Health Desk

Shots - Health News
11:29 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Consumer Guide To Obama's Plan For Canceled Health Policies

President Obama laid out a plan Thursday to allow people who received insurance cancellation notices to keep their coverage, at least for a while.
Charles Dharapak AP

President Obama's pledge to Americans that they could keep their health plans if they liked them began to backfire last month.

Insurers sent cancellation letters to hundreds of thousands of customers holding individual and family policies. Their plans wouldn't comply with the law come Jan. 1.

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Barbershop
11:14 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Can President Obama Get Back In The Game After Health Care 'Fumble'?

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now it's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are writer Jimi Izrael, with us from Cleveland. From Boston, health care consultant and contributor to National Review magazine, Neil Minkoff. Here in Washington, Paul Butler, professor of law at Georgetown University. And Corey Dade, contributing editor for The Root. Take it away, Jimi.

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NPR Story
11:14 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Young Maasai Activist Challenges Circumcision Tradition

The African Maasai ethnic group is known for its deep roots in tradition and culture, including rights of passage for men and female circumcision. Now, young Maasai woman Nice Nailantei Leng'ete is crusading for alternative rites of passage and empowering young girls to continue their education in Kenya. She tells Michel Martin how she stood her ground to promote the dangers of female genital cutting.Note: This conversation may not be comfortable for all listeners.

The Salt
11:07 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Menu Site Makes It Easy To Compare Restaurant Fat Stats

MenuStat, a new website by the New York City Department of Health, allows users to compare the calorie counts of items between restaurants, over time.
Screenshot of MenuStat.org

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 3:43 pm

New York City became a leader in pushing restaurants to be more transparent when it required calorie counts on menus in 2006. Now the city's health department has developed a new tool for those who'd like even more detailed information about restaurant food.

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The Two-Way
10:35 am
Fri November 15, 2013

House Approves 'Keep Your Health Plan' Legislation

The House votes Friday on a bill submitted by GOP Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, shown with Speaker John Boehner, that seeks to ensure Americans can keep their existing insurance plans even if those policies don't meet standards in the Affordable Care Act.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 6:29 pm

The House has approved a Republican-sponsored bill that would allow insurance companies to continue offering policies that would be canceled because they don't meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act. The Keep Your Health Plan Act, H.R. 3350, was adopted by a vote of 261-157, with 17 members not voting.

We've updated the top of this post with the results of the vote and other news.

Update at 7:30 p.m. ET: States Reportedly Confused By Obamacare Fix

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TED Radio Hour
8:20 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Are We Happier When We Have More Options?

Robert Leslie TED

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 2:06 pm

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Misconceptions.

About Barry Schwartz's TEDTalk

Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

About Barry Schwartz

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The Salt
8:06 am
Fri November 15, 2013

How Coffee, Citrus And Nuts Help Cut The Risk Of Diabetes

Coffee can help cut your risk of Type 2 diabetes, fresh research shows. Other foods, such as oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits, nuts and beans can also help.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon November 18, 2013 1:45 pm

If you go back to the 1970s, people with a serious coffee habit often had an accompanying habit: smoking.

And that's why early studies gave coffee a bad rap. Clearly, smoking was harmful. And it was hard for researchers to disentangle the two habits. "So it made coffee look bad in terms of health outcomes," Harvard researcher Meir Stampfer explained to me.

But fast-forward a quarter century, and the rap on coffee began to change.

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Politics
4:16 am
Fri November 15, 2013

House To Vote On GOP Solution To Canceled Insurance

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 9:49 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. The first part of October was a political disaster for the Republican Party. After being blamed for the government shutdown, the GOP approval rating fell to historic lows.

MONTAGNE: The weeks since have become a political disaster for Democrats. Problems with the Affordable Care Act have knocked President Obama's poll ratings as low as they've ever been.

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Politics
3:50 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Obama Apologizes, Offers Fix To Insurance Cancellations

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 9:49 am

President Obama has acknowledged the fumbled rollout of his signature health care law has hurt his credibility and that of fellow Democrats. He offered a minor change to the law in hopes of calming Democratic nerves, and beating back bigger changes proposed by House Republicans.

Business
3:50 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Health Care Cancellation Cure Could Lead To Higher Premiums

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 9:49 am

The health care fix announced by President Obama on Thursday may be good news for some consumers, but it creates a big headache for insurance companies and regulators. An insurance industry trade group warns the last-minute change could destabilize the market and lead to higher premiums.

Shots - Health News
2:32 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Medicare Penalizes Nearly 1,500 Hospitals For Poor Quality Scores

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 9:49 am

While the health law's insurance markets are still struggling to get off the ground, the Obama administration is moving ahead with its second year of meting out bonuses and penalties to hospitals based on the quality of their care. This year, there are more losers than winners.

