Health Coverage Costs Continued Steady Rise Pre-Pandemic

The average cost of employer health coverage surpassed $21,000 for a family plan this year, according to a new survey, a rise reflecting rates calculated before the pandemic upended normal patterns of medical care.

Annual premiums rose 4% to hit $21,342 for an employer-provided family plan in 2020, up from $20,576 last year, according to the yearly poll of employers conducted by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. On average, employees paid $5,588 of the total this year, with the rest of the cost borne by the employers. The amount of the employee contribution was statistically unchanged from 2019.

The average cost of an employer health plan for an individual for 2020 was $7,470, also up about 4% from last year.

The Kaiser survey also found that employers were tapping the brakes on deductibles, which have risen steadily over the past decade. The average 2020 general deductible for individual-worker coverage was

Read More

Second wave may be bad, experts warn continued vigilance


The U.S. has reached 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Now experts are looking ahead, and the forecast for the fall and winter isn’t good.


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have warned about the horrors of the 1918 flu. After the first dangerous wave of infections that spring, cities and people relaxed their efforts to contain the virus and it came roaring back in the fall and winter, killing far more people.

So far, COVID-19 hasn’t behaved the same way. There was no summer break, and we’re not seeing the ebb and flow that characterized the 1918 outbreak. It’s been more like a forest fire spiking in one area while dying down in another. 

But for months, public health officials have predicted one comparison would stand: We’d have a terrible winter.

The fear is that cases will rise as more people spend more time indoors,

Read More

Proposition 449 asks for continued funding of Valleywise Health

Valleywise Health Medical Center is central Phoenix is a part of the Valleywise Health medical system.

Valleywise Health Medical Center is central Phoenix is a part of the Valleywise Health medical system. (Photo: Nick Oza/The Republic)

Proposition 449 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot in Maricopa County asks to continue funding Valleywise Health, a countywide public safety-net medical system.

The Phoenix-based nonprofit Valleywise Health includes, among other services, a public teaching hospital that contains both a Level One (highest level) trauma center and Arizona’s only nationally verified burn center. Previously, it was called the Maricopa Integrated Health Care System, or MIHS.

As of Sept. 26, there was no known organized opposition to the “yes” or “no” ballot question. The funding comes from a special secondary property tax that’s been paid by property owners in Maricopa County since 2004. This year that tax amounts to an estimated $36.86 per year for residential property owners of a home assessed at $200,000.

Valleywise serves a disproportionately high

Read More

L.A. County coronavirus numbers show continued decline in hospitalizations

L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. <span class="copyright">(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)</span>
L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County saw a continued decline in the number of people with serious cases of COVID-19 this weekend, with fewer than 700 patients hospitalized on Sunday. There were three times as many COVID-19 hospitalizations during the summer surge.

The reduction in the most serious cases came as the county reported 815 new cases overall and 10 deaths for the day. These are declines from past highs, but the lower numbers may reflect a lag in weekend reporting, the county said.

There were 692 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday, compared with 1,100 in late August and more than 2,200 in mid-July.

Hospitalizations, like new cases and deaths, are considered a key indicator of how well counties are handling the spread of the coronavirus and how much demand the pandemic is putting on local healthcare

Read More

Fact-checking Trump’s continued efforts to downplay the risks of Covid-19

Hours before the US death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 200,000, President Donald Trump was again downplaying the risks of the disease.

Donald Trump et al. standing in front of a crowd

© Provided by CNN

At a campaign rally in Ohio on Monday, Trump said coronavirus “affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that’s what it really affects. That’s it.”

He also doubled down on previous claims that young people are “virtually immune,” this time saying “take your hat off to the young because they have a hell of an immune system.”

Trump briefly paused before adding, “It affects virtually nobody.”

Facts First: Trump continues to try to falsely narrow the types of people affected by coronavirus. For one, it’s not true that the virus only affects elderly people with heart or other health problems. It’s also clearly not true that the virus “affects virtually nobody.” Trump’s comments ignore warnings

Read More

North Carolina AG joins other states seeking continued waivers for food stamps

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is among 22 state attorneys general calling on President Donald Trump’s administration to waive burdens associated with processing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applications.

The group of state counsels sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, asking the department to reconsider recent denials of Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) requests.

“Many families are still struggling financially as a result of this pandemic,” Stein said. “To allow them to go hungry during this time is cruel. I urge the federal government to ease these administrative burdens so that we can make sure North Carolinians can get the food assistance they need during these tough times.”

Nearly 1.5 million North Carolinians are receiving FNS benefits, better known as food stamps, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) numbers.

Food stamp applications have increased by 22% from March to

Read More