LA Times: Older Americans less healthy than English seniors — but after age 65, we live longer

Good news, if you’re British… kind of. -SP

By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times

People who live in England tend to have fewer chronic illnesses from age 55 to 64 compared with Americans. But Americans and the English have similar death rates at that age range, and after age 65, Americans have somewhat better survival rates.

The conclusions come from a Rand Corp. study released Thursday in the journal Demography. Researchers explored data on the prevalence of various chronic diseases and death rates in each country. In a previous study published recently, the researchers working with this data found that Americans suffered from diabetes and other chronic diseases at twice the rates of people of a similar age in England. But Americans’ poorer health status did not translate to earlier death.

“If you get sick at older ages, you will die sooner in England than in the United States,” a co-author of the study, James P. Smith of Rand, said in a news release. “It appears that at least in terms of survival at older ages with chronic disease, the medical system in the United States may be better than the system in England.”

It’s possible that people in England are diagnosed at a later stage of illness than Americans and, thus, die sooner. The study also found that changes in Americans’ wealth — such as the upswing in wealth from 1992 to 2002 — did not alter the probability of death.

This is a positive reflection on America’s healthcare system and a thumbs-down on Americans’ lifestyles, said co-author James Banks of the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London.

“The United States’ health problem is not fundamentally a healthcare or insurance problem, at least at older ages,” he said in a news release. “It is a problem of excess illness, and the solution to that problem may lie outside the healthcare delivery system. The solution may be to alter lifestyles or other behaviors.”

Full article at the LA Times website.

NFCA: Medical Homes: A Bad Name to Describe Something Quite Good

These next two weeks, we’re posting some great articles recently published by the National Family Caregiver Association. If you have never heard of them, I strongly urge you to check out their website at: http://www.thefamilycaregiver.org/

Suzanne Mintz, President and CEO, National Family Caregivers Association

The new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act) is designed to change the way healthcare is provided and financed. Many of the provisions in this new legislation will help caregiving families, although they don’t specifically mention family caregivers. However, NFCA has identified 17 distinct sections that do. They include provisions that require doctors to get our assessment of whether we and our loved ones have been treated well (Isn’t that cool!), and others designed to make transitions of care from hospital to home or rehab as error-free as possible. It is really very exciting.

The provisions that I think will have the biggest impact on family caregivers’ day-to-day interactions with healthcare professionals and the healthcare system in general can be grouped together under the heading “System Delivery Reform.” The Affordable Care Act calls for the establishment of a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Sec 3021). Its purpose is to test various models of care that are designed to be patient and family centered, holistic in their approach, and that use health information technology (health IT) to interact with patients, family caregivers, multiple healthcare providers, and, in some cases, social service providers. The operable words here are “test various models.” On a real-time basis, that means that most of us won’t have an opportunity to work with physicians and other healthcare providers who will be providing care in these new ways anytime soon, because these will be demonstration or pilot programs. Down the road, however, when various models prove effective in providing better care and creating better outcomes for patients, families and the government, these models will start to become the norm.

Read the whole article at the NFCA website here.

What Does Healthcare Reform Mean for You?

From the National Family Caregivers Association website

Family caregivers may be wondering what the newly signed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act means to them and their loved ones.

The following is an overview of a few of the provisions of the new law that will take effect in 2010, as summarized by Patton Boggs, LLP, attorneys at law:

Immediate Access to Insurance for Uninsured Children and Adults with a Pre-Existing Condition. Provides eligible individuals access to coverage that does not impose any coverage exclusions for pre-existing health conditions. This provision ends when Exchanges are operational.

Prohibiting Rescissions. Prohibits abusive practices whereby health insurance companies rescind existing health insurance policies when a person gets sick as a way of avoiding covering the costs of enrollees’ healthcare needs.

Eliminating Lifetime Limits and Restricting Use of Annual Limits. Prohibits lifetime limits on benefits in all group health plans and in the individual market, and prohibits the use of restrictive annual limits.

Covering Preventive Health Services. All new group health plans and plans in the individual market must provide first dollar coverage for preventive services.

Extending Dependent Coverage. Requires any group health plan or plan in the individual market that provides dependent coverage for children to continue to make that coverage available up to age 26.

Improving Consumer Assistance. Requires that any new group health plan or new plan in the individual market implement an effective appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.

Rebates for the Medicare Part D “Donut Hole.” Provides a $250 rebate for all Part D enrollees who enter the “donut hole.” Currently, the coverage gap falls between $2,830 and $6,440 in total drug costs.

Strengthening the Healthcare Workforce. Expands and improves low-interest student loan programs, scholarships, and loan repayments for health students and professionals to increase and enhance the capacity of the workforce to meet patients’ healthcare needs.

New Study Confirms Need for Eldercare Employee Benefits

A poll in the March 2010 issue of Caring Right at Home asked readers to rate various ways employers can support working caregivers. Flexible hours topped the list at 39%, followed by personal leave for caregivers (15%), telecommuting (12%), job sharing (8%) and an eldercare resource line (6%).

This month, we would like to share the results of a new study from the MetLife Mature Market Institute, which sheds new light on the extent to which the challenges of family caregivers impact the American workplace.

Caregivers Are More Likely To Report Health Problems

Working caregiver with headacheIf you are responsible for taking care of an elderly relative or friend, it will likely impact your health and your employer’s bottom line. Employees in the U.S. who are caring for an older relative are more likely to report health problems like depression, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, costing employers an estimated average 8% per year, or $13.4 billion annually, in healthcare costs, according to the MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs.

The report, produced by the MetLife Mature Market Institute with the National Alliance for Caregiving in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Aging, also found that younger caregivers (ages 18 to 39) cost their employers 11% more for health care than non-caregivers, and male caregivers cost an additional 18%. It also found that eldercare may be closely associated with high-risk behaviors like smoking and alcohol consumption. Exacerbating the potential impact to employers is the possibility that these medical conditions may also lead to disability-related absences.

The MetLife report was drawn from an analysis of 17,000 employees of a major multinational U.S. corporation who completed health risk assessment questionnaires (HRA). Twelve percent of the respondents were caregivers for an older person.

Read more at Right at Home’s website.