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Formulating a holistic product for digestive health

A truly holistic approach to digestion includes both probiotic and enzymatic support. The enzymes help breakdown foods earlier in the process, allowing probiotics and other bacteria to work most efficiently when food reaches the intestines.

“The probiotic category is a crowded one,” said Naeem Shaikh, Ph.D., vice president of research and innovation at National Enzyme Company (NEC). “It makes sense to differentiate by synergizing probiotics with enzymes in a formulation, because they work in harmony towards better digestion.”

However, a common misconception exists: probiotics and enzymes aren’t automatically compatible in the same product.

“Probiotics are proteins in nature,” Shaikh explained. “If you add any kind of protease into the formula and don’t closely control the conditions, the protease can activate unintended proteolytic reactions. It’s a challenging combination.”

To circumvent this challenge, it is important to control the raw material water activity (the amount of water available for reaction) as well as the type of bacteria in a proprietary blend of probiotics and enzymes. Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus coagulans are more stable than other strains under higher humidity and temperatures, and are able to withstand the manufacturing process.

“We started with 5 billion CFU [colony forming unit] per tablet and studied how a broad-spectrum, enzyme product that included protease, lipase, amylase, lactase and others would interact with the probiotics,” Shaikh said. “The objective of NEC’s initiative was to study the symbiotic effect of enzymes and probiotics, and provide supporting data in conjunction with two-year, real-time, shelf-life stability studies,” Shaikh said.

Formulating, though, is only part of the challenge. Next comes testing, and testing an enzyme and probiotic combination formula is a complex process, according to Tammy Blakemore, general manager for SORA Labs.

This is an excerpt from the article, “Enzymes and Probiotics Together? A Case for Including Both for Holistic Digestive Support.” Read the complete article by downloading INSIDER’s Digestive Health Digital Magazine.

This article was submitted by National Enzyme Company and written by Melissa Kvidahl Reilly. Reilly is a freelance writer with 10 years of experience covering the natural products industry, from food and beverage to personal care, from research developments to market trends. Her work appears in a number of industry publications, including Natural Products INSIDER, Food Insider Journal, Natural Foods Merchandiser, Delicious Living and more. She lives and writes in New Jersey.

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The battle of the health clouds

At a recent event, I witnessed a panel discussion featuring senior executives from top tech firms discussing their plans for healthcare. They were steadfast in their belief that health care is going to be disrupted by the big cloud tech providers, which led the moderator to call it the battle of the clouds.

I refer to it more as the battle of the health clouds.

The battle for the clouds has already sorted out the market share winners. They are Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, with IBM somewhere in the mix. However, these market shares refer mostly to cloud computing as a service, or more precisely infrastructure as a service (IaaS). By and large, IaaS providers are looking to shift enterprise computing workloads from traditional data centers to the cloud (their cloud). They facilitate the shift with pay-as-you-go models, similar to how a power utility would charge for power consumption with an electricity meter in our homes.

9 warning signs of bad IT architecture and see why these 10 old-school IT principles still rule. | Sign up for CIO newsletters. ]

At the other end of the spectrum, an entire generation of “born in the cloud” and “only in the cloud” startups is leading the charge for innovation in healthcare, with billions in venture capital (VC) chasing potential winners. These startups, especially the ones from Silicon Valley, are focused on developing “last mile solutions” and are mostly operating on a “build and hope they will come” mindset. Nevertheless, the startup ecosystem is addressing a critical gap today in the digital health space as I discussed in a previous column here. From a cloud perspective, these startups are mostly offering their solutions in a software as a service (SaaS) model, leveraging the IaaS models of the major cloud providers as a backbone for their applications.

Health systems, EHR and the cloud

However, what about healthcare enterprises and the big enterprise B2B technology firms that serve them, or want to serve them? Firstly, health care has been a slow mover in the migration to the cloud. Secondly, health systems, recovering from over a decade of high investments in expensive electronic health record (EHR) implementations, are focused on ways to optimize the EHR systems and improve the returns on their investments. In this light, notwithstanding the strong pushback from the physician community to the poor user interfaces and additional data entry work (read Dr. Atul Gawande on  Why Doctors Hate Their Computers), hospital administrators and CIOs are looking to their primary EHR vendors such as Epic and Cerner as their default option to turn on advanced analytics and digital health experiences.

