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Home Health Agency Ratings Get Medicare’s Star Treatment

The federal government released on Thursday a new five-star rating system for home health agencies, hoping to bring clarity to a fast-growing but fragmented corner of the medical industry where it’s often difficult to distinguish good from bad.

Medicare applied the new quality measure to more than 9,000 agencies based on how quickly visits began and how often patients improved while under their care. Nearly half received average scores, with the government sparingly doling out top and bottom ratings. Read more about the ratings and rating system:

5 Facts About Deductibles from

Factoring in out-of-pocket costs has always been part of buying health insurance, but for the first time now there are a lot of resources to help you better understand your choices at HealthCare. gov. These include new features that allow you to see your total estimated out-of-pocket costs, to search health plans by your preferred provider and to see if your prescription drugs are covered. Read more about how to calculate and prepare for out-of-pocket costs when making your health insurance decisions:

Federal Plain Language Report Card

Each year, the Center for Plain Language evaluates how well federal agencies comply with the Plain Writing Act of 2010. In 2015 the Center graded each department in two categories:

  • Compliance – Does the Department fulfill the administrative requirements of the Plain Writing Act of 2010?
  • Writing & Information Design – Do writing samples consistently demonstrate plain writing principles (for example, clear style and organization and effective visual elements) to make documents easier to read and understand?

To see the full report card, please visit:

Reported Cases of Sexually Transmitted Diseases on the Rise, Some at Alarming Rate

From the Centers for Disease Control:

“Reported cases of three nationally notifiable STDs – chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis – have increased for the first time since 2006, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the 2014 STD Surveillance Report.

The approximately 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia, a rate of 456.1 cases per 100,000 population, is up 2.8 percent since 2013. Rates of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis – the most infectious stages of syphilis –and gonorrhea have both increased since 2013, by 15.1 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively. In 2014, there were 350,062 reported cases of gonorrhea (a rate of 110.7 per 100,000) and 19,999 reported cases of P&S syphilis (for a rate of 6.3 per 100,000).”

For information on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of STDs, visit MedlinePlus:

Thanksgiving Pet Safety

Are you travelling with your pet this week? Does your dog like to “clean” your kitchen floor as you cook? The American Veterinary Medical Association has tips for keeping your pets’ safe.

Thanksgiving Pet Safety (AVMA):


Share your family health history on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is National Family History Day. Take time around the dinner table to learn about your family’s health history with these resources.

Creating a Family History (NIHSeniorHealth):

My Family Health Portrait (Surgeon General): Become, and Remain, a Nonsmoker is intended to help you or someone you care about quit smoking. The website was created by the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute. Different people need different resources as they try to quit smoking cigarettes. The information and professional assistance available on this website can help to support both your immediate and long-term needs as you become, and remain, a non-smoker. allows you to choose the help that best fits your needs. Sign up for text messages, download an app, or browse information to help you or someone you care about quit smoking.

Choose More than 50 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Explore more than 50 tips to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes! This tip sheet (PDF) from NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases helps African Americans at risk for type 2 diabetes find ways to move more, make healthy food choices, and track their progress with making lifestyle changes to lower their risk. This publication has been reviewed by NDEP for plain language principles, and received the 2013 Second Place ReadsEasy Publication Award from Health Literacy Innovations

Choose More than 50 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes: (PDF)

AAPCHO/AHJ Health Insurance Enrollment Glossary

The Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) and Action for Health Justice (AHJ) has updated the Health Insurance Enrollment Glossary. The Glossary contains approximately 100 of the most frequently used (and often confused) terms encountered by in-person assisters and navigators. It is currently available in English and the following Asian and Pacific Islander languages: Chinese (Traditional), Korean, Laotian, Marshallese, Tagalog, Tongan, and Vietnamese, and will soon be available in Burmese, Chuukese, Hindi, Hmong, and Khmer.

AAPCHO/AHJ Health Insurance Enrollment Glossary:

ACA Guidance for American Indians and Alaska Natives

As an American Indian or Alaska Native, there are certain steps that you must take in order to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. There are also benefits that may be available to you if you’re a member of a federally recognized tribe or Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act shareholder. This infographic (PDF) from the HHS Office of Minority Health provides important information about the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, defines eligibility for the Health Insurance Marketplace and the benefits of enrolling, and identifies where to get more information.

ACA Guidance for American Indians and Alaska Natives: (PDF)