Obama: ‘Premature’ to fast-track Ebola drug | TheHill

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Obama: ‘Premature’ to fast-track Ebola drug | TheHill.

“I think we’ve got to let the science guide us,” Obama said at a press conference at the U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, arguing that more testing needed to be done. “And you know, I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful.”

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Study Shows Third Gene as Indicator for Breast Cancer – NYTimes.com

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NEJM LogoMutations in a gene called PALB2 raise the risk of breast cancer in women by almost as much as mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2, the infamous genes implicated in most inherited cases of the disease, a team of researchers reported Wednesday.

via Study Shows Third Gene as Indicator for Breast Cancer – NYTimes.com.

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Health reform creates upheaval for free clinics

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Photo courtesy of Tim Kiser via Wikipedia

Wheeling, West Virginia. Photo courtesy of Tim Kiser via Wikipedia

This KHN story also ran in .

WHEELING, West Virginia – Without insurance, Pam Milliken relied for years on the free health clinic here to help manage her arthritis, high blood pressure and diabetes.

When she needed to have her gallbladder removed, the clinic, located in a former State Farm Insurance building, found her a specialist and hospital willing to do the surgery at no cost.

We used to say … ‘wouldn’t it be great if we no longer had uninsured and we could close our doors and go out of business.

This year, Milliken was among the 70 percent of patients at Wheeling Health Right Center who enrolled in Medicaid after the state expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act.

Worried that patients like Milliken would leave their care and struggle to find doctors accepting new Medicaid patients, the clinic took a rather radical step: It became a Medicaid provider and started billing the state-federal health insurance program for the poor. Continue reading

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Q&A: Experimental treatments and vaccines for Ebola – CDC

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Some questions and answers on experimental treatments and vaccines for Ebola from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

ebola

Ebola virus

Some questions and answers on experimental treatments and vaccines for Ebola from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is ZMapp?

ZMapp, being developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., is an experimental treatment, for use with individuals infected with Ebola virus.

The product is a combination of three different monoclonal antibodies that bind to the protein of the Ebola virus.

It has not yet been tested in humans for safety or effectiveness

How effective is the experimental treatment?

It is too early to know whether ZMapp is effective, since it is still in an experimental stage and has not yet been tested in humans for safety or effectiveness.

Some patients infected with Ebola virus do get better spontaneously or with supportive care.

It’s important to note that the standard treatment for Ebola remains supportive therapy.

This consists of the following measures: Continue reading

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Vermont moves towards single-payer health insurance

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VermontBy Michael Ollove
Stateline

BERLIN, Vermont – Dr. Marvin Malek has been yearning and advocating for a publicly financed, single-payer health care system for at least two decades.

Now, as Vermont stands on the threshold of being the first state to launch such a plan, he’s confessing to trepidation.

Some believe that if the Vermont experiment is successful, other states could follow. In Canada, they note, single-payer started in one province and then spread across the country.

“I am pretty damn nervous,” he confided before bounding off for rounds at the Vermont Central Medical Center, still clutching the bicycle helmet he wore on his ride to work. Continue reading

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Number of uninsured drops in states enacting Obamacare

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Survey: Insurance Rates Lag In Health Law Holdout States

ACA health reform logoBy Eric Whitney
AUGUST 6TH, 2014
KHN

A Gallup poll released Tuesday says that the Affordable Care Act is significantly increasing the number of Americans with health insurance, especially in states that are embracing the law. It echoes previous Gallup surveys, and similar findings by the Urban Institute and RAND Corp.

The latest Gallup survey found that, nationwide, the number of uninsured Americans dropped from 18 percent in September 2013, to 13.4 percent in June 2014.

States that follow the laws provisions most closelyas a group saw their uninsured rate drop nearly twice as much as states that declined to do so.

States that chose to follow the ACA’s provisions most closely, both by expanding Medicaid and establishing their own new health insurance marketplaces, as a group saw their uninsured rate drop nearly twice as much as states that declined to do so.

“Those states that have not embraced those two major mechanisms have had about half of the decline in uninsured,” said Gallup’s Dan Witters. “So there’s a clear difference in the states that have implemented those mechanisms versus those who haven’t.” Continue reading

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Suspicious HIV drug prescriptions abound in Medicare

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propublica thumbnailThe inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds Medicare spent tens of millions of dollars in 2012 for HIV drugs there’s little evidence patients needed. A 77-year-old woman with no record of HIV got $33,500 of medication.

