Consumer

Abortion is back before the Supreme Court, and the justices could signal by the end of June whether they are likely to take up the biggest case on the hot-button subject in nearly a quarter-century.

If the court steps in, the hearing and the eventual ruling would come amid the 2016 presidential campaign.

Associated Press

Health insurer Cigna Corp. has rejected a $47 billion offer to be acquired by its larger rival, Anthem Inc., saying the terms of the bid are inadequate and “woefully skewed in favor of Anthem shareholders.”

Cigna’s sharply worded rejection came just one day after Anthem went public with its cash-and-stock offer, which amounts to about $184 for each Cigna share or about an 18 percent premium on Cigna’s closing stock price on Friday.

Department of Veteran's Affairs

The number of veterans seeking health care but ending up on waiting lists of one month or more is 50 percent higher now than it was a year ago when a scandal over false records and long wait times wracked the Department of Veterans Affairs, The New York Times reported.

The VA also faces a budget shortfall of nearly $3 billion, the Times reported in a story posted online ahead of its Sunday editions. The agency is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other significant moves to reduce the gap, the newspaper reported.

Wikimedia Commons

Despite White House veto threats, the House is ready to vote to repeal taxes on medical devices and kill a Medicare advisory board that foes say would ration health care as the chamber aims its latest whack at President Barack Obama's health care law.

Wikimedia Commons

The Obama administration is cracking down on artificial trans fats, calling them a threat to public health.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it will require food companies to phase out the use artificial trans fats almost entirely. Consumers aren’t likely to notice much of a difference in their favorite foods, but the administration says the move will to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.

Target will sell its pharmacy and clinic businesses to the drugstore chain CVS Health for about $1.9 billion in a deal that combines the resources of two retailers seeking to polish their health care reputations.

The acquisition allows CVS Health to reach more patients and expand its in-store MinuteClinic brand, which it has been growing aggressively for the past several years. It also gives the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain a retail presence in new markets like Seattle, Denver, and Salt Lake City.

Survey: Drug Costs Are ‘Unreasonable'

Jun 16, 2015

Nearly three in four Americans say the costs of prescription drugs are “unreasonable,” with most putting the blame on drugmakers, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 74 percent of those taking prescription drugs find the costs unreasonable, as do 72 percent of those not taking such drugs. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

A key goal of the Affordable Care Act is to help people get health insurance who may have not been able to pay for it before. But the most popular plans – those with low monthly premiums – also have high deductibles and copays. And that can leave medical care still out of reach for some.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Humana has pulled out of a major health care conference and said it will not comment on rumors of a merger, actions that will likely fuel Wall Street speculation that the insurer is part of a developing deal.

Shares of the Medicare Advantage coverage provider, which hit an all-time high late last month, rose Monday while broader indexes slipped.

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.

U.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court could wipe away health insurance for millions of Americans when it resolves the latest fight over President Barack Obama's health overhaul. But would the court take away a benefit from so many people? Should the justices even consider such consequences?

On a recent afternoon, Brittany Combs drove a white SUV through a neighborhood at the northern end of Austin, Indiana. In the back of her vehicle, there were hundreds of sterile syringes, each in a plastic wrapper.

"Anybody need clean needles today?" she shouted out the window at people sitting on front porches or walking down the street. When Combs, a nurse with the Scott County Health Department, got takers, she made sure they had a unique ID card before opening up the hatch and handing each of them a week's worth of syringes.

Economy, ACA Boosts Travel Nurse Demand

May 28, 2015
Courtesy of Cherisse Dillard

With her children grown and husband nearing retirement, Amy Reynolds was ready to leave behind snowy Flagstaff, Ariz., to travel but she wasn’t ready to give up her nursing career.

She didn’t have to.

For the past three years, Reynolds, 55, has been a travel nurse — working for about three months at a time at hospitals in California, Washington, Texas and Idaho, among other states. Her husband accompanies her on the assignments. “It’s been wonderful,” she said in May after starting a stint in Sacramento. “It’s given us a chance to try out other parts of the country.”

Sticky plaque gets the most attention, but now healthy seniors at risk of Alzheimer’s are letting scientists peek into their brains to see if another culprit is lurking.

No one knows what actually causes Alzheimer’s, but the suspects are its two hallmarks — the gunky amyloid in those brain plaques or tangles of a protein named tau that clog dying brain cells. New imaging can spot those tangles in living brains, providing a chance to finally better understand what triggers dementia.

A different health care issue has emerged for Democrats, in sync with the party's pitch to workers and middle-class voters ahead of next year's elections.

