Local Red Cross receives kitchen/service vehicle

Filed under: Health Care |

The Pike’s Peak chapter of the American Red Cross will receive a new emergency response vehicle as a result of the organization’s successful response to more than 2,000 residents of Louisiana and Mississippi who were victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The mobile kitchen is a food preparation and service vehicle for national and local disasters. The van delivers other supplies as well. More than 250 Red Cross mobile kitchens are housed at chapters throughout the country.

“This is a great opportunity for our local chapter,” said David Just, CEO of the Pikes Peak chapter. “The ERV is a terrific resource for our disaster volunteers and will help us to better assist those affected by disaster in the Pikes Peak region.”

Two Pikes Peak chapter volunteers will receive training about using the mobile kitchen and bring it to Colorado Springs in April.

The Pikes Peak chapter is also one of several recipients of a $275,000 Qwest grant for disaster training. The communications business paid for “Introduction to Disaster Training” in Red Cross chapters throughout its 14-state service area.

HSAs gain popularity

As an option for workers and small business owners, health savings accounts are gaining popularity, according to a census of health insurance plans conducted by America’s Health Insurance Plans.

Nearly 3.2 million people use the premium, high-deductible health insurance plans offered with HSAs, instead of traditional health insurance coverage. The number of people enrolled in the plan is nearly three times the amount reported in March 2005, said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni.

“We continue to see significant growth in both the individual and employer markets,” she said.

About half the people enrolled in the HSA plans are at least 40, the survey said. The plans, which allow employers and individuals to put aside money for future health care costs in a special savings account, appeal to people without insurance, with 31 percent of new enrollees having no previous health insurance. In addition, 33 percent of the companies offering HSAs did not previously offer any coverage to employees, AHIP said.

Under the law, the earnings on HSA funds can accumulate tax free and balances can be rolled over into the next year. Withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax free.

The health savings accounts were created as part of the Medicare Modernization Act, which was signed into law in December 2003. The plans became available in January 2004.

Largest health plan survey

Benefit Resources, a Colorado Springs-based employee benefits firm, has launched the nation’s largest health plan survey, an effort co-sponsored by United Benefit Advisors.

The initiative, which will provide benchmarks for employer-sponsored health plans based on number of employees, industry and region, has more employers participating that any other company survey, said George Martin, president of Benefit Resources. More than 12,000 health plans participated last year, he said.

“Other surveys have often delivered data of limited use to employers due to traditionally small sample sizes ranging from a few hundred to less than 3,000 responses,” he said. “In order to provide employers with truly actionable benchmarks, we are using our national scope to generate the largest health plan design and plan cost database in the industry.”

The annual survey is available on the Internet at www.benefit-resources.com by clicking the 2006 Health Plan Survey Link. There is no cost for employers to participate and all answers are confidential.

Respondents will receive a complimentary electronic synopsis of key survey findings if answers are submitted no later than June 2.

Colorectal awareness month

Colorectal cancer – cancer of the colon or rectum – is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

Screening becomes necessary after age 50, for both men and women. Although about 90 percent of colorectal cancers and deaths are thought to be preventable, the cancer kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer, health care officials say.

More than 148,600 new cases will be diagnosed this year, and more than 55,000 people will die because they were not screened.

Often, colorectal cancer develops with no symptoms. However, some symptoms can occur: rectal bleeding, blood in or on the stool, general stomach discomfort, loss of weight, constant tiredness.

Screening remains the most effective ways to prevent and treat colorectal cancer.

Memorial opens day care

Memorial Hospital recently opened KidsKare Child Development Center to provide childcare to children of Memorial employees, physicians and volunteers, as well as employees of city agencies.

The center provides care for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Summer day care also is available for school-aged children.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.