By Charles Ornstein
ProPublica

Medicare spent more than $30 million in 2012 on questionable HIV medication costs, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report set for release Wednesday.

The report offers a litany of possible fraud schemes, all paid for by Medicare’s prescription drug program known as Part D.

Among the most egregious:

In Detroit, a 77-year-old woman purportedly filled $33,500 worth of prescriptions for 10 different HIV medications. But there’s no record she had HIV or that she had visited the doctors who wrote the scripts.

A 48-year-old in Miami went to 28 different pharmacies to pick up HIV drugs worth nearly $200,000, almost 10 times what average patients get in a year. The prescriptions were supposedly written by 16 health providers, an unusually high number.

And on a single day, a third patient received $17,500 of HIV drugs — and none the rest of the year. She got more than twice the recommended dose of five HIV drug ingredients. Continue reading

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Tennessee insurer uses monopoly to deliver bargain premiums

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This KHN story also ran in 

BlueCross BlueShield’s near dominance and hospitals’ lack of negotiating clout are key reasons Chattanooga has among the lowest priced coverage in the nation.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The dominion of Tennessee’s largest health insurer is reflected in its headquarters’ lofty perch above the city, atop a hill that during the Civil War was lined with Union cannons to repel Confederate troops.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has used its position to establish a similarly firm foothold in the first year of the marketplaces created by the health law. The company sold 88 percent of the plans for Tennessee individuals and families.

Though insurers have been regularly vilified in debates over health care prices, BlueCross’ near monopoly here has been unusually good financially for consumers.

Only one other insurer, Cigna, bothered to offer policies in Chattanooga, and the premiums were substantially higher than those offered by BlueCross.

Though insurers have been regularly vilified in debates over health care prices, BlueCross’ near monopoly here has been unusually good financially for consumers.

Its cut-rate exclusive deal with one of three area health systems turned Chattanooga into one of the 10 least expensive insurance markets in the country, as judged by the lowest price mid-level, or silver, plan. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – August 6th

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Global health news – August 6th

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‘Gluten-Free’ now means what it says

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Bread and grainsA Consumer Update from the FDA

In August of last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule that defined what characteristics a food has to have to bear a label that proclaims it “gluten-free.”

The rule also holds foods labeled “without gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “no gluten” to the same standard.

Manufacturers had one year to bring their labels into compliance. As of August 5, 2014, any food product bearing a gluten-free claim labeled on or after this date must meet the rule’s requirements.

Without a standardized definition of “gluten-free,” these consumers could never really be sure.

This rule was welcomed by advocates for people with celiac disease, who face potentially life-threatening illnesses if they eat the gluten found in breads, cakes, cereals, pastas and many other foods.

Andrea Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, notes that there is no cure for celiac disease and the only way to manage the disease is dietary—not eating gluten.

Without a standardized definition of “gluten-free,” these consumers could never really be sure if their body would tolerate a food with that label, she adds. Continue reading

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Bats in the home need to be handled with care

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BatsFrom the Snohomish Health District 

Beware of bat bites and scratches. Most bats are harmless, but about 1 in 100 bats carries rabies.

Bats like to “hang out” in vacation cabins, attics, barns and outbuildings, and wherever there are plenty of insects they can eat.

A bat bit a toddler in Pasco last year after falling out of a patio umbrella. The toddler got treatment to prevent rabies even before the bat was tested for the disease. Rabies is almost always deadly.

Last year, 32 people in Snohomish County got a series of shots to prevent the virus after possibly being exposed to rabies.

Last year, 32 people in Snohomish County got a series of shots to prevent the virus after possibly being exposed to rabies. Thanks to such preventive efforts by public health, no cases of rabies exposure in Washington state have advanced to human rabies disease since 1997. Continue reading

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Seeking cheaper care, patients take online bids from doctors

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This KHN story also ran in wapo.

Francisco Velazco couldn’t wait any longer. For several years, the 35-year-old Seattle handyman had searched for an orthopedic surgeon who would reconstruct the torn ligament in his knee for a price he could afford.

Out of work because of the pain and unable to scrape together $15,000 – the cheapest option he could find in Seattle – Velazco turned to an unconventional and controversial option: an online medical auction site called Medibid, which largely operates outside the confines of traditional health insurance.

The four-year-old online service links patients seeking non-emergency care with doctors and facilities that offer it, much the way Priceline unites travelers and hotels. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – August 5th

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By Michal Zacharzewski

By Michal Zacharzewski

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Global health news – August 5th

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