Monday, November 18, 2013

New Recommendations on Statins

Last week the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued a major change in their recommendations regarding the use of the cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins. For the past decade statins have been prescribed to lower LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) below 100.

The new recommendations shift from triggering the use of a statin when a cholesterol level reaches a certain number to prescribing the drug for people who fall into one of four risk groups: people who already have heart disease, those whose LDL is very high (190 or more), those who are middle-aged and have type 2 diabetes, and those between 40 and 75 years of age whose estimated 10-year risk of heart disease is 7.5 percent or higher. (Check here for a heart disease risk calculator.)

The new criteria may mean more people will be prescribed a statin. Those who are already on such a drug but who do not fall within one of the risk groups should consult their doctors.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Invisible Universe: Video from NPR

The human microbiome is the term for the invisible world of microorganisms that live on and in the human body. National Public Radio has a beautiful, animated video that briefly explains what the microbiome is and why it is important. View the video here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Flu Season

It’s that time of year again. Flu season is just around the corner and, since it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to offer maximum protection, you should be getting your vaccine now. This is especially important for people 65 and older, pregnant women, caregivers, and people with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease. But the flu can kill anyone, even healthy children and adults. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone six months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine; getting one now will protect you through the 2013-2014 flu season.
In addition to your doctor’s office, you may be able to be immunized at your local health department, drug store, or grocery store.
Influenza seasons are unpredictable. Last year saw more hospitalizations and deaths compared to recent years, and your best defense is being vaccinated.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Where You Can Find Local Assistance With the Health Insurance Marketplace

Commonwealth Health

As of October 1, area consumers who need help with the Health Insurance Marketplace, are able to get personalized assistance from certified Commonwealth Health staff, who are trained to help individuals and families sign up for health insurance through the exchange. Consumers from Luzerne, Lackawanna, Colombia, and Wyoming Counties can make an appointment by calling the Application Coordinator at (570) 552-6930 (tambien disponsible en espanol) or (570) 552-6826. Translators are available for those who do not speak English.

Area Libraries

Call your local library to see what services they offer in support of the enrollment efforts. All have computers available for individual use. Additionally, some are making helpful health care insurance links available on their websites. A list of local public libraries is below. You can also click on the Health Info NEPA Health Insurance page to find additional information on how to choose a health plan.

Lackawanna County
Lackawanna County Library System

Abington Community Library
1200 West Grove Street
Clarks Summit, PA 18411
(570) 587-3440
Monday - Friday: 9AM - 9PM
Saturday: 9AM - 5PM
Sunday: 2PM - 5PM

Albright Memorial Library
500 Vine Street
Scranton, PA 18509
(570) 348-3000
Monday - Thursday: 9AM - 9PM
Friday: 9AM - 5:30PM
Saturday: 9AM - 5PM
Sunday: 2PM - 5PM

Carbondale Public Library
5 North Main Street
Carbondale, PA 18407
(570) 282-4281
Monday - Thursday: 10AM - 8PM
Friday - Saturday: 10AM - 5PM

Dalton Community Library
113 East Main Street, P.O. Box 86
Dalton, PA 18414
(570) 563-2014
Monday: 10AM - 8PM
Tuesday: 10AM - 5PM
Wednesday: CLOSED
Thursday: 10AM - 8PM
Friday: 10AM - 5PM
Saturday: 10AM - 5PM

Lackawanna County Children's Library
520 Vine Street
Scranton, PA 18509
(570) 348-3000, extension 3015
Monday - Thursday: 9AM - 8PM
Friday: 9AM - 5:30PM
Saturday: 9AM - 5PM
Sunday: 2PM - 5PM
Library Express
Library Express is located on the 2nd floor of the Mall at Steamtown
Tuesday: 10am-5pm
Wednesday & Thursday : 10am-8pm
Friday & Saturday : 10am-5pm
Closed Sunday & Monday
First Friday Extended Hours: 10am-8pm

Nancy K. Holmes Branch Library
Green Ridge St. at Wyoming Ave.
Scranton, PA 18509
(570) 207-0764
Monday - Thursday: 11:00AM - 7:00PM
Friday: 11:00AM - 5:30PM

