Dozens of Connecticut doctors accepted six-figure payments from drug and medical device manufacturers in 2015 for consulting, speaking, meals and travel, with six of the 10 highest-paid physicians affiliated with academic institutions, new federal data show. The top 10 doctors – less than 0.1 percent of the 11,000 who received payments – took in $3.6 million, or nearly 15 percent of the total $24.9 million paid out. Among them is the dean of the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Robert Alpern, who received $445,398 in 2015 from two companies – Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie – in consulting fees, meals and travel expenses for serving on the boards of both companies. In 2014, he received $458,194 from the two companies. The Yale medical school began a research partnership with AbbVie in 2013, after the pharmaceutical company spun off from Abbott Laboratories.
Over a dozen of the cooperative health insurers that started under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have failed, but leaders of Connecticut’s co-op say it is on track to turn a profit next year. “We’re very viable,” said Ken Lalime, CEO of Wallingford-based HealthyCT, a member-run, nonprofit health insurance co-op. “There are a lot of stable pieces of” HealthyCT. The co-op is enduring when others have died off, he said, by strategically adapting to changes in the ACA, and diversifying its portfolio. About a third of its business is insuring individuals, a third is small group policies and a third is large group insurance policies, he said.
People with severe mental illness die 25 years earlier than the general population and 68 percent of the mentally ill have at least one chronic physical health condition, studies show. They don’t receive the care they need because mentally ill people are often discriminated against by medical practitioners and their mental illness can make it difficult for them to be proactive about their care, according to several mental health professionals. Daniela Giordano, public policy director of National Alliance for Mental Illness of Connecticut, said the problem is often a lack of understanding of mental illness by some health care providers. Giordano said she knows of people with mental illness whose “thoughts and comments were dismissed” by medical providers who view these patients through “a different lens.”
A state project is addressing such barriers to necessary medical care faced by low-income mentally ill people. Under the program, called Behavioral Health Homes (BHH) and based in mental health facilities where people are already receiving outpatient services, staff members coordinate participants’ mental health and primary care.
About 650 U.S. women die each year during pregnancy, childbirth, or shortly after giving birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared to other countries – and not just newly developing ones – that figure is abysmal. In fact, according to a new study from the World Health Organization and others, the U.S. is one of just 13 countries where the maternal mortality rate has actually risen between 1990 and 2013. Other countries on that list include North Korea and Zimbabwe. The gross domestic product of Zimbabwe is $13.5 billion.
Kathy Navaroli, 50, of Windsor, hadn’t seen a primary care doctor in years when she decided to go for a physical this summer. She didn’t ask about preventive care screenings, such as a mammogram or Pap test, in part because she worried they might involve an insurance co-pay or deductible. Her household income is below $30,000 a year. “I got a physical, they did some blood work, and that was it,” she said. Kerrishian McCants, 31, of Hartford, a mother of four, has a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure, but has not discussed those possible risks with her doctor.
Doctors and clinicians from a wide array of specialties will offer their insights about the importance of preventive care at an upcoming community health forum in Hartford, featuring a keynote address by Dr. Jewel Mullen, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health. “Get Health Wise: The Benefits of Preventive Care” on Oct. 7, hosted by the Conn. Health I-Team, will give attendees the opportunity to hear presentations from doctors and clinicians at various health care stations. A panel discussion – with a question and answer period – will follow.
As the federal government advocates increased use of generic drugs, concerns are mounting about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s oversight and the quality or effectiveness of some generics. In the last eight months, the FDA has acknowledged that two generic versions of the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder drug Concerta it approved may not work as effectively as the brand-name product. The agency told the drugs’ manufacturers to confirm their effectiveness or withdraw them from the market. The FDA also is looking into findings by a researcher at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital that generic versions of Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor manufactured outside of the U.S. contains impurities that inhibit the drug’s therapeutic effect. The FDA said that, as a number of popular drugs come off patent through 2015, it lacks the resources to independently police generics.
Women in Connecticut have been denied health insurance benefits in violation of the federal Affordable Care Act, according to a study by the National Women’s Law Center. Connecticut is one of 15 states included in the study, which analyzed the 2014 and 2015 health plans of companies that provide coverage under the ACA in state marketplaces. It found violations in all 15 states and concluded that they are likely occurring nationwide. According to the report, Connecticut women have been denied coverage for the following: breastfeeding counseling and education after two months following delivery, infertility treatments after the age of 40, sterilization procedures, emergency birth control, and maintenance care for such things as lupus, HIV, and hormones after breast cancer treatment. Coverage was also denied for transgender transitions.
Tens of thousands of Connecticut residents who receive federal subsidies to help pay for health insurance won’t be affected immediately by the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act before the U.S. Supreme Court. But experts say there’s a good chance Connecticut residents will experience some political fallout from the court decision – which could come as soon as Thursday – challenging the validity of federal premium tax credits to 6.4 million Americans in 34 states with federally operated insurance marketplaces (also known as exchanges). Nearly 74 percent (74,682) of the 101,294 people who purchased commercial health insurance plans through Access Health CT (AHCT) received federal subsidies, as of June 2015. Connecticut is among the 16 states – along with the District of Columbia – that established their own state-based marketplaces through the health law. A court decision that blocks health insurance subsidies in the federally-operated marketplaces could lead to “some crazy maneuvering at the federal level from a legislative perspective that could impact Connecticut” if Congress moves to repeal or significantly modify the law, said James Wadleigh, chief executive officer of AHCT.
Mental disorders surpassed respiratory problems and all other ailments as the leading cause of hospitalization in Connecticut in 2012 for children ages 5 to 14, teenagers and younger adults, according to a new state health department report. The report shows that the number of days that patients with behavioral health problems were hospitalized surged 5.3 percent between 2011 and 2013, to nearly 260,000 patient days. Other categories of hospitalizations, including cardiac and cancer care, declined during that time. The data show five hospitals had increases of more than 12 percent in the number of days that patients with behavioral health problems were hospitalized. The biggest increases were at Yale-New Haven Hospital, which saw the number of patients rise 61 percent, and inpatient days jump 51 percent; and Waterbury Hospital, with 26 percent more patients and a 37 percent increase in inpatient days.