Ritual, not science, keeps the annual physical alive

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Dr. Mark Caruso examines patient Emanuel Vega. (Photo by Jenny Gold/KHN).

By Jenny Gold
KHN

It’s a warm afternoon in Miami, and 35-year-old Emanuel Vega has come to Baptist Health Primary Care for a physical exam. Dr. Mark Caruso shakes his hand with a welcoming smile.

Vega, a strapping man with a thick black beard, is feeling good, but he came to see the doctor today because his wife thought he should – she even made the appointment.

It is free to him under his insurance policy with no co-pay, as most preventive care is under the Affordable Care Act.

Vega is one of more than 44 million Americans who is taking part in a medical ritual: visiting the doctor for an annual physical exam.

But there’s little evidence that those visits actually do any good for healthy adults. Continue reading

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These doctors want a choice in how they they die

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Hoping To Live, These Doctors Want A Choice In How They Die

Photo by Anna Gorman

Dr. Dan Swangard (Photo by Anna Gorman/KHN).

By Anna Gorman
KHN

SAN FRANCISCO — Dan Swangard knows what death looks like.

As a physician, he has seen patients die in hospitals, hooked to morphine drips and overcome with anxiety.

He has watched dying drag on for weeks or months as terrified relatives stand by helplessly.

Recently, however, his thoughts about how seriously ill people die have become personal. Swangard was diagnosed in 2013 with a rare form of metastatic cancer.

To remove the cancer, surgeons took out parts of his pancreas and liver, as well as his entire spleen and gallbladder.

The operation was successful but Swangard, 48, knows there’s a strong chance the disease will return. And if he gets to a point where there’s nothing more medicine can do, he wants to be able to control when and how his life ends.

“It’s very real for me,” said Swangard, who lives in Bolinas, Calif. “This could be my own issue a year from now.”

That’s one of the reasons Swangard joined a California lawsuit last month seeking to let doctors prescribe lethal medications to certain patients who want to hasten death. If he were given only months to live, Swangard said, he can’t say for certain whether he would take them.

“But I want to be able to make that choice,” he said. Continue reading

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Two people diagnosed with TB at Mount Rainier High School

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Photomicrograph Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

From Public Health – Seattle King County

Over the past three months, two people at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines have been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB).

The first person was found with infectious TB in early January, the second in late March. Both individuals are being treated to ensure a full recovery.

At this time, investigation by health officials has found no evidence that TB was acquired at school. Both people have other risk factors for TB that are unrelated to the school environment.

Out of an abundance of caution, public health officials are recommending that all 1700 students and staff at Mount Rainier High School get TB tests.

 However, out of an abundance of caution, public health officials are recommending that all 1700 students and staff at Mount Rainier High School get TB tests.

“We have not found a link that suggests the infection was passed at the school. But we are examining every possibility, and that’s why we’re recommending TB testing for all students and staff at this time,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Interim Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. Continue reading

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The health law and your taxes

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From Kaiser Health news:

Are you still getting your taxes done ahead of the April 15 deadline? Don’t forget that your 2014 tax bill could be affected by your health insurance.

The federal health law requires that most people have health coverage. If you were insured through work, bought a plan on the new insurance marketplaces or enrolled in Medicare Part A, Medicaid or Tricare you likely met the requirement and can simply check that box off on your tax form.

If you didn’t have coverage or had it for only part of the year, you need to fill out Form 8965. That lets you claim an exemption or calculate your penalty. That penalty is $95 or 1 percent of your family’s income, whichever is greater. Continue reading

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Bill would allow motorized wheelchairs in bike lanes – Las Vegas Sun News

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WheelchairBicyclists might have to start sharing the road with motorized wheelchair users under a proposed Nevada law.

The bill would allow motorized wheelchairs to enter bike lanes if a sidewalk isn’t available or passable by wheelchair. Wheelchair users would be required to yield the right-of-way to bikers.

via Bill would allow motorized wheelchairs in bike lanes – Las Vegas Sun News.

