administration for reopening the federal online Health Insurance Marketplace, which will allow Delawareans, particularly those impacted by COVID-19, another opportunity to sign up for the health insurance coverage that best meets their needs, said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons. Ensuring that Delawareans have access to quality, affordable health care is critical, even more so during a pandemic. I urge all Delawareans who need health coverage to assess their options during this three-month special enrollment period.

As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic, and Americans are in need of affordable and accessible care, it is crucial that comprehensive health coverage is available to all those that need it, said U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. A special enrollment period is critical for allowing Delawareans in need of health insurance to sign up. Im grateful to President Biden for reopening the Health Insurance Marketplace and ensuring that everyone who needs coverage has access.

Whats covered

All plans on the marketplace offer essential health benefits such as coverage of pre-existing medical conditions, outpatient care (including telehealth services), emergency services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health and substance use disorder services, lab services, and pediatric services.

Marketplace plans cant terminate coverage due to a change in health status, including diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19. The rules in marketplace plans for treatment of COVID-19 are the same as for any other viral infection; enrollees are encouraged to check their particular plan for complete information about benefits.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware is the sole health insurer offering plans on Delawares Health Insurance Marketplace for 2021. Highmark offers 12 plans for individuals and families. Two dental insurers Delta Dental of Delaware, Inc. and Dominion Dental Services, Inc. offer a collective 11 stand-alone dental plans on the marketplace.


About 86 percent of marketplace enrollees in Delaware in 2020 were eligible for federal tax credits, which help reduce the cost of the monthly premium.

Tax credits are available for those whose household income is between 138 percent and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. For 2021 coverage, thats between $17,609 and $51,040 for an individual, or between $36,156 and $104,800 for a family of four.

According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the overall average monthly premium in Delaware in 2020 was $668, with the average premium reduced to $192 per month after tax credit. For the 86 percent of Delawareans who received financial assistance, the average premium after tax credit was $110 per month.

Plans on the marketplace are spread among metal-level categories bronze, silver, gold and platinum and are based on how enrollees choose to split the costs of care with their insurance company. Bronze plans have low monthly premiums but high costs when you need care; gold plans have high premiums but lower costs when you need care. In a silver plan, the insurer pays about 70 percent of medical costs and the consumer pays about 30 percent. For any marketplace plan in 2021, individual consumers cant pay more than $8,550 in out-of-pocket medical costs and families cant pay more than $17,100.

Catastrophic plans are also available to some people. Catastrophic plans have low monthly premiums and very high deductibles. They may be an affordable way to protect yourself from worst-case scenarios, like getting seriously sick or injured. But you pay most routine medical expenses yourself.

Consumers who pick silver health care plans might also qualify for additional savings through discounts on deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. In Delaware, about 29 percent of current enrollees qualify for cost-sharing reductions.

Where to find help

Delawareans who want help enrolling in coverage will have access to free assistance from trained specialists at Westside Family Healthcare. Virtual and phone appointments are encouraged; in-person appointments are limited and must be made in advance. Because of the pandemic, walk-ins are not permitted. Assistance is available in any language and for all Delaware residents. Call 302-472-8655 in New Castle County, 302-678-2205 in Kent/Sussex counties or email enrollment@westsidehealth.org.

State-licensed insurance agents and brokers are also available to help individuals re-enroll and to help employers update their coverage, at no extra charge. See a list at ChooseHealthDE.com.


President Bidens executive order also called for states to reexamine policies, such as work requirements, that restrict access to coverage through Medicaid, which pays medical bills for eligible low-income families and others whose income is insufficient to meet the cost of necessary medical services. This part of the presidents order does not affect Delaware, which under the ACA expanded access to Medicaid starting in 2014. More than 10,000 Delawareans have received coverage under the states Medicaid expansion. To be screened for eligibility or to apply for Medicaid benefits year-round, go to Delaware ASSIST.

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Delawareans Will Have New Opportunity to Gain Health Insurance Through HealthCare.Gov from Feb. 15 to May 15 - State of Delaware News -...

New help to quit smoking; how to get the health care you need – The Union Leader

Q: You talk about this a lot, but I just bombed out one more time on my stop-smoking attempt. I have tried patches, group support, daily mantras, exercising. But I always go back. Any new ideas? --Phil Y., Dunedin, Fla.

A: Your dedication is terrific and the key to success. Dont give up! Its important to realize that doctors and researchers see tobacco use as a chronic, relapsing substance-use disorder. Getting free takes time. Around 55% of Americans who smoke tried to quit in the previous year, but only 7.5% succeeded. Most people try to quit five to seven times before they do it for good. The new news is that there are some breakthroughs in understanding whats most effective.

Incentive: Its more important than ever to quit, since a new study in Thorax found people who smoke and test positive for COVID-19 are 200% more likely to end up in the hospital and 50% more likely to report over 10 COVID-19-related symptoms, including loss of smell, skipping meals, diarrhea, fatigue, confusion or muscle pain. More symptoms indicate a more severe case of COVID-19.

A plan: A recent study in JAMA says using varenicline is more effective than a nicotine patch or bupropion and using varenicline and a patch is even more powerful, although there is a slight increase in side effects.

Varenicline is a drug that reduces cravings for and the pleasurable effects of tobacco. You can take it before you quit to help you get there and after you quit to help you stay the course. The researchers recommend that varenicline be used for 12 weeks or longer. The problem: You cant drive or operate heavy machinery while taking it, so start while youre working from home!

The study also stresses that behavioral therapy should be part of a quit plan. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions 800-QUIT-NOW for info and coaching help. You can do it!

Q: Every time I have to interact with my health insurance, a doctors office or a hospital, I end up with the nagging feeling that Im not getting the best care I could be. Why does the U.S. health care system seem like such a mess?