North Pocono Public Library
1315 Church Street
Moscow, PA 18444-9254
(570) 842-4700
Monday - Thursday: 9AM - 7PM
Friday - Saturday: 9AM - 5PM

Taylor Community Library
710 South Main Street
Taylor, PA 18517-1774
(570) 562-1234
Monday - Thursday: 9AM - 9PM
Friday: 9AM - 5PM
Saturday: 9AM - 4PM
Valley Community Library
739 River Street
Peckville, PA 18452
(570) 489-1765
Monday - Thursday: 10AM - 8PM
Friday - Saturday: 10AM - 5PM

Luzerne County
Luzerne County Libraries

Back Mountain Memorial Library
96 Huntsville Road
Dallas, PA  18612
(570) 675-1182
Monday - Thursday: 9:30AM-8:30PM
Friday - Saturday: 9:30AM-5:30PM

Hazleton Area Public Library
55 N Church St
Hazleton PA 18201

Monday - Thursday 9AM-8PM
Friday 9AM-5PM
Saturday 9AM-4PM
Check the library site for branch locations and hours.

The Hoyt Library
284 Wyoming Avenue
Kingston, PA 18704
(570) 287-2013
Monday and  Thursday 1 PM. – 8 PM.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday 9 AM. – 5 PM
Saturday 9AM.- 4PM

Marian Sutherland Kirby Library
35 Kirby Avenue 
 Mountain Top, PA 18707
 (570) 474-9313 
Monday Closed
Tuesday and Wednesday: 9AM-8:30PM
Thursday and Friday: 9AM-5:PM
Saturday: 9AM-4PM

Mill Memorial Library
495 East Main Street
Nanticoke, PA 18634
(570) 735-3030
Monday Closed
Tuesday - Thursday 10AM - 8PM
Friday and Saturday 10AM - 5 PM

Osterhout Free Library
71 South Franklin Street,
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

Monday - Thursday 9AM - 8PM
Friday 9AM - 5PM
Saturday 9AM - 4PM.
Check the library site for branch locations and hours.

Pittston Memorial Library
47 Broad Street
Pittston, PA  18640
(570) 654-9565
Monday and Thursday 12PM - 8PM
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday 9AM - 5PM
Saturday 9AM - 4PM

Plymouth Public Library
107 West Main Street
Plymouth, PA   18651
(570) 779-4775 
Monday 9AM - 7PM
Tuesday and Saturday 9AM - 4PM
Wednesday and Thursday 9AM - 5PM
Friday Closed
West Pittston Library
200 Exeter Ave.
West Pittston, Pa. 18643
(570) 654-9847

Monday - Thursday 12PM - 8PM
Friday 12PM - 6PM
Saturday 10AM - 5PM

Wyoming Free Library

358 Wyoming Avenue
Wyoming, PA 18644
 (570 )693-136
Mondays and Fridays 10AM - 6PM
Tuesdays - Thursdays 9AM - 5PM
Saturdays 9AM - 4PM

Monroe County
Eastern Monroe Public Library (Hughes Library)
1002 North 9th Street
Stroudsburg, PA 16360
(570) 421-0800
Monday - Thursday 9AM.- 9PM.
Friday 9AM.- 6PM.
Saturday 9AM to 5PM.
Sunday 1PM. to 5PM.

Check the library site for branch locations and hours.

Wyoming County
Tunkhannock Public Library
200 West Tioga Street
Tunkhannock, PA 18657
(570) 836-1677
Monday - Thursday 10AM - 8PM
Friday 10AM - 5PM
Saturday 10AM - 2PM

 495 East Main St.

96 Huntsville Road
Dallas, PA 18612

HOURS:  Mon  -  Thurs:   9:30am - 8:30pm
                  Fri   &   Sat:      9:30am - 5:30pm
PH:  570-675-1182         FAX:  570-674-5863
96 Huntsville Road
Dallas, PA 18612

HOURS:  Mon  -  Thurs:   9:30am - 8:30pm
                  Fri   &   Sat:      9:30am - 5:30pm
PH:  570-675-1182         FAX:  570-674-5863

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Healthy Pennsylvania Plan Announced by Governor Tom Corbett

This week Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett unveiled a Healthy Pennsylvania plan that will offer low cost health insurance to more state residents. The proposed plan will use private health plans and will reform parts of the state's existing Medicaid program.. The plan requires Medicaid enrollees to pay monthly premiums and demonstrate they are looking for a job. The job search requirement may be a roadblock to the federal government's acceptance of Gov. Corbett's proposed plan.