However, it is far from clear if EHR vendors are the right choice for advanced analytics functions and digital health solutions, given their primary positioning as systems of record for clinical workflows and transaction processing. Against this backdrop, several major technology firms have stepped in with what they refer to as health cloud platforms. Big tech firms such as Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, and GE Healthcare have all launched health cloud offerings in the past couple of years, as have several smaller firms, and more are on the way.  However, what exactly do these firms mean whey they refer to their health cloud offerings?

Mumps Returns to Harvard Yet Again, Per Health Services Director


Paul J. Barreira, director of Harvard University Health Services, confirmed “recent cases of mumps and infectious mononucleosis” on campus this semester in an email to College students Tuesday.

This is not the first time this year University affiliates have contracted the disease. Cases of mumps were found most recently among campus affiliates in Feb. 2018 — almost two years after the first major outbreak in recent memory back in spring 2016. HUHS recorded more than 60 confirmed cases during the 2016 outbreak, and the Cambridge Public Health Department quarantined infected students for five days.

Barreira recommended that students take several precautions ahead of the Harvard-Yale football game, slated to be played on Nov. 17.

He advised students to wash their hands often with soap and water, refrain from sharing smoking materials and glasses, and avoid touching their eyes, noses, and mouths. Barreira also gave a few guidelines for students who plan to host parties, recommending that they offer paper cups for drinks, limit crowds, and encourage guests who are ill to leave and contact HUHS.

“Prevention of mumps and mono is centered on good hygiene and reducing the spread by saliva,” Barreira wrote in the email.

People infected with mumps may experience a host of symptoms including facial swelling, jaw pain, ear ache, and testicular swelling. Though the vaccine given to mumps patients is 88 percent effective, mumps outbreaks can still occur among “highly-vaccinated” individuals, particularly when they come into close contact with one another, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even with good hygiene and preventive practices, mumps has the potential to spread through the air as well as through human-to-human contact, per the World Health Organization.

In 2016, Barreira said 99 percent of undergraduates had been vaccinated against the disease, citing mandatory student vaccine documentation.

By contrast, mono is a relatively common illness on college campuses. The disease can cause fever, sore throat, swollen glands, and fatigue.

Barreira concluded his email by urging students to refrain from public activities and to contact HUHS if they begin to experience the symptoms of mumps or mono.

“We all have a responsibility to help prevent the spread of these viruses,” Barreria wrote.

— Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.

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Investors are Pouring Cash Into AI Startups Focused on Health Care

A recent report from CB Insights found that healthcare Artificial Intelligence startups have raised $4.3 billion across 576 funding rounds in the last five years – more than any other sector. Investment flowing into building AI that works with people to tackle healthcare issues will continue globally. Meanwhile, finding sustainable answers to tragic conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease will require accurately kept health records to advance progress — and take the willing participation of people whose lives are fatally impacted by the disease. The party ultimately responsible for finding the answer to Alzheimer’s might not be human — or at least, the effort to rid the world of the disease may not be fully a human one.

Artificial Intelligence presents the medical field with new opportunities to use learnings from existing and newly created data sets to solve complex human issues over the next few years. The technology’s complementary utility for health science and medical research offers new opportunities to unearth minuscule clues from individual patient histories that lead to global breakthroughs. AI has the potential to serve as a natural partner for medical researchers and professionals who spend careers combing through records to uncover trends and anomalies.

Related: AI Is Transforming Healthcare as We Know It. Here’s a Look at the Future — and the Opportunities for Entrepreneurs.

AI helps people find medical answers.

As an industry, health science is beginning to realize the full benefits of using precision medicine to treat disease. Early success stories include making progress in cancer detection and uncovering potential health indicators from medical histories and DNA analysis. The underlying idea of using AI for health science, in particular, is to look at people’s specific genetic or molecular profiles and determine what personalized treatment works best on a case-by-case basis.

