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small business get a leg up in health insurance

Rep. Don Cazayoux (D-La.) on Thursday promoted a bill (HR 6210) that would allow the establishment of statewide or nationwide health insurance purchasing pools for small businesses and self-employed individuals, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports.

The Small Business Health Options Program would provide small businesses with annual tax credits of as much as $1,000 per employee, or $2,000 per family, provided that the companies cover more than 60% of the cost of health insurance premiums for workers. In addition, the legislation would provide self-employed individuals with annual tax credits of as much as $1,800 per employee, or $3,600 per family (Chacko, Baton Rouge Advocate, 8/8). Under the bill, health insurers could not increase premiums in the event that small-business employees become ill or file more claims. The legislation also would establish a Web site to allow the comparison of information about various health plans (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 6/11).

Cazayoux, one of the more than 45 co-sponsors of the bill, said that the legislation would reduce health insurance costs for small businesses through the expansion of risk across a large pool of employees. According to Cazayoux, small businesses on average pay 18% more than large companies for the same level of health insurance for employees. He added that small-business owners, employees and their dependents account for more than 28 million of the almost 47 million uninsured U.S. residents


medical blogs not protecting the patient

Physicians and nurses who maintain blogs are not taking sufficient measures to protect the identity of the patients about whom they write, according to a study published last week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the Los Angeles Times reports. For the 2006 study, author Tara Lagu — a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar and an internal medicine specialist — examined 271 blogs that were maintained by physicians or nurses.

The study found that about 65% of the blogs are written anonymously. The remainder included identifying names of their authors. About 45 blogs, or 17%, “included sufficient information for patients to identify their doctors or themselves,” the study said. About 42% of the blogs contained accounts of private interactions with patients and three blogs displayed photographic images of patients that easily made them recognizable. Despite only a few blogs including conflict of interest disclosures, 11.4% of the blogs contained postings that promoted specific pharmaceutical or medical device products.

According to the Times, some of the physicians and nurses use their blogs “to blow off steam and share their experiences in a profession that most agree has become more trying in recent years,” while others use their blogs to share interesting information, such as medical studies. Lagu said that at least half of the blogs discuss health care policy and other politics-related issues. A few also use blogs as educational tools.

Lagu said that as blogs increasingly become a way for medical personnel to discuss their work and share their frustrations, privacy has become an issue. “It’s time for us to take some responsibility and really think of how we can maintain the integrity of this process,” she said

walgreens expands its prescription savings club

Walgreen recently announced that it has expanded its Prescription Savings Club to include 90-day prescriptions of generic drugs for $12, the Chicago Tribune reports. The program was launched last year and offers reduced prices on more than 5,000 brand-name and generic drugs. The $12 prescriptions are available for more than 400 generic drugs. People who are not enrolled in drug coverage through Medicare or Medicaid can enroll in the program for $20 per year for an individual or $35 per year for a family

keeping fresh flowers fresh

First Cut Fables
The first step to fresh-looking flowers is stripping all leaves from stems that will be below the water line. Submerged foliage encourages bacteria growth in the container water. Remove at least 1 inch from the bottom of any flower stems that have been exposed to air. Legends abound as to the best way to cut, slice, or crush stems before placing them in water. Cutting stems at a 45-degree angle really does help most flowers absorb water. Some woody stemmed flowers benefit from slicing their stems, but you can’t go wrong with a diagonal cut. Use garden shears or a sharp knife to cut stems. Common household scissors can crush the vascular systems of the flower stem, inhibiting water uptake. As soon as you make the cut, plunge flowers into a vase or container filled with lukewarm water.

Vase Water Demystified
Aspirin, vitamin pills, vinegar, and pennies are just a few of the more common folklore additives used unsuccessfully to preserve flowers. What works are ingredients that prohibit bacteria, feed the flower, and encourage water uptake. Commercial flower preservatives contain a blend of these ingredients that can extend the life of cut blooms by days. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden recommends a homemade mixture that works as well as the commercial variety. Mix 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon bleach, and 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice in a quart of warm water. Warm water is important because it’s more easily absorbed. However, cold weather blooms, such as tulips, thrive in cold vase water.

