Medical News


Anthem mulling exits from more ACA marketplaces

Bloomberg News (9/12, Tracer, Edney) reports that on Tuesday, Anthem, Inc. said it may exit more Affordable Care Act marketplaces “even as U.S. lawmakers debate steps to shore up the health law.” The company “is in talks with officials in some states ahead of deadlines later this month to decide whether to sell coverage in 2018, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Swedish said.” The article adds that Anthem intends to fully or partially exit nine of the 14 states where it currently offers ACA plans.
Reuters (9/12, Humer) reports that according to Swedish, “the company has been repositioning itself in states with an eye to re-entering when appropriate if Congress and the White House stabilize the individual markets.”

AMA calls for EHR overhaul after study shows physicians spend six hours daily on data entry

Healthcare IT News (9/12, Monegain) reports new research from the University of Wisconsin and the American Medical Association shows that primary care physicians “spend more than half of their workday typing data on a computer screen and completing other EHR tasks.” AMA President David O. Barbe, MD, said in a statement,”This study reveals what many primary care physicians already know – data entry tasks associated with EHR systems are significantly cutting into available time for physicians to engage with patients.” The group calls for an overhaul of EHR systems so they can “enhance physicians’ ability to provide high-quality patient care” and “reduce cognitive workload,” among other priorities.


Illnesses thought to be linked to World Trade Center Attacks on the rise

The Wall Street Journal (9/11, Gay, Subscription Publication) reports that in recent years, some physicians treating 9/11 firefighters, police, and other survivors believe that the incidence of cancer among those exposed to toxic air at Ground Zero is on the rise. The article says several studies show a possible link between Ground Zero and an increased incidence of cancer. The article adds that city officials say 159 people at the FDNY and 132 more at the NYPD have died of diseases, typically cancer, that could be linked to their exposure during 9/11 and the aftermath.

Bacteria linked to puppies from Petland infects 39 people in seven states

The Washington Post (9/11, Brulliard, Sun) reports the CDC is investigating a “multistate outbreak of Campylobacter infections traced to puppies sold at Petland, a nationwide chain of about 80 pet stores.” The bacteria has sickened at least 39 people in seven states, with nine being hospitalized since last September. CDC spokeswoman Brittany Behm said health officials are not sure how common the bacteria is among animals.


AMA offers tool to help eligible clinicians comply with MACRA review

Healthcare Finance News (9/8, Jones Sanborn) reported “a number of studies” show that medical professionals are unprepared for the rules and performance reviews instituted by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, meaning members may not be prepared for what reimbursements, bonuses, or penalties they qualify for in 2019. The American Medical Association is providing to eligible clinicians its Payment Model Evaluator tool, “which can be used to assess readiness to participate in MACRA as well as which path within the QPP is best, MIPS or APM.” According to AMA President David O. Barbe, MD, “It will depend on the capabilities of the EHR in terms of gathering data in a form that can then be reported so assessing that gap is key and that’s part of what our tools do.”


Research links exercise to lower risk of ischemic stroke in women

Reuters (9/7, Rapaport) reports that research suggests “women who consistently get the minimum recommended amount of exercise for a healthy heart may be less likely to have a stroke than their counterparts whose exercise habits shift over time.” Investigators looked at “data on more than 61,000 women...who reported their exercise habits at two points in time, once from 1995 to 1996 and again from 2005 to 2006.” The researchers found that “the women who got at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise at both points in time were 30 percent less likely to ischemic stroke.” The findings were published in Stroke.


Anthem to exit ACA markets in 61 Kentucky counties

Reuters (9/6, Erman) reports that on Wednesday, Anthem said “it will offer” ACA “plans in only about half of the counties in Kentucky next year, after covering the whole state in 2017.” The company intends to “offer the healthcare plans in 59 counties in the state in 2018.”
The Hill (9/6, Weixel) reports that this will leave Kentuckians in many of the remaining 61 counties with only one option for 2018. The article says Anthem “has already announced plans to scale back participation in or leave the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) public exchanges in Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio.”

Study: 94 percent of US tap water contains microscopic plastic fibers

USA Today (9/6, Diebel) reports researchers who tested tap water from around the world found that over 80 percent of the samples contained microplastics. The contamination is “particularly high” in the US, where 94 percent of faucet water is affected. Samples taken from the US Capitol, EPA headquarters, and Trump Tower all contained the microscopic-sized plastic fibers. The study, commissioned by the data journalism website Orb and conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota, revealed that “the highest rates of contamination was found in Lebanon and India, while the lowest occurred in Europe, where 72% of samples contained fibers.” According to Orb, scientists said most of the fibers come from clothes, upholstery, and carpets, “including particles released by the actions of washing machines and dryers.”

Pen-like device may help surgeons detect cancerous tissue, research suggests

The AP (9/6, Neergaard) reports that researchers “are developing a pen-like probe to help surgeons better tell when it’s safe to stop cutting or if stray tumor cells still lurk.” While this “device is highly experimental...laboratory tests show it uses molecular fingerprints to distinguish between cancerous cells and healthy ones far faster than today’s technology.” The findings were published in Science Translational Medicine.
TIME (9/6, Sifferlin) reports that investigators “tested 253 human tissue samples from lung, ovary, thyroid and breast cancer tumors and compared them to samples of healthy tissues.” The study indicated that “the device was 96% accurate at identifying cancerous tissues.” The investigators also tested the device, called the “MasSpec Pen, in live mice with tumors and found that the device was able to identify the presence of cancer without harming healthy surrounding tissues.”


Experimental blood test may accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s, researchers say

CNN (9/5, Scutti) reports, “An experimental blood test can accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease” according to research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The New York Daily News (9/5, Dziemianowicz) reported that for the study, investigators “followed 347 participants with neurodegenerative diseases and 202 healthy people, who ranged in age from 23 to 90.” Next, “researchers analyzed subjects’ blood samples with infrared spectroscopy.” The study authors “identified subjects with early Alzheimer’s with 80% sensitivity and 74% specificity” and “participants with later stages of the disease with up to 86% sensitivity and specificity.”

Study examines health risks posed by vaginal estrogen use

Reuters (9/5, Rapaport) reports a new study published online in Menopause found that using vaginally applied estrogen to minimize menopause symptoms likely does not increase a woman’s risk of heart disease or certain cancers. The federally funded Women’s Health Initiative study has linked tablets containing “man-made versions of the female hormones estrogen and progestin to an increased risk for breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes.” Researchers found that “compared with women who didn’t use vaginal estrogen, women who did had a 48 percent lower risk of heart disease and 60 percent lower odds of hip fractures.”


Backyard poultry responsible for over 900 salmonella infections this year, CDC says

The New York Times (9/4, Pattani, Subscription Publication) reports that the CDC “is investigating multistate outbreaks of salmonella infections” connected “to people who keeps poultry in their backyards.” The Times says poultry is “responsible for infecting more than 900 people with salmonella” in 48 states so far in 2017. CDC veterinarian Megin Nichols said, “Over the years, we’ve accumulated a pretty serious health issue,” adding, “Ownership of live poultry and the interest in raising backyard chickens and ducks is really growing.” Nichols said poultry owners should take health precautions such as washing hands after handling poultry and not allowing poultry to live inside the house.


One in three Americans are obese, data indicate

The AP (8/31, Raby) reports that on Thursday, the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed one in three American adults and one in six children to be obese. The highest obesity rates are found in West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas, although the rates of increase in some states may be stabilizing. Trust for America’s Health President and CEO John Auerbach commented, “The adult rates are showing signs of leveling off and the childhood rates are stabilizing. In our review of the policies and strategies, we found that many (states) show a lot of promise for reversing the trends and improving health if we make them a higher priority.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/31, Schaefer) reports, however, that the data compiled from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, relies on self-reported weight data, “so it likely underestimates true rates.” Despite state obesity statistics leveling off, the data indicates that the nation is “at risk of poor health” if programs to address obesity lose funding, according to the Trust for America’s Health CEO. The data also shows higher rates of obesity in rural areas.
The Wilmington (DE) News Journal (8/31, Newman) adds that the study found that 46 states had obesity rates above 25 percent. No state had a rate above 25 percent in 2000.


Nitrous oxide increasingly offered in rural-area ambulances

The AP (8/31, Rathke) reports an increasing number of ambulances in rural areas are offering nitrous oxide in situations “where medical workers with clearance to provide more traditional painkillers often aren’t on board.” It gives advanced emergency medical technicians, “who are a step down from higher-level paramedics, a way to help relieve patients’ pain and anxiety on what can sometimes be long trips to a hospital.” Nitrous oxide equipment “has been sold to ambulance crews in at least 30 states in the past three years, including Maine, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin, according to Henry Schein Medical, the sole distributor of the version for ambulances.”

Researchers working on app that analyzes selfies from smartphones to detect early signs of pancreatic cancer

USA Today (8/30, Molina) reports that investigators “are working on an app” called BiliScreen “that could analyze selfies from” smartphones “to detect early signs of pancreatic cancer.” This app utilizes “the smartphone’s camera along with a series of algorithms to check for levels of bilirubin in the whites of a person’s eyes.” The “buildup of bilirubin is” an early indicator “of pancreatic cancer, as well as other diseases such as jaundice or hepatitis.”
The New York Daily News (8/30, Gibbs) reports that research on “70 people using the BiliScreen app had a 90% success rate in correctly identifying cases of concern and bilirubin levels.”
Medscape (8/30, Nelson) reports that the research “was published in the Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies and will be presented” next month “at Ubicomp 2017, the Association for Computing Machinery’s International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing.”


High carbohydrate consumption may be harmful, research suggests

Reuters (8/29, Seaman) reports that research suggests “global dietary guidelines should possibly be changed to allow people to consume somewhat more fats, to cut back on carbohydrates and in some cases to slightly scale back on fruits and vegetables.”
TIME (8/29, Park) reports that investigators found that “people eating high quantities of carbohydrates...had a nearly 30% higher risk of dying during the study than people eating a low-carb diet.” Meanwhile, individuals “eating high-fat diets had a 23% lower chance of dying during the study’s seven years of follow-up compared to people who ate less fat.”
MedPage Today (8/29, Husten) reports that the study “also found that the benefits of fruits, vegetables, and legumes top out at just three to four total servings per day.”
Medscape (8/29, Hughes) reports that the research was presented at the European Society of Cardiology 2017 Congress and was “published as two separate papers in The Lancet – one on the fat and carbohydrate outcome data and one on fruit/vegetables/legumes outcome data.” An additional “ paper in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology focuses on effects of the different dietary patterns on lipid levels and blood pressure.”


Sleep-disordered breathing may be associated with higher odds of developing cognitive impairment, review indicates

Reuters (8/28, Rapaport) reports, “Data obtained from 14 previously published studies with a total of more than 4.2 million men and women showed that people with sleep-disordered breathing had 26 percent higher odds of developing cognitive impairment,” researchers found. The review’s findings were published online Aug. 28 in JAMA Neurology.

Higher coffee consumption may be associated with lower risk of death, study suggests

USA Today (8/28, Molina) reports that research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress suggests higher coffee consumption may be linked “to a lower risk of death.” The study included approximately 20,000 participants who were followed for about 10 years. The investigators “found participants who drank at least four cups of coffee a day had a 64% lower risk of death than those who never or almost never drank coffee.” The study also indicated that “for participants who were 45 or older, drinking two additional cups of coffee was linked to a 30% lower risk of death.”


MDMA Emerges As “Breakthrough Therapy” For Soldiers With PTSD

On its front page, the Washington Post (8/27, A1, Wan) reported that MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), otherwise known as ecstasy, “is emerging as the most promising tool to come along in years for the military’s escalating PTSD epidemic.” The results of a much ridiculed program created by “a small group of psychedelic researchers” have been “so positive that this month the Food and Drug Administration deemed it a ‘breakthrough therapy’ – setting it on a fast track for review and potential approval.” Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, the US Army’s highest-ranking psychiatrist, said, “We’re in this odd situation where one of the most promising therapies also happens to be a Schedule 1 substance banned by the [Drug Enforcement Administration].”


Syphilis cases rising nationwide

The New York Times (8/24, Hoffman, Subscription Publication) reports that syphilis cases are increasing across the country. According to the most recent available data, there were 19 percent more “early-stage syphilis” cases reported in 2015 compared to the year prior, and 75,000 new syphilis diagnoses overall. The Times says the Centers for Disease Control “this spring...called for educating doctors and nurses about symptoms, testing pregnant women considered at risk and developing a better diagnostic test.”


Seniors who spend less time in REM sleep may have increased risk for dementia, study indicates

The CBS Evening News (8/23, story 10, 1:30, Mason) reported on “news of a link between the quality of sleep and the risk of dementia.”
HealthDay (8/23, Mozes) reports that seniors who spend less time in rapid eye movement sleep may have “increased risk of developing dementia in the future,” researchers found. The 321-participant study revealed that “for every one percent drop in REM sleep, the seniors...saw their dementia and Alzheimer’s disease risk go up by about nine percent.” The findings were published online Aug. 23 in Neurology.


High vitamin B intake may be linked to higher lung cancer risk in men, research suggests

CNN (8/22, Nedelman) reports that research indicated “men who took high doses of vitamin B6 and B12 supplements had a higher risk of lung cancer, and the association was highest among current smokers.” Investigators “found a 30% to 40% increased risk of lung cancer among men taking these vitamins from individual supplements – not from multivitamins or diet alone.” However, “the effect seemed to be driven by current smokers who far exceeded the recommended daily amounts of the vitamins, according to study author Theodore Brasky.”
HealthDay (8/22, Dotinga) reports, however, that “it’s...not clear why only men and current male smokers seem to face an extra risk.” The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The retina may serve as a reliable source for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, researchers say

USA Today (8/22, Rossman) reports that the eye’s “retina may serve as a reliable source for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis,” researchers concluded. Alzheimer’s appears to affect the retina “similarly to how it affects the brain,” investigators found. Using “a high-definition eye scan,” investigators “found they could see buildup of toxic proteins, which are indicative of Alzheimer’s.” The findings were published online in the journal JCI Insight.


FDA committee to consider whether cough medicine containing opioids should be prescribed to kids

STAT (8/21, Swetlitz) reports that the FDA’s Pediatric Advisory Committee “will meet in three weeks to consider whether cough medicine containing certain opioids should be prescribed to children,” the agency announced on Monday. The committee “will consider medicines containing codeine, as well as medicines containing hydrocodone.” In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said the meeting “will focus on the use of prescription opioid products containing hydrocodone or codeine for the treatment of cough in pediatric patients, including current treatment practices and benefit-risk considerations.”


DNA testing for disease risks unlikely to change health behaviors, research shows
The AP (8/17, Ritter) reports new research suggests DNA testing for disease risks, offered by companies such as 23andMe and Helix, may not influence those who use them to alter their health habits, despite receiving data that predict future illnesses or diseases. According to recent studies, “Getting the DNA information produced no significant effect on diet, physical activity, drinking alcohol, quitting smoking, sun protection or attendance at disease-screening programs” among participants who took DNA tests. Researchers wrote the presence of the data “has little if any impact on changing routine or habitual behaviors.”


Cancer patients may have higher risk for arterial thromboembolism, research suggests

Reuters (8/15, Boggs) reports that research suggests individuals “with cancer have higher risks of heart attack and stroke from blood clots, especially in the first few months after diagnosis, compared with people who don’t have cancer.” The findings were published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
MedPage Today (8/15, Lou) reports that investigators found that “six months after a cancer diagnosis, patients had double the rate of arterial thromboembolism compared with peers without cancer.” The study indicated that “cancer patients were particularly high-risk for MI...and ischemic stroke.”


Light-to-moderate alcohol use tied to reduced risk of death compared to abstinence, study suggests

TIME (8/14, MacMillan) reports “light-to-moderate alcohol use is associated with a reduced risk of death compared with no alcohol consumption at all,” according to a studypublished in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Researchers found that “light and moderate drinkers (14 or fewer drinks per week for men and seven or fewer for women) were about 20% less likely to die from any cause during the study’s follow-up period, compared to those who have never consumed alcohol.”
TODAY (8/14, Carroll) reports the same study found that heavy drinking may increase the risk of death. The researchers found that heavy drinkers “were 29 percent more likely to die during the course of the study compared to abstainers.”

Children who sleep less may have higher risk for type 2 diabetes, study suggests

The New York Times “Well” blog reports researchers studying 4,525 nine- and 10-year-olds found that the fewer hours a child sleeps per night, the higher that child’s risk for Type 2 diabetes. Parents said their children slept an average of 10 hours per night, “with 95 percent sleeping between eight and 12 hours.” The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, “found that the less sleep, the more likely the children were to have higher body mass indexes, higher insulin resistance and higher glucose readings.”


Researchers have too few patients on whom to test new cancer treatments

In a front-page story, the New York Times  (8/12, A1, Kolata, Subscription Publication) reported that “with the arrival of two revolutionary treatment strategies, immunotherapy and personalized medicine, cancer researchers have found new hope.” However, “there are too many experimental cancer drugs in too many clinical trials, and not enough patients to test them on.” According to the Times, “The logjam is caused partly by companies hoping to rush profitable new cancer drugs to market, and partly by the nature of these” treatments, “which can be spectacularly effective but only in” certain individuals.


Even with insurance, treating cancer can cost a third of household income, research shows

NPR (8/10) reports a research letter published in JAMA Oncology “shows that some cancer patients, even with insurance, spend about a third of their household income on out-of-pocket health care costs outside of insurance premiums.” The study found “that on average, cancer patients spend about 11 percent of their income on out-of-pocket health care costs, not including insurance premiums.” Lead author Yousuf Zafar, MD, “says doctors need to talk with patients about the costs of their treatment as well as the side effects and prognosis.” He added patients “believe they’ve got insurance. They believe they paid for insurance and that insurance should fully cover their cancer care.”


The Washington Times (8/10, Kelly) reports that of the of 300 cancer patients examined in the study, all of whom had health insurance, “more than one-third felt distress in the face of out-of-pocket medical expenses related to their treatment.” Factors in the financial burden include “increasing drug prices from pharmaceutical companies, diagnostic tests like CT scans or even doctor visits not covered by insurance.” Additionally, patients suffer out-of-pocket costs indirectly related to care, such as “lost income from time off work, cost of travel to treatment centers, gas for travel or even plane rides, hotels, meals on the road and more.” Zafar said, “A lot more could be done and it is unfair for a patient who is facing a catastrophic illness to sit on the phone with their insurance company to find out what’s covered and not covered.” The researchers “recommend financial intervention efforts to ‘improve patient health care cost literacy’ and that future studies should evaluate the impact of such interventions.”

Number of US adults with active epilepsy rose to three million in 2015, CDC finds

The CBS News (8/10, Welch) website reports, “The number of Americans with epilepsy is on the rise, with at least three million adults and 470,000 children living with the disorder,” researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. CDC data reveal that “the number of US adults with active epilepsy rose from 2.3 million in 2010 to 3 million in 2015.” Meanwhile, “the number of children with epilepsy increased from 450,000 in 2007 to 470,000 in 2015.” In a statement, CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, said, “Proper diagnosis is key to finding an effective treatment – and at CDC we are committed to researching, testing, and sharing strategies that will improve the lives of people with epilepsy.”


According to HealthDay (8/10, Reinberg), “the report, published Aug. 11 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, offers epilepsy estimates for every state for the first time, which shows the condition is widespread.” Report co-author Rosemarie Kobau, MPH, head of the epilepsy program at the CDC, and colleagues “used data from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey for adults, the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health and the 2015 Current Population Survey (2014 data)” to arrive at the study’s findings.


MedPage Today (8/10, Fiore) reports that “the increases” in reported cases “are probably due to population growth,” the study authors posited.


Colon, rectal cancers on the rise in younger white adults, study finds

ABC World News Tonight (8/8, story 12, 0:25, Muir) reported a study found that “colorectal cancer is on the rise among adults under the age of 55, increasing one percent every year since 2004.” NBC Nightly News (8/8, story 8, 2:00, Holt) reported the study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. NBC The study “has some doctors rethinking” the recommendation of screening starting at age 50.


The Washington Post (8/8, Cha) reports the researchers cast the growing incidence of colon and rectal cancer as “perplexing.” The mortality rate for whites stopped declining and “began to climb starting in 2004, going from 3.6 per 100,000 to 4.1 per 100,000 in 2014.” For blacks it fell to 6.1 per 100,000 in 2014, and other races have seen mortality remain stable from 2006 through 2014.


CBS News (8/8, Welch) reports lead investigator Rebecca Siegel, strategic director of surveillance information services at the American Cancer Society, said, in CBS’s words, that the results are “surprising because the findings are inconsistent with trends for major risk factors for colorectal cancer like obesity.”


People with risk factors for heart attacks, stroke may be more likely to develop dementia, researchers say

Reuters (8/7, Rapaport) reports, “Middle-aged people with risk factors for heart attacks and stroke may be more likely to develop dementia in old age than people with healthy cardiovascular systems,” researchers concluded. The study revealed that smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and prehypertension were associated with “higher odds of dementia.”


HealthDay (8/7, Thompson) reports that “investigators tracked nearly 15,800 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study,” which is “a US National Institutes of Health-funded project designed to track the effect of hardened arteries on people’s long-term health.” All participants were followed for about 25 years. The findingswere published online Aug. 7 in JAMA Neurology.

Study suggests blood pressure fluctuations linked to dementia

Reuters (8/7, Rapaport) reports a study of 1,674 older adults published in Circulation found that “people with the most variations in blood pressure,” which was measured through a month of home blood pressure readings, “were more than twice as likely to develop dementia” within the next five years. While the study didn’t address causation, lead study author Tomoyuki Ohara, MD, of the Graduate School of Medical Sciences at Kyushu University in Fukuoka City, said, in Reuters’ words, “it’s possible that daily variation in blood pressure might cause changes in the brain’s structure and function that contribute to the development of dementia.” Costantino Iadecola, MD, director of the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York wrote in an accompanying editorial that, in Reuters’ words, “fluctuations in blood pressure could be a symptom of cognitive decline in progress rather than a risk factor for developing dementia in the future.”

HealthDay (8/7, Reinberg) reports that those whose systolic blood pressure “fluctuated from day-to-day were more than twice as likely to develop any type of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease compared to those with more stable day-to-day blood pressure,” as well as “nearly three times more likely to develop vascular dementia, caused by hardening of the arteries.” Dr. Ohara said, “Further studies are needed to clarify whether day-to-day blood pressure variation is an indicator of future dementia or a medical target for the prevention of dementia.”


Major health insurers beat analysts’ expectations for 2Q, with profits exceeding $6 billion

Bloomberg News (8/4, Tracer) reported that the six “major health insurers topped Wall Street expectations in the second quarter as the industry distanced itself from turmoil in Washington.” Cigna, which was the last of the companies to release earnings, had higher-than-expected profit, and it raised its forecast for the rest of 2017.

On its website CNBC (8/5, Coombs) reported that major health insurance companies shrugged off political uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act to take in more than $6 billion in profit in the second quarter. That figure was up by more than 29 percent from the same period last year.


Caregivers often fail to administer epinephrine to kids experiencing anaphylaxis, study finds

The New York Times (7/31, Yin, Subscription Publication) reports that when youngsters “experience serious allergy attacks, known as anaphylaxis, parents, teachers, emergency responders and other caregivers often fail to administer epinephrine – even to children who had previously experienced anaphylaxis and been prescribed an epinephrine autoinjector,” researchers found. After “analyzing more than 400 patient records of children and young adults from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus,” OH, investigators “found that only 36 percent of patients experiencing anaphylaxis received epinephrine before arriving at the emergency department.” The findings were published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

People born in states with high stroke mortality rates may have greater risk for dementia, research indicates

Reuters (7/31, Rapaport) reports that being born in “the so-called stroke belt, a band of southern US states with high stroke mortality rates, is associated with increased odds of developing dementia, even for people who relocate,” researchers found after examining data on some “7,423 adults living in Northern California, including 1,166 people born in high stroke-mortality states – all but one in the South: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina and West Virginia.” The findings were published online July 31 in JAMA Neurology.


Researchers use CRISPR to edit genes of human embryos

NBC Nightly News (7/27, story 9, 1:55, Holt) reported, “Now to a big scientific advance. For the first time, researchers here in this country have successful changed the DNA in human embryos as a way of preventing disease.”
The AP (7/27, Marchione) reports that “scientists have edited the genes of human embryos.” This experiment, which used a technique known as CRISPR, “was just an exercise in science – the embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days and were never intended to be implanted into a womb, according to MIT Technology Review, which first reported the news.” The AP adds that “officials at Oregon Health & Science University confirmed...that the” research “took place there and said results would be published in a journal soon.”
TIME (7/27, Park) reports that while “the National Institutes of Health...does not fund studies involving CRISPR in human embryos,” earlier this year, “the US National Academy of Sciences reviewed the potential uses of CRISPR and opened the door for research studies in embryos if the work would address serious inherited diseases.”

Analysis disputes belief that patients must take full prescription of antibiotics

NBC Nightly News (7/27, story 10, 0:30, Holt) reported, “For years it’s been doctor’s orders, when you take antibiotics, make sure you finish them even if you feel better.” Investigators in the UK, however, are now “saying that may not always be necessary.” Their research revealed that “in people who came down with pneumonia in the hospital, a shorter course of antibiotics was just as effective as a longer course.” What’s more, a shorter course was also linked to “lower rates of recurrence and antibiotic resistance.”
USA Today (7/27, Bacon) reports that the author of the analysispublished in the British Medical Journal writes that the belief that patients should always complete the full prescription of antibiotics, even if their condition improves, is “fallacious” and is likely a barrier to decreasing unnecessary use of antibiotics.


Patients with preoperative BMI less than 40 likely to see better outcomes from bariatric surgery, study indicates

The CBS News (7/26, Welch) website reports that bariatric surgery outcomes may be more successful in patients before they reach the point of morbid obesity, researchers concluded after examining “first-year surgery results from more than 27,000 patients” who underwent bariatric surgery “over a 10-year period ending in mid-2015.” The odds of getting body mass index (BMI) below 30 within a year after surgery “were much higher for patients who had a BMI level of the time of their surgery, compared to those who waited until they were even heavier, with a BMI over 50.” The findings were published online in JAMA Surgery.


Sperm count declining among men in Western world, research indicates

USA Today (7/25, Weintraub) reports that researchpublished in Human Reproduction Update indicated that “men in North America, Australia and Europe produced less than half as many sperm in 2011 compared with 1973.” The study also indicated that “the quality was worse.”
In “To Your Health,” the Washington Post (7/25, Cha) reports that the study “appears to confirm fears that male reproductive health may be declining.” For the study, investigators looked at “data from 185 studies and 42,000 men around the world between 1973 and 2011.”
Reuters (7/25, Kelland) reports that the researchers found “a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 percent decline in total sperm count among North American, European, Australian and New Zealand men.”
Newsweek (7/25, Gaffey) reports that while the investigators did not see “a similar decline in non-Western men – those from Africa, Asia and South America,” they “admitted that this absence of a trend may be due to a lack of data.”


Dietary supplements linked to more calls to poison control centers

ABC News (7/24) reports on its website that “calls to poison control centers in the US” caused by “exposures to dietary supplements rose by nearly 50 percent between 2005 and 2012,” according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology. The study said that “a majority of those calls involved children,” and the authors support increased FDA regulation “for certain supplements that were associated with high amounts of toxicity.”

CBS News (7/24, Welch) reports, “Seventy percent of the calls involved children younger than 6 years old,” and the majority of cases “were unintentional, occurring when children swallowed supplements they found at home.” Additionally, approximately “4.5 percent of the time — more than 12,300 cases — serious medical complications occurred.”


Nearly one-third of dementia cases preventable based on lifestyle factors, report finds

The Washington Post (7/20, Bahrampour) reports a study presented on Thursday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London found that nearly one-third of the world’s dementia cases are preventable through managing “factors such as education, hypertension, diet, hearing loss and depression over the course of a person’s lifetime.” Researchers found that controlling the factors could reduce one’s risk of developing dementia by 35 percent.
Reuters(7/20, Kelland) reports the “wide-ranging analysis” detected nine “particularly important” risk factors, namely “staying in education beyond age 15, reducing high blood pressure, obesity and hearing loss in mid-life, and reducing smoking, depression, physical inactivity, social isolation and diabetes in later life.”

Certain antibiotics taken during pregnancy may increase risk for birth defects

The New York Times (7/20, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports in “Well” that research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reveals that “certain antibiotics taken during pregnancy may increase the risk for birth defects.” After following “139,938 mothers of babies born in Quebec from 1998 to 2008, tracking their antibiotic use in the first trimester, and their babies’ birth defects through the first year of life,” investigators found that “antibiotics in the class called quinolones – ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin and others – are particularly dangerous and should be avoided in pregnancy.”

CDC advises Americans traveling to Europe to protect themselves against measles

The CBS News (7/20, Welch) website reports that “government health officials are reminding those going abroad to take steps to protect themselves against measles amid outbreaks of the disease in some popular vacation” destinations.
HealthDay (7/20, Preidt) reports CDC officials are advising “Americans traveling to Europe” to “take steps to protect themselves against measles.” In an agency press release, Gary Brunette, MD, “chief of the CDC’s travelers’ health program,” said, “Most measles cases in the United States are the result of international travel.” European countries reporting cases of measles so far this year include “Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.”


Study explores possible link between antidepressant use in pregnant women, autism

ABC World News Tonight (7/19, story 10, 0:25, Muir) reported that a Swedish study is “exploring the possible link between pregnant women using antidepressants and autism.” Investigators found that “mothers taking antidepressants may have a slightly greater risk of having a child with autism.” Nevertheless, the study authors “call that risk very small and say stopping treatments during pregnancy may cause a worse risk in other ways to both mother and baby.”
AFP (7/19) reports that “just over four percent of the children exposed to mood-enhancing medications were diagnosed with autism, while just under three percent of children not exposed to antidepressants – and whose mothers had a history of psychiatric troubles – were found to be on the spectrum.” The findings were published online July 19 in the British Medical Journal.


More than 100 million US adults have diabetes or prediabetes, CDC officials report
ABC World News Tonight (7/18, story 10, 0:10, Muir) reported that officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are “reporting more than 100 million American adults live with diabetes or pre-diabetes.”
The Los Angeles Times (7/18, Kaplan) “Science Now” blog points out the report, which “combines data from the CDC, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Indian Health Service and the Census Bureau,” also reveals that “the total cost of caring for Americans with diabetes in 2012” averaged “out to $13,700 per diabetes patient, which is 2.3 times higher than for people who don’t have diabetes.”
HealthDay (7/18, Preidt) reports that the CDC “report[pdf] found that nearly one in four adults with diabetes didn’t even know they had the disease, and less than 12 percent with prediabetes knew they had that condition.” CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, stated, “More than a third of US adults have prediabetes, and the majority don’t know it.” In a news release, Fitzgerald added, “Now, more than ever, we must step up our efforts to reduce the burden of this serious disease.”

Humans much more likely than mosquitoes to spread illnesses through air transport
Reuters (7/18, Crist) reports that human airplane passengers are far more likely to spread diseases such as “Zika, yellow fever, malaria and dengue to a new part of the world” than are “stowaway mosquitoes,” according to new research published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The article quotes CDC biologist and study author Michael Johansson as saying that authorities have long had “disinfection policies” targeting mosquitoes and pests, “but we need to focus on ways to prevent the spread through humans.” Johansson added that the researchers “were surprised by the magnitude” of the results.


Phthalates found in high concentrations in mac and cheese mixes made with powdered cheese

In “Well,” the New York Times (7/12, Rabin, Subscription Publication) reports that phthalates, chemicals that “can disrupt male hormones like testosterone and have been linked to genital birth defects in infant boys and learning and behavior problems in older children,” may “still be present in high concentrations in your child’s favorite meal: macaroni and cheese mixes made with powdered cheese.” A “studyof 30 cheese products has detected phthalates in all but one of the samples tested, with the highest concentrations found in the highly processed cheese powder in boxed mac and cheese mixes.”


Children who spend more time outside may be less likely to be near-sighted, study suggests

Reuters (7/11, Harding) reports children “who spend more time outdoors and who play sports are less likely to be near-sighted,” according to a study published online in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. After following nearly 6,000 children in Rotterdam from birth to age six, researchers “found that myopic children spent less time outdoors, had lower levels of vitamin D, had a higher body mass index and were less likely to play sports than children who weren’t nearsighted.” Susan Vitale of the National Eye Institute said, “Basically this study adds very nicely to the evidence that we already see from many other studies and many other countries that there is definitely a connection between outdoor activity and myopia in children.”


Coffee consumption may be linked to longer life, studies suggest

On its website, CBS News (7/10, Welch) reports people who drink coffee may live longer, according to two new studies that were both published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The first study “found that drinking one cup of coffee a day was associated with a 12 percent decrease in risk of death,” and that drinking “two to three cups a day” decreased the risk of death by 18 percent. The second study “found coffee consumption was linked with a lower risk of death from all causes, and specifically for circulatory diseases and digestive diseases.”

Reuters (7/10, Seaman) reports that researchers from Johns Hopkins wrote in an accompanying editorial, “Recommending coffee intake to reduce mortality or prevent chronic disease would be premature,” but “it is increasingly evident that moderate coffee intake up to 3 to 5 cups per day or caffeine intake up to 400 mg/d is not associated with adverse health effects in adults and can be incorporated into a healthy diet.”


Huge dose of vitamin D may alleviate sunburn symptoms, study suggests

USA Today (7/8, Rossman) reported people who take a huge dose of vitamin D shortly after being sunburned may experience “significant reductions in redness, swelling and inflammation,” according to a study (pdf) published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.


Poor Sleep May Be Tied To Higher Alzheimer’s Risk

In “Well,” the New York Times (7/5, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports, “Poor sleep may be an indication of increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” researchers found after studying “101 cognitively normal people, average age 63.” All participants had their “spinal fluid for the presence of indicators of the plaques and tangles that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s.” After controlling for confounding factors, the study authors found that “poor sleep quality, sleep problems and daytime sleepiness were associated with increased spinal fluid indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.” The findings were published online July 5 in Neurology.

Consumption Of Sugary Foods, Drinks During Pregnancy May Increase Children’s Risk Of Allergies, Study Suggests

CNN (7/5, Scutti) reports, “Women who consume too many sugary foods and drinks during pregnancy may be increasing their children’s risk of developing an allergy or allergic asthma,” researchers found. The findings were published online in the European Respiratory Journal.


OTC Hearing Devices Perform Almost As Well As More Costly Hearing Aids, Study Finds

The San Diego Union-Tribune (7/3, Fikes) reported that a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that “personal sound amplifiers purchased over the counter can perform nearly as well in improving speech understanding as hearing aids costing five times as much.”

MedPage Today(7/3, Boyles) reported that the findings of the “highly controlled” comparison study “lend support to the creation of the new regulatory classification for hearing aids.”


Insurers Warn Plans Will Be Canceled, Raising Health Care Stakes

In a front-page article, the Wall Street Journal (6/30, A1, Mathews, Evans, Subscription Publication) reports health insurers nationwide have been sending letters to hundreds of thousands of Americans warning that their plans purchased on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces will be canceled at the end of the year. The Journal adds that lawmakers appear to be worried the announcements will affect their constituents and could prompt protests during their visits to their districts this week.

Centene to offer ACA exchange plans in 40 Missouri counties next year The Wall Street Journal(6/30, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports Centene Corp. on Friday announced it will offer health insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace in 40 Missouri counties next year, including some that previously would have lacked plans after Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City pulled out of the exchanges.


Intelligent Children Tend To Live Longer Than Less Gifted Peers, Study Suggests

The New York Times (6/28, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports in “Well” that “intelligent children tend to live longer than their less gifted peers,” researchers found after following “75,252 men and women born in 1936” until 2015. After controlling for confounding factors, including smoking, investigators “found that lower scores on the childhood intelligence test were associated with death from heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, lung cancer and stomach cancer.” The findingswere published online in the British Medical Journal.


Most Parents Have Made A Dosing Error When Giving Medicine To Their Children, Study Reveals

ABC News Radio (6/27) reports, “More than 80 percent of parents have made at least one dosing error when administering medicine to their young children,” researchers found after examining data from “491 parents of children eight years old or younger.” The study revealed that “83.5 percent of parents made at least one dosing error, and that 12.1 percent of those errors were overdosing errors.” The findingswere published online in Pediatrics.


Preliminary Studies Suggest Labs Mix Up Thousands Of Patients’ Cancer Biopsy Samples Each Year

The New York Times (6/26, Kolata, Subscription Publication) reports that while “there is no comprehensive data on how often pathology labs mix up cancer biopsy samples...a few preliminary studies suggest that it may happen to thousands of patients” annually. The Times adds that “fortunately, there is...a high-tech solution: a way to fingerprint and track each sample with the donor’s own DNA.” However, “it costs the patient about $300 per sample, and labs have been slow to adopt it.”

Moderate-Intensity Physical Activity Can Protect The Brain From Alzheimer’s Disease, Study Says

TIME (6/26, MacMillan) reports a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found “people who did more moderate-intensity physical activity were more likely to have healthy patterns of glucose metabolism in their brains—a sign of healthy brain activity—than those who did less.” The authors found large doses of high-intensity exercise may be needed to offer the benefits of “a modest increase” in moderate activity, “suggesting that you don’t have to exercise to the extreme to get brain benefits.” Lead author Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Public, says, in general, the evidence suggests that “light activity is insufficient, and vigorous activity might be unnecessary.”


Studies Arrive At Different Conclusions About Whether Marijuana Use Increases Risks Behind The Wheel

The Los Angeles Times (6/22, Lee) reports that in states seeking to legalize marijuana, “police and politicians often grapple with the same hard question: How will that affect road safety?”        Reuters (6/22, Harris) reports, “Two US studies on the effects of marijuana on drivers in states where it is allowed for recreational use” arrived at “different conclusions about whether it increases risks behind the wheel.” The first study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, examined “motor vehicle fatalities and found no significant increase in Colorado and Washington State, where recreational marijuana use is legal, compared with eight states where it is not legal that have similar populations, vehicle ownership, and traffic laws.” The second study, which was released this week by the Highway Loss Data Institute, “analyzed the frequency of car insurance collision claims in Washington, Colorado and Oregon, where recreational marijuana is also permitted.” That study revealed “a three percent increase in collision claims in those states compared with Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada, where it is not legal.”

Breast Implants May Hamper Physicians’ Ability To Detect Heart Attacks, Study Suggests

Newsweek (6/22, Williams) reports that research suggests “breast implants may be hampering” physicians’ “ability to detect heart attacks.” Investigators, “after reviewing ECGs of 28 healthy women who had undergone breast augmentation and 20 healthy women of the same age who had natural breasts, doctors discovered detection of heart attacks in women with breast implants was less accurate than ECG tests of women who did not have breast implants.” The findings were presented at EHRA EUROPACE--CARDIOSTIM.


Mice On Diets Enriched With Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Appear To Have Better Memories, Researchers Say

ABC World News Tonight (6/21, story 15, 0:20, Muir) reported, “Researchers say a new study in mice supports the idea that extra virgin olive oil may have positive effects on memory.”        USA Today (6/21, Rossman) reports researchers from Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine found that mice whose diets were enriched with extra-virgin olive oil “had better memories and learning abilities compared to the rodents who didn’t eat the oil.” The study revealed that “neuron connections in the brain were better preserved in” mice on the extra-virgin olive oil diet. The findingswere published online in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.


FDA Approves Long-Acting Therapy For AD/HD

Reuters (6/20, Grover) reports that the FDA has “approved Shire Plc’s long-acting therapy for” attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). Reuters adds, “Shire’s SHP465 drug, known as Mydayis, contains the same active ingredient as...Adderall XR [amphetamine and dextroamphetamine] but is formulated to last up to 16 hours.”        The Boston Globe (6/20, Weisman) reports that the drugmaker “said it plans to make the newly approved” AD/HD medication “available for commercial use in the United States in the third quarter.”


Yoga May Be Equal To Physical Therapy For Relieving Lower Back Pain, Study Indicates

ABC World News Tonight (6/19, story 12, 0:15, Muir) reported on a new study “revealing that yoga is equal to physical therapy when it comes to relieving pain in your lower back.” The findings were published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine. On the CBS Evening News (6/19, story 10, 1:55, Mason), medical correspondent Jon LaPook, MD, was shown saying, “In the study, 320 adults with moderate-to-severe back pain received one of three approaches over 12 weeks – weekly yoga classes, 15 physical therapy visits, or education about how to cope with back pain.” The study found that not only was yoga “just as effective as physical therapy,” but also that “both groups were about 20 percent less likely to use pain medication than patients receiving education alone.”


Physical Activity During And After Pregnancy May Protect Against Postpartum Depression, Review Indicates

Reuters (6/16, Crist) reported, “Physical activity during and after pregnancy improves psychological wellbeing and may protect against postpartum depression,” researchers found after analyzing “data from 12 controlled trials of exercise interventions during or after pregnancy between 1990 and 2016 that addressed the effects of physical activity on postpartum depression.” Some 932 women were included in these studies. The review’s findings were published online June 7 in the journal Birth.

Death Rates From Liver Cancer In US On The Rise, Study Indicates

Reuters (6/16, Lehman) reported that research indicates “death rates from liver cancer in the US have doubled since the 1980s and continue to” increase. Reuters adds that “despite improved survival rates overall, the rise in new diagnoses of liver cancer means that death rates are still increasing faster than for any other cancer type.” The findings  were published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.