Other key parts of the plan include:

  • CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) Reauthorize the program in the legislature, expand current enrollment and outreach efforts, eliminate the six-month mandatory waiting period.
  • Older Pennsylvanians Expand access to home and community-based care. Create a Long-Term Care Commission to recommend best practices to improve coordination of care for those needing long-term care services and support.
  • Medicaid Align benefits with private, commercial insurance and federal standards for essential health benefits, mental health parity and preventive care. Institute a monthly premium on a sliding scale up to $25 and eliminate copayments. Require all unemployed working-age beneficiaries search for work, with limited exceptions.
There are other components to the plan for enhancing access to primary care by expanding community-based, primary care health clinics throughout the states and continuing to offer loan forgiveness to primary care providers who practice in rural and underserved areas of the state.

The Healthy Pennsylvania plan is available here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pennsylvania's Health Insurance Exchange Navigators

What are Navigators?

The Affordable Care Act is funding certain groups nationwide to act as navigators to help guide Americans through the health insurance exchanges. They are to provide "fair, impartial, and accurate information that assists consumers with submitting the eligibility application, clarifying distinctions about [qualified health plans], and helping qualified individuals make informed decisions during the health plan selection process." To qualify for this funding these navigators must be affiliated with a community organization and must undergo extensive training. They must not be affiliated with the health insurance industry. Navigators will provide additional assistance to people who are disable, do not speak English, or who are not familiar with health insurance.

Who are the Navigators in Pennsylvania?

Five different organizations received federal grants to be navigators in Pennsylvania.

Resources for Human Development
RHD is based in Philadelphia and will work with consumers in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Chester,  Delaware, Allegheny, Lancaster, York, Berks, and Lehigh counties, which have the highest rates of uninsured people.

Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers
PACHC will provide enrollment assistance to the underserved, typically rural, areas throughout Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association
PMHCA is working together with the Mental Health Association in PA and Mental Health America Westmoreland County to provide enrollment assistance to people who use or need behavioral health services in their insurance plans.

Cardon Healthcare Network, LLC DBA Cardon Outreach
Cardon Healthcare Network operates in 33 states providing assistance to Medicaid enrollees. They are experienced in working with people who are financially stressed. They will provide individual consumers with assistance in finding a health insurance plan they can afford.

Mental Health America
The Mental Health America Navigator Initiative will work with underserved people who are uninsured or underinsured and who have behavioral health disorders. The National Office is the lead agency. the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania will work in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties.

Nursing Home Report Card

Families for Better Care, a non-profit citizens advocacy group working to improve conditions in our nation's nursing homes and long term care facilities, has published a state-by-state report card for nursing homes. Pennsylvania earned an overall C grade and placed 26th in the rankings. Data was collected from the Kaiser Family Foundation, CMS's Nursing Home Compare, and complaint data from the Office of State Long-term Care Ombudsmen. Scores are averaged for the entire state; individual nursing homes are not listed. For more information on what information was included in the grades and how other states were ranked go to the groups website.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What Preventive and Wellness Services Are Covered by Plans in the Marketplace?

Preventive and wellness services are one of the "essential health benefits" that all health plans in the Marketplace must cover without charging a copayment or coinsurance, even if you haven't met your deductible. There are lists of preventive health services for adults and women, and a separate list for children. The list can be found at

Deciding Between the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum Insurance Plans?

One of the decisions you'll have to make in the insurance Marketplace is whether to buy a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum plan. The plan names have nothing to do with the quality of the plan and everything to do with the amount of money you will have to pay out-of-pocket when you need healthcare. An out-of-pocket charge is the portion of the bill you pay to your doctor, the hospital, pharmacy, etc.that is not covered by your insurance plan. The Bronze plan will cost you less for the premiums, but you will pay more in out-of-pocket charges if you need care.

