$16M: The Record Breaking Cost of a Data Breach

Anthem is being held accountable, to the tune of a record breaking $16,000,000, for cyber attacks that compromised protected health information.

Anthem is being held accountable, to the tune of a record breaking $16,000,000, for cyber attacks that compromised protected health information in the largest health data breach in U.S. history.

The staggering payment, which will be made to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, is to settle HIPAA violations that results after a series of cyberattacks led to close to 79 million people having their health data stolen. This is the largest settlement related to a data breach, towering over the previous high of $5.5M.

Indianapolis-based Anthem, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is one of the largest healthcare entities and the nation’s second-largest health insurer, providing coverage to one in eight Americans through its health plans, making it a desirable target for hackers the world over.

“Anthem takes the security of its data and the personal information of consumers very seriously,” Anthem said in a statement released on Monday. “We have cooperated with [the government] throughout their review and have now reached a mutually acceptable resolution.”

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Two Healthcare Majors Ranked “Most Valuable”

Two medical and health sciences and services fields of study were ranked in the top 10 most valuable college majors according to a new survey.

Two medical and health sciences and services fields of study were ranked in the top 10 most valuable college majors by Bankrate.com, a personal finance website. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs ranked fourth on the list, while Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Administration was ranked sixth.

To determine the rankings, Bankrate.com examined the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey. The data was used to rank 162 majors based on a variety of factors, including the degree holder’s average annual income, the unemployment rate for college graduates with that degree, and whether a degree holder’s career path required a higher degree, such as a master’s degree or doctoral degree.

According to Bankrate.com, Health and Medical Preparatory Programs degree holders earn an average annual salary of $130,308, and their unemployment rate is only 2.3%, while Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Administration graduates earn $103,350 on average annually, and have an unemployment rate of 1.8%.

Comparatively, the least valuable major is Miscellaneous Fine Arts, ranking at #162 on the list, with an average annual salary of $40,855 and an unemployment rate of 9.1%.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Congress Bans Pharmacist ‘Gag Orders’ On Drug Prices

Pharmacists will no longer have to keep it a secret when the cash price for a prescription is less than what someone would pay using their insurance plan.

By Susan Jaffe

For years, most pharmacists couldn’t give customers even a clue about an easy way to save money on prescription drugs. But the restraints are coming off.

When the cash price for a prescription is less than what you would pay using your insurance plan, pharmacists will no longer have to keep that a secret.

President Donald Trump was expected to sign two bills Wednesday that ban “gag order” clauses in contracts between pharmacies and insurance companies or pharmacy benefit managers — those firms that negotiate prices for employers and insurers with drugstores and drugmakers. Such provisions prohibit pharmacists from telling customers when they can save money by paying the pharmacy’s lower cash price instead of the price negotiated by their insurance plan.

The bills — one for Medicare and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries and another for commercial employer-based and individual policies— were passed by Congress in nearly unanimous votes last month. A spokesman for Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said her office had been told the president would sign the bills Wednesday. The White House declined to comment.

“Americans deserve to know the lowest drug price at their pharmacy, but ‘gag clauses’ prevent your pharmacist from telling you!” Trump wrote on Twitter three weeks ago, shortly before the Senate voted on the bills. “I support legislation that will remove gag clauses.” The change was one of the proposals included in Trump’s blueprint to cut prescription drug prices issued in May.

Ronna Hauser, vice president of payment policy and regulatory affairs at the National Community Pharmacists Association, said many members of her group “say a pharmacy benefit manager will call them with a warning if they are telling patients it’s less expensive” without insurance. She said pharmacists could be fined for violating their contracts and even dropped from insurance networks.

According to research published in JAMA in March, people with Medicare Part D drug insurance overpaid for prescriptions by $135 million in 2013. Copayments in those plans were higher than the cash price for nearly 1 in 4 drugs purchased in 2013. For 12 of the 20 most commonly prescribed drugs, patients overpaid by more than 33 percent.

Yet some critics say eliminating gag orders doesn’t address the causes of high drug prices. “As a country, we’re spending about $450 billion on prescription drugs annually,” said Steven Knievel, who works on drug price issues for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group. The modest savings gained by paying the cash price “is far short of what needs to happen to actually deliver the relief people need.”

After the president signs the legislation affecting commercial insurance contracts, gag order provisions will immediately be prohibited, said a spokesman for Collins, who co-authored the bill. The bill affecting Medicare beneficiaries wouldn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2020.