One-Fifth Of Baby Food Samples Contaminated With Lead, Report Finds

In “To Your Health,” the Washington Post (6/15, Cha) reports 20 percent of 2,164 baby food samples “had detectable levels of lead,” according to a report published by the Environmental Defense Fund. The group analyzed data from the Food and Drug Administration’s Total Diet Study between 2003 and 2013. The Huffington Post (6/15, Grenoble) reports fruit juice for babies “stood out as a large offender” in the report.


On its website, TODAY (6/15, Fox) reports the group also found that 14 percent of other food was contaminated with lead, based on the same analysis. The Environmental Defense Fund called for food manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration to get lead out of all foods.


Fever During Pregnancy May Be Associated With Higher Risk Of ASD In Offspring, Study Indicates

In “To Your Health,” the Washington Post (6/13, Bernstein) reports, “A mother’s fever during pregnancy, especially in the second trimester,” may be “associated with a higher risk that her child will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder [ASD], researchers” found. The study also revealed that “three or more fevers after 12 weeks of gestation may be linked to an even greater risk of the condition.”

Bill Would Stop Those In US Illegally From Getting Tax Credits For Healthcare

The AP (6/13) reports that the House has passed a bill “that seeks to ensure people in the country illegally cannot get tax credits to pay their health insurance premiums.” The bill, called the Verify First Act, passed 238-184 and “requires agencies to verify an applicant’s Social Security number before the Treasury Department pays the tax credit to a health insurer.”


Eating Fried Potatoes Twice A Week Associated With Increased Risk Of Death, Study Finds

TIME (6/12) reports a study found that consumption of fried potatoes at least twice a week is associated with an increased risk of death. Researchers examined data involving “4,400 older people between ages 45 and 79 over the course of eight years.” The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Nearly Two Million People Who Signed Up On ACA Exchanges Dropped Their Coverage By Mid-March, CMS Report Says

Politico (6/12, Pradhan) reports that almost two million people who signed up for health plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges during open enrollment dropped their coverage between January 31 and mid-March, according to a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The AP (6/12, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports, “Figures released from the Health and Human Services department show that 10.3 million people were signed up and paying their premiums as of March 15,” which is “1.9 million fewer than the 12.2 million who initially signed up during open enrollment season.”
CNBC (6/12, Mangan) reports Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said, “Customers are sending a clear message that cost and affordability are major factors in their decision to cancel or terminate coverage.”


Poor Diet, Obesity And Inactivity Could Overtake Smoking In Cancer Death Risk, Researchers Suggest

USA Today (6/9, O'Donnell) reports researchers suggest that “as the rate of smoking decreases, other unhealthy habits,” such as poor diet, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, and excess weight, “threaten to offset the progress in reducing cancer deaths.” The issue was discussed by researchers from the American Cancer Society at a recent meeting of the Council of Accountable Care Physicians.


Insurers Leaving Marketplaces As Uncertainty Over ACA’s Future Grows

Politico (6/8, Demko) reports that Affordable Care Act marketplaces “are undergoing a slow-motion meltdown as Republicans stoke a climate of uncertainty while struggling to agree on their own plan for overhauling American health care.” The departure of several insurers from ACA exchanges leaves ACA “customers in wide swaths of the country with potentially no options for purchasing subsidized coverage in 2018.”
Two Washington state counties now without ACA insurer The Wall Street Journal (6/8, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports that Premera Blue Cross has withdrawn from the Washington state counties of Grays Harbor and Klickitat, leaving the counties without any insurers offering Affordable Care Act (ACA) options for 2018. The Journal states that the region would become the third in the US without any available ACA marketplace plans.
The AP (6/8) adds, “Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s office said Thursday that under state law, if no health insurer is available in a particular county, the only option for residents is coverage through the state’s high-risk pool, known as WSHIP.”
CNN Money reports that Premera’s withdrawal stands to affect “more than 2,100 residents who signed up for policies through the exchange.”

People Who Get Drunk For The First Time Before Age 15 May Be More Likely To Die Prematurely, Study Indicates

Reuters (6/8, Rapaport) reports, “People who get drunk for the first time before their fifteenth birthday are more likely to die prematurely than people who don’t drink excessively or at least avoid getting drunk until they’re older,” researchers found after examining “data on drinking habits and death records for almost 15,000 adults who were followed for almost three decades.” The findings were published online May 16 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.


Children Who Drink Dairy Alternatives May Be Shorter, Study Suggests

CNN (6/7, Drash) reports that youngsters “who drink dairy alternatives like soy, almond or rice milks are slightly shorter than their peers who drink cow’s milk,” researchers found. The study revealed that “each daily cup of non-cow’s milk consumed was associated with 0.4 centimeters (0.15 inches) lower height than average for a child’s age.” The findings were published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Newsweek (6/7, Wapner) reports that in arriving at the study’s findings, investigators “examined data from a large, ongoing research project called TARGet Kids! (The Applied Research Group for Kids),” concentrating on kids “who consumed about 8 ounces of non-cow’s milk per day in order to check for height differences among this group, compared with children who drank the same amount of cow’s milk per day.” Some “5,000 children were included in the analysis.”


Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Be Tied To Changes In Brain Structure, Increased Risk Of Worsening Brain Function

ABC World News Tonight (6/6, story 8, 0:20, Muir) reported that research suggests “moderate drinking may be riskier than previously” believed.
USA Today (6/6, Painter) reports that investigators found “moderate drinkers were more likely than abstainers or light drinkers to develop worrisome brain changes that might signal eventual memory loss.” Additionally, “they...were more likely to show rapid slippage on a language test, though not on several other cognitive tests.” The findings were published online in the British Medical Journal.
Reuters (6/6, Kelland) reports that investigators came to these conclusions after analyzing “data on weekly alcohol intake and cognitive performance measured repeatedly over 30 years between 1985 and 2015 for 550 healthy” people “with an average age of 43 at the start of the study.” Reuters adds, “Brain function tests were carried out at regular intervals, and at the end of the study participants were given a MRI brain scan.”


Study Questions Practice Of Having Babies Sleep In Parents’ Bedrooms

Reuters (6/5, Rapaport) reports that a small study found babies may not get be getting as much sleep in “parents’ bedrooms as they do in a room of their own, and they may also be more likely to go to bed in conditions associated with an increased risk of sleep-related deaths.” Researchers explained “that parents respond to a baby’s brief awakenings, which interrupts both parent and child sleep when they are room-sharing, but not as much when the baby is sleeping in a separate room,” potentially setting “up a cycle where parents respond to the infant and then the infant grows to expect a parent response in order to get back to sleep.” The article notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends babies sleep in the same room with “their parents for at least the first six months of their lives, and ideally up to one year, to reduce the risk of SIDS.” The findings were published in Pediatrics.
CNN (6/5, Nedelman) reports researchers said that although “there’s evidence to recommend room-sharing with infants for 3 to 6 months, data simply don’t support continuing the practice beyond that age.”
ABC News (6/5) reports researchers also found that “parents who kept their babies in the same room to sleep were much more likely to bring their infants into their adult beds in the middle of the night --- a practice that the AAP says is dangerous for babies.”


Many Patients With Colon Cancer May Be Able To Cut Their Chemotherapy Regimen In Half, Study Suggests

In “To Your Health,” the Washington Post (6/4, McGinley) reports that research suggests “many colon cancer patients can cut their chemotherapy regimen in half, improving their quality of life and reducing their chances of having debilitating side effects.” The findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting. The Post adds that “the goal of the research...was to determine whether a three-month course of chemo was as effective as six months of treatment in staving off a recurrence in people with Stage 3 colon cancer.” The research indicated “that the shorter treatment was almost as effective as the longer treatment; the results were so close that the three-month regimen is likely to become the new standard of care, especially for patients with lower-risk malignancies, researchers said.”


Concierge Medicine “Booming” Even As Some Consumers Face Prospect Of Losing Health Care Coverage

In an analysis piece, the New York Times (6/3, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) examined how “concierge” medicine is growing in popularity, “especially in wealthier enclaves in places like Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and New York. And just as a virtual velvet rope has risen between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else on airplanes, cruise ships and amusement parks, widening inequality is also transforming how health care is delivered.” The article added that “concierge practices, where patients pay several thousand dollars a year so they can quickly reach their primary care doctor, with guaranteed same-day appointments, have been around for decades.” While many people “struggle to pay for health care – or even, with the future of the Affordable Care Act in question on Capitol Hill, face a loss of coverage – this corner of what some doctors call the medical-industrial complex is booming: boutique doctors and high-end hospital wards.”


Seema Verma Says ACA Architects Are To Blame If Exchanges Collapse

USA Today (5/30, Page) reports that CMS Administrator Seema Verma said the blame should be placed on the original architects of the Affordable Care Act when the health care law’s exchanges collapse, and some consumers are left without coverage. She stated, “Right now, if we look at it, this is all because of the Affordable Care Act. ... I mean, the individual market was working much better than it is now, so this is all the impact of the Affordable Care Act.” The article adds that during an interview on Tuesday, Verma “also criticized Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to cover millions of lower-income adults as unwise, saying it ‘makes a lot of sense’ for them to get insurance coverage instead in the private market, in some cases with subsidies.” The article adds that Verma indicated “she is eager to approve waivers from states that want to experiment with imposing work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients, an idea that the Obama administration had rejected.”


Increases In Nighttime Temperatures May Be Linked To Increase In Restless, Insufficient Sleep, Study Suggests

The New York Times (5/26, Gillis, Subscription Publication) reported that “In a paper published online” in “Science Advances, Nick Obradovich and colleagues predicted more restless nights, especially in the summer, as global temperatures rise.” The researchers “found that the poor, who are less likely to have air-conditioning or be able to run it, as well as the elderly, who have more difficulty regulating their body temperature, would be hit hard.”

Executive Function May Improve Steadily Between The Ages Of Eight And 22, Study Suggests

On its website, the NPR (5/26, Hamilton) “Shots” blog reported “the ability to control impulses, stay on task and make good decisions increased steadily” between the ages of eight and 22, according to a study published in Current Biology. Joshua Gordon, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said the study suggests that in the future, it may be possible to identify adolescents at risk of certain disorders that are related to poor executive function, such as depression or schizophrenia.

More Insurers Raising Premiums For ACA Plans, Exiting Marketplaces

The AP (5/25, Murphy) reports that consumers who purchase health care coverage through ACA exchanges are expected to see higher premiums and fewer options for 2018. For instance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina said on Thursday that it is seeking a 23-percent increase for next year. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City announced it was exiting ACA marketplaces in 2018. The article says this move will impact some “67,000 people in a 32-county area in Kansas and Missouri.”

Alzheimer’s Deaths On The Rise, CDC Says

USA Today (5/25, May) reports data from the CDC published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicate “more people are dying from Alzheimer’s disease.”
Reuters (5/25, Steenhuysen) reports that the data indicated “93,541 people died from Alzheimer’s in the United States in 2014, a 54.5 percent increase compared with 1999.” Over “that period, the percentage of people who died from Alzheimer’s in a medical facility fell by more than half to 6.6 percent in 2014, from 14.7 percent in 1999.” The researchers also found that “the number of people with Alzheimer’s who died at home increased to 24.9 percent in 2014, from 13.9 percent in 1999.”

Hallucinogenic Mushrooms Are The Safest Recreational Drug, Survey Suggests

USA Today (5/24, Bowerman) reports that psilocybin hallucinogenic mushrooms are the safest recreational drug, according to the annual Global Drug Survey. According to USA Today, “only .2% of almost 10,000 people who reported taking psilocybin hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2016 reported that they needed emergency medical treatment.” Rates of emergency medical treatment “for MDMA, LSD, alcohol and cocaine were almost five times higher.”
According to CNBC (5/24, Graham), the report explains that the mushrooms may be safer “because of intrinsic safety of magic mushrooms (the greatest risk is picking the wrong type), the smaller dosing using units (a single mushroom versus an LSD tab) and a greater understanding of how many mushrooms may constitute a typical dose for a desired effect.”

Chocolate Consumption May Be Linked To Lower Risk For Atrial Fibrillation, Study Suggests

The New York Times (5/23, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) “Well” blog reported that investigators “have found an association between chocolate consumption and a lowered risk for atrial fibrillation.” The findings were published in the journal Heart.
On its website, CBS News (5/24, Marcus) reports that investigators “analyzed a large Danish database of 55,502 men and women, combing through information on their dietary habits and health conditions recorded at the start of the Danish diet and cancer study.” The researchers “analyzed later health diagnoses, too, gleaned from a national patient database.”
Reuters (5/24, Seaman) reports, “Based on their diets at the beginning of the study period,” study participants “who ate one serving, about 1 ounce (28.35 grams), of chocolate per week were 17 percent less likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation by the end of the study than people who reported eating chocolate less than once a month.” Meanwhile, participants “who ate 2 to 6 ounces per week were 20 percent less likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation while those who ate more than an ounce of chocolate a day were 16 percent less likely to have the condition.”


Drinking Even One Alcoholic Beverage Per Day May Increase Breast Cancer Risk, Research Suggests

USA Today (5/23, Bowerman, Rossman) reports that “drinking even one small alcoholic beverage a day can increase a person’s breast cancer risk, according to a new report” from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. The report indicates that “consuming 10 grams of alcohol a day or about the size of a small glass of wine or beer, can increase breast cancer risk by 5% in premenopausal women and 9% in postmenopausal women.”

Academic Medical Centers Appear To Have Lower Death Rates For Older Adults Than Other Facilities, Study Indicates

Reuters (5/23, Rapaport) reports that although academic medical centers tend to be more expensive than community hospitals, they “appear to have lower death rates for older adults than other facilities,” according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers “found 8.3 percent of patients died within 30 days of hospitalization at major teaching hospitals, compared with 9.2 percent at minor teaching hospitals and 9.5 percent at community hospitals.”
STAT (5/23, Joseph) reports that the study “accounted for differences in patient populations and hospital characteristics.” The researchers also “discovered similar differences when they narrowed the data down to examine specific conditions and surgical procedures.”


Group Says Children Under One Year Old Should Not Be Given Fruit Juice

The New York Times (5/22, Saint Louis, Subscription Publication) “Well” blog reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics is “advising parents to stop giving fruit juice to children in the first year of life, saying the drink is not as healthful as many parents think.” The AAP has “toughened its stance against juice, recommending that the drink be banned entirely from a baby’s diet during the first year.” Meanwhile, the new report, published online in Pediatrics, also “advised restricting fruit juice to four ounces daily for 1- to 3-year-olds, and six ounces a day for 4- to 6-year-olds.”

Cigarette Filters May Increase The Risk Of Adenocarcinoma, Study Suggests

Reuters (5/22, Boggs) reports cigarette filters increase the risk of adenocarcinoma, the most common form of lung cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The article explains that filters were designed “to reduce the amount of tar smokers inhale,” but the study’s senior author says, “The design of cigarette filters that have ventilation can make the cigarettes even more dangerous, because those holes can change how the tobacco burns, allow smokers to inhale more smoke and to think that the smoke is safer because it is smoother.” The study’s senior author called for the FDA to take action.

Study Looks At Whether Physician Age Impacts Patient Death Rates

Reuters (5/22, Rapaport) reports a study published in the British Medical Journal examining the death rates among patients treated by older physicians versus younger physicians determined that with physicians under the age of 40, approximately 11 percent of patients died within 30 days of being admitted to a hospital. For physicians 60 years of age and older, the “average 30-day mortality [was] just over 12 percent.” Researchers noted an exception to the findings, reporting that when physicians treated a similar number of patients, there was no discernible correlation between physicians’ ages and patient death rates. The study is accompanied by an editorial.


Lyme Disease Cases Increasing While Controversy Over Diagnosis And Treatment Continues

In a 3,700-word article, the AP (5/20, Wagner) reported that cases of Lyme disease have been increasing in the US in recent years, but the diagnosis and treatment of the disease both remain controversial, with medical groups offering different recommendations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, and the number has been increasing. The article also mentioned that Powassan virus infections, which like Lyme disease can be caused by ticks, increased in recent years, according to the CDC.
In a related story, TIME (5/19, Worland) reported public health officials are warning that there could be record numbers of ticks this summer across the US “if weather conditions remain humid.” Anne Schuchat, the acting director of the CDC, said earlier this year, “The reported cases of tick borne diseases are increasing. The range of ticks that can carry diseases is expanding. The number of tick borne diseases that we’re aware of is increasing.”

Female Breast Cancer Survival Rate Rising, Study Finds

The Washington Post (5/18, McGinley) reports a studypublished online Thursday in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention “found that between 1992 and 1994, and 2005 and 2012, the five-year survival rate among women under age 50 initially diagnosed with advanced disease doubled from 18 percent to 36 percent.” Researchers found that the median survival rate for the group grew from 22.3 months to almost 39 months, while for women between the ages of 50 and 64, the survival time grew from just over 19 months to nearly 30 months. Angela Mariotto, chief of the Data Analytics Branch in the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences and lead study author, “called the findings ‘favorable’ because they were partly due to longer survival times resulting from better treatments.”

Being Born At Below-Normal Weight Associated With Lower IQ, Even At Age 50, Study Indicates

Reuters (5/18, Rapaport) reports, “Being born at below-normal weight is associated with a lower intelligence quotient (IQ) not only in childhood and young adulthood, but even at age 50,” researchers found after examining “data on almost 4,700 babies born in Copenhagen from 1959 to 1961, including birth records and results from intelligence assessments done when participants were 19, 28 and 50 years old.” The findings were published online in Pediatrics.

Researchers Predict Vision Impairment Among Preschoolers Will Increase By 26 Percent By 2060

Reuters (5/18, Rapaport) reports that in a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers estimated that over 174,000 children between the ages of three and five had vision impairment in 2015, and the researchers predicted that number would increase by 26 percent by 2060. The study’s lead author said that parents should watch out for signs of vision impairment in their young children and take them to at least one comprehensive eye exam by the age of three.


US Women In Their 30s Having More Babies Than Younger Moms, CDC Finds

The AP (5/17, Stobbe) reports preliminary data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that as of last year, women in their early 30s are having more babies than younger women in the United States for the first time in more than three decades. According to the article, “the birth rate for women ages 30 to 34 was about 103 per 100,000,” while “the rate for women ages 25 to 29 was 102 per 100,000,” but the article notes “the CDC did not release the actual numbers of deliveries for each age group.” The CDC’s report is “based on a first look at birth and death certificates filed across the country last year.”


Severe Stroke Patients May See Restored Function If Treated As Late As 24 Hours Following Stroke, Study Says

The Wall Street Journal (5/16, Burton, Subscription Publication) reports researchers presented findings Tuesday at the European Stroke Organization conference in Prague showing that treatments for severe-stroke patients as long as 24 hours after a stroke can restore brain function. A study examining 206 patients with significant stroke injuries found that physicians were able to reduce the risk of patients becoming dependent on others for assistance due to impairment from strokes by 73 percent.


Red Meat Tied To Increased Risk Of Dying From Nine Diseases, Study Suggests

The New York Times (5/15, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports in “Well” that eating more red meat may increase people’s risk of death from “cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease and liver disease,” according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Researchers tracked the diets and health of hundreds of thousands of people for 16 years and found that the one-fifth of study participants who ate the most red meat had a 26 percent “increased risk of death from various causes,” compared to the “one-fifth of people who ate the least red meat.”


IT Expert Warns Hospitals Particularly Vulnerable To Ransomware Attacks

The Washington Post (5/13, A1, Dwoskin, Adam) reports on its front page that “officials in nearly 100 countries raced Saturday to contain one of the biggest cybersecurity attacks in recent history.” According to the Post, “Health-care IT experts said it was no surprise that hospitals so easily fell victim to the ransomware attack.” Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute technical director Avi Rubin said hospitals were easily targeted because of a “perfect storm” of factors. He explained health care systems have time-sensitive data vulnerable to ransomware, lag behind other industries in areas like security and basic software updates, and spend considerably less than other organizations on information technology. He said poor hospitals that “don’t have enough budget to keep the lights on” are particularly vulnerable to attacks because they cannot afford to backup their data, a crucial ransomware-fighting tool.


New Hepatitis C Infections Have Nearly Tripled, CDC Says

ABC World News Tonight (5/11, story 10, 0:20, Muir) reported on “a disturbing spike in hepatitis C cases around the country.” Health officials with the federal government are now “saying the heroin epidemic is driving up the number of hep C infections, with reported cases nearly tripling in five years.”
On its website, CNN (5/11, Scutti) reports new hepatitis C infections “nearly tripled between” 2010 and 2015 in the US, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. While the confirmed number of new infections increased from 850 in 2010 to 2,436 in 2015, the CDC estimates that there were around 34,000 new infections in the US in 2015 with most cases not being diagnosed.
On its website, ABC News (5/11) reports the rate of new hepatitis C infections nearly doubled in pregnant women in recent years, according to the CDC. The report also concluded that opioid abuse is a major factor in the increase of hepatitis C infections.
The NPR (5/11, Dwyer) “The Two-Way” blog reports seven states had infection rates that were “at least twice the national average.” Those states are Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Insurers Likely To Request High Premium Increases For ACA Plan

The AP (5/11, Murphy) reports that as health insurance companies prepare for next year, “early moves...suggest” customers will see “another round of price hikes and limited choices” in policies offered on the marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act. While “price increase requests are only just starting to be revealed,” state authorities in Virginia and Maryland said requests for increases range from “just under 10 percent to more than 50 percent.” One reason suggested for price increases is “evaporating competition” because it is expected that for next year, “more than 40 percent of U.S. counties would have only one insurer” offering policies through the ACA marketplaces.


Kids With Consistent Bedtime Routines, Limited Screen Time May Be Better At Regulating Emotions, Research Suggests

Reuters (5/10, Rapaport) reports that research suggests children “who have a consistent bedtime routine and limited screen time may get better at regulating their emotions.” This “could be one reason they have a lower risk of childhood obesity than peers with erratic schedules who watch lots of television, the authors say.” The study indicated that children “who had better emotional regulation at age 3 were less likely to be obese by age 11 than children who weren’t as good at controlling their feelings and impulses.” The findings were published in the International Journal of Obesity.


NSAIDs May Be Linked To Increase In Heart Attack Risk, Study Suggests

ABC World News Tonight (5/9, story 11, 0:25, Muir) reported a new analysis has found that “commonly used” analgesics “may increase the risk of heart attack.”


On its website, CBS News (5/9, Welch) reports that the research indicated that “all commonly used” non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – “ibuprofen and naproxen, which are available over the counter; and diclofenac and celecoxib, which require prescriptions in the US – were associated with this increased risk.” The research was published in the British Medical Journal.


The New York Times (5/9, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports in “Well” that for the study, investigators conducted “a systematic review of studies involving more than 446,000 people ages 40 to 79, of whom more than 61,000 had heart attacks.”


TIME (5/9, Park) reports that investigators “found that some risks can appear after even a few days of using NSAIDs.” The study indicated that “compared with people who didn’t take the painkillers, those who did had a 20% to 50% greater chance of having a heart attack.” The investigators found that “the risk was higher for people who took 1,200 mg a day of ibuprofen...and 750 mg a day for naproxen.”

Raw Milk, Cheese Cause 840 Times More Illnesses Than Pasteurized Products, Study Finds

STAT (5/9, Branswell) reports, “Unpasteurized milk and cheeses made from it are responsible for nearly all foodborne illnesses caused by contaminated dairy products...and the growing popularity of and access to these products threaten to increase the number of disease outbreaks caused by these food items, a new study says.” Researchers found that “unpasteurized dairy products cause 840 times more illnesses and 45 times more hospitalizations than pasteurized products do,” and “there are roughly 760 reported cases of foodborne illness caused by unpasteurized milk and raw milk cheeses a year and on average 22 of those people require hospitalization.” The study, which was posted ahead of print on the CDC’s website, will be published in the June issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.


About 34 Children Treated In EDs Each Day For Ear Injuries Caused By Cotton Swabs, Data Indicate

TODAY (5/8, Pawlowski) reports that research published in The Journal of Pediatrics indicated “more than 263,000 children in the U.S. had to be treated in” emergency departments “for ear injuries related to cotton-tip applicators between 1990 and 2010,” which is approximately “34 injuries” per day.


HealthDay (5/8, Preidt) reports that the data indicated “most of the injuries occurred while using cotton swabs to clean the ears (73 percent),” while “the rest occurred while playing with cotton swabs (10 percent), or with children falling when they had cotton swabs in their ear (9 percent).” Approximately “two-thirds of patients were younger than 8, and children under 3 accounted for 40 percent of all injuries.”

Living In Areas With Greater Total Pollution May Be Linked To Higher Cancer Risk, Research Suggests

Reuters (5/8, Rapaport) reports that research suggests “living in areas with higher total exposures to harmful pollutants in the air, water and land” may be linked to a higher risk “of developing cancer.” The findings were published online in Cancer.


HealthDay (5/8, Mozes) reports that the research also indicated “the risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women seemed most susceptible to bad environmental quality.”


Despite Public Outrage Over Drug Prices, Patients Are Paying Less Out Of Pocket On Average, Study Finds

In an analysis for the Washington Post (5/4) “Wonkblog,” Carolyn Johnson writes that despite “widespread outrage about soaring drug prices,” people are, “on average, actually paying less for their medications than they did a few years ago,” according to a study by the QuintilesIMS Institute. Although net prices rose 3.5% last year, “patients’ out-of-pocket costs for medicines have declined, from $32 per name-brand prescription in 2013 to $28 today.” Johnson explains that the discrepancy is caused by “the extremes,” as “on the low-end of the average are an increasing number of prescriptions that have zero dollar out-of-pocket costs,” while “on the high-end of the average are the people who are exposed to the ever-rising list prices of drugs through deductibles or coinsurance.”


Bystander CPR, Defibrillation May Reduce Long-Term Likelihood Of Brain Damage, Death In Cardiac Arrest Patients, Study Suggests

Reuters (5/3, Emery) reports that research suggests that “when a bystander gives CPR or applies an automatic defibrillator to someone who has collapsed from cardiac arrest, the benefits persist for at least a year.” The study “concluded that the two techniques lower the long-term risk of death from any cause, brain damage or nursing home admission by one third in people who are still alive 30 days after their cardiac arrest.” The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


MedPage Today (5/3, Boyles) reports that the researchers “noted that while bystander intervention has been shown to increase cardiac arrest survival rates in several studies, the newly published research is among the first to confirm an association between bystander CPR and defibrillation and improved functional outcomes.”

Study Shows No Ties Between Women Who Smoked During Pregnancy And Severe Mental Illness In Their Children

The Washington Times (5/3, Kelly) reports that Swedish and US investigators have “found no association between women who self-reported smoking during pregnancy and instances of severe mental illness in their children.” In arriving at this conclusion, researchers examined data on some “1.7 million Swedish babies.” In the study, “severe mental illness was defined as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia spectrum disorder and was measured by reported inpatient or outpatient treatment visits.” The findings were published online May 3 in JAMA Psychiatry.


MedPage Today (5/3, Walker) reports the author of an accompanying editorial “characterized the results as ‘relatively convincing,’ and called the inclusion of the sensitivity analysis for other adverse birth outcomes ‘a lovely move,’ saying that these outcomes are most likely the result of smoking during pregnancy.”


Medical Imaging Use In US Has Declined After Years Of Widespread Growth, Study Indicates

Modern Healthcare (5/2, Arndt, Subscription Publication) reports that a study indicates “medical imaging use in the US has dropped significantly after years of widespread growth, leading to curtailed hiring, equipment purchases and reduced access to the technology thanks to cuts in federal reimbursement and new coding arrangements.” Following “the imaging boom of the 2000s, payers reined in reimbursements and spared a rapid reduction in providers’ imaging use.” These “funding changes have forced providers to weigh carefully their hiring and patient care decisions, the study...said.” The findings were published in Health Affairs.

US Joins Lawsuit Against UnitedHealth For False, Fraudulent Medicare Claims

Bloomberg News (5/2, Voreacos, Tracer) reports, “UnitedHealth Group Inc. was sued by the Trump Administration, which claims the insurer’s California Medicare program made false or fraudulent claims for payments after failing to adjust for the health risk of patients enrolled in its plan.” The Administration joins “an eight-year-old whistle-blower lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act that focused on payments made to the company for its Medicare Advantage Plan.” According to Bloomberg, “UnitedHealth rejected the U.S. claims, with spokesman Matt Burns saying in an emailed statement that the company and its leaders are confident they complied with Medicare Advantage rules and were transparent in how they interpreted the government’s ‘murky policies.’” The article says the government also “joined a related lawsuit filed by a whistle-blower in California alleging that UnitedHealth defrauded the Medicare program.”


The Minneapolis Star Tribune (5/2, Snowbeck) reports, “Earlier this year, the federal government disclosed it had ongoing investigations about risk adjustment practices at four other carriers including Aetna and a division of Cigna. Rules for how payments should be risk adjusted for patient illnesses have been controversial in the past, with UnitedHealthcare suing the federal government in January 2016 over a change in guidance on how to assess the health status of enrollees.”


Low-Dose Aspirin Use May Be Associated With Lower Breast Cancer Risk, Research Suggests

CNN (5/1, Christensen) reports that research published in Breast Cancer Research indicated “women who took one had a lower risk of breast cancer.” Investigators looked at data from approximately 57,000 women participating in the California Teachers Study. Among “the 23% of women who reported using low-dose aspirin regularly, researchers saw a 20% reduction in the risk of developing HR-positive/HER2 negative breast cancer.” The data indicated that “the risk was inversely associated with taking a low-dose aspirin three or more times a week, compared with those women who had no regular low-dose aspirin use.”


HealthDay (5/1, Doheny) reports that the investigators “found a protective link with use of low-dose aspirin, but not with regular-dose aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.”

Criminal Laws Fail To Deter HIV Transmission, Study Suggests

Reuters (5/1, Cohen) reports that according to a new study  published online in the journal AIDS, regulations have largely failed to slow the transmission of HIV, despite the introduction of criminal laws more than 30 years ago imposing penalties on any person who knows they have HIV and engages in sexual activity or needle sharing in a way that may transmit the virus, without disclosing their HIV status. For the study, researchers at the CDC analyzed diagnosis data from 33 states between 2001 and 2010, as well as data from all 50 states between 1994 and 2010. The study determined that two primary factors were “associated with higher HIV and AIDS diagnosis rates: lack of education and living in urban areas,” underscoring the fact that structural and social conditions are driving HIV’s spread, “and that criminalization is not a particularly useful tool in addressing HIV transmission,” according to one researcher.


DC Circuit Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling Blocking Merger Of Anthem And Cigna

The Wall Street Journal (4/28, Kendall, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reported the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit upheld a lower court ruling blocking the proposed merger of Anthem and Cigna on antitrust grounds. The Journal explained that US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled against the merger in February, but Anthem appealed that ruling.


The Hill (4/28, Sullivan) reported, “The decision likely puts an end to Anthem’s attempted acquisition of Cigna and comes on the heels of another major health insurance deal, between Aetna and Humana, also being blocked.”


Reuters (4/28, Bartz) reported that Anthem said in a statement, “We are committed to completing the transaction and are currently reviewing the opinion and will carefully evaluate our options.”


Congressional Quarterly (4/28, Chamseddine, Subscription Publication) reported that American Medical Association President Andrew W. Gurman, MD, said in a statement, “The appellate court sent a clear message to the health insurance industry: a merger that smothers competition and choice, raises premiums and reduces quality and innovation is inherently harmful to patients and physicians.”

Leeches Becoming More Popular In Western Medicine And Have Remained Popular In Russian Medicine

The New York Times (4/30, A6, Kramer, Subscription Publication) reports, “Leeches are creeping back into Western medicine,” with around 6,000 prescribed each year in the US, but they “are still widely prescribed in Russian medicine, about 10 million of them every year, in many cases as a low-cost substitute for blood thinners like warfarin.” The article points out that a 2013 NIH study found that leeches have “resurged” recently, and that the FDA “has approved leeches for draining blood.”


California Senate Health Committee Approves Single-Payer Health System Measure

The Los Angeles Times (4/26, Mason) reports California’s Senate Health Committee on Wednesday approved (5-2) SB 562, “a sweeping measure that would establish government-run universal healthcare in California,” following a lengthy hearing, “but Democrats and Republicans alike signaled unease with the major question still unanswered in the legislation: how the program would be paid for.” According to the Times, “the measure says the program would be funded by ‘broad-based revenue,’ but does not specify where that money would come from.” Coauthor Sen. Ricardo Lara “said a detailed financial study would be completed in May, before the bill is heard in the Appropriations Committee.”


Clinical Trial Testing Benefits Of Medicinal Marijuana For Young People With Autism

USA Today (4/25, Schwartz) reports on the “first clinical trial in the world to test the benefits of medicinal marijuana for young people with autism.” A study started “in January at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.” The study “involves 120 children and young adults, ages 5 to 29, who have mild to severe autism, and it will last through the end of 2018.”

Key To PTSD In Some Patients May Lie In Their DNA, Review Indicates

CNN (4/25, Nedelman) reports that a study published online April 25 in Molecular Psychiatry appears to shed “new light on why some people might develop” post-traumatic stress disorder “and others don’t.” For some patients, “the key might lie in their DNA.” Researchers arrived at this conclusion after examining “data from 11 studies into a single pool to explore genetic risk for PTSD among more than 20,000 people.”


Common Orthopedic Procedures Under Scrutiny As Numbers Climb

STAT (4/24, Ross) examines questions about whether so many orthopedic surgeries are necessary, based on an “evidence gap” of support for them and the increase in volume in procedures such as knee replacements, which have doubled since 2000 in the US and account for some $10 billion in annual costs to the health care system. Other surgeries under scrutiny include the repair of a torn meniscus, vertebroplasty, clavicle fracture repair in young people, ACL repairs, and rotator cuff repairs. Dr. David Jevsevar, who chairs the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ council on research and quality, says general scrutiny of individual procedures may overlook that “it’s challenging to determine what the right amount is because every patient is unique and every patient has his or her own set of situations and expectations.”


New, Minimally Invasive Treatment For Enlarged Prostates Shows Strong Results

The Wall Street Journal (4/23, Johannes, Subscription Publication) reports on Rezūm, a minimally invasive procedure that treats enlarged prostate tissue with steam, that became available in the second half of last year. The procedure is one of two options that treat the condition while leaving sexual function intact, costs around $2,000, and takes minutes to perform. In a recent two-year study, patients that received the treatment saw a 51% reduction in urinary symptoms. While the FDA has not cleared Rezūm for use on prostates over 80 grams, a study on prostates up to 150 grams will begin later this year.


Consumption Of Artificially-Sweetened Beverages May Be Linked To Higher Risk Of Stroke, Dementia, Study Suggests

The CBS Evening News (4/20, story 11, 1:30, Pelley) reported, “A new study is raising health concerns about diet soda.” NBC Nightly News (4/20, story 9, 1:55, Holt) reported that the research links diet sodas to a “significantly increased risk of stroke or dementia.”


On its website, CBS News (4/20, Welch) reports that the study, published in Stroke, found that individuals “who drank at least one artificially-sweetened beverage a day had almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia.” The researchers “did not find the same link between stroke and dementia in people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages, but the authors say that doesn’t mean it’s time for people to start” consuming “those either.”


Bloomberg News (4/20, Shanker) reports that another study, “by the same group of researchers,” indicated “that higher consumption of sugary beverages was associated with markers for pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease.” That study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

Price, Verma Encourage Governors To Add Work Requirement To Medicaid Programs

The AP (4/20, Alonso-Zaldivar) “A simple question – should adults who are able to work be required to do so to get taxpayer-provided health insurance? – could lead to major changes in the social safety net.” Data show some 70 million Americans, or about 20 percent of the population, are on Medicaid, “including an increasing number of working-age adults.” The article says that in contrast to his predecessors, HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, “has already notified governors it stands ready to approve state waivers for ‘meritorious’ programs that encourage work.” In a recent letter to governors, Dr. Price and CMS Administrator Seema Verma “suggested that work itself can be good for health.” They wrote, “The best way to improve the long-term health of low-income Americans is to empower them with skills and employment.” Yet, figures indicate about 60 percent of adults on Medicaid already have full- or part-time jobs.


Salt May Stimulate Hunger Rather Than Thirst, Study Suggests

The New York Daily News (4/18, Scotti) reports salt may stimulate appetite, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Researchers “found that a salty diet caused” people to eat more and “drink less.” The article explains that “previously, scientists assumed that salt grabbed onto water molecules in the body and dragged them out via urine, causing a person to feel” thirsty, but the researchers found “that salt was expelled through urination while water moved backwards into the kidneys and body.”

UnitedHealth Posts Higher Revenue, Profit Following Exit From Most ACA Exchanges

The Wall Street Journal (4/18, Hufford, Subscription Publication) reports that on Tuesday, UnitedHealth Group Inc. posted higher revenue and profit for the first quarter.


The AP (4/18, Murphy) reports that UnitedHealth’s profit rose by “35 percent as the nation’s biggest health insurer slashed participation in Affordable Care Act exchanges but grew just about every other part of its business.”


Bloomberg News (4/18, Tracer) reports that UnitedHealth has focused more on its Medicare and Medicaid businesses as it scaled back its participation in ACA exchanges.


US Teen Girls More Than Twice As Likely To Smoke Marijuana If They’re Pregnant, Study Suggests

Reuters (4/17, Rapaport) reports that US teen girls “are more than twice as likely to smoke marijuana if they’re pregnant,” researchers found after examining “survey data on marijuana use reported by 410,000 women aged 12 to 44, including 14,400 who were pregnant.” The results of the survey were published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Young Physicians Often Have “Unprofessional” Or Offensive Content On Social Media Profiles, Study Indicates

HealthDay (4/17, Norton) reports young physicians “often have ‘unprofessional’ or offensive content on their Facebook profiles,” researchers found after studying “newly graduated urologists.” Investigators found not only that “nearly three-quarters had publicly identifiable Facebook profiles,” but also that “40 percent of them contained unprofessional or ‘potentially objectionable’ content.” Some medical associations have issued guidelines calling upon physicians to “use social media with care.” For example, guidelines issued by the American Medical Association in 2010 “encourage” physicians to “consider separating personal and professional content online.” The findings were published online in BJU International.

Youth Diabetes Diagnoses Have Surged Since 2002, Study Indicates

USA Today (4/14, Rossman) reported the “first-ever study of new diabetes diagnoses of US youth under age 20,” which was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has “found both types 1 and 2 diabetes surged from 2002-2012,” although the “researchers don’t know why.” Barbara Linder, MD, PhD, senior advisor for the Childhood Diabetes Research program at NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, said the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “lead[s] to many more questions,” including “why the increase in rates of diabetes development varies so greatly and is so concentrated in specific racial and ethnic groups.”


The Los Angeles Times (4/14, Kaplan) reported, “The incidence of type 2 diabetes rose pretty much across the board for 10- to 19-year-olds, regardless of age, gender, race or ethnicity.” An accompanying editorial observed that “the overall adverse effect of diabetes on public health is actually increasing.”

Adolescent Sleep Cycles Differ From Those Of Adults

In a nearly 2,500-word piece primarily focused on how school start times may affect student athletes and high school sports, The Atlantic (4/12, Putterman) reports that the sleep cycles of adolescents “differ from those of adults.” Teen bodies just are not “wired to fall asleep before 11 p.m.” When “students are asked to wake up at 6 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. first bell, they will struggle to record the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep.” Over time, the effects of adolescent sleep deprivation mount up, resulting in poorer school performance, higher vulnerability to car accidents, and even depression. To help teens get more sleep, the American Medical Association has “formally recommended that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.”

Living Near Marathons May Increase Risk Of Death From Cardiac Arrest On Race Days, Study Suggests

The AP (4/12, Marchione) reports people who live near marathons may be more likely to die on race days than other days, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. After reviewing the medical records of Medicare patients, then comparing “death rates for patients hospitalized on the day of the race versus five weeks before or after it, or in surrounding zip codes less affected by closed roads,” investigators found that the mortality rate “within 30 days was 28 percent for those stricken on a marathon day versus 25 percent for the others, even though about the same number of people sought care each time.”


Reuters (4/12, Emery) reports the researchers “found that the odds of dying if you have a heart attack or cardiac arrest jump 13 percent the day the race is run,” possibly “because blocked streets and traffic congestion add precious minutes to the time it takes for rescue units to get to the hospital.”

Teaching Preschoolers Self-Control Around Food, Combined With Obesity Prevention Messaging, May Not Reduce Obesity

Reuters (4/11, Brooks) reports that research indicated “teaching preschoolers to regulate their own behavior around food, combined with obesity prevention messages, did not reduce obesity or most obesity-related behaviors.” Researchers came to this conclusion after testing “two interventions, alone and in combination, embedding the experiment within the federally-funded Head Start program.” The findings were published in Pediatrics.

Gray Hair Linked To Increased Risk Of Coronary Artery Disease, Research Suggests

The New York Post (4/10) reports a new study presented this week at the European Society of Cardiology annual meeting in Malaga, Spain evaluating 545 men found that participants with 50 percent or more graying “hair were more likely to have an increased risk of coronary artery disease.” Researchers suggested the association could be related to similar causes of both outcomes, namely “damaged DNA that’s associated with aging, stress and the aging of one’s cells.” The study’s co-author said, “Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair graying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk.”


HealthDay (4/10, Mozes) reports participants were between age 42 and 64, ranging from “pure white hair... [to] pure black hair...with shades of gray in between.” Overall, research indicated that roughly “80 percent of the participants showed signs of heart disease.”