Keep Petals at their Peak
All living things wilt a bit with age, but there are steps for maintaining cut flowers in their prime.

• Keep fresh flower arrangements away from heat, direct sunlight, and ripening fruit.

• Check the water level in the vase every day.

• Recut the stems of limp blooms and discard any that do not recover.

green plug

Green Plug is the first developer of digital technology that enables real-time collaboration between electronic devices and their power sources. The company develops and markets embeddable power supply technology to consumer electronics (CE) and power supply companies. Billions of devices including laptops, printers, speakers, routers, modems, cell phones, entertainment devices, power tools, cameras and so many other portable electronic devices require a power source that converts between 90V and 254V wall power to device-specific DC power. That means that these devices require unique power converters, and that is very costly, is extremely inconvenient and contributes to wasted resources and pollution.

With Green Plug, however, intelligent power supplies communicate with electronic devices and agree upon device power requirements for all devices connected to them. All cables and connectors are uniform; so, they work with any device! Being intelligent power sources, they eliminate wasted “phantom power” (power that is wasted when chargers are plugged in and either connected to devices that are fully charged or have no devices connected to them) and improve power utilization and efficiency.

medicare reimbursement with generic drugs

When a drug goes generic, the price plunges. But the formula Medicare uses to pay for certain drugs is slow to reflect that price drop, which means the program winds up overpaying for months.

Read all about it in this report out today from Health and Human Services’ inspector general.

drug pricesThe report looks at irinotecan, a cancer drug (sold by Pfizer under the brand name Camptosar) that went generic in February of this year. In March, Medicare was paying $126 per dose of the drug. During the same month, the average generic price was $41, the report found. Even factoring in sales of the branded version, the average price during the month was only $52.

Irinotecan is covered by Medicare Part B, which pays for medicines injected at the doctor’s office and oral cancer drugs. The program likely overpays for other new generics, the report found.

The problem is that Part B uses a backward-looking formula to calculate what it should be paying for the drugs. So when new, lower-priced generics hit the market, Medicare is still basing its payment on prices calculated when only the branded drug was available. During the current quarter, Medicare is paying about $75 for irinotecan — way down from what it was paying in March, but still far above the average price.

The report suggests that Medicare figure out a way to “address pricing discrepancies arising from newly available generic drugs.” That may include pushing for a change in the laws that govern what Medicare pays for drugs, the report suggests.

save energy

The Ecostrip looks just like a regular power strip. And for the most part that’s what it is. But connect this $35 strip to your PC via a USB cable and when you shut down your computer, the EcoStrip will turn off any other devices that are plugged in. Perfect for anyone who’s always forgetting to turn off the printer, speakers, lamp, and microwave oven.

The main advantage of the Ecostrip is that it eliminates the flow of electricity to computer peripherals when the computer is turned off, thereby drastically reducing electricity bills in the home and workplace. With no programming or extra installation requirements, the Ecostrip operates like a normal surge protector/power strip until the computer sends a signal telling the peripherals they are no longer in use.

According to the Energy Star web site, “40% of all electrical usage is wasted through devices that continue to consume power even while switched off.” The Ecostrip eliminates this problem simply and effectively.

The Ecostrip has enjoyed quite a high level of success in Asia and especially around Europe, where it arrived back in 2005. Why? Well, simply because the Ecostrip is its own best advertisement. This is one of those ‘once in a generation’ products that actually sells itself.

  • It’s easy to use and simple to set-up! Just plug it in.
  • It’s effective! Can save you more than $70 a year.
  • It’s affordable! Under $30.00.

The USB Ecostrip is the easiest way to “green” your computer and start conserving energy today!