Medicare has raised payment rates to 1,231 hospitals based on two-dozen quality measurements, including surveys of patient satisfaction and — for the first time — death rates. Another 1,451 hospitals are being paid less for each Medicare patient they treat for the year that began Oct. 1.

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The Salt
4:59 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

What's The Most Important Thing Food Labels Should Tell Us?

Illustration by Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 6:29 pm

Food labels have become battlegrounds. Just last week, voters in Washington state narrowly defeated a measure that would have required food manufacturers to reveal whether their products contain genetically modified ingredients.

Supporters of the initiative — and similar proposals in other states — say that consumers have a right to know what they're eating.

But there are lots of things we might want to know about our food. So what belongs on the label?

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Health Desk
4:28 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Food Allergy Awareness Law

President Barack Obama has signed legislation giving financial incentives to states to stockpile emergency medications in schools that could save lives in the cases of allergic reactions.  
The deaths of two girls in Illinois and Virginia from severe food allergies helped spur efforts to get schools to stockpile epinephrine.  

Epinephrine is considered the first-line treatment for people with severe allergies. The medication is administered by injection through preloaded EpiPens.  
The measure was co-sponsored by Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk.  

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Health Care
3:56 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Counting Who's Bought Into Obamacare Is Tougher Than You Think

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 6:29 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

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Health Care
3:56 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Insurers Aren't Keen On Obama's Pledge To Extend Coverage

In a White House news conference Thursday, President Obama said he had thought that "98 percent" of policyholders would see no change in their current policies, or get a better deal.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 5:53 am

Remember when President Obama said, "If you like your health plan you can keep it?" Now it's more like, "If you like your health plan you can keep it — for another year, and only if your insurance company says it's OK."

It's not clear whether the administration's proposal to let insurers extend the policies they've been canceling for the past couple of months will solve the president's political problem. But it's sure not going over very well with the insurance industry.

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Shots - Health News
3:56 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Oregon Shines On Medicaid, As Texas Stalls On Sign-Ups

Kyle Thompson and his family are all going to have health coverage in Oregon, thanks to the state's successful effort to enroll people in Medicaid.
Kristian Foden-Vencil

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 6:29 pm

Oregon might be seen as a complete failure or a surprising success when it comes to its health insurance exchange.

One the one hand, the state's website has yet to allow a single person to enroll. That's a big problem for the folks who are hoping to qualify for subsidies and buy insurance that will start Jan. 1.

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Asia
3:56 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

If Childbirth Isn't Hard Enough, Add An Earthquake And A Typhoon

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 7:38 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

When Typhoon Haiyan hit last Friday, parts of the country were already in desperate shape following a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck October 15. The epicenter of that quake was under the island province of Bohol southeast of Tacloban. Since then, a number of makeshift medical facilities have been set up to treat patients with a wide range of issues.

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Shots - Health News
1:44 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Bacterial Competition In Lab Shows Evolution Never Stops

The plate on the left contains about equal numbers of colonies of two different bacteria. After the bacteria compete and evolve, the lighter ones have taken the lead in the plate on the right.
Courtesy of Michael Wiser

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 9:49 am

Evolution is relentless process that seems to keep going and going, even when creatures live in a stable, unchanging world.

That's the latest surprise from a unique experiment that's been underway for more than a quarter-century.

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The Salt
1:41 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Philadelphia Children's Hospital Bars Herbs And Supplements

Dietary supplements are generally defined as vitamins, minerals, herbs and extracts. They're regulated as a unique category of food by the Food and Drug Administration.
iStockphoto.com

One of the nation's largest and oldest children's hospitals is cracking down on parents who bring their kids herbs, extracts or other dietary supplements.

In what it describes as a break from other hospitals, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, last month removed most dietary supplements from its list of approved medicines, and established new policies for administering them.

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Shots - Health News
11:25 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Common Test For Bladder Infections Misses Too Many Cases

Urine tests are the gold standard for diagnosing bladder infections. But one common test, the urine culture, can easily miss infections.
Ian Hooton http://www.sciencesource.com/

Most women know all too well the pain and discomfort of a urinary tract infection. They also know they'll probably have to trek to the doctor for a urine analysis so they can get a prescription for antibiotics.

Surely there's got to be a better way.

The first step for women with a history of urinary tract infections may be skipping a standard test isn't that good at spotting bladder infections anyway.

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NPR Story
11:21 am
Thu November 14, 2013

The Road Ahead For Obamacare

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 12:23 pm

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, we're in the thick of football season but increasingly, fans are worrying about how their favorite players are faring after their playing days are over. Now, there's a new plan to address that, and the head of the NFL Players Association will be joining us later in the program to tell us more about that - as well as, of course, his take on the allegations of bullying in the Miami Dolphins locker room. That's later.

