Aug 27, 2009

H1N1 in Los Alamos

According to the author of this comment, the recent outbreak of flu in Los Alamos is H1N1. From the Sick Students post:

After a quick visit to the peds, we got the word that the typing came back as h1n1 and the duration estimate is changed to 5-7 days rather than 3-5.

Good news is that the actual h1n1 flu that we've experienced in our household isn't too severe: fluctuating fevers, body aches, snotty nose and coughing for 3 people in the house so far and all the symptoms seem to be managed well with OTC remedies.



Anonymous said...

KOAT has the story also:

Greg Close said...

Heads up... UHC will be covering H1N1 vaccinations, when the vaccine is available. They are doing this as a public health thing (not even charging the cost to our plan).

Anonymous said...

Please, Greg, while I like you, you need to get your head out of the sand. UHC isn't giving out free H1N1 vaccinations for the good of society. They are doing so to protect their bottom line. If nobody gets sick, they still collect the insurance premiums.

Greg Close said...

@8/28/09 7:32 AM Well, you have a funny way of showing you "like" someone. ;)

Is it at all possible to post an informative comment here without someone taking pot shots? Seriously? Could this have been a less controversial post, and I still draw fire for it? I'm amazed.

Also, I think you know less about how insurance billing/financing works than you think you do. For example, UHC could quite easily say "yes, we will cover H1N1 as a standard immunization/flu shot." This would mean you, as the member, pay your co-pay, and we as the claims guarantor would pay for the remainder of costs out of our claims money. Everyone would be covered and UHC would "make" money on this. Premiums do not factor into this - THEY don't collect insurance premiums. We are self insured. That means LANL collects the premiums and LANL pays the claims costs - UHC stands to gain nothing from our premiums, be they low or high.

However, as I stated, UHC is NOT charging the cost of the vaccine to the plan. That means, whatever ill intent you suppose they must have, they are going to lose A LOT of money doing it that they do not reasonably have to lose, and they will not recover in any way from our plan premiums.

So, no... my head is not in the sand (or anywhere else with restricted airflow). Do you really think that I've worked with insurance companies for the past decade at pretty much all levels of administrative plan functions, and DON'T realize that for profit insurance companies operate "for profit" and that many of their actions are aimed at that goal?

Do I have to spell it out like this to avoid hostile fire?
"UHC will cover H1N1 vaccine, when available. This will not cost the LANL plan any money. UHC will potentially lose millions of dollars through this practice, nationally. However, be aware that UHC is sure to gain positive PR from this action. This PR will doubtless go a long way for UHC in the ongoing health care debate as the company stakes its claim that they do have the best interests of citizens in mind, and that there is no need to chip away at their not-insignificant overall profits by instituting a national plan or restricting their business practices. Big companies sometimes have ulterior motives for good public works."

Anonymous said...

Maybe you could pay for it anyway if it bothers you that much.

Sarah said...

Dear Anonymous,

Get some guts and post your name. You people are bitter and paranoid, and that's a dangerous combination. Perhaps its time to leave LANL ...?

Anonymous said...

Pot meet kettle.

Anonymous said...

UHC does cost-benefit analysis like any profit based business. The few people who might need expensive hospitalization from H1N1 probably swamp the small cost for giving the vaccine. Therefore, it is in UHC's interest to see as many of their customers take the vaccine as possible.

It's not good or evil. It's just smart business practice.

Anonymous said...

Since many of the folks in the community are experiencing the virus, I'm hoping that we are building natural antibodies to the virus. Perhaps the demand for vaccine will be lower as a result?

Doug Roberts said...

The process you describe, 2:21, is called "building herd immunity". Through the process of the pandemic spreading through the population, increasing levels of immunity to the disease will eventually develop.

Anonymous said...

Herd immunity is great in the long run, Doug. No doubt about it.

Actually, I was focused on building individual immunity to avoid taking a vaccine.

Doug Roberts said...


Vaccines, or exposure to the disease (and surviving) are the only options that I know of. Anti virals can help reduce the severity of symptoms, but I'm certainly not an expert and can't say what the potential effects of anti virals are on individual immunity. I write code that can simulate disease spread, but I'm not an epidemiologist.

Anonymous said...

I guess many of you forgot, the government is paying for the H1N1 vaccine and giving it out for free. How nice UHC isn't charging for it.

Anonymous said...

Somehow, knowing that the government is involved doesn't give me warm fuzzy feelings.

Personally, if I can get the immunity from an ugly little bug, I might trust the bug more than the government.

Anonymous said...

Hey, the government is here to help us. What could possibly go wrong?

Greg Close said...

Ummm... okay. I can't believe this degree of detail is necessary, but:

"Although the vaccine will be free, providers could charge about $15 to administer it..."


So, yes - the vaccine itself is no cost, but $15 per head per covered member of our health plan is not an insignificant cost. Factor in that UHC (and other carriers) are doing this nationwide and the cost is more than a token gesture.

Pleeeeaaaaaaaaase stop being negative just to be negative. You guys are obsessed with the dark lining on the silver cloud.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Greg, you're gonna miss this rabid pessimism when you're gone.

Anyway, thanks for your commentary at 9:33 AM. One of the more insightful statements posted here lately.

Anonymous said...

From today's (Friday) LA Monitor:

While a couple of hundred local students have come down with flu-like symptoms since the middle of last week, none have been hospitalized, which Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Eugene Schmidt commented on late this afternoon.

“The symptoms have been very light with fevers up to 101 degrees, sore throats and dry coughs,” Schmidt said. “Perhaps it’s the healthier lifestyle our students live in Los Alamos, the clean air and good nutrition, we really don’t know yet why the symptoms have been so light.”

The New Mexico Department of Health confirmed the four H1N1 cases late Thursday in a news release.

Is this true? Have those with kids who have come down with this found it to be "so light" in terms of its symptoms? I had heard it takes almost a week to get over this bug.

Sarah said...

Anonymous - you sound like a very, very bitter person.

Glass half full please....

Anonymous said...

The superintendent doesn't have the right info on at least one point since the Middle School nurse called to have me pick up my child who was running a temperature of 102 degrees (F) at the time.

As stated in a couple of posts (the lead one of this thread, for example), I have two kids with H1N1 as well as now having it myself and have been glad that the symptoms have been less severe than what I had expected based on the media reports.

This is not to say that having a fever that comes and goes, coughing that doesn't seem to stop even with medication, body aches, sinus congestion that alternates with a seemingly unstoppable runny nose and a sore throat that all linger for 5 to 7 days is remotely a walk in the park.

I'm grateful we've gotten a round of the less-mutated version of the virus as every household either has or knows someone who might fall into the 'high risk' category that would potentially create a really difficult case of H1N1.

Also, the news also just ran a quick story about a mutation of H1N1 that seems to target lung tissue.
(Sorry Doug, I don't know how to do the tags to create a link...)

Anonymous said...

After reading the post on your flu symptoms, 11:42, I think I'll want to introduce my body to the H1N1 virus using a vaccine.