Helping make the health care system work for you

A side effect of Ebola coverage: Anxiety

stress pencil

Photo by Marsmettnn Tallahassee via Flickr Creative Commons

Forty-one percent of people in the United States are worried that they, or someone in their family, will be exposed to Ebola, according to the Pew Research Center.

Forty-one percent of people in the United States are worried that they, or someone in their family, will be exposed to Ebola, and 17 percent say they are very worried. That's according to a national survey conducted Oct. 15-20 by the Pew Research Center.

In fact, there's little to worry about, since you are extremely unlikely to contract Ebola, say public health officials. This story from NPR explains that other diseases - like measles - are much, much more contagious than Ebola. (You can find our handy reference guide to all things Ebola here.)

Still, the L.A. County Department of Public Health and its Department of Mental Health are teaming up to help adults and children reduce any anxiety they might feel about Ebola, says county Interim Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser. 

Read More...

#PriceCheck: When diabetes test strips are too expensive

Diabetes test strips

bodytel/Flickr

Mark Winters says he should test his blood sugar four times a day, but because of the cost of the test strips, he generally only checks it twice.

Through our #PriceCheck project, we're crowdsourcing the cost of common medical procedures and devices. This time around, we're asking about the cost of diabetes test strips.

Mark's story

Mark Winters, 66, answered our call. A longtime tennis player and writer, Winters has had Type 1 diabetes for more than 60 years.

He told me it would be best if he checked his blood sugar four times a day. Instead, he says, he generally tests once in the morning and once at night. He's had diabetes for so long, he says, that he's very good at maintaining his blood sugar through nutrition and exercise.

Still, he concedes, "I should test more – but I don't, because I can't afford it."

'Immoral' costs

Diabetics can't necessarily just choose the cheapest strip on the market; there are a variety of glucose meters, and each one requires its own specific test strip.

Read More...

Fact Check: Chlorine, Vitamin C are not Ebola treatments

Ebola Virus

CDC/Getty Images

The Ebola virus can't be prevented by drinking chlorine, and can't be treated with Vitamin C or essential oils.

Two Dallas nurses contracted Ebola while treating the country’s first victim of the disease, Thomas Eric Duncan. Beyond that, Ebola does not appear to be spreading in the United States.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about myths and misinformation.

Chlorine is not a cure

There’s currently no FDA-approved medicine or vaccine for Ebola.

Still, on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a strongly-worded advisory, warning people that drinking chlorine is not a cure for Ebola. If someone has been near a person with Ebola and has a fever or other symptoms, the CDC says, he should "go to an Ebola treatment unit now. It could save your life."

A second advisory alerts health care workers to such rumors, and describes the signs of chlorine poisoning.

Chlorine has played a big role in preventing the spread of the disease, explains NPR producer Nicole Beemsterboer. While reporting in Liberia for 10 days, she washed her hands - as well as her boots and shoes - in a chlorine solution constantly, she told NPR.

Read More...

Medicare open enrollment: What you need to know

Seniors Rush To Register For Medicare Part D Plan Before Deadline

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Medicare’s enrollment period – that once-a-year opportunity for beneficiaries to change Medicare insurance plans for the upcoming calendar year – is now open through December 7.  

And while about 95 percent of beneficiaries stick with the coverage they have, reviewing your 2015 plan options is a worthwhile investment that can save you money and frustration, says David Sayen, regional administrator with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

"Look at your coverage, make sure it’s covering what you need," Sayen says. "And more important: is it going to cover what you need next year?"

In particular he says, you’ll want to review whether your plan will still cover your preferred doctor and hospital in 2015.  Are the prescriptions you take still going to be covered? And can you continue buying your drugs at your local pharmacy?

Read More...

#FactsNotFear: An evolving Ebola glossary

ICOAST-HEALTH-EBOLA-WAFRICA

ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images

A nurse leaves an isolation room after checking a man on August 14, 2014 at the district hospital of Biankouma, during a simulation operation organized by the Ivory Coast Health Ministry to train medical staff to treat potential patients with Ebola.

As news coverage of Ebola has intensified, you've no doubt seen or heard terms and phrases that you don't understand. Not understanding makes this situation even more disconcerting.

On Twitter, people have been sharing information about Ebola with the hashtag #FactsNotFear. In that vein, I offer you this glossary of Ebola-related terms:

PPE

This is the acronym for Personal Protective Equipment. It refers to the Hazmat-like suits you've been seeing in the news.

To prevent the spread of Ebola in U.S. hospitals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people entering a patient’s room wear the following protective equipment: gloves, a fluid-resistant or impermeable gown, eye protection – either goggles or a face shield - and a face mask.

The type of protective equipment needed varies based on the level of precautions required, the CDC says. More intensive situations might also require double gloving, disposable shoe covers and leg coverings.

Read More...