Jess H., Lincoln, Neb.

A: It breaks our heart, but according to a well-done new study in JAMA Internal Medicine, the U.S. spends more than $3.5 trillion per year on healthcare, 25% more per capita than the next-highest-spending country. However ... compared with countries tracked by the Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. ranks behind every country on causes of preventable mortality that could have been addressed by health system interventions.

Where does that leave you? With a lot of work to make sure you stay healthy and a lot of work to make sure youre getting the best care you can. Fortunately, you can accomplish those things if you follow some pretty straightforward advice. In his upcoming book The Great Age Reboot, Dr. Mike predicts that scientific breakthroughs in aging research will help you live 30 years longer and younger. But you need to adopt a great lifestyle to benefit fully from these scientific breakthroughs. So here are four steps to help you regain control of your wellbeing day-to-day and when interacting with the health care system.

1. Follow the lifesaving nutritional advice in Dr. Mikes book What to Eat When and look at OzTube on doctoroz.com (search for exercise) for a complete rundown of activity choices.

2. Stay up to date with your regular checkups and vaccinations dont put it off.

3. Go to your doctor with written-out questions; take a family member or friend with you so they can ask questions too. Insist on being heard. Never hesitate to go for a second opinion.

4. If you go into the hospital, arrange to have the patient ombudsman talk to you so you know your rights, have an advocate and get answers to questions especially if family cannot be at your bedside.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of The Dr. Oz Show, and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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New help to quit smoking; how to get the health care you need - The Union Leader

Health Care Workers Hit Hard by the Coronavirus Pandemic – The New York Times

Dr. Sheetal Khedkar Rao, 42, an internist in suburban Chicago, cant pinpoint the exact moment when she decided to hang up her stethoscope for the last time. There were the chaos and confusion of the spring, when a nationwide shortage of N95 masks forced her to examine patients with a surgical mask, the fears she might take the coronavirus home to her family and the exasperating public disregard for mask-wearing and social distancing that was amplified by the White House.

Among the final blows, though, were a 30 percent pay cut to compensate for a drop in patients seeking primary care, and the realization that she needed to spend more time at home after her children, 10 and 11, switched to remote learning.

Everyone says doctors are heroes and they put us on a pedestal, but we also have kids and aging parents to worry about, said Dr. Rao, who left her practice in October. After awhile, the emotional burden and moral injury become too much to bear.

Doctors, paramedics and nurses aides have been hailed as Americas frontline Covid warriors, but gone are the days when people applauded workers outside hospitals and on city streets.

Now, a year into the pandemic, with emergency rooms packed again, vaccines in short supply and more contagious variants of the virus threatening to unleash a fresh wave of infections, the nations medical workers are feeling burned out and unappreciated.

Over the last year, there have been the psychological trauma of overworked intensive care doctors forced to ration care, the crushing sense of guilt for nurses who unknowingly infected patients or family members, and the struggles of medical personnel who survived Covid-19 but are still hobbled by the fatigue and brain fog that hamper their ability to work.

Researchers say the pandemics toll on the nations health care work force will play out long after the coronavirus is tamed. The impact, for now, can be measured in part by a surge of early retirements and the desperation of community hospitals struggling to hire enough workers to keep their emergency rooms running.

Everyone wants to talk about vaccines, vaccines, vaccines, but for our members, all they want to talk about is work force, work force, work force, said Alan Morgan, chief executive of the National Rural Health Association. Right now our hospitals and our workers are just getting crushed.

Some health care experts are calling for a national effort to track the psychological well-being of medical professionals, much like the federal health program that monitors workers who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

We have a great obligation to people who put their lives on the line for the nation, said Dr. Victor J. Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine.

Celia Nieto, 44, an intensive care nurse in Las Vegas, said many Americans had scant appreciation for the tribulations that she and her colleagues face day after day. There is the physical exhaustion of lifting and turning patients on their bellies so they might breathe easier, the never-ending scramble to adjust ventilators and pain medication, and the mental anguish of telling relatives she doesnt have the time to help them FaceTime with their loved ones.

It feels like were failing, when in actuality were working with what weve got and we dont have enough, she said. We feel quite helpless, and its a real injury to our psyches.

Dr. Donald Pathman, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said he was struck by the early results of a study he has been conducting on the pandemics effect on clinicians who serve in poor communities. Many of the 2,000 medical, dental and mental health professionals who have participated in the survey so far say they are disillusioned.

There is a lot of personal trauma, Dr. Pathman said. Many people have been scarred by their experiences during the pandemic, and they will look to leave their practices.

In interviews, doctors who have recently left the field or are considering early retirement said the pandemic had exacerbated frustrations spurred by shifts in the business of medical care that often required them to work longer hours without increased compensation.

In a survey released in September by the online site Medscape, two-thirds of American doctors said they had grappled with intense burnout during the pandemic, with a similar percentage reporting a drop in income. A quarter of respondents said their experiences with Covid had led them to exit the medical field.

Another survey, by the Physicians Foundation, found that 8 percent of doctors in the United States had closed their offices during the pandemic, translating to 16,000 fewer private practices.

Feb. 14, 2021, 8:48 p.m. ET

Dr. Erica Bial, a pain specialist from suburban Boston who barely survived Covid-19 last spring, said she felt increasingly drained.

We put on our masks and come to work every day because we dont have the luxury of working from home in our pajamas, but the apathy and ennui thats taken hold of society just makes our job feel thankless, said Dr. Bial, who works full time despite struggling with the lingering effects of her illness. Its so demoralizing.

Staffing shortages have been especially acute at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. They were already struggling to retain employees before the pandemic, but many are now facing an existential shortage of skilled workers. According to a study released last week by the nonpartisan U.S. PIRG Education Fund, more than 20 percent of the nations 15,000 nursing homes reported severe shortages of nursing aides in December, up from 17 percent in May, a significant jump over such a short period.