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The Two-Way
9:49 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Obama Moves To Delay Cancellations Of Insurance Plans

President Barack Obama speaking at the White House on Thursday.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 12:18 pm

  • LISTEN: The president's news conference and NPR coverage of it

President Obama announced Thursday that Americans who have had their health insurance plans canceled because of his Affordable Care Act can keep those plans for another year if they wish.

Those cancellations — most effective on Jan. 1 — have sparked intense criticism of the ACA, in part because the president pledged many times that if Americans liked the health plans they had, they wouldn't have to give them up under the terms of his program.

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Politics
5:51 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Rep. Waxman Weighs In On Affordable Care Act Problems

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 5:53 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Let's hear next from a defender of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California is on the line. Congressman, welcome back to the program.

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY WAXMAN: Thank you. Pleased to be with you.

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Health Care
4:53 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Health Care Registration Numbers Are Revealed

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 5:53 am

The Obama administration says just about 100,000 people managed to choose health plans through the federal and state health exchanges during their first month of the program. Critics say that shows the law is failing. But most analysts say the first month's numbers wouldn't have meant very much, even if the federal website had been working properly.

It's All Politics
2:03 am
Thu November 14, 2013

6 Ideas Being Floated To 'Fix' Obamacare Sign-Up Woes

On Sept. 28, just days before enrollment opened for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, this outreach event was hosted by Planned Parenthood for the Latino community in Los Angeles. But in the first month of the troubled HealthCare.gov website saw just a fraction of those expected to sign up had managed to do so.
Jonathan Alcorn Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 5:53 am

As technical problems with the government's new health insurance marketplace slow the pace of sign-up, a variety of "fixes" have been proposed. But some of these would create their own challenges. In rough order from least to most disruptive, here are some of the ideas:

1) Fix the website on schedule
This is everyone's favorite idea. The Obama administration says it hopes to have HealthCare.gov working smoothly for most users by the end of November, though it's not clear that target will be met.

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The Two-Way
5:08 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

'Holy Cow' And 'Kangaroo Court': Panel Grills HealthCare.gov Officials

Todd Park, U.S. chief technology officer, answers questions in a House Oversight Committee hearing about problems with the federal HealthCare.gov site. One Democrat on the committee called the hearing "a kangaroo court."
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 5:46 pm

A House oversight hearing examining the troubled start of HealthCare.gov was contentious from the start Wednesday, as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sought to cut short the opening remarks of one of the first officials to speak, Frank Baitman, the deputy assistant secretary for Information Technology in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, asked Baitman to conclude his statement, noting that the panel's time was short. The interruption came as Baitman discussed the work of his agency to save taxpayers money.

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Health Care
4:07 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

The Health Care Numbers Are Out, And They're Disappointing

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 10:46 am

The Obama administration released its much anticipated enrollment numbers for the first month of the troubled HealthCare.gov website Wednesday. And as predicted, the numbers were disappointing.

Just over 100,000 people managed to navigate the process and choose a health plan between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2 — 106,185 people, to be precise.

But barely a quarter of those, 26,794, enrolled through the federal website that's signing up people in 36 of the states. The rest enrolled through state marketplaces.

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Your Health
4:07 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

New Cholesterol Guidelines Could Put More Americans On Statins

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 7:01 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

New cholesterol guidelines are out and the bottom line is millions of Americans will be told they should be taking a cholesterol-lowering drug and millions will be told that they can stop. The new guidance comes from the nation's two leading groups of heart specialists. It's a big departure from the advice Americans have been getting for decades to get their cholesterol levels down to a certain number.

As NPR's Richard Knox reports, the new emphasis is on whether you fit into one of four risk groups.

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Shots - Health News
3:34 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Can Young People Get Obamacare For $50 A Month? Sometimes

President Barack Obama speaks in Boston about the Affordable Care Act. Obama and his supporters have often said the health care law would allow half of single Americans under 35 to get insurance for less than $50 a month.
Stephan Savoia AP

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 1:56 pm

For Obamacare to succeed, it's crucial for young people to sign up.

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The Two-Way
3:28 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

More Than 106,000 Chose Health Plans Under Affordable Care Act

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a report Wednesday revealing that 106,185 Americans selected a health plan in the new marketplace from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 5:47 pm

More than 106,000 Americans selected health plans in the first reporting period of open enrollment for the new health insurance marketplace, according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services.

That number is only "about 20 percent of the government's October target," as NPR's Scott Horsley reports for our Newscast unit.

Less than 27,000 people used the federal HealthCare.gov site to select a plan. The overall number includes enrollments made via federal and state marketplaces from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2, the agency says.

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