Stay Safe from Sun and Heat this Summer

We are in the midst of summer, and in these months it is important to protect ourselves from the health risks posed by the sun and its heat.  Regardless of skin color, exposure to the sun carries many dangers to one’s skin—from freckles and wrinkles often associated with aging, to sunburns, benign tumors or cancerous skin lesions. Prolonged heat exposure can also have many negative impacts on one’s health ranging from a rash, exhaustion, fainting, or even death.

 

sunscreen-clipart-sunscreen-sunglassesAlthough everyone should take precautions to protect their skin, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages those with pale skin; blond, red, or light brown hair; or who has a personal or family history of skin cancer to be especially careful while in the sun.  The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage one’s skin in as little as 15 minutes, and the best tool in combatting that skin damage is sunscreen.  The American Academy of Dermatology suggests applying SPF 30 (at least) liberally 15 minutes before going outside, and to reapply at least every two hours to remain protected.  To further protect your skin where sunscreen is ineffective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when possible, and at least a t-shirt when the heat makes long clothing uncomfortable. Hats and sunglasses also protect vulnerable areas from the sun. Staying in the shade or avoiding the outdoors altogether during the midday hours can also lower one’s risk of skin damage from the sun.

The summer heat can also have a huge impact on public health. Just this year, over 1000 people died during a heat wave in Pakistan.  In the US, there is an average of 618 heat-related deaths per year.  The CDC has many recommendations including staying in air-conditioned or climate-controlled areas, taking cool showers or baths, drinking more water than usual to stay hydrated, avoiding alcohol or sugary drinks, and to be aware of local weather reports.

It is very important to know the symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Muscle cramping is often the first sign, and could lead to heavy sweating, weakness, clammy skin, fast weak pulse, nausea, or fainting—the signs of heat exhaustion. Cramps can also lead to heat stroke, a medical emergency; if body temperature rises above 103°F with rapid and strong pulse or unconsciousness, call 911 immediately.  In times of extreme heat, people are encouraged to check on friends and neighbors who are at higher risk to the heat such as people aged 65 and older, infants and children, people with chronic medical conditions, outdoor workers, and people with low income.

 

It is important to know the dangers of sun and heat exposure, and that there are resources available for those in need. NeedyMeds has information on national Diagnosis-Based Assistance programs (DBAs) offering testing for those at risk for skin cancer as well as financial assistance for those already diagnosed.  We hope everyone enjoys the beautiful weather this summer and stays safe and healthy.

Do You Have Hepatitis C?

The answer may be an obvious “no” for some, but millions of Americans don’t know the answer or don’t realize that they are a carrier. Hepatitis C is a bloodborne disease that can lie dormant for years or even decades before showing any symptoms. Transmission occurs between blood-to-blood contact, with most new cases stemming from intravenous drug usage and a smaller percentage stemming from sexual activity. The recent heroin epidemics in midwestern and southern states have resulted in a spike of new Hepatitis C and HIV cases, as people are sharing needles without proper needle exchanges set in place.

HepC RibbonThe largest percentage of adults with Hepatitis C are baby boomers with more than 75% of the adult cases being people born from 1945 through 1965. While the reason why the baby boomers are the biggest population of Hepatitis C carriers is not completely understood, there are a couple ideas. Hepatitis C rates were the highest in the 70s and 80s, which is when many of the baby boomers were young adults. The baby boomers could have also contracted Hepatitis C from contaminated blood supplies from medical procedures, as widespread screening of the blood supply didn’t occur until 1992 when universal precautions against contamination were adopted.

There is only one way to know if you have Hepatitis C: get tested! If you were born between 1945 and 1965, many institutions—including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—highly recommend you get tested, even if you don’t have a history of intravenous drug usage. Any surgical procedure or blood transfusion done before 1992 could have involved contaminated blood, and it is important to make sure you are not of the 1-in-30 baby boomers that is projected to have Hepatitis C, and if you are, it’s important you start seeking treatment right away.

Looking for somewhere to get tested? NeedyMeds has over 1700 clinics and counting nationwide that offer free or low-cost Hepatitis C testing. If you want to find a clinic that does testing near you, check out our Free/Low-Cost/Sliding Scale Medical Clinic database and do a search for clinics near your zip code. Unfortunately because of the cost of the cure, there are much fewer treatment centers, but NeedyMeds has patient assistant programs (PAPs) for Sovaldi, Harvoni, and Viekira Pak—all proven cures for Hepatitis C. So don’t wait until it’s too late; get tested today and know your status!

National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month

July is National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month. Cleft palate or craniofacial defects affect thousands of infants, children, teens, and adults in the United States each year—4400 infants are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate and 2700 are born with a cleft palate alone. While some people are born with congenital anomalies, others are burned or otherwise injured in accidents or diagnosed with various diseases that affect the mouth, head, neck, or skin.

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Craniofacial defects are conditions present at birth that affect the structure and function of a baby’s head and face. Treatments and services for children with craniofacial defects can vary depending on the severity of the defect, the presence of associated syndromes or other birth defects, as well as the child’s age and other medical or developmental needs. Children with certain craniofacial defects are at a greater risk for physical, learning, developmental, or social challenges.  Recent studies suggest that the health care use and average medical cost for children with craniofacial conditions are much higher than children without these abnormalities.