As more and more medical staff members fall ill or quit, those who remain on the job have to work harder, and the quality of care invariably suffers, said Dr. Michael L. Barnett, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who served as a consultant to the study.

Its a recipe for a collapse in the work force, he said.

So far, the federal government has shown little interest in addressing what Dr. Dzau, of the National Academy of Medicine, writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, described as a parallel pandemic of psychological trauma among health workers.

He and other experts say the government should start by making a concerted effort to accurately count medical worker infections and fatalities.

There is no comprehensive federal government count of worker deaths. But according to a tally by Kaiser Health News and the Guardian, more than 3,300 nurses, doctors, social workers and physical therapists have died from Covid-19 since March.

Experts say the death toll is most likely far higher. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts 1,332 deaths among medical personnel, which is striking given that its sister agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, lists roughly the same number of deaths just among nursing home workers a small portion of those employed by the nations hospitals, health clinics and private practices.

A number of studies suggest that medical professionals made up 10 percent to 20 percent of all coronavirus cases in the early months of the pandemic though they comprise roughly 4 percent of the population.

Christopher R. Friese, a researcher at University of Michigan, said the governments failure to track health care workers had most likely contributed to many unnecessary deaths. Without detailed, comprehensive data, he said, federal health authorities have been hamstrung in their ability to identify patterns and come up with interventions.

The number of health care worker deaths in this country are staggering, but as shocking and horrifying as they are, we cant be surprised because some very basic tools to address the crisis were left on the shelf, said Dr. Friese, who directs the schools Center for Improving Patient and Population Health.

Jasmine Reed, a spokeswoman for the C.D.C., acknowledged the limitations of its coronavirus case data, noting that the agency relies on reporting from state health departments and that can vary according to the state. At least a dozen states do not even participate in the C.D.C.s reporting process, she said.

Many medical workers who have survived Covid-19 face more immediate challenges. Dr. Bial, the pain specialist from Boston, is still plagued by fatigue and impaired lung function.

The day before I got sick, I could comfortably run eight to 10 miles, said Dr. Bial, 45, who started a Facebook group memorializing doctors lost to Covid. Now I go out for a brisk walk and my heart is pounding. Im starting to wonder whether these effects could be permanent.

Dr. Andrew T. Chan, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who has been studying the pandemics disproportionate toll on health care workers, said his preliminary research suggested that long haulers in the medical field suffer greater health challenges than the overall population. That is in part because they are often exposed to increased levels of virus, which can lead to more severe illness.

Another factor, he said, is that the worsening staffing shortages in much of the country lead many Covid survivors to return to work before they have fully recovered.

Health care workers are likely to experience a greater risk of long-term complications, Dr. Chan said. Covid could impact our health care system for years to come by not only depleting our work force but by impairing the ability of survivors to do their jobs.

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Health Care Workers Hit Hard by the Coronavirus Pandemic - The New York Times

What Health Care Providers and Facilities Should Know About the PREP Act’s "Covered Countermeasures" – JD Supra

As many businesses and those in the health care industry wonder what protections, if any, they have against COVID-19-related litigation claims, Jackson Walker's Healthcare practice chair, Virginia Mimmack, and healthcare litigator Brad Nitschke discuss the patchwork laws and regulations of federal, state, and local governments. While the PREP Act allows for certain "covered countermeasures" for litigation claims, the expansion of telehealth services beyond traditional state borders raises questions about what protections are provided Seemore+

As many businesses and those in the health care industry wonder what protections, if any, they have against COVID-19-related litigation claims, Jackson Walker's Healthcare practice chair, Virginia Mimmack, and healthcare litigator Brad Nitschke discuss the patchwork laws and regulations of federal, state, and local governments. While the PREP Act allows for certain "covered countermeasures" for litigation claims, the expansion of telehealth services beyond traditional state borders raises questions about what protections are provided for COVID-19-related activities performed by telehealth workers. Seeless-

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What Health Care Providers and Facilities Should Know About the PREP Act's "Covered Countermeasures" - JD Supra

These Are The States Attempting to Pass Anti-Trans Health Care Bills – Human Rights Campaign

Now, theyre targeting our communitys health care.

This legislative session, states across the country are trying to prevent transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming healthcare.

Right now, theres at least 15 bills targeting the trans community and our ability to seek medical care. Heres a running list of some of the bills were tracking, and what you can do to help:


This anti-trans medical bill in Alabama (HB 1/SB 10) is called Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act. Despite its name, this bill has nothing to do with compassion or protection - and seeks to harm trans youth, not protect them. This bill would impose criminal penalties on medical professionals and parents who provide best practice gender-affirming care to trans youth.

This is an appalling overreach. Alabaman legislators are trying to tell parents how to care for their trans kids -- and theyre dead wrong.

Fight back now. If you live in Alabama, you can help us.

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These Are The States Attempting to Pass Anti-Trans Health Care Bills - Human Rights Campaign

Many health care workers turned down their COVID vaccine. Here’s why – KGW.com

Data show about 62% of nursing home workers nationwide have not gotten vaccinated for COVID-19. Many Portland hospital employees have also declined the vaccine.

PORTLAND, Ore. While thousands of people are still waiting to get the vaccine, there is a large group not getting it when offered.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 62% of nursing home workers across the country have not gotten the vaccine.

The CDC looked at more than 11,000 senior living facilities that held one vaccination clinic between mid-December and mid-January. While 78% of residents got the shot, only 37.5% of staff members did.

Melissa Unger, executive director for SEIO 503, which represents 73,000 nursing and home health care aides across Oregon, said there are several reasons why she believes workers declined the shot.

