Health Desk

Health Care
5:42 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Tagging Along On A Wisconsin Man's Odyssey To Buy Insurance

Doug Normington is 58, self-employed, and has diabetes.
Courtesy of Doug Normington

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 1:47 pm

Enrollment is picking up in new health insurance marketplaces. But the 365,000 who've signed up as of November 30 is a fraction of just one high-visibility group – those whose previous insurance has been cancelled because it didn't meet Affordable Care Act standards.

They're people like Doug Normington, a 58-year-old self-employed videographer in Madison, Wis., who has struggled to buy new insurance since late October.

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Shots - Health News
4:22 am
Thu December 12, 2013

High Insurance Rates Anger Some Ski-Country Coloradans

Early December brought a foot of fresh powder to the resorts of Vail, Colo., but some residents are still steaming.
Zach Mahone, Beaver Creek Resort AP

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 1:36 pm

Some of the biggest ski resorts anywhere lie in U.S. Rep. Jared Polis' Colorado district, dotting the peaks of Summit and Eagle counties, about a hundred miles west of Denver. The area has a high rate of uninsured people and also, it turns out, health plans that are much more expensive than similar plans in surrounding regions. So expensive that Polis, a Democrat, has asked the federal government to exempt some of his constituents from the requirement to buy health insurance.

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Around the Nation
4:22 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Newtown Parents Seek A Clearer Window Into Violent Behavior

Avielle's artwork hangs on the walls and windows of Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel's home.
Craig Ruttle AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 10:22 am

The shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December has left families of the 26 victims, most of them children, struggling to heal in different ways.

Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel are one such family. They lost their only child, 6-year-old Avielle, in the shooting. In the year since, they've responded as any parents would: Asking why such a tragedy could have happened.

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Shots - Health News
5:07 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Some Young Athletes May Be More Vulnerable To Hits To The Head

Dartmouth defenders sandwich a New Hampshire wide receiver during a game in Durham, N.H., in 2009.
Josh Gibney AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 2:31 pm

Concussions have deservedly gotten most of the attention in efforts to reduce the risk of head injuries in sports.

But scientists increasingly think that hits too small to cause concussions also affect the brain, and that those effects add up. And it looks like some athletes may be more vulnerable than others.

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The Salt
4:23 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Drug Companies Accept FDA Plan To Phase Out Some Animal Antibiotic Uses

Young broilers nibble feed at a chicken farm in Luling, Texas. The Food and Drug Administration has issued new guidance on how drug companies label antibiotics for livestock.
Bob Nichols USDA/Flickr

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 7:07 pm

If drug companies follow guidance issued Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration, within three years it will be illegal to use medically important antibiotics to make farm animals grow faster or use feed more efficiently.

The FDA's announcement wasn't a big surprise; a draft version of the strategy was released more than a year ago.

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Politics
4:23 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Sebelius Faced More Grilling From House, Despite HealthCare.gov Fixes

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 5:26 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

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Shots - Health News
4:21 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Global Malaria Deaths Hit A New Low

Children get tested for malaria at a clinic near the Myanmar border in Sai Yoke, Thailand. Drug-resistant strains of the parasite have appeared in the region over the past few years.
Surkree Sukplang Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 2:33 pm

The death rate from malaria dropped by 45 percent globally between 2000 and 2012, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday. In Africa, the rate fell by almost half.

Despite this progress, the mosquito-borne disease remains a serious problem in the developing world, said Dr. Robert Newman, who heads WHO's global malaria program. There were more than 200 million cases of malaria in 2012, and the disease killed an estimated 627,000 people last year.

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Shots - Health News
3:02 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Staph Germs Hide Out In The Hidden Recesses Of Your Nose

The interior of the nose is like a lush rain forest that's barely been explored.
Courtesy of Sunje Pamp

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 2:33 pm

Otherwise innocuous bacteria can cause deadly infections when people have surgery or fall ill. To prevent trouble, patients sometimes have their bodies scrubbed clean of Staphylococcus aureus.