Experts Warn Some Fruits And Vegetables Can Be Poisonous If Harvested Too Early

On its website, CNN (4/10, Senthilingam) discusses fruits and vegetables which can be poisonous to humans if they are harvested too early or are not well-prepared. These include the lychee fruit, which “could lead to an encephalopathy, a change in brain functioning, said Padmini Srikantiah, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office in India.” Similarly, raw or under processed cassava can be poisonous. Its “toxins can also cause sudden, irreversible paralysis, according to the National Institutes of Health.” Meanwhile, the FDA has warned that many types “of beans contain the toxin phytohemagglutinin, but concentrations are particularly high in raw red kidney beans.” Cooked beans contain very low levels, but just “four or five raw beans can cause symptoms, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.”

Aetna To Exit Iowa’s ACA Marketplaces In 2018

The Washington Post (4/6, Johnson) reports that on Thursday, Aetna said it has informed regulators it will not offer Affordable Care Act plans through Iowa’s exchange in 2018. Aetna spokesman T.J. Crawford cited “financial risk and an uncertain outlook for the marketplace.” This announcement followed a similar one by Wellmark. The article says that, according to one expert, these “two exits will leave the vast majority of counties in the state with only one insurer, assuming that there are no other changes.”


The Wall Street Journal (4/6, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports Aetna’s announcement is yet another indication that insurers are withdrawing from the exchanges due to uncertainty about the future. Aetna said it is also evaluating its options for next year in Delaware, Nebraska and Virginia, the other states where it currently offers ACA plans.

CDC Study Says 42 Percent Of US Adults Have HPV

The Washington Post (4/6, Naqvi) reports a study published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, between 2013 and 2014, more than 42 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 59 carrying any type of genital human papillomavirus that significantly increases the carrier’s risk of certain cancers. The study found a higher rate of HPV among men than women, and it was more common among blacks than other racial groups. According to CDC estimates, nearly 80 million people currently have the disease, and approximately 14 million people contract the disease for the first time each year.


Some People Using Uber For Transportation To The ED

STAT (4/5, Samuel) reports there is a growing trend of people using Uber, rather than calling an ambulance, for transportation to the ED. The article reports that some people prefer Uber to transport themselves to the hospital, because it can be cheaper and more predictable than taking an ambulance.


More Than 20 Percent Of Patients May Be Misdiagnosed By PCPs, Study Suggests

The Washington Post (4/4, Bernstein) reports that research published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice indicated “more than 20 percent of patients who sought a second opinion at one of the nation’s premier medical institutions had been misdiagnosed by their primary care providers.”


The San Diego Union-Tribune (4/4, Fikes) reports that investigators found that “in 21 percent of cases, Mayo Clinic” physicians “gave a completely different diagnosis than the original.” The study indicated that “the diagnosis was refined or extended in 66 percent of cases.” Meanwhile, “in the remainder, the diagnosis was unaltered.”

Sen. Murray Seeks Information On Infection Outbreak Linked To Olympus Duodenoscope

The Los Angeles Times (4/4, Petersen) reports Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) in a letter Tuesday asked Japanese device manufacturer Olympus “for data showing its redesigned medical scope was safe” after the device was linked to “a recent outbreak that sickened five patients in Europe.” Those five patients all had infections “caused by the same drug-resistant bacteria,” which three independent investigations found could be spread by a small mechanism in Olympus’ duodenoscope. Murray led an investigation into the safety of the scope in Jan. 2016; that investigation “tied the duodenoscope – which is also made by Fuji and Pentax – to at least 25 outbreaks that sickened 250 patients worldwide. Nineteen of those outbreaks were traced to the device manufactured by Olympus, including one two years ago at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, where three patients died.”


Regular Aspirin Use May Be Linked To Lower Likelihood Of Dying From Cancer, Research Suggests

CNN (4/3, Christensen) reports that research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting suggests regular use of aspirin may be linked to a lower risk of dying from cancer. Investigators “looked at data” on more than “86,000 women who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study between 1980 and 2012 and” more than “43,000 men who were part of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study from 1986 to 2012.” During that 32-year period, “the risk of death overall was 7% lower for women and 11% for men who took aspirin regularly, compared with those who did not.”

HealthDay (4/3, Norton) reports that the study indicated “the risks of dying from colon, breast, prostate and – for men – lung cancer were all lower among regular aspirin users, compared to non-users.”

Study Refutes Notion That Being Moderately Overweight Decreases Risk Of Dying

USA Today (4/3, Painter) reports research published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine is skeptical of the “popular idea, supported by some studies, that people who are overweight but not obese live longer than thinner peers.” The new study found that “the fatter we get, the more likely we are to die young from any cause and particularly from heart disease, cancer or respiratory disease.”


NPR (4/3) reports lead researcher Andrew Stokes at Boston University School of Public Health and his group “found a 6 percent increased risk of dying from any cause among individuals with a history of being overweight.” Stokes said that 6 percent “is only a modest increase,” but it’s still “extremely worrisome” because so many American are overweight. The study “focused on each person’s maximum BMI over a 16-year period,” which Stokes “says makes the findings more reliable than earlier studies that have used a single BMI without regard to whether someone is gaining or losing weight at the time of the measurement.”


What Men Should Know About Cancer That Spreads Through Oral Sex: Number Of People Diagnosed With HPV-Related Oropharyngeal Cancer Expected To Increase By 2020

The Washington Post (4/2, Schaaff) reports, “There is no doubt in the medical community that the increase in HPV-related caused by sexual practices” including oral sex. The article reports that “the number of people diagnosed with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer [OPC] relatively small,” but the number is expected to increase by 2020. The article also reports that HPV-16, one type of HPV, has been “identified in more than half of cancers in the oropharynx, according to the National Cancer Institute.”


Older Americans Are Drinking More, Study Suggests

CNN (3/31, Jimison) reported Americans over the age of 60 years old “are drinking more than they were 20 years ago,” according to a study published online March 24 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Rosalind Breslow, an epidemiologist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said, “Given the larger number of Americans we are going to have (as the population ages), that’s going to increase the need for more public health programming.” Breslow added, “Overall, more older people are drinking, it’s kind of a burgeoning public health issue.”

CDC Finds One In Four US Youths Exposed To Secondhand Smoke From E-Cigarettes

The Washington Post (3/31, Naqvi) reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found “one in four middle school and high school students report that they have been exposed to secondhand smoke from e-cigarettes in the past 30 days,” which “translates to about 6.5 million youths exposed.” Brian King, deputy director for research translation in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health and a co-author of the new study (3/20), which was published in JAMA Pediatrics, said, “We know that secondhand e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless, and it’s critical to protect our nation’s youth from this preventable health risk.”


California Lawmakers Introduce Bill That Would Create Single-Payer Health Care System For The State

The Los Angeles Times (3/30, Mason) reports California state Sens. Ricardo Lara (D) and Toni Atkins (D) have proposed creating a single-payer health care system in the state, which “would dramatically expand the state government’s presence in medical care and slash the role of insurance companies.”


The San Jose (CA) Mercury News (3/30, Seipel, Murphy) reports Lara and Atkins introduced Senate Bill 562, the Healthy California Act, which “would offer one plan that covers all Californians,” including undocumented residents, “with comprehensive care for all services.”


The Sacramento (CA) Bee (3/30, Luna) reports that under the bill, “the state would negotiate prices for services and prescriptions with providers, pharmaceutical companies and others,” and all “Californians would be required to participate in the public program and insurance companies would be barred from offering coverage for services” offered by the state.

Analysts Says Anthem Likely To Exit Many ACA Exchanges

The Washington Post (3/30, Johnson) reports health insurer Anthem may exit many Affordable Care Act exchanges, according to analysts. The future of the exchanges “has been thrown into doubt as companies wait to see whether the Trump administration and Congress will take steps to stabilize the business.” Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said during a Q4 earnings call that the company would consider whether to exit certain rating regions or move on a larger scale depending on marketplace stability. Jefferies equity analysts David Windley and David Styblo wrote in a research note that after a meeting with an Anthem executive, they believe the company is leaning toward exiting most markets, and that steps thus far taken by the Administration have been insufficient.


Reuters (3/30, Banerjee) quotes a statement by Anthem that the company will continue to “actively pursue policy changes that will help with market stabilization.” Windley and Styblo said management believes regulatory advocacy needs to progress significantly in a “month or so.”


Bloomberg News (3/30, Tracer) reports that if Anthem quits, “consumers in parts of Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio would be at risk of having no” ACA “insurers for next year, according to an analysis from Axios.” Humana’s recent exit left parts of Tennessee with no ACA insurance options, though state officials are working to attract other insurers.


Gum Disease May Be Associated With Earlier Death In Older Women, Study Suggests

CNN (3/29, Scutti) reports that research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests “gum disease and tooth loss are connected to a higher risk of early death in women past the age of menopause.”


HealthDay (3/29, Preidt) reports that investigators “tracked data on more than 57,000 women aged 55 and older.” The researchers found that “a history of gum disease was associated with a 12 percent higher risk of death from any cause.”


Advocates Pushing For All-Hour Access To Emergency Contraception For College Students

The Washington Post (3/28, Larimer) reports some emergency contraception advocates are proposing that “morning-after pills should be available on college campuses at all hours.” This year, Maryland state Del. Marice I. Morales proposed HB 1205, which would require 24-7 campus access to over-the-counter emergency contraception at public colleges and universities. While the bill’s “chances don’t seem great,” it did draw “attention from students, colleges and others tracking the issue.” According to NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, about 1,000 students from six Maryland colleges have signed petitions in favor of round-the-clock access to emergency contraception. One suggestion highlighted in the article is “a simple vending machine” to dispense the medication as needed.

Median Price Difference For MRIs In Hospitals Versus Freestanding Centers Varies Widely, Analysis Shows

USA Today (3/28, O'Donnell, Rudavsky) reports an analysis from “health care data company Amino” indicates “the median price difference for MRIs in hospitals versus freestanding imaging centers in the” US “often varies by thousands of dollars.” The analysis indicated the “price spread was widest in Alaska, where the median price for hospital MRIs was $3,200 more than in imaging centers.”


NYTimes Analysis: Medicaid Played Major Role In Health Care Bill’s Collapse

A New York Times (3/27, A1, Zernike, Goodnough, Belluck, Subscription Publication) analysis describes Medicaid as “central to the country’s health care system,” and says it “played a major, though far less appreciated, role” in the collapse of the GOP bill. While much of the blame for the bill’s collapse was laid at the feet of the Freedom Caucus, “the objections of moderate Republicans to the deep cuts in Medicaid also helped doom the Republican bill.” The bill “would have largely undone the expansion of Medicaid under the A.C.A.,” and it would have “ended the federal government’s open-ended commitment to pay a significant share of states’ Medicaid costs.” The CBO “predicted that the Republican bill would have cumulatively cut projected spending on Medicaid by $839 billion and reduced the number of Medicaid beneficiaries by 14 million over the coming decade.” According to the Times, many Republicans “could not stomach those consequences.”


Ryan insists GOP will continue efforts to overhaul health care system The Washington Post (3/27, Debonis) reports that on Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said he plans “to continue pushing for an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system by working ‘on two tracks’ as he also pursues other elements of President Trump’s agenda.” Ryan stated, “We’re not going to just all of a sudden abandon health care and move on to the rest. We are going to move on with rest of our agenda, keep that on track, while we work the health-care problem. ... It’s just that valuable, that important.” The article points out that Ryan provided no details of his plans.


NYTimes Examines Growing Trend Of Patients Staying Awake During Surgery

In a front-page story, the New York Times (3/25, A1, Hoffman, Subscription Publication) reported that “more surgery is being performed with the patient awake and looking on, for both financial and medical reasons.” According to the Times, “Choosing to watch your own surgery is one more manifestation of the patient autonomy movement, in which patients...are eager to involve themselves more deeply in their own medical treatment.”


Majority Of Cancers Caused By Random Genetic Mistakes, Researchers Say

In “To Your Health,” the Washington Post (3/23, McGinley) reports research published in Science suggests “more than two-thirds of cancer-causing mutations are the result of random mistakes in DNA replication that occur when normal cells divide.”


Reuters (3/23, Steenhuysen) reports that the investigators “developed a mathematical model using DNA sequencing data from The Cancer Genome Atlas and disease data from the Cancer Research UK database, looking specifically at mutations that drive aberrant cell growth in 32 different cancer types.”


The Los Angeles Times (3/23, Healy) reports that investigators “found that 5% of cancer-causing mutations can be linked to inherited genetic risk.” Meanwhile, “an additional 29% of malignancy-promoting mutations can be attributed to ‘modifiable’ factors...such as wearing sunscreen and vaccinating ourselves against cancer-causing viruses.” The other “66% of genetic mutations known to give cancer a foothold are random transcription errors in DNA.”


STAT (3/23, Begley) reports that the researchers “go to great pains to explain that this doesn’t mean that two-thirds of cancers are beyond the reach of prevention.” However, “understanding the role of these unforced errors ‘could provide comfort to the millions of patients who developed cancer but led near-perfect [healthy] lifestyles,’ said cancer biologist Dr. Bert Vogelstein,” the study’s senior author.

Foam Soap May Be Less Effective Than Liquid Soap, Study Suggests

Reuters (3/23, Hoskins) reports, “Foam soaps may not be as effective as liquid soaps in eliminating bacteria that can lead to infection,” according to a small study published in the American Journal of Infection Control. Researchers “tested two common brands of foam and liquid detergent-based soaps,” and found that “when volunteers washed with foam soap, the average bacterial colony count on each hand went from 3.6 to 2.6, on a scale from 1 to 4 – a difference that could have been a coincidence.” However, when volunteers used “liquid soap, the colony count went from 3.8 to 1.2 – a statistically significant drop.” One hand hygiene expert noted that “more robust research is needed to confirm the findings.”


New Infection Outbreak At Hospital Raises Questions About Redesigned Duodenoscope

The Los Angeles Times (3/22, Petersen) reports according to a report filed with the Food and Drug Administration, a reusable duodenoscope Olympus modified last year has been linked to a superbug outbreak at an undisclosed foreign health facility. US hospitals are “currently using about 4,400 of the devices” that Olympus voluntarily recalled in order to replace a small mechanism, which has been linked to the outbreaks. Medical safety expert Lawrence Muscarella said the outbreak raises questions about whether Olympus’ recall and replacement, though “it was not clear whether the hospital had properly disinfected the device using the process that Olympus now recommends.” The FDA said in January 2016 that it had approved Olympus’ new design of the device.


Nine Deaths Now Linked To Anaplastic Large-Cell Lymphoma, FDA Says

The New York Times (3/21, A20, Grady, Subscription Publication) reports the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, “a rare malignancy in the immune system” that has been linked to breast implants, has now been associated with nine deaths. As of Feb. 1, the FDA had received 359 reports of BIA-ALCL.


NBC News (3/21, Fox) quotes the FDA’s statement, which notes, “All of the information to date suggests that women with breast implants have a very low but increased risk of developing ALCL compared to women who do not have breast implants.”


Medscape (3/21, Brooks) reports, “The FDA notes that most data suggest that BIA-ALCL occurs more often after implantation of breast implants with textured surfaces rather than those with smooth surfaces.” Of the cases the FDA had received by Feb. 1, 231 reports included information on the implant surface: 203 had textured implants, while 28 had smooth.


Research Looks Into Dangers Of Opioid Use Among Children, Teens

The Washington Post (3/20, Naqvi) reports that research published in Pediatrics indicates that “from January 2000 until December 2015, about 188,000 calls were placed to poison control centers regarding pediatric and teenage exposure to opioids.” The data indicated “sixty percent of the children exposed to opioids were younger than 5, while teenagers accounted for 30 percent.”


Reuters (3/20, Seaman) reports, “A companion paper in Pediatrics...reports a strong link between prescribed opioids and their recreational use.” The study indicated that “teens who abused opioids were often prescribed the drugs at some point by a” physician.


President Trump Endorses Conservative Proposal To Make Work A Medicaid Requirement

The New York Times (3/17, Kaplan, Pear, Subscription Publication) reports President Trump met with members of the conservative Republican Study Committee on Friday and announced he is in agreement with “conservative lawmakers in the allow states to impose work requirements on able-bodied Medicaid recipients and to accept federal Medicaid funds as one annual lump-sum block grant, two major concessions to balking hard-liners as they try to rally support for legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”


Too Much Screen Time Tied To Higher Diabetes Risk In Kids, Study Suggests

CNBC (3/14, Gilchrist) reports on its website that research suggests too much screen time may be linked to a higher risk of diabetes in kids. Investigators “found that children who watch TV, play video games and use electronic devices for three or more hours per day are more likely to have higher levels of body fat and resistance to...insulin than those who spend an hour less in front of their screens.”

HealthDay (3/14, Dallas) reports that “excessive screen time was far more common among boys than girls.” The study also indicated “children of African or Caribbean descent were...more likely to spend three or more hours in front of a screen than white or Asian children.” The findings  were published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.


Having Children May Be Associated With An Increase In Life Expectancy, Study Suggests

The Los Angeles Times (3/13, Netburn) reports that research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests “having kids is associated with an increase in life expectancy.” Investigators found that “60-year-old women with children had a remaining life expectancy of 24.6 years, compared with 23.1 years for those who do not have children.” Meanwhile, “sixty-year-old men with children were expected to live for another 20.2 years on average, whereas those without children were expected to live for an additional 18.4 years.”


AFP (3/13) reports that the link “between having children and longer life was found in married and unmarried people, but appeared to be strongest in single, older men.” The researchers theorized “that parents may benefit from social and financial support from their children in older age,” or “it that childless people live unhealthier lifestyles than parents do.”

Advisory Updates Guidance On Benefits Of Fish Oil Supplements On Heart Health

CBS News (3/13) reports on its website that while “millions of people take fish oil supplements for heart health...a new report from the American Heart Association shows not everyone may benefit from it.” The report indicated “that omega-3 fish oil supplements can help people who have suffered a heart attack or heart failure in the past.” However, “there wasn’t enough evidence to support their use in people without a history of heart trouble.”

Canadians With Cystic Fibrosis Survive 10 Years Longer Than Americans With The Condition, Study Indicates

The AP (3/13, Neergaard) reports that research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates Canadians with cystic fibrosis survive approximately a decade longer than Americans with the disease.


CNN (3/13, Scutti) reports that investigators “examined national cystic fibrosis registry data between 1990 and 2013 for 5,941 patients in Canada and 45,456 patients in the” US. Although “survival increased in both countries over time, Canada began to see greater improvements than the US beginning in 1995.” The researchers found that “for the most recent years, 2009 through 2013, the median age of survival has been 50.9 years in Canada, compared with just 40.6 years in the US.”

Reuters (3/13, Emery) reports, “The scientific advisory published in...Circulation updates a 2002 guidance with data from 15 newer studies.”


More Than 66,000 Children Younger Than Three Go To ED Annually Due To Accidents Involving Nursery Products, Study Indicates

USA Today (3/13, May) reports research indicates that “more than 66,000 children younger than three go to the” emergency department “annually for accidents involving nursery products.” The findings were published in Pediatrics. USA Today points out that “the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Gary Smith, MD, previously worked on a 2001 American Academy of Pediatrics position statement outlining design flaws of baby walkers.”

Adults Born Prematurely May Be More Likely To Experience Mental Health Problems, Meta-Analysis Indicates

Reuters (3/10, Rapaport) reported, “Adults who were born prematurely at a very low birth weight may be more likely to experience mental health problems like depression and anxiety,” researchers found after examining “data from previously published studies of mental health in 747 adults who were underweight preemies and 1,512 who were full-term infants in five different countries.” The findings of the meta-analysis were published online March 10 in Pediatrics.

Smoking During Pregnancy Can Increase Child’s Risk For Eye Damage, Study Suggests

Reuters (3/8, Rapaport) reports a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that the children of women who smoke during pregnancy or who are born underweight are more likely to develop vision impairment and glaucoma due to a thin retinal nerve fiber layer. The article notes that “children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy had retinal nerve fiber that was typically 5.7 micrometers thinner than in kids whose mothers didn’t smoke at all while pregnant.”

Morning People May Eat Healthier Diets Than Night Owls

The New York Times (3/8, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports a study published in the journal Obesity has found that “morning people may instinctively choose a healthier diet than night owls.” The study was conducted by Finnish researchers who “tracked the diets of 1,854 men and women ages 25 to 74” and used “a well-validated questionnaire” to classify the participants as “morning people” or “night owls.”

Report Projects Global Alzheimer’s Cases Will Nearly Triple By 2050

On its website, CNN (3/7, Lamotte) reports the Alzheimer’s Association released its annual World Alzheimer’s Report(pdf) on Tuesday, which estimates that there are currently 47 million people around the world with the disease. The report also estimates that the number of people diagnosed with the disease will triple by 2050.


HealthDay (3/7, Mozes) reports deaths from Alzheimer’s disease in the US have nearly doubled in the past 15 years, according to the report.

Study Shows Which Dietary Factors Impact Nearly Half Of US Deaths From Heart Disease And Diabetes

NBC Nightly News (3/7, story 7, 2:00, Holt) reported in a two-minute segment on “startling news...about what’s associated with half of all fatal heart attacks and strokes.” NBC News correspondent Ann Thompson explained, “Heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes” are “all major killers. Now a new study finds almost half those deaths are associated with a poor diet.”


The AP (3/7, Tanner) reports that the researchpublished in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests “overeating or not eating enough of...10 foods and nutrients contributes to nearly half of U.S. deaths from” heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The researchers found that “foods that were under-eaten include: nuts and seeds, seafood rich in omega-3 fats...fruits and vegetables; and whole grains.” Meanwhile, “foods or nutrients that were over-eaten include salt and salty foods; processed meats including bacon, bologna and hot dogs; red meat including steaks and hamburgers; and sugary drinks.”


On its website, NBC News (3/7, Fox) reports that the investigators found that “blacks and Hispanics were more strongly affected by the dietary factors than whites.”

Genome-Wide Association Study Finds 18 Genes Associated With Autism

NBC News (3/6, Fox) reports a genome-wide association study “of people with autism and their relatives has uncovered 18 genes associated with the disorder.” Investigators at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children “studied the DNA of more than 5,000 people in 2,066 families with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, including 2,600 affected children.” The findings were published in Nature Neuroscience.

FDA Approves Medication To Reduce Frequent Waking To Urinate

The AP (3/3) reported the Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the nasal spray Noctiva (desmopressin acetate nasal spray), “the first drug to reduce nighttime trips to the bathroom.” However, the FDA warned that the spray “is not approved to treat all causes of frequent nighttime urination, so doctors must determine the cause and best treatment for each person.”

Poor Diet In Teenage Years May Be Linked To Increased Risk Of Early Breast Cancer, Study Suggests

NBC News (3/2, Fox) reports on its website that research suggests “women who remember having eaten poorly as teenagers” may have a higher likelihood of developing “early breast cancer.” Investigators “found women who ate the most inflammatory diet – heavy in red meat, sodas, sweet foods and white flour – were up to a third more likely to develop breast cancer in their 20s, 30s or 40s compared to women who thrived on salads and whole grains.” The findings were published in Cancer Research.

Many Melanoma Survivors Continue To Engage In Risky Behaviors, Study Suggests

The NPR (3/2, Hobson) “Shots” blog reports a significant portion of melanoma survivors “reported getting a sunburn in the past year” as well as “other behaviors that might increase the risk of a new cancer,” according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Researchers found that melanoma survivors were less likely to engage in behaviors that put them at risk of developing melanoma again, but many survivors still engaged in risky behaviors.


HealthDay (3/2, Norton) reports researchers found that only 62 percent of the melanoma survivors surveyed reported “always” or “often” wearing sunscreen “when they were outside on a summer day,” and 20 percent of those surveyed “had suffered a sunburn in the past year.”

Colon, Rectal Cancers On The Rise Among Younger Patients

USA Today (2/28, Painter) reports that research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicates “colon and rectal cancers have increased dramatically and steadily in millennials and Generation X adults in the United States over the past four decades.”


The AP (2/28, Neergaard) reports that investigators found that “rates of rectal cancer are increasing by about 3 percent a year in 20- and 30-somethings, and by 2 percent a year among the 40- to 54-year-old age group.” Meanwhile, “colon cancer rates are rising by smaller amounts in those age groups.”


The Washington Post (2/28, A1, McGinley) reports in “To Your Health” that the research “didn’t determine the reason for the shift.” However, Rebecca Siegel, who led the study, “suggested one explanation might be a complex interaction involving the same factors that have contributed to the obesity epidemic — changes in diet, a sedentary lifestyle, excess weight and low fiber consumption.”


The New York Times (2/28, Rabin, Subscription Publication) points out in “Well” that “young people with colorectal cancer run the added risk of” being diagnosed “later in the course of their disease, when the cancer may be less treatable, because” physicians usually “don’t consider the diagnosis at such a young age.”

Skin Cancers Linked To Tanning Beds Costs US $343 Million Annually, Study Indicates

STAT (2/28, Thielking) reports that research published in the Journal of Cancer Policy indicates “tanning beds can ring up a steep bill – a whopping $343 million each year in medical costs in the US alone.”


HealthDay (2/28) reports that investigators “estimate there were 263,000 U.S. cases of tanning device-related skin cancers in 2015.” Altogether, “the...medical costs for those cases reached an estimated $343 million.” Additionally, the investigators “said those skin cancers will lead to a total economic loss of $127 billion over the lifetime of those patients.”

GOP Governors Working On Proposals That Would Require Adult Medicaid Recipients To Work

The New York Times (2/25, A1, Goodnough, Subscription Publication) reported on its front page that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson “is among a number of Republican governors hoping to impose a work requirement on Medicaid recipients,” which the Times suggested is one of several “change[s] that would most likely result in many people losing coverage.” The paper examined the GOP’s replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, and said it “shows just how far some Republican leaders hope to go in overhauling a program that has grown under the [ACA] to insure one in five Americans, including more than half of the roughly 20 million people who have gained coverage under the health law.” The Times pointed out that “even as divisions among Republicans in Congress slow efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Hutchinson and other Republican governors are developing proposals to require many Medicaid recipients to have a job, participate in job training or perform community service.”


Eating Ten Portions Of Fruit And Vegetables Daily May Prolong Life, Study Says

CNN (2/23, Vonberg) reports that a new study published by the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that “eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day could significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer and early death.” Specifically, consuming about 800 grams of fruit and vegetables daily, twice the World Health Organization’s current recommendation, “was associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% reduced risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduced risk of total cancer, and a 31% reduction in dying prematurely,” compared to not eating fruits and vegetables at all.


TIME (2/23, Sifferlin) reports that the researchers “didn’t show why higher portions of fruits and vegetables can led to fewer deaths, but some of the basic nutrients in the produce can improve health.”

Americans Suffer From “Weight Creep” As They Age

The Los Angeles Times (2/23, Healy) reports that “a 2011 study of 120,877 Americans found that people as young as their mid-30s begin to gain close to one pound per year.” The Times says that “the problem is that even as our metabolisms downshift, few of us respond by paring our calorie intake...or boosting our calorie expenditures through exercise.” According to Louis J. Aronne, MD, an endocrinologist and obesity expert, “at a certain point, obesity appears to garble the hormonal signals that travel among the brain, gut and muscles and tell us to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re satisfied.” Meanwhile, the “2011 study also found that...those who regularly ate potatoes in any form, consumed processed foods and routinely sipped sugary drinks or alcohol gained the most weight.” The study also pointed to television and sleep. The Times points out that “a brisk walk, or a decision to forgo one small dietary indulgence, could make all the difference.”

Herpes Infection Early In Pregnancy May Increase Autism Risk In Offspring

NBC News (2/22, Fox) reports on its website that a study published in mSphere indicates that “infections during pregnancy may cause some cases of autism.” The study included “442 mothers of children with autism” and “464 women who had babies without autism.” Investigators found that “women with high levels of antibodies to” herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) “midway through their pregnancies were twice as likely to have a baby later diagnosed with autism.”

CNN (2/22, Scutti) reports that “evidence of a link between antibodies and autism was found only when exposure occurred during early pregnancy but not at birth.” The study “authors believe a mother’s immune response to a genital herpes infection could be disrupting the development of a fetus’ central nervous system,” meaning “the increased risk of autism is not due to direct infection of the fetus.”

Strenuous Exercise May Dampen Libido In Men, Study Suggests

The New York Times (2/22, Reynolds, Subscription Publication) “Well” blog reports on a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise finding that “men who exercise strenuously may have a lower libido than those whose workouts are lighter” in what is said to be “one of the first studies” of men, as “most past studies have centered on women.” The study was based on an online questionnaire completed by 1,100 men, most of whom “were experienced athletes who had participated for years in training and competitions.”

Elderly Individuals Who Increase Sleep Time May Be At Greater Risk For Dementia, Study Suggests

The New York Times (2/22, Rabin, Subscription Publication) reports on a study published in Neurology finding that “older adults who started sleeping more than nine hours a night – but had not previously slept so much – were at more than double the risk of developing dementia a decade later than those who slept nine hours or less.” The study included data from 2,457 people.


Justice Department Joins Whistleblower Lawsuit Against UnitedHealth

Reuters (2/17) reported the US Justice Department has joined a whistleblower lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group Inc. that claims the “insurer and its units and affiliates overcharged Medicare hundreds of millions of dollars, a law firm representing the whistleblower said on Thursday.” Filed in 2011, the lawsuit was unsealed on Thursday and “alleges UnitedHealth Group overcharged Medicare by claiming the federal health insurance program’s members nationwide were sicker than they were, according to the law firm Constantine Cannon LLP.” The lawsuit was aided by whistleblower Benjamin Poehling, a former UnitedHealth executive.


The Minneapolis Star Tribune (2/18, Snowbeck) reported the whistleblower case “alleges that UnitedHealth reviewed medical charts and paid bonuses to physicians to find evidence that might justify higher risk adjustment scores.” According to the lawsuit, “insurers boosted risk adjustment claims by submitting forms for diagnoses that health plan members didn’t have or for which members weren’t treated in the relevant year.” UnitedHealth officials are also accused of launching “initiatives under the code word ‘Project 7’ to describe strategies for boosting risk adjustment payments, according to the lawsuit.” Furthermore, the company used a code word “because it did not want CMS or other investigatory government agencies to know it had a campaign to claim an additional $100 million through risk score increases.”


Gluten-Free Diet May Be Associated With Increased Blood Levels Of Arsenic And Mercury, Study Indicates

The New York Times (2/16, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports, “A gluten-free diet may have a downside: increased blood levels of arsenic and mercury,” researchers found after analyzing “data on 7,471 participants in a larger national health study, of whom 73 reported being on a gluten-free diet.” The study revealed that urinary arsenic concentrations “in those on the diet were nearly twice as high as in those not on it.” In addition, “blood levels of inorganic mercury were...significantly higher in gluten-free dieters.” The findings were published online in the journal Epidemiology.


Aetna-Humana And Anthem-Cigna Mergers Both Called Off

On its front page, the Wall Street Journal (2/14, A1, Mathews, Kendall, Subscription Publication) reports Aetna and Humana called off their proposed $34 billion merger in a mutual agreement, which requires Aetna to pay Humana a $1 billion breakup fee. Meanwhile, Cigna called off its proposed $54 billion merger with Anthem, and filed a lawsuit against Anthem seeking damages of over $13 billion.


The AP (2/14, Murphy) explains that a federal judge blocked the proposed merger between Anthem and Cigna. The article points out that if the Aetna-Humana merger and the Anthem-Cigna mergers had both gone through, then four of the “nation’s five largest insurers” would have been replaced by two even bigger insurers.


Reuters (2/14, Humer) points out that both deals were announced during the summer of 2015 then challenged by the US Department of Justice nearly a year later.

Scalp-Cooling Treatments For Breast Cancer Patients May Limit Hair Loss Throughout Chemotherapy, Studies Suggest

The New York Times (2/14, Peachman, Subscription Publication) reports that “two studies published Tuesday in JAMA...confirmed that women with early-stage breast cancer who underwent scalp-cooling treatments were significantly more likely to keep at least some of their hair throughout chemotherapy.”


USA Today (2/14, Rossman) reports that one of the studies “tested about 200 women undergoing chemotherapy.” The study “found 51% of those who had their scalp cooled retained their hair.” The other study found that approximately “two-thirds of the patients who underwent hair cooling lost 50% of their hair or less.” To view the studies, click here and here.


The NPR (2/14, Neighmond) “Shots” blog points out that “just one cooling cap, the DigniCap, is approved by the” FDA.


Men May Be More Likely To Have A Heart Attack After A Snowfall, Study Suggests

On its website, NBC News (2/13, Fox) reports that researchpublished in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests “men are more likely to have a heart attack after a snowfall, and it’s probably from the exertion of shoveling snow.” Investigators “studied 128,000 heart attack cases between 1981 and 2014, and more than 68,000 people who died.”


Reuters (2/13, Rapaport) reports that “compared with periods without any snow, men were 16 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 34 percent more likely to die from a heart attack after a storm dropped at least 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) of snow.”


TIME (2/13, MacMillan) reports, however, that “women...did not appear to be at higher risk after snowfalls than on other days.”

Employers, Unions Criticizing GOP Over Taxes On High-Cost Plans

The Wall Street Journal (2/13, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports that employers and unions had strongly criticized Affordable Care Act taxes on high-cost coverage, and now, Republicans are being accused of proposing ACA replacements which will have a similar impact. The article says the healthcare law’s Cadillac tax was intended to dissuade employers from offering plans which some considered too generous, and which resulted in too much use of expensive care.

Women With Male Characteristic Brains May Be More Likely To Have Autism, Study Suggests

CNN (2/8, Scutti) reports, “One feature of brain anatomy that is characteristic of males is associated with an increased risk of autism,” research suggested. Investigators found that “women with male characteristic brains are three times more likely to have autism than women with more ‘female’ brains.” Conversely, “no evidence indicates that men with more female-trait brains are less at risk for autism than men with typical brains.” Included in the study were “98 high-functioning adults with autism (49 of them men) and 98 adults without autism (51 of them men),” all of whom underwent MRI brain scans. The findings were published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

Federal Judge Blocks Anthem, Cigna Merger

The Washington Post (2/8, Johnson) reports that yesterday, “a federal judge blocked the $54 billion merger between health insurance giants Anthem and Cigna...saying the deal would increase prices and reduce competition.”


The AP (2/8, Cooper) reports, “The American Medical Association cheered the ruling, saying the merger would have created a health care behemoth too big to regulate and with too much control over consumers’ lives.” In a statement, AMA president Andrew W. Gurman, MD, said, “In a David vs. Goliath battle between consumers and mega insurers, a federal judge today ruled that Anthem’s proposed acquisition of Cigna poses a clear and present threat to the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care in the United States.”


The New York Times (2/8, De La Merced, Picker, Subscription Publication) reports that this “ruling, by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, came two weeks after another federal judge blocked a proposed $37 billion merger between Aetna and Humana on antitrust grounds.”

Maternal Consumption Of Licorice During Pregnancy May Affect Cognitive Abilities Of Children, Study Indicates

The New York Times (2/8, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports in “Well” that expectant mothers “may want to avoid licorice, which may affect the cognitive abilities of their children, a study suggests.” The 1,049 mother-infant study revealed that “at age 13, compared with” kids “whose mothers ate the least licorice, those whose mothers consumed the most averaged seven points lower on I.Q. tests and had triple the risk for” attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder “problems.” The findings were published online Feb. 3 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“Hundreds” Of Medical Groups Send Letter To President Trump Debunking Vaccine Autism Link

The Huffington Post (2/7, Delaney) reports “hundreds” of medical groups, including the American Medical Association, sent President Trump a letter Tuesday“debunking the theory that childhood vaccines cause autism.” The letter included “more than three dozen studies that found no link between vaccines and neurological problems.” A spokesman for the Administration “previously said no decision had been made about whether to create a commission” to explore the link.

Forty Million Americans Have Some Hearing Loss Due To Noise, CDC Says

In “To Your Health,” the Washington Post (2/7, Bernstein) reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that “forty million American adults have lost some hearing because of noise, and half of them suffered the damage outside the workplace, from everyday exposure to leaf blowers, sirens, rock concerts and other loud sounds.” Researchers found that “24 percent of adults had ‘audiometric notches’ – a deterioration in the softest sound a person can hear – in one or both ears.” The data “came from 3,583 people who had undergone hearing tests and reported the results in the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).”


US Institutions Of Higher Learning Failing To Keep Up With Increased Demand For Mental Health Care

In a special report, STAT (2/6, Thielking) explains that colleges and universities across the US “are failing to keep up with a troubling spike in demand for mental health care – leaving students stuck on waiting lists for weeks, unable to get help.” After surveying “dozens of universities about their mental health services,” STAT discovered that “students often have to wait weeks just for an initial intake exam to review their symptoms.” Even “longer still” is the waiting time “to see a psychiatrist who can prescribe or adjust medication – often a part-time employee.”


CMS Asks Three States To Extend Pilot Program That Aims To Better Coordinate Care For Dual-Eligibles

Modern Healthcare (2/2, Dickson, Subscription Publication) reports the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent a notice to health officials in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington asking if they would be willing to “extend pilot programs that aim to better coordinate care for people eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.” The article explains that the three states began the program in 2013, and CMS is now asking them to continue participating until the end of 2019. In the letter to state officials, CMS said, “The long-term viability of the models we are currently testing depends on whether we are able to measure improvements in quality and overall cost savings.”

Adverse Event Reports Prompt FDA To Review Safety Of Drug Used To Halt Puberty

Kaiser Health News (2/2, Jewett) reports the Food and Drug Administration has received over 10,000 adverse event reports related to women who have taken Lupron (leuprolide acetate for depot suspension). According to Kaiser Health News, “thousands of parents chose to inject their daughters with the drug, which was approved to shut down puberty in young girls but also is commonly used off-label to help short kids grow taller.” The reports received by the FDA “describe everything from brittle bones to faulty joints,” but also included depression, anxiety, suicidal urges, and even seizures. In a statement, the FDA said, “We are currently conducting a specific review of nervous system and psychiatric events in association with the use of GnRH agonists, [a class of drugs] including Lupron, in pediatric patients.”

Preterm Delivery May Be Tied To Increased Risk Of Future CV Disease For The Mother, Study Suggests

The New York Times (2/2, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) “Well” blog reports that researchpublished online in Circulation suggests “a preterm birth” may “be an early warning signal of a woman’s risk for heart disease”


On its website, CBS News (2/2, Welch) reports that investigators found that “women who have delivered prematurely – before 37 weeks – have a 40 percent increased risk of eventually developing heart disease when compared to women who had their babies after 37 weeks.” Meanwhile, “women who delivered their babies before 32 weeks had double the risk of” heart disease.


HealthDay (2/2, Thompson) reports on the study, and also reports on another study published in Circulation that found “a woman’s risk of atrial fibrillation” increases “with each pregnancy, up to a nearly 50 percent increased risk with six or more pregnancies.”

Brain Connections May Shrink During Sleep, Papers Suggest

The New York Times (2/2, Zimmer, Subscription Publication) reports that two papers published in Science suggests that “we sleep to forget some of the things we learn each day.”


Newsweek (2/2, Main) reports that the studies “suggest that the brain” forgets “what’s irrelevant by literally clearing it away while holding onto what’s vital.” The papers “show that connections within the brain are paired down significantly during slumber, providing a crucial ‘reset’” investigators believe “erases forgettable information, integrates consequential information, and makes way for the memories of a new day.” To view the papers, click here and here.


Researchers Identify Rare Genetic Variants That May Influence Height

TIME (2/1, Park) reports new findings from the International Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) group revealed that “some rare [genetic] variants can account for nearly an inch of a person’s height.” Joel Hirschhorn, MD, professor of pediatrics and genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital, said “Overall, we still think the majority of height genetics is due to common variants.... But this study shows that at least some of height is due to rare variants, and for people who carry them, it can affect their height to a greater degree.” TIME notes the “GIANT group is launching another, much larger genetic study on height involving more than two million people.”


The NPR (2/1, Harris) “Shots” blog reports the study “focused only on variants that are directly in the genes themselves.” By knowing what “the genes do, they can understand better how variants might influence height.” NPR says, “Scientists are still very far from identifying all the genes involved with stature, but these new findings do help them better understand the natural biochemistry that influences height.”

Better Sleep Associated With Better Sex Life Among Older Women, Study Shows

Reuters (2/1, Seaman) reports new research suggests that better sleep may improve the sex life of middle-aged and older women. Postmenopausal women “reported less sexual activity and less sexual satisfaction if they also had trouble sleeping through the night, researchers found.” Researchers analyzed collected date from nearly 94,000 women, “ages 50 to 79, who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study.” The women “had answered questions about their sexual function in the previous year and their sleep in the previous month.”


TODAY (2/1, Carroll) reports overall, 60 percent of women reported sleeping seven to eight hours per night and 56 percent of the women “said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their current sexual activity.” The findingswere published in the journal Menopause.

Study Explores Unexpected Deaths Of Medicare Patients Who Die Shortly After Leaving ED

STAT (2/1, Ross) reports that a study published in the British Medical Journal finds that over 10,000 Medicare patients “who do not have life-threatening illnesses die each year in the US within seven days of being released from emergency departments.” Hospitals with lower inpatient admission rates tended to have higher rates of unexpected deaths. According to STAT, the study “raises questions about staffing and treatment at rural hospitals and other providers who are under pressure to reduce health care costs.”

