Health Desk

Politics
4:11 am
Tue May 20, 2014

How Big A Factor Will Obamacare Be In Midterm Elections?

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 2:39 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Voters are choosing congressional nominees in half a dozen state primaries today, from the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South. Those states also run the gamut in their experience with the Affordable Care Act.

Now that the first insurance sign-up period has ended, we thought we'd take this opportunity to explore how the law is playing politically, and gauge what effect Obamacare might have on the midterm elections in November.

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Shots - Health News
5:42 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Task Force Says Asking All Patients About Suicide Won't Cut Risk

Alexandra Thompson iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 8:26 pm

Suicide remains a leading cause of death in the United States, especially among teenagers and young adults. Anything that could reduce the toll would be good.

But asking everyone who goes to the doctor if he is considering suicide isn't the answer, according to a federal panel that evaluated the effectiveness of existing screening tools for suicide. They found there wasn't enough evidence to know whether screening the general public helps or hurts.

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Health Desk
5:23 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Mumps Case Involving District 186 Employee

Credit District 186

Springfield District 186 says an employee had a confirmed case of mumps.  The district was notified late Friday.  Officials say the employee had NOT been in contact with any students during the time of being contagious.  

The employee has not been identified, nor the location where they work.  Staff who were in contact with the individual have been notified.

District 186 says a majority of students have received the mumps vaccine.  It says if mumps are confirmed in a school, parents of those kids without immunizations would be notified.  

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The Two-Way
12:28 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

E. Coli Fears Spark Recall Of 1.8 Million Pounds Of Beef

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 1:05 pm

Federal authorities say a recall has been issued for 1.8 million pounds of ground beef that was shipped for use in restaurants. Detroit company Wolverine Packing issued the recall Monday; the Department of Agriculture says the beef may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

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Shots - Health News
11:06 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Less Sleep For Little Kids Linked To More Belly Fat Later On

Research suggests that young children who don't get enough sleep are more likely to be obese by the time they hit age 7.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 9:46 am

Ask anyone who's dealt with a crabby toddler at the end of the day: Little kids need a lot of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that 1- to 3-year-olds, for example, generally need 12 to 14 hours of shut-eye a day.

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Global Health
5:44 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Mosquito-Borne Breaking Bone Disease Spreads In Haiti

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 9:20 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A mosquito-borne virus is spreading across the Caribbean. It's called Chikungunya. It's hardly ever fatal but it does hurt, causing severe joint pain. And public health officials expect the disease to eventually reach the U.S. Reporter Peter Granitz takes us to Haiti, the country with the most recent confirmed outbreak.

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Shots - Health News
2:24 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Hacking The Brain With Electricity: Don't Try This At Home

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 8:34 am

It's the latest craze for people who want to improve their mental performance: zapping the brain with electricity to make it sharper and more focused. It's called "brain hacking," and some people are experimenting with it at home.

The idea's not completely crazy. Small jolts of electricity targeted at specific areas of the brain are used to treat diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson's, typically with tiny devices that must be surgically implanted.

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On Aging
2:23 am
Mon May 19, 2014

'Silver Tsunami' And Other Terms That Can Irk The Over-65 Set

Senior? Elder? Old? People past retirement age have different opinions about what they prefer to be called --€” so it probably can't hurt to ask.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 6:46 am

About one-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or older by the year 2030. NPR's Ina Jaffe covers this population — and says it's often difficult to find the right words to describe it.

"I realized what a minefield this was after I'd been on the beat just a few months," she says. "I did a profile of this 71-year-old midwife. She's still up all night delivering babies, and the headline on our website — and reporters ... do not write the headlines ... described her as 'elderly.'

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Global Health
4:00 pm
Sun May 18, 2014

How MERS Made The Leap From Animals To Humans

Originally published on Sun May 18, 2014 5:28 pm

David Quammen writes about how diseases jump from animals to people. He explains recent outbreaks of Middle East Respiratory Disease, or MERS, including three cases discovered in the U.S. this month.

Health
6:41 am
Sun May 18, 2014

MERS Appears To Spread With Business-Meeting Contact

Originally published on Sun May 18, 2014 4:09 pm

NPR's Lynn Neary talks to science correspondent Rob Stein about the first human-to-human infection of MERS in the U.S.

Krulwich Wonders...
4:27 am
Sun May 18, 2014

Intriguing Lime-Green Blobs Appear In The Andes Mountains. Are They Alive?

Courtesy of Terrace Lodge

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 9:09 am

Oops.

Someone dropped lime sherbet on the desert — and it's melting. Who's going to clean this up?

Nobody. Because this — believe it or not — is a plant. It may look like a glob of goo, but it's not at all gooey. It's solid to the touch — so solid that a man can lie on top of it and not sink in, not even a little.

