Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

UW study: tattoo snags may mimic diseases, but don’t panic

by Matt Rosenberg November 6th, 2012

In a new study published in a medical journal, a University of Washington dermatologist warns tattoo seekers to beware of possible bacterial complications which can result from variances in types of tattoo inks and practices used, and worrisome-looking symptoms that mimic non-Hodgkins lymphoma, or non-melanoma skin cancer and lupus. But despite these more dire appearances, writes Dr. Michi M. Shinohara, typically the problem is an infection that can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Meanwhile, there are definitely some questions you need to ask your tattoo artist before going under the needle.

World Bank data visualization: lower fertility, longer lives

by Matt Rosenberg October 19th, 2012

At Google Public Data Explorer, the World Bank recently posted this revealing visualization showing how lower fertility rates correlate with longer life expectancies for females and males. The results are given for major nations and are also colored-coded by continent. A slider on the bottom allows the user to see different result for each year between 1960 and 2010. By hovering your mouse over any circle, you will be able to a nation’s name as well as its exact data points along each axis, in the selected year. By moving the slider rapidly from left to right, you can see the progress over time, on a global scale, in lower fertility rates and greater longevity. Fertility rate is defined as the average number of births per woman, and life expectancy as that of a newborn, with current mortality conditions remaining the same. The source document was the World Bank’s World Development Indicators.

Click “explore data” in the viz below to find an index of other data sets from the report, which you can use to easily create your own data visualizations in Google Public Data Explorer.

Public Data Ferret’s Data Visualization archives: Global; U.S. Government; Washington State; King County; Seattle.

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

WA scores well in one aspect of Medicaid fraud detection

by John Stang September 7th, 2012

Washington state is batting almost 1,000 in due diligence checks of Medicaid applicants for financial eligibility, but needs to run checks on their vehicle ownership to ensure it is properly weeding out those whose net assets are too high to qualify for the program, according to a recent U.S. General Accountability Office report. The report by GAO, which performs program evaluations and related investigations at the request of members of Congress, looked at how thoroughly all 50 states and the District of Columbia vet their long-term Medicaid applicants for one sub-category of eligibility standards. The feds list 13 potential categories of assets that can be checked to ensure applicants are not fraudulently transferring them or failing to report them, so they don’t count toward Medicaid eligibility. A 2007 Medicaid fraud conviction of a woman in New Hampshire accented the risks. As of July, Washington was doing the necessary checking in 12 of those 13 categories; the exception being vehicle ownership. Idaho too verifies 12 categories, also not tackling vehicles, while Oregon verifies all 13 categories for its long-term Medicaid applicants. It is one of 20 states to do so.

Overall, though, the state could do significantly better in detecting Medicaid fraud, say legislators. As reported earlier at Public Data Ferret, upon passage last spring of a new law effective this July 1, to ratchet up Medicaid fraud penalties, Washington State Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent) blogged, “Experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures estimate the cost of Medicaid fraud accounts for 3 and 10 percent of total Medicaid expenditures. Washington spent $8.5 billion on Medicaid last year only to recover less than $20 million in fraud. At its most optimistic, the state’s recovery rate tops out at less than 1 percent.”

Pertussis in WA hit Hispanics at double the rate of others

by Matt Rosenberg July 23rd, 2012

The headline-grabbing outbreak of whooping cough, or Pertussis, in Washington state this year affected Hispanics at a rate more than twice that of non-Hispanics, according to a new report from the Washington State Department of Health and U.S. researchers that was published late last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in the CDC’s journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report “Pertussis Epidemic – Washington 2012″ found that in the large percentage of cases where ethnicity and race were known, that “statewide cumulative incidence was higher in Hispanics than non-Hispanics (53.1 versus 24.6 cases per 100,000 population).”

Port OKs $475,000 to Kent man’s widow in asbestos case

by Matt Rosenberg July 17th, 2012

The Port of Seattle Board of Commissioners last week approved by unanimous vote a $475,000 settlement its attorneys recommended with the widow of a union electrician who worked for a construction firm at the Port’s SeaTac Airport in the early 1970s and contracted a fatal disease that was alleged to have been related to on-the-job exposure to asbestos. In a staff memo to the board, Port General Counsel Craig Watts and Senior Counsel Annie Purcell state the settlement with Lorena Jo Potts and the estate of the worker, Donald Lee Potts, will likely save the Port money. They cite ongoing litigation costs from a trial that began May 31, 2012, as well as the Port’s “liability exposure and the likelihood that a judgement endered in the event of continued litigation would likely be in the amount claimed or higher…”

Older, overweight? Not really a health issue, UW study says

by Matt Rosenberg July 12th, 2012

Obesity remains a significant health problem. But the next classification down, being overweight, is no worse for older adults than being of average weight, based on more than a dozen indicators. That’s the conclusion of a study that was recently published online by researchers from the University of Washington, Group Health research Institute, and the Puget Sound Veterans Administration Medical Center. The findings are considered significant because previous research has found that while being overweight does not generally decrease longevity for senior citizens, it does worsen their health, day-to-day functionality and quality of life. The new study says, no it doesn’t – not really.

Medicaid fraud fixes top of mind in both Washingtons

by William McKee July 3rd, 2012

It was just weeks after Washington State enacted a landmark Medicaid anti-fraud measure, and only weeks before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for a sweeping federal health care bill that, as the Seattle Times reported, will boost Medicaid enrollment in Washington state by an estimated 42 percent within several years after its 2014 implementation. In other words, it was a good time for a top Washington state health care official to join national colleagues in testimony to a Congressional subcommittee that’s trying to help the federal bureaucracy and states better trace and reduce Medicaid fraud through improved data and data analytics. Douglas Porter, director of the Washington State Health Care Authority, which administers the Medicaid program here, testified recently to the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that, “There’s a lot of data and very little good information. Poorly collected and poorly analyzed data is what’s giving us the problem. The Medicaid Statistical Information System is not uniformly reported on by all states, making apples to apples comparisons very difficult.” The hearing was titled “Saving Taxpayer Dollars by Curbing Waste and Fraud in Medicaid.”

Other challenges facing the Medicaid system, Porter testified, are the loss of staff administrative resources and outdated and ineffective Medicaid fraud detection programs that give little return on investments. In Washington state, Medicaid programs funded by the state and federal governments pay for delivery of medical, dental, behavioral health, and long-term care to an 1.2 million low-income Washingtonians on average per month. Porter in his testimony to federal lawmakers had some additional suggestions for curbing improper Medicaid payments by better sharing information on “bad actors” bilking the system; adopting common technical standards; and using distance learning.