Another thing to know about the different types of plans is that they must offer the same set of "essential health benefits." These are the minimum requirements for all health plans in the Marketplace. The "essential health benefits" include:
  • Ambulatory/outpatient services (care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (counseling and psychotherapy)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices that help gain or recover mental and physical skills when you are injured, disabled, or have a chronic condition)
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services

Friday, August 9, 2013

Get Your Flu Shot for 2013-2014

According to the CDC, "manufacturers have begun shipping flu vaccines for the 2013-2014 U.S. season. Between 135 million and 139 million doses of vaccine are being produced. While some vaccine will be available in August, ample supplies should be available by September and October. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get their yearly flu vaccine, ideally by October."

More information on the 2013-2014 season can be found at the CDC website.

Healthy Roads Media has produced a few short videos on the flu for this upcoming season. They include inactivated vaccine,  the live (intranasal) vaccine, and reactions to the vaccine. There is even a mobile site. For more videos on additional types of vaccines go to the Healthy Roads webpage on immunization.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Where Can I Find Information About Health Insurance?

With October 1 fast approaching, consumers need to begin gathering information on their options for health care. There are several resources that can help you with this. is the federal government's main site for information about health insurance and the new law. Also, the Institute of Medicine created a resource center to help guide consumers in answering four questions:

In addition to these slide presentations, there is a video and a printable consumer's guide.

The National Network of Libraries of Medicine Middle Atlantic Region has put together a page of consumer resources about the Affordable Care Act for people living in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Finally, the National Library of Medicine has a health insurance page where you can get information and links that may answer specific questions you may have. You can also sign up for e-mail updates.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Get Ready for the Health Insurance Marketplace

October 1 is the first day for open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace. The enrollment period ends on March 31, 2014. If you live in Pennsylvania, your access to the Marketplace will be at (Spanish language speakers, click on Coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2014. has all the information you will need to enroll. You can learn about different types of coverage, explore options, and compare plans. To start you'll need some basic information about your household income, your budget for purchasing a health plan, and any health benefits through your employer. Make sure you understand how coverage works and make a list of any questions you may have. You can get ready now by clicking here

You can also call for help. The following phone numbers are now open.

Individuals: 1-800-318-2596 (TTY 1-855-889-4325)
Customer service representatives-24/7 (English and Spanish/Language line for 150 additional languages)

Small business owners (SHOP program): 1-800-706-7893 (TTY1-800-706-7915)
Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Farmers Markets: Directory

It is getting close to that time of year when everyone anticipates the opening of the local farmers market. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is part of a healthy diet. Eating locally grown foods is part of social consciousness. Find out where the closest farmers market is to your location. The directory is brought to you by the US Department of Agriculture and can be searched by zip code and can be limited by the products sold and the types of payment accepted, including WIC and SNAP. Click here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Medical Tests and Treatments-Choosing Wisely

Sometimes patients ask their physicians to order tests or treatments that are not necessarily appropriate or which might actually be harmful. Consequently the American Board of Internal Medicine joined with leading specialty organizations to develop Choosing Wisely, lists of evidence-based tests and procedures for patients and physicians to discuss in order to make wise decisions.

Here is a list of conditions to check for the best advice on how to proceed if a condition affects you.

Here is a complete list of Choosing Wisely recommendations.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Energy Drinks May Have Heart-Related Side Effects

At a recent meeting of the American Heart Association researchers reported that energy drinks may have harmful side effects, even among the healthy. In those who drank only 1-3 cans of a drink, systolic blood pressure (the top number in a BP reading) was higher. Also, in those who consumed this type of drink the QT internal, a segment of the heart’s rhythm on an EKG, was longer. Prolonged QT intervals can cause serious irregular heartbeats and even sudden cardiac death. To read more about the study highlights go to American Heart Association Meeting Report.

Friday, February 1, 2013

"Disaster Hero" Helps Children Prepare for Emergencies

Kids in grades one to eight can learn how to prepare for disasters and emergency situations by playing "Disaster Hero," a new online video game from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Players create their own hero  to compete with cartoon heros, who are "elite disaster specialists." The scenarios include earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods.  The goal is to teach children the basics of preparedness. "Disaster Hero" also has games, puzzles, and quizzes where children learn about escape routes, avoiding hazards, and putting together emergency kits. The website also has parent and teacher resources. ACEP developed the game with funding from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). "Disaster Hero" is available at