But there’s a catch: Under the new legislation, pharmacists will not be required to tell patients about the lower cost option. If they don’t, it’s up to the customer to ask.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, a trade group representing pharmacy benefit managers, said gag orders are increasingly rare. The association supported the legislation. Some insurers have also said their contracts don’t include these provisions. Yet two members of Congress have encountered them at the pharmacy counter.

At a hearing on the gag order ban, Collins said she watched a couple leave a Bangor, Maine, pharmacy without their prescription because they couldn’t afford the $111 copayment and the pharmacist did not advise them about saving money by paying directly for the medicine. When she asked him how often that happens, he said every day.

“Banning gag clauses will make it easier for more Americans to afford their prescription drugs because pharmacists will be able to proactively notify consumers if a less expensive option may be available,” she said last week.

When Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) went to a Michigan pharmacy to pick up a prescription recently, she was told it would cost $1,300. “After you peeled me off the ceiling, I called the doctor and screamed and talked to the pharmacist,” she recalled during a hearing last month. “I’m much more aggressive than many in asking questions,” she admitted, and ended up saving $1,260 after she learned she could get an equivalent drug for $40.

While the legislation removes gag orders, it doesn’t address how patients who pay the cash price outside their insurance plan can apply that expense toward meeting their policy’s deductible.

But for Medicare beneficiaries there is a little-known rule — not found in the “Medicare & You” handbook or on its website —that helps people with Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage coverage. If they pay the lower cash price for a covered drug at a pharmacy that participates in their insurance plan and then submit the proper documentation to their plan, insurers must count it toward patients’ out-of-pocket expenses.

The total of those expenses are important because that amount affects the drug coverage gap commonly called the “doughnut hole.” (This year, the gap begins after the plan and beneficiary spend $3,750 and ends once the beneficiary has spent a total of $5,000.)

And beneficiaries don’t have to wait until the gag order ban takes effect in two years.

The Medicare rule also says that if a senior asks about a lower price for a prescription, the pharmacist can answer.

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), a pharmacist who sponsored the Medicare gag order bill, said he wasn’t surprised by the bipartisan support for the legislation. “High prescription drug costs affect everyone,” he said.

KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Healthcare Continues Adding Jobs; Unemployment Hits 49 Year Low

The unemployment rate is at a 49 year low, and healthcare’s steady and consistent job growth is one factor as to why.

Healthcare added 26,000 jobs in September, including 12,000 in hospitals, 10,300 in ambulatory care, and 3,400 in nursing care facilities, according to numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday.

The constant and steady growth of jobs in the healthcare sector has contributed to what is now the lowest unemployment rate (3.7%) in 49 years.

Over the year, healthcare has added 302,000 jobs.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

80,000 Flu Deaths Reported in the U.S. in 2017

900,000 Americans were hospitalized and 80,000 Americans, including a record-breaking 180 children, died from the flu during the 2017-2018 season.

900,000 Americans were hospitalized and 80,000 Americans died from the flu during the 2017-2018 season, according to figures released during a news briefing held last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). This is the highest flu-related death toll in over a decade, according to federal health officials.

Among the 80,000 dead were 180 children under 18, the highest reported death toll of any non-pandemic year since the CDC began tracking pediatric deaths. 90% of the flu-related deaths from last flu season were reported in people over age 65.

The high mortality rate is unusual and alarming, as it was not caused by a new pandemic influenza strain, but by a “normal”, albeit severe, flu season.

As we head into the 2018-2019 U.S. flu season, Americans are urged to prepare by getting vaccinated by the end of October.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Health Data Breaches Are on the Rise

Healthcare data breaches are trending upward, rising from 199 reported incidents in 2010 to 344 reported incidents in 2017.

A research letter, penned by Thomas H. McCoy Jr, MD and Roy H. Perlis, MD, MSc and published this month by the American Medical Association, took an in-depth look at reported healthcare data breaches from 2010 through 2017 and found breaches are on the rise, while postulating that the ongoing transition to EHRs may increase such breaches.

The authors of the letter analyzed all data breaches occurring between January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2017 that were reported to the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of Health and Human Services, as is mandatory under the 1999 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. Trends and types of breaches were observed across three types of reported categories, including those taking place at healthcare providers, at health plans, and at businesses associated with healthcare.

The analysis revealed that 2,149 breaches took place during the seven-year period, involving a total of 176.4 million patient records. From 2010 through 2017, it was found that the total number of breaches increased every year except for 2015, starting at 199 reported breaches in 2010 and ending with 344 reported breaches in 2017.