Researchers Find Hazardous Chemicals In Fast Food Packaging

The Washington Post (2/1, Judkis) reports that a studypublished in Environmental Science & Technology Letters finds that carcinogenic and otherwise toxic chemicals were found in fast food packaging. The researchers “found the substances, which can leach into food, in sandwich and dessert wrappers and paperboard containers.” The study “did not examine how much of the chemical migrated into food,” although the researchers pointed to other studies which “have found that such a transfer is possible, especially if the food is hot or contains emulsified fats.”


CNN (2/1, Tinker) reports that the researchers “found fluorinated chemicals in one-third of the fast food packaging researchers tested.” Some of the chemicals found have “been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems and changes in hormone functioning, as well as adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children.”


CEO Says Aetna May Further Scale Back ACA Offerings

The AP (1/31, Murphy) reports that on Tuesday, Mark Bertolini, Chairman and CEO of Aetna, the third largest health insurer in the US, said “his company will announce by April 1 whether it plans to stay beyond this year in any of the four states where it currently sells” Affordable Care Act coverage, adding that it is “really impossible to consider entering any new markets.” The company said it lost $450 million on its ACA business in 2016, and that figure was $100 million more than anticipated.


Bloomberg News (1/31, Tracer) reports that Aetna has already exited most ACA marketplaces, and it may decide to pull out of even more of them in 2018. Bertolini is quoted as saying, “We don’t see expanding that footprint.” He added, “We may change that footprint. But we will not reenter any of the markets where we have withdrawn from already.”

Current Guidelines Fail To Prevent Bacteria Contamination In Medical Scopes, Study Finds

The Los Angeles Times (1/31, Terhune) reports that a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that current cleaning guidelines fail to ensure that medical scopes are free from contamination. Researchers “found that 12 of 20 gastroscopes and colonoscopes examined tested positive for bacterial growth, even after being disinfected using the current guidelines or additional measures.” Of the 20 medical scopes evaluated, 17 “were pulled from use at the end of the study and returned to the manufacturer for repair due to serious defects.” The researchers found “numerous scratches and dents on the ends of the scopes that could trap organic material as well as brown stains, debris and residual fluid stuck inside scope channels.”


FDA Warns Of Toxic Substance In Homeopathic Teething Products

Reuters (1/27, Grover) reported the Food and Drug Administration on Friday “ has found high amounts of” belladonna, a toxic substance, “in homeopathic teething tablets, warning of its potential risk to infants and children.” The FDA also stated that it has “asked Standard Homeopathic Co, the manufacturer of Hyland’s teething products, to recall its homeopathic teething tablets from the market,” but “the company did not agree.”


On its website, NBC News (1/27, Fox) reported that belladona “is an extract of the deadly nightshade plant,” has hallucinogenic properties, and “is highly toxic in large amounts.” According to FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Director Janet Woodcock, MD, “The body’s response to belladonna in children under 2 years of age is unpredictable and puts them at unnecessary risk. We recommend that parents and caregivers not give these homeopathic teething tablets to children and seek advice from their health care professional for safe alternatives.”


Herpes Tests Can Be Highly Unreliable, Officials Say

STAT (1/26, Wessel) reports that blood tests for herpes can be “highly unreliable.” The CDC and the US Preventive Services Task Force “concur that the most widely available herpes test, called HerpeSelect, should not be used to screen asymptomatic people because of its high risk of false positives: Up to 1 in 2 positive tests could be false, according to the USPSTF’s most recent guidelines.” In addition, the IgM test “is still used by some clinicians” although it has “long been rejected” by the CDC.

Glucosamine And Chondroitin Supplements No Better Than Placebo For Arthritis Pain, Study Suggests

The New York Times (1/26, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) “Well” blog reports that “many people take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for arthritis pain, but” research “found no evidence that the combination works.” The study actually found that “the placebo worked better.” The findings were published in Arthritis & Rheumatology.

Researchers Report Two Experiments Growing Human Replacement Organs In Animals

The New York Times (1/26, Wade, Subscription Publication) reports, “Biologists are reporting two significant advances” this week in “replacing a patient’s diseased organs with ones derived from that person’s own cells, and grown in an animal host.” One team of researchers, led by Jun Wu and Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte at the Salk Institute, “has shown for the first time that human stem cells can contribute to forming the tissues of a pig, despite the 90 million years of evolution between the two species.” Meanwhile, a second group, led by Tomoyuki Yamaguchi and Hideyuki Sato of the University of Tokyo and Hiromitsu Nakauchi of Stanford, “has reversed diabetes in mice by inserting pancreas glands composed of mouse cells that were grown in a rat.” One report was published in Cell and the other was published in Nature.


Healthcare Organization Coalition Urges Reform Of Prior Authorization Requirements

Modern Healthcare (1/25, Castellucci, Subscription Publication) reports that the American Medical Association and several “other healthcare organizations have joined forces to make it easier to adhere to prior authorization requirements imposed on” clinicians. This “coalition...will lobby health plans to streamline prior authorization for medical tests, procedures, devices and drugs. They say the current process is time consuming.”


Fierce Healthcare (1/25, Finnegan) reports that in an announcement, American Medical Association President Andrew W. Gurman, MD, said, “Strict or bureaucratic oversight programs for drug or medical treatments have delayed access to necessary care, wasted limited healthcare resources and antagonized patients and physicians alike.”

FDA Warns About MRI Interference For Patients With Implantable Pumps

Modern Healthcare (1/25, Rubenfire, Subscription Publication) reports the FDA “is reminding providers to take precautions when conducting MRI studies of patients with implantable infusion pumps because of the potential for magnetic interference with the devices.” Interaction between the MRI scanner and materials in the device “can cause medical devices to malfunction, interfere with imaging or even to be pulled towards the MRI magnets from within the patient’s body, damaging tissue.”


New Hepatitis C Medications May Have Severe Side Effects, Report Suggests

The New York Times (1/24, Grady, Subscription Publication) reports, “Drugs approved in recent years that can cure hepatitis C may have severe side effects, including liver failure, a new report suggests.” Although “the number of adverse events appears relatively small, and the findings are not conclusive,” experts believe the report is “a warning that should not be ignored.” The FDA has received a copy of the report, published online by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, but has declined to discuss the findings.


Aetna-Humana Merger Blocked By US District Judge

The New York Times (1/23, Picker, Abelson, Subscription Publication) reports Judge John D. Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia has blocked the proposed $37 billion merger of insurers Aetna and Humana. Bates said in his ruling that he “mostly agrees” with the argument made by the US Department of Justice that the merger would lessen competition in the health insurance market.


The Wall Street Journal (1/23, A1, Kendall, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports Bates said the merger would specifically harm competition in the markets for Medicare Advantage plans as well as individual plans sold on exchanges.


The Washington Post (1/23, Johnson) reports the companies’ merger agreement is currently scheduled to expire on February 15, but has already been extended twice.


The Hill (1/23, Sullivan) reports that in a statement, the AMA said, “The court ruling halts Aetna’s bid to become the nation’s largest seller of Medicare Advantage plans and preserves the benefits of health insurer competition for a vulnerable population of seniors.”

Exercise Regimens Can Alleviate Parkinson’s Symptoms And Slow Disease Progression

The New York Times (1/23, Brody, Subscription Publication) reports in “Well” that exercise regimens “can alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms and slow progression of the disease.” According to the article, “for Parkinson’s patients in particular, regular exercise tailored to their needs can result in better posture; less stiffness; improved flexibility of muscles and joints; faster and safer walking ability; less difficulty performing the tasks of daily living; and an overall higher quality of life.”

Premature Birth May Be Associated With Chronic Health Problems In Adolescence, Study Suggests

Reuters (1/20, Rapaport) reported a study suggests “adolescents who were born extremely premature are much more likely to have chronic health problems than their peers who were delivered at full term.” The study “focused on extremely preterm infants, delivered at 23 to 25 weeks gestation.” Overall, “64 percent of the preemies in the study had functional limitations, compared with 6 percent of the full-term teens,” the findings published online in Pediatrics revealed.

Consumption Of Smoked Meats Linked To Greater Risk Of Death In Breast Cancer Patients, Study Suggests

Reuters (1/20) reported new research suggests that “women who eat large amounts of grilled, smoked and barbecued meats and who develop breast cancer may be more likely to die of that cancer than those who eat less of these foods.” The study revealed that a higher intake of barbecued, smoked or grilled meat “before diagnosis was also associated with 23 percent higher odds of death from all causes.” Researchers concluded that smoked meat “may be the worst.” Routinely eating “smoked beef, lamb and pork was tied to a 17 percent greater risk of death from all causes and 23 percent higher odds of dying from breast cancer.” The findings were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Nearly Half Of US Men Have Genital Infections Caused By HPV, Study Indicates

The AP (1/19, Tanner) reports research suggests that “nearly half of US men have genital infections caused by” HPV “and that one in four has strains linked with several cancers.” The findings come from “an analysis of a 2013-14 national health survey; nearly 2,000 men aged 18 to 59 were tested for HPV.” The findings were published in JAMA Oncology.

Lack Of Direct Sunlight May Correlate With Development Of Myopia, Study Indicates

The New York Times (1/19, Reynolds, Subscription Publication) reports that myopia “in Americans has soared by 66 percent since the early 1970s, according to a 2009 study by the National Eye Institute.” Now, a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology adds to a “growing body of research indicating that a lack of direct sunlight may reshape the human eye and impair vision.” The study, which involved some 3,100 older adults, revealed that individuals “who had gotten the most sun, particularly between the ages of 14 and 19, were about 25 percent less likely to have developed myopia by middle age.”

Fish Oil Supplements May Not Satisfy Body’s Omega-3 Needs

In a 2,700-word article, CNN (1/19, Scutti) reports that according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 “advise adults to eat about 8 ounces of a variety of seafood each and every week.” This guideline “is intended to provide...healthy amounts of two essential omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).” Sources of omega-3 fatty acids are “plentiful,” yet many “people prefer to hack the process by taking fish oil supplements.” CNN warns, however, that the “underlying science suggests that fish oil supplements may not do justice to our physical need for omega-3s.”

Sitting Too Much May Be Linked To Shorter Telomeres, Study Suggests

HealthDay (1/18, Preidt) reports that investigators “assessed nearly 1,500 older women.” The investigators “found that women who sat for more than 10 hours a day and got less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily had shorter telomeres,” which “are caps on the end of DNA strands that protect chromosomes from deterioration.”

One In Three Adults Diagnosed With Asthma May Not Have The Condition

Reuters (1/17, Rapaport) reports that research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests “as many as one in three adults diagnosed with asthma may not actually have the chronic lung disorder.”


On its website, ABC News (1/17, Mohney) reports that the study’s 613 participants, all of whom “had been diagnosed with asthma in the previous five years,” underwent “multiple tests and examinations to determine if they had signs of asthma.” Investigators “determined that 203 participants, or” about “33 percent, did not have baseline symptoms of asthma after the initial examination.”


The PBS NewsHour (1/17, Hugo) “The Rundown” blog reports that “of the” participants “whose medical records could be accessed, the” investigators “found half had not been properly tested before being diagnosed.”

Claims For T2D Among People Under 23 More Than Doubled Between 2011 And 2015, Analysis Indicates

Kaiser Health News (1/12, Appleby) reports, “Claims for type 2 diabetes [T2D]...among young people aged 0 to 22 years old more than doubled between 2011 and 2015, according to an analysis of a large national database of claims paid by about 60 insurers” conducted by the nonprofit Fair Health. Meanwhile, “claims for prediabetes among children and youth rose 110 percent, while high blood pressure claims rose 67 percent,” and claims for sleep apnea “rose 161 percent.” The white paper’s findings can be seen here (pdf).

Landmark Report Discusses Benefits And Dangers Of Marijuana Use

The CBS Evening News (1/12, story 9, 1:30, Pelley) reported, “Some of the nation’s top doctors and public health experts put out a landmark report today on the health effects of marijuana.”


USA Today (1/12, Hughes) says a report released Thursday by a federal panel of medical professionals concluded that marijuana “appears to be an effective treatment for chronic pain, nausea and symptoms of multiple sclerosis.” The report “says there’s ‘conclusive or substantial’ research backing the effectiveness of cannabis for those three conditions. But it also warns of dangers from marijuana use: an increased risk of car crashes, lower birth weight babies and problems with memory and attention with heavy use.” The panel “also found strong connections between heavy cannabis use and the development of schizophrenia and other psychoses.”


The AP (1/12, Ritter) reports the National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine “called for a national effort to learn more about marijuana and its chemical cousins, including similarly acting compounds called cannabinoids.” The report stressed the need for more scientific information so that patients, health care professionals and policy makers can have more evidence to make sound decisions.

Cigna Dropping Coverage Of

CNN Money (1/11, Horowitz) reports Cigna is dropping coverage of the EpiPen, saying it will “only cover the half-priced generic version, which launched” last month.

Meanwhile, USA Today (1/12, Bomey) reports, “CVS Health said Thursday that it would sell a generic version of an EpiPen competitor for a lower list price in a bid to tap into a groundswell of public resentment over skyrocketing drug costs.” CVS said it will instead “sell the generic version of Impax Laboratories’ Adrenaclick treatment for $109.99 per two-pack before potential discounts, or about one-third the initial $300 list price of...Mylan’s new generic EpiPen.”

Women Exposed To Secondhand Smoke As Kids Have Higher Risk Of Miscarriages, Study Suggests

Reuters (1/11, Lehman) reports a study published in the journal Tobacco Control found that women who didn’t smoke but were exposed to secondhand smoke as children from at least two different sources on a regular basis had a roughly 20 percent higher risk of miscarriage. The authors wrote, “Our findings support the enactment of stringent national smoke-free laws and strict enforcement in China, and promotion of smoke-free homes to protect children, as well as the need for campaigns to change social norms of smoking and passive smoking.”

USPSTF Reaffirms Stance On Folic Acid Supplementation To Prevent Birth Defects

TIME (1/10, Sifferlin) reports the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) “has reaffirmed its stance that women who are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, should take folic acid supplements as a way to prevent birth defects.” On Jan. 10, the USPSTF “released its final recommendation on folic acid supplements for the prevention of birth defects” after examining data from “24 studies on the benefits and potential harms of folic acid.” The recommendations were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


The NPR (1/10, Hobson) “Shots” blog points out that “back in 1991, a study found that folic acid supplementation greatly reduced the risk of neural tube defects,” and in 1992, the US Public Health Service made the recommendation that “women take 400 micrograms as a daily supplement.”

Breastfed Babies May Get Insufficient Vitamin D When They Don’t Receive Supplement Drops, Researchers Say

Reuters (1/10, Rapaport) reports, “Many breastfed infants may not get enough vitamin D because their mothers prefer not to give babies supplement drops,” researchers found after surveying some “184 breastfeeding mothers.” Investigators found that only “55 percent of the women said they gave their babies vitamin D drops and only 42 percent supplemented with the recommended 400 IU.” The findings were published online in the Annals of Family Medicine.

Men Who Frequently Eat Red Meat More Likely To Be Diagnosed With Diverticulitis, Study Suggests

Reuters (1/10, Rapaport) that after examining “more than two decades of data on more than 46,000 men,” investigators discovered that men who are “frequent red meat eaters were 58 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diverticulitis.” The findings were published online in the journal Gut.


Exercising Like A “Weekend Warrior” May Be As Beneficial As Working Out Daily, Study Suggests

The AP (1/9, Marchione) reports that research published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests individuals “who pack their workouts into one or two sessions a week lower their risk of dying over roughly the next decade nearly as much as people who exercise more often.”


Reuters (1/9, Rapaport) reports that investigators looked at survey data on more than 63,000 “people from 1994 to 2012 to see how different exercise patterns influence the risk of death from all causes, heart disease and cancer.” Study “participants...were typically followed for almost nine years.”


Newsweek (1/9, Firger) reports that the study indicated “the risk of death from all causes was about 30 percent lower for weekend warriors, compared with adults who maintained a sedentary lifestyle.” Meanwhile, weekend “warriors had a 40 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death and an 18 percent lower risk for cancer-related death.” The data also indicated that “the mortality rates of weekend warriors were” approximately “the same as those who claimed to exercise more than two days a week but for shorter durations.”

Enteroviruses May Play Key Role In Triggering T1D, Study Indicates

CNN (1/9, Nedelman) reports a study published online in Diabetologia “joins decades of research suggesting that enteroviruses, which include over 100 individual virus types, may play a key role in triggering type 1 diabetes [T1D].” After collecting “stool samples from more than 400 young children to look for enteroviruses,” researchers found that kids “who tested positive for multiple autoantibodies were more likely to have been infected with an enterovirus than children who had a similar genetic risk for diabetes.” Enteroviruses are attracted to “insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.” The study authors “believe the virus establishes a chronic infection in these cells, possibly leading to inflammation and self-attacking antibodies.”


MedPage Today (1/9, Monaco) reports the study authors are of the mind that “additional research is required to further validate the findings of the current study.” They pointed out that “the few past studies analyzing the associations between enterovirus infections and islet autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes have been limited in sample size and yielded inconclusive results.”

New Allergy Guidance: Young Children Should Be Given Peanuts

NBC News (1/5, Fox) reports even children “with the highest risk of having a peanut allergy should be tested with a tiny dose of the nut because it might prevent the allergy from ever developing, doctors said in new guidelines released Thursday.” The new guidelines “from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and other groups follow up on findings that giving peanut to kids early enough in life can train their immune systems so they don’t overreact and cause a dangerous allergic reaction.” NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, MD, said, “Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs.”


The AP (1/5) reports the new NIH guidelines “mark a shift in dietary advice, based on landmark research that found early exposure dramatically lowers a baby’s chances of becoming allergic.” Matthew Greenhawt, MD, of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, a “member of the NIH-appointed panel that wrote the guidelines,” said, “We’re on the cusp of hopefully being able to prevent a large number of cases of peanut allergy.” And Dr. Fauci said, “It’s an important step forward. When you do desensitize them from an early age, you have a very positive effect.”


The New York Times (1/5, Rabin, Subscription Publication) reports if “broadly implemented, the new guidelines have the potential to dramatically lower the number of children who develop one of the most common and lethal food allergies,” according to Dr. Fauci, who said, “If we can put this into practice over a period of several years, I would be surprised if we would not see a dramatic decrease in the incidence of peanut allergies.”


Cancer Death Rates Have Fallen 25 Percent Since 1991

The Washington Post (1/5, McGinley) reports the American Cancer Society released its Cancer Statistics 2017 report, showing that cancer death rates are down 25 percent in the US from the 1991 peak, which it attributes “largely to reductions in smoking and improvements in the early detection and treatment of cancer.” Meanwhile, the incidence of cancer in men is 20 percent higher than for women and the mortality rate from cancer is 40 percent higher for men than women. That is explained by the greater incidence of lethal cancers in men, specifically liver cancer, and “cancers of the esophagus, larynx and bladder.” Overall, the most common cancers in men are “lung, colorectal and prostate,” while for women they are “lung, breast and colorectal cancers.” Black Americans also have a 15 percent higher cancer death rate than whites.


The Los Angeles Times (1/5, Healy) reports that for 2017, the report projects 1,688,780 cancer diagnoses in the US and 600,920 cancer deaths. The report finds that improved treatments led to “the most dramatic improvements in the survival of patients with malignancies of the blood and lymph system.” That can be seen in five-year survival rates of 71 percent for acute lymphocytic leukemia, up from 41 percent, and from 22 percent for chronic myeloid leukemia to 66 percent. Lung cancer and pancreatic cancer continue to have low survival rates at 8 percent for pancreatic cancer and 18 percent for lung cancer.


Mice On Statins Moved Less And Benefited Less From Exercise

The New York Times (1/4, Reynolds, Subscription Publication) reports on a mouse study published in PLOS One finding “taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs seemed to make exercise more difficult and less beneficial” in the mice, which the Times says “does raise interesting questions about whether and how statins might affect physical fitness in all of us.” Specifically, the mice receiving statins “moved less” and “developed fewer advantageous physical changes within their muscles.” Statins have also “been found to increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes” and produce “muscle aches and fatigue.”

Study Suggests Living Near Busy Road May Increase Risk Of Dementia

Reuters (1/4, Kelland) reports, “People who live near busy roads laden with heavy traffic face a higher risk of developing dementia than those living further away,” researchers found after analyzing “records of more than 6.5 million Ontario residents aged 20 to 85,” then mapping “residents’ proximity to major roadways using postal codes.”


CNN (1/4, Senthilingam) reports investigators “found that people living within 50 meters (164 feet) of” a major “road had a 7% greater risk of developing dementia.” The findings were published online in The Lancet.


Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy Linked To Diabetes, Hypertension

Reuters (12/21, Rapaport) reports that a study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that pregnant women with sleep apnea “may be more likely to develop complications like high blood pressure and diabetes.” Researchers did home-based sleep studies for over 3,000 women during pregnancy. Pregnant women who had sleep apnea “were almost twice as likely to develop what’s known as preeclampsia, a type of pregnancy-related high blood pressure, and up to 3.5 times more likely to develop pregnancy-related diabetes.”

Group Recommends Delaying Umbilical Cord Clamping After Healthy Deliveries

The AP (12/21, Neergaard) reports the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released new guidelines recommending that the umbilical cord not be cut for “at least 30 seconds to 60 seconds after birth” for all healthy infants. The AP points out that “it’s common in the U.S. for” physicians “to cut the cord almost immediately, within 15 to 20 seconds of birth, unless the baby is premature.”

Mouthwash Inhibits Growth Of Oral Gonorrhea Bacteria, Study Suggests

STAT (12/20, Begley) reports that study published in Sexually Transmitted Infections suggests “gargling with Listerine can eliminate gonorrhea throat infection.”


Medscape (12/20, Harrison) reports that in the clinical trial, “52% (95% confidence interval [CI], 34% – 69%), of the pharyngeal surfaces of men who rinsed and gargled with the mouthwash for a minute tested positive for Neisseria gonorrhoeae compared with 84% (95% CI, 64% – 95%) of the pharyngeal surfaces of men who rinsed and gargled with a saline solution.”

Too Much Screen Time May Be Linked To Greater Risk Of Obesity, Study Suggests

Reuters (12/20, Rapaport) reports research suggests that too much screen time may be linked to childhood obesity. Researchers collected data in 2013 and 2015 on nearly 25,000 adolescents in grades 9 to 12 and found that “heavy use of” screens “was tied to a 43 percent greater risk of obesity.” The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Pregnant Women In US Increasingly Using Marijuana, Study Suggests

The AP (12/19) reports that US women are “increasingly using marijuana during pregnancy,” according to an analysis of annual drug use surveys published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Although the number of women using marijuana is still small, “the trend raises concerns because of evidence linking the drug with low birth weights and other problems.”

Pregnancy Alters A Woman’s Brain, Study Suggests

ABC World News Tonight (12/19, story 10, 0:25, Muir) reported that research indicates “pregnancy can change a woman’s brain.”


The New York Times (12/19, Belluck, Subscription Publication) reports that investigators found that pregnancy may alter parts of a woman’s brains associated with “perceiving the feelings and perspectives of others,” according to the study, published in Nature Neuroscience. Researchers evaluated brain scans and found loss of gray matter in several areas linked in social cognition, with greater gray loss matter being associated with higher emotional attachment with the baby. The researchers theorize that pregnancy helps a mother’s brain specialize in the ability “to recognize the needs of her infant, to recognize social threats or to promote mother-infant bonding.”


The AP (12/19, Ritter) reports that “the changes, first documented an average of 10 weeks after giving birth, were mostly still present two years after childbirth.” No similar changes were detected in fathers.


STAT (12/19, Samuel) reports that diminished gray matter “doesn’t mean that those social capabilities were dampened – on the contrary, the researchers think the shrinkage was evidence of maturation of those social networks.”

Reuters (12/19, Boggs) reports that National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow, MD, in an accompanying editorial, said “there is strong reason to believe marijuana could be harmful to fetal development.” Dr. Volkow advises that “women who are pregnant should avoid using marijuana, even though it might seem like a ‘natural’ solution to their nausea.”

Cancer Patients Who Are Depressed May Have Worse Response To Chemotherapy, Study Suggests

TIME (12/17, Park) reported that research indicated “cancer patients who were more depressed showed worse response to chemotherapy than those without depression.” Investigators measured brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) “levels of 186 people recently diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, who also answered questions about their mood.” The researchers “found that among the cancer patients with depression, those who had the lowest BDNF levels had the least response to chemotherapy for their cancer.” The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology Asia.

After-Hours Surcharges For The ED Becoming More Commonplace

Kaiser Health News (12/16, Andrews) reported on the growing trend of fees levied by emergency departments for overnight patient visits. Called “after-hours surcharges,” these fees are becoming more commonplace. While “the rationale for an after-hours surcharge is to cover the extra costs associated with operating and staffing a facility outside normal working hours, including generally higher salaries for overnight work,” some “insurers may refuse to pay the extra charge.” Rebecca Parker, MD, president of the American College of Physicians, said, “You’re paying people to be on staff during nighttime hours, and there are potentially extra costs there.” Nevertheless, “she said, emergency physicians rarely use it.”

Generic Version Of EpiPen Launched

The Wall Street Journal (12/16, Steele, Subscription Publication) reported that Mylan has launched an authorized generic version of the EpiPen for half the price of the name-brand version. The generic will be available in pharmacies this week.

FDA No Longer Requiring Boxed Warning On Smoking Cessation Medication

The Wall Street Journal (12/16, Rockoff, Subscription Publication) reported the Food and Drug Administration is no longer requiring Chantix (varenicline) to include a boxed warning about possible links to suicide, depression, and hostile behavior. In addition, the drug’s new label can explain that Chantix is more effective than nicotine patches or bupropion.

Reuters (12/16, Grover) reported that the FDA said Chantix’s label “should contain the post-marketing reports of the serious side-effects associated with the drug.”

ACA Subsidies To Increase By Nearly $10 Billion In 2017, Analysis Shows

The AP (12/15, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports the Federal government (READ: YOU AND I THE WORKING TAXPAYERS) will have to pay almost $10 billion more in 2017 to cover the double-digit increases for subsidized plans under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new analysis released by the Center for Health and Economy. The study projects that ACA premium subsidies will rise from $32.8 billion to $42.6 billion, which means that on average, monthly subsidies “will increase by $76, or 26 percent, from $291 currently to $367 in 2017.” At present, about 80 percent of people enrolled in ACA plans receive some sort of subsidy, which is eventually passed on to taxpayers.

Long-Term Regular Use Of NSAIDs May Be Linked To Higher Risk Of Hearing Loss In Women

The New York Times (12/14, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) “Well” blog reports that researchpublished in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests “long-term use of pain relievers may increase the risk for hearing loss.”


TIME (12/14, Park) reports that investigators “found that people who reported using an NSAID like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for more than six years showed 9% to 10% higher risk of having hearing loss more than a decade later.” Meanwhile, “those who used aspirin did not show similar problems with hearing.”

Marital Status May Be Related To Likelihood Of Survival After A Stroke, Study Suggests

Reuters (12/14, Crist) reports that research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests “a person’s current marital status and past marital losses may be related to their survival odds after a stroke.” Investigators “followed stroke survivors for an average of five years after the event and found those who were never married, remarried, divorced or widowed had significantly higher risks of dying compared to those who had a long-term stable marriage.” The study also indicated that “losing two or more marriages to death or divorce raised the odds of mortality after stroke still higher, though never-marrieds had the highest risk of all.”

FDA Warns Certain Anesthetics May Harm Developing Brains In Fetuses And Very Young Children

In “To Your Health,” the Washington Post (12/14, McGinley) reports the Food and Drug Administration “warned Wednesday that repeated or lengthy use of general anesthesia or sedation drugs for children younger than 3 or pregnant women in their third trimester may affect youngsters’ developing brains.”


STAT (12/14, Joseph) reports the agency announced Wednesday that it will begin to require new warnings on certain anesthetic and sedation drugs. STAT says, “The warnings will...pertain to procedures that last longer than three hours or to repeated exposure to the drugs.” Eleven drugs “will be required to add the warnings to their labels.”


Experts: Virtual-Reality Goggles Could Be Bad For Kids’ Vision
December 12, 2016 9:49 PM
By Roseanne Tellez

(CBS) — Put on a headset and you can rock-climb. Or paint. It’s a hands-on experience in a Virtual Reality – or VR — world.  But can it lead to real-life medical problems?

CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports.

“I think digital eyestrain is a contemporary diagnosis that we are hearing more and more,” Dr. Geoffrey Goodfellow of Illinois College Of Optometry.

Spending too much time focused on the world up-close in headsets, says Goodfellow, could potentially lead to headaches, blurred vision, nearsightedness or worse. Particularly in kids.

“What happens to children that use these devices now when they are seniors in life? Are there long-term effects? We don’t quite exactly know those,” he cautions.

Many headsets come with a safety warning: not for use by children under 13.

Still, some doctors are using goggles like these with children as part of vision therapy.

Seven-year-old Ashliana Nicholson dons VR goggles at her optometrist’s office to help treat amblyopia, or lazy eye. The condition was making it difficult for her to read.

Dr. David Maze uses the goggles as part of Ashliana’s therapy once a week for about 15 minutes each session. He says navigating the virtual world helps stimulate the brain to improve vision.

“We have to find a way to get that part of the brain that uses both eyes,” he says. “And virtual reality is a wonderful tool for that.”

Dr. Maze also believes there could be dangers down the road if the goggles are used by young children for hours at a time. But he says the fun of putting themselves in the game helps kids look forward to these treatment sessions.

After one year in therapy, Ashliana has a new reality when it comes to reading.


Cooling Caps May Reduce Risk Of Hair Loss Among Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy

The Los Angeles Times (12/9, Kaplan) reported in “Science Now” that research suggests cooling caps may reduce the risk of hair loss among cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. Investigators found that “among 95 breast cancer patients who were randomly assigned to test a cooling cap, 48 – or 51% – still had a good amount of hair after four cycles of chemotherapy.” The study also found that “among 47 control patients who did not use a cooling cap, none had hair after four rounds of chemotherapy.” The findings were presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.


Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug Has Promising Results In Small Clinical Trial

Reuters (12/8, Berkrot, Pierson) reports that a gradual increase of aducanumab “appeared to cause less risk of brain swelling than higher fixed doses, according to interim 12-month results from a small study released on Thursday.” Biogen’s experimental Alzheimer’s disease drug “led to significant reductions in amyloid plaques in the brain compared with a placebo among the 31 patients who received” titrated dosing.


The Boston Globe (12/8, Weisman) reports that the data, scheduled to be released on Friday, gives Alzheimer’s patients and their families “reason for continued optimism.”


More Hospitals, Physicians Requiring Payment Before Treatment

Kaiser Health News (12/6, Andrews) reports that these days, many hospitals and physicians’ offices routinely estimate “patients’ out-of-pocket payments and” attempt “to collect it up front.” Some even store credit card information and access it with patients’ permission. Yet, “there’s a big difference between handing over a credit card to cover a $20 copayment versus suddenly being confronted with a $2,000 charge to cover a deductible.” The article says some physicians may refuse to provide needed care until payment is made, “even as patient health hangs in the balance.” According to the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, “a patient who has a health emergency has to be stabilized and treated before any hospital personnel can discuss payment with them.” But, in non-emergency situations, “those discussions can occur before treatment, said Dr. Vidor Friedman, an emergency physician who is the secretary-treasurer of [the] American College of Emergency Physicians’ board of directors.”

More Companies Offering Gap Insurance To Employees

The Wall Street Journal (12/6, Silverman, Subscription Publication) reports more and more companies are offering employees special policies to help them deal with rising out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles. These policies, known as gap insurance or supplemental insurance, provide additional coverage for hospital stays, accidents, or treatment for cancer or heart disease.

Baby Boomers Using Marijuana More Often, Study Finds

Kaiser Health News (12/6, Heredia Rodriguez) reports that baby boomers “are getting high in increasing numbers, reflecting growing acceptance of the drug as treatment for various medical conditions,” according to a study published in Addiction. From 2006 to 2013, marijuana use among adults 50 years and older increased “significantly,” according to data collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

HealthDay (12/6, Preidt) reports that marijuana use increased among that age group by 71 percent during that time period, while seniors over 65 increased their use of marijuana by 2.5 times.

Medicaid To Cover Gender-Transition For Minor Children In New York As Of Wednesday

The Wall Street Journal (12/6, Ramey, Subscription Publication) reports the New York Health Department announced Tuesday that state Medicaid will start covering gender-transition for minor children under a new regulation that goes into effect Wednesday. The change is in response to a court order. The department opposed the change arguing a lack of medical consensus on the value of the care. A spokeswoman for the health department said the new regulation would make “transgender care and services available, regardless of an individual’s age, when such care and services are medically necessary to treat the individual’s gender dysphoria.”

Hundreds Possibly Exposed To HIV, Hepatitis At Wisconsin VA Hospital

ABC World News Tonight (12/3, story 11, 0:20, Vega) reported on a health scare at a VA hospital in Wisconsin. Coverage indicated that “As many as 600 people potentially exposed to HIV or hepatitis by a dentist who did not follow proper sterilization procedures.”

Study Finds Heart Shows Signs Of Stress After Sleep Deprivation

TIME (12/2, Sifferlin) reported on a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America finding that “sleep deprivation can cause noticeable changes in the heart.” Researchers examined “professionals in emergency medical care,” both “before and after a 24-hour shift where they got an average of three hours of sleep.” They found signs of “increases in heart strain,” including higher “blood pressure, heart rate and thyroid hormones.”


The Telegraph (UK) (12/2, Knapton) reported that just a single night without sleep “is enough to cause strain on the heart.”

Many Overweight Americans Don’t Think They’re Overweight, Gallup Data Show

The Washington Post (12/1, Ingraham) reports new Gallup data reveals “7 in 10 Americans are obese or overweight, but only 36 percent think they have a weight problem.” The Post recalls that in 1990, “about 56 percent of Americans qualified as obese or overweight,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and “48 percent considered themselves ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ overweight, according to Gallup.” The article suggests that the “gap between how fat we think we are and how fat we are” has widened as obesity has normalized.

Primary Care Physicians Often Order Wrong Test To Diagnose Food Allergies In Children, Study Suggests

Reuters (12/1, Harding) reports on a study published in Pediatrics finding that primary care physicians commonly order “the wrong test” when testing for food allergies in children, with the result that youngsters are often falsely diagnosed with food allergies, raising the danger of poor nutrition or even “stunted growth” because of “unnecessary dietary restrictions.” The study targeted the use of panel tests, which the study’s author said would rarely, if ever, “offer any useful information for patients.”

Smokers Under 50 Have Eight Times Greater Risk Of Heart Attack, Study Indicates

NBC Nightly News (11/29, story 9, 0:20, Holt) reported, “There’s alarming health news tonight if you or someone you love is a smoker. A new study shows that smokers under the age of 50 are over eight times more likely to have a major heart attack than non-smokers.”
Reuters (11/29, Seaman) reports the study, published in the journal Heart, was led by Dr. Ever Grech, of the South Yorkshire Cardiothoracic Center at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, UK and was based on 1,727 people over 18 in South Yorkshire treated for STEMIs, of which about half were smokers, while another quarter were ex-smokers. Based on that data, they estimated the increased risk of a heart attack in the under-50 population to be about eight times greater for smokers than non-smokers, while it is about five-times greater for smokers aged 50 to 65, and three-times greater for those over 65.

Racquet Sports Most Effective At Reducing Risk Of Death From Heart Disease Or Stroke, Study Finds

Reuters (11/29, Kelland) reports on a study published in the British Journal and Sports Medicine, based on “data from 11 annual health surveys for England and Scotland carried out between 1994 and 2008, covering 80,306 adults with an average age of 52,” found that “swimming, racquet sports and aerobics are associated with the best odds of staving off death, and in particular of reducing the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.” It found that the risk of death was reduced the most by racquet sports (47 percent), swimming (28 percent), aerobics (27 percent), and cycling (15 percent), while racquet sports reduced the risk of death from heart disease and stroke by 56 percent, compared to 41 percent for swimming, and 36 percent for aerobics.
TIME (11/29, Park) reports one reason why swimming and racquet sports showed a greater reduction in risk is that they “inherently require a pretty intense level of exercise.”

One In Six Breast Cancer Patients Have Symptoms Other Than Lumps, Study Shows

NBC Nightly News (11/29, story 8, 2:00, Holt) reported on a study finding that among breast cancer patients, “one in six patients have symptoms other than lumps which can be more difficult to identify.” NBC (Dahlgren) described the case of Beth Laflor, a nurse who works as a lactation consultant, who noticed “changes to the shape of her breast” but received a negative mammogram. She sought a second opinion and “more imaging showed stage three breast cancer, beneath dense breast tissue.” Women are advised to be aware of “changes to the nipple, armpit, any pain, and changes to the skin or shape.”

Whole Milk May Be Healthier For Children Than Low-Fat Milk, Study Suggests

The New York Times (11/22, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports that children who drank milk with higher fat content tended to have higher vitamin D levels and lower BMI than those who drank milk with lower fat content, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers “found that children who drank one cup of whole milk per day had a vitamin D level comparable to that of children who drank 2.9 cups of 1 percent milk, but their body mass index was lower by 0.79 points.”

New Type Of Scan Allows Physicians, Parents To View Developing Fetus

On its website, NBC News (11/21, Fox) reports that investigators “have fused virtual reality with a new type of 3-D scan to let doctors and parents look at a developing fetus from all angles – even the inside.” According to NBC News, “The idea is to help” physicians “search for defects that might need immediate treatment, either before or after birth.” The technology was discussed at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
STAT (11/21, Robbins) reports, however, that while “a small body of literature suggests that the test is safe during pregnancy,” physicians “are unlikely to recommend it for women who have no medical need.”

CDC Predicts Cancer May Overtake Heart Disease As Leading Cause Of Death

According to the Washington Post (11/17, Sun), in a reportpublished yesterday, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data for the five leading causes of death in 2014 in the United States, which together account for 63 percent of all deaths.” The report indicates that “fewer people are dying prematurely from three of the five leading causes of death between 2010 and 2014: cancer, stroke and heart disease.” However, “there was a significant increase in preventable deaths from unintentional injuries, mostly because deaths from opioid overdoses are increasing.”

PBS NewsHour (11/17, Santhanam) reports, “Cancer could surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death among Americans this year, according to” the report. In 2014, “more than 614,000 Americans died of heart disease.” Approximately 592,000 died of cancer that year. However, “in 2016, almost 601,000 people may die as a result of cancer, while more than 597,000 Americans may die from heart disease...said Hannah Weir, a senior epidemiologist at the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, as well as the study’s lead author.”

HealthDay (11/17, Preidt) Reports That The Report Indicated “The Five Leading Causes Of Death Among Americans Under Age 80 For 2014” Were Heart Disease, Cancer, Stroke, Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases, And Accidents.

Delaying Childbirth May Be Associated With A Longer Life, Study Suggests

TIME (11/17, Park) reports that “in a new study of more than 28,000 women, researchers found that delaying childbirth is associated with longer life.”


HealthDay (11/17, Salamon) reports that “women who give birth for the first time at age 25 or older are more likely to live to 90,” researchers found after analyzing “data on about 20,000 women gathered as part of a long-term national study that began in 1993” and in which “women were tracked for up to 21 years.” The findings were published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

Weight Cycling May Be Linked To Higher Risk Of Sudden Cardiac Death In Certain Women

TIME (11/15, Oaklander) reports that research suggests “losing 10 pounds now and then and gaining it back may be bad for your heart,” especially for “normal-weight” women. The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. Investigators found that “women who were normal weight at the study’s start but who reported a history of weight cycling – dropping more than 10 pounds and regaining it while not sick or pregnant, more than four times – had a 3.5 times greater risk for sudden cardiac death than those with stable weights.” The researchers also found that “they...had a 66% increased risk of dying from coronary heart disease.”


The New York Daily News (11/16, Pesce) reports, however, that “overweight and obese women who weight-cycled didn’t see an increased risk in either type of death.” Meanwhile, “there was also no higher mortality among women who put on pounds but didn’t lose them, or among those who lost weight and kept it off.”

AMA Says ACA Reform Should Not Impact Consumers’ Healthcare Coverage

Forbes (11/15) contributor Bruce Japsen writes that on Tuesday, the American Medical Association said “it would work with Congress and the Trump administration on changes to the Affordable Care Act but any new health reform should not mean people with insurance lose it.” AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, MD, stated, “A core principle is that any new reform proposal should not cause individuals currently covered to become uninsured.” He added, “We will also advance recommendations to support the delivery of high-quality patient care. Policymakers have a notable opportunity to also reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish physicians’ time devoted to patient care and increase costs.” Japsen points out that the AMA is the first major healthcare group “to outline at least one of its demands as the White House transitions from Obama to Trump.”


The Hill (11/15, Ferris) reports that the AMA unveiled “a two-page document that outlines its top goals for healthcare reform under incoming President Trump.” The document was released following “an interim meeting of its House of Delegates, which was held immediately after last week’s election.” The AMA stated in the document that lawmakers “have a notable opportunity to also reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish physicians’ time devoted to patient care and increase costs.”


Morning Consult (11/15, McIntire) also quotes Dr. Gurman as saying, “The new AMA policy acknowledges the carte blanche approach to drug pricing needs to change to align with the health system’s drive for high-quality care based on value.” He added, “This transformation should support drug prices based on overall benefit to patients compared to alternatives for treating the same condition. We need to have the full picture to assess a drug’s true value to patients and the health care system.”


