Consumer

When it comes to getting the HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer, teens below the poverty line are doing better than the rest.

Among teenage girls ages 13 to 17 whose total family income was less than the federal poverty level for their family size, 67.2 percent have received the first dose of the human papillomavirus vaccine, compared to 57.7 percent for those at or above the poverty line. For teen boys, it's 51.6 percent compared to 39.5 percent.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law on July 30, 1965, Americans 65 and older were the age group least likely to have health insurance.

Here's a bit of good news for Medicare, the popular government program that's turning 50 this week. Older Americans on Medicare are spending less time in the hospital; they're living longer; and the cost of a typical hospital stay has actually come down over the past 15 years, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Veterans who suffered sexual assault or other sexual abuse while in uniform would get help more easily from the Department of Veterans Affairs under a bill approved Monday by the House.

The bill would allow a statement by a survivor of military sexual trauma to be considered sufficient proof that an assault occurred. The House approved the bill by voice vote Monday night.

5 Challenges Facing Medicaid At 50

Jul 28, 2015
National Institutes of Health

A “sleeper” provision when Congress created Medicare in 1965 to cover health care for seniors, Medicaid now provides coverage to nearly 1 in 4 Americans, at an annual cost of more than $500 billion. Today, it is the workhorse of the U.S. health system, covering nearly half of all births, one-third of children and two-thirds of people in nursing homes.

Five days before he was to start college, Fred Maahs' world turned upside down. Off the Delaware coast in 1980, on the last day of summer vacation, the 18-year-old took a dive from his family's boat into an unseen sandbar barely a foot below the surface, sustaining injuries that paralyzed him from the chest down.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a first-of-a-kind drug that lowers artery-clogging cholesterol more than older drugs that have been prescribed for decades.

The drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. offers an important new option for millions of patients at high risk of heart disease. But the drug’s sky-high price tag – $14,600 per year – is certain to escalate debate about the cost of breakthrough drugs and who should take them.

If you have a disability in the U.S., you're twice as likely to be poor as someone without a disability. You're also far more likely to be unemployed. And that gap has widened in the 25 years since the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted.

"Every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom," President George H.W. Bush said when he signed the bill into law on July 26, 1990.

Health insurer Anthem has struck a deal to acquire rival Cigna for $48 billion — a buyout that would create the country's largest health insurer by enrollment.

The combined entity would have an estimated revenue of $115 billion and cover 53 million people in the U.S.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law 25 years ago, "everybody was thinking about the iconic person in a wheelchair," says civil rights lawyer Sid Wolinsky. Or that the ADA — which bans discrimination based on disability — was for someone who is deaf, or blind.

But take a tour of New York City with Wolinsky — and the places he sued there — and you will see how the ADA has helped not just people with those significant disabilities, but also people with minor disabilities, and people with no disability at all.

Wikimedia Commons

Looking at the big picture, the financial health of Social Security and Medicare doesn't appear to have worsened.

Wednesday's annual check-up found that Social Security's retirement trust fund has enough money to pay full benefits until 2035, a year later than previously projected. Medicare's giant trust fund for inpatient care won't be exhausted until 2030, the same date as last year's report.

HHS: States Should Negotiate Lower ACA Rates

Jul 23, 2015

Some analysts who have looked at health insurers’ proposed premiums for next year predict major increases for policies sold on state and federal health exchanges. Others say it’s too soon to tell. One thing is clear: There’s a battle brewing behind the scenes to keep plans affordable for consumers.

Changes in how women are screened for cervical cancer mean they're getting Pap tests less often. But that may also mean young women are not getting tested for chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted disease.

As the number of teens and young women getting annual Pap tests declined, so did the number getting screened for chlamydia, according to a study published Monday in Annals of Family Medicine.

About 7.5 million Americans paid an average penalty of $200 for not having health insurance in 2014 — the first year most Americans were required to have coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday.

By contrast, taxpayers filing three-quarters of the 102 million returns received by the IRS so far this year checked a box indicating they had qualifying insurance coverage all year.

Associated Press

Planned Parenthood told Congress Monday that a secretly recorded video released last week by an anti-abortion group is fraudulent and part of a years-long pattern of illegal harassment aimed at prohibiting abortion.

U.S. Department of Defense

The Department of Veterans Affairs faces a serious numbers problem — multiple in fact.

It can't count how many veterans died while waiting to sign up for health care. It says some VA hospitals may have to close if the agency can't get $2.5 billion. And a year after scandal rocked the department, congressional Republicans want to know why the number of employees fired is so low.

More than a dozen states that opted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act have seen enrollments surge way beyond projections, raising concerns that the added costs will strain their budgets when federal aid is scaled back starting in two years.

