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Health and Fitness

CT Exchange’s Private Insurance Customers Skew Older, Male

By Arielle Levin Becker

www.ctmirror.org

Sixty percent of the people who signed up for private health plans through Connecticut’s health insurance exchange are 45 and older, according to figures released today by the federal government.

That’s more than twice the share of people in the coveted under-35 age brackets. Twenty-one percent of enrollees are age 18 to 34.

The figures also show that Connecticut stands out as one of just two states with more men than women signing up for private plans through the exchanges. In Connecticut, 54 percent of enrollees are men and 46 percent are women. Nationally, the opposite is true: 54 percent are women and 46 percent are men.

The numbers, released today, cover the first three months of enrollment—Oct. 1 to Dec. 28—in public health insurance exchanges created by the federal health law commonly known as Obamacare.

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CT, 7 Other States Seek Midwest Pollution Crackdown

By Mark Pazniokas and Jan Ellen Spiegel

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut and seven other eastern states, all with Democratic governors and all under longstanding orders to reduce air pollution, said today they are petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency to force stricter air standards on nine upwind states from the Rust Belt and Appalachia that rely on coal-fired power plants.

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This CT DEEP map shows pollution flows from the south (yellow) and west (red) that travels hundreds of miles at high altitudes. Green shows local, lower-level flows. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) DEEP illustration

The governors said their states have largely exhausted ways to mitigate local ozone pollution and now must act decisively to force upwind states to reduce pollution at the source. Efforts at negotiation have failed, leaving the eastern governors with no choice but to seek federal intervention.

“They have been warned. They know this action is coming,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, one of four governors who addressed the media today, either by conference call or in a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Malloy said the eight states are seeking federal action to lower unhealthful ozone levels that plague places like Connecticut’s Fairfield County on many summer days and produce acid rain across Vermont and New Hampshire, degrading lakes and forests that are key to tourism.

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Comings & Goings: Granola Bar Opens

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The Granola Bar opened today at Westport’s Playhouse Square.  The entrepreneurial owners, Julie Gaines and Dana Nooril (see WestportNow Dec. 3, 2013), who also produce and market Granola Oats in retail food stores, said the restaurant offerings range from full breakfasts and lunches with table service as well as bakery goods and coffee at the counter. They said everything is freshly made on the premises. Hours are Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

CT Exchange’s First Month Enrollment Figures Released

By Arielle Levin Becker

www.ctmirror.org

In its first month, Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange, enrolled 7,615 people in health care coverage, according to figures released today.

Of those, 53 percent—4,065—have signed up for private insurance plans. The other 47 percent are signed up for Medicaid.

In addition, 55 small businesses have signed up for coverage through Access Health’s small business exchange. Altogether they have 306 employees.

Created by the health law commonly known as Obamacare, the exchange sells insurance offered by private companies and enrolls people in Medicaid. The health law aims to reduce the number of uninsured people in the country by expanding Medicaid to cover people at higher income levels and providing federal subsidies to reduce the cost of premiums for private coverage.

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CT Signs Up 3,847 for New Health Care Coverage

By Arielle Levin Becker

www.ctmirror.org

In its first 15 days of operations, Connecticut’s new insurance marketplace signed 3,847 people up for health care coverage as part of the law commonly known as Obamacare.

Most of the early customers were ages 55 to 64, and, among enrollees under 35, the majority will get Medicaid coverage. Two-thirds of those signing up for private insurance chose plans offered by the state’s largest insurer, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and small businesses have lagged behind individuals in signing up, with only 11 submitting applications so far, according to data presented to the marketplace’s board Thursday.

The data was the most comprehensive presented so far, and according to CEO Kevin Counihan, is more than federal officials wanted states to release.

Unlike Connecticut, which chose to develop and run its own marketplace known as a health insurance exchange, 36 states have exchanges that are run fully or in part by the federal government. The federal government has faced criticism for its handling of those exchanges, including not reporting how many people have enrolled so far.

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Inside Scoop on Sleep Disorders

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Norwalk Hospital sleep disorders expert Christopher Manfredi told the Westport Rotary Club today there is a direct link to weight gain by Americans and lack of sleep. Addressing the club’s weekly meeting at Bertucci’s Restaurant, he said humans need eight hours of sleep a night and anything less could have medical consequences, including weight gain. The director of the hospital’s Sleep Disorders Center also said those who take two or more medications to control high blood pressure are likely to suffer from sleep apnea -– a chronic condition that disrupts sleep. Manfredi, board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary disease and critical care medicine, said in 70 percent of all patients who report sleep apnea, “snoring is a symptom.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Westporters Urged to Check on Arsenic in Wells

By James Lomuscio

High levels of naturally occurring arsenic in well waters in Weston today prompted a call from the director of the Westport Weston Health District (WWHD) for Westporters living near the Weston line to have their wells checked too. WestportNow.com Image
Mark A. R. Cooper: urges testing of wells north of Merritt Parkway. File photo

A deadly poison in high doses, arsenic is relatively harmless in minute, acceptable levels as it appears almost everywhere: soil, air, vegetables, rocks and well water.

But in recent months, some wells in Weston tested at 40 times the acceptable level, said Mark A. R. Cooper, WWHD director.

As a result, Cooper said he is urging Westport residents north of the Merritt Parkway to have their wells tested, too.

New Website Promotes Long-Term Care Options, Jobs

By Arielle Levin Becker

www.ctmirror.org

The state has launched a website and media campaign to increase awareness about the choices Connecticut residents have for receiving long-term care and the career options for caregivers.

The campaign, called My Place CT, is part of an effort to expand the ability of seniors and people with disabilities to live in communities, rather than institutional settings like nursing homes. The move to reshape the state’s long-term care system also includes trying to help the nursing home industry broaden its business model to serve the needs of people living outside their facilities.

One of the major challenges in expanding the use of home and community-based long-term care options is a shortage of workers, and the My Place CT campaign is aimed in part at promoting the home care field.

“Making choices about long-term care and support just got easier,” Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby said in a statement. “In fact, the online resources and campaign are based on the theme of personal choice across the full spectrum of care—from the many options for staying healthy at home to receiving skilled nursing facility care.”

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Earthplace Screens Film About Toxic Threats

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Toxic threats in daily life was the theme of a documentary film, “Unacceptable Levels,” screened tonight at Westport’s Earthplace. Ed Brown, award-winning writer/director of the film, took part in a post-screening discussion about his work. The event was sponsored by the Town of Westport’s Green Task Force, along with Clean Water Action Connecticut. Shannon McAvoy (above), development coordinator for Clean Water Action Connecticut, introduced the film to the audience of more than 60. Contributed photo

Experts Discuss Effects of Trauma on Children

By James Lomuscio

George Hagman, director of outpatient services at Greater Bridgeport Community Mental Health Center, was part of a trauma team sent to Newtown shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre to counsel children at another town elementary school. What he found, he said, was heartbreaking.

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Christina Hoven addresses tonight’s meeting on children and trauma at the Westport Public Library. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“It had been many years since I worked with children,” he said about his time at Newtown’s Middle Gate Elementary School. “It broke my heart to see how pained and troubled they were.”

Hagman was one of two featured speakers tonight at a Westport Public Library talk titled “The Aftermath of Trauma in Children: Helping Newtown and Lessons from 9/11.” 

The other speaker was Christina Hoven, associate professor of clinical epidemiology in psychiatry at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.