News in Brief: Week of Oct. 14-18

October 16, 2013 04:52 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

Joining Forces Free Webinar Series Focuses on Military Health Issues

If you count active service members or returning veterans and their families among your patients, a free webinar series( being offered as part of Joining Forces Wellness Week( (JFWW), Nov. 11-15, can help boost your knowledge and hone the skills you need to care for these individuals.

Co-sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges, JFWW features a series of webinars that focus on issues specific to these patients, including taking a military health history as part of a patient history, dealing with military sexual trauma, suicide awareness and prevention, managing stress among parents of military members, and more.

The series kicks off Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day -- at noon ET. Registration for the webinars( opened Oct. 15.

New Tool Lets Health Exchange Users Compare Plan Premiums

HHS launched a new online tool( last week that allows federal health exchange users to compare average monthly health plan premiums in different tiers for two age groups (birth through age 49 and 50 and older). Users don't have to create an account to take advantage of the tool, and they need answer only a handful of questions to retrieve a list of options available in their locality.

The tool, which can be used by individuals to compare personal or family coverage premium options or by business owners to gauge premium costs for employees and their families, does not calculate potential tax credits or subsidies, and it does not retrieve information on copays or deductibles.

In addition to providing premium estimates, the tool

  • defines and offers examples of essential health benefits that all plans are required to cover;
  • provides a chart that shows household sizes and income levels that qualify for lower costs; and
  • describes the various plan levels -- catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold and platinum -- that users can choose from and what cost percentage each level covers.

Finally, the tool carries a clear message to users that they should not consider it an application for coverage in the federal health marketplace.

RWJF Works to Decrease Inappropriate Emergency Department Use

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF's) Aligning Forces for Quality Initiative(, 70 percent of patient visits to an ER are not true emergencies.

To help lower that percentage, RWJF has developed a suite of new resources to assist physicians( as they work with patients to explain appropriate use of ERs.

The online resources are available at no charge and include three case studies aimed at reducing ER use that were conducted in Albuquerque, N.M., Detroit and several locations in Wisconsin, as well as a guide with specific tips on how to avoid ER overuse. Physicians also can read an interview with an expert who is helping Detroit implement simple interventions to increase patients' understanding of their options when they need after-hours medical care.

Competing ACOs Collaborate for Patient Good

A recent story in U.S. News and World Report highlights the collaborative efforts of five competing accountable care organizations (ACOs) in Massachusetts to reduce problems for patients who still need some medical assistance after hospital checkout.

According to the story, headlined "ACOs Try to Solve the Post-Acute Care Crisis,(" the five ACOs provide medical care to 40 percent of the state's Medicare patients.

All five ACOs are part of Medicare's Pioneer ACO Model( in which Medicare agrees to split savings or share in any losses with an ACO, provided the ACO saves money and meets 33 quality and performance measures.