HEALTH

HHS launches CuidadoDeSalud.gov

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The Department of Health and Human Services on Sept. 8 unveiled CuidadoDeSalud.gov, a website designed to help Hispanic consumers take control of their health care by connecting them to new information and resources that will help them access quality, affordable healthcare coverage.

Consistent with the mandate in the Affordable Care Act to provide consumers with information and resources to make informed healthcare decisions, CuidadoDeSalud.gov is the partner site of HealthCare.gov, which was launched in July 2010.

"CuidadoDeSalud.gov, like HealthCare.gov, is an unprecedented website that provides consumers with the power of information at their fingertips," stated HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Individuals, families and small businesses will be able to easily compare both public and private health coverage options tailored specifically for their needs … [by providing] better information about the choices they have, how much they cost and what they can expect from their doctor — specific to their life situation and local community."

In addition, the website is a one-stop shop for information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, as well as other healthcare resources. The website connects consumers to quality rankings for local healthcare providers, as well as preventive services.

The initiative is particularly important for Latinos, HHS stated, as that demographic has the highest rates of uninsurance in the nation — more than 1-in-3 Latinos are uninsured. Latinos only are half as likely to have a usual source of primary care, and half of Latinos do not have a regular doctor. As many as 20% of low-income Latino youth have gone a year without a healthcare visit –– a rate three times higher than that of high-income whites.

In addition, HHS noted that Latinos disproportionately suffer from such chronic health diseases as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and that Latinas have disproportionate rates of cervical cancer, which they contract at twice the rate of white women.

In October 2010, CuidadoDeSalud.gov will include price estimates for health insurance plans. In the weeks and months ahead, new information on preventing disease and illness and improving the quality of health care for all Americans will also be posted.

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CHPA to Hoosier State: E-tracking will curb PSE sales

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The Consumer Healthcare Products Association is slated to testify Wednesday before an Indiana legislative committee on how the state can improve its policies for preventing the illegal diversion of pseudoephedrine.

The Indiana State Legislature’s Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee will hear a range of policy options, from requiring a prescription for currently accessible medicines to implementing an electronic tracking system to block illegal sales of PSE.

“The residents of Indiana deserve a solution that will help fight the state’s meth problem, without placing additional burdens on individuals, families and the state,” stated Mandy Hagan, director of state government relations for CHPA. “Electronic tracking is the only system that blocks illegal PSE sales while maintaining consumer access to the safe and effective medications they rely on for colds and allergies.”

In Indiana, there currently is no mechanism in place to curb the practice of “smurfing,” when criminals move from store to store to purchase illegal amounts of PSE to be used in the production of meth.

E-tracking, which has been adopted by 12 states nationwide and is funded by members of CHPA, will afford local law enforcement officials an investigative tool to track and prevent meth production across state lines. The system also preserves Indianans’ over-the-counter access to the PSE medications.

According to a poll by David Binder Research, almost two-thirds of surveyed Indiana voters oppose making common cold and allergy medications containing PSE available by prescription only, and 82% agree that an Rx-only requirement would create an “unnecessary burden” for law-abiding citizens.

The Indiana State Retail Association also supports implementation of an electronic tracking system.

The survey, conducted from Jan. 14 to 24, involved 368 Indiana state residents ages 18 years or over, all of whom voted in the last election, and has a margin of error of +/-5.1%. The survey was sponsored by CHPA.

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CVS to offer uninsured patients free flu shots

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark is partnering with nonprofit Direct Relief USA to offer up to $5 million in free flu shots to community clinic and health center patients who lack health insurance, the company announced on Wednesday.

Direct Relief USA works with 1,100 clinics and health centers in all 50 states, providing them with free medications and supplies for their low-income and uninsured patients. Most of the facilities in Direct Relief’s network are affiliated with either the National Association of Community Health Centers or the National Association of Free Clinics. CVS Caremark and Direct Relief USA will distribute vouchers redeemable for a free flu shot at any CVS/pharmacy or MinuteClinic to participating clinics and health centers. These facilities will identify uninsured individuals from their existing patient populations in order to provide them with a free flu shot voucher.

Beginning Sept. 20, CVS free flu shot vouchers for the uninsured will be available at participating community clinic and health centers for their existing patients. Names and locations of participating clinics will be made available on Sept. 20.

"With every CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic location providing flu vaccinations this year, we want to make sure that as many people as possible have access to a flu shot, including patients for whom cost may be a barrier," stated Larry Merlo, president and COO of CVS Caremark. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that everyone receive a flu shot this year. We are pleased to partner with Direct Relief USA to help accomplish that goal."

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