Consumer

The first genetically modified crop wasn't made by a megacorporation. Or a college scientist trying to design a more durable tomato. Nope. Nature did it — at least 8,000 years ago.

Well, actually bacteria in the soil were the engineers. And the microbe's handiwork is present in sweet potatoes all around the world today.

Lately, Californians have been focused on a measles outbreak that got its start at Disneyland. But in the past five years, state health officials have declared epidemics of whooping cough twice — in 2010 and in 2014, when 11,000 people were sickened and three infants died.

Patients Not Hurt When Hospitals Close: Study

May 5, 2015

A hospital closure can send tremors through a city or town, leaving residents fearful about how they will be cared for in emergencies and serious illnesses. A study released Monday offers some comfort, finding that when hospitals shut down, death rates and other markers of quality generally do not worsen.

A hospital closure can send tremors through a city or town, leaving residents fearful about how they will be cared for in emergencies and serious illnesses.

A study released Monday offers some comfort, finding that when hospitals shut down, death rates and other markers of quality generally don't worsen.

After 45 years of providing health care in rural western Missouri, Sac-Osage Hospital is being sold piece by piece.

Ceiling tiles are going for 25 cents, the room doors for an average of less than $4 each, the patient beds for $250 apiece. Soon, the remnants of the hospital that long symbolized the lifeblood of Osceola, population 923, will be torn to the ground.

Congressional Republicans have yet to unite behind any of the growing number of proposals for responding to a Supreme Court ruling that could void federal subsidies that millions of people use to buy coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law. The decision is expected by June.

Those proposing plans include:

Several of the nation's biggest health insurers have hiked earnings expectations for 2015 after blowing past first-quarter forecasts and heading into a much more stable future than they faced this time last year.

If you're about to tie the knot, do you know how a change in marital status could affect the credit you got toward health insurance when you were single? You could end up having to repay a big chunk of the money. Here's the question and an answer that lays out the way the IRS handles the situation.

FDA.gov

The Food and Drug Administration has filed a court order against medical device giant Medtronic over repeated problems with its implantable drug pumps that went uncorrected for years.

Under the order, Medtronic must halt most production and distribution of its Synchromed II drug pumps, which are implanted devices used to treat patients with cancer, chronic pain and severe muscle spasms.

  "The FDA expects that all patients will be treated with safe, effective and high-quality medical devices," said Jan Welch, a director in the agency's center for medical device regulation.

Bird flu has been striking chicken and turkey farms in parts of the West and Midwest. This past week, it hit a flock of millions egg-laying chickens in northeastern Iowa. Update 4/22/2015: The USDA now says that around 3 million birds were affected in the Iowa facility — down from a previous estimate of 5 million.

Our original post continues below.

Texas ice cream maker Blue Bell Creameries has widely expanded a voluntary recall over Listeria concerns, seeking the return of all of its products currently on the market. Blue Bell products are sold in 23 states.

Florida's Department of Health has confirmed two cases of measles in two unvaccinated adults in Indian River County.

Officials said Sunday that both patients live in the same household. One acquired measles internationally, and the second acquired the case at home on central Florida's Atlantic coast.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ending years of last-minute fixes, President Barack Obama on Thursday signed legislation permanently changing how Medicare pays doctors, a rare bipartisan achievement by Democrats and Republicans.

The bill overhauls a 1997 law that aimed to slow Medicare's growth by limiting reimbursements to doctors. Instead, doctors threatened to leave the Medicare program, and that forced Congress repeatedly to block those reductions.

Wikimedia Commons

Millions of older people are getting tests they don’t need to prove they are healthy enough to have cataracts removed, a new study finds. 

The excess testing before this quick, ultrasafe eye procedure is costing them and Medicare a bundle, and many patients don’t know they can question it, doctors say.

“They should ask, ‘Is it really necessary?’ ” and how much it will cost them in co-insurance, usually 20 percent under Medicare, said one study leader, Dr. R. Adams Dudley of the University of California, San Francisco.

Wikimedia Commons

The health care sector has become the hot target for hackers in recent months, according to researchers at Symantec, a leading cybersecurity company that says it's also seeing big increases in "spear-phishing," ''ransomware" and efforts to exploit newly discovered vulnerabilities in software used by a wide range of industries.

MGN Online

U.S. spending on prescription drugs soared last year, driven up primarily by costly breakthrough medicines, manufacturer price hikes and a surge from millions of people newly insured due to the Affordable Care Act.

Spending rose 13 percent, the biggest jump since 2001, to a total of $374 billion, according to a report released Tuesday by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. After accounting for population growth and inflation, the increase equaled 10 percent.