In the coming years, successfully advancing precision health science will depend on collecting and storing data representing diverse patient populations. It will also rely on the health science sector’s ability to develop sophisticated AI and machine learning algorithms that mine massive amounts of data to answer very specific healthcare questions. Questions like: how do we find the indicators hidden in countless health records? Which genetic variants matter? Why does one disease impact a patient and not someone with a similar genetic makeup? AI can serve as as a means to helping the health science sector answer some of these questions, analyze specific factors with precision and bring clarity to patients earlier in the diagnosis discovery process.

Related: Wonders Artificial Intelligence is Doing For The Healthcare Sector

AI’s real world impact across health sectors.

AI’s real world impact on health science has already materialized in the form of new pharmaceutical combinations, more promising hypotheses, improved medical diagnostics, targeted risk factor analysis and reporting that leads to more accuracy in personalized medicine. AI can fully absorb, contextualize and analyze critical healthcare information in the time it takes a human counterpart to read through a few records. The technology is built to mobilize and manage large data sets autonomously. Meanwhile, human counterparts can focus on communicating the benefits of AI findings, proactively using them to address individual medical concerns and offer more personalized patient care.

AI can integrate data from multiple sources and determine relevance to specific cases swifter than humans. The technology can analyze data in real-time and produce actionable insights that would take several hours — or years in some cases — for people to complete. When built responsibly using objective data sets and lab-tested technology, AI does not have preconceived notions about the medical records, DNA and RNA analysis and general information it sorts through, eliminating potential biases and erroneous conclusions.

AI’s health science success hinges on the availability of human-curated training data sets that allow for performance and bias testing prior to AI entering the market. The opportunity to connect AI and countless data sets presents the greatest opportunity for medical professionals looking toward technology for answers. In practice, AI’s core ability to automate data analysis frees up medical research people to focus on the end result, apply findings to real world medical or pharmaceutical trials, and, ultimately, adapt individual healthcare plans to incorporate new methods.

Related: How AI is Making the Impossible Possible in Healthcare Sector

Looking ahead to an uncertain future.

The biggest challenge for health practitioners turning to AI in 2019 will remain the availability of curated data sets needed to train algorithm-driven technologies destined for disease detection and other crucial medical work. AI must be trustworthy enough to make accurate predictive assessments that dramatically impact patient care and health results in the real world. The process of preparing AI for health will become easier in the near future as the technology advances, regular people become more familiar with AI and its real world applications for disease prevention prove successful.

After all, disease prevention is the holy grail. Technologies, like AI, that enable early disease detection and interception will transform patient care wholesale. AI can help medical professionals detect diseases earlier and give people impacted by those diseases a fighting opportunity to overcome them.

Undoubtedly, human efforts to rid the world of Alzheimer’s disease, and other deadly illnesses or inherited conditions, will advance with the support of data-driven technologies. Tapping AI for those tasks will allow doctors and medical professionals to focus on providing more precise and empathetic patient care. Researchers can spend time making sense of AI-driven findings in order to bring machine-discovered remedies into a very human reality, like living with Alzheimer’s, that changes lives — and saves them.

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Panthers’ hiring of a mental health clinician is a ‘game-changer’

8:13 AM ET

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In early August, Steve Smith revealed he had had bouts of depression while an active player with the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens. He talked about feeling “trapped, inferior and alone.”

Carolina’s all-time leading receiver spoke out after the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. Smith also referred to Brian Dawkins’ battle with depression and thoughts of suicide the Pro Bowl safety discussed in late July as he was about to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The prevalence of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses in people in all walks of life — including the NFL — led the Panthers to hire therapist Tish Guerin. She is one of the first — and currently believed to be the only — active in-house psychological clinicians in the league.

While most teams have a licensed mental health practitioner available for players and staff members on a contract basis, Guerin, 35, has an office at Bank of America Stadium. She is readily available to any player or staff member seeking help.

