HEALTH

Take Care Health Systems to offer ‘recovery plan’ for unemployed patients

BY Antoinette Alexander

DEERFIELD, Ill. Take Care Health Systems, which is owned by Walgreens, is offering free healthcare services for families that suffer a job loss on or after March 31 and have no health insurance benefits.

“Walgreens and Take Care Health Systems will not stand idly by as individuals are forced by the hardships of the economy to choose among basic necessities, such as health care, housing and food. Quality, accessible and affordable care should be the right of every individual,” stated Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson. “For that reason, we are announcing the offer of the ‘Take Care Recovery Plan,’ so that families finding themselves without employment and health insurance benefits aren’t forced to make this tough decision.”

Under the “Take Care Recovery Plan,” all current and future Take Care Clinic patients and their families who qualify can access for free, throughout the remainder of 2009, most services currently provided throughout the 342 clinics across 19 states. The services are available to qualified patients anytime between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The program applies to such routine treatments as respiratory illness such as colds and sinus infections; common conditions, such as seasonal allergies and urinary tract infections; and skin conditions, such as poison ivy and minor skin infections.

In addition, Quest Diagnostics, a provider of diagnostic testing, is participating in the program by providing free laboratory testing services to qualified Take Care Clinic patients. The free lab testing services include cultures for strep throat and urine tests to aid the diagnosis of bladder and urinary tract infections ordered by Take Care Health providers in the course of treating Take Care Clinic patients.

Health evaluations, vaccinations, physicals and injection/infusion administration are excluded from the offer.

“Walgreens and Take Care Health Systems strongly believe that a family’s health care needs should not take a backseat to the economy,” stated Hal Rosenbluth, president of Walgreens Health and Wellness division and chairman of Take Care Health Systems. “Take Care Clinics were founded on the principle of providing patient-focused care and doing all that they can to help every patient in the communities they serve. We consider this opportunity to help current and future Take Care Clinic patients a privilege and believe that Take Care Clinics are well-placed to deliver such a peace of mind.”

Qualifying individuals who find employment before the end of 2009 will no longer qualify for the offer, nor will their spouses, same-sex partners or dependent children. If any person who qualified for the offer obtains health insurance benefits before the end of 2009, they will also no longer qualify for the offer.

Take Care Health Systems stresses that the program is in no way intended to substitute Cobra health benefits or any other insurance, and Take Care Health providers encourage all patients to have a health care home for ongoing medical needs.

If a patient’s condition falls outside of the scope of service at a Take Care Clinic, the patient is referred to a primary care provider for follow-on care. In addition, Take Care Health providers will work hand-in-hand with patients to provide them with information on all health care support options, including child and adult state assistance plans, free or discounted prescription plans and referrals to other affordable care sites, explained Sandy Ryan, chief nurse practitioner officer for Take Care Health Systems.

Those interested in participating in the Take Care Recovery Plan offer can visit www.takecarerecoveryplan.com or call (866) 825-3227. All forms associated with the offer are available online.

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Sharfstein to temporarily act as FDA commissioner

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCKVILLE, Md. Former Baltimore health commissioner Joshua Sharfstein will serve as acting Food and Drug Commissioner beginning March 30 until President Barack Obama’s nominee for the FDA top spot, former New York City health commissioner Margaret Hamburg, is confirmed for the position.

According to published reports, Frank Torti, who was serving as acting FDA commissioner since former FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach resigned in January, will return to his job at Wake Forest University April 4.

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This year’s flu season one of the least active in history

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA It looks as though the 2008/2009 influenza season will go down as one of the least active seasons in history, having started slower than even the anemic 2006/2007 season, and not spiking to significantly higher illness levels, as was the case last year.

For the week ended March 21, 2.6% of the patient visits tracked through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were in fact because of influenza-like illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday, just 20 basis points above the national baseline. And the prevalence of influenza-like illnesses has dropped for the fourth consecutive week, signifying that this year’s season is near its end.

Widespread influenza activity (at least half of the regions within the state) was still reported in 24 states; while another 19 states reported regional activity (less than half but more than one). Influenza activity in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah have all dropped to localized activity (one region reported activity). West Virginia and the District of Columbia reported sporadic activity (at least one lab reported activity).

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