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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Researchers discover specific probiotic strain significantly improves IBS symptoms

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI A review by researchers at Northwestern University and University of Michigan of the utility of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome found that Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 was the only probiotic strain out of 13 different individual strains or preparations reviewed to significantly improve symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, bloating and bowel movement difficulty.

The researchers reviewed 16 random-controlled-studies, evaluating the efficacy, safety and tolerability of probiotics in the treatment of IBS. With the exception of the Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 studies, researchers found the other trials did not use an appropriate study design and did not adequately report adverse events. The article was published on the American Journal of Gastroenterology Web site in advance of appearing in the publication’s April 2009 issue.

Irritable bowel syndrome affects 1-in-5 Americans and treatment options are limited. Darren Brenner, Division of Gastroenterology and Department of Internal Medicine, at Northwestern University and lead investigator of this study, hypothesized that alterations in gut microflora may contribute to the development of IBS symptoms, and believed these symptoms could be improved by probiotics.

“Probiotics are gaining popularity for the treatment of multiple gastrointestinal disorders, including IBS,” Brenner said. “After assessment of the methodological and statistical designs of these studies, B. infantis 35624 was the only probiotic that showed repeated efficacy.”

KelloggsDRSNhttp://www.centerstoregrowth.com

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Researchers discover how E. coli evades stomach acid

BY Michael Johnsen

ANN ARBOR, Mich. A tiny protein helps protect disease-causing bacteria from the ravaging effects of stomach acid, researchers at the University of Michigan and Howard Hughes Medical Institute have discovered.

Their findings were published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of March 23.

Stomach acid aids in food digestion and helps kill disease-causing bacteria. One way that acid kills bacteria is by causing the proteins in them to unfold and stick together in much the same way that heating an egg causes its proteins to form a solid mass. Just as it is virtually impossible for a cook to unboil an egg, it is also very difficult for bacteria to dissolve these protein clumps; so bacteria and most living things can die when exposed to acid or heat.

However, such disease-causing bacteria as E. coli are protected from stomach acid by a tiny protein called HdeA. In the PNAS paper, James Bardwell and coworkers describe how this protein works to protect bacteria. Like other proteins, HdeA unfolds and becomes more flexible when exposed to acid. But in a clever twist, the unfolding process that inactivates most other proteins activates HdeA. Once unfolded, this plastic protein molds itself to fit other bacterial proteins that have been made sticky by acid- induced unfolding.

“Just as plastic wrappers prevent candies from sticking together, HdeA prevents the unfolded proteins from sticking together and forming clumps,” said Bardwell, a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and of biological chemistry, as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Postdoctoral fellow Tim Tapley, who spearheaded the research, said, “HdeA directly senses acid and changes from its inactive to active form within a fraction of a second.”

Instead of becoming completely unfolded in response to acid and sticking to itself, HdeA is only partially unfolded. It then uses the flexibility it gains through partial unfolding to rapidly become plastic enough to adapt to and bind various damaged proteins. This helps E. coli evade the otherwise deadly effects of stomach acid.

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