Being onsite also helps her observe any potential changes in the mood or behavior of a player that could be an early warning sign. It’s a step, Carolina coach Ron Rivera said, toward stressing that the mental and emotional welfare of an athlete is just as important as the physical welfare.

Safety Eric Reid is among several Carolina players who said the hire is long overdue.

“It’s something that hasn’t been taken seriously long enough,” Reid said. “We’re dealing with professionals … we bang a lot. We have to lower our guard and know saying something’s wrong isn’t a bad thing. You might not have to say it [to] somebody on the team, but you need to talk to somebody…

“It’s the right thing to do, to [hire] somebody with the education and background to know what to do when somebody is going through something.”

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, applauds the Panthers “for being forward-thinking in this area.” He said the NFL and NFLPA are working jointly on a proposal for clubs that would make behavioral and mental health issues a priority.

“One of the things you face in mental and behavioral health that you don’t face in other medicines is the concept of stigma,” Sills said. “We would like to see mental and behavioral health just as normalized so everyone recognizes the important of these issues to your overall well-being.

“Having someone that is visible and the main fabric of the organization, it really sends a message from the organization about how much they value these issues and this care.”

Nyaka NiiLampti, the director of wellness for the NFLPA, reminded that NFL teams aren’t much different from the general population in which 20 to 25 percent deal with some sort of mental health issue. She said Carolina’s hiring of Guerin is a “game-changer.”

Guerin, whose official title is director of player wellness, hopes the Panthers start a trend.

“In terms of thinking about mental wellness and making sure our warriors we see on Sunday are talking to someone, have access to be able to get things off their chest and relieve that stress in a positive way and not a negative way, that’s imperative,” she said.

“This is something I would hope to see for all teams.”

Why has it taken so long?

Steve Beuerlein was the quarterback of the Panthers in 1999 when Rae Carruth became the first NFL player charged with and ultimately convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Beuerlein was reminded with the recent release of Carruth from prison of how much having a mental health doctor in-house could have helped back then.

“Obviously it’s a very unique profession to be a professional athlete,” Beuerlein said. “To be that young and have those kind of pressures and resources and everything else, it’s very unique.

“Definitely, we all would have benefited from having someone like that with every organization I was a part of. You might think you’re invincible and you don’t need it. But now that you’re older you see there is some value to it.”

That it has taken this long speaks to the stigma associated with mental health issues.

“My goal in coming here was to drop that stigma that if you talk to somebody that is a clinician or psycho-therapist or psychologist or psychiatrist that means you’re ‘crazy,’” Guerin said. “Sometimes you just need to speak to someone.

“It doesn’t mean something is deeply wrong with you. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It just [can be], ‘I have an issue. Hey, what do you think?’”

Rivera compared the NFL’s hesitancy to become fully involved in mental health issues to the lack of understanding people had about soldiers returning from World War I and II with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Now what’s happening is people are starting to understand more and more about mental health,” Rivera said. “People like [Smith] speaking out and creating an awareness has been very important for the professional athlete.”

New Panthers owner David Tepper played a significant role in the hiring of Guerin. He offered no resistance when Rivera, general manager Marty Hurney and Mark Carrier, who was working in player development, approached him about hiring an in-house clinician.

“It’s going to bring awareness, not just to football but to all other sports,” said Rivera, who was part of the interview process. “There are a lot of people out there and a lot of us need help.”

Dr. Chris Carr, a performance psychologist contracted by the Green Bay Packers and Indiana Pacers, said he was one of five full-time members of a Division I college athletics department in his role when he finished his Ph.D. at Washington State University in the early 1990s.

“Now over 50 to 60 schools have sports psychology and mental health provided in-house for athletes, but it’s really been the last five years where the NCAA has made it a priority,” he said. “In some ways this is a transitional shift in the culture of sports where we realize these are real issues and you need to have really good, competent providers to take care of those athletes.”


The first thing Rivera did when introducing Guerin was reassure his team. He made it clear Guerin wouldn’t come to him whenever she suspected a problem.