California Judge Asked To Stop Anthem Blue Cross From Shifting 500,000 To Plans With No Out-Of-Network Coverage

The Los Angeles Times (11/11, Petersen) reported Consumer Watchdog has asked California Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. in Los Angeles to issue a temporary restraining order “to immediately stop Anthem Blue Cross from switching 500,000 Californians to health plans offering no coverage for out-of-network care.” The request comes after Anthem changed its 2017 PPO plans in the state.

California Likely To Lose The Most If ACA Were Repealed

The Los Angeles Times (11/13, Karlamangla) reports that California has made more strides in implementing the Affordable Care Act than any other state, therefore, “the stakes are higher here than anywhere else.” At present, “4.6 million Californians’ health coverage is funded by” the ACA. These consumers “either buy insurance plans through Covered California, or were able to join Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health program, when the health law provided money to the state to expand the program in 2014.”

California could continue to provide ACA coverage if law were repealed, but it would be costly

The Los Angeles Times (11/11, Petersen) reported that California could continue to provide coverage to its residents through Covered California if the ACA were repealed, but it would be very expensive. Data indicate the state receives “more than $20 billion annually in federal assistance to subsidize consumers who buy policies from Covered California and pay for others who became eligible for free or low-cost care under Medi-Cal.”


Flu Risk May Be Tied To Birth Year, Study Suggests

On its website, NBC News(11/10, Fox) reports people’s year of birth can impact their chance of becoming infected by certain strains of influenza, “probably because their first case of flu somehow sets their immune system,” according to a study published in Science. The researchers said that their finding could have implications for the potential risk of flu pandemics, because the diversity of birth year may limit the potential impact of any single influenza strain.

On its website, CNN (11/10, Howard) reports the researchers found that being exposed to a certain flu strain during childhood could reduce your future risk of a severe infection from related strains by up to 75 percent. Cécile Viboud, a researcher at National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center who co-wrote an editorial accompanying the study, said, “This is an intriguing and elegant epidemiological study, which sheds new light on the circulation history of flu viruses in humans and its consequences for population-level immunity.”

Vasectomy May Not Increase Risk Of Developing Prostate Cancer Or Dying From It, Study Suggests

Reuters (11/10, Rapaport) reports that research suggests “having a vasectomy doesn’t increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer or dying from it.” In the study, investigators found that “men with vasectomies were about 5 percent more likely to have lethal ‘high-grade’ prostate cancer, 4 percent more likely to have advanced tumors, and 6 percent more likely to die – but all of these differences were too small to rule out that they were due to random chance.” The findings were published online in the BMJ.

Research Indicates Benefits Of Controlled Breathing Are Real

The New York Times (11/9, Alderman, Subscription Publication) reports on the benefits of controlled breathing, which research is now indicating are “real.” For example, researchers have discovered that “breathing practices can help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and” attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The article provides “three basic breathing exercises” for readers to try.

Mouse Study Indicates Common Food Emulsifiers May Promote Colon Tumors

TIME (11/7, Park) reports on a study published in Cancer Research finding that “emulsifiers create the ideal conditions for triggering colon cancer in mice.” Lead researcher Emilie Viennois of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University had earlier demonstrated that “emulsifiers changed the good bacteria living in the guts of mice” in ways that “promoted metabolic syndrome” known to be a risk factor for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and inflammation, which have also “been connected to inflammatory bowel disease.” Viennois fed the mice polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose, common emulsifiers, and found “changes in their gut microbes that were consistent with promoting tumor growth.” She also found the changes led to “higher levels of inflammation” and “the perfect cancer friendly environment.”

HealthDay (11/7, Preidt) reports Viennois also pointed out, “The incidence of colorectal cancer has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century,” and “a key feature of this disease is the presence of an altered intestinal microbiota that creates a favorable niche for [the production of tumors].”


Medical Daily (11/7, Drain) reports emulsifiers “are most frequently found in salad dressings, baked goods, ice cream, chips, and margarine.”

Smoking A Pack Of Cigarettes A Day Causes 150 Mutations In Lung Cells A Year, Study Suggests

Reuters (11/3, Kelland) reports a study published in Science explores the connection “between the number of cigarettes smoked in a lifetime and the number of mutations in the DNA of cancerous tumors,” finding that smokers who go through a pack of cigarettes a day may be subjecting their lung cells to “150 damaging changes...each year.”


The Los Angeles Times (11/3, Kaplan) reports that some “mutations may be harmless, but the more there are, the greater the risk that one or more of them will wind up causing cancer.” The Times points out that “even organs with no direct exposure to tobacco smoke appear to be affected.” The investigators “counted about 18 new mutations in every bladder cell and six new mutations in every liver cell for each ‘pack-year’ that smokers smoked.”

Anthem Threatens To Pull Back If ACA Business Does Not Improve In 2017

The Wall Street Journal (11/2, Mathews, Hufford, Subscription Publication) reports that after releasing third-quarter results which missed Wall Street expectations, Anthem Inc. is saying it may reconsider offering Affordable Care Act plans in 2018 if the situation does not improve. This means that 2017 will be a crucial year for Anthem.


Bloomberg News (11/2, Tracer) reports that Anthem said “it may join other major US health insurers in largely pulling out of” the ACA’s “markets in 2018 if its financial results under the program don’t improve next year.

WHO Advises Shower, No Shaving Before Surgery To Combat Hospital Superbugs

Reuters (11/2, Kelland) reports the World Health Organization said Thursday that “patients going for surgery should bathe or shower beforehand but their surgical site should not be shaved, and antibiotics should be used to prevent infections before and during surgery, but not afterwards.” The WHO’s new guidelines hope to stop the “spread of potentially deadly superbug infections in hospitals and clinics worldwide.” The agency “said obsessive dedication to cleanliness and hygiene was crucial, as was the careful use of anti-infectives.”

Young People With Access To Mobile Devices At Night May Be More Sleep Deprived Than Peers

The Washington Post (10/31, Cha) reports young people with access to mobile devices around bedtime “are more than twice as likely to sleep less than nine hours a night” than their peers who do not have access to such devices, according to a review published in JAMA Pediatrics. The researchers also found that young people who keep such devices in their rooms “are 50 percent more likely to get poor sleep and 200 percent more likely to be excessively sleepy during the day.”


Reuters (10/31, Doyle) reports researchers reviewed 20 previous studies and found that “kids using portable media devices around bedtime were more than twice as likely as kids who didn’t use them to have short sleep times, but so were kids who had access to such devices at night but didn’t use them.” Medical Daily (10/31, Cara) reports the studies reviewed “involved more than 120,000 children from the ages of 6 to 19.”

Consumers Brace For Rate Hikes As ACA Open Enrollment Begins

USA Today (10/31, O'Donnell, Rudavsky) reports that there is “angst” among ACA supporters and consumers as open enrollment begins Tuesday on the law’s exchanges. In some parts of the country, consumers “are bracing for huge rate hikes, while many others are preparing to change insurers and likely doctors.” This, “as enrollment needs a big boost, especially of younger, healthier people to help offset insurers’ costs of covering the sicker people who have signed up so far.”

Most Arizona counties have only one insurer selling ACA plans The Wall Street Journal (10/31, A1, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports that as open enrollment begins, most counties in Arizona will have only one insurer selling plans on the exchange and premiums for some plans will be more than double. According to the Journal, the situation in Arizona shows problems with both the design and implementation of the law, which opponents have cited to make the case for changes including expanding health savings accounts and permitting insurers to sell coverage across state lines.


Connecticut residents to begin shopping through state’s exchange The Hartford (CT) Business Journal (10/31, Daddona) reports that Connecticut residents can begin shopping for healthcare coverage through the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange, called Access Health CT, on Nov. 1. The article says following “uncertainty regarding ConnectiCare’s participation in the state exchange, the Farmington insurer said in mid-September it would stay in the program.” It and Anthem are the only two insurers in the network this year.


Northwest Indiana ACA premiums to increase 17.7% for 2017 The Times of Northwest Indiana (10/31, Bruce) reports that for the most part, “Northwest Indiana residents shopping on the Obamacare marketplace will encounter fewer, more expensive options when open enrollment for 2017 begins Tuesday.” Data for several counties show that “a 27-year-old making $30,000 a year will pay an average monthly premium of $263 for a bronze plan, $262 for a silver plan and $361 for a gold plan in 2017, compared to $209, $242 and $303, respectively, in 2016,” which “means the average premium increase in Northwest Indiana is 17.7 percent.”


Kentuckians to begin using The AP (10/31, Beam) reports that “Kentuckians shopping for health insurance on the federal government’s exchange should expect higher prices and fewer choices during the open enrollment period” which begins on Nov. 1. The article points out that starting in 2013, Kentucky had its own Affordable Care Act exchange called kynect, which “was widely praised for avoiding many of the technical problems associated with the federal exchange.” But Gov. Matt Bevin (R) ended kynect soon after taking office. As of Tuesday, Kentuckians will begin using


Missourians facing higher premiums The Kansas City (MO) Star (10/31, Stafford) reports that the next open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act starts on Nov. 1, and some Missourians expect their premiums to double. Most users will be able to benefit from higher Federal subsidies to offset these increases, but others, who earn too much, will face the full brunt of the premium hikes.


Pennsylvanians facing higher premiums, fewer options The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/31, Sapatkin) reports that Pennsylvanians who purchase healthcare coverage through the state’s Affordable Care Act will be facing higher premiums and fewer options when the next enrollment period starts on Nov. 1. While many of them will obtain relief from rising premiums thanks to Federal subsidies, some with high incomes will not qualify for the assistance, and must face the prospect of significantly higher healthcare costs in 2017. Data from Avalere Health indicate that for the Southeastern Pennsylvania region, “the average Obamacare premium for a 50-year-old nonsmoker buying the most common benchmark plan is rising more than 50 percent.”


Texans to see fewer choices The Dallas Morning News (10/31, Rice) reports that Texans who use the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange may have to shop around more this year because they will have fewer ACA options, given that several insurers have exited the marketplace. Data show that for Dallas and Collin counties, there will be “a total of 32 on-exchange offerings from three different health insurance companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Molina, and Ambetter (of the Celtic Insurance Company).” The San Antonio Express-News (10/31, Martin) also covers the story.


Wisconsin residents see significant rise in premiums The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (10/31, Boulton) reports that Wisconsin residents who purchase Affordable Care Act plans through the state’s exchange are facing significant premium increases for 2017. When the next ACA open enrollment period starts on Nov. 1, most consumers’ premiums will remain largely unchanged. Yet, for the thousands who do not qualify for Federal subsides, the rates will rise markedly.

Analysis Reveals Significant Differences Between ACA Plans And Non-Exchange Offerings

Kaiser Health News (10/28, Andrews) reports on the differences between individual plans sold on Affordable Care Act exchanges, and those sold off the exchanges. An analysis conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that on the exchanges, “silver plans, which pay for 70 percent of covered expenses on average, are by far the most popular, comprising about two-thirds of all plans,” followed by bronze plans at 16 percent, and gold and platinum plans at 12 percent. In contrast, just one-third of non-exchange plans are silver. An additional one-third “are bronze offerings that pay for 60 percent of expenses on average, while 25 percent are gold plans that pay for 80 percent of expenses or platinum plans that cover 90 percent.” Data also show exchange premiums for silver plans were lower at $279 per month on average compared to $314. Meanwhile, deductibles for silver plans offered on exchanges averaged $2,053, compared to $3,273 for off-exchange plans.

Millions Choosing To Pay ACA Penalty Rather Than Enroll In Health Care Plans

In a front-page story, the New York Times (10/26, A1, Pear, Subscription Publication) reports that the creators of the Affordable Care Act believed “they had a blunt instrument to force people – even young and healthy ones – to buy insurance through the law’s online marketplaces: a tax penalty for those who remain uninsured.” That, however, has not proven to be the case. The full penalty will not take effect until April of 2017, and even then, it may not compel millions of consumers to enroll in health care plans, because the penalty could be cheaper than high premiums and large deductibles

Analysis Indicates Deductibles For Lowest-Priced ACA Plans Exceed $6,000

On its website, CNBC (10/26, Mangan) reports that according to an analysis conducted by HealthPocket, individual deductibles for the lowest-priced Affordable Care Act “plans will average more than $6,000 in 2017, the first time that threshold has been cracked in the three years” since ACA marketplaces were established. Deductibles for families are expected to average $12,393. The analysis also revealed that “average premiums, or monthly payments, for bronze plans nationwide will increase 21 percent next year for people who earn too much to qualify for Obamacare subsidies.” The article points out that HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell explained that “72 percent of customers of the federal Obamacare marketplace will be able to find an insurance plan that will cost them $75 or less in monthly premiums after subsidies are factored in.”


Burwell says most consumers who buy ACA plans will qualify for subsidies

On its website, NBC News (10/26, Bailey) reports that on Wednesday, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell “defended the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, during a conversation with Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. at Georgetown University.” She said despite rising ACA premiums, 85 percent of consumers who purchase healthcare coverage through the exchanges will qualify for Federal subsidies to offset higher costs. Burwell is quoted as saying, “Whenever we have had major legislation in the United States, you learn and you iterate. ... That’s an activity that’s done with both the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch working together and that’s what I think we’re hopeful will happen.”

Data Indicate 960 Counties Will Have Just One ACA Option For 2017

Vox (10/26, Kliff) reports that Affordable Care Act “marketplaces aren’t just struggling with higher premiums – they’ll also have significantly less competition next year,” because the number of counties with only one insurer offering plans increased from 182 in 2016 to 960 in 2017. The piece says this is cause for concern because consumers “have less choice when they live in one of the 960 counties that have only one insurance plan.”

Skin Patch With Dose Of Peanut Protein May Reduce Peanut Allergies In Younger Children, Study Suggests

U.S. News & World Report (10/26, Oliver) reports researchers have found that treating younger children with a skin patch that contains a dose of peanut protein for a year can reduce peanut allergies, according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The study is based on the one-year results of an ongoing trial testing the skin patches, which is being funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).


Today Show Online (10/26, Fox) reports the researchers found that about half the children who tested the patches for a year were able to consume more peanuts than they could before the trial began, while only 12 percent of children who tested placebo patches could. The researchers also found that the patches only seemed to help children who were younger than 11 years old.

Common Household Chemicals May Alter Hormones, Contribute To T2D, Study Indicates

TIME (10/26, Worland) reports, “Common household chemicals found in a wide range of products from carpets to cleaning products can alter hormones and contribute to type 2 diabetes [T2D] – likely costing Europeans billions of dollars annually,” researchers found after examining “data from seniors in the Swedish city of Uppsala on how exposure to chemicals known to disrupt the endocrine system, like phthalates, PCBs, pesticides and perfluoroalkyls, contributes to obesity and diabetes.” After using these data “to study the effects of chemical exposure on Europeans more broadly,” the study authors concluded that “a 25% reduction in exposure to the chemicals studied would result in a 13% drop in cases of diabetes among seniors.” The findingswere published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

FDA adds warning of abuse potential for testosterone medications

Reuters (10/25, Clarke) reports that the Food and Drug Administration has added a new warning to the labels of drugs used to treat low testosterone. According to the FDA, the new warning “will alert prescribers to the abuse potential of testosterone and the serious adverse outcomes, especially those related to heart and mental health.” The move “is the latest in a series of actions the agency has taken to try to curb prescriptions of a product whose use has soared over the past decade, especially among middle-aged men.”


NBC News (10/25, Fox) reports that the FDA warned, “Reported serious adverse outcomes include heart attack, heart failure, stroke, depression, hostility, aggression, liver toxicity and male infertility. Individuals abusing high doses of testosterone have also reported withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, decreased libido and insomnia.”

Brain may become desensitized to dishonesty, study suggests

The New York Times (10/25, A21, Goode, Subscription Publication) reports that research suggests individuals “who tell small, self-serving lies are likely to progress to bigger falsehoods, and over time, the brain appears to adapt to the dishonesty.” This “finding, the researchers said, provides evidence for the ‘slippery slope’ sometimes described by wayward politicians, corrupt financiers, unfaithful spouses and others in explaining their misconduct.”

Incorrect antibiotic prescribed about half the time, study suggests

NBC News (10/24, Fox) reports that a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that patients “with sore throats, ear infections and sinus infections get the wrong antibiotic at least half the time.” The researchers said that “when people get the wrong antibiotic, not only are they often not cured, but it can help drug-resistant ‘superbugs’ evolve.” They speculate that “patients ask for easy-to-remember names such as ‘Z-Pack’ and the study found that azithromycin, the Zithromax drug that gives Z-Packs the name, is among the most commonly misused drugs.”

The AP (10/24, Borenstein) reports that researchers “put 80 people in scenarios where they could repeatedly lie and get paid more based on the magnitude of their lies.” According to the AP, “They said they were the first to demonstrate empirically that people’s lies grow bolder the more they” lie. The investigators “then used brain scans to show that our mind’s emotional hot spot – the amygdala – becomes desensitized or used to the growing dishonesty.” The findings were published online in Nature Neuroscience.


TIME (10/24, Park) reports that the investigators “were even able to map out how each lie led to less amygdala activation and found that the decrease could predict how much the person’s dishonesty would escalate in the next trial.”

Rising ocean temperatures may increase cases of flesh-eating bacteria, study suggests

The Washington Post (10/23, Wootson) reports that a recent study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that “rising ocean temperatures” are “strongly associated” with the spread of the “flesh-eating bacteria” that cause vibriosis, an infection that commonly causes diarrhea and vomiting, but in some cases can be fatal. The article highlights a recent case in which a man visiting Ocean City, Maryland died from the infection, which his wife described as “like something out of a horror movie.” The article notes that about 80,000 people are infected “with some form of vibriosis” each year, most commonly from consuming raw or undercooked shellfish, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Secondhand smoke sufferers at higher risk of stroke, study suggests

Reuters (10/21) reported a study published in the journal Stroke suggests that victims of secondhand smoke are also at an increased risk of a stroke, as “never-smokers who had a stroke were nearly 50 percent more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke at home than people who had never had a stroke.” Lead author Michelle Lin, MD, said, “Second-hand smoke is a risk to all people, but those with a history of stroke should take extra care to avoid it. ... While cigarette smoking has long been known to increase the risk of stroke, less is known about the relationship between secondhand smoke and stroke.”


Some NSAIDs found to have greater association with risk of heart failure

Reuters (10/20, Rapaport) reports, on a study published in the British Medical Journal finding that some commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are associated with higher risks of heart failure. The study found those who used NSAIDs had a 19 percent higher risk of hospital admission for heart failure. The study further found that the rate was much higher for ketorolac (83 percent), than for naproxen (16 percent), and some such as celecoxib were associated with little or no increased risk. In an accompanying editorial, Gunnar H. Gislason, MD, chief scientific officer of the Danish Heart Foundation, wrote, “There is difference between the NSAIDs in risk of heart failure and higher dosages are associated with increased risk.” He concludes that the study shows “the elderly and patients with any heart condition should avoid NSAIDs.” The study was based on data covering 92,000 people admitted to hospitals in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and the U.K. from 1999 to 2010.


New Medicaid recipients are not using primary care physicians-still using the ED, study indicates

According to the Washington Post (10/19, Johnson) “Wonkblog,” a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that consumers who recently gained health care coverage through Medicaid “visited the emergency” department “about 65 percent more often than individuals who did not gain Medicaid in the first six months – and the trend continued out to two years.” Data show Medicaid recipients “were more likely to both see a physician at a regular office visit and also go to the” ED, “casting doubt on the idea that people were using health coverage to shift their health care to a primary care” physician.

CDC reports common STDs have reached an “all-time high”

USA Today (10/19, May) reports the rates of the most commonly reported STDs in the US “reached an all-time high in 2015, according to the annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report” from the CDC. The report found that between 2014 and 2015, cases of syphilis increased 19%, cases of gonorrhea increased 12.8%, and cases of chlamydia increased 5.9%.


STAT (10/19, Branswell) points out that the gonorrhea rate was at a historic low in 2009 and the syphilis rate was at an all-time low in 2000 and 2001.

Babies born less than two years after their mothers undergo bariatric surgery may face higher risk of serious complications, study finds

Reuters (10/19, Rapaport) reports, “Babies born less than two years after their mothers have weight loss surgery may face a higher risk of serious complications than infants delivered after more time has passed,” researchers found. In women who “had bariatric surgery, babies born less than two years afterwards were around 50 percent more likely to be premature, unusually small or spend time in the NICU than infants born at least four years later,” the study found.


HealthDay (10/19, Preidt) reports investigators arrived at these conclusions after tracking “outcomes for infants born to more than 1,800 mothers,” all of whom had “undergone weight-loss surgery less than two years or more than four years before they gave birth,” then comparing those data “to outcomes for infants born to more than 8,400 mothers who did not have weight-loss surgery.” The findings were published online in JAMA Surgery.

ACA marketplace to offer standardized no-deductible basic services plans

The New York Times (10/17, Pear, Subscription Publication) reports that in an effort to address consumer complaints that they were “getting little benefit beyond coverage for catastrophic problems” from high-deductible plans on the ACA marketplace, when the marketplace opens for the fourth open-enrollment period in two weeks, “many consumers” will have the option of “standardized health plans that cover basic services without a deductible.” The Times points out, however, that the new plans “could still be costly,” because although the government “specifies deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket costs for the standardized options, it does not limit premiums, which in most cases are still regulated by state insurance commissioners.”

Consumers with ACA plans increasingly forced to switch

Kaiser Health News (10/17, Rau) reports that switching physicians and hospitals “has become a recurring scramble as consumers on the individual market find it difficult or impossible to stay on their same plans amid rising premiums and a revolving door of carriers willing to sell policies.” The issue, which existed even before the Affordable Care Act was passed, “is intensifying in the fourth year” of the healthcare law’s marketplaces for those who purchase individual plans. Data show that 43 percent of returning consumers to “switched policies last year.” Some switched because their insurers were no longer offering plans, while others left to seek better premiums.

Children, mostly boys, killed by self-inflicted accidental shootings by family guns every other day

The AP (10/14, Foley, Fenn, Penzenstadler) reported an analysis it conducted jointly with the USA TODAY Network found that “during the first six months of this year, minors died from accidental a pace of one every other day, far more than limited federal statistics indicate.” The AP discovered “states in the South are among those with the highest per capita rates of accidental shootings involving minors.” The AP also explained that “the vast majority of shooters and victims are boys.”

Obesity, diabetes may be linked to higher risk of liver cancer, study finds

The New York Times (10/14, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports a study in the journal Cancer Research revealed that “body mass index, waist circumference and diabetes are all associated with an increased risk for liver cancer.” Researchers “pooled data from 14 prospective studies with more than 1.5 million participants” and found that “being overweight increased the relative risk for liver cancer by between 21 percent and 142 percent as B.M.I. increased.”

ADT for prostate cancer linked to higher dementia risk, study suggests

The New York Times (10/13, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports that “reducing testosterone levels with androgen deprivation therapy, or A.D.T., is a common treatment for prostate cancer,” but research published online in JAMA Oncology “has found that it more than doubles the risk of dementia.”


STAT (10/13, Love) reports that investigators “looked at medical records from the Stanford University Health System from 1994 to 2013.” They found “9,272 men...with prostate cancer diagnoses, 1,826” of whom “were receiving ADT.” The researchers “excluded men with previous dementia diagnoses, and only included those who had records available for follow-up visits.”


The AP (10/13, Tanner) reports that the researchers found, “after five years of follow-up,” that approximately “8 percent of men on hormone blockers were diagnosed with dementia versus almost 4 percent of nonusers.”

FDA warns homeopathic teething products may have killed 10 children

Bloomberg News (10/12, Cortez) reports that the Food and Drug Administration warns that “more than 400 teething babies given homeopathic remedies to help ease gum pain developed serious health problems over the past six years, including seizures, shortness of breath, vomiting and constipation.” At least 10 children died over the same time period. The agency’s investigation isn’t complete and it “hasn’t conclusively determined that homeopathic products were directly responsible for the deaths.”

Regular-fat cheese may be as healthy a choice as low-fat cheese, study suggests

The New York Times (10/12, Bakalar, Subscription Publication) reports, “Regular-fat cheese may be as healthy a choice as the low-fat version,” researchers found in a 12-week, 139-participant study “paid for by dairy industry organizations in Denmark and other countries.” Compared with people who ate low-fat cheese, individuals who ate regular-fat cheese experienced “no difference in LDL” cholesterol “levels, triglycerides, insulin, fasting glucose or any of seven other measures of blood chemistry.” The findingswere published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


Post-menopausal women on Calcium supplements take note: Calcium supplements may be linked to higher risk for heart disease, study suggests

NBC Nightly News (10/11, story 7, 2:00, Holt) reported, “A new study has found that taking” calcium “supplements may raise the risk of heart disease.”


The Today Show Online (10/11, Fox) reports that the study indicated that individuals “who took calcium pills were about 22 percent more likely to develop dangerous buildups called plaque in their arteries than people who did not take them.” However, individuals “who...ate a lot of calcium in food seemed to be protected.” The research was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Inpatient risk for C. difficile may rise if prior bed occupant received antibiotics, study finds

Reuters (10/10, Doyle) reports, “If the previous occupant of a hospital bed received antibiotics, the next patient who uses that bed may be at higher risk for a severe form” of Clostridium difficile, researchers concluded after studying “more than 100,000 pairs of patients who sequentially occupied a given hospital bed in four institutions between 2010 and 2015.” Excluded from the study were patients who had had “recent C. diff infection or whose prior bed occupant was in the bed for less than 24 hours.”


MedPage Today (10/10, Basen) points out the study was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Physical exertion, anger may trigger heart attack, research suggests

The AP (10/10, Marchione) reports that research published in Circulation links “heavy exertion while stressed or mad to a tripled risk of having a heart attack within an hour.” The study included “12,461 people suffering a first heart attack.” Participants “answered a survey about whether they were angry or upset, or had heavy exertion, in the hour before their heart attack or during the same time period the previous day.”


Reuters (10/10, Doyle) reports that nearly “14 percent said they had been engaged in heavy physical exertion and 14 percent said they were angry or emotionally upset in the hour leading up to the heart attack.” The study found that “being angry or physically strained roughly doubled the heart attack risk.” The study indicated that “if the two factors were combined, heart attack was about three times as likely.”

Certain blood pressure medications may increase risk for severe mood disorder episodes, study suggests

Reuters (10/10, Seaman) reports that research suggest “common blood pressure medications may increase the risk for severe mood disorder episodes.” Investigators found that individuals “taking...beta-blockers and calcium antagonists for more than 90 days were twice as likely to be hospitalized for a mood disorder such as major depression or bipolar disease, compared to people treating their” hypertension with “angiotensin antagonists.” The findings, which included “144,066 patients ages 40 to 80,” were published online in Hypertension.

Research suggests there may be a limit to human life span

The AP (10/5, Chang) reports that research published in Nature “suggests there may be a limit to our life span – one that’s hard to extend without some sort of breakthrough that fixes all age-related problems.” Investigators “calculated the odds of someone reaching 125 years in a given year are less than 1 in 10,000.” The researchers note that the maximum human life span is more likely at 115 years.


The New York Times (10/6, A13, Zimmer, Subscription Publication) points out that “starting in the late 19th century, average life expectancy started to rise because fewer children were dying.” Meanwhile, “in recent decades, adults have also enjoyed better health.”


On its website, NBC News (10/5, Fox) reports that the researchers wrote, “We show that improvements in survival with age tend to decline after age 100, and that the age at death of the world’s oldest person has not increased since the 1990s.” They added, “Our results strongly suggest that the maximum lifespan of humans is fixed and subject to natural constraints.”


CBS News (10/5, Welch) reports on its website that although senior author Jan Vijg, PhD, “expects medical advancements to continue to keep more people healthier for a longer amount of time – thus increasing average life expectancy – he believes those advancements will not increase the maximum age of the longest-lived people.”

Brain-training games will not help people stave off age-related memory problems, review suggests

On its “Morning Edition” program and in its “Shots” blog, NPR(10/3, Hamilton) reports that brain-training games will not help people become free of age-related memory problems, researchers concluded after reviewing “more than 130 studies of brain games and other forms of cognitive training.” The findingsof their review were published in the October issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

The Affordable Care Act may have to change to survive

The New York Times (10/2, A1, Pear, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that while the Affordable Care Act “was supposed to put an end” to the fight for a healthcare system that insures all Americans, “the law’s troubles could make it just a way station on the road to another, more stable health care system.” According to the Times, the healthcare proposals of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump show the ACA “will almost certainly have to change to survive.” The Times says Clinton is joining President Obama and much of her party by “calling for more government, not less.” Meanwhile, the Times adds that Trump and congressional Republicans “would go in the direction of less government” by “reducing federal regulation and requirements so insurance would cost less and no-frills options could proliferate.” Both parties agree that for many, the health plans in the individual marketplace are “still too expensive and inaccessible.”

Some cities changing their streetlights following AMA policy statement

CNN (9/29, Middlebrook) reports that “in response to recent guidance by the American Medical Association against the use of powerful LED lights, cities such as Phoenix; Lake Worth, Florida; and 25 towns in Connecticut are now opting for street lamps with lower color temperatures, meaning less blue light emission.” The AMA’s “policy statement, released in June, suggested that LED lights with color temperatures higher than 3000 Kelvin had adverse effects on health, including eye damage and disrupted sleep patterns.” Its “warning was aimed at large cities, where the standard color temperature for LED street lights is 5000K to 6000K.”


NSAIDs may increase risk of heart failure, study indicates

TIME (9/28, Park) reports research published in BMJ indicated that the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may have some “serious side effects, including increased risk of heart events.” TIME reports COX-2 inhibitors “seemed especially risky for the heart, leading to the withdrawal from the market of one medication and a Food and Drug Administration warning on others.” Researchers looked at “27 different types of NSAIDs, including four selective COX-2 inhibitors.” Seven medications “in particular seemed to be linked to more heart problems: ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, indomethacin, ketorolac, nimesulide and piroxicam.” Two COX-2 inhibitors, “etoricoxib and rofecoxib, were also linked to higher risk.”

Roller coasters may help people pass kidney stones, study suggests

The Los Angeles Times (9/26, Healy) reports that research suggests “riding a medium-intensity roller coaster” may “result in the painless passing of...kidney stones.”


NBC News (9/26, Fox) reports on its website that “to simulate the human body as best they could,” researchers “made an artificial human kidney model out of clear silicone gel and loaded it up with real human kidney stones.” Then, they rode the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Walt Disney World while “holding their kidney contraption between them in a backpack positioned at kidney height.” The researchers “took 20 rides and noted what happened to each kidney stone.”


On its website, CBS News (9/26, Marcus) reports that “independent of kidney stone volume and location, sitting in the back of the roller coaster resulted in a passage rate of almost 64 percent, while sitting in the front seats resulted in a passage rate of almost 17 percent.” The findings were published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

US health care system ill prepared to handle growing number of obese patients

On its front page, the New York Times (9/25, A1, Kolata, Subscription Publication) reports in a 1,900-word story that even though “one in three Americans is obese,” the US “health care system – in its attitudes, equipment and common practices – is ill prepared, and its practitioners are often unwilling, to treat the rising population of fat patients.” For people whose body mass index is “40 or higher,” the “situation is particularly thorny,” especially since such people face serious health issues. Both physicians and patients attribute the situation partly to “a reluctance to look beyond a fat person’s weight.”


MRSA may be spreading to humans through contaminated poultry

The Washington Post (9/21, Sun) reports a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases revealed that a newly identified strain of MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, “may be spreading to humans through contaminated poultry that people handle or eat.” The study suggests that this poultry-associated strain of the “superbug” may be more easily transmitted from food to people. The researchers “were able to trace the bacteria to poultry imported from” various European countries “including France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.”

Babies may be at lower risk for food allergies if given eggs or peanuts earlier, review indicates

The New York Daily News (9/20, Pesce) reports that babies may be at lower risk for food allergies if parents give them “eggs or peanuts” earlier, the findings of a 146-study review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest. In addition, the review “found that there was low-certainty evidence that introducing fish before 6 to 12 months was associated with reduced allergic reactions to seafood.”

TIME (9/20, Oaklander) reports the review’s findings represent “relatively new thinking.” Sixteen years ago, “the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that allergenic foods be kept away from infants until they were at least a year old, and often older.”

LiveScience (9/20, Rettner) points out that in 2015, however, “the American Academy of Pediatrics issued temporary (interim) guidance recommending early introduction of peanuts to kids with a high risk of peanut allergy.” Not very long from now, “the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is expected to release guidelines that may formally recommend early peanut introduction for kids with a high risk of developing allergies to peanuts, according to an editorial (9/20) accompanying the new study.”

Group strengthens warnings against codeine for children due to risk of dangerous side effects

The AP (9/19, Tanner) reports the American Academy of Pediatrics “has strengthened its warnings about prescribing codeine for children because of reports of deaths and risks for dangerous side effects including breathing problems.” The advice, published in the journal Pediatrics, “mirrors warnings from the Food and Drug Administration about using codeine for kids’ coughs or pain.”

GOP senators unveil bill that would exempt some from ACA penalties

Bloomberg News (9/7, Tracer) reports that several GOP lawmakers want the Obama Administration to provide an exemption to Affordable Care Act “penalties for people who don’t have health coverage if they live in places where insurers offer only one, or no, plans.” The “Protection from Obamacare Monopolies Act” was introduced by six GOP senators, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is the lead sponsor.


Babies born via C-section may have higher risk of obesity, study indicates

In “Science Now,” the Los Angeles Times (9/6, Kaplan) reports, “Babies delivered via cesarean section were 15% more likely to be obese as kids, teens and young adults than were babies who made the trip through the birth canal,” researchers found. What’s more, “the risk associated with a C-section was even greater for babies whose mothers had no apparent medical need for the procedure.” When “compared to babies born vaginally, these babies were 30% more likely to be obese between the ages of 9 and 28,” the study revealed.


The Washington Times (9/6, Blake) reports that in arriving at these conclusions, the study authors “took into consideration more than a dozen variables before examining the long-term health data of more than 22,000 individuals.” While not “offering an explanation” for the study’s findings, the scientists “pointed toward the possibility of babies getting essential microorganisms from the birth canal prior to delivery.” The findings were published online in JAMA Pediatrics.


Thyroid problems may be linked to increased risk of sudden cardiac death, research suggests

CNN (9/6, Howard) reports that research published in Circulation suggests thyroid problems may be linked to an increased risk of sudden cardiac death.


HealthDay (9/6, Thompson) reports that investigators “found that people with thyroid hormone levels at the high end of the normal range were 2.5 times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death, compared with people at the lower end of the range.” The data also indicated that “the 10-year risk of sudden cardiac death was four times greater among people with high levels of thyroid hormone – about 4 percent versus 1 percent in people with lower levels.”

iPads as effective as sedative in helping calm kids about to undergo surgery, study indicates

TIME (8/30, Sifferlin) reports a “small new study” indicates “giving children who were about to undergo surgery an iPad was as effective at calming them down than giving them a sedative.” In research presented at the World Congress of Anaesthesiologists, investigators “compared the effect of using an iPad to taking a sedative called midazolam on children’s anxiety before anesthesia and surgery.”

Enrollment in ACA exchanges less than half of original forecasts

The Washington Post (8/27, A1, Johnson) reported on its front page that enrollment in Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges “is at less than half the initial forecast, pushing several major insurance companies to stop offering health plans in certain markets because of significant financial losses.” The Post claimed “a big reason the CBO projections were so far off is that the agency overestimated how many people would lose insurance through their employers, which would force them into the exchanges.”

“Pretend mommy” program may encourage teen pregnancy, study suggests

On its website, ABC News (8/25, Zhang) reports that according to a new Australian study, “school programs that involve the use of ‘baby simulators’ may” be encouraging teens to get pregnant, instead of deterring teen pregnancy, as intended. Researchers discovered “that girls enrolled in schools that employed infant dolls and education sessions that simulate what having a baby might be like, were about 36 percent more likely to have a pregnancy – at least one birth or abortion by age 20 – compared to those in schools that only employed the standard school curriculum.” The research was published in The Lancet.


CBS News (8/25, Brophy) points out that, according to an April report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “birth rates among teens​ in the U.S. have dropped dramatically since 2006.”

Study finds women more likely to be allergic to common medications

The Wall Street Journal (8/22, Lukits, Subscription Publication) reports that a study in the journal Allergy analyzed allergies to drugs in 1.7 million patients treated in two Boston hospitals from 1990 to 2013 and found that women has significantly more allergies than men and that white patients has significantly more allergies than other racial groups. According to lead researcher Li Zhou, MD, it isn’t clear why women develop more allergies than men.

Some small companies restoring group health insurance coverage

The Wall Street Journal (8/21, Simon, Subscription Publication) reported some small companies are reversing their decision to drop group health insurance for their workers, fueled by a tightening in the labor market, increasing costs, and fewer coverage choices for individuals. The change is being spurred the expiration of transitional rules allowing some companies to continue offering existing plans that did not meet requirements of ACA. According to a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, roughly 54 percent of companies with three to 49 workers offered health benefits in 2015, roughly the same as 2014 but down 66 percent from 2000.

Insurers exiting exchanges because of heavy losses on ACA plans

Bloomberg News (8/17, Tracer) reports the four largest health insurers in the US have posted hundreds of millions of dollars in losses on their Affordable Care Act exchange businesses. Data show UnitedHealth is predicting a loss of $850 million this year, while Aetna, Anthem, and Humana are each expected to lose about $300 million. As a result of these losses, the insurers are exiting ACA marketplaces. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times (8/17, Petersen, Sisson) reports Aetna’s decision to pull out of the ACA exchanges in 11 of 15 states where it is currently operating, as with other insurers’ moves out of certain markets, “could make this fall’s enrollment period crucial” to the Affordable Care Act. Experts “disagree on whether the latest pullbacks and price hikes, floating in a sea of election-year politics, signal that the nation’s health insurance exchanges have reached a terrible tipping point — or whether they are simply seeking a new state of equilibrium.” Sarah Collins, the Commonwealth Fund Vice President for Healthcare Coverage and Access, “said she believes the Obamacare markets are maturing rather than dying,” noting that “major carriers including Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente have not pulled out of the Obamacare exchanges.”

People who gain insurance under ACA fill more prescriptions for less, study suggests

The Los Angeles Times (8/17, Levey) reports consumers under the Affordable Care Act “are filling significantly more prescriptions while paying less for their drugs,” according to a new study which surveyed over 1 billion pharmacy transactions from 2013 and 2014. Researchers compared how a sample of nearly 7 million patients paid for drugs before and after the implementation of the ACA. The Times says the study “credits the health law and adds to evidence of its benefits for previously uninsured Americans and those with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure.”


Kaiser Health News (8/17, Luthra) reports one third of those involved in the study did not have coverage prior to the ACA. The gains of the ACA did not appear to be uniform. Lower-income people “were far more likely to benefit” from gaining coverage. Specifically those “who went from being uninsured to enrolling in Medicaid filled 13.3 more prescriptions on average” and “also spent 58 percent less out of pocket for those drugs.” By comparison, those who opted for private insurance, “filled four more prescriptions on average and spent 29 percent less out of pocket.” The findings were published by Health Affairs.

About 50 children a day end up in hospital EDs due to stroller or baby carrier accidents

The New York Times (8/17, Peachman) “Well” blog reports that research indicates “an average of 50 children a day end up in hospital” emergency departments “because of stroller or baby carrier accidents, and it appears far more of them are suffering brain injuries than previously believed.” Investigators “found that in 1990, fewer than one in five accidents in strollers or baby carriers resulted in traumatic brain injuries or concussions.” However, “by 2010, 42 percent of children in stroller accidents and 53 percent of babies in carrier accidents who were treated in” EDs “were found to have suffered a brain injury or concussion.” The findings were published in Academic Pediatrics.

Aetna to withdraw from 11 ACA exchanges in 2017

Citing huge financial losses, the Wall Street Journal (8/15, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports Aetna announced on Monday that it will pull back from 11 of the 15 states where it currently offers individual insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.


Bloomberg News (8/16, Tracer) adds that while the healthcare law “has brought coverage to millions, the new markets have proven volatile for some of the largest for-profit insurers, and UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc. are also pulling out, after posting hundreds of millions of dollars of their own losses.”

Maternal acetaminophen use in pregnancy may be associated with behavioral problems in offspring

In “Science Now,” the Los Angeles Times (8/15, Healy) reports that a study published online Aug. 15 in JAMA Pediatrics associates acetaminophen with “behavioral problems in children born to mothers who used it during pregnancy.” The findings of the 7,796-mother study revealed that “compared to women who reported no acetaminophen use at 18 weeks of pregnancy, those who took the medication at that point of gestation were 42% more likely to report hyperactivity and 31% more likely to report conduct problems in the children they bore.” Expectant mothers who took the medicine “at 32 weeks of pregnancy were 29% more likely than women who did not to report emotional difficulties in their child at age seven.”

Analysis indicates insurers seeking average hike of 24 percent for ACA plans

Politico (8/15, Diamond) reports that according to independent analyst Charles Gaba, insurers are requesting an average increase of 24 percent for Affordable Care Act plans they offer through states’ exchanges. To date, state regulators have approved increases which average 17 percent. Gaba explained that this figure is based on data from Mississippi, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, so he expects that average to change as more states make decisions.


ObamaCare problems deepen as insurers scramble to stem losses

By Barnini Chakraborty  |
Published August 10, 2016

Six years after ObamaCare was signed into law – and countless assurances later that the law is “working” – America’s major insurance companies are facing mounting losses and threatening to pull out of the exchanges, leaving customers facing higher costs and fewer options.