Unger said this is a young workforce with a distrust of government. Many nursing home workers have low wages and a difficult relationship with their employer.

Unger also said a large percentage of nursing home workers are people of color, who are historically vaccine hesitant.

"There are a lot of reasons. These are some of the first people to get it, lots of these people have had COVID because there's been massive outbreaks, so they question, do they need it? So, there's just a lot of factors that I think are really coming into play, said Unger, who believes most nursing home workers will eventually get the shot.

Its not just nursing home workers. Some hospital employees are also declining or refusing the COVID vaccine.

KGW Investigates checked with the major hospital systems in the Portland and found:

A spokesperson for OHSU said they dont have a number of who refused of declined the vaccine. Kaiser and Legacy Health officials told KGW they don't keep track of how many employees declined the vaccine.

Some workers have cited side effect concerns or wanting to give the shot to someone more vulnerable as reasons why they waited.

Its not a great idea for the people that are bathed in COVID like we are to refuse to get it because they themselves can be spreaders, said Dr. Mauricio Heilbronn, vice chief of staff at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, California.

Dr. Heilbronn urges people in health care and everyone else to get it for themselves, for their families and to achieve the long-awaited herd immunity across the country.

This has been like a nightmare science fiction, horror movie for the last two months, three months. Anything we can do to keep people out of the hospital, we'll do that. And the vaccine will do that.

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Many health care workers turned down their COVID vaccine. Here's why - KGW.com

Healthcare equity and Alzheimers is the focus of March 3 virtual town hall – cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Alzheimers Association will host a virtual town hall examining the relationship between access to health care and the deadly disease from 5 to 6:30 p.m. March 3.

Those interested in the free event should register online here.

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic continue to expose disparities in healthcare access that overwhelmingly affect communities of color. And underserved populations contend with elevated rates of Alzheimers and other dementias as well as COVID-19.

According to the Alzheimers Association, Black populations are twice as likely as whites to develop Alzheimers or another dementia. Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely.

Complicating the picture, particularly for caregivers, CDC data confirms that minorities are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

Case Western Reserve University researchers recently released a study indicating that Black Americans with dementia are nearly three times as likely to become infected with COVID-19 as their white counterparts.

In general, Black Americans are also more prone to factors associated with vascular disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that may put them at risk for Alzheimers and stroke-related dementia.

The town hall -- named for distinguished University of Michigan social psychologist James S. Jackson, who explored links between racial disparities and minority health -- will be hosted by Carl V. Hill, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the Alzheimers Association, and Peter Lichtenberg, president of the Gerontological Society of America.

Speakers from The Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, West Virginia University, the Michigan Alzheimers Disease Research Center and the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute will provide valuable insights.

According to Hill, it is important to examine disparities in health care because the research highlights contextual factors for Alzheimers and other dementia risk.

For example, he explained, cardiovascular health and stress may be part of the pathways to Alzheimers and other dementia for disproportionately affected communities.

Eric VanVlymen, Ohio regional leader of the Alzheimers Association, said the organization remains committed to funding national research initiatives that target minorities.

Such initiatives include the new IDEAS study, which aims to enroll 4,000 African-American and Latino participants to determine whether amyloid PET scans improve diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimers.

The association also continues to work with partners in Ohio and nationwide to improve outreach and ensure that all communities have equal access to opportunities for early detection and diagnosis of the fatal illness.

Being there in the community and working within the community is so critically important, said Hill. Its an unparalleled opportunity to translate research findings and engage all communities using community-based participatory strategies.

Hill hopes that all who attend the town hall will walk away with a stronger commitment to health equity and inclusion as part of the overall effort to defeat Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.

The Alzheimers Association is the leading voluntary health organization involved with Alzheimers care, support and research. The associations 24/7 help line can be reached at 800-272-3900.

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Healthcare equity and Alzheimers is the focus of March 3 virtual town hall - cleveland.com

‘It happened so quickly’: Health-care workers lose everything in house fire – 9News.com KUSA

Mike and Tara Wiesner have spent a year on the frontlines helping people dealing with devastation, only to now deal with their own.

ERIE, Colo. A bag of dog food thudded as Allison Frary pushed it away with her foot. Donated jackets and pants were piled on her couches, and shoes covered her floor. She looked around and laughed at how cluttered the front room of her home had become.

"I dont like to look over there," she said as she stared at the charred home across the street. "But this happened because of that, so its nice to remember whats going on."

It was about 1 a.m. Wednesday when Frary ran out of her home in Erie to see the orange glow of a fire coming from her neighbor's house.

"It was my daughter," Frary said. "She heard Tara screaming for help and frantically started screaming for help for us to wake up because our neighbor's house was on fire."

The neighbors, Mike and Tara Wiesner, made it out safely along with their kids and dogs. A puppy and a guinea pig couldn't be saved. Mountain View Fire said the cause of the fire at the home on Parkdale Circle has not been released yet, but they didn't think it was suspicious.

"It happened so quickly that if our son hadn't woken us up, that would have been it," Mike Wiesner said.

"I just kept counting the children, just making sure all the kids were out," Tara Wiesner said.

Mike is a respiratory therapist, and Tara is a nurse case manager. Their year has been spent on the frontlines, helping people deal with devastation, only to come home to their own.

"My husband and I are no strangers to seeing people in peril and seeing people that were devastated by fire," Tara said. "Weve seen a lot go on this past year."

While the couple knows all too well how quickly anguish can spread, so can a little kindness, especially when it comes from just across the street.

"I asked them their sizes when they were here the night of the fire," Frary said as she folded a T-shirt. "Every member of the family has their own wardrobe now."