“She’s a professional and I know she’ll handle it the right way,” Rivera said.

Although Guerin is an employee of the team, her job falls under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects the privacy of individual health information.

So unless Guerin sees something that would make her believe the player is threatening bodily harm, everything she is told remains confidential.

“There’s a firewall, if you will,” Guerin said. “So if a player comes to me and tells me something that is going on in their home or if they’re having depression or anxiety or any other clinical diagnosis … I wouldn’t go tell that to a coach.”

For the player, that is key.

“If she did tell, I don’t think she would be employed here that long,” running back Fozzy Whittaker said. “It’s safe to say she’s looking at the player’s best interest at heart. She’s here truly to help us.”

Rookie wide receiver DJ Moore said that’s important for the players to understand.

“She’s a good getaway from getting trapped in your own mind,” he said. “It lets you get out of your own head at the end of the day.”

CTE factor

In 2012, Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his 22-year-old girlfriend, then drove to the Chiefs’ training facility and shot himself in the head with a handgun.

In a report obtained by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” there were signs that Belcher’s brain showed signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which has become a major point of conversation and research in the NFL the past few years as it relates to head trauma.

Carolina defensive tackle Kyle Love cited Belcher when arguing that NFL teams should have had an in-house clinician “years ago.”

“It’s something that hasn’t been taken seriously long enough. … We have to lower our guard and know saying something’s wrong isn’t a bad thing.”

Eric Reid, Panthers safety

“Every team should have one, because you never really know what’s going on in the mind of guys,” Love said. “They’re bringing up CTE being a big deal with football players, or athletes with high-contact sports, so you have to have somebody to check on those things because you never know what’s going on.”

While Guerin can’t diagnose concussions or CTE, she might see signs that would allow her to point the player in the direction of professionals who could help. Team physicians can also consult with Guerin.

“If a physician comes to me and says, ‘Hey, Tish, I think something is going on. He’s having some aggressive moves or I’ve seen some mood dysregulation,’ I can go have that conversation with a player to really see if there is anything there,” Guerin said.

“In terms of concussion protocol or injuries, I really will be looking to the medical team. I’m mental health. Mental wellness. If they [doctors and trainers] see something that is off, I definitely encourage them to reach out to me so I can connect to the player.”

NiiLampti said the Panthers sent a message to the rest of the league that the NFLPA has been pushing for a while.

“The tagline we use is ‘mental health is health,’” she said. “If you make that investment it’s going to come out on the back end in terms of performance as well as what their lives will look like when they’re out of the game.

“It speaks to what they’re willing to invest in their players.”

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There’s more to health care access than pre-existing conditions

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

J.B. Silvers, Case Western Reserve University

(THE CONVERSATION) Health care has been a universal topic of discussion this political season. Candidates from both parties say they are in favor of it, although definitions of “it” vary widely. But what all agree is that it has to do with access. Can I get the care I need when it is needed, or are there barriers such as pre-existing conditions? These are questions that vex patients and insurers including me in my former role as CEO of a health plan.

Politicians have been talking mostly about pre-existing conditions as the way to ensure access to health care. But as a former health care insurance company CEO who now studies health care finance, I see this view as too simple. There are multiple levels of access relevant here – availability of insurance, affordable premiums, limited cost-sharing, sufficient number of providers and freedom of choice.

Is access just having any insurance policy?

Republicans generally define access in terms of insurance coverage, at low premiums. And this election cycle, many of them have professed their support for coverage of pre-existing conditions. But they haven’t said how insurers would do this. However, many believe that the full coverage plans required by the Affordable Care Act overshoot the mark, as they drive premiums up.

Stripped-down plans recently allowed by the Trump administration, under their definition, provide sufficient access and will cost less since they cover less. Unfortunately, someone with a prior history of cancer will be able to purchase one of these, but the actual treatment for a recurrence may well be excluded to make the plans financially viable. Although we have not seen much detail, it is clear that they will offer significantly lower coverage leaving consumers on the hook for many expensive treatments.