But it doesn't always work.

That may because the germs thrive in upper recesses of the nose, far from the spots typically tested for staph bacteria, or where antibiotics are applied.

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The Salt
12:47 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Chowing Down On Meat, Dairy Alters Gut Bacteria A Lot, And Quickly

Morgan Walker NPR

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 10:24 am

Looks like Harvard University scientists have given us another reason to walk past the cheese platter at holiday parties and reach for the carrot sticks instead: Your gut bacteria will thank you.

Switching to a diet packed with meat and cheese — and very few carbohydrates — alters the trillions of microbes living in the gut, scientists report Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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Shots - Health News
12:37 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Health Exchange Enrollment By State, In 2 Charts

HHS

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 2:48 pm

Numbers released by the Obama administration show enrollment in health exchanges edged up in November, but the uptake remains far short of the administration's initial targets.

Roughly 264,000 people signed up for private insurance coverage last month through the federal and state exchanges, according to data from the Health and Human Services Department. That brings the total to about 364,000 for October and November.

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Health Care
9:10 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Exchange Enrollment Growing But Still Short Of Forecasts

The Obama administration just released the latest sign-up numbers for its troubled health insurance exchange website. Enrollment picked up last month, after a disastrous start in October. Still, the number of people signing up for coverage is below the administration's original forecasts.

Shots - Health News
8:10 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Enrollment Jumps At HealthCare.gov, Though Totals Still Lag

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' shadow appeared behind the lectern as she spoke about the implementation of the federal health law in Detroit in November.
Paul Sancya AP

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 11:56 am

Enrollment in the federal government's new health insurance exchange picked up sharply in November, but the number of people signing up for coverage still trails original forecasts. Officials from the Obama administration say they expect the pace of enrollments will continue to increase now that the insurance website is working more smoothly.

Users have until Dec. 23 to sign up for coverage that begins in January.

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Health Care
5:56 am
Wed December 11, 2013

What's At Stake For States That Reject Medicaid Expansion

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 9:10 am

The Affordable Care Act has produced a surge in the number of people signing up for Medicaid. The ACA offers billions of federal dollars to states to expand Medicaid coverage for the poor. But only 25 states have accepted the federal government's offer, and those that haven't could face economic and budget losses.

Veterans And Other-Than-Honorable Discharges
3:58 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Path To Reclaiming Identity Steep For Vets With 'Bad Paper'

Michael Hartnett was a Marine during the Gulf War and served in Somalia. He received a bad conduct discharge for abusing drugs and alcohol. His wife, Molly, helped him turn his life around.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 10:19 am

When Michael Hartnett was getting kicked out of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was too deep into post-traumatic stress disorder, drugs and alcohol to care as his battalion commander explained to the young man that his career was ending, and ending badly.

"Do you understand what I'm saying to you, son? It's going to be six and a kick," Hartnett recalls the commander telling him.

The "six" was an expected six months of hard labor in the brig. The kick happened at Hartnett's court-martial, and finally woke him up out of the haze.

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The Two-Way
7:39 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Lawmakers In Uruguay Vote To Legalize Pot

A bicycle passes graffiti that reads in Spanish, "Legal pot," in Montevideo, Uruguay, in November 2012.
Matilde Campodonico AP

Uruguay will become the world's first country to approve the growing, selling and use of marijuana, after the country's Senate voted for the change, which the president has promised to sign into law.

Reuters describes the move as "a pioneering social experiment that will be closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization."

Sen. Constanza Moreira, who voted with the majority, called the vote on Tuesday "an historic day."

"Many countries of Latin America, and many governments, will take this law as an example," she said.

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Shots - Health News
4:44 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Popular Antacids Increase The Risk Of B-12 Deficiency

Drugs that reduce acid production can make it harder for the stomach to absorb vitamin B12.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 3:22 pm

Acid-inhibiting drugs like Zantac and Prilosec have become hugely popular because they're so good at preventing the unpleasant symptoms of heartburn and acid indigestion.