It was found that the most common type of breach was paper or film, accounting for 24% of total reported breaches, comprising a total of 3.4 million breached health records. However, tech-related breaches are on the rise, with the most popular form of breach shifting from laptop or paper or film to network server and email by 2017.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Majority of Patients Review Healthcare Experiences Online

51% of Americans surveyed said they share their personal healthcare experiences online via social media and review sites, such as Yelp, Google, and Facebook.

More and more, patients are consulting online reviews via sites such as Yelp and Google when determining which healthcare facility and provider to use, and are sharing their healthcare experiences online, as well, according to a new survey from Binary Fountain.

The results of the second annual Healthcare Consumer Insight & Digital Engagement Survey, released this week, indicate that:

  • 95% of the surveyed respondents find online ratings and reviews “somewhat” to “very” reliable.
  • Of the 95%, 100% of respondents between the ages of 18-24 and 97% of respondents between the ages of 25-34 find online ratings and reviews “somewhat” to “very” reliable.
  • 70% of Americans say online ratings and review sites have influenced their decision in selecting a physician.
  • 51% of Americans said they share their personal healthcare experiences online via social media and review sites, which is a 65% increase from the previous year.
  • Millennials are most likely to share their physician or hospital experiences online, with 70% saying they have done so.
  • 68% of Americans aged 18-24 said they have shared their healthcare experiences online, which is a staggering 94% increase over last year.
  • Facebook is the most used method of sharing healthcare experiences for ages 25-54.
  • Patients between the ages of 18-24 indicated that Google is their preferred online platform to share their healthcare experiences.

Have you Googled your facility lately?

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

5 Questions to Ask at Your Job Interview

When you are interviewing for a position, traditionally, you will be the one answering the questions, not asking them—but you should definitely ask some.

When you are interviewing for a position, traditionally, you will be the one answering the questions, not asking them. However, your interview should be just as much about whether the company a good fit for you, as it is about whether or not you are a good fit for the company.

At the end of the interview, you will likely be asked, “Are there any questions you have for me?” or some variation of that. Saying that you have no questions could make you look too passive and uninterested, and asking the wrong questions, such as only inquiring about compensation or benefits, could indicate to the interviewer that you are interested in the position for the “wrong” reasons. Instead, ask the following to ensure the job you’re interviewing for is the one, while positioning you to come across as a truly interested candidate looking to add value to the organization.

  • What can you tell me about the company’s culture?
  • What would your current employees say are the best and worst things about working here?
  • What challenges could I expect to encounter in this role?
  • How would you expect someone as myself to do better in this role than its previous occupant?
  • How do you see this company advancing or evolving over the next three to five years?

These questions allow you to get a feel for not only how the company aligns with your day to day life, by asking about culture, challenges, and expectations, but also how it fits into your larger career goals, by inquiring about the future of the company—and you’ll seem interested in more than just the salary.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Healthcare Jobs Grow for the 95th Month in a Row

When it comes to jobs, the healthcare sector remains strong, accounting for 16.5% of the total jobs added in the U.S. in August.

The latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has been released, and the good news continues for the 95th straight month for the healthcare sector. Healthcare jobs have grown, yet again, adding 33,200 jobs in August, accounting for 16.5% of the total jobs added in the U.S. in August. A robust number all its own, the growth seen in August is downright staggering when compared to July’s 16,700 new jobs, of which it is nearly double.

Ambulatory healthcare services accounted for the most employment growth within healthcare last month, adding 21,100 jobs. Other notable gains included hospitals, which added 8,200 jobs in August, as well as nursing and residential care facilities, which accounted for an additional 3,900 jobs.

In total, healthcare employment has increased by 301,000 jobs over the year, according to the BLS.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Tech Startups Zero in On Healthcare

Y Combinator’s Demo Day saw the launch of giants such as Dropbox and Airbnb, and now a quarter of this year’s featured tech startups fall into the bio space, including healthcare.

Venture capitalists who attended Y Combinator’s Demo Day, the twice-annual event that showcases emerging technology startups, are increasingly turning their attention to the healthcare space, according to coverage of the event by Wired.

Demo Day, which took place from August 20th to the 22nd at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, showcases graduates and of Y Combinator’s prominent training program to investors, looking to get in on the ground floor of the next Dropbox or Airbnb, both of which began at Y Combinator.

A quarter of the 142 companies presenting at Demo Day fell into the Bio category, which includes healthcare and biotech—the largest percentage since Demo Day began.

To read Wired’s article, including their highlights of noteworthy bio startups that presented at Demo Day this year, click here.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.