Health Desk

Lots of people say they have trouble sleeping. And 1 in 10 Americans has chronic insomnia.

Most often, sleep disorders are treated with medication. Between 6 and 10 percent of adults in the U.S. use sleeping pills.

But a review of the medical evidence has found that therapy might help people with chronic sleep troubles just as much — or even more — than pills.

Talk about sticker shock: Some U.S. hospitals charge patients more than 10 times the rates paid by Medicare.

Of the 50 U.S. hospitals with the highest charges, 49 are for-profit institutions, 20 operate in Florida, and half are owned by a single chain, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs Monday.

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Online health insurance marketplaces are central parts of the Affordable Care Act. And HealthCare.gov, the federally run exchange, is where 27-year-old Kathryn Ryan, a restaurant server in Philadelphia, turned for health coverage, as soon as the law took effect.

"I was excited because if it weren't for Obamacare, I wouldn't be insured at all," she says. "I wouldn't have the ability to go to the doctor."

She can afford health insurance thanks to a $200 a month subsidy that brings her premium down to $60 a month.

An outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, has swelled to 95 cases in South Korea. Seven people have died, and scientists are trying to figure why the outbreak has grown so rapidly.

Although there's no vaccine or treatment for MERS, the disease isn't usually very contagious.

In the privacy of a doctor's office, a patient can ask any question and have it be covered under doctor-patient confidentiality. But what happens when patients want to search possible symptoms of a disease or ailment online?

It's common to search for treatments for a migraine or stomach pain on WebMD, or a flu strain on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. But there's no way to know who else may be privy to that search information. So where do the data go when a patient presses enter?

The first thing out of John Iovine's mouth is an apology.

"You got to forgive me if I don't remember too much," he says. "I had a stroke."

Signs of that stroke are everywhere — the bed in the dining room, a shower installed in the pantry. John is thin, and sits in blue pajama pants in the wheelchair he uses to get around.

He may, however, have overstated his memory problems.

The genetic underpinnings of psychosis are elusive and diffuse. There are hundreds of common genetic mutations scattered throughout the human genome that each bump up by just a tiny bit the risk of developing a mental illness like schizophrenia. Many people carry some set of those genes, but most don't end up with a psychotic disorder. Instead, a study suggests, they might be getting a small creative boost.

By the end of June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on King v. Burwell, a case challenging the validity of the federal tax subsidies that help millions of Americans buy health insurance if they don't get coverage through an employer. If the court rules against the Obama administration, those subsidies could be cut off for people in about three dozen states using HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange website.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the case.

Editor's note, June 10: We have added an acknowledgement of several sources that Esther Gokhale used while developing her theories on back pain. These include physiotherapy methods, such as the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method, and the work of anthropologist Noelle Perez-Christiaens.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

A good night's sleep for a child typically means the same for a parent. But night terrors can make middle-of-the-night wakings more frequent and can leave parents feeling helpless.

A new device wants to fend off night terrors by rousing a child into a lighter sleep stage. The Lully Sleep Guardian is a Bluetooth-enabled pod that pairs with an iPhone app. To prevent a child from entering an "unhealthy state of sleep," when night terrors typically occur, the pod uses gentle, timed vibrations.

In 2008, Cambodia passed a law that closed its brothels. The goal was to prevent human trafficking. But there was a tragic unintended consequence. It upended a government program designed to distribute condoms and screen for sexually transmitted diseases like HIV at brothels. When the sex workers scattered, there was no easy way to reach them.

The Affordable Care Act says that preventive health tests or services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have to be available to most insured consumers without any out-of-pocket cost.

Since the law was enacted, the list of services that people are entitled to has grown. In 2014, the task force recommended two new services and tweaked a handful of others that had previously been recommended.

Think of how often you stop by Walgreens or CVS. You run in and grab some Band-Aids or restock your ibuprofen supply. Maybe you even get a flu shot on your way to work.

Soon, it will be that easy for women in California to get birth control, too. Under a new state law, women will be able to go to a pharmacy, get a prescription for contraceptive pills, the ring, or the patch, get it filled and walk out 15 minutes later.

After wrestling with India's regulatory bodies over the safety of some of its products, Nestlé India says it will abide by a ban and pull its noodle soup products from shelves.