But the drugs also make it more likely that a person will be short on vitamin B-12. And that can contribute to health problems including depression, nerve damage and dementia.

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Shots - Health News
3:49 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

To Fight Meningitis Outbreak, Princeton Tries European Vaccine

The Ivy League school has begun vaccinating nearly 6,000 students to try to stop an outbreak of type B meningitis in an unusual federal government-endorsed administration of a drug not generally approved for use in the U.S.
Mel Evans AP

Princeton University has started vaccinating students against type B meningitis in an effort to stop an outbreak that's infected at least eight people.

The vaccine isn't approved for general use in the United States, though it is available in Europe, Australia and Canada. But the meningitis strain that hit the New Jersey campus isn't fazed by the vaccines typically used in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration is allowing a Novartis vaccine that's usually sold in other countries to be administered on the Princeton campus.

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Fitness & Nutrition
3:29 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Study: Organic Milk Contains More Healthy Fatty Acids

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 11:30 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Say you're at the store, and you reach into the dairy case. There's organic milk, or you could go for the regular. There's a big difference in price. So is there any reason to pay more? Well, fresh research published in the journal PLoS ONE could help you make up your mind. NPR's food and health correspondent Allison Aubrey joins us to talk about it. And Allison, what are the results from this new study?

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Shots - Health News
2:52 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Despite Big Market In Florida, Obamacare Is A Hard Sell

Enroll America outreach workers talk to congregants at the Mt. Calvary Church in Jacksonville, Fla.
Eric Whitney

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 1:39 pm

Getting people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act remains an uphill battle in much of Florida.

Politicians in the state erected roadblocks to the law from the beginning — from joining in the 2010 lawsuit to thwart the law to placing restrictions on what insurance helpers called navigators can tell people seeking advice.

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All Tech Considered
11:08 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Microsoft Not Developing A Bra To Stop Overeating, After All

Researchers developed a prototype for a bra sensing system that would read users' emotions, but Microsoft says it won't be developing this product.
Courtesy of Microsoft Research

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 12:14 pm

The new reality with the light-speed pace of online news sharing is that news doesn't have to be true for it to go superviral. Sometimes stories are too good to verify, too fun not to share. The New York Times delved into this with a much-tweeted piece this morning.

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Shots - Health News
10:39 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Don't Count On Insurance To Pay For Genetic Tests

After genetic testing revealed a heightened risk for breast cancer, Angelina Jolie had a precautionary double mastectomy.
Alastair Grant AP

The day when a simple blood test or saliva sample can identify your risk for medical conditions ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's disease seems tantalizingly close.

But genetics specialists say the hype around many of these tests has outstripped the science. Insurers generally only cover a test if there's strong scientific evidence that it can provide a health benefit to patients.

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The Salt
10:12 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Fresh Research Finds Organic Milk Packs In Omega-3s

Cows graze in a pasture at the University of New Hampshire's organic dairy farm in Lee, N.H., Sept. 27, 2006.
JIM COLE AP

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 1:35 pm

While milk consumption continues to fall in the U.S., sales of organic milk are on the rise. And now organic milk accounts for about 4 percent of total fluid milk consumption.

For years, organic producers have claimed their milk is nutritionally superior to regular milk. Specifically, they say that because their cows spend a lot more time out on pasture, munching on grasses and legumes rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the animals' milk is higher in these healthy fats, which are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

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Shots - Health News
8:43 am
Tue December 10, 2013

To Get Kids Exercising, Schools Are Becoming Creative

Students at Northeast Elementary Magnet, in Danville, Ill., play around. Fewer than 1 in 5 parents polled said their kids were getting physical education daily.
Seth Perlman AP

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 1:42 pm

Avery Stackhouse, age 7, of Lafayette, Calif., says he wishes he had more time for phys ed.

