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Americans don’t understand health reform? No kidding!

BY Jim Frederick

Calling all pharmacists: If ever there was a need for pharmacy-based patient education, that time is now. Patients will need your help to unravel the complex set of regulations spawned by health reform.

A new survey from CVS Caremark shows widespread and continuing confusion about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the changes it will bring to the U.S. healthcare system and to their own lives. To wit: Nearly 8-in-10 consumers who would qualify for new health coverage under the law have never heard of the state-based healthcare exchanges where they’ll shop for coverage beginning in 2014. And 60% of those surveyed said they’d need help from doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals to navigate the post-reform health system. [For the full story, click here.]

The breakdown in understanding should surprise no one. One of the great shortcomings of the Obama administration has been its glaring failure to adequately champion — let alone explain — its controversial effort to overhaul the dysfunctional U.S. healthcare system. Ditto for its failure to clearly explain why this dizzyingly complex and still-emerging piece of legislation was important to most Americans, or would benefit their interests.

To my mind, the campaign to tackle the unsustainable rise in healthcare costs, the lack of integration in healthcare and the lack of health coverage for tens of millions of Americans was a worthy and even courageous goal, and one for which the Obama administration expended enormous political capital. But too often, the President ceded the effort to really sell Americans on the idea of health reform and its potential benefits to his Democratic allies in Congress and other reform advocates in and out of his administration.

Into that bully-pulpit vacuum rushed a noisy, well-organized and well-financed army of health-reform opponents, ranging from moderate congressional Republicans with legitimate concerns about coverage mandates for the uninsured and for employers, to Tea Party newcomers with only a vague understanding of the reform law’s actual provisions.

Lost in the debate were the unsustainable financial and societal pressures driving the need for change.

Result: The Obama health-reform law was largely defined and often mischaracterized by its fiercest opponents. [Remember death panels for seniors?] And it now faces a serious Supreme Court challenge.

Add to that the bill’s complex list of new regulations governing coverage options, out-of-pocket costs, eligibility, employer responsibilities and other issues, and it’s no wonder Americans are confused and need help understanding the law.

What do you think? Was the Patient Protection Act an ill conceived and overreaching intrusion into the private health system, or a critically needed if poorly explained partial fix for a health system in crisis? And, if you’re a pharmacist, do you feel adequately informed yourself to be able to counsel your patients about what reform will mean to them?

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Cub Foods, BrightFarms to provide year-round local produce to Twin Cities

BY Allison Cerra

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Supervalu banner Cub Foods has partnered with a local produce grower to provide year-round local produce to locations throughout the Twin Cities.

Produce from BrightFarms’ 38,000-sq.-ft. greenhouse will be sold at Cub Foods, which is committed to sourcing more local produce and increasing sustainability. Each year, BrightFarms’ St. Paul greenhouse will grow more than 350,000 lbs. of lettuces, tomatoes, and herbs delivered within hours to supermarket shelves. BrightFarms will complete the greenhouse and begin delivering produce in fall 2012.

"Cub Foods is committed to being the local neighborhood grocer for customers throughout the Twin Cities and we are excited about the many possibilities this greenhouse can present in the future," Cub Foods SVP operations Chuck Lynch said. "Consumers will have new opportunities to get fresh, locally grown and sustainable produce year-round as a result of this project."

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Rolling Strong, Stayhealthy partner to give truckers access to HealthCenter kiosks

BY Antoinette Alexander

LAS VEGAS — Rolling Strong, a provider of wellness programs for professional drivers, has partnered with Stayhealthy to bring professional drivers access to the Stayhealthy kiosk so they can self-monitor health levels.

"Rolling Strong has distinguished itself by being the only company aggressively addressing trucker’s health where, so to speak, the rubber meets the road," said Michael Cavotta, Stayhealthy’s EVP strategic initiatives. "We believe by adding the HealthCenter to convenient locations, such as Kroger grocery stores and pharmacies, truckers will have easy access to vital health tracking tools. By frequently measuring blood pressure, body fat levels, pulse rate and weight, it will aid in improving their overall health levels and help to eliminate the current shortage of truckers caused by failing their physicals. Helping to improve the health of truckers and their families will ensure they get and stay healthy, and stay productive on the road."

The Stayhealthy HealthCenter kiosk offers assessments, including measurements of weight, blood pressure, body composition, BMI calculation and basic vision. Other tests, such as hearing, are being considered.

The HealthCenters are Internet enabled, which allows individuals to securely save their results to a HIPAA compliant website that is viewable from any Internet device and can be shared with the professional driver’s permission with other such health professionals as physicians and pharmacists, or family members, through the Rolling Strong Driver Wellness Tool Bag program.

With more than 3.2 million drivers on the road, decreasing health levels combined with stricter health regulations have resulted in a serious shortage of qualified drivers.

"The Stayhealthy HealthCenter kiosk is the best in class personal health station available in the market today," Cavotta added. "To effectively change health levels, you must make the process cost effective, accessible and convenient. By deploying self-use health stations across a broad community such as retail stores, YMCAs, hospitals and corporate locations, it empowers individuals to frequently measure their metrics, a key to improving health levels. If you can measure it, you can manage it."


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