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Shots - Health News
4:07 pm
Sat May 17, 2014

Filtering A New Idea: A Book That's Educational And 'Drinkable'

Contaminated water can spread diseases like cholera and typhoid. A new project aims to provide water filters in the form of an educational book.
Soe Than Win AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat May 17, 2014 9:32 pm

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U.S.
4:07 pm
Sat May 17, 2014

Veterans Advocate Says He Fears Loss Of Faith In VA

Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill Thursday about holding the Department of Veterans Affairs accountable.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Sat May 17, 2014 5:52 pm

Advocate and former Army Capt. Tom Tarantino says he's worried that allegations over delayed health care will keep veterans away from services.

"Our biggest fear is that there are veterans out there who are not going to seek help because they lose faith and they lose trust in the VA," he tells Tess Vigeland, guest host of All Things Considered.

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Shots - Health News
1:13 pm
Sat May 17, 2014

Doctors' Ignorance Stands In The Way Of Care For The Disabled

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 7:30 am

Something curious was happening in the emergency room. Eight patients had come in within minutes of each other. Almost instantly, the junior resident, two interns and a medical student signed up for all of the them – except for one.

Half an hour passed, then an hour. As the senior resident doctor at the time, I supervised the others as they tended to the middle-aged man with chest pain, the elderly woman with a broken wrist and the teenage girl with a sore throat.

New patients kept coming in, and they, too, were seen quickly.

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Shots - Health News
6:49 am
Sat May 17, 2014

High Charges By Doctors May Or May Not Be Red Flags For Fraud

Doctors who bill the federal government for a lot of services may be gaming the system, but there also may be a reasonable explanation.
Aslan Alphan Getty Images

Originally published on Sat May 17, 2014 10:29 am

That which walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, is not always actually a duck.

That's the argument the American Medical Association has been using for decades to block public access to doctors' Medicare billing records. The AMA worries that people and the press will misinterpret the numbers when they see how doctors bill the government's $500 billion health care program for the elderly and disabled, and that doctors who are doing nothing wrong could be unfairly accused of fraud.

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Health
6:49 am
Sat May 17, 2014

Measles And Mumps Make A Comeback

Originally published on Sat May 17, 2014 10:29 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

More than 90 percent of American toddlers get the MMR vaccine. It protects against measles, mumps and rubella. But in Ohio, more than 350 cases of mumps have been confirmed this year. And the CDC has said that measles cases are at their highest in two decades.

To try and find out why and how these viruses are spreading, we're joined by William Schaffner. He teaches preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University. Professor, thanks for being with us.

WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: My pleasure, Scott.

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Shots - Health News
4:39 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

FDA Dangles Golden Ticket To Spur Drugs For Neglected Diseases

Drew Kilb Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 11:07 am

When the Food and Drug Administration gave the OK to a new treatment for a parasitic disease called leishmaniasis in late March, the Canadian company that owns the medicine got something that's quite likely to prove even more valuable than U.S. sales of the drug will ever be.

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The Salt
3:59 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Will Soda Lovers Drink To Less Sugar?

Samples from Dry Soda, Spindrift, Q and Veri Organic, four small companies that are trying to win back soda lovers by lowering the sugar.
Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 2:18 pm

Who's a member of the Pepsi Generation? Anyone?

Would anyone still "like to buy the world a Coke"?

Yes, it's tough times for Big Soda in the U.S. The numbers alone make it clear. "The entire [U.S.] carbonated soft drink category has been down for nine years," says John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest. "Diet [soft drinks] are declining at a steeper pace than sugared [soft drinks]," likely because people are concerned about artificial ingredients.

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Health Care
3:01 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

To Pay For Hepatitis C Drugs, Medicare Might Face A Steep Bill

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 7:00 pm

The federal Medicare program for the elderly and disabled will cover two new drugs that can cure hepatitis C, a liver disease that can cause cancer and lead to death. The drugs are very expensive, but they cure hepatitis C in most cases. The government and insurers are concerned about these costs; three million Americans have hepatitis C, most of whom don't know they have it.

The Two-Way
1:59 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Top VA Health Official Resigns Amid Scandal Over Treatment Delays

Veterans Affairs Undersecretary Robert Petzel testifies Thursday on Capitol Hill. Petzel tendered his resignation from the VA on Friday.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 4:49 pm

This post was updated at 5:45 p.m. ET.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki says he has accepted the resignation of the department's undersecretary for health, a day after both men testified before Congress about a growing controversy over delays in treatment.

"Today, I accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, undersecretary for health in the Department of Veterans Affairs," Shinseki said in a statement cited by Reuters.

