Insurance outside the box: Healthcare sharing ministries are on the rise

I came across a feature story in “The Hill” this morning about an insurance-like phenomenon I’d never heard of before: the “healthcare sharing ministry.”

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

This is specifically being done by religious organizations but on the surface at least, it seems like a great idea — each member pays a low monthly fee (about $100 per person) into the pool and the pool money is then used to cover each person’s medical bills.

It’s an idea that’s been growing — half a million people are currently participating in healthcare sharing ministries via 50 different religious organizations. That’s twice as many as before Obamacare was passed.

But obviously, the idea isn’t without it’s drawbacks.

The primary issue is that in order to have enough money to pay out, you need to have enough members paying in. But the bigger it gets, the harder it is to keep tabs on. The biggest, but not the only — fraud issue involved ministry officials using the funds for cars and real estate, rather than members’ healthcare bills.

And because these aren’t actually insurance companies or insurance policies, they’re not regulated, so members have little recourse if the group refuses to pay out.

Still, the concept is intriguing and with 33 million Americans (more than 10 percent of the population) still uninsured, any outside-the-box idea is worth looking at.

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Whiteout – It’s not just correction fluid

I live on the East Coast and, as most everyone knows, we just had a major snow storm.  There was so much snow that it shut down everything, including the government. What it didn’t shut down were the medical facilities and hospitals.  For those of us who work with a company that has telecommuters, we need to keep these types of events in mind.  We may not need to drive in the weather, but we do need electricity.

NEMT President Linda Allard

HIPAA says we need to have a disaster recovery plan, and planning for this type of event really needs to be included.  Our company has created a map that allows us to see at a glance where our team members are located.  We consult this map when we start to hear about a weather event that may affect the ability to work due to power outage or the need to evacuate.

This snow storm was predicted well in advance, which enabled us to activate our plan for handling this type of situation.  Each manager identified the people on their team who live in the area of concern. We then looked to see if they were going to be working during the days predicted for the storm. Once we knew how many people might be affected, we started working on backup plans.  We created an active list of volunteers who live in other areas of the country and were willing to work during these times if needed.  We also made sure that everyone knew who they were supposed to report any issues to.

As an example, let’s use one team that is composed of five people.  Three of those five were located in areas that were going to get several feet of snow and might lose power.  We all communicated prior to the storm and made arrangements concerning who they would call immediately upon losing power. This course of action allowed us to have one central coordinator who would handle replacing those individuals who were unable to work.  We contacted the rest of the team to make sure they would be able to help during these times since they lived in areas that would not be affected.  By taking these steps we allowed everyone to know exactly what they needed to do to ensure work flow would continue, and our team members would be able to focus on taking care of emergent needs they might have and not worry about work.

Although these things don’t happen often, when they do we need to remember that the patients’ care is what is important, so we need to prepare and be ready to continue working.

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The end of Meaningful Use – How will it impact your work day?

Acting Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Andy Slavitt, recently confirmed that the Meaningful Use initiative will end sometime in 2016. The message from the medical community has finally been heard by the powers that be.

NEMT CEO Linda Sullivan

Meaningful Use, while having a laudable intention, became a yolk on most healthcare facilities. He said the intention of improving delivery of patient care and facilitating patient involvement in their care got bogged down. It’s not clear what the new mandates will look like but the focus will move away from rewarding providers for use of technology and move to achieving better patient outcomes.

What will this mean for providers, for administrators, for IT staff, for anyone in healthcare delivery and support? Will it simplify or complicate your work day? It’s another change so likely initially will be another challenge but it seems a necessary step in the process of improving patient care and outcomes.

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Stop nagging me!

Microsoft seems to be good at getting on our nerves.  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being reminded about upgrading to Windows 10 (free until July 29, 2016).

Andrew Clarke

While it would be nice if Microsoft made it easy to stop the annoying reminders with a button that says, basically, leave me alone, that is never going to happen.  That’s why I’m devoting this blog to telling you how you can eliminate this annoyance once and for all (or at least until Microsoft changes the rules).

First, let me make it clear that stopping the nagging does not mean that you don’t still have the option to upgrade to Windows 10 for free.  It merely means that you won’t be constantly hounded.

I’ll be outlining steps found in an article located at http://www.tweaking.com/articles/pages/remove_windows_nag_icon_to_upgrade_to_windows_10,1.html

The steps are easy, but if you’re not comfortable working in a dos window (command prompt), this solution is not for you.  You will need to run the command prompt as an administrator.  In Windows 8 / 8.1, this option is available by right-clicking on the “start” button.  Here are the commands you’ll need to run:

  • REG ADD “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Gwx” /v DisableGWX /d 1 /f
  • REG ADD “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate” /v DisableOSUpgrade /d 1 /f
  • REG ADD “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\OSUpgrade” /v AllowOSUpgrade /d 0 /f
  • REG ADD “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\OSUpgrade” /v ReservationsAllowed /d 0 /f
  • TASKKILL /IM GWX.exe /T /F
  •  start /wait wusa /uninstall /kb:3035583 /quiet /norestart /log
  • start /wait wusa /uninstall /kb:3035583 /quiet /norestart /log

I know the last command is listed twice. You may need to run it twice to get it to work properly.  This command removed an update Microsoft put out to create the nag message in your system tray.  Running it a second time will not hurt anything.  You can also visit the link listed above to download and download a batch file that contains these commands so you don’t have to type them manually.  Once you reboot your computer, you will not be reminded about upgrading to Windows 10.

There is also a program available that some users have used in order to not run these steps manually.  You can find it by doing a google search.  I have not listed it here because I don’t believe in running programs written and distributed on the internet unless I can verify exactly what they do.  Since the steps to stop the nagging can be run manually from a dos prompt and there aren’t very many of them, I don’t see the need to run a third-party program.  As the user, the choice is always up to you.  I am including this information for the sake of completeness.  If you decide to run a third-party program, research it fully and make sure your anti-virus software and backups are up-to-date before doing so.

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Posted in IT, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The state of healthcare in the State of the Union Address

The State of the Union Address is set for tomorrow night, Jan. 12, 2016 and one of the big questions is whether any new announcements will be made regarding Obamacare, electronic health records or Meaningful Use.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

The State of the Union Address is traditionally where presidents highlight their top priorities for the coming year. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama listed EHRs as major goals in their State of the Union Addresses every year from 2004 to 2009, and again in 2011. After that, Obamacare took over as the major healthcare topic.

It’s a given that Obama will mention the successes of the Affordable Care Act, but political and healthcare junkies will be watching to see if any new initiatives or changes are mentioned in the address. They’ll also be keeping an ear out for any references that indicate changes might be coming for the Meaningful Use policies, particularly after the president signed a law last week easing the hardship exemption.

With the words “failure” appearing in the press more and more often in regards to Meaningful Use, it seems likely that at least a brief mention will come up tomorrow night.

Stay tuned.

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