Those other than invulnerable millennials would not consider this sufficient access. Even worse, many purchasers of these stripped-down plans may not understand this until it is too late (even though disclosure is required in large print).

To the extent that these low-priced policies attract a healthier population, they also will indirectly drive up premiums for everyone else. People bet against the insurers when they can, choosing more coverage when they are likely to need it and less when they think they will be healthy. This natural incentive, while largely based on self-delusion, leads to policies that financially penalize those who need coverage the most. This was the impetus behind the ACA individual mandate that everyone must buy a policy that meets minimum coverage requirements. Having healthy people in the pool spreads around the costs of covering sick people – including those with pre-existing conditions.

Of course, conservatives have sought to eliminate the mandate and pushed policies that give as many options as possible to consumer. But this fracturing of the insurance market is exactly what created the original dysfunctional situation limiting access to many people with the most need. A narrow definition of “access,” coupled with ideological commitment to completely unfettered markets, even if they fail many potential customers, leads to this dilemma.

But can I afford the cost even with insurance?

The next layers of access are also fraught with problems. One way employers and the government have dealt with higher health care costs is to drive up the amount the insured must bear through high-deductible policies. Such “cost-sharing” effectively forces individuals and families to become underfunded insurance companies. Picking up the initial costs assumes they will engage in healthy lifestyle choices and be more careful in seeking care. In reality, lower-income people tend to postpone needed care or become a bad debt to providers when they can’t pay.

In reaction to this access problem to reduce otherwise prohibitive financial obligations, the ACA forced insurers to offer plans that subsidized cost-sharing on a sliding scale based on the insured’s income. This worked well until the rules were changed.

Now insurers are still required to offer these reductions, but the government reneged on their promise to help finance them. As a result, insurers increased premiums dramatically. This preserved access to the working poor who qualify but decreased access to middle- and higher-income people who now have much higher premiums. It was a trade-off determined by political objectives, not any rational policy or economic reasoning.

But can I keep my doctor or hospital?

As part of this jerry-rigged system, insurers and employers have moved to narrow networks that limit the providers patients can access. This allows payers to both bargain for lower payment and, to a lesser extent, assure high-quality patient care.

As a result, now it is increasingly rare to have completely open access to all providers as employers and plans shrink the number of providers under contract. If one changes health plans or the network excludes a hospital, physician or other provider, a patient must go elsewhere or pay a ridiculous price.

The resulting out-of-network care is a troublesome area of ignorance for individuals and abuse by greedy providers seeking much higher rates than otherwise possible.

So what comes next?

The outcome of the elections is unlikely to change much in the near term, unless Democrats are elected governor in states that failed to expand Medicaid. But even then, legislatures may not agree.

So, to the extent that the ability to obtain care from the best provider is limited in any way, many continue to see a serious access issue requiring a complete revision of the system – thus the popularity of “single-payer” or “Medicare for All.”

Unfortunately, the reasons these access issues exist are not trivial. They include the desire to moderate demand, allow choice, negotiate provider payment, encourage responsiveness, reward appropriate care, and favor preventive services. It may well be that our current system’s confusing nature and failure to provide sufficient access will drive wholesale change. However, within each solution lies the need to deal with these many dimensions of access.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here:

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FTC gets ‘Trumpcare’ health plan shut down

A federal judge temporarily shut down a South Florida-based operation called Simple Health Plans that allegedly collected more than $100 million from tens of thousands of consumers for plans dubbed Trumpcare and simplemedicareplans.

The Federal Trade Commission alleged Simple Health Plans owner Steven Dorfman and five others misled consumers to think they were buying comprehensive insurance. Instead, the customers paid as much as $500 per month for what was actually a medical discount program or else an extremely limited indemnity program with a maximum benefit of $3,200 per year.

Most of the sales of the allegedly fraudulent plans occurred over the last three years.

Fraud experts and state regulators worry that health insurance scams will proliferate as the Trump administration promotes leaner, cheaper alternatives to comprehensive Affordable Care Act health plans, such as short-term plans and association health plans.



