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    “Obamacare” Wellness Rules Released: It’s Time to Pay More for Your Bad Habits

“Obamacare” Wellness Rules Released: It’s Time to Pay More for Your Bad Habits

Beginning Jan. 1, many Americans will become more proactive about their health because their bad habits could hit them in the pocketbook.
On Wednesday the Obama administration released a new set of guidelines for employers hoping to provide employees with incentives to get healthy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The guidelines allow employers to charge employees up to 30 percent more to cover the cost of group healthcare plans. On the flip side, it increases the maximum permissible reward for things like smoking cessation to 50 percent.
While employers are allowed to charge employees with unhealthy lifestyles more, they are obligated to make reasonable concessions in an effort to not punish people with less than perfect health, so long as they are making strides to improve their wellness.
“The final rules support workplace health promotion and prevention as a means to reduce the burden of chronic illness, improve health, and limit the growth of health care costs, while ensuring that individuals are protected from unfair underwriting practices that could otherwise reduce benefits based on health status” according to a release from the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
The government also released a study from the RAND Corporation that examined companies with pre-existing wellness programs. It found that participation incentives, like those offered under the ACA, are effective in getting employees to comply, though the healthcare cost savings will take time to materialize.
“Consistent with prior research, we find that lifestyle management programs as part of workplace wellness can reduce risk factors, such as smoking, and increase healthy behaviors, such as exercise,” the study concluded. “We find that these effects are sustainable over time and clinically meaningful.”
The New Guidelines for Employee Health
The guidelines focus on helping American employees be more active and […]

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    Pee-on-a-stick Prostate Cancer Test in the Works at UC Irvine

Pee-on-a-stick Prostate Cancer Test in the Works at UC Irvine

A cheap and accurate way to detect early-stage prostate cancer is here at last, and it should be as easy as taking an at-home pregnancy test.
University of California, Irvine chemists have found an inexpensive, discreet way for men to test themselves for prostate cancer in their own bathrooms. They hope that through early detection their new test will improve the lives of the estimated 240,000 American men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year.
After more than a decade of research, UC Irvine scientists have found a way to clearly identify usable cancer markers in urine. They are now working to develop a faster, cheaper, and far more accurate test for prostate cancer to be sold over the counter.
“Our goal is a device the size of a home pregnancy test priced around $10. You would buy it at the drugstore or the grocery store and test yourself,” the study’s corresponding author, Reginald Penner, UC Irvine Chancellor’s Professor of chemistry, said in a press release. “We’re on the verge of a very important breakthrough in a new era of personal health management.”
The prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, test is the current standard for prostate cancer screening. However, the test is controversial, to say the least. Up to 60 percent of patients face misdiagnosis, over-treatment, or a delayed diagnosis. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends against PSA testing.
“A big problem is that the approach used now does not catch cancer soon enough,” study co-author Gregory Weiss, a UC Irvine biochemist, said in a press release. “We want this to be a disruptive technology that will change how we save lives and that will bring down healthcare costs drastically.”
Using Viruses to Outwit Cancer
The research […]