Frary said she couldn't sit around and replay those screams in her head. She needed to do something. She put the call out for donations the morning after the fire. Within hours, her living room was packed with clothes, toiletries, food and school supplies. She created a GoFundMe as well, and it raised more than $37,000 in a couple of days.

"It was just pretty much an instinct," she said. "I knew that they pretty much lost everything, their whole life that they have been working for. If they were in my shoes, I would just hope that they would do that same."

While houses may make up a neighborhood, they don't create a community. The Wiesner family realized it's compassion that really makes a neighborhood whole and believes theirs is worth rebuilding for.

"It's amazing the kindness that people can show you when something happens," Tara said. "Why would you ever want to leave that type of environment?"

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'It happened so quickly': Health-care workers lose everything in house fire - 9News.com KUSA

Escalating Cyberattacks on Healthcare Organizations Highlight Need for Security Interventions – HIT Consultant

Michelle Drolet, CEO of Towerwall,

Healthcare organizations have faced continual stress from heavy COVID-19 caseloads in 2020. Cyberattacks on their information networks also loomed as a serious threat, and the pressure to protect data is expected to grow this year, as more criminals target healthcare providers.

Protecting patient data from unauthorized access has long been a regulatory prerequisite for healthcare organizations. But increasingly, cybercriminals see profit potential in attacking and crippling their networks, and restoring operations carry a high cost, both in the expense of repairing IT capabilities, as well as lost revenue, productivity hits, and erosion of community trust.

The rising pressure to protect data systems is prompting healthcare IT security executives to take a hard look at security procedures, and ways to identify and secure potential network weaknesses.

Attacks on the Rise

The need to batten down security hatches has grown in recent months, as COVID-strained healthcare has been hit with devastating cyberattacks, and government agencies warned that more could be coming.

In late October, the FBI and two federal agencies warned that they had credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers. The potential attacks were attributed to a Russian-speaking criminal gang targeting providers with TrickBot and BazarLoader malware, leading to ransomware attacks, data theft, and service disruption. The agencies noted that the issues will be particularly challenging for organizations within the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal warning came on the heels of several high-profile security breaches. In one attack, UVM Health Network had about 5,000 network computers rendered inoperable by a system outage that lasted 40 days; about 300 workers were furloughed because the outage prevented them from doing their jobs. The organization noted that its IT staff had to rebuild the entire infrastructure before re-populating it with backed up files and data, in addition to scanning and cleaning 5,000 computers and endpoints that had been infected. Hospital executives estimate the total cost of the attack at more than $63 million.

Another large cyberattack crippled Universal Health Services, a large hospital system that had a massive IT network outage in late September. The IT outage for the health system lasted eight days after a malware attack; it used downtime protocols and paper records during the outage.

Some reporting suggested that attackers are mounting ransomware attacks on healthcare system networks and charging higher-than-usual fees for its removal, suggesting that criminals may be targeting as many as 400 different facilities across the country.

More broadly, attacks are being aimed at the entire healthcare sector, according to reports from Microsoft. The technology company reported that it has detected cyberattacks from three nation-state actors targeting seven prominent companies directly involved in researching vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

In addition, providers could face monetary fines from the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services, which has the prerogative of assessing fines on healthcare organizations or business associates for lack of compliance with HIPAA and willful neglect of practices that protect patient information. As of November 2020, OCR has settled or imposed penalties in 92 cases, resulting in fines of almost $130 million.

Boosting Security Efforts

To counter these threats, healthcare organizations are taking a variety of steps to improve their security postures. Protecting healthcare information is increasingly becoming a challenge because of growing pressure for healthcare entities to distribute healthcare information to better coordinate care, engage with patients and comply with regulations forbidding information blocking. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has fostered the use of remote patient monitoring and telehealth services, which increase the amount of patient information being exchanged on provider networks.

An important component of ensuring information security for provider organizations involves regularly testing the defenses that protect access to crucial networks. Penetration testing is one way to check for the effectiveness of cyber defenses before potential incidents, rather than afterward, when patient care can be disrupted and expensive to resolve.

Also known as a pen test, the exercise simulates a cyberattack against a healthcare organizations network to check for vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit. Pen testing can involve outside white hat hackers who attempt to breach application systems to find vulnerabilities, such as unprotected inputs that are susceptible to code injection attacks.

Pen testing can be complex, looking for weaknesses that can be exploited by insiders as well as outside attackers. It can involve significant preplanning in terms of reconnaissance, analysis of how systems and defenses respond to different forms of attack, and attempted exploits of weaknesses of systems such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and backdoor efforts as well as human engineering efforts, such as different forms of phishing attacks to see if system users need training so they dont give their network login codes to cybercriminals.

Analysis of such efforts also is complex, assessing which vulnerabilities were found and exploited, if any sensitive patient data or administrative systems could be accessed, or how long a pen tester could remain in the system undetected after gaining access.

Many organizations conduct annual penetration tests, subjecting defenses to internal, external and application attacks designed to emulate real attacks. In addition, healthcare organizations do such testing to meet compliance obligations for standards such as the NIST 800-35 CIS ISO 27001, the PCI DSS, and SOC2, which require businesses to conduct regular penetration tests and security reviews using skilled third-party testers.

But the threat environment for healthcare organizations is always changing, and cybercriminals are constantly honing their skills to access networks and extract value from their attacks. To effectively protect critical systems and private health information, healthcare organizations need to develop customized approaches, utilizing the latest techniques, tools, and technical expertise from outside the organization to understand vulnerabilities and develop an actionable remediation plan.

About Michelle DroletMichelle Drolet is the CEO and co-founder of Towerwall a woman-owned cybersecurity company. She serves as chairperson of the Board of Directors. As one of Towerwalls resident cybersecurity experts, Ms. Drolet assists organizations through the risk mitigation process to help them protect critical data by the evaluation, establishment, education, and enforcement of sound cybersecurity, network security, and data security practices. Reach her at michelled@towerwall.com.