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New Study: Health Care Is Freelancers’ Biggest Concern

A just-released research report from Fiverr finds more than 40 percent of freelancers see health insurance as the most pressing issue they’re facing leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, while  41 percent of “side hustle” freelancers say benefits is a key reason why they maintain a full-time job.

The online freelance platform interviewed more than 1,200 freelancers for “The Freelance Political Perspective Report.” Freelancers answered a series of questions on unique challenges they face as well as various political issues that affect them.

Related: Single-Payer Health Insurance Could Help Would-be Entrepreneurs Quit Their Jobs to Pursue Their Dreams

Freelancers and non-freelancers agree and disagree on major issues.

According to the report, freelancers share many of the same views as their fellow U.S. citizens who do not freelance. About 34 percent of freelancers said their financial situation is getting worse, while roughly the same percent of the overall adult population feels the same, according to a Harvard-Harris poll from June. About 31 percent of freelancers said their financial situation is getting better, similar to that of their non-freelance peers.

Freelancers and non-freelancers disagree much more than that in other areas, especially healthcare. While more than 40 percent of freelancers say healthcare is their biggest issue, a little less than one in three people among the general population agree. Interestingly, only 34 percent of freelancers said the country is heading in the right direction, while 39 percent of typical adults say it is.

Freelancers also hold some other strong opinions that differ starkly from the general population:

  • Freelancers are more likely to show support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (54 percent vs. 44 percent)

  • Support for a single-payer healthcare system (59 percent vs. 48 percent)

  • Increased funding of healthcare for low-income individuals (75 percent vs. 58 percent)

Related: Freelancers Will Soon Be Able to Buy Short-Term Disability Insurance Through This Startup

Freelancers want greater access to “portable benefits.”

Freelancers want to take their benefits wherever they go. Eighty percent of freelancers surveyed say they don’t think the government is doing enough to support flexible working with portable benefits. Eightyfive percent say it’s important to keep benefits without them being tied to a job. Fortyone percent of “side hustle” freelancers say they hang on to traditional jobs just to keep the benefits, rather than move to full-time freelance status.

As the Open Enrollment period for the ACA recently arrived, Fiverr and Postmates partnered on a digital ad campaign to encourage workers to sign-up for healthcare coverage. Both companies want to provide their freelance pool with beneficial resources and assist them in making informed decisions.

The companies also worked with Small Business Majority, a national small business advocacy group, to conduct webinars about healthcare plan options. Postmates is also conducting its own trial health savings account program for workers in partnership with Starship HSA.

Related: Empowering Entrepreneurship Begins With Affordable Health Coverage

Freelancers appear to support more progressive policies.

In general, freelancers expressed a desire to change the tax system more than the general population. They believe the rich should carry a greater portion of the country’s tax burden.

Sevetyfive percent support reforms to provide tax breaks to individual companies to help keep jobs in the US. Seventyfive percent support raising taxes on the rich, and 74 percent support raising the minimum wage. These types of changes could provide freelancers with more financial stability and additional income they can apply to savings or retirement.

Freelancers also expressed broad support for additional protection against sexual harassment, as well as greater access to continued education programs and resources.

Related: 3 Things to Know About Buying Health Insurance

If you want to know where the opinions and desires of the average American may be headed, look no further than freelancers. They now number more than 53 million. They’re set to represent 40 percent of the workforce by 2020, according to an Intuit report.

As more people move away from working full-time and go freelance, desires for adequate access to healthcare and a higher minimum wage will only increase.

A fascinating finding of this report is that around 25 percent of freelancers are undecided on which way to vote. That equates to roughly 14 million votes. Smart politicians will look at that and realize the benefits of helping this population. Freelancers want laws that support more flexible working conditions, a more equitable tax system and higher wages. Who’s going to step up and give it to them?

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Behavioral health hospital could be on the way in Bern Township

Construction of Tower Health and Acadia Healthcare’s 144-bed behavioral health hospital in Bern Township could begin later this month.