It's not the uninsured, but rather the problem of high out-of-pocket costs for people already covered.

Democrats call it "underinsurance."

A Supreme Court ruling due in a few weeks could wipe out health insurance for millions of people covered by President Barack Obama's health care law. But it's Republicans — not White House officials — who have been talking about damage control.

A likely reason: Twenty-six of the 34 states that would be most affected by the ruling have Republican governors, and 22 of the 24 GOP Senate seats up in 2016 are in those states.

Older, Uninsured Adults from 12 To 8 Percent

May 26, 2015

The health law’s expansion of Medicaid coverage to adults with incomes over the poverty line was key to reducing the uninsured rate among 50- to 64-year-olds from nearly 12 to 8 percent in 2014, according to a new analysis.

“Clearly most of the gains in coverage were in Medicaid or non-group coverage,” says study co-author Jane Sung, a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute, which conducted the study with the Urban Institute.

Nearly a quarter of U.S. adults who were insured all last year lacked adequate protection from big medical bills based on their income, according to Commonwealth Fund research.

The nonprofit foundation estimates that about 31 million people between the ages of 19 and 64 were underinsured due in part to the out-of-pocket expenses they have to pay for care. That includes deductibles, or payments a patient has to make before most coverage begins.

ConAgra Foods is likely to face a criminal charge now that the U.S. government has completed its investigation of the company's 2007 peanut butter recall.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Georgia, Pam Lightsey, said Tuesday that prosecutors plan to reveal details of the investigation Wednesday.

ConAgra spokeswoman Teresa Paulsen declined to comment, but the company has said it was negotiating an end to the investigation that would likely include a misdemeanor charge of shipping tainted products.

Wikimedia Commons

Under pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Takata Corp. has agreed to declare 33.8 million air bags defective, a move that will double the number of cars and trucks included in what is now the largest auto recall in U.S. history.

The recalls of passenger-side air bags, previously limited to high-humidity states along the Gulf Coast such as Florida, are now expanded nationwide by 10.2 million vehicles. 

University of Washington Health

At the front of a classroom, health worker Cheryll Moore demonstrates "the nod" — a jerk of the head forward and then quickly back — a telltale sign of heroin use, though not necessarily of an overdose.

"In that scenario, they can go either way," she said. "I would not leave them alone."

After an hour or so of instruction that includes spotting signs of a life-threatening overdose, the class of ordinary people — couples, co-workers, parents, retirees and others — leaves with two vials of the prescription heroin antidote naloxone, better known by its brand name, Narcan.

U.S. Department of Energy

More than 170 clinics across the country are selling experimental stem cell procedures for dozens of diseases and conditions — a mushrooming industry that has flourished despite little evidence of its safety or effectiveness.

The rise of the U.S. stem cell industry illustrates how quickly fringe medicine can outpace government oversight. Over the last five years, academic stem cell researchers have watched in dismay as doctors treat patients with experimental techniques that they say could take years, if not decades, to become sound medicine.

Republicans finally won House approval Wednesday for a late-term abortion ban after dropping rape provisions that provoked a rebellion by female GOP lawmakers, forcing party leaders into an embarrassing retreat.

The near party-line 242-184 vote was a victory for abortion opponents and a relief for top Republicans. Yet the path to passage took months of negotiations among anti-abortion groups, female lawmakers and party leaders, underscoring how tough it will be for the GOP to satisfy abortion foes while retaining support from women voters for next year's elections.

A key question remains for many students who've finally settled on a college destination: How will they or their parents handle health care coverage?

  From contraception to colonoscopies, the Obama administration Monday closed a series of insurance loopholes on coverage of preventive care.

The department of Health and Human Services said insurers must cover at least one birth control option under each of 18 methods approved by the FDA — without copays.

Also, insurers can't charge patients for anesthesia services in connection with colonoscopies to screen for cancer risk.

Let's say you're a young person, around 30 years old. And you're the kind of person who likes to take risks. So maybe you're taking risks in your sexual relationships. You're not practicing safe sex.

What would make you change your behavior?

That's a question that's long been pondered by public health officials. And now new research from a World Bank-funded team in Lesotho, a tiny country in southern Africa, has produced a surprising answer.

Lottery tickets!

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

"Remember the last time you had sex? Were you drinking? Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause lifelong problems for the child."

That's part of the warning on a poster in the women's bathroom at the Peanut Farm bar in Anchorage. It depicts the silhouette of a pregnant woman guzzling straight from a bottle. And it's affixed to a pregnancy test dispenser hanging on the wall.

Pages