In the most recent example, Tennessee regulators are bowing to pressure to let insurers refile their 2017 rate requests, which could lead to steep hikes for customers. A state official acknowledged to The Tennessean they are "not alone" in letting companies seek bigger increases -- as some insurers head for the exits.  

Earlier this month, Aetna, once one of ObamaCare’s biggest cheerleaders, slammed the breaks on its expansion plans and became the last of the five major national health insurers to project significant losses tied to the Affordable Care Act.

CEO Mark Bertolini blamed “structural challenges” associated with the health care overhaul and said Aetna intends to withdraw all its “2017 public exchange expansion plans” and undergo “a complete evaluation of future participation in our current 15-state footprint.”

When the health insurance exchanges were first rolled out, the Obama administration strongly pushed a win-win narrative – marketplaces would thrive and Americans who had been unable to afford medical coverage in the past would finally be able to do so.

By January 2016, more than 11.3 million Americans had signed up for ObamaCare. By March, that number had jumped to 20.3 million.

While clear evidence that the law was expanding coverage, the soaring enrollment numbers have created a fiscal nightmare for insurers which, in turn, has serious consequences for customers.

A majority of new enrollees are considered high risk, meaning insurers will have to spend more money on people in poor health and requiring expensive  care.

One by one, the nation’s top insurers – Humana, UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross and Anthem – have shifted their tone on the law.

Once optimistic, each has reported struggles with plans sold on the exchanges. Many say they weren’t ready for the influx of customers that have generated more claims than predicted.

As a result, companies are scrambling to find ways to cut their losses and stop the fiscal bleeding. A few say they’ll be forced to pass on costs to customers.

Already, rates on the exchanges are skyrocketing. From 2013 to 2016, almost every state has seen an increase in monthly premiums. In Michigan they are expected to jump 17.3 percent this year. In Virginia, the average premium increase could hit 37.1 percent, Bryan Rotella, attorney and founder of the Rotella Legal Group, warns.

“In fact, two of three federal programs to manage this exact risk are due to expire in 2017,” Rotella wrote in an opinion piece for The Hill. “Without these programs to fall back on, many insurance companies likely will need to jack up their premiums even higher or bail out of the exchanges all together.”

Blue Cross reported losing hundreds of millions of dollars on its exchange plans across the country. In Tennessee, it took a $300 million hit; in North Carolina, $280 million and in Arizona, $135 million.

In California, the company is expected to raise rates 19.9 percent – more than triple the average annual increase.

Others like Humana are threatening to quit altogether.

Humana said it will stop marketing its exchange plans, and will only offer individual plans in 156 counties across 11 states -- a decline from the 1,351 counties across 19 states it currently serves.

“We see Humana following a similar path as UnitedHealth in 2017 and expect the company will significantly reduce its overall exposure to the struggling public exchange marketplace,” Scott Fidel, a Credit Suisse Group AG analyst, said.

A February Fitch report said the primary drivers of declining earnings were “cost and utilization trends from the state insurance exchanges.”

In its second-quarter earnings report released Aug. 2, Aetna projects it will lose more than $300 million this year on its plans. As a result, its chief told investors on a conference call that the company will take a long hard look at what can be done to reverse the damage.

In a bid to boost profits that could also affect the options available in the exchanges, Aetna and Humana – and Anthem and Cigna – are trying to merge, decisions under review by state and federal regulators.

UnitedHealth, the country’s largest health insurer, said despite reporting a profit surge in its last quarter, it took a financial hit tied to its ObamaCare coverage.

In 2015, UnitedHealth lost $450 million with ACA plans. The company said it now expects to lose $850 million this year and will scale back its involvement with ACA in 2017. The company, which sold plans in 34 states this year, will only offer policies in three next year – New York, Virginia and Nevada.

The outlook is just as bleak for co-ops set up under ObamaCare to keep insurers competitive.

To date, 70 percent of the original co-ops have folded due to financial strains, with only seven of the original 23 operational.

“The only remaining question is when will all the co-ops collapse, not if,” Josh Archambault, senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, told “Some might take slightly longer than others, but the future looks bleak, even after billions of federal taxpayer dollars were spent to get them off the ground and keep them afloat.”

The problems and possible fixes for ObamaCare are playing a significant a role in this year’s presidential race, too.

Republican nominee Donald Trump claims ObamaCare has cost the country millions of jobs.

“One of my first acts as president will be to repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare, saving another two million jobs,” Trump said during a speech at the Detroit Economic Club.

However, a May study by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that Trump’s plans for ObamaCare would cost the country $550 billion and result in more than 20 million people losing their health care coverage.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has defended the Affordable Care Act on the campaign trail and says if elected, she’ll go after companies who she claims are “gouging American consumers and patients.”

Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Elderly patients may leave hospital more disabled than before they arrived

Kaiser Health News (8/9, Gorman) reports that research indicates one third of adults over 70 who go to the hospital return from their visit more disabled than before the arrival. For adults over 85 years of age, the risk of increased disability following a hospitalization is more than 50 percent. Ken Covinsky, MD, of UC San Francisco explains, “The older you are, the worse the hospital is for you. A lot of the stuff we do in medicine does more harm than good. And sometimes with the care of older people, less is more.” The piece highlights an innovative approach to the problem, in which elderly patients are treated in a special ward called “Acute Care for Elders (ACE)” and get accommodations appropriate for their age and unique needs.

Widespread market exists for used CPAP devices online, study reveals

Reuters (8/8, Doyle) reports there is a widespread online market for unauthorized sales of used “continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices,” according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The researchers speculate that the market arises from people who no longer need or use their CPAP devices selling them to people who need one, but cannot afford or do not wish to pay the full cost of obtaining one because they lack adequate insurance coverage.

Some insurers demanding changes before they return to ACA exchanges

Modern Healthcare (8/6, Herman, Subscription Publication) reported that many insurers which sell health coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges are announcing plans to leave. They say if the government wants them to alter their plans, it must make some changes. Some experts predict “the Obama administration will alter the still-nascent exchanges to make them more financially palatable for insurers.”

Marriage alters alcohol consumption habits, study suggests

The Washington Post (8/3, Guo) reports in “Wonkblog” that a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that “getting married causes both men and women to drink less often compared to being single” and “also causes both men and women to cut down on the number of drinks they have in a single sitting — men in particular.” In addition, “getting a divorce doesn’t seem to make people drink more often, but both men and women have more drinks in each sitting.” Researchers evaluated “nearly 2,500 pairs of male and female twins from the state of Washington, who answered questions how often and how much they usually drink.”

Immunotherapy has “brought new optimism” to oncologists

In a 4,750-word front-page special report, the New York Times (7/30, A1, Grady, Subscription Publication) reports immunotherapy, the process of “harnessing the immune system to fight cancer, [which had] long [been] a medical dream, is becoming a reality.” The Times states that the “explosion of interest and billions of dollars of investments in the rapidly growing field” has “brought new optimism to cancer” physicians – “a sense that they have begun tapping into a force of nature, the medical equivalent of splitting the atom.” The Times cautioned, however, that “a troubling fact remains: Patients do not have equal access to the new treatments, which can be prohibitively expensive.”

Flu vaccine may confer reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in people with T2D, study indicatesThe New York Times (7/27, Bakalar)

“Well” blog reports that individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D) “may get an added benefit from the flu vaccine: a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease,” research published July 26 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests. After following some 124,503 patients with T2D for seven years, then controlling for confounding factors, researchers found that individuals with T2D “who had gotten the flu vaccine had a 30 percent lower risk of stroke, a 22 percent lower risk of heart failure and a 24 percent lower risk of dying from all causes. They also had a slightly lower, but statistically insignificant, risk for heart attack.”

Healthy lifestyle best Alzheimer’s defense, studies show

USA Today (7/27, Weintraub) reports several new studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto confirmed that “living a healthy, non-smoking, socially active and interesting life remains the best way to prevent dementia.” Moreover, research shows there are currently no “medications that can prevent the fatal disease, or extend the lives of the more than 5 million Americans currently suffering from Alzheimer’s.” However, the piece notes that “one class of drugs, cholinesterase inhibitors such as the drug Aricept, can delay or reduce symptoms in some people.”

USPSTF: Not enough evidence to recommend total-body screenings for skin cancer

The New York Times (7/26, St. Fleur, Subscription Publication) reports that yesterday, ?the US Preventive Services Task Force [USPSTF] said...that there still isn?t enough evidence to recommend total-body screenings? for skin cancer ?and declined to take a position on the practice.? The USPSTF ?said that it could not determine ? after reviewing thousands of research papers and studies from around the world ? whether the benefits of screening outweighed the potential for harm if unnecessary or excessive procedures were performed.?

Modern Healthcare (7/26, Johnson, Subscription Publication) reports that ?the guidelines uphold 2009 recommendations that found there was not enough evidence to assess the benefits or harms in conducting visual examinations to screen for skin cancer in patients at moderate risk.? However, ?the report found there was little evidence to support the idea that routine screenings were harmful, such as an increase in the occurrence of misdiagnosis or overdiagnosis and overtreatment.?

The Washington Post (7/26, McGinley) reports that the statement, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, ?drew immediate pushback, with some physicians saying the outcome might encourage people to skip the awkward ritual of stripping down for an examination by their? physician ?for melanoma and other skin cancers.?

Medicare allowing insurers to switch seniors to Advantage plans with little notice

Kaiser Health News (7/26, Jaffe) reports that Medicare is allowing health insurers to enroll members of their marketplace or other commercial plans into their Medicare Advantage programs when those individuals become eligible for Medicare. The practice is known as a ?seamless conversion,? and it ?requires the insurer to send a letter explaining the new coverage, which takes effect unless the member opts out within 60 days.? As a result, some beneficiaries are finding themselves in Medicare Advantage plans even though they signed up for traditional Medicare. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) says there should be stronger protections for seniors. She stated, ?I am exploring the option of requiring an ?opt-in? so that Medicare beneficiaries are adequately informed and able to make the choices that work best for them.?

State-run ACA exchanges facing financial challenges as Federal funds are depleted

Congressional Quarterly (7/25, Mershon, Subscription Publication) reports Affordable Care Act exchanges run by states ?survived start-up problems with botched technology and political threats but continue to grapple with a fundamental challenge: financial sustainability.? The article says now that the $5 billion provided by the Federal government is almost depleted, the 13 states which administer their own exchanges are having a tough time ?raising enough money, through user fees or state funding, to maintain their operations.? The issues facing these state exchanges will be the focus of discussions this week between Federal and state officials. The piece points out that CMS ?officials who oversee the exchanges hope to ascertain what?s working ? and what?s not ? to ensure the exchanges are equipped for the upcoming fourth open enrollment period, according to state officials.?

Smoking may be linked to increased risk for brain bleeds

TIME (7/21, Park) reports that research suggests ?€?smoking, even socially, is linked to an increased risk of brain bleeding.?€? The findings were published in Stroke.


Fox News (7/21) reports that ?€?overall...female smokers were more likely to develop brain bleeds than non-smokers, regardless of how much they smoked.?€? But, women who smoked ?€?heavily?€? were ?€?more than eight times more likely to develop a hemorrhage than non-smokers.?€? Meanwhile, ?€?men who smoked heavily were only a little under three times more likely to have a brain bleed than non-smokers.?€?


HealthDay (7/21, Reinberg) reports, however, that ?€?those who quit smoking significantly reduced their odds of having a subarachnoid hemorrhage.?€? Investigators found that ?€?after six months without smoking, their risk fell to the level of nonsmokers.?€?

DOJ preparing lawsuits to block two health insurance mergers, source says

The New York Times (7/19, Picker, Abelson, Subscription Publication) reports an anonymous source said the DOJ is preparing lawsuits to block Aetna?€™s $37 billion purchase of Humana and Anthem?€™s $48 billion acquisition of Cigna ?€?continuing a spate of antitrust actions in a whirlwind year for mergers and acquisitions.?€? Regulators are concerned over the possibility of higher prices resulting from health insurance industry consolidation. There has been ?€?a whirlwind of merger activity?€? recently in healthcare, with both hospitals and health plans seeking to become larger. Insurers have sought to grow in an effort ?€?to have greater clout in their negotiations?€? with hospitals, which ?€?have scrambled to combine and to join forces with physician groups.?€? Insurance companies also argue that the Affordable Care Act ?€?created pressure to merge.?€?


The Washington Post (7/19, Johnson) reports the insurance companies argue their mergers would create ?€?greater economies of scale and would be able to use their clout to drive better deals with hospitals and physician groups.?€?

Obesity linked to premature death, posing greater risk for men

The AP (7/13, Cheng) reports that ?€?overweight people die one year earlier than expected and that moderately obese people die up to three years prematurely,?€? research suggests. To arrive at this conclusion, investigators ?€?sifted through data for nearly 4 million non-smoking adults in 32 countries published from 1970 to last year,?€? then ?€?compared the risk of death to people?€™s body mass index.?€?


HealthDay (7/13, Reinberg) reports the meta-analysis also found ?€?obesity is nearly three times more deadly for men than it is for women.?€? The study was published online in The Lancet.

Fecal transplants effective against C. difficile infections, study finds

The New York Times (7/15, Zimmer, Subscription Publication) reported that fecal transplants appear to be ?€?remarkably effective?€? against ?€?potentially fatal infections of bacteria known as Clostridium difficile.?€? In a study, investigators ?€?isolated the spores of about 50 different species of bacteria found in stool samples donated by healthy people.?€? Next, researchers put ?€?the spores?€? into capsules, ?€?which they gave to 30 patients with C. difficile infections.?€? Notably, 29 of those 30 patients recovered. While no one knows for sure how fecal transplants work, experts theorize that bacteria from a healthy donor?€™s GI tract may ?€?be able to gobble up nutrients that competing invaders like C. difficile need to survive.?€? The findings were published July 15 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Study reveals link between dehydration and higher BMI

TIME (7/12, Oaklander) reports a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine reveals ?€?a link between dehydration and overweight.?€? After examining recent data from about 9,500 adults enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, investigators found that individuals ?€?who weren?€™t hydrated enough had higher BMIs than those who were.?€?


The Today Show Online (7/11, Holohan) reports that because researchers found no ?€?cause-and-effect connection between hydration and BMI,?€? they still ?€?do not understand if being properly hydrated helps people keep their weight down ?€? or if people with lower BMIs have an easier time being hydrated, for example.?€?

Study suggests pregnant women do not need prenatal multivitamins

STAT (7/11, Samuel) reports on a study published on Monday in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin that suggests prenatal multivitamins do not make a difference in preventing birth complications. The study ?€?found no clear evidence that vitamin C or E supplements helped prevent stillbirth, low birthweight, preterm birth or pre-eclampsia?€? and that vitamin A might be harmful to pregnancy while iron may cause side effects such as constipation. The researchers concluded that prenatal vitamins may be an ?€?unnecessary expense?€? and that ?€?Pregnant women may be vulnerable to messages about giving their baby the best start in life, regardless of cost,?€? despite a lack of ?€?evidence of improvement in child or maternal outcomes.?€?

Head injuries may be linked to higher risk of Parkinson?€™s

TIME (7/11, Park) reports a new study published in JAMA Neurology suggests head injuries may be linked to a higher risk of Parkinson?€™s disease. Study participants who had reported head injuries saw a 3.5 times higher chance of developing symptoms of Parkinson?€™s compared to those who did not report head injuries. The study, however, did not find a correlation between reported head injuries and a higher risk of dementia or Alzheimer?€™s.

Study indicates too much, too little sleep may increase type 2 diabetes risk in men

The New York Times (7/5, Bakalar) reports in its ?€?Well?€? blog that a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that men who get insufficient or too much sleep ?€?may have an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes.?€? For the study, researchers focused on 788 healthy men and women, ?€?measuring their sleep duration using electronic monitors and testing them for markers of diabetes ?€? how well pancreatic cells take up glucose and how sensitive the body?€™s tissues are to insulin.?€? They found that the average sleep time for men and women was about seven hours, and that as men slept longer or less, ?€?their glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity decreased, gradually increasing the deleterious health effects.?€?

US adult transgender population estimated to be 1.4 million

The New York Times (6/30, Hoffman, Subscription Publication) reports an estimated 1.4 million adults in the US identify as transgender, according to analysis of Federal and state data conducted by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. The researchers combined data from the US Census Bureau and the CDC?€™s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to reach their estimate, which is double the Williams Institute?€™s previous estimate of 700,000.


The AP (6/30, Crary) reports that 0.6% of the US adult population identify as transgender, according to the analysis. Demographer Gary Gates says the increase is likely the result of better data and ?€?an improved social climate?€? making it easier for transgender people to be open about their gender identity.


Reuters (6/30, Malo) reports Gates also says that the new estimate may undermine arguments made by lawmakers and others that transgender people do not live in the areas they represent.

Butter consumption may not increase heart risk
TIME (6/29, Sifferlin) reports that butter ?€?is a ?€?middle-of-the-road?€™ food, nutritionally speaking ?€? better than sugar, worse than olive oil ?€? according to a new report, which adds to a growing body of research showing that the low-fat-diet trend was misguided.?€? Investigators analyzed data from nine studies ?€?that included more than 600,000 people.?€?

STAT (6/29, Wessel) reports that the researchers ?€?found that eating butter didn?€™t significantly change people?€™s incidence of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, or stroke.?€? The investigators ?€?did find a small link between butter and overall mortality ?€? each daily tablespoon of butter was linked to a 1 percent increase in mortality risk.?€? However, ?€?the same amount of butter was associated with a 4 percent lower risk of diabetes.?€? The research was published in PLOS ONE.

GOP lawmakers want Administration to reject California?€™s ACA proposal for undocumented immigrants

The AP (6/29) reports GOP congressional lawmakers from California want the Obama Administration ?€?to reject the state?€™s request to sell insurance policies?€? to undocumented immigrants through its Affordable Care Act exchange. Nine members of California?€™s congressional delegation wrote to HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, saying that the state?€™s proposal is ?€?a brazen attempt to circumvent the will of Congress.?€?


The Hill (6/29, Sullivan) reports that the lawmakers, who were led by Rep. Darrell Issa, urged the Administration ?€?to reject a waiver application from California that would allow illegal immigrants to buy coverage through ObamaCare as long as they paid full price and did not receive government subsidies.?€?

FDA approves first hepatitis C drug that treats all six strains

The Wall Street Journal (6/28, Stynes, Rockoff, Subscription Publication) reports that the Food and Drug Administration has approved Gilead Sciences Inc.?€™s Epclusa (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir), the first drug that treats all six strains of hepatitis C. According to Gilead, the drug?€™s list price will be $74,760 for a course of treatments, which is lower than its older hepatitis C treatments.


The AP (6/28, Perrone) reports that Epclusa ?€?cures 95 percent of patients in three months, according to clinical trial data reviewed by the FDA.?€? It is ?€?designed to be used in combination with ribavirin, an older antiviral drug.?€?

Millennials have difficulty affording health insurance, poll finds

CNBC (6/27, Lovelace) reports that a recent Harris Poll found that one in five adults aged 18 to 36 years ?€?said they cannot afford routine health-care expenses,?€? while ?€?an additional 26 percent said they can afford routine health-care costs, but with difficulty.?€? According to the poll, ?€?16 percent of young adults do not plan on having insurance in 2017.?€?

Smoking may harm sperm, research suggests

The New York Times (6/22, Bakalar) ?€?Well?€? blog reports that a study published in BJU International found that the sperm of male smokers was ?€?damaged in ways that could reduce the chance of fertilization and might also lead to health problems in the baby.?€? The researchers found that the ?€?DNA in smokers?€™ sperm was fragmented, probably because of oxidative stress from the cadmium and nicotine in cigarette smoke,?€? which has been associated with increased risk of genetic problems and childhood cancer. They also found nonintact acrosomes and changes in seminal plasma, both of which ?€?might impair fertilization.?€?

Researchers describe two cases of transient smartphone ?€?blindness?€?

The AP (6/22, Cheng) reports that looking at a smartphone ?€?while lying in bed at night could wreak havoc on your vision,?€? the findings of a letter published June 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest. In the letter, physicians describe how ?€?two women went temporarily blind?€? in one eye ?€?from constantly checking their phones in the dark.?€?


The NPR (6/22, Bichell) ?€?Shots?€? blog reports, ?€?Vision loss in one eye can be a sign that a person is having a small stroke?€? or may ?€?also signal a compressed optic nerve.?€? But, ?€?after further investigation, researchers...think the problem is?€? simply a case of ?€?transient smartphone ?€?blindness.?€™?€? The women were looking at their smartphones with ?€?one eye covered because they were lying in bed.?€? That meant the retina in the eye looking at the smartphone ?€?was adapted to light,?€? while the retina in the covered eye had adapted to the dark.


HealthDay (6/22, Thompson) reports that the ?€?optical trick?€? resolves in a few minutes and results in no lasting damage. People who do not know about this effect may mistakenly think they are having a transient ischemic attack and so might their physicians.

Telemedicine kiosks becoming more popular

Kaiser Health News (6/21, Phil Galewitz) highlights the growing use of telemedicine kiosks as a way for patients to receive healthcare. ?€?A growing number of employers?€? now offer insurance coverage for telemedicine services and some have even installed telemedicine kiosks at work places so employees can receive medical advice while still at work. The kiosks are being promoted by companies that make them, including American Well and Computerized Screening Inc., as well as insurers, including Anthem and UnitedHealthcare.

Increasing number of girls beginning puberty as young as age eight

On the front of its Personal Journal section, the Wall Street Journal (6/20, D1, Reddy, Subscription Publication) reports that an increasing number of girls are beginning to undergo puberty at ages as young as eight, while boys appear to be undergoing puberty anywhere from six to 24 months earlier. Obesity may play a role in early puberty. It is not yet clear, however, to what extent exposure to endocrine disruptors found in the environment plays in earlier puberty.

First Zika virus vaccine to begin human clinical trials

The Washington Post (6/20, Cha) reports Inovio Pharmaceuticals and GeneOne Life Sciences announced Monday that they have received Food and Drug Administration approval to begin human clinical trials for a Zika virus vaccine known as GLS-5700. The clinical trial ?€?will include 40 healthy subjects?€? and ?€?is primarily designed to assess the safety of the vaccine but will also measure the immune response generated by the injection.?€?


The AP (6/20, Perrone) reports that the approval ?€?puts the [companies?€™ ahead of researchers at the National Institutes of Health, who have said they expect to begin testing their own DNA-based Zika vaccine by early fall.?€? Officials from Inovio and GeneOne ?€?said they expect results from the vaccine study by the end of 2016.?€?


Experts say they are ?€?only beginning?€? to understand threat Zika poses The AP (6/20, Astor) reports that ?€?experts warn they are only beginning to grasp the damage?€? that the Zika virus ?€?can do.?€? Physicians ?€?speaking at a U.N. meeting on Global Health Crises said Monday that the Zika virus has already affected 60 countries on four continents and a major outbreak on the island nation of Cape Verde suggests the disease is now poised to enter continental Africa.?€?

WHO agency says ?€?very hot?€? beverages may be linked to increased cancer risk

The AP (6/15, Cheng) reports that ?€?experts convened by the World Health Organization?€™s cancer research arm declared?€? yesterday ?€?that there isn?€™t enough proof to show that the brew is linked to cancer.?€? However, ?€?in the same report, they warned that drinking ?€?very hot?€™ beverages of any kind could potentially raise your risk of the disease.?€? The findings were discussed in a letter published in the Lancet Oncology.


The Los Angeles Times (6/15, Healy) reports, ?€?The warning...follows an exhaustive review of studies on coffee, tea and cancer by the WHO?€™s International Agency for Research on Cancer.?€? According to the Times, ?€?A working group of 23 scientists declared that drinking beverages hotter than 149 degrees Fahrenheit is ?€?probably carcinogenic to humans?€™ ?€? a category that also includes red meat, the pesticide DDT and the human papillomavirus.?€?


NBC News (6/15, Fox) reports on its website, ?€?Extremely hot drinks might damage the cells in the esophagus enough to sometimes cause cancer, the group said.?€?

California governor signs bill potentially allowing undocumented immigrants to buy coverage on state?€™s exchange

The Los Angeles Times (6/10, Karlamangla) reported that on Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill which gives California state officials permission ?€?to ask federal officials to allow immigrants here illegally to buy insurance through its state health exchange.?€? According to the Affordable Care Act, undocumented immigrants cannot purchase coverage through the healthcare law?€™s exchanges. State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who sponsored the bill, called this policy ?€?discriminatory and outdated.?€?


Reuters (6/11, O'Brien) reported Lara as saying, ?€?Today we ask the federal government to remove another barrier to health insurance access that discriminates against some of our residents on the basis of their documentation status.?€?


The AP (6/10) reported that although the bill, SB10, would allow undocumented immigrants to purchase coverage through the state?€™s ACA exchange, Covered California, they would not be entitled to government subsidies. Health advocates believe this measure ?€?would make health care simpler and more affordable for families of mixed immigration status.?€?


The Los Angeles Daily News (6/10, Abram) reported that SB10 ?€?allows Covered California to submit a ?€?1332 waiver,?€™ which asks the federal government to allow states to change certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act.?€? It makes California ?€?one of the first states to ask the federal government to waive a major provision under the Affordable Care Act.?€?

Insurers?€™ requests for premium increases creating problems for ACA

The AP (6/1, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports the Affordable Care Act is facing new problems. For instance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, the largest insurer in the state, has requested a premium increase of almost 60 percent, which is an indication that ?€?President Barack Obama?€™s overhaul hasn?€™t solved the problem of price spikes.?€? The insurer, which offers plans in all counties in Texas, ?€?said its request is based on strong financial principles, science and data.?€? The AP points out that many other insurance companies which offer ACA plans in various states are also seeking high rate increases. HHS is cautioning, however, that these requests have not been approved, and that the final increases are likely to be much lower.

CMS confirms insurers selling ACA plans cannot impose waiting periods for benefits

Modern Healthcare (5/27, Herman, Subscription Publication) reported that CMS said in a recent memo that insurers which ?€?sell plans with mandated benefits under the Affordable Care Act cannot require people to wait a certain amount of time before they can use those benefits.?€?

Studies show geography affects premium increases for ACA plans

On its website, CNBC (5/24, Mangan) reports two new studies ?€?show wide geographic variation in Obamacare price increases seen this year, and in those proposed for next year.?€? The findings ?€?underscore that the amount people pay for their Obamacare plans is often strongly related to where they live.?€? One of the studies was conducted by the Avalere Health consultancy, and it showed that premiums for silver plans would increase by 44 percent next year for a 50-year-old male nonsmoker in Vermont, but by only 22 percent for a male in Oregon. Meanwhile, states such as Virginia and Maine are expected to see double-digit hikes, but premiums for the average silver plan in New York State should rise by just 7 percent.


The Hill (5/24, Sullivan) reports that on the whole, Avalere?€™s study indicates average premiums for ACA plans will be higher in 2017 than in 2016. The article points out, however, that these hikes are not yet final, given that ?€?state regulators can reject them.?€?

Insurers seeking price increases under ACA

CNBC (5/23, Coombs) reports on ?€?the potential big price hikes in Obamacare plans for 2017 and what it could mean for consumers.?€? The article says that health plans ?€?are asking for sharp price increases, after suffering big losses on exchanges in the last two years.?€? Regulators ?€?caution that these are preliminary requests and final rates could be a lot different.?€? One of the ?€?underlying reasons for the big requests has to do with the expiration of the reinsurance program under the Affordable Care Act, which had served to offset some of the losses due to sicker customers who racked up high medical bills,?€? the piece adds.

CDC: Health and safety violations common at public pools

The Washington Post (5/19, Dennis) reports in ?€?To Your Health?€? that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention inspectors found at least one health or safety violation at 80% of the public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds examined, according to datareleased by the agency in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The data was collected in 2013 ?€?in five states that are home to the largest number of public pools and hot tubs: Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas.?€? Researchers analyzed the findings ?€?of 84,187 routine inspections of 48,632 public aquatic facilities, including hot tubs, pools, water parks and other spots where people swim in treated water.?€?


In ?€?Science Now,?€? the Los Angeles Times (5/19, Kaplan) reports that of the facilities found to be in violation, ?€?about 1 in 8 of these inspections found problems so serious that the pool had to be closed immediately.?€? Pool water can contain urine, ?€?tiny bits of fecal matter, parasites like Cryptosporidium and volatile chemicals?€? called chloramines that may irritate eyes or the respiratory tract.


The CBS News (5/19, Welch) website reports that CDC National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases director Dr. Beth Bell said in a statement, ?€?No one should get sick or hurt when visiting a public pool, hot tub, or water playground.?€? Dr. Bell added, ?€?That?€™s why public health and aquatics professionals work together to improve the operation and maintenance of these public places so people will be healthy and safe when they swim.?€?

Proposal would allow undocumented immigrants to purchase plans on California?€™s exchange

Kaiser Health News (5/19, Bartolone) reports California state legislators and advocates are working to obtain ?€?federal approval in the waning months of the Obama administration for a proposal to allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally onto the California insurance exchange.?€? Supporters of the plan are moving quickly to obtain state and Federal approval because they are worried a new administration may not be sympathetic to their cause.

5.19.16Most Americans satisfied with coverage but anxious about rising premiums, deductibles

According to the Los Angeles Times (5/19, Levey), most ?€?Americans enrolled in health plans through the Affordable Care Act are happy with their coverage.?€? However, a new national survey found that ?€?consumers are increasingly concerned about their monthly premiums and deductibles, reflecting rising anxiety among all Americans about their medical and insurance bills.?€?

Two GOP House lawmakers to unveil ACA alternative on Thursday

The Los Angeles Times (5/18, Levey) reports that on Thursday, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) will unveil a bill which seeks to replace the Affordable Care Act and ?€?dramatically reshape the nation?€™s healthcare system.?€? The focus of the lawmakers?€™ ?€?plan is a major change to the tax code that would provide every American adult with $2,500 to purchase health coverage, but also shake up the nation?€™s current employer-based health insurance system.?€? This ?€?proposed tax credit would also be available to people who don?€™t have work-based insurance, thereby equalizing the tax treatment of health benefits.?€?

Colon cancer prognosis may be linked to where tumors began

The CBS Evening News (5/18, story 9, 1:55, Mason) reported, ?€?A study out today helps answer a question that has troubled oncologists ?€?why do some patients with colon cancer survive longer than others??€?


According to the Washington Post (5/18, McGinley) ?€?To Your Health?€? blog, the research suggests that individuals ?€?with cancer that starts on the left side of their colon live significantly longer than those with right-side tumors.?€?


The CBS News (5/18) website reports that the ?€?study of patients with advanced colon cancer found those with tumors on the right side survived an average of 19 months, compared to 33 months for those with tumors on the left side.?€?


STAT (5/18, Begley) reports that ?€?right-side colon cancers ?€? meaning the right side from the patient?€™s perspective ?€? are also less likely to be helped by precision-medicine drugs.?€? The findings are scheduled to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.

Exercise linked to reduced risk of several cancers

ABC World News Tonight (5/16, story 11, 0:25, Muir) reported, ?€?The National Cancer Institute confirms that moderate exercise, all the way up to intense exercise, lowers the risk of?€? cancer ?€?in many forms.?€?


The Los Angeles Times (5/16, Healy) reports that the research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests ?€?exercise is a powerful cancer-preventive.?€? Investigators found that ?€?physical activity worked to drive down rates of a broad array of cancers even among smokers, former smokers, and the overweight and obese.?€?


US News & World Report (5/16, Esposito) reports that investigators ?€?analyzed data from participants in 12 US and European study groups who self-reported their physical activity between 1987 and 2004.?€? The researchers ?€?looked at the incidence of 26 kinds of cancer occurring in the study follow-up period, which lasted 11 years on average.?€? The data indicated that ?€?overall, a higher level of activity was tied to a 7 percent lower risk of developing any type of cancer.?€?


TIME (5/16, Park) reports that ?€?the reduced risk was especially striking for 13 types of cancers.?€? Individuals ?€?who were more active had on average a 20% lower risk of cancers of the esophagus, lung, kidney, stomach, endometrium and others compared with people who were less active.?€? Meanwhile, ?€?the reduction was slightly lower for colon, bladder, and breast cancers.?€?

Going gluten-free may not be best choice for children who do not have celiac disease, commentary says

The Boston Globe (5/14, Guerra) reported that an article suggests ?€?going gluten-free might not be the healthiest choice for a child who doesn?€™t have celiac disease.?€? The commentary, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, ?€?attempts to debunk common myths about gluten.?€?


On its website, CBS News (5/13, Welch) reports that the commentary, by Dr. Norelle R. Reilly, ?€?specifically addresses the potential risk for children whose parents place them on a gluten-free diet without consulting a doctor, warning that it could do more harm than good.?€?


TIME (5/13) carried an article by Dr. Reilly titled ?€?4 Reasons Why Your Kids Should Not Be Gluten Free.?€?

Eating three servings of fruit in adolescence may reduce risk of breast cancer, study suggests

TIME (5/11, Park) reports new research published in the British Medical Journal analyzed how diet during adolescence may affect cancer risk. Researchers found that nearly half of the 90,000 women who participated in a Nurses?€™ Health Study answered questions regarding their diets while they were teens. From this information, the researchers found that ?€?those who reported eating nearly three servings of fruit a day on average had a 25% lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who ate half a serving of fruit.?€?


Conversely, HealthDay (5/11, Mozes) reports that ?€?women who drink more alcohol over time might increase their breast cancer risk.?€? According to the article, ?€?food and drink consumption was also tallied once every four years from 1991 to 2013, at which point the women were asked to recall their diets over the prior year.?€? Over the two decades of the study, more than ?€?3,200 women developed invasive breast cancer.?€? HealthDay notes that ?€?adolescent dietary information was available for about 1,350 of those women.?€?

PPIs prematurely age cells that line the inside of blood vessels, study suggests

The Houston Chronicle (5/10, Hawryluk) reports that researchsuggests ?€?proton pump inhibitors prematurely age the cells that line the inside of blood vessels, making them less resistant to blockages that can cause heart attacks and strokes.?€? The findings were published in Circulation Research.


HealthDay (5/10, Thompson) reports that the findings, from ?€?lab tests,?€? may ?€?explain why other studies have shown increased risk of heart disease in people who use?€? PPIs, ?€?said study senior author Dr. John Cooke.?€?


Researchers develop skin-conforming polymer that reduces wrinkles

Newsweek (5/9, Cuthbertson) reports that researchers have developed ?€?a ?€?revolutionary?€™ skin-conforming polymer called XPL?€? that ?€?has the ability to replicate the mechanical properties of youthful skin while reducing the appearance of wrinkles and under-eye bagging.?€? This ?€?material is described in a Nature Materials, following more than five years of research aimed at replicating healthy skin.?€? In ?€?a series of small proof-of-concept human studies,?€? investigators found ?€?that treatment with the material not only reduced wrinkles and mechanical functions but also improved the skin function of patients with severely dry skin.?€?


The Washington Post (5/9, Feltman) ?€?Speaking of Science?€? blog reports that ?€?the researchers...say it could actually find its best use in patients with severe skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, which can both cause extremely dry and itchy skin.?€? The blog points out, ?€?Initially developed by skin and haircare company Living Proof, the so-called Strateris platform (now under development with a spin-off company called Olivo Labs) was briefly introduced to a small number of dermatology practices in 2014.?€? At that ?€?time, it was marketed solely as a under-eye solution ?€? and it?€™s no longer available for sale.?€?


The New York Times (5/10, A11, Kolata, Subscription Publication) reports, ?€?The researchers say that they are not sure yet when they will have enough data to submit to the Food and Drug Administration for marketing approval ?€? they will know more later this year.?€? The investigators ?€?emphasize that their tests of the product as a cosmetic treatment, where most subjects responded, are separate from their tests of it as a medical product, where they do not yet know the response rate.?€?

Audit finds IRS overpaid some ACA plan enrollees by $8 million

The Washington Times (5/3, Howell) reports an audit conducted by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found the ?€?IRS mistakenly overpaid more than $8 million to customers and Obamacare users in California, and cheated tens of thousands of others out of nearly $2 million in 2015 because the government relied on incorrect information to figure their taxes.?€? Data show some ?€?70,850 filers received $8.3 million in federal subsidies that they didn?€™t deserve, while roughly 69,400 taxpayers missed out on $1.9 million they should have got.?€? The Times says the issue resulted ?€?from erroneous forms the government sent to about 800,000 customers, which used the wrong benchmark to measure what their Obamacare payments should have been.?€?


The Hill (5/3, Jagoda) reports that in order to draw these conclusions, auditors ?€?analyzed more than 2.6 million tax returns filed from January to May 2015 that claimed the credit,?€? and found that the IRS correctly calculated the credit for 93 percent of returns.

UnitedHealth?€™s exit from 26 state exchanges prompts concerns about other insurers

CBS News (4/28, Konrad) reports on its website that UnitedHealth?€™s announcement about leaving the ACA exchange marketplaces in 26 states prompted observers to wonder if other insurers will follow suit. So far, however, there does not appear to be a mass exodus from the exchanges. Anthem posted first-quarter earnings on Wednesday, and ?€?said it?€™s sticking with the 14 state health exchanges it?€™s now in and expects to make a small profit from them this year.?€? Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish stated, ?€?We believe we are well-positioned for continued growth in exchange [enrollment] as this market stabilizes.?€?

Medi-Cal to begin covering undocumented immigrant children

The Los Angeles Times (4/27, Karlamangla) reports that in the two years since the Affordable Care Act took effect, ?€?many California legislators have been fighting to get health insurance for those it left out ?€? the quarter of all immigrants in the country illegally who live within the state?€™s borders.?€? In May, the state ?€?will make a sizable dent in that effort when immigrants younger than 19 who are here without papers begin receiving free health coverage through Medi-Cal,?€? its version of Medicaid. Some 170,000 residents are expected to be eligible.


Advocates contend Medi-Cal?€™s AIDS program lacks sufficient funding

Kaiser Health News (4/27, Gorman) reports under ?€?Medi-Cal?€™s HIV-AIDS program, the state pays for a range of services, including case management, nursing, caregiving, therapy, transportation and home-delivered meals.?€? However, agencies which ?€?provide services under the $12 million program say it?€™s getting harder to do so, because funding has remained largely stagnant for 15 years,?€? and this ?€?has led some providers to stop or reduce their participation.?€? Data show the number of program participants has decreased by 40 percent to 1,400 since 2008, while the number of agencies which provide services has dropped from 44 to about 24.

Insurers offering ACA plans expected to significantly raise premiums

The Hill (4/25, Sullivan) reports health insurers are preparing ?€?for substantial increases in ObamaCare premiums, opening up a line of attack for Republicans in a presidential election year.?€? The article says many companies have lost money on ACA marketplaces, partly because their premiums were set too low when they began providing ACA coverage in 2014. According to Sabrina Corlette, a professor at Georgetown University?€™s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, ?€?There are absolutely some carriers that are going to have to come in with some pretty significant price hikes to make up for the underpricing that they did before.?€? But earlier this month, Dr. Mandy Cohen, the chief operating officer at CMS, ?€?pointed to the premium review process from state regulators and the health law?€™s tax credits as softening the effect of proposed premium rate increases.?€? She stated, ?€?Opening rates that folks file are certainly not the impact that consumers will feel, and you should take those with a big grain of salt.?€?

Certain oral bacteria may be linked to higher pancreatic cancer risk

The Washington Post (4/20, McGinley) reports that research suggests certain oral bacteria may be linked to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. Investigators ?€?analyzed oral-wash samples collected over several years as part of two large cancer prevention and screening studies conducted by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.?€?


CBS News (4/20, Marcus) reports on its website that the researchers ?€?found that two oral bacteria were elevated in the pancreatic cancer patients: Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans.?€? Individuals ?€?who carried Porphyromonas gingivalis had an overall 59 percent greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer, and those who carried Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans were at least 50 percent more likely overall to develop the disease.?€? The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

UnitedHealth to exit most ACA exchange markets in 2017

The CBS Evening News (4/19, story 9, 0:25) reported that on Tuesday, UnitedHealthCare said ?€?it was pulling out of Obamacare exchanges next year in all but a few states.?€? The insurer ?€?has had trouble attracting the younger customers who subsidize care for older and sicker patients in 34 states,?€? and it expects a loss of $650 million this year.


The New York Times (4/19, B2, Abelson, Subscription Publication) reports UnitedHealth said during an earnings call on Tuesday that it is still losing hundreds of millions of dollars on policies sold through Affordable Care Act exchanges, therefore, it intends ?€?to pull out of the majority of states where it offered coverage and would offer policies on the public exchanges in ?€?only a handful of states?€™ for 2017.?€? UnitedHealth did not specify which markets it will exit, but it covers just 795,000 of the 13 million enrollees in ACA plans.


Bloomberg News (4/19, Tracer) reports while UnitedHealth has not indicated which markets it will leave, the insurer is expected to exit at least 16 of the 34 ACA markets in which in currently operates.


The AP (4/20, Murphy) reports that in spite of UnitedHealth?€™s move, ?€?customers in many markets, especially cities and other populated areas, should still have several options when they start shopping for 2017 coverage.?€? Industry observers ?€?expect other companies to also adjust their exchange participation as they put together their coverage plans for 2017,?€? yet ?€?they don?€™t see UnitedHealth?€™s move as the start of a mass exodus.?€?

Health system refunds unsatisfied patients their money

NBC Nightly News (4/17, story 7, 2:18, Snow) reported on ?€?refund offers...being made by a hospital chain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.?€? NBC News correspondent Morgan Radford explained, ?€?Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania and New Jersey is the first in the country to refund unsatisfied patients their money.?€? Whether applying ?€?in-person or through an app, the patient decides how much they deserve back on their co-payment or deductible and then they getit, no questions asked.?€? To date, ?€?Geisinger has already given back more than $80,000 from more than 70 requests since October.?€?