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Escalating Cyberattacks on Healthcare Organizations Highlight Need for Security Interventions - HIT Consultant

Since vaccinations began, fewer health care workers in Richmond have tested positive – Richmond.com

On Dec. 16, VCU injected its first vaccine into the arm of Audrey Roberson, a nurse manager of the medical respiratory intensive care unit. Within days, thousands of health care workers and their support staffs at VCU, Bon Secours and HCA received their first shot.

Six days later, the infection rate of VCU health care workers decreased 25%. By Jan. 19, 60% of VCU employees had received their first shot, and the number of sick employees had dropped 50% from its peak a month earlier. That means the vaccine seemingly made an impact before employees received their second dose.

The Pfizer vaccine trials reported recipients received a level of protection from the virus as early as 12 days after administration of the first dose. At VCU, 14 days after an employee received an inoculation, he or she was less likely to test positive than an employee who did not receive the vaccine, the letter writers wrote.

The Moderna vaccine arrived at VCU on Dec. 28. The hospital system offered immunizations to all of its 13,000 employees. As of this week, 69% have received both shots, and 60% have received one shot, the health system reported. Nearing its goal, VCU wants to vaccinate at least 70% of its employees.

At HCA, the seven-day average of associates calling out because of COVID has dropped 78% since the beginning of the year, spokesman Jeff Caldwell said. Other factors may have contributed besides the vaccine, Caldwell said, including a decline in overall hospitalizations, general fluctuation in COVID cases and the continued implementation of safety measures such as hand washing and masking.

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Since vaccinations began, fewer health care workers in Richmond have tested positive - Richmond.com

Who can afford healthcare these days? | Journal-news – Martinsburg Journal

David Shapiro


With CoVid 19 spreading out of control, health care must be available and affordable for everyone.

With up to 300,000 people falling sick every day and up to 5,000 people dying daily from CoVid 19 (New York Times) the U.S. is at war with the virus. About 123,000 West Virginians have already gotten CoVid 19 and 2000 have died. Millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet. President Biden announced on Friday, January 22 that it will get worse before it gets better. (CNBC) https://cnb.cx/3rr1KDI

Thirty million people dont have health insurance. Another 44 million have such bare-bones coverage that they are always worried about the costs of getting care. (Commonwealth fund)

The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) has helped people with pre-existing conditions to get health care.

Bidens current efforts to further strengthen the Affordable Care Act would include

Because private insurance company-based health care is pricey, Biden proposes an alternative, public, government-managed option to try to lower the costs. Is it a good idea or not?

Some say that it would be too expensive. My answer: If the public option is more expensive than your current option, dont take it. World Health Organization explains that US is the most expensive system in the world and the better government run systems cost half or less of the US system.

Some people say that taxes will increase. However, we might pay for it directly, without raising taxes. And if the participants do pay for the public option in taxes, the rise in taxes would likely cost less than the amount you pay now to private insurance.

Some people are concerned that it would not give as good health care coverage. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked US 37 this year (and the past 15 years) in longevity and health care quality. The better programs were national government programs.

But will there be limitations to so that I cannot see my chosen doctor or hospital? The plan can be designed so that one can choose the doctor and hospital you want.

What if I want to stay with my current private insurance plan? its your option to stay with our current plan.

These changes would lower the cost of health care. And that is just what all of us West Virginians need in this health care crisis.

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Who can afford healthcare these days? | Journal-news - Martinsburg Journal

3 of the most pressing health care topics of 2021 – cerner.com – cerner.com

While weve turned our focus to 2021, our entire health care communitys day-to-day is still very much concentrated on combating the global COVID-19 crisis. The pandemics devastation will be felt for many years to come, yet its expediting important forces that were already underway in shaping our industry. This presents an enormous opportunity to address and implement meaningful, long-term changes to our health care systems.

At Cerner, we see the opportunity of 2021 with numerous stakeholders motivated to make progress on finding concrete solutions to some of health care's most pressing challenges. While there are many issues to undertake, we believe COVID-19 has particularly accelerated and spotlighted the following topics.

1. Unifying a fragmented health care ecosystem

The rapid development, clinical trial execution and regulatory approval of the COVID-19 vaccine represents one of the most important medical events in the modern era. With around 3,000 lives lost each day to COVID-19 in the U.S. in January, urgent focus is now on delivery and administration of the approved vaccines.

Earlier in the pandemic, the health care industry experienced immense challenges around distribution and management of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and bed capacity. As we move forward with a mass vaccination initiative, we continue to see issues with large-scale coordination across disparate health systems. In the U.S., unifying diverse health systems presents many glaring challenges, such as data sharing across enterprises, state allocations, logistical coordination of production and supply chain management and determining how to best prioritize the most at-risk populations. Continued improvements in standardizing health care IT capabilities should be addressed and are critical to enable a more seamless, coordinated and efficient care delivery system.

Cernersworkwiththe jointU.S.Department ofVeterans Affairs(VA)and U.S. Department of Defense(DoD)health information exchangeis a great example of how participating community providers now have a single point of entry to request and access DoD and VA electronic health records for use in their treatment of patients.

Our expertise and capabilities in leveraging big data and analytics can be central in addressing many of these logisticalburdensthat exist on both the enterprise andpublic healthsectors.It will require deploying data analysisin the same vein aswasusedtopredict COVID-19surges, ventilator supplyand ICU bed capacity. Also,keyto this effort will be our data monitoring and reporting systems forstates and local health departments.Earlyin the pandemic,Cerner helped clients voluntarily share relevant datato the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Healthcare Safety Network, allowing clients to easily share data on lab results, syndromes,PPEsupply and ventilator availability.