"We just have it one day a week — on Monday." There's always lunch and recess, he says. "We play a couple of games, like football and soccer," he tells Shots.

But at Happy Valley Elementary, where he goes to school, recess lasts only 15 minutes and lunch is 45. Between eating and mingling, he says, "there's only a few minutes left where we play games and all that."

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The Salt
8:05 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Microbiome Candy: Could A Probiotic Mint Help Prevent Cavities?

A sweet way to avoid the dentist? Microbiologists are developing a probiotic mint that uses dead bacteria to fight off cavities.
Morgan Walker NPR

Eat candy and fight tooth decay. What a sweet concept, right?

Well, microbiologists in Berlin are trying to make that dream a reality.

They've created a sugarless mint that's aimed at washing out cavity-causing bacteria from your mouth. And the candy works in a curious way: It's spiked with dead bacteria. It's like probiotics for your teeth.

The experimental mint is still in the early days of development — and far from reaching the shelves at Walgreens.

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Shots - Health News
3:34 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

To Curb Costs, New California Health Plans Trim Care Choices

Susan Shargel, an insurance broker in San Francisco, says she's seeing health insurance plans offer fewer doctor and hospital options.
Pauline Bartolone

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 11:22 am

When Diane Shore got a letter that her health policy would be canceled, the small premium increase for the new plan didn't bother her that much.

But the changes in her choices for care really bugged her. "My physicians will no longer be in this network of physicians, or the hospitals," she says.

Shore, 62, owned an IT consulting business in the San Francisco Bay Area and retired when she sold it in 2000. She wants to stick with the health care providers that she's had for years, she says, including the surgeon who cared for her when she had breast cancer in 1998.

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Shots - Health News
1:49 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Violence In PG-13 Movies Comes With Plenty Of Sex And Booze

Explosions during the filming of the PG-13 hit The Dark Knight in Chicago in 2007.
Nam Y. Huh AP

If you're looking for good role models for your teenagers, the local cineplex may not be the place to go.

PG-13 movies are awash in violence, and the violence is almost always linked with sex and drinking, according to an analysis of top-grossing movies from 1985 to 2010.

The PG-13 movies, which are supposedly OK for teenagers, had the same amount of violence as R-rated movies.

Violence took up about one-third of the movies, researchers found.

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Children's Health
11:05 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Infants At Risk Due To Blood-Test Delays

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 7:09 pm

Transcript

CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

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All Tech Considered
9:03 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Tech Team Podcast, Episode 4: HealthCare.gov's Epic Fail

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 6:08 pm

The disastrous rollout of the Obama administration's storefront for buying health coverage is now in a new phase — a slow recovery. But the questions about how something like this could happen and how a $600 billion technological failure can be prevented in the future made for dozens — dozens — of stories over the past 2 1/2 months.

For our latest episode of the tech team podcast, aka "Our So-Called Digital Lives," we take you through the failure of HealthCare.gov and explore the possibilities of how to prevent it from happening again.

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Politics
7:18 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Looking Past Website, More Challenges Await Obamacare

An increasing number of people are signing up for health insurance through the government's new exchange, suggesting the Obama administration has made progress in fixing its broken website. But the exchange is just one part of the health care law, which remains politically divisive almost four years after its passage.

Business
5:49 am
Mon December 9, 2013

New York's Insurance Exchange Readies For Holiday Rush

Joey Cappuccitti, who works at a Maximus call center, talks with a person looking for help with New York's insurance exchange.
Fred Mogul

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 9:55 am

New York's health insurance marketplace has been running relatively smoothly, compared with healthcare.gov, the site the federal government is running for 36 states.

But that's a low bar, and even though about 50,000 New Yorkers had signed up in the first two months, almost every day still brings complaints and glitches. Donna Frescatore, the head of the New York State Of Health, says there are no serious patterns of trouble, just individual issues that the state and its contractors address one by one.

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