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HEALTH CARE Cost, coverage controversies and collaborating with colleges

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Last year was one of new trends and new initiatives in health care.

They included the rising need for health care employees, a significant demand for direct-care providers, the expansion of multipurpose facilities and urgent care settings, the rise of community health workers, more precise medical coding and the need to further integrate technology into health care to retain millennial-generation employees.

What can we forecast for the new year? A need for assistants and nurses, apprenticeship agreements with colleges, controversy over rising costs and lack of health insurance coverage, and the deepening opioid crisis. Meanwhile, what, if anything, will become of Obamacare when Donald Trump becomes president?

A look at 2017 in health care:

There will be a growing need for medical assistants and registered nurses, as our population and workforce continue to age.

Health care spending will climb, with deductibles and fees increasing. At the same time, many people will continue to lack health and dental coverage.

The epidemic of opioid addiction likely will expand. In tandem, police departments and first responders now are equipped with Narcan, a life-saving antidote.

The EpiPen controversy will remain. The cost of the epinephrine injector, used to counter anaphylaxis, a life-threatening sensitivity to some proteins or drugs, has gone up 600 percent, making it beyond the financial reach of many people. Some health insurance plans do not cover EpiPen.

Rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, cancer and heart disease will rise, along with an aging population.

Dental care and coverage will be harder to access. Free dental-care centers are struggling to keep pace with increasing need.

These clinics will, perforce, place their emphases on preventive triage and restorative care for all age groups. Poor dental health can lead to health disorders.

Apprenticeships for emergency medical technicians/paramedics will be forged between local community colleges (Reading, Lehigh-Carbon and Northampton), the Cetronia Ambulance Corps and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Despite multiple challenges, health care professionals will continue to work vigorously on improving health care delivery for everyone.

Judith Rex, dean of Northampton Community College’s Allied Health and Sciences Division, has been a Registered Nurse for 35 years and earned a Ph.D. in human development from Marywood University. Before arriving at NCC in 2002, she practiced nursing at two hospitals, a health center and a rehabilitation center. She can be reached at jrex@northampton.edu or 610-861-5533.

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