In a front-page article, the Washington Post (4/16, A1, Sun) reported that despite questions over the program, ?€?the novel approach is in keeping with health care?€™s shift to improve the experience of patients.?€? The Post mentioned that ?€?at least one other system ?€? University of Utah Health Care ?€? is looking into a similar program.?€?

California bill would allow coverage for undocumented immigrants through exchange

The Los Angeles Times (4/14, McGreevy) reports California State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D) has introduced draft legislation to allow undocumented immigrants in the state to purchase health insurance through the Covered California exchange, if granted federal permission to do so. If California were granted permission, it would ?€?allow as many as 390,000 immigrants who earn an income too high to qualify for Medi-Cal to purchase healthcare through the exchange under the Affordable Care Act.?€?

Risky behavior more common in teens with sleep issues, study finds

According to the Los Angeles Times (4/7, Healy), a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ?€?finds that compared with high schoolers who typically get nine hours of sleep, those who get less?€? sleep ?€?are more likely to drink and drive, text while driving, hop in a car driven by a driver who has consumed alcohol, and leave their seatbelts unbuckled.?€? However, although such ?€?dangerous behaviors?€? increased ?€?with less sleep, too much sleep also was linked to risk-taking in teens: Among those who routinely slept more than 10 hours per night, on average, researchers also?€? saw ?€?higher rates of drinking and driving, infrequent seatbelt use, and riding with a driver who had consumed alcohol.?€?


The AP (4/8, Stobbe) reports that the researchers ?€?say they don?€™t know if sleep issues cause teens to take dangerous risks, or whether both are a reflection of depression or other problems.?€?

People who consume full-fat dairy may weigh less, may be less likely to develop diabetes than those who eat low-fat dairy products

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (4/6, Foreman) reports that ?€?people who consume full-fat dairy weigh less and are less likely to develop diabetes than those who eat low-fat dairy products,?€? the findings of a 3,333-adult, 15-year study published in the journal Circulation suggest. The study revealed that ?€?people with higher levels of three different byproducts of full-fat dairy had, on average, a 46 percent lower risk of getting diabetes than those with lower levels.?€?


The CBS News (4/6, Marcus) website points out that another study involving ?€?more than 18,000 middle-age women who were part of the Women?€™s Health Study ?€? and [of] normal weight, free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes at the start of the research ?€? found that those who ate more high-fat dairy had an 8 percent lower chance of going on to become obese over time compared to those who ate less.?€? No such link was seen ?€?with low-fat dairy product intake,?€? however.

Insurers restricting access to some ACA plans by cutting commissions

USA Today (3/31, O'Donnell) reports more insurers are ?€?dropping agents?€™ commissions to discourage the sale of the Affordable Care Act plans they?€™re losing the most money on, especially when the consumers are more likely to be sick,?€? health care industry officials and experts say. Such actions are starting to draw increased scrutiny from state officials and lawmakers.

Companies allow healthcare consumers to bid for services

US News & World Report (3/25, LaPonsie) reported on the increasing popularity of websites such as ZendyHealth ?€?that let people state how much they are willing to pay for?€? healthcare and then receive responses from doctors to their bids. Companies attempting this strategy have experienced ?€?mixed success,?€? according to the article. In a statement, the American Medical Association opposed the idea of consumers bidding for healthcare services, stating, ?€?Venues for introducing patients to a choice in health care should not be governed solely by cost. ... Concern for the quality of care should be a top consideration for patients and physicians.?€?

3.24.16 continues to be vulnerable to hackers, GAO says

The GAO said in a report on Wednesday that has ?€?logged more than 300 cybersecurity incidents and remains vulnerable to hackers,?€? according to the AP (3/23, Alonso-Zaldivar). However, the GAO ?€?said none of the 316 security incidents appeared to have led to the release of sensitive data...such as names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers, financial information, or other personal information.?€? Nevertheless, the GAO report ?€?concluded that security flaws ?€?will likely continue to jeopardize the confidentiality, integrity and availability of€™?€?

Healthcare IT News (3/24, Monegain) points out that the 316 incidents happened between October 2013 and March 2015.

FDA proposes ban on powdered medical gloves

The Washington Post (3/21, McGinley) in ?€?To Your Health?€? reports that the Food and Drug Administration has proposed a ban on powdered medical gloves. According to the FDA, the aerosolized powder on latex gloves can trigger respiratory allergic reactions, while the powder on synthetic gloves may ?€?result in airway and wound inflammation and post-surgical adhesions.?€? The FDA will seek public comment on the proposed ban for 90 days.


The New York Times (3/22, A14, Tavernise, Subscription Publication) reports that the FDA initially warned about the danger of powdered gloves in 1997, ?€?but refrained from banning them then, largely because it determined that pulling them from the market at the time could have caused shortages and been disruptive.?€? Now, FDA spokesperson ?€?Eric Pahon said?€? powdered gloves make up a very small percentage of gloves used. The proposed ban ?€?would apply to powdered surgeon?€™s gloves, powdered patient-examination gloves and absorbable powder for lubricating a surgeon?€™s glove.?€?


The AP (3/21, Perrone) reports that ?€?most powdered gloves have already been phased out, and only six manufacturers are still registered to make them in the US, according to the agency.?€?

Health insurers under pressure following losses on ACA plans

The Wall Street Journal (2/10, A1, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that health insurers are facing pressure to improve performance this year after most posted financial losses on ACA plans in 2014 and 2015. Costs for ACA customers have exceeded insurers?€™ projections, though CEO Kevin Counihan said in an interview that the latest open enrollment season brought in many new customers that could help strengthen the market and make it more attractive to insurers.

Obama?€™s budget proposal to adjust ACA?€™s ?€?Cadillac tax?€?

Bloomberg Politics (2/3, Keane) reports that President Obama will propose adjusting the Affordable Care Act?€™s ?€?Cadillac tax?€? on high-cost health plans in the budget he releases next week, ?€?in a bid to preserve a key element?€? of the law. Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, ?€?wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that the president?€™s plan would reflect regional differences in the cost of health care, reducing the tax?€™s bite where care is particularly expensive.?€? Bloomberg explains that Obama?€™s budget would raise the threshold ?€?at which plans are subject to the tax in states with higher health care costs.?€?

ATTENTION MEDICARE PROVIDERS-Avoid meaningful use penalties: Exemption deadline now July 1
Physicians now have until July 1?€?an additional three months?€?to apply for a hardship exemption from the electronic health record meaningful use financial penalties for the 2015 program year. Those who don?€™t apply could face up to a 3 percent cut in their Medicare payments in 2017 since the meaningful use program operates on a two-year look-back period. Read more at AMA Wire®

Parents may detect medical errors missed by their child?€™s physician, study says

Reuters (2/29, Rapaport) reports that parents may detect medical errors missed by their child?€™s physician, research suggests. After reviewing data on some 383 children hospitalized during 2013 and 2014, researchers found that approximately one in 10 parents caught a mistake their child?€™s physician did not. The study authors concluded that families maybe a useful resource for helping prevent mistakes and improving safety. The findings were published online Feb. 29 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Proposed ACA rule would require insurers to cover gender transition

The AP (3/22, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports large firms ?€?are pushing back against proposed federal rules they say would require their medical plans to cover gender transition and other services under the nondiscrimination mandate of President Barack Obama?€™s health care law.?€? But advocates for ?€?transgender people say the regulation, now being finalized by the Health and Human Services Department, would be a major step forward for a marginalized community.?€?

FDA advisory panel recommends dissolvable stent for approval

The AP (3/16, Perrone) reports that a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel ?€?overwhelmingly backed the safety and effectiveness?€? of a dissolvable stent made by Abbott Laboratories. The panel voted unanimously that the Absorb heart stent ?€?is effective for treating patients with narrowing arteries that can lead to heart attack and death,?€? and voted 9-1 that the device is safe.

Timing may be ?€?critical?€? to success of cancer care, study finds

The Washington Post (3/14, Cha) reports that new researchpublished in the journal Cell revealed that timing of treatments may be ?€?critical?€? to the success of cancer care. Researchers at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed ?€?that tumors evolve though various stages and that some are more vulnerable to drugs than others.?€? The findings suggest that there may be ?€?windows?€? of opportunity ?€?for drugs that had previously been written off as failures,?€? the researchers said.

States moving to control the prescription of opioid pain medications

On the front of its Business Day section, the New York Times(3/11, B1, Meier, Tavernise, Subscription Publication) reported that ?€?a growing number of states, alarmed by the rising death toll?€? from prescription opioid pain medications and ?€?frustrated by a lack of federal action, are moving to limit how these drugs are prescribed.?€? Massachusetts lawmakers passed a bill that would ?€?sharply restrict?€? the number of prescription pain medications a physician can prescribe after an injury or surgery ?€?to a seven-day supply.?€? Officials in Vermont and Maine ?€?are considering similar actions, and governors across the country are set to meet this summer to develop a broad approach.?€?

Hatch investigating physicians double-booking surgeries

In a more than 1,350-word article, the Boston Globe (3/13, Saltzman, Abelson) reports Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) ?€?has asked 20 hospital systems, including the parent company of Massachusetts General Hospital, to provide detailed records about the controversial practice of allowing surgeons to operate on more than one patient at a time.?€? In a recent letter to the hospitals, Hatch wrote, ?€?We are concerned about reports of patients not being informed that they may be sharing their surgeon with another patient, and we are especially concerned by reports that, in some cases, steps have been taken to actively conceal this practice from patients.?€?

Research backs early exposure to peanuts to prevent allergies

The AP (3/5, Tanner) reported, ?€?Two new studies bolster evidence that feeding babies peanuts or other allergy-inducing foods is more likely to protect them than to cause problems.?€? In ?€?one study, a follow-up to landmark research published last year,?€? researchers found ?€?that the early prevention strategy leads to persistent, long-lasting results in children at risk for food allergies.?€? The researchers ?€?found that allergy protection lasted at least through age 5 and didn?€™t wane even when kids stopped eating peanut-containing foods for a year.?€?


The Washington Post (3/4, Bernstein) ?€?To Your Health?€? blog reported that ?€?in a second study...the researchers tried to replicate those results with other foods known to produce allergies in children, including milk, eggs, fish, wheat and sesame.?€? The investigators ?€?again produced evidence that the approach might work.?€? However, ?€?because so few families stuck to the difficult feeding regimen, the outcome cannot be considered conclusive.?€?


The New York Times (3/4, Pollack) ?€?Well?€? blog reported that the studies were ?€?published in The New England Journal of Medicine and the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.?€?

Researchers discover genes associated with human hair growth

The Washington Post (3/1, Feltman) reports in ?€?Speaking of Science?€? that researchers have discovered ?€?a whole host of genes associated with human hair growth ?€? including, for the very first time, a gene they believe contributes to hair going gray.?€? The study published March 1 in Nature Communications also details ?€?genes associated with monobrows, eyebrow and beard bushiness, hair color and shape, and balding.?€?


CNN (3/1, Storrs) reports that for the study, investigators conducted ?€?a search involving the hair types and genomes of more than 6,000 people living in five Latin American countries.?€? Those populations were chosen ?€?because they represent a good mix of backgrounds?€? and hair types. Scientists then discovered the IRF4 gene, which is implicated in graying. They also ?€?made the connection between a specific variation in IRF4 and the gray hair trait exclusively among Europeans, who are known to have a higher chance of premature graying than people of other descent.?€?


TIME (3/1, Park) points out that the IRF4 gene ?€?accounted for about 30% of hair greying, with the remaining 70% due to other factors such as age...stress and other environmental exposures.?€?

ATTENTION MEDICARE PROVIDERS-Avoid meaningful use penalties: Exemption deadline now July 1

Physicians now have until July 1?€?an additional three months?€?to apply for a hardship exemption from the electronic health record meaningful use financial penalties for the 2015 program year. Those who don?€™t apply could face up to a 3 percent cut in their Medicare payments in 2017 since the meaningful use program operates on a two-year look-back period. Read more at AMA Wire®

Parents may detect medical errors missed by their child?€™s physician, study says

Reuters (2/29, Rapaport) reports that parents may detect medical errors missed by their child?€™s physician, research suggests. After reviewing data on some 383 children hospitalized during 2013 and 2014, researchers found that approximately one in 10 parents caught a mistake their child?€™s physician did not. The study authors concluded that families maybe a useful resource for helping prevent mistakes and improving safety. The findings were published online Feb. 29 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Dropping just five percent of body weight may help reduce risk for diabetes, heart disease

According to the CBS News (2/22, Marcus) website, ?€?dropping just five percent of body weight can help reduce the risk for diabetes and heart disease and improve insulin sensitivity in muscle, fat, and liver tissue.?€? The findings of the 40-participant study were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.


HealthDay (2/22, Preidt) reports that the study?€™s findings ?€?could help motivate obese people to achieve manageable weight loss targets...said?€? the study?€™s lead author. For example, if a 200-pound woman lost ?€?just 10 pounds,?€? her ?€?health profile?€? could improve.

New pertussis vaccine may not be as effective, study finds

The New York Times (2/22, Rabin, Subscription Publication) ?€?Well?€? blog reports new research conducted at Kaiser Permanente?€™s Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, California found that the newer pertussis vaccine, which was ?€?reformulated to be safer and have fewer side effects than the older version,?€? is not as effective as older versions. The study found that just ?€?three years after vaccination with the new vaccine and booster, teenagers had lost virtually all the vaccine?€™s protection, and more than 90 percent were susceptible to infection.?€? The findings were published in Pediatrics.

New York requires e-prescribing as of March 27, 2016

Newsday (NY) (2/27, Ricks) reports that in March, New York will become the first state to require all physicians to adopt electronic prescriptions, and ?€?pharmacies won?€™t accept paper scripts any longer.?€? The law had initially required e-prescribing by March 27, 2015, but delayed it for one year ?€?because too many clinicians?€? were not prepared. Dr. Joseph Maldonado, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, said, ?€?There will be no more extensions and no excuses.?€? He added, ?€?I have heard that there are still physicians who are not fully on board ... We are trying to get the word out.?€? Maldonado also said that some consumers ?€?have complained,?€? because ?€?e-prescribing lessens their ability to take a prescription from one pharmacy to another in search of the best price.?€?

WHO finds MBT is probable carcinogen

The Telegraph (UK) (2/28, Graham) reports the World Health Organization has determined that MBT (2-mercaptobenzothiazole), ?€?present in a wide range of rubber products, including condoms, babies?€™ dummies, rubber gloves, soft playground surfaces made of ?€?rubber crumb?€™, elastic bands and car tyres,?€? ?€?probably causes cancer.?€? A spokesman for the WHO said, ?€?The most important exposures are to workers in the chemical and rubber industries.?€?


ED visits tied to misuse of AD/HD medication on the rise, study shows

The CBS News (2/16, Kraft) website reports on the growing misuse of the stimulant medication Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine), which is often prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). A study published online Feb. 16 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry indicates that ?€?incidences of misuse and emergency room visits related to Adderall increased dramatically for young adults between 2006 and 2011.?€? Researchers arrived at this conclusion after examining data from the ?€?National Disease and Therapeutic Index, a survey of office-based practices; National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a population survey of substance use; and Drug Abuse Warning Network, a survey of hospital emergency department visits.?€?


Newsweek (2/16, Main) reports that ?€?nonmedical use of?€? the medication ?€?rose 67 percent from 2005 to 2011 among people ages 18 to 25,?€? and emergency department ?€?visits related to the medication went up by 156 percent.?€? The study also found that ?€?nearly 70 percent of those who used Adderall ?€?non-medically?€™ reported not having a prescription and getting it from friends or family.?€? Put another way, ?€?the problem isn?€™t only too many prescriptions, but people sharing their medication with others.?€?


The NPR (2/16, Aubrey) ?€?Shots?€? blog points out that ED ?€?visits linked to Ritalin [methylphenidate], another well-known stimulant used to treat AD/HD, increased only slightly among young adults, from 293?€? ED ?€?visits in 2006 to 310 in 2011.?€? In that same time frame, ?€?nonmedical use of Ritalin remained much lower than misuse of Adderall.?€?

Hacking of healthcare records skyrocketed 11,000% last year

NBC News (2/13, Costello) reported on its website and in its NBC Nightly News broadcast on Friday that ?€?experts say health care-record hacking is skyrocketing ?€? up 11,000 percent last year alone.?€? NBC reports that this amounts to ?€?roughly one out of every three Americans?€? that have had their healthcare records compromised. These hacks ?€?give criminals a wealth of personal information that, unlike a credit card number, can last forever.?€? These health records are sold on a ?€?dark web?€? where ?€?complete health care records are a gold mine, going for $60 each,?€? because ?€?criminals can use such records to order prescriptions, pay for treatments and surgery and even file false tax returns.?€?

Heartburn drugs may be linked to dementia risk, study finds

ABC World News (2/15, story 9, 0:20, Muir) reported that ?€?a new study?€? links ?€?popular heartburn medications to a possible increased risk of dementia.?€?

On NBC Nightly News (2/15, story 8, 2:05, Holt), correspondent Tom Costello reported that ?€?patients 75 and older who took?€? proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) ?€?regularly had a significantly increased risk of dementia, up 44 percent,?€? the study found. Patients at highest risk are ?€?women taking the medication for at least 18 months.?€?


Reuters (2/15, Doyle) pointed out that investigators came to this conclusion after studying data on approximately 73,000 patients. The study was published online in JAMA Neurology.


According to MedPage Today (2/15, Fiore), an accompanying editorial observed that the ?€?possible association of the use of PPIs and the risk of dementia?€? is ?€?a very important issue given the very high prevalence of pharmacological drugs?€™ long-term use in elderly populations that have a very high risk of dementia.?€?

Researchers find genetic ?€?signature?€? common to five types of cancer

NBC News (2/5, Fox) reported on its website that investigators ?€?have found a genetic ?€?signature?€™ common to five different types of cancer and hope it might be a step towards an early blood test for cancer in general.?€? It is ?€?not a genetic mutation but a change in the genetic function called methylation, the team at the National Human Genome Research Institute...said.?€? The researchers found that ?€?different types of colon, lung, breast, stomach and endometrial cancers all showed the same methylation mark around a gene called ZNF154.?€? The findings were published in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.

Employers, insurers not satisfied by Obama?€™s proposed ?€?Cadillac tax?€? change

Bloomberg Politics (2/4, Keane, Tracer) reports that President Obama?€™s plan to ?€?dial back?€? the Cadillac tax ?€?won him no applause from employers, labor unions or health insurers.?€? The American Benefits Council insisted the tax ?€?cannot be fixed,?€? while the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees ?€?said it still supports ?€?nothing less than full repeal?€™ of the tax.?€?

CDC releases 2016 vaccination schedule recommending 9vHPV vaccine

The Chicago Tribune (2/1, Healy) reports that ?€?the country?€™s leading?€? physicians yesterday ?€?issued annual recommendations for childhood and adolescent immunizations, including that 11-year-olds get a newly improved HPV vaccine that has the ability to prevent more strains of cancer-causing human papillomavirus infections.?€? The 2016 vaccination schedule was released Monday by the CDC, which ?€?includes the recommendation that 11- or 12-year-old boys and girls receive the 9vHPV vaccine.?€? The new ?€?9-valent?€? vaccine ?€?is an improvement over the previous one, medical experts say, because it covers nine strains of HPV, offering protection against at least 80 percent of the cervical, vulvar and anal cancers caused by HPV, compared with 65 percent covered by earlier vaccines.?€?

Anterior approach to hip replacement surgeries offers less pain, faster recovery

The Wall Street Journal (2/1, Lagnado, Subscription Publication) reports on the anterior approach to hip replacement surgeries, which NYU Langone Medical Center calls same-day hip replacement surgery. This approach uses the natural openings between muscles to avoid cutting through muscle and tendons as the traditional or posterior method would. Physicians say the anterior approach offers less postoperative pain and faster recovery times for patients.

UnitedHealth's ACA exchange losses reach $720 million
By Bob Herman  | January 19, 2016
UnitedHealth Group's first foray with the health insurance exchanges turned out to be a little worse than expected. UnitedHealth lost $720 million on its individual-market health plans in 2015, the company said Tuesday, several million dollars above estimates made a few months ago.

In 2015 and 2016, UnitedHealth expects to lose approximately $1 billion on exchange plans.

The massive deficit on Affordable Care Act plans consequently ate away at UnitedHealth's fourth-quarter profit, which dropped 19% to $1.22 billion. The company also booked $95 million in expected losses from its new managed Medicaid contract in Iowa. However, UnitedHealth's full-year profit still increased 3.5% year over year, totaling $5.81 billion.

Last November, UnitedHealth forecast a $425 million net loss on its ACA policies for its 2015 financial statements. The final loss came in at $720 million, which includes $245 million set aside for 2016 losses, UnitedHealth said.

Dan Schumacher, chief financial officer of UnitedHealthcare, UnitedHealth's health insurance business lines, explained the losses during an earnings call Tuesday. UnitedHealth lost about $475 million on ACA plans for the 2015 policy year. UnitedHealth anticipates another $500 million in losses for 2016 plans, including the shortfall booked in 2015, known as a premium deficiency reserve. That would put UnitedHealth's losses at close to $1 billion for the first two years in the ACA's exchanges.

The health insurer and services conglomerate said the poor experience in the ACA exchanges was due to sicker-than-average consumers enrolling in its health plans and a surplus of people signing up outside of the open-enrollment window. UnitedHealth may exit the ACA marketplaces as a result and will make a decision in the first half of this year. UnitedHealth and other insurers have demanded that the Obama administration make changes to the 2017 marketplaces, such as narrowing the hardship exemptions.

UnitedHealth ended 2015 with 650,000 individual ACA-compliant health plans, 500,000 of which were purchased on the state and federal exchanges, Schumacher said. Starting Jan. 1, UnitedHealth's individual enrollment went up to 700,000, and executives expect that tally will hit almost 800,000 by the end of open enrollment on Jan. 31. However, the number likely will recede as the year goes on since UnitedHealth stopped broker commissioners for ACA plans and took other measures to limit enrollment.

Executives attempted to deflect attention away from the ACA plans, which represent a small size of UnitedHealth's overall revenue and membership.

?€?The vast majority of our business performed exceptionally well,?€? UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley said on the earnings call.

Despite the failed exchange experiment thus far, UnitedHealth continued to expand its empire and remains profitable overall. Fourth-quarter revenue increased 30% to $43.6 billion, and full-year revenue for 2015 jumped 20% to $157.1 billion. Optum, UnitedHealth's services and analytics subsidiary, continues to enlarge at a rapid pace because of natural growth as well as through acquisitions. Optum's year-end revenue soared 42%, while UnitedHealthcare grew at a 10% clip.

UnitedHealth had 46.4 million medical members as ofDec. 31.

Long-term marijuana use tied to decline in verbal memory in middle age, study finds

The Washington Post (2/1, Ingraham) ?€?Wonkblog?€? reports that people who smoke marijuana daily over the course of five years or more may have ?€?poorer verbal memory in middle age than people who?€? do not smoke marijuana at all or who smoke less, a study published online Feb. 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests. Researchers arrived at this conclusion after examining ?€?data on the marijuana habits of nearly 3,400 Americans over a 25-year period.?€?

According to Reuters (2/1, Doyle), an editorialaccompanying the study observed that the study?€™s findings should be communicated to everyone who uses marijuana for either recreational or medical reasons.


Bloomberg News (1/28, Tozzi) reports that a study published online Jan. 28 in the journal Current Biology indicates that ?€?Americans trying to lose weight won?€™t get the results they desire by slogging through extra miles on the treadmill ?€? they?€™ll need to cut calories to do it.?€? After tracking ?€?332 adults in five countries,?€? including the US, researchers ?€?found that ?€?total energy expenditure increases with physical activity at low activity levels but plateaus at higher activity levels.?€™?€?

STAT (1/28, Joseph) reports that ?€?for participants whose activity levels ranged from moderate to intense, the number of calories shed stopped rising even as fitness levels soared, showing that overall energy expenditures tend to be constrained.?€? The study ?€?complements other research showing that diet may be more important than exercise when it comes to losing and maintaining weight.?€?

Many young people have mistaken beliefs about safety of synthetic drugs

NPR (1/23, Wen) reported that ?€?many young people falsely believe that...synthetic drugs provide a safe and legal alternative with the same high as illicit drugs,?€? even though ?€?some synthetic cannabinoids can be up to 100 times more potent than marijuana.?€? In addition, ?€?users don?€™t know which of thousands of chemical combinations they may be taking.?€? As a result, ?€?cities across the U.S. have seen surges in?€? ED ?€?visits and hospitalizations tied?€? to synthetic drugs.


A common painkiller often used to treat migraines, fever and rheumatoid arthritis may also play a key role in treating cancer. Researchers involved with The Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project say the drug diclofenac, also sold as Voltaren, Zipsor, Solaraze and Cambia, has been shown to contain significant anti-cancer properties, reported.

Part of the excitement over the drug?€™s potential is the effect it has on the immune system, and on the development of blood vessels that move oxygen and nutrients to tissues. Retrospective analysis of medical records for cancer patients who were treated with diclofenac before surgery to remove tumors showed the drug had a significant impact on the risk of metastasis and reduced mortality, reported. The findings were published in the open-access journal ecancermedicalscience.

ReDO researchers are currently investigating the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug?€™s (NSAID) effects on cancer in four clinical trials. Three of the trials use the painkiller as part of TL-118, an experimental four-drug combination, reported.

?€?It?€™s still somewhat surprising that there is still so much we don?€™t understand about how many of the standard drugs we use every day, like diclofenac, work,?€? Dr. Pan Pantziarka, a researcher at the Anticancer Fund, said in a press release. ?€?But the more we learn, the more we can see that these drugs are multi-targeted agents with interesting and useful effects on multiple pathways of interest in oncology.?€?

1.11.16IRS warns tax error could affect some with ACA coverage

The AP (1/9, Alonso-Zaldivar) reported IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Friday released preliminary data warning ?€?About 1.4 million households that got financial help for health insurance under President Barack Obama?€™s law failed to properly account for it on their tax returns last year, putting their subsidies at risk if they want to keep coverage.?€? However, a Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman ?€?doubted there will be a major impact,?€? as the agency ?€?believes most of the people affected no longer have health law coverage.?€? In a letter to Congress, Koskinen said, ?€?We expect that taxpayers will continue to better understand this process as it becomes routine,?€? adding, ?€?We are committed to learning from this experience so that we can improve our processes and enhance the support we provide in the future.?€?

Financial incentives fail to motivate obese workers to lose weight, study finds

Kaiser Health News (1/9, Andrews) reported that a recent study published in Health Affairs found that ?€?promising workers lower health insurance premiums for losing weight did nothing to help them take off the pounds.?€? The study found that ?€?obese workers had lost less than 1.5 pounds on average, statistically no different than the minute average gain of a tenth of a pound for workers who weren?€™t offered a financial incentive to lose weight.?€? The incentive was valued at $550.

Middle-income consumers face affordability issues with ACA

CNBC (1/9) reported this weekend on some of the affordability challenges facing individuals and insurers under the Affordable Care Act, citing comments from researchers at Avalere who ?€?say keeping up with exchange plan costs is a challenge for many Americans.?€? Although people earning up to $47,000 will be eligible this year for subsidies, Avalere senior VP Caroline Pearson said ?€?Many middle income people continue to suggest that exchange plans just aren?€™t affordable for them...Even with the subsidies, they simply can?€™t make the monthly premiums work in addition to all of the out of pocket costs.?€?

1.7.16Some experts concerned about patients?€™ exposure to radiation from diagnostic imaging

In a 2,000-word article titled ?€?Heavy Use Of CT Scans Raises Concerns About Patients?€™ Exposure To Radiation,?€? Kaiser Health News (1/7, Boodman) reports on the ?€?growing awareness of the potential pitfalls of diagnostic imaging,?€? particularly computed tomography. According to Kaiser Health News, ?€?The question of risk remains a matter of fierce debate among radiologists,?€? with ?€?some say[ing] that the amount of radiation used in diagnostic studies is safe and that the benefits far outweigh the small chance that a person will develop cancer.?€? However, ?€?other experts...say that while patients should never avoid scans that are medically necessary, excessive radiation doses and indiscriminate use of imaging pose a clear and demonstrable danger.?€?

Study suggests traditional toys may be better for language development

The New York Times (12/24, Belluck) reported in its ?€?Well?€? blog reports that a study published in JAMA Pediatrics ?€?found that when babies and parents played with electronic toys that were specifically advertised as language-promoters, parents spoke less and responded less to baby babbling than when they played with traditional toys like blocks or read board books.?€? The study also found that babies vocalized less when playing with electronic toys. The Times explained that parents said about 40 words per minute when electronic toys were being used ?€?compared with 56 words per minute for traditional toys and 67 words per minute with books.?€? The Times pointed out that the study involved on 26 white, educated families and that ?€?researchers say the results might be different with a larger and more diverse group.?€?

Obama signs budget deal that suspends, delays key ACA taxes

Congress passed and President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill on Friday that includes $622 billion in tax breaks and delays or suspends several ACA taxes. The AP (12/21, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports that the budget deal suggests that Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act ?€?may be able to get more by chipping away at it than trying to take the whole thing down at once.?€? The legislation delayed the ?€?widely criticized?€? Cadillac tax and suspended the medical device tax and the health insurance tax.


The Hill (12/18, Bolton) reported in its ?€?Floor Action?€? blog that the deal ?€?reduces revenue for the landmark healthcare reform law by $35 billion.?€?

New parents misusing car seats, putting infants?€™ lives in danger

CBS News (12/21, Marcus) reported on its website that new research reveals that many parents misuse car seats. The most common mistakes were harnesses left too loose and chest clips placed too low, endangering the life of infants in car seats. Researchers surveyed 291 families for the study. The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Study finds planned C-section brings more health problems than emergency C-section, vaginal birth

The New York Times (12/15, Rabin) ?€?Well?€? blog reports that new research suggests that there are more ?€?health problems among babies born by planned C-section than among those delivered by emergency C-section or vaginal birth, even though the planned surgery is done under more controlled conditions.?€? The Times says that the finding ?€?suggests that the arduous experience of labor ?€? that exhausting, sweaty, utterly unpredictable yet often strangely exhilarating process ?€? may give children a healthy start, even when it?€™s interrupted by a surgical birth.?€? The study was published in JAMA.

Increasing numbers of children age two or younger are prescribed psychiatric medications

On its front page, the New York Times (12/11, A1, Schwarz, Subscription Publication) reports in a nearly 1,300-word front-page story on the ?€?rapid?€? rise of cases in which youngsters ?€?age two or younger are prescribed psychiatric medications to address alarmingly violent or withdrawn behavior.?€? Figures from the prescription data company IMS Health reveal that nearly ?€?20,000 prescriptions for risperidone (commonly known as Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel) and other antipsychotic medications were written in 2014 for children two and younger, a 50 percent jump from 13,000 just one year before.?€? Many physicians are concerned that these medications, which are ?€?designed for adults and only warily accepted for certain school-age youngsters, are being used to treat children still in cribs despite no published research into their effectiveness and potential health risks for children so young.?€? Some experts attribute the increased use of psychiatric medications in kids of all ages to the ?€?scarcity of child psychiatrists.?€?

Tylenol no better than placebo in fighting flu symptoms, study shows

The New York Times (12/9, Bakalar) reports ?€?a randomized trial has found that?€? Tylenol ?€?is no more effective than a placebo, with no discernible effect at all on reducing fever or other flu symptoms.?€? The study was performed by researchers at Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, and is published in Respirology.

Growing number of PPO plans have no cap on out-of-network costs, analysis finds

Kaiser Health News (12/4, Appleby) reports that an increasing number of preferred provider plans (PPOs) offered under the ACA ?€?have no ceiling at all for out-of-network costs, leaving policyholders facing unlimited financial exposure, similar to what more restrictive and often less expensive types of coverage, such as health maintenance organizations (HMOs), offer.?€? An analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 45 percent of silver-level PPO plans ?€?coming to the market for the first time in 2016?€? have no annual cap on out-of-network costs. This year, ?€?14 percent of existing silver-level PPO plans had no annual ceiling on out of network care.?€?


People with diabetes may lose twice as many teeth, study suggests

CBS News (12/3, Marcus) reports on its website that a studypublished Dec. 3 in the CDC?€™s Preventing Chronic Disease journal suggests that people with diabetes are twice as likely to lose teeth on average as those without the condition. The study reveals that although ?€?tooth loss has dropped overall in the US over the past 40 years, people with diabetes remain much more vulnerable,?€? with ?€?black Americans with diabetes?€? being particularly ?€?likely to lose teeth.?€?

HealthDay (12/3, Reinberg) reports that it remains unclear how diabetes is associated with tooth loss. The disease ?€?raises the odds for poor dental health, while deteriorating teeth and gums are linked to worse overall health in people with diabetes.?€? For that reason, ?€?the American Diabetes Association recommends that doctors refer their diabetic patients to a dentist...said?€? lead researcher Bei Wu, PhD, of Duke University.

12.8.15Lawmakers make late push to repeal ?€?Cadillac tax?€?

The Hill (12/2, Sullivan) reports on a last-minute effort by lawmakers to repeal or cut back on the ACA?€™s so-called Cadillac tax by year?€™s end, saying they are ?€?eyeing inclusion of changes in a broader tax package.?€? However, according to lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, it is not clear whether the President ?€?would veto the whole package, jeopardizing other tax breaks that lawmakers are eager to pass.?€? Asked about including the Cadillac tax in the package, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ?€?cast it as a Republican priority, saying Democrats are more concerned with a child tax credit in the package.?€?

12.8.15Sugar-free drinks, candy may lead to dental erosion, study finds

The Washington Post (12/1, Cha) ?€?To Your Health?€? reports that researchers from the Melbourne University?€™s Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre ?€?tested a wide range of sugar-free soft drinks, sports drinks and sweets and found that many of them can be just as harmful to teeth as their sugared counterparts due to their chemical composition.?€? Researchers found that because these sugar-free beverages ?€?contain acids like phosphoric acid (found in colas) or citric acid (found mainly in lemon and lime flavored drinks),?€? they can ?€?strip away a tooth?€™s outer layer ?€? leading to chalkiness of the tooth?€™s surface, pitting, opacity, tooth sensitivity and other issues.?€? The findings (pdf) were published in the Australian Dental Journal.

HealthDay (12/1, Preidt) reports that the researchers found that the acid in these beverages ?€?dissolves the tooth?€™s hard tissues,?€? causing ?€?dental erosion.?€? The study showed that ?€?most soft drinks and sports drinks caused dental enamel to soften by between 30 percent and 50 percent.?€?

Weekend births may be linked to higher risk for complications, study suggests

CBS News (11/25, Marcus) reports that a study published in The British Medical Journal examined over 1.3 million births and deliveries between April 2010 and March 2012, finding that ?€?there was a slight increase in adverse outcomes when women gave birth on the weekend, specifically a rise in stillbirths and deaths.?€?

HealthDay (11/25, Preidt) reports that ?€?the death rate among babies born on weekends was 7.1 per 1,000, compared with 6.5 per 1,000 for those born on a weekday, the Imperial College London researchers reported.?€? Additionally, the researchers ?€?also found that four of seven measures ?€? such as infections and emergency readmissions ?€? were worse for women admitted, and babies born, on weekends.?€?

Kids who take medications for ADHD may be more likely to be bullied at school

TIME (11/21) reported that research suggests that kids ?€?who take commonly-prescribed stimulants to treat their attention disorders are more likely to be?€? bullied ?€?at school than children who do not have ADHD.?€?

HealthDay (11/21, Pallarito) reported that investigators ?€?surveyed nearly 5,000 middle and high school students over four years about their use of stimulant medications for ADHD and self-reported bullying.?€? The researchers found that ?€?of those taking ADHD medicines, 20 percent had been approached to sell or share their medicines, and about half of them did.?€? The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

UnitedHealth Group warns it could get out of Obamacare exchanges


UnitedHealth Group, the nation?€™s largest health insurer, warned Thursday that it may exit the Affordable Care Act?€™s exchanges in 2017, a potential blow to President Barack Obama?€™s signature health care law.

The New York-based carrier said its exchange-based business has not met financial expectations. The company said it expects significant losses on its individual health plans related to the 2015 and 2016 policy years.

The disclosure comes less than three weeks after the president of the company?€™s Illinois insurance operations expressed optimism about its exchange-related business going into next year. UnitedHealthcare, the insurance subsidiary of United-Health Group, expanded its individual exchange products to 27 counties in Illinois for the 2016 policy year.

Stephen Hemsley, UnitedHealth Group?€™s CEO, said in a news release that the company downgraded earnings projections for 2015 as growth expectations for individual exchange participation have tempered industrywide, co-operatives have failed, and market data have signaled higher risks and more difficulties. He added that enrollees have increased their use of medical services.

UnitedHealth Group cut its 2015 earnings outlook by $425 million, or 26 cents a share. The forecast sent the company?€™s shares sliding about 4.5 percent in Thursday morning trading.

UnitedHealthcare has pulled back on its marketing efforts in the individual market. The company also said it will determine in the first half of next year whether it will stay in the exchanges in 2017.

UnitedHealthcare?€™s warning highlights the struggles many insurers are having with the Affordable Care Act. Blue Cross and Blue Shield has boosted premiums on its individual policies an average of 17.8 percent, after its exchange-based business lost about $280 million in 2014. Blue Cross also stopped offering on the individual market its PPO plan that featured its broadest provider network.

Moderate coffee drinking associated with lower risk of death

CBS News (11/16, Welch) reports on a study published in Circulation based on data covering ?€?almost 168,000 women and over 40,000 men,?€? some of them for up to 30 years, finding that those who drank fewer that five cups of coffee daily ?€?had a lower risk of deaths from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, type 2 diabetes and suicide.?€?

NBC News (11/16, Fox) reports that the study found that those ?€?who drink regular, moderate amounts of coffee are less likely to die from a range of diseases, from diabetes to heart disease.?€? It also found no additional benefit beyond five cups per day and that the benefit appeared whether the coffee was regular or decaffeinated. The study found that people who drank coffee regularly were also more likely to smoke. Coffee drinkers who did not smoke were ?€?between 8 and 15 percent less likely to die,?€? than non-coffee drinkers. The study did not identify whether coffee drinkers added cream, milk, or sugar to their coffee. The authors suggested that antioxidants may play a role, but said that the chief finding is that coffee drinking is not harmful.

CNN (11/16, Storrs) reports the effect is clear only among those who drink coffee and ?€?never smoked.?€? Among those, there was a 6% to 8% lower death rate connected to drinking up to 3 cups daily, and a 15% lower rate among those who drank 3 to 5 cups, and a 12% lower rate among those who drank over 5 cups daily. One possibility suggested is that coffee drinkers ?€?drink less soda,?€? while it is also suggested that the lignans and chlorogenic acid in coffee ?€?could reduce inflammation and help control blood sugar,?€? and so ?€?reduce the risk of heart disease,?€? which was 10% lower among coffee drinkers. In addition, coffee drinkers had a 9% to 37% lower rate of death from ?€?neurological diseases such as Parkinson?€™s and dementia.?€? They also had ?€?between 20% and 36% lower rates of suicide.?€?

Budget law to block expected Medicare Part B premium hikes

USA Today (11/13, Powell) reports that the bipartisan budget bill signed last week changes Social Security and Medicare laws. The changes include stopping the expected Medicare Part B premium hikes. Thirty percent of ?€?Medicare beneficiaries were expecting a 52% increase in their Medicare Part B medical insurance premiums and deductible in 2016,?€? but the budget law will have those beneficiaries ?€?pay about $119 per month, instead of $159.30, for Part B.?€? Medicare part B beneficiaries will ?€?also have to pay an extra $3 per month to help pay down a loan the government gave to Medicare to offset lost revenue.?€?

US adult obesity rate rises to 38%, CDC report finds

The New York Times (11/12, A20, Tavernise, Subscription Publication) reports that ?€?despite years of efforts to reduce obesity in America...federal health officials reported Thursday that the share of Americans who were obese had not declined in recent years, and had edged up slightly.?€? Approximately ?€?38 percent of American adults were obese in 2013 and 2014, up from 35 percent in 2011 and 2012.?€?

        According to the Los Angeles Times (11/12), the ?€?report was the CDC?€™s National Center for Health Statistics.?€? The report?€™s ?€?figures...came from data gathered by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.?€?

        TIME (11/12, Sifferlin) reports that the data indicated that ?€?in 2011-2014, 36.5% of adults and 17% of young people ages 2 to 19 were obese.?€? Altogether, ?€?the prevalence was higher among women compared to men and higher among Hispanic and black adults compared to other racial groups.?€?

Some providers will not accept patients with ACA coverage

US News & World Report (11/5, Leonard) reports that while Federal officials ?€?worked diligently this year to improve consumer experience on,?€? one thing ?€?is out of the government?€™s control: whether doctors and hospitals will agree to accept patients who buy these plans.?€? The decision is usually up to the insurance carrier, and it usually ?€?comes down to reimbursement, which can be lower through plans obtained via the Obamacare marketplace.?€? The Administration has sought to address such issues by adding a search tool to help patients determine whether specific providers are included in their plan. HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell noted in an interview with reporters last week that HHS cannot compel providers to accept ACA patients.