2. Making technology, data more effective for better patient-centered care

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how and where we receive care. While technologies that enable care delivery outside the four walls of clinics and hospitals have existed for years, reimbursement, convenience and resistance to change have limited widespread adoption and use. An immediate catalyst for change was the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services temporary relaxation of telehealth reimbursement restrictions for safer care delivery amid the pandemic. Health care providers immediately responded by quickly adapting and expanding the use of digital tools to engage patients via telehealth and virtual health platforms.

For 40 years, Cerner has worked to connect consumer data and systems to eliminate data gaps and silos. Thanks to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and their regulatory framework on information blocking, consumers will have more access to data through apps that use FHIR APIs to create longitudinal patient records in the electronic health record (EHR). Access to trusted data with a longitudinal completeness will help reduce the cost of care, increase access and deliver a more relevant and personalized experience.

Collaboration will continue to be critical for more efficient and effective health care that meets patients and clinicians needs. For instance, Cerner teamed up with Amwell to embed telehealth capabilities into the EHR, allowing us to support clients like Indiana University Health in rapidly scaling their virtual health offerings at the start of the pandemic increasing patients served via virtual visits by 100 times. Another example is our work with Uber Health, which enables providers to schedule non-emergency transportation services for patients directly within the EHR. In addition, were connecting Cerner technology with Amazon Halo wearable devices to allow consumers to easily connect their vital health and well-being information with their broader health care teams.

3. Advancing artificial intelligence for prescriptive and equitable care

Weve long known that health care, in a broad sense, is behind other industries in deploying extensive use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The types of algorithms that drive social media and entertainment platforms like Google and Amazon have yet to become commonplace in health care delivery.

To advance this conversation, its imperative that one assumption is made as table stakes: Our industry will comply with privacy and security rules that ensure proper use of patient data, and patient authorization, where required, will be obtained. Cerner believes that patients own their data, but with the massive amount of health data thats generated, we need new algorithmic capabilities that support clinicians with integrated, actionable workflow insights. Fortunately, accomplishing this can be done with large anonymized datasets. This strategy is endorsed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration using real-world data to produce accelerated real-world evidence for better clinical and financial outcomes.

Cerner is relentlessly focused on employing data science and leveraging intelligence to enable value-based care delivery. Recognizing the importance of research design and peer reviewed evidence, we have created the Cerner Learning Health Network, which is currently comprised of 55+ U.S. health systems dedicated to sharing de-identified data to advance clinical research. The immediate value of this network was recognized in April 2020 when Cerner was able to quickly aggregate a COVID-19 dataset of 145,000 anonymized records for research.

Through our AWS collaboration, clients like Oklahoma State University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center were able to leverage AI tools at scale to rapidly advance their understanding of health variables, including social determinants of health, that may impact risk of COVID-19 symptoms. Over the last year, weve made strategic investments and established new partnerships in this area with the goal of transforming the speed and cost of producing real-world evidence.

While this list centers around three key areas for health care in 2021, Id be remiss if I didn't mention another important concern that should remain central to our list of priorities in the months (and years) to come, especially after the unprecedented year that we all endured.

Addressing the growing mental health epidemic

After a tumultuous year in which we waded through pandemic-fueled political, social and economic disruption we must think about how to use advances in health care to address the growing mental health crisis thats affecting so many. Opioid abuse and opioid use disorder are well documented. Yet, much of America continues to struggle with depression and anxiety disorders that impact their wellness and exacerbate the challenges of managing chronic health conditions. In addition, alcohol abuse endures and homelessness is reaching a crisis level in many of our communities.

Expanding our knowledge of the social determinants of health and putting strong networks of community support in place will be vitally important to better serve patients around mental health and wellness as we continue to battle this pandemic. The Cerner HealtheIntent platform helps health systems like Geisinger and Roper St. Francis Healthcare provide community-based holistic, prescriptive care. Reducing costs and improving clinical outcomes can only be achieved when clinicians and health system leaders have a comprehensive understanding of patient needs and gaps in care and can quickly access relevant data to actively manage risk.

Reflecting on 2020, Im reminded that adversity can reveal our strengths and help us embrace change. At Cerner, this is certainly how were approaching 2021. Were focused on our clients success and helping communities fight and recover, while continually pursuing innovations to create a better, more seamless and connected world where everyone thrives.

For more Cerner news and health IT insights, make sure you're following uson Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Biden Moves to Expand Health Coverage in Pandemic Economy – The New York Times

Dr. Natalia Kanem, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, said the decision would greatly help the agencys work not only in family planning, but in other health services for women and girls in poor countries.

We now have the support of a very important member state, Dr. Kanem said in a phone interview.

The rule has been riding a philosophical seesaw for decades in place when a Republican occupies the White House and overturned when a Democrat moves in.

Mr. Biden also directed the Department of Health and Human Services to, as soon as practicable, consider whether to suspend, revise, or rescind the so-called domestic gag rule a collection of regulations imposed by the Trump administration that prohibit federally funded family-planning clinics from counseling patients about abortion.

The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks access to abortion, wrote last year that the rules havecut the national family planning networks patient capacity in half, jeopardizing care for 1.6 million female patients nationwide. The presidential directive virtually guarantees that the health department will overturn those rules, though that could take months.

The presidents order will also direct federal agencies to review policies, including waivers granted to states, that discourage participation in Medicaid, the public health insurance program for poor and disabled people. Enrollment in Medicaid has grown substantially during the pandemic, in part because people who have lost jobs and health insurance have turned to it.

The Trump administration approved waivers in 12 states that would require certain Medicaid beneficiaries to work a minimum number of hours a week or risk losing their benefits. Four of those pilot programs have already been overturned by courts, and the Biden administration has the authority to end them all, although the Trump administration in its final weeks took steps to make that process more difficult.