At an Institute for Family Health center near Union Square in New York City, medical student Sara Stream asks a new patient named Alicia what brings her in. The 34-year-old woman arrived last summer from Guatemala, and says she hasn't been seen by a doctor in many years.

Her list of ailments is long.

"I have trouble seeing, headaches, problems with my stomach," says Alicia, who declined to use her full name, because she is in the country illegally. "I feel depressed."

 As the April 15 tax deadline nears, people who got help paying for health insurance under President Barack Obama's law are seeing the direct effect on their refunds — hundreds of dollars, for better or worse.

The law offers tax credits so people without access to job-based health insurance can buy private coverage. Because these subsidies are tied to income, consumers must accurately estimate what they will make for the coming year.

That's been a challenge for millions of people.

New data from Florida's Department of Health shows 93.3 percent of Florida's kindergarten students have been immunized.

That immunization rate falls a bit short of the state's goal to have 95 percent of all kindergarten students immunized for diseases such as polio and measles. But it's the highest overall rate since 2007.

The Florida Department of Health report also shows that 40 of the state's 67 counties have rates that meet or exceed the 95 percent goal.

Rob Marsh has a medical practice in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He likes the freedom to open his office at night if a patient gets sick.

Marsh wants to make house calls, and he needs to pay a staff that has grown from 2 to 23. But many people in this area lack insurance.

"You've got to make budget to make payroll," he says.

The financial pressures of practicing medicine in the 21st century have led more doctors to take jobs with large hospitals and medical practices. Last year, only 17 percent of doctors were in solo practice.

Private health care providers cannot sue to force states to raise their Medicaid reimbursement rates to keep up with rising medical costs, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a 5-4 decision that broke across ideological lines, the justices said medical companies have no private right to enforce federal Medicaid funding laws against states if Congress has not created such a right.

The nation's largest health insurer, UnitedHealth, will muscle up for its fight against rising prescription drug costs by spending more than $12 billion to buy pharmacy benefits manager Catamaran Corp.

Pharmacy benefits managers, or PBMs, help negotiate the prices that customers pay for prescription drugs. They are seen as a key component in the push to contain soaring costs from specialty drugs, complex medicines that can represent treatment breakthroughs but often at a much higher price than other drugs.

California Department of Corrections

In a move that could heighten the hurdles faced by states attempting to execute prisoners, a leading association for U.S. pharmacists has officially discouraged its members from providing drugs for use in lethal injections.

The policy adopted by American Pharmacists Association delegates at their annual meeting Monday makes an ethical stand against providing such drugs, saying they run contrary to the role of pharmacists as health care providers.

Wikimedia Commons

Thirty years ago, insurance companies had the answer to the soaring cost of caring for the elderly. Plan ahead and buy a policy that will cover your expenses.

Now, there's a new problem: Even insurers think it's unaffordable.

Women Dominate Nursing, But Men Earn More

Mar 25, 2015
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Women outnumber men in the nursing profession by more than 10 to 1. But men still earn more, a new study finds.

The report in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association found that even after controlling for age, race, marital status and children in the home, males in nursing out-earned females by nearly $7,700 per year in outpatient settings and nearly $3,900 in hospitals.

New momentum for a lasting fix to Medicare's doctor-payment problem shows that lawmakers may finally be recognizing what has long bothered their constituents.

Year after year, the threat of 20 percent payment cuts averted at the last minute has seemed a curious way to run a program that lives depend on.

Associated Press

 An extraordinary bipartisan accord between House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is letting both parties exhale as they move toward ending the nagging annual threat of Medicare cuts to physicians. Yet each side is bragging about far more than that.

The Supreme Court is considering whether the Americans With Disabilities Act requires police to take special precautions when trying to arrest armed and violent suspects who are mentally ill.

The justices hear arguments Monday in a dispute over how police in San Francisco dealt with a woman suffering from schizophrenia who had threatened to kill her social worker. Police forced their way into Teresa Sheehan's room at a group home and then shot her five times after she came at them with a knife.

Megan Milanese

When President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act five years ago, he visualized a time when the political hyperbole would be silenced and ordinary people would see that the health care law improved their lives.

The White House ceremony on March 23, 2010, was an applause-filled celebration. "When I sign this bill," Obama said, "all of the overheated rhetoric over reform will finally confront the reality of reform."

Department of Veteran's Affairs

Responding to pressure from Congress and veterans groups, the Department of Veterans Affairs is relaxing a rule that makes it hard for some veterans in rural areas to prove they live at least 40 miles from a VA health site.

The change comes amid complaints from lawmakers and advocates who say the VA's current policy has prevented thousands of veterans from taking advantage of a new law intended to allow veterans in remote areas to gain access to federally paid medical care from local doctors.

Pages