More than a thousand schools are shut down in South Korea, a response to rising fears over MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome. The virus has now infected 41 people, of whom four have died, since the South Korean outbreak began May 20th, and it's exposing widespread distrust among South Koreans that their leaders can adequately handle the crisis.

An outbreak of a deadly virus in South Korea has set off alarms across the region.

In the past week, South Korea's confirmed cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome have more than tripled to 41, with at least three deaths. About 1,600 people are quarantined and more than 1,000 schools are closed.

It's the largest outbreak of MERS outside Saudi Arabia. And researchers around the world have been trying to figure out why the outbreak in South Korea has gotten so large, so fast.

Now researchers have a clue: a superspreader event.

Daily Table opened its doors Thursday with shelves full of surplus and aging food.

The nonprofit grocery store is in the low-to-middle income Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. It's selling canned vegetables two for $1 and a dozen eggs for 99 cents. Potatoes are 49 cents a pound. Bananas are 29 cents a pound.

"That's good. It's cheap! Everything good," says Noemi Sosa, a shopper marveling at the prices that — for Boston — are phenomenally low.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can be harmful to the developing fetus. Pregnant women who suffer from serious depression face a difficult dilemma: Should they continue taking medication and risk unknown side-effects to the fetus, or go through their pregnancies trying to handle their depression without medication?

A new survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that sexual violence against children is a global problem.

Seven countries were surveyed from 2007 to 2013. The first was Swaziland, which wanted to assess and address the problem. The rate of sexual violence against girls was 36.7 percent. Additional countries asked to be surveyed as well. Young people from the age of 13 to 24 were interviewed, with a range of 1,000 to 2,000 for each gender.

A cheap new lab test can use just a drop of blood to reveal the different kinds of viruses you've been exposed to over your lifetime.

The test suggests that, on average, people have been infected with about ten different types of known virus families, including influenzas, and rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, according to a report published Thursday in Science.

It was "life-changing" for Kourtney Kardashian. Mad Men actress January Jones touted its benefits too. Tia and Tamera Mowry of the reality show Sister Sister tried it, as did Alicia Silverstone, Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik, and various other celebrity moms who raved about feeling more energized, reducing their risk of depression, improving their breast milk production and a host of other supposed benefits.

But did consuming placenta in the weeks or months after birth actually have any effect?

Update 4:40 p.m.: The panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted 18 to 6 to recommend that the agency approve flibanserin, as long as there are measures in place to make sure that women are aware of its risks, including low blood pressure and fainting. The FDA doesn't have to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels but usually does.


A committee of medical advisers meets Thursday to consider whether to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration approve the first drug that aims to boost a woman's libido.

It seems the bad news just won't stop coming.

That boat accident in China.

Parents probably don't put "check for tanning bed" when moving a child into off-campus housing. But many apartment buildings that cater to students provide free indoor tanning, a study finds.

"When my daughter went off to college, she looked at 10 apartments near her campus," said Dayna Diven, a dermatologist at the University of Texas' Dell Medical School. "All 10 of them offered residents free indoor tanning; I was shocked."

The states that set up their own insurance marketplaces have nothing to lose in King v. Burwell, the big Supreme Court case that will be decided by the end of June. But that doesn't mean those states are breathing easy.

With varying degrees of difficulty, all of the state-based exchanges are struggling to figure out how to become financially self-sufficient as the spigot of federal start-up money shuts off.

In the trial of James Holmes, prosecutors spent the first month re-creating the night of the shooting. But this isn't a question of whether Holmes killed 12 people at the midnight premiere of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Colo. The question has always been: Was he insane at the time?

For prosecutors, detailing that night is critical in exploring Holmes' mindset. During the process, jurors watched a lengthy, videotaped psychiatric examination. It was ordered by the court after Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Should the world be in a panic about MERS?

That's the global health question of the hour. South Korea is trying to get control of an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome. Officials have now confirmed 30 cases of the disease and two deaths. One of the patients traveled to China and remains hospitalized there. More than 1,000 people are now under quarantine in Hong Kong, China and South Korea as a result of the outbreak.

There's fear that MERS could be the next SARS, the respiratory virus that swept through the region in 2003, claiming hundreds of lives.

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