Another waiver, completed this month in Tennessee, would give that state fixed funding or a block grant to cover its Medicaid population while loosening many of the rules about how the program is run. That waiver could also be canceled.

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Biden Moves to Expand Health Coverage in Pandemic Economy - The New York Times

Bidens Health Care Moves – The New York Times

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Obamacare endured a grueling first decade of existence. Its launch was famously clunky. It was unpopular in its early years. It narrowly escaped repeal at both the Supreme Court and in Congress.

But the law passed in 2010 and more formally known as the Affordable Care Act has survived. Its more than survived, in fact. It now stands as a monument to a particular theory of progressive lawmaking: When the government enacts a new benefit that makes life easier for millions of people, the program tends to endure. That describes universal high school, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and now Obamacare.

President Biden yesterday signed a package of executive actions on health care, and many experts described them as steps to undo Donald Trumps attempted sabotage of the law. Which they are. But the modest scope of the actions is also a reminder of how little progress Trump made in undermining the law.

The number of Americans without health insurance did rise during the Trump presidency, because of his attempts to diminish the law. His administration did little to advertise Obamacare policies and weakened some of its provisions, like protections for people with certain medical conditions. But this increase in the number of uninsured reversed only a small portion of the decline caused by Obamacare.

Even after Trump, an additional 20 million or so Americans have health insurance today largely because of Obamacare. Others have better benefits like maternity care and addiction treatment or face lower costs.

Bidens orders still matter, because Trumps actions mattered.

Biden will try to strengthen protections for people with medical conditions. He will also create a new three-month sign-up period for Obamacare, starting next month, aimed partly at people who lost their jobs during the pandemic. The most recent sign-up period was in the fall.

Perhaps most significant, the Biden administration plans to promote the sign-up period heavily, through advertisements, email and other outreach, according to my colleague Margot Sanger-Katz, whos been covering Obamacare for most of its existence. Bidens people think the Trump people bungled the regular enrollment period, Margot told me.

By the end of Trumps presidency, the uninsured rate probably rose close to 10 percent, from 8.6 percent in the Obama administrations final year. Through executive action, Biden may be able to reduce it to about 8 percent over the next four years, according to my reporting.

The bigger question is whether Biden can persuade Congress to pass a new law that would go further than Obamacare did, by making coverage less expensive for more people. Otherwise, at least 25 million Americans are likely to remain uninsured.

There are still millions of poor, uninsured Americans in states that didnt expand Medicaid, Margot says, and millions of middle-class Americans who find Obamacare insurance unaffordable.

The big picture: The Affordable Care Act is a highly flawed, distressingly compromised, woefully incomplete attempt to establish a basic right that already exists in every other developed nation, Jonathan Cohn, another longtime health care journalist, writes in The Ten Year War, a forthcoming book. It is also the most ambitious and significant piece of domestic legislation to pass in half a century.

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Lives Lived: In a seven-decade-long career, Cicely Tyson broke ground for Black actors by refusing to take demeaning parts. She won three Emmys, an honorary Oscar, and at 88 she became the oldest person to win a Tony. She died at 96.

When Christopher Little received the first three chapters of a book about a boy wizard in 1995, he initially dismissed it. But his office manager insisted he give it a chance. Little became the literary agent who helped build an empire around Harry Potter. Little died at 79.

The first Academy Awards ceremony, on May 16, 1929, was 15 minutes long and resembled a corporate banquet. Over the years, the ceremony turned into the hourslong spectacle that youve probably watched at some point. Now some critics and Hollywood people are urging new changes.

Some could even take effect this year. The ceremony has been postponed until late April because of the pandemic.

A.O. Scott, a film critic at The Times, made the case for completely revamping the ceremony. Among his suggestions: expanding the awards categories to create separate prizes for genres like comedy, horror and action, which are typically not considered prestige cinema and are shut out from awards.

He also recommends treating Parasite, last years best-picture winner, not as an outlier but as a harbinger. It was the first film not in the English language to win that award, and it fulfilled the Oscar ideal a well-crafted movie with something to say that stands the test of time better than any mainstream Hollywood production in decades, he writes. So why not remove the best international feature category and make best picture an explicitly international category? Another idea: broadening the awards voting pool by expanding academy membership for more geographical, generational and cultural diversity.

Others have more immediate suggestions. During the pandemic, the actors nominated for awards should stay home and participate remotely, Peter Mehlman, a former Seinfeld writer, told The Times. Dont you think accepting an Oscar on a couch with dogs and kids might just humanize these people? he said.

Oscars buzz: Here are the films The Timess critics and writers would nominate for best picture, including The Forty-Year-Old Version, Sound of Metal and Minari.

Smoked mozzarella, garlicky bchamel and sauted mushrooms make this mushroom lasagna sing.

One of the revolutionary artistic mediums of the 20th century? Collage, as evidenced in the Spanish painter Juan Griss Still Life: The Table, made from newsprint, wallpaper and several other paper stocks. Explore it here.

Fake Accounts, the critic Lauren Oylers debut novel, follows a smart, irascible narrator who is too steeped in online life and social media. Read Parul Sehgals review.

Stream these 10 classical concerts in February.

The late-night hosts discussed Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia congresswoman who endorsed QAnon.

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The pangrams from yesterdays Spelling Bee were cardigan and carding. Todays puzzle is above or you can play online.

Heres todays Mini Crossword, and a clue: Disorderly brawl (five letters).

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Which top government jobs have still never been held by a woman? What did Anthony Fauci endure over the past year? And whats going on in the above photo? Take this weeks News Quiz, and see how well you do compared with other Times readers.

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Bidens Health Care Moves - The New York Times