 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies preventable causes that one can be aware of.  Women who have diabetes or report using certain fertility medications before becoming pregnant have shown to be at higher risk of having a baby with various craniofacial conditions. Other risks include smoking while pregnant or shortly before becoming pregnant, or having or being treated for thyroid disease while pregnant. The CDC’s suggested next steps include controlling ones diabetes with proper diet and insulin application, and preventing exposure to tobacco or alcohol while pregnant.

 

With so many different anomalies and the relatively simple ways to prevent these expensive and difficult conditions, it is easy to see why awareness is so important.  NeedyMeds has information on assistance based on diagnosis of Cleft Lip and/or Palate as well as Craniofacial conditions.  There are also a number of camps and retreats available for children with craniofacial deformities. For more information, call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.

Medication Costs on the Rise

Last month, we posted a blog about how many Americans are spending more than $50,000 or even $100,000 a year on medications—more  people than ever before. The information included insured Americans and found that insurance covered an average of 97% of prescription costs for those spending at least $50,000. At NeedyMeds, there are many assistance programs for those who are in need.  However, even with new laws and regulations there are those stuck in between.

 

07.31.13.2There are patients in America that make too much money to qualify for assistance but still not enough to pay all their medical bills.  Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) and non-profit organizations often have limits to how much income a person or family makes in a year to be eligible for their services.  Good jobs and good insurance can still leave patients paying huge amounts for prescribed medications.

 

Some medications for serious or chronic diseases such as lupus can cost $2500 per dose. Even with insurance that pays 80% of the drug price there is a $450 out-of-pocket payment, which does not include monthly insurance premiums or other medical costs.  One hepatitis C drug costs $84,000 for a 12-week course. While some patients end up taking on massive amounts of debt, others opt out of taking their medication at the risk of more serious health problems in the future.

 

According to Truveris, a drug pricing research firm, the price of prescription drugs rose 10.9% in 2014 compared to 2013. Pharmaceutical companies often blame insurance companies who in turn blame the pharmaceutical industry; experts see both sides to blame, with government regulations exacerbating an already losing situation.

 

Despite recent Supreme Court rulings upholding Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies and that patients with pre-existing conditions can continue to get insurance, medication costs are becoming a top concern for many Americans.  According to one poll, 76% of Americans agree that making high-cost drugs for chronic conditions affordable should be a top priority of the president and Congress.

 

While the uninsured rate in America continues to steadily fall, the amount of money being spent on medical care is increasing dramatically. There are resources available at Needymeds.org for those that meet unique eligibility criteria for each program listed as well as access to drug discount cards and coupons for uninsured or underinsured patients. For those simply trying to make ends meet between being employed, insured, and unable to afford medical care there are options such as crowdfunding, an example being NeedyMeds’ platform HEALfundr.  There are new regulations expected from the Department of Health on discrimination in the ACA in the coming months, which could impact some of these new concerns. Call our toll-free helpline (800-503-6897) if you are looking for any information.

FTC Goes After Crowdfunding Fraud – How HEALfundr is Immune

In previous blog posts, we have detailed a relatively new method for fundraising for medical expenses called crowdfunding along with our own crowdfunding platform, HEALfundr. Recently, there has been some news regarding the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a crowdfunding project that made us want to touch upon some key differences between HEALfundr and other crowdfunding platforms.

 

This month, the FTC formally charged the creator of a Kickstarter campaign with deception by spending crowd-raised funds on himself and unrelated projects instead of the board game represented in his campaign. Using the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, intended for creative or entrepreneurial projects, the creator raised over $122,000 from 1,246 backers who hoped to receive the board game in return for their pledges. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection found that the creator spent most of the money on unrelated personal expenses and licenses for a different project. The order imposes a $111,793.71 refund to those who pledged, but the judgment is suspended due to the creator’s inability to pay.

DonationThis kind of development can raise a lot of red flags for donors to crowdfunding campaigns. No one wants to be defrauded out of their money, whether they are investing in a product or supporting someone they believe is in need. Fortunately, NeedyMeds has taken precautions to ensure that no one is at risk of being taken advantage of on HEALfundr.

 

HEALfundr is the only crowdfunding platform that verifies all campaigns. Crowdfunding for exclusively medical expenses, we require supporting documents—such as a letter from a doctor—corroborating the asserted diagnosis and need for assistance before accepting and launching each campaign. The funds raised through HEALfundr are then paid directly to the medical bills submitted by the campaigner, so there is never any need to worry that money is not being spent the way detailed in the campaign.

 

HEALfundr was designed with these concerns in mind. Our vision for HEALfundr has always been one of secure, 100% verified campaigns where funds are paid directly to legitimate medical expenses. We strive to grant patients in need relief from managing their medical bills and give donors the confidence that their donations is going where it is needed.

 

For more information, watch our previously recorded webinar, visit the site, or contact Project Manager Evan O’Connor.

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