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Shots - Health News
11:27 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Medicare Eases Restrictions On Pricey Hepatitis C Treatment

Walter Bianco's liver is severely damaged by hepatitis C, but insurers had refused to pay for the medications that could cure him.
Alexandra Olgin for NPR

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 12:27 pm

Federal Medicare officials are embracing medical guidelines for the treatment of hepatitis C that could result in tens of thousands of older Americans getting access to expensive new drugs that can cure the deadly infection.

This policy change would pay for treatment with a combination of new, expensive drugs for patients who haven't responded to older treatment regimens and are approaching or have cirrhosis of the liver.

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Krulwich Wonders...
11:25 am
Fri May 16, 2014

When Numbers Bleed, Freeze, Starve And Die On A Battlefield: The Dark Poetry Of Data

Roger Viollet Collection Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 3:43 pm

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Politics
5:25 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Shinseki Pressed By Senate Panel On VA Hospital Delays

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 11:07 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yesterday, the secretary of Veterans Affairs had to answer some questions on Capitol Hill. Eric Shinseki told lawmakers he's trying to get to the bottom of a problem. Veterans say they are waiting months for medical appointments. But VA hospitals say everyone is being seen within just 14 days. Both can't be right.

NPR's Quil Lawrence has our report.

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NPR Story
3:59 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Propublica: Doctors Overcharge Medicare For Office Visit

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 11:07 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Medicare pays for more than 200 million office visits each year. Most visits require only a modest amount of time and expertise. But a new investigation by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica suggests that hundreds of health professionals are overcharging Medicare for office visits. ProPublica senior reporter Charles Ornstein tells us what he found.

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Shots - Health News
2:44 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Corruption In Ukraine Robs HIV Patients Of Crucial Medicine

The mask of this Kiev protester (at a 2012 demonstration demanding more funding for HIV treatment) reads "quarantine." There are enough drugs to treat only half the HIV patients in Ukraine.
Sergei Supinsky AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 11:07 am

I recently took a Ukrainian taxi from the airport to my hotel. The fare should have been $20. The cab driver was adamant that I pay $30. When I finally paid him $30, the driver gave me a receipt with a wink. He'd made it out for $40.

The driver got a cut by overcharging me, and assumed that I would take a cut by overcharging NPR (which I did not).

In Ukraine, corruption is a daily fact of life. It reaches into big business, law enforcement, education and even the smallest transactions between people on the street.

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The Two-Way
6:59 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Minnesota's Legislature OKs Medical Marijuana

Minnesota has approved the sale and use of medical marijuana and Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will sign the legislation.

The state is poised to become the 22nd to legalize the drug for medical purposes.

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U.S.
4:01 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

When States Can't Control Violent Youth, Is Prison The Answer?

Protesters rally outside the Department of Children and Families in Hartford, Conn., in April. The state's decision to send a transgender teen to adult prison has galvanized juvenile justice and LGBT advocates.
Lucy Nalpathanchil WNPR

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 7:18 pm

More than 4,000 children are in the custody of Connecticut's Department of Children and Families. But it's one girl, known as Jane Doe, who has galvanized advocates for juvenile justice reform and LGBT youth.

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Shots - Health News
2:48 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Medicare Backs Down On Denying Treatment For Hepatitis Patient

Walter Bianco's liver is severely damaged by hepatitis C, but insurers had refused to pay for the medications that could cure him.
Alexandra Olgin for NPR

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 11:07 am

Walter Bianco, an Arizona man denied access to new drugs to cure his hepatitis C infection, will get the costly medications after all.

After NPR and Kaiser Health News reported his plight on Monday, federal Medicare officials said they would investigate. Bianco's appeal of an earlier denial had been rejected by WellCare, a private insurer that contracts with the federal program to provide drug coverage.

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Shots - Health News
1:18 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Medicine Needs More Research On Female Animals, NIH Says

Sex can matter, whether you're looking at drug side effects, the response to treatment, or the progression of a disease.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 2:22 pm

Many potential new drugs look like they could be big winners — at least when judged by how well they work in mice or other lab animals. Over the years, there have been a number of promising cancer "cures," possible Alzheimer's treatments, and candidate drugs for holding back the ravages of various degenerative diseases.

But, time after time, these great promises fade away once the potential treatments are tried in people. There are lots of reasons for that. Humans aren't rodents, for starters.

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Shots - Health News
11:21 am
Thu May 15, 2014

For Some Doctors, Almost All Medicare Patients Are Above Average

Tom Hoyle ProPublica

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 8:47 am

Office visits are the bread and butter of many physicians' practices. Medicare pays for more than 200 million of them a year, often to deal with routine problems like colds or high blood pressure. Most require relatively modest amounts of a doctor's time or medical know-how.

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