Highlight on South Carolina: Insurance, flu, vaccinations, and HIT all hot topics

Recent health developments and information from South Carolina span a variety of topics. From the count of new people signing up for health insurance on the Marketplaces, to a high death toll from the flu, and a new health IT platform, every demographic in the state is impacted by current health news.

Insurance

According to HHS, over 210,000 South Carolinians registered with the Health Insurance Marketplace established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). This number covers both first time buyers and those re-enrolling. As many as 58 percent of these consumers did not have Marketplace coverage as of last November.

Additionally, 88 percent of those selecting Marketplace plans qualified for tax credits averaging close to $300 per month, which left 69 percent paying $100 or less per month for coverage. These tax subsidies enable the act to live up to its name and provide affordable care. South Carolina is one of the states that did not establish its own Exchange under the ACA, instead relying on the federal Marketplace. The Supreme Court is currently considering the King v. Burwell case, in which a ruling could end subsidies for states that did not create their own Exchanges. In South Carolina, this means that arguably about 115,000 people could lose their subsidies, which would render coverage too expensive for many.

Flu death toll

Having insurance is important for many reasons, but preventing death from contracting the flu is not the one normally on people’s minds. However, South Carolina residents who feel flu symptoms need to exercise caution: 142 people have died from the flu since the season started in late September, compared to 78 people last season. Over 90 percent of this season’s flu deaths have occurred in people over age 50. Even though it is late in the flu season, 120 people tested positive for the flu in hospitals in the first week of March, which is an increase from the previous week.

Measles too?

Although South Carolina’s vaccination rate for kindergarteners at 98.1 percent is better than the national rate of 91.9 percent, measles is still popping up as a discussion point in South Carolina, just like most other states. Part of the reason for the discussion is South Carolina’s ranking at 41 in the nation for children vaccinated between 19 and 35 months. Dr. Eric Brenner, a medical epidemiologist who consults with the University of South Carolina, pointed out that parents seem to forget about vaccinations until their child’s school will not let them in without immunization records. A spokesman from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control stated that the high rate of vaccinations keeps South Carolinians healthy.

 Rally Health

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina group accounts will have access to a new web and mobile platform this month. Rally Health offers tools to promote health and well-being. It begins with an online survey. This platform is HIPAA-compliant, so users can safely input their health information into the survey. Then, users will be able to connect with health coaches for tips on dealing with chronic conditions or even overall wellness, such as weight loss. The platform promotes a personalized experience that includes connection with an online community. BlueCross will also incorporate data into employer reports that will promote the importance of maintaining a healthy workforce, but stresses that the new platform is intended to engage individuals. It hopes that users will be increasingly motivated to make wellness decisions and track their progress toward health goals.