FDA approves first-of-its-kind skin cancer medication

Bloomberg News (10/28, Chen) reports that the Food and Drug Administration approved Imlygic (talimogene laherparepvec), Amgen Inc.?€™s ?€?treatment for melanoma lesions in the skin and lymph nodes that can?€™t be removed completely by surgery.?€? Imlygic, also known as T-vec, ?€?uses a modified version of the herpes simplex virus to attack cancer cells.?€? The drug will have an average cost of about $65,000 annually, according to the company.

        The Boston Globe (10/28, Tedeschi) reports in ?€?Stat?€? that the drug is ?€?the first tumor-killing virus to receive the FDA?€™s blessing?€? and it could ?€?usher in a new wave of immune-stimulating viral therapies.?€? Other immune-stimulating viral therapies include ?€?a genetically tweaked poliovirus being tested in patients with brain tumors, while another, based on a version of the common cold virus, is now under evaluation in people with bladder cancer.?€?

        The AP (10/28) reports that ?€?despite the drug?€™s groundbreaking approach, FDA officials stressed it has not been shown to extend life,?€? but rather has been demonstrated to shrink tumors.

Sleep apnea may be linked to increased risk of gout

The New York Times (10/23, Bakalar) reports that researchpublished in Arthritis & Rheumatology suggests that sleep apnea may be linked to an increased risk of gout. Investigators looked at data on more than 9,800 people ?€?with sleep apnea and matched them to?€? nearly 43,600 ?€?controls without the disorder.?€? The researchers found that ?€?after one year, compared with controls, people with sleep apnea were about 50 percent more likely to have had an attack of gout, and the increased risk was found without regard to sex, age or obesity.?€?

        Medscape (10/23) reports that ?€?one of the possible biological mechanisms for the association between sleep apnea and gout risk is apnea-induced hypoxia, which can promote nucleotide turnover, generating purines that are metabolized to uric acid, the authors suggest.?€? Meanwhile, prior research has ?€?demonstrated a higher prevalence of hyperuricemia among patients with sleep apnea.?€?

In a shift, the American Cancer Society is recommending women have mammograms later and less often

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 11:04 AM EDT
One of the most respected and influential groups in the continuing breast-cancer screening debate said on Tuesday that women should begin mammograms later and have them less frequently than it had long advocated.
The American Cancer Society, which has for years taken the most aggressive approach to screening, issued new guidelines on Tuesday, recommending that women with an average risk of breast cancer start having mammograms at 45 and continue once a year until 54, then every other year for as long as they are healthy and expected to live another 10 years

Sleep apnea may be more dangerous for women than for men

The New York Times (10/20, D6, Bakalar) ?€?Well?€? blog reports that research published in Circulation suggests that ?€?sleep apnea may be even more dangerous for women than for men.?€? Investigators found that ?€?obstructive sleep apnea was independently associated with increased troponin T, heart failure and death in women, but not in men.?€? The researchers also found that ?€?in women, but not men, sleep apnea was associated with an enlarged heart, another risk factor for cardiovascular disease.?€?

Sex may not trigger heart attacks, strokes

NBC News (9/22) reports on its website that research suggests that ?€?sex doesn?€™t seem to trigger heart attacks?€? or strokes. The findingswere published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Investigators ?€?questioned 536 heart disease patients aged between 30 and 70 years about their sexual activity before and after heart attacks, strokes and other types of sudden cardiovascular death.?€?  AFP (9/22) reports that the investigators ?€?concluded that sexual activity...was not a risk factor for subsequent adverse cardiovascular events.?€?

Calcium supplements may not strengthen bones in women under 80, study finds

David Muir reported on ABC World News (9/29, story 10, 0:30, Muir, 5.84M) that new research finds ?€?taking daily calcium supplements does little to strengthen bones in women under 80.?€? Muir reported, ?€?Only women over 80 and in nursing homes saw hip fractures decrease by 23 percent.?€?

Correspondent Rehema Ellis reported on NBC Nightly News (9/29, story 7, 2:15, Holt, 7.86M) that investigators ?€?concluded that most people over 50 won?€™t get stronger bones if they increase their calcium intake.?€? The findings were published in the British Medical Journal.

Meanwhile, NBC News (9/30) reports on its website that the ?€?extra calcium doesn?€™t go to strengthen bones but instead can build up in the arteries, causing heart disease, or in the kidneys, causing kidney stones.?€? TIME (9/30, Sifferlin) reports the results from the meta-analysis ?€?suggest that clinicians, advocacy organizations and health policymakers should not recommend increasing calcium intake for fracture prevention either with calcium supplements or through dietary sources,?€? the New Zealand researchers wrote. TIME adds that the ?€?new results also fall in line with the guidance provided by the United States Preventative Services Task Force in 2013,?€? which, based on the evidence available, ultimately concluded that ?€?post-menopausal women should not take daily supplements.?€?

ICD-10 switch will take place Oct. 1 even if government shuts down

Congressional Quarterly (9/25, Subscription Publication) reports that the nationwide transition to ICD-10 will proceed on Oct. 1 ?€?even if Congress triggers a partial government shutdown that day by missing an appropriations deadline, according to a top federal official.?€? Patrick Conway, principal deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the agency is already establishing contingency plans for handling the switch if the government is shut down. Managing the transition ?€?is among the top priorities for the agency, and CMS has some flexibility in its staffing that can be used to keep the work on track in case of a shutdown, he said.?€? Conway told reporters, ?€?Our goal is to have a smooth transition to ICD-10, both from a payment perspective and from the service around that payment.?€?

Adults with who take hypertension medications at bedtime may be less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes

The Los Angeles Times (9/24, Healy) ?€?Science Now?€? reports that research published in Diabetologia suggests that ?€?adults with high blood pressure who take all of their hypertension medications before they go to bed, rather than in the morning, are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.?€? Another study, ?€?also published in Diabetologia?€? yesterday ?€?and conducted by the same...researchers, found that subjects whose blood pressure did not dip, and those whose readings dipped more briefly or shallowly, were more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those whose sleep-time blood pressure saw a deep and sustained drop from daytime levels.?€?

Falling flat-screen TVs may cause severe or fatal head, neck injuries in small children

Reuters (9/30, Doyle) reports that a study published online Sept. 29 in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics suggests that toddlers and small children may be killed or severely injured when flat-screen televisions fall over. Researchers arrived at this conclusion after examining data from 29 studies.

The CBS News (9/30, Welch) website reports that falling televisions can cause ?€?severe head and neck injuries,?€? as well as ?€?fractures.?€? The majority of such ?€?injuries occur when toddlers climb onto furniture to retrieve objects such as toys, or when they bump into unstable TV stands, causing the?€? televisions to fall over onto them.

Interval between pregnancies may affect autism risk

TIME (9/15, Park) reports that ?€?the time between the birth of one child and the conception of the next may affect the second child?€™s risk of developing autism,?€? according to a study published online Sept. 14 in Pediatrics. After studying ?€?45,261 children born in northern California between 2000 and 2009,?€? then adjusting for confounding factors, researchers found that for kids ?€?conceived less than 12 months or more than 72 months after the birth of an older sibling, the risk of autism was two to three fold higher than for those conceived 36 months to 47 months later.?€?

 HealthDay (9/15, Doheny) reports that the study?€™s lead author ?€?said the findings lend support to the current recommendation by the World Health Organization to wait at least two years after a child is born before attempting the next pregnancy.?€?

Obesity at age 50 may be tied to increased risk of developing Alzheimer?€™s at a younger age

The New York Times (9/10, Bakalar) ?€?Well?€? blog reported, ?€?Being obese at age 50 may be tied to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer?€™s disease at a younger age,?€? according to a study published Sept. 1 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. After studying ?€?1,394 cognitively normal people, average age around 60,?€? then ?€?following them for an average of 14 years?€? and controlling for compounding factors, researchers at the National Institute on Aging ?€?found that each unit increase in...body mass index at age 50 was associated with a 6.7-month decrease in the age of onset of Alzheimer?€™s.?€?

Half of US adults have diagnosed diabetes or pre diabetes, study finds

The Los Angeles Times (9/9, Netburn) reported that approximately ?€?half of all Americans have either diabetes or pre-diabetes, according to a new?€? study published Sept. 8 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study also indicates that after about 20 years ?€?of linear growth, the prevalence of diabetes in?€? the US has ?€?finally?€? begun to level off.

        The AP (9/9, Tanner) reported that ?€?overall, 12 percent to 14 percent of adults had diagnosed diabetes in 2012,?€? the majority of which had type 2 diabetes. Nearly ?€?40 percent have pre-diabetes,?€? researchers found.

        The New York Daily News (9/9, Engel) pointed out that ?€?diabetes was most prevalent in Hispanics (23%), blacks (22%) and Asians (21%), and that 11% of whites had the disease.?€? The study also took a ?€?first look at diabetes prevalence in Asian-Americans, who had the highest percentage of undiagnosed cases ?€? 51%.?€?

Precursor of abnormal protein that triggers Alzheimer?€™s may be transmissible, study suggests

The Washington Post (9/9, Kunkle) reports that a study published Sept. 10 in the journal Nature indicates that ?€?the precursor of an abnormal protein that triggers Alzheimer?€™s disease,?€? a-beta amyloid, ?€?could perhaps be transmitted from person to person through the transfer of tissue or certain specialized medical or surgical procedures.?€?

        TIME (9/10, Park) reports that the study?€™s findings ?€?suggest a need to re-think Alzheimer?€™s and how it may develop.?€? The study?€™s lead author ?€?admitted that more research needs to be done to fully understand how important a pathway the amyloid seeds might be in contributing to Alzheimer?€™s, but that the latest results highlight ?€?the growing paradigm shift in understanding that neurodegenerative disease [like Alzheimer?€™s and Parkinson?€™s] may be all about accumulation of [prion] seeds.?€™?€?

        On its ?€?All Things Considered?€? program and in its ?€?Shots?€? blog, NPR (9/10, Hamilton) reports that the ?€?study involved autopsies of eight people who had received injections of human growth hormone as children more than 30 years ago.?€? That ?€?hormone, extracted from human pituitary glands, had been tainted with a protein that caused these people to develop...Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.?€? Autopsy studies revealed that four people ?€?had really quite significant deposition of Alzheimer amyloid protein in their brains.?€? Investigators than ?€?concluded that the growth hormone had been tainted with a second protein from the human pituitary glands ?€? one that caused amyloid to build up quickly.?€?

FSAs could vanish as employers seek to avoid so-called ?€?Cadillac tax?€?

Politico (9/1, Gass) reports that flexible spending accounts, ?€?which allow people to save their own money tax free for everything from doctor?€™s co-pays to eyeglasses, may vanish in coming years as companies scramble to avoid?€? the ACA?€™s so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans before it takes effect in 2018. Rich Stover, a healthcare actuary and principal at Buck Consultants, said, ?€?If the Cadillac tax doesn?€™t change, FSAs will go away very quickly.?€? According to Politico, this ?€?fact alone could dramatically alter the political equation?€? surrounding the health law. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has already vowed to scrap the tax and Hillary Clinton said she?€™s open to changes.

Higher BMI at age 50 predicts earlier Alzheimer?€™s onset

The AP (9/1, Neergaard) reports the National Institutes of Health has announced additional research linking mid-life obesity and Alzheimers. Specifically, for every point higher on the BMI scale a person was at age 50, the eventual onset of Alzheimers came six and a half months earlier. Additionally, autopsies and scans ?€?found people with higher midlife BMIs also had more of the brain-clogging hallmarks of Alzheimer?€™s years later, even if they didn?€™t develop dementia.?€? While a direct causal link is not posited by the study, which involved data from 1,400 patients over 14 years, Heather Snyder of the Alzheimer?€™s Association cautioned generally, ?€?What?€™s good for your heart is good for your brain.

Employers may drop FSAs when Cadillac tax takes effect, analysis suggests

CNBC (8/25) reports that the ACA?€™s so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans ?€?threatens to hit 1 in 4 U.S. employers when it takes effect in 2018?€?and will impact 42 percent of all employers by a decade later, according to a new analysis?€? from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Many of those employers will be subject to the excise tax because they offer flexible spending accounts to workers, ?€?which, ironically, are designed to reduce the income tax burden to those employees.?€? Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the foundation and a co-author of the analysis, said, ?€?In the next few years, when some employers will be subject to the Cadillac tax, I would expect some employers to drop FSAs.?€?

Light to moderate drinking may increase risk of certain cancers

TIME (8/19, Park) reports that research suggests that ?€?indulging in as little as one drink a day for women and two drinks daily for men can boost the risk of breast, colon, oral, liver and esophageal cancers.?€? The study indicated that ?€?the risk was higher for men who smoked, even those who had quit, than for non smokers.?€? The findings were published in the BMJ.

        HealthDay (8/19, Reinberg) reports, however, that the investigators ?€?found that light to moderate drinking was not associated with a statistically significant increased risk for cancers overall.?€?

Coffee, colon cancer survival linked, study suggests The ?€?Well?€? blog of the New York Times (8/18, Rabin) reports that a study published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that colon cancer patients who consumed higher volumes of coffee each day ?€?had a far lower risk of dying or having their cancer return than those who did not drink coffee.?€? The study showed that ?€?significant benefits?€? began with two or three daily cups of coffee, and patients who consumed four or more each day ?€?had half the rate of recurrence or death than non-coffee drinkers.?€?

        On its website, NBC News (8/18, Fox) reports that Dr, Charles Fuchs of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute said that the study of just under 1,000 patients found that ?€?Those who drank coffee regularly had a better disease-free survival, meaning they had a lower rate of having their cancer recur or of dying.?€? He added that patients who drank other caffeinated beverages like soda had ?€?a poorer outcome,?€? and decaf coffee and tea did not produce the same benefits. NBC News notes that the study was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

The New York Times (4/14, B1, Abelson, Subscription Publication) reports that consumers are ?€?increasingly comfortable trading a greater choice of hospitals or doctors for a health plan that costs significantly less money.?€? According to data gathered by the McKinsey Center for US Health System Reform, nearly half of the plans offered on public health exchanges this year ?€?are so-called narrow network options, which sharply limit the medical providers whose services will be covered,?€? and ?€?nearly a fifth are considered ?€?ultranarrow networks,?€™ which offer even fewer choices.?€? Likewise, ?€?more employers are also embracing the plans for their workers, largely as a way to lower health care costs.?€?

The Washington Post (4/14, Phillip) reports that research published in the British Journal of Cancer has ?€?found evidence of a troubling connection between men who took muscle-building supplements and their risk of developing testicular cancer.?€? Investigators ?€?found a clear relationship between the use of muscle-building supplements and the risk of developing cancer even after controlling for other factors like race and age.?€?

The New York Times (7/24, De la Merced, Bray, Subscription Publication) reported that Anthem on Friday announced plans to acquire Cigna ?€?in a deal, including debt, that values its rival at $54.2 billion, the latest in a consolidation push among the nation?€™s biggest health insurers.?€? Under the terms of the deal, Anthem would pay $188 per share in cash and stock for its rival.

        The AP (7/25, Murphy, Chapman, Perrone) reported that the deal ?€?would create the nation?€™s largest health insurer by enrollment, covering about 53 million US patients.?€? The proposed acquisition follows ?€?Aetna?€™s $35 billion bid for Humana on July 3.?€? If approved, the Anthem-Cigna merger would ?€?transform?€? the health insurance landscape, resulting in the consolidation of ?€?five massive U.S. health companies into just three, including UnitedHealth Group.?€?

        However, USA Today (7/24, O'Donnell) reported that the American Medical Association has ?€?warned against?€? consolidation in the insurance industry, ?€?noting that three out of four metropolitan areas are already rated as ?€?highly concentrated,?€™ according to its analysis of federal market concentration guidelines.?€?

        AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, said in a statement, ?€?We have long cautioned about the negative consequences of large health insurers pursuing merger strategies to assume dominant positions in local markets,?€? NPR (7/25) reported in its ?€?Shots?€? blog. He added, ?€?Recently proposed mergers threaten to increase health insurer concentration, reduce competition and decrease choice.?€?

California bills would expand Medicaid, ACA coverage to undocumented immigrants

The Los Angeles Times (7/24, Karlamangla) reports that at a news conference Thursday, California state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D) ?€?outlined his efforts to further expand coverage to Californians who entered the country illegally.?€? Lara said he plans to introduce a bill next year that would allow adults in the country illegally to enroll in Medi-Cal, the state?€™s Medicaid program. The Legislature ?€?is also considering SB 4, which would ask permission from the federal government to let such immigrants buy insurance through the state?€™s Obamacare insurance exchange, Covered California.?€?

According to Federal and state documents, health insurers ?€?around the country are seeking rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more?€? in 2016, claiming their new Affordable Care Act customers are ?€?sicker than expected,?€? the New York Times (7/4, A1, Pear, Subscription Publication) reported in a front-page story. The proposed rate increases ?€?are the first to reflect a full year of experience with the new insurance exchanges and federal standards?€? and they ?€?suggest that insurance markets are still adjusting to shock waves set off by the Affordable Care Act.?€?

The Washington Post (6/30, Cha) reports that research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found ?€?an unexpected link between high consumption of citrus ?€? specifically whole grapefruit and orange juice ?€? and risk of melanoma.?€? Investigators ?€?found that 1,840 of the study participants developed melanoma and that those who had a serving of citrus fruit or juice 1.6 times daily had a 36 percent higher risk of the cancer as compared with those who consume it less than two times a week.?€?


On its website, NBC News (6/30, Fox) reports that ?€?the risk was higher for people who drank the most orange juice or ate the most grapefruit, but it?€? was not higher among those ?€?who ate whole oranges or drank grapefruit juice.?€?

What started as a toothache from a lost filling became a raging infection that landed Christopher Smith in the University of Louisville Hospital emergency room, then in intensive care on a ventilator and feeding tube.

"It came on so quickly and violently. I was terrified," said Smith, 41, of Jeffersonville, Ind., who lacked dental insurance and hadn't been to a dentist for years before the problem arose this month. "I had no idea it could get this serious this quickly."

Smith is one of a growing number of patients seeking help in the ER for long-delayed dental care. An analysis of the most recent federal data by the American Dental Association shows dental ER visits doubled from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.2 million in 2012, or one visit every 15 seconds. ADA officials, as well as many dentists across the nation say the problem persists despite health reform.

"This is something I deal with daily," said Dr. George Kushner, director of the oral and maxillofacial surgery program at U of L. "And there is not a week that goes by that we don't have someone hospitalized. ?€? People still die from their teeth in the U.S."

Often, pain is what drives people to the ER, "like a cavity that hurts so much they can't take it anymore," said Dr. Jeffery Hackman, ER clinical operations director at Truman Medical Center-Hospital Hill in Kansas City, who has noticed a significant rise in dental patients coming to his department in recent years.

Limited insurance coverage is a major culprit; all but 15 percent of dental ER visits are by the uninsured or people with government insurance plans.

The Affordable Care Act requires health plans to cover dental services for children but not adults. Medicaid plans for adults vary by state, and offer only a short list of dental services in Kentucky. Medicare generally doesn't cover dental care at all.

By law, ERs have to see patients even if they can't pay. But although they often provide little more than painkillers and antibiotics to dental patients, the visits cost more than three times as much as a routine dental visit, averaging $749 if the patient isn't hospitalized ?€? and costing the U.S. health care system $1.6 billion a year.

"If we were going to the dentist more often, we could avoid a lot of this," said Dr. Ruchi Sahota, a California dentist and consumer adviser for the ADA. "Prevention is priceless."

Access challenges

But cost is a barrier for many people. Just over a third of working-age adults nationally, and 64 percent of seniors, lacked dental coverage of any kind in 2012, meaning they had to pay for everything out of pocket. And the 10 percent of American adults with Medicaid dental plans often can't find dentists to take them. The ADA says that's partly because reimbursements are so low ?€? 41 percent of private insurance reimbursement in Kentucky last year.

State officials point to progress, reporting a 37 percent increase in visits to dentists by adult Medicaid patients in the year following Kentucky's expansion of Medicaid under the ACA. But at a "Dental Access Summit" this year, Dr. John Thompson, former executive director of the Kentucky Dental Association, said access overall remains problematic across the state, with a shrinking dental Medicaid network due largely to low reimbursements, a large number of residents without dental insurance ?€?and rising ER visits for preventable dental problems.

Kentucky also faces a shortage of dentists; a 2013 workforce study by Deloitte Consulting found the state needs 612 more to meet demand.

People pay a price for going without dental care. Federal figures show that about four in 10 adults nationally had no dental visit in the past year, and more than a quarter of working-age adults, and one in five seniors, have untreated cavities.

When poor people do get care, dentists say, the uninsured usually opt for the cheapest available and Medicaid patients usually choose only basic, covered services such as extractions.

"I take out teeth every week that could have been saved with restorative work," Kushner said.

Besides not having enough insurance coverage, dentists say people tend to ignore dental problems until things get really bad, which can happen outside business hours and drive them into the ER.

When money's tight, "dental care is something people put off to the very end," failing to realize it's crucial to overall health, said Dr. Michael McCunniff, chairman of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Department of Public Health and Behavioral Science.

Smith learned the hard way just how crucial oral health care is.

The reggae vocalist and part-time security system installer says he'd been without dental insurance for a couple of years when a filling fell out of a molar on June 6. He tried to fix it with a do-it-yourself kit, but the temporary filling came out during a concert that night. He treated it with Anbesol, a pain reliever, the next day, but the pain got worse as his jaw swelled, and he drove to the emergency room at 4 the following morning.

Doctors there referred him to a nearby dentist, who saw the worsening infection and sent him back to the ER, where his tooth was removed. At home, the infection drained into his neck, making it difficult to breathe. He made a third trip to the U of L Hospital ER, and as he sat in the waiting room the swelling doubled. "I could feel my windpipe close," he said.

Doctors admitted him, cut into his neck to drain the infection and gave him strong antibiotics ?€? and kept him in the hospital for a week.

A day after returning home, he felt up to little except resting with his daschund, Sinatra. The scar on his neck had begun to scab over and his still-swollen jaw made it impossible to open his mouth all the way.

Toward solutions

Dentists say patients can be much better served by getting regular care in the community, where many issues that bring people to ERs can be handled and serious problems prevented. Community health centers with dental clinics offer one longstanding alternative for low-cost care, and another newly touted option involves university dental school clinics. Both U of L and the University of Kentucky dental schools have programs offering treatment for patients.

In Baltimore, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry has a pre-doctoral clinic where students provide a range of care under faculty supervision as well as a walk-in clinic for people with urgent needs. An ADA report last year found that dental ER visits had fallen between 2012 and 2014 in Maryland amid state reforms such as increased Medicaid reimbursements for dentists and a larger provider network ?€? inspired in part by the 2007 death of a 12-year-old boy from a brain infection that began as a toothache.

The ADA also pointed to referral programs across the nation that aim to get dental patients out of ERs and into treatment at dental schools. Officials say there are 125 such programs, compared with only eight a year ago. In Kansas City, patients at Truman only have to walk across the street when they're referred to the University of Missouri clinic.

"An emergency physician can provide some temporary care ?€? things like pain medication and antibiotics ?€? but rarely are we able to definitively treat the underlying cause of dental problems," said Hackman, the emergency clinical director at Truman.

Sahota and other dentists say they'd ultimately like to see dental care as a required service for insurers to cover. The ADA pushed the idea as Obamacare was being written and is now advocating for increased coverage for adult dental care under Medicaid.

In the meantime, some dentists say they're glad to see more people get on Medicaid, even if it does pay only for basic dental care. Dr. Stephanie Poynter, a dentist with Family Health Centers in Louisville, said fewer patients in her community clinic are seeking care in the ER now that more are on Medicaid, "which is good news." Other dentists said increasing Medicaid reimbursement, simplifying the program's paperwork, and educating patients about oral health could further improve access to care.

As for Smith, ER staff helped him sign up for Medicaid in Indiana, and now that he's been referred to a dentist who has agreed to take him, he plans to get regular checkups and take meticulous care of his teeth at home. McCunniff said that's a much better plan ?€? for all Americans ?€? than forgoing care and then seeking help in the ER.

"All that does is put a Band-Aid on the problem," McCunniff said. "It doesn't cure it."

On its website, CBS News (6/10, Welch) reports that investigators ?€?have found increased autism rates among children born to teen moms and among kids whose parents have large gaps between their ages.?€? The research, published in Molecular Psychiatry, indicated that ?€?autism rates were 66 percent higher among children born to dads over 50 years old, as compared to dads in their 20s.?€? Meanwhile, ?€?autism rates were 15 percent higher when moms had children in their 40s and 18 percent higher for children of teen moms, when compared to those born to women in their 20s.?€?

        Health Day (6/10, Haelle) reports that ?€?the risk also went up even more if the parents?€™ ages differed by at least 10 years.?€? The researchers found that ?€?the age gap risk showed up especially among fathers between 35 and 44 with a partner more than 10 years younger, and among mothers in their 30s with a partner at least 10 years younger.?€? The investigators came to these conclusions after looking at nearly ?€?31,000 children with autism to nearly 6 million without autism in five countries.?€?

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (6/9, Crane) reports that anesthesia may ?€?damage the developing?€? brains of children, a study published online in Pediatrics suggests. For the study, researchers ?€?compared kids who had surgery before they were four years old with peers of the same age, gender and socioeconomic status.?€? Included in the study were ?€?106 five- to 18-year-olds who underwent assessments to measure brain development,?€? including magnetic resonance imaging scans.

        Health Day (6/9, Haelle) reports that youngsters ?€?who had received general anesthesia during surgery before they turned four years of age later scored slightly lower on listening comprehension and parts of an IQ test, compared to children who had never had general anesthesia,?€? the study revealed. The youngsters?€™ ?€?overall IQ scores, however, remained within the normal range.?€?

Reuters (6/2, Doyle) reports that for patients whose obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is mild to moderate, mandibular adjustment devices may help alleviate snoring. The 91-patient study found, however, that use of such devices did not alleviate the problem of feeling sleepy during the daytime. The research was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The Los Angeles Times (2/27, Kaplan) reports that a new study by an international group of researchers found that people who consume multiple cups of coffee each day may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis. Using ?€?data from a Swedish study that tracked 1,629 people who developed MS as well as 2,807 people who didn?€™t,?€? researchers ?€?found that those who drank six or more cups of coffee per day were 33% less likely than non-drinkers to be diagnosed with MS the following year.?€? A similar correlation was found in US data ?€?from Kaiser Permanente patients in Northern California?€?; of these, 584 had MS and 581 were controls.

HealthDay (2/26, Norton) reports, ?€?Researchers stressed that the findings do not prove that coffee fights MS,?€? though Dr. Ellen Mowry, an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and lead researcher in the study, said ?€?the findings do build on evidence that coffee and possibly caffeine specifically are ?€?neuroprotective.?€™?€? The piece notes that the study ?€?ruled out some other explanations ?€? such as age, smoking habits, and sun exposure.?€? Dr. Mowry is scheduled to present the preliminary findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

The Wall Street Journal (5/22, A1, Radnofsky, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that major health insurers in some states are proposing steep rate hikes for plans sold on the ACA exchanges, citing high medical costs incurred by people newly insured under the health law. Insurance regulators in many states can force insurers to scale back proposed increases, however. Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said, ?€?After state and consumer rate review, final rates often decrease significantly.?€?

Kaiser Health News (5/16, Andrews) reported that last ?€?week, the federal government clarified that insurers can?€™t charge people for anesthesia administered during a free colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer.?€? However, according to Kaiser Health News, other issues related to colon cancer screening remain unclear. For instance, patients ?€?may still find themselves on the hook for facility or pathology charges related to a screening colonoscopy, according to an email from Anna Howard, a policy principal at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and Mary Doroshenk, director of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable.?€? Meanwhile, ?€?cost sharing rules are unclear for consumers who get a positive result on a blood stool test and need to follow up with a colonoscopy.?€?

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News (5/4, Seipel) reports that on Monday, legislation to ?€?extend free or low-cost health care coverage to immigrants who are in the country illegally?€? heads to the California Senate Appropriations Committee for a ?€?key vote.?€? If Senate Bill 4 is eventually signed into law, ?€?more than a million low-paid undocumented farm and construction workers, hotel maids and service workers would qualify for Medi-Cal, the state?€™s health program for the poor.?€? The bill would also ?€?allow illegal immigrants with higher income levels to use their own money to buy an unsubsidized private health plan through Covered California.?€?

The Washington Times (4/28, Howell) reports that according to a study by H&R Block, almost two-thirds of tax filers who received subsidies to help pay for ACA coverage ?€?had to pay back some of their subsidy to the IRS.?€? According to the study, ?€?the average repayment totaled $729,?€? and ?€?the typical repayment slashed those customers?€™ refunds, which averaged $2,195, by a third.?€? The study also found that the average penalty paid by filers who failed to hold health insurance in 2014 was $178.

        CNN Money (4/27, Sahadi) reports that sixty-one percent of filers were affected, because subsidies are calculated based on income and people had ?€?underestimated what their 2014 household income would be when they signed up for insurance on a health exchange back in 2013.?€?



In a decision that revives a legal challenge filed by Catholic ministries in Michigan and Tennessee against the ACA?€™s contraceptive mandate, the Supreme Court has struck down a ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the government?€™s stance on the mandate. Reuters (4/28, Hurley) reports that the High Court has asked the 6th Circuit to reconsider its decision in the wake of last year?€™s Supreme Court ruling in the ?€?Hobby Lobby?€? case, which permitted certain privately owned corporations to seek exemptions from the mandate. The Hill (4/28, Ferris) notes that Monday?€™s ruling in Michigan Catholic Conference v. Burwell ?€?marks the sixth time that the court has thrown out decisions that upheld Obama administration policies, sending the cases back to the lower courts for reconsideration.?€? It reports that groups can apply to the Health and Human Services Department for an exemption from the mandate, but the Michigan Catholic Conference and other Catholic ministries have argued that the extra steps involved ?€?created an ?€?unjustified substantial burden?€™ and called for the same kind of across-the-board exemption that houses of worship received under the law.?€?

The New York Times (4/16, Bakalar) ?€?Well?€? blog reports that research published in Neurology suggests that ?€?breathing problems during sleep may be linked to early mental decline and Alzheimer?€™s disease.?€? Investigators found, in a study of 2,470 people, that individuals ?€?with disordered breathing during sleep became cognitively impaired an average of about 10 years sooner than those without the disorder.?€?

The Washington Post (4/16, Bernstein) ?€?To Your Health?€? blog reports that the study also found ?€?that using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, the treatment of choice for sleep apnea, can prevent or delay cognitive problems.?€?

TIME (4/16, Park) reports that the study also suggested ?€?a connection between sleep apnea or snoring and Alzheimer?€™s dementia, but it wasn?€™t as robust as the link to?€? mild cognitive impairment.

WASHINGTON ?€? The Senate gave final congressional approval late Tuesday to the $214 billion bipartisan measure, which rewrites how Medicare pays doctors for treating over 50 million elderly people. It also provides extra money for health care programs for children and low-income people, which Democrats coveted, and imposed higher costs on some higher-income Medicare beneficiaries, which Republicans touted as a victory.

Most immediately, the bill prevented a 21 percent cut in those physicians' Medicare fees that would have hit home Wednesday when a federal agency planned to start making payments reflecting that reduction. That would have ensured a flood of complaints from doctors and senior citizens that lawmakers dearly wanted to avoid.

"This bipartisan bill will protect health coverage for millions of Americans, and I will be proud to sign it into law," President Barack Obama said after the Senate vote.

Said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., "Instead of kicking this important Medicare payment issue down the road again, a strong bipartisan majority in Congress voted to finally solve the problem and ensure that seniors on Medicare don't lose access to their doctors."

The Senate roll call was 92-8, with all eight "no" votes coming from Republicans. Among presidential hopefuls, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., voted against the bill, while Rand Paul, R-Ky., an ophthalmologist, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., supported it.

By an overwhelming 392-37, the House approved the legislation last month after the compromise was crafted by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Their joint effort marked an uncharacteristic accord to address a problem that both parties wanted resolved.

For congressional leaders including McConnell, passage provided an opportunity to demonstrate that they and their parties can govern.

"It's another reminder of a new Republican Congress that's back to work," he said.

The bill's chief feature was its annulling of a 1997 law aimed at slowing the growth of Medicare that has repeatedly threatened deep cuts in reimbursements to physicians and led to threats by doctors to stop treating the program's beneficiaries.

Congress has blocked 17 reductions since 2003, an exercise that invites intense lobbying and difficult choices about finding budget savings that both parties detested. Lawmakers had tried before to void the old formula but fallen short, usually over disagreements over how to pay for a new reimbursement system.

The approved bill would create a new payment system with financial incentives for physicians to bill Medicare patients for their overall care, not individual office visits.

Though $141 billion of the bill's costs is borne by additional federal red ink, $35 billion comes from higher expenses for Medicare beneficiaries.

Most of that would come from raising the medical and prescription drug premiums paid by some upper-income recipients starting in 2018. Though the affected beneficiaries already pay higher premiums than lower-earning people, Congress seldom increases costs on seniors, fearing retribution come the next Election Day from older voters.

The bill would raise another $37 billion by cutting Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and other providers.

The 21 percent cut in doctors' fees technically took effect April 1. Citing federal law, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stopped processing those claims two weeks ago ?€? in effect giving lawmakers time to complete the legislation. The agency processes around 4 million Medicare payments for doctors daily.

The Los Angeles Times (4/13, Zamosky) reports that millions of small businesses nationwide ?€?haven?€™t yet faced all the sweeping changes that resulted from the Affordable Care Act.?€? The government gave firms extra time to meet ACA requirements, ?€?and instead they took advantage of provisions that allowed them to stay put with their old policies.?€? These ?€?grandmothered?€? health plans must ultimately be phased out, however. In California, these policies will be phased out December 2015, and many companies will be facing rate increases, as the ACA ?€?mandates more healthcare services that some older insurance policies did not.?€? What kind of changes small businesses will face is ?€?hard to estimate,?€? as rates vary from region to region.

The Wall Street Journal (4/13, Armour, Subscription Publication) reports that Medicaid expansion under the ACA means that millions more Americans are now subject to a little-known Federal law that allows states to recover nearly all Medicaid costs if recipients are 55 or older when they die. As a result, some families are finding that they must sell a home or other assets of a deceased relative to pay back the government.

The Washington Post (4/1, Kunkle) reports that research published in the Annals of Neurology suggests that saracatinib, ?€?a drug originally designed to target cancer, has been found to restore memory and reverse cognitive problems in mice with Alzheimer?€™s disease-like symptoms and could offer a path forward to a treatment for humans someday.?€?

The New York Times (3/31, O'Connor) ?€?Well?€? blog reports that most ?€?clinical trials involving fish oil have found no evidence that it lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.?€? Despite this fact, ?€?fish oil is now the third most widely used dietary supplement in the United States...according to a recent report from the National Institutes of Health.?€? The blog points out that ?€?at least 10 percent of Americans take fish oil regularly, most believing that the omega-3 fatty acids in the supplements will protect their cardiovascular health.?€?

Hospitals increasingly are demanding upfront payment before treating patients to prevent unpaid bills. In Pennsylvania, debt-burdened hospitals want to stave off more than $1 billion of annual bad debt. They look for upfront payment for big-ticket items such as surgeries and MRIs.

Bad debt could soar as people sign up for insurance plans that make patients responsible for a bigger portion of hospital bills, experts said. As a result, the money hospitals collect for services, aside from payments by insurers, depends on how much they can collect from individuals.

?€?The hospital needs to collect that patient portion,?€? said Denis Lukes, chief financial officer for the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania. ?€?The reality of it is many times a hospital can't collect that after the fact because not all patients are cooperative. ... Some of them don't have the wherewithal?€? to pay.

At issue are high-deductible health plans, offered by more than half of the nation's large employers, according to the benefits consulting firm Mercer. The plans have grown in popularity in the past five years because they have lower monthly premiums, but consumers are responsible for higher deductibles ?€? at least $1,300 for individuals and $2,600 for families.

The plans are popular among people looking for bargain-priced insurance coverage in Obamacare's online marketplace.

?€?It's more difficult to collect after the fact in many cases,?€? said Dan Laurent, spokesman for Allegheny General and its parent company, Allegheny Health Network. ?€?With health plans shifting their financial responsibility to patients, it's really important that people understand what their out-of-pocket responsibilities are when they're choosing a health plan.?€?


A hospital policy established in 2008 requires notifying patients 96 hours in advance of any financial obligation, he said. If a patient cannot pay, he or she is offered a payment plan or the option to talk to a financial counselor, Laurent said.

He declined to say how many people seek financial assistance or how much bad debt the hospital system absorbs in a typical year.

Administrators at UPMC, the region's largest hospital network, said they have more patients with high-deductible plans and talk to them about their financial obligations ?€?well in advance?€? of a procedure, said spokesman Paul Wood. Patients who cannot pay are given the option of a payment plan, he said.

UPMC reported about $212 million in bad debt for fiscal year 2014. The health system uses robocalls to remind patients of appointments and applicable co-pays at least several days before a procedure, he said.

At independent St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon, patients who pay upfront receive a discount, though spokesman Robert Crytzer declined to say how much.

?€?We find patients are greatly appreciative of being informed what their co-pays are prior to service, in that many are not exactly sure of the dollar amount required by their respective health insurance plans,?€? he said.


David E. Williams, a health care consultant in Boston, said patients are leery of hospital bills because they don't understand the complexities of health insurance. He encouraged people to become more familiar with the plans.

?€?If hospitals wait to bill later, the patient, in addition to being generally less likely to pay, may not believe that they actually owe it because they're not sure how the insurance works,?€? said Williams, co-founder of the Health Business Group.

With high-deductible plans, a patient who once was responsible for $50 might be on the hook for thousands of dollars, Williams said. Owing money for a health-related procedure is different from owing money for a car, he said.

?€?If you don't make your (car) payment, somebody can repossess it. They are not going to undo your surgery or take your knee replacement,?€? he said.

The Wall Street Journal (3/19, Armour, Subscription Publication) reports that the Federal government recovered $3.3 billion in fiscal 2014 from individuals and firms that tried to defraud public health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, according to a report from HHS and the Justice Department. HHS Secretary Burwell said in a statement, ?€?These impressive recoveries for the American taxpayer demonstrate our continued commitment to this goal and highlight our efforts to prosecute the most egregious instances of health-care fraud and prevent future fraud and abuse.?€?

USA Today (2/4, Wolf) reports that when the Supreme Court considers whether the ACA?€™s premium subsidies are only allowed for state-run exchanges, it will focus on the words ?€?established by the state,?€? a literal reading of which ?€?would seem to exclude health care exchanges operated by the federal government in 34 states.?€? The Administration argues for a less literal interpretation, ?€?calling the four-word phrase a ?€?term of art?€™ that includes federal exchanges, from which more than 9 million Americans have received subsidies.?€? USA Today notes that in a number of recent unrelated cases, the high court has been ?€?practicing the art of ?€?statutory interpretation,?€™?€? by which they try to determine what lawmakers were thinking.

Bloomberg News (1/29) reports that as many as 6 million US taxpayers ?€?will have to pay a penalty of as much as 1 percent of income because they went without health insurance in part or all of 2014, the Treasury Department said.?€? The penalty, part of the Affordable Care Act, would affect about 2 percent to 4 percent of all taxpayers for 2014. Mark Mazur, the department?€™s assistant secretary for tax policy, said 10 percent to 20 percent of taxpayers weren?€™t insured for all or part of the year but will be able to claim an exemption.

        The Wall Street Journal (1/29, Armour, Subscription Publication) reports Andy Slavitt, the principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said, ?€?We hope for millions of Americans this time of year is a reminder to them, for people who don?€™t have coverage, to get coverage.?€?

        The Washington Times (1/28, Dinan) reports that up to 30 million taxpayers ?€?will claim an exemption from Obamacare on their tax forms this year, the administration predicted Wednesday as officials tried to prepare the country and a skeptical Congress for the first wave of tax penalties under the Affordable Care Act.?€? Additionally, up to 5 percent of taxpayers bought health coverage using government subsidies ?€?and will have to go through a complicated reconciliation process on their tax forms.?€?

        NBC News (1/29) reports that most taxpayers had health insurance through their employer or a government program in 2014 and will only have to check a box on their tax return saying they had coverage.

        Also covering the story are McClatchy (1/29, Pugh, Subscription Publication), Reuters (1/29), CNBC (1/29), CNN (1/28, Luhby), Congressional Quarterly (1/28, Subscription Publication), the Washington Examiner (1/29) and Forbes (1/28).

ABC World News (1/20, story 15, 0:20, Muir) reported that the National Cancer Institute is ?€?saying four or more cups a day reduces the risk of malignant melanoma by 20 percent.?€?

TIME (1/21, Park) reports that in a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers at the NCI ?€?looked at food and cancer information from more than 447,000 people enrolled in a National Institutes of Health-AARP study who answered a 124-item food questionnaire and allowed the scientists access to their medical records.?€?

On its website, CBS News (1/21) reports, ?€?The researchers found that frequent coffee drinkers ?€? those who consumed four cups or more per day ?€? had a 20 percent lower risk for developing malignant melanoma than those who drank less coffee.?€? The investigators ?€?also observed the protective benefits of coffee increased the more a person drank.?€?

Fox News (1/21, Kwan) reports that the investigators ?€?found a statistically significant effect only for caffeinated coffee, but not decaffeinated,?€? which could ?€?be due to chance, or a number of explanations, study author Erikka Loftfield, M.P.H., of the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute, told in an email.?€?

HealthDay (1/21, Thompson) reports, ?€?Even with these findings, Loftfield said people should not rely on coffee to protect them from melanoma.?€?