Officials with the two organizations are working through the final conditions of their land development plan with the township, Bern Township Manager Brian Potts said. After that, the organizations can apply for their building permit, he said.

“They are just about through the land development process,” Potts said.

A Tower Health spokeswoman said the groundbreaking for the new facility could occur by Nov. 16 after the closing on the Bern Township property is complete.

Tower Health and Tennessee-based Acadia are looking to build their hospital on Route 183 across from Reading Regional Airport.

The 92,000-square-foot facility would provide inpatient psychiatric care for children, adults and seniors. The facility would be built on an undeveloped tract between Teleflex Inc. and Penn State Health St. Joseph hospital.

The facility would offer outpatient programs and counseling, treatment for substance abuse disorders and other services.

Since it was formally announced last year, the project has been met with fierce criticism from a group of Greenfields residents who are concerned about what the project could to their property values. They came to public meetings to ask questions about the facility’s security plan, traffic impact on Route 183 and the patients it would serve.

Township resident Maureen Huber filed two appeals regarding the project against the township’s zoning board and supervisors. In one appeal, she said the supervisors did not give proper notice for a hearing on the project. In the other, she said the project should have been classified as a hospital, which is not a permitted use in the district Acadia and Tower plan to develop. Both appeals were denied by Berks County Judge James M. Lillis. Huber declined to comment about her appeals.

The initial building project may only be the start for the two organizations. They have also talked about placing a 45,000-square-foot medical office building and a 64-bed residential treatment facility at the site.

When the project was announced in December, hospital officials said it could employ as many as 300 people. Reading Hospital would move its 40-bed behavioral health program from its West Reading campus to the proposed facility.

Contact Matthew Nojiri: 610-371-5062 or

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‘Prevention better than cure in healthcare’ – health secretary will say

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday a green paper entitled ‘Prevention is better than cure’, outlining the vision for a “new 21st century focus on prevention”.

The plans argue for a shift towards primary and community care services, to look at the early support they can offer people in preventing bad health taking hold.

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Mr Hancock said in a speech at the International Association of National Public Health Institutes: “Prevention is also about ensuring people take greater responsibility for managing their own health.

“It’s about people choosing to look after themselves better, staying active and stopping smoking. Making better choices by limiting alcohol, sugar, salt and fat.

“But focusing on the responsibilities of patients isn’t about penalising people. It’s about helping them make better choices, giving them the all the support we can, because we know taking the tough decisions is never easy.”

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Mr Hancock added the “numbers don’t stack up” when it comes to spending on prevention as opposed to treatment.

“In the UK, we are spending £97bn of public money on treating disease and only £8bn preventing it across the UK,” he said.

“You don’t have to be an economist to see those numbers don’t stack up.”

Mr Hancock later told Sky News the recent £20.5bn extra funding for the NHS was not reliant on a Brexit deal.

He also defended government plans to stockpile medicines, appearing to blame Brussels for the contingency.

“If the borders gum up and it’s hard to get lorries across on the ferries because of action the EU side takes, then we’ve got to make sure that people can have access to their medicines,” the health secretary said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock on the NHS charm offensive.


Matt Hancock on the NHS charm offensive

Public Health England is looking at “harnessing digital technology” as a form of “predictive prevention”, potentially leading to targeted health advice for people based on their their location and lifestyle.

Helen Donovan, from the Royal College of Nursing, welcomed Mr Hancock’s plans but urged serious investment at a local level to back them up.

She said: “Matt Hancock must realise his plans will start at a disadvantage as local authorities struggle with planned cuts to public health budgets of almost 4% per year until 2021.

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“While it’s clear he sees that prevention isn’t an optional extra, we need to see properly funded, accountable services delivered by a fully staffed nursing workforce backed by adequate resources.”

Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth said while the plans are “laudable”, they follow “years of cuts and failed privatisation”.

“Unless ministers reverse these cuts and start fully funding public health services, these announcements will be dismissed as a litany of hollow promises,” he added.

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