Small Businesses Look for Help on Health Care CoverageBURLINGTON, VT, June 16, 2008 – Most Vermont small businesses see it as their responsibility to provide health coverage to employees, but all are struggling with the rising cost, according to a survey report released today by AARP Vermont. AARP conducted an independent telephone survey of some 400 Vermont business owners with 50 or fewer employees. Clearly, the study exposes a group that is buried under the escalating costs of health care and being forced out of the market, while battling high energy costs and an economy in recession. The survey reveals a better understanding of what Vermont’s small business owners have been experiencing due to increasing health coverage costs, their opinions surrounding the issue and whether the Catamount Health Plan would appeal to them if made available.The findings showed that most small employers offer health coverage because they need it for themselves and because they feel a responsibility to do so, not for competitive or bottom-line reasons. Some 57% of respondents offer coverage, with larger employers more likely to provide the benefit, and nearly all say the premiums have risen over the past several years. In response, a significant number of businesses (48%) have changed to high-deductible plans which require employees to pay premiums and satisfy a hefty deductible before receiving any coverage. Other responses to rising costs include increasing employee contributions (27%), reducing benefits (26%) and even dropping plans altogether (16%). This pattern does not serve the interests of Vermont consumers and burdens the health care system itself. Nevertheless, it is likely to continue with more and more organizations reporting they will have to take similar actions in the next few years as premiums continue to rise.Catamount Health – the new, affordable, comprehensive insurance plan available to uninsured Vermonters – is currently not open to small businesses. If made available, affordably, to small businesses and the self-employed, the majority are likely to consider enrolling in the plan, according to the survey results. Of those not currently offering any health coverage benefit, fully 80% would consider enrolling in the plan if they could while 60% of those already offering insurance would look at switching to Catamount.AARP worked closely with lawmakers and others in pushing for the development and passage of the Catamount Health Plan. As the organization now works toward enrolling more uninsured Vermonters in the plan and improving plan provisions, it has become clear that smaller employers – the bulk of the business community – are a key in getting coverage to many residents with no coverage or costly high-deductible plans. Furthermore, hundreds of Vermont small business owners and sole proprietors are AARP members and are very concerned about the crisis in health care costs.”We ask our elected leaders in Montpelier to open the doors to affordable health insurance to small Vermont businesses – the backbone of our business community,” said Jim Leddy, AARP state president and one of the architects of the state sponsored plan. “The status quo is no longer acceptable. The only alternative for these businesses can not be to reduce, drop or not offer health insurance at all,” he said. “Quite simply, offering the Catamount Health Plan to small businesses, their employees and the self-employed is part of the solution to covering the uninsured and dealing with the rising cost of health care.”Leddy explained that AARP and the Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security are working to bring small businesses together to speak for themselves on the issue. It is expected that a proposal will go before the Legislature next session to approve a version of Catamount Health for small businesses. “We want to give voice to the thousands of small business owners struggling to take care of their employees. We hope these findings will help inform the debate in Montpelier,” said Leddy.AARP is part of a coalition representing the voice of Vermont small businesses and sole proprietors. It encourages those who want to help push for an expansion of Catamount to small businesses to contact Heather Riemer at the Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security at 1-802-343-1705.The survey interviews were conducted by Woelfel Research, Inc. in late March and early April of 2008 with a random sample of Vermont businesses as compiled by Dun & Bradstreet.AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization with 128,000 members in Vermont and 39 million members nationally. Through a wide array of special benefits, services, and information resources, we help our members make important choices, reach their goals and dreams, and make the most of life after 50. ###
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of one human illness, the CDC announced on Jun 20. The infection had already been found in birds, horses, and mosquitoes in 14 states this year. Authorities recommended that people limit mosquito exposure by using insect repellents and emptying any standing water where mosquitoes might lay eggs. About 1 out of 150 infected people experiences the most severe form, West Nile meningitis or encephalitis, which can sometimes be fatal. West Nile fever is less severe and doesn’t involve neurological signs. States are not required to report West Nile fever cases to the CDC. Jun 22, 2005 (CIDRAP News) West Nile virus has made its US debut in the heartland this year, with Kansas reporting the first human case. CDC’s West Nile virus sitehttp://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm To aid prevention, the CDC recently expanded its list of approved insect repellents by adding picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus to DEET and permethrin. People should use repellents consistently, because once WNV is endemic in an area, surges in infection rates are unpredictable, the CDC said. “This season’s first human case of West Nile virus reminds us of the importance of taking precautions to avoid becoming ill,” Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC’s Vectorborne Infectious Disease Division, said in a news release. “It’s impossible to predict what this year’s season will hold. So everyone who spends time outdoors should take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites and West Nile virus.” See also: A 51-year-old from Douglas County, Kan., became ill in mid-May, the KDHE announced. The case was not neuroinvasive. The first human cases of WNV infection in 2004 occurred in New Mexico and Arizona in the last week of May. WNV is spread by bites from infected mosquitoes. It was first identified in the United States in 1999 in New York. Human cases have now been found in each of the 48 contiguous states except Washington. About 17,000 Americans have contracted West Nile virus to date, the CDC said. The disease varies in severity. Most healthy people who are infected experience no illness or only a mild illness. About 20% of those infected show symptoms, typically 3 to 15 days after the mosquito bite, according to the KDHE.
WBO world welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan say they have agreed to terms for a fight on April 23. The boxers’ promoters are yet to announce any details. Golden Boy Promotions, Khan’s promoter, didn’t reply to a request from The Associated Press on Sunday for confirmation. Pacquiao, who came out of retirement to win the WBO belt by beating Jesse Vargas in November, says on his Twitter account that he is fighting Khan because “this is what the fans wanted.” Pacquiao’s followers on Twitter recently voted for Khan to be the 38-year-old Filipino’s next opponent, ahead of Jeff Horn of Australia, Terence Crawford of the United States or Kell Brook of Britain. Khan hasn’t fought since stepping up to middleweight and getting knocked out by WBC champion Canelo Alvarez in May. He described the bout against Pacquiao as a “super fight.” Khan and Pacquiao used to be sparring partners under trainer Freddie Roach. Khan left Roach in 2012. April 23 is a Sunday, which suggests the fight could take place outside the United States or Britain. Pacquiao has previously said he would next fight in the United Arab Emirates.