Some lawmakers warn the price of expanding the health care program for poor and lower-income Americans could mean less money available for other state services, including education.

Associated Press

The searing political conflict over abortion flared anew Wednesday as three Republican-led congressional committees said they will investigate whether Planned Parenthood is selling organs from aborted fetuses.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized the group and said President Barack Obama should condemn and end the practice. Other GOP lawmakers and 2016 presidential hopefuls joined in, including some who said Congress should end federal aid to the organization.

HealthCare.gov

Phony applicants that investigators signed up last year under President Barack Obama's health care law got automatically re-enrolled for 2015. Some were rewarded with even bigger taxpayer subsidies for their insurance premiums, a congressional probe has found.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says 11 counterfeit characters that its investigators created last year were automatically re-enrolled by HealthCare.gov, even though most had unresolved documentation issues. In Obama's terms, they got to keep the coverage they had.

Wikimedia Commons

Deepak Jayasimha's fitness tracker is now with his father-in-law in India, where it sits unused. Annabel Kelly foisted hers off on the kids. Virginia Atkinson took hers off to charge the battery and hasn't picked it up since February.

Associated Press

The $1,000 pill for a liver-wasting viral infection that made headlines last year is no longer the favorite of patients and doctors.

The new leading pill for hepatitis C is more expensive, and the number of patients seeking a cure has surged.

Sovaldi, last year's wonder drug, has been pushed aside by a successor called Harvoni, made by the same company. The sticker price for Harvoni is $1,350 a pill.

Calling the scheme “horrific,” a judge sentenced a Detroit-area cancer doctor to 45 years in prison today for collecting millions from insurance companies while poisoning more than 500 patients through needless treatments that wrecked their health.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman this week heard stories of brittle bones and fried organs as patients chillingly described the effects of excessive chemotherapy at the hands of Dr. Farid Fata.

Fata “shut down whatever compassion he had as a doctor and switched it to making money,” Borman said.

Medicare says that starting Jan. 1, 2016, it plans to pay doctors to counsel patients about end-of-life care.

Julie Rovner, senior correspondent with Kaiser Health News, tells our Newscast unit that many medical groups, including the American Medical Association, have long recommended the move.

Health officials, confronted with a shocking increase in heroin abuse, are developing a clearer picture of who is becoming addicted to this drug and why. The results may surprise you.

http://boehner.house.gov/

Having lost their latest war against President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, Republicans must decide how to wage battles that could fan the issue for the 2016 elections.

Last month's Supreme Court decision upholding the statute's federal subsidies, which help millions of Americans afford health care, shattered the GOP's best chance of forcing Obama to accept a weakening of his prized law. Without that leverage, Obama would likely veto any major changes they'd send him.

George Skene / Orlando Sentinel

It could trade for 400 times more than t7/8he price of crude oil and 2,000 times more than iron ore. If sold off the shelf, it could cost more than 150 times the price of a gallon of cow’s milk and 15 times more than coffee.

Going for as much as $4 per ounce, human breast milk is a hot commodity that is emerging as a surprisingly cutthroat industry, one that states are now seeking to regulate amid a battle for control between nonprofit and for-profit banks that supply hospital neonatal units.

U.S. Supreme Court

Most Americans want the Supreme Court to side with the government when it decides whether the feds can continue subsidizing insurance premiums in all 50 states under President Barack Obama's health care law, according to polls in recent months.

Few, however, have much confidence that the court can rule objectively in the case, King v. Burwell.

Here are five things to know about public opinion on the Supreme Court's coming decision on the health care law:

MOST WANT LAW UPHELD

The pushback against soaring cancer drug prices is gaining steam. A leading doctors group this week proposed a formula to help patients decide if a medicine is worth it — what it will cost them and how much good it is likely to do.

The move by the American Society of Clinical Oncology is the third recent effort to focus on value in cancer care. Two weeks ago, the European Society for Medical Oncology proposed a similar guide. Last week, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York posted an online tool suggesting a drug's fair price, based on benefits and side effects.

The House voted Tuesday to kill a federal panel that is supposed to find ways to curb Medicare spending, as Republicans ignored a veto threat and leveled their latest blow at President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

Members of the Independent Payment Advisory Board have never been appointed, and the panel has never recommended savings from Medicare, the $600-billion-a-year health care program for the elderly.

Associated Press

Anthem says it still backs an approximately $47-billion bid to buy Cigna, a day after the rival health insurer delivered a caustic rejection of Anthem's proposed cash-and-stock offer.

Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish says the latest deal his company has offered Cigna will provide compelling value for shareholders, and his management team is confident it can deliver on that promise.

The Indianapolis-based Blue Cross-Blue Shield carrier has made several offers to buy Cigna, the most recent amounting to $184 in cash and stock for each Cigna share.

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