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Exercise, Not Diet, Has Most Impact On Weight As We Age

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Running job fitness exerciseIt won’t shock anyone to know that Americans tend to gain weight as they get older.

But it is a little surprising that as Americans age and put on more body fat, the quality of their diets generally improves.

In other words, Americans do try to correct their softening midsections with things like salads and lean proteins.

And, unfortunately, that doesn’t quite work, according to a recent analysis of physical activity, diet and weight among U.S. adults.

Instead, whether or not a person engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity was more likely to predict their ability to stave off age-associated weight gain.

Photo courtesy of Bartek Ambrozik

via Exercise, Not Diet, Has Most Impact On Weight As We Age.

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States ask U.S. Congress to launch inquiry of herbal supplements | Reuters

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Ginkgo bilobaA group of 14 state attorneys general on Thursday asked the U.S. Congress to investigate the herbal supplements industry after a New York probe of the products turned up ingredients that were not listed on labels and raised safety concerns.

via States ask U.S. Congress to launch inquiry of herbal supplements | Reuters.

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The Salty Truth: Many Popular Foods With Unhealthy Amounts of Salt – ABC News

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pizzaYou may be consuming more salt than you need — and the salt shaker is probably not to blame.

When researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sought to shake out how much sodium — a major component of table salt — was in various food items nationwide, they found that the biggest high sodium offenders were pizzas, pastas and meats, nearly 75 percent of which exceeded national sodium thresholds. Additionally, more than half of cold cuts, soups and sandwiches contained more than a healthy amount of sodium.

via The Salty Truth: Many Popular Foods With Unhealthy Amounts of Salt – ABC News.

 

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More TV Time May Mean Higher Diabetes Risk, Study Finds – WebMD

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Photo by Brainloc

Photo by Brainloc

If you’re on the verge of developing diabetes, parking yourself in front of the TV might be one of the worst things you could do for your health, a new study suggests.

Every extra hour a person with prediabetes spends watching TV each day raises their risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes by 3.4 percent, according to research published April 1 in the journal Diabetologia.

via More TV Time May Mean Higher Diabetes Risk, Study Finds – WebMD.

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There’s still time to sign up for health insurance and avoid tax penalty

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CalendarThe Washington Health Benefit Exchange is reminding residents today that there’s still time to enroll in a Qualified Health Plan through the Washington Healthplanfinder spring special enrollment period.

Residents are eligible to apply if they recently became aware of the tax penalty for not having health insurance or if they were unable to complete their applications due to technical issues by the Feb. 15 deadline.

Customers may contact the Customer Support Center to request a special enrollment at 1-855-WAFINDER. The special enrollment period ends on April 17, which comes before the national special enrollment deadline of April 30.

“This special enrollment opportunity gives individuals another chance to get insured and avoid the tax penalty in 2016.”

“Washingtonians who are facing a fine for not having health insurance in 2014 are asking how they can avoid an even larger fine when they file their taxes next year,” said Richard Onizuka, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “This special enrollment opportunity gives individuals another chance to get insured and avoid the tax penalty in 2016.”

Those who aren’t covered in 2015 should be aware that the penalty for not having coverage next year increases to $325 per individual or up to 2 percent of your income, whichever is greater. Continue reading

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Hospitals report significant drop in charity care costs after Medicaid expansion

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By Sarah Jane Tribble, WCPN
KHN

The Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest hospitals in the country, has cut its charity care spending — or the cost of free care provided to patients who can’t afford to pay — to $101 million in 2014 compared with $171 million in 2013.

cleveland-clinic-by-kevinmnord-via-flickr-770

Hospital officials credited the federal health law for the improvement. “The decrease in charity care is primarily attributable to the increase in Medicaid patients due to the expansion of Medicaid eligibility in the State of Ohio and the resulting decrease in the number of charity patients,” the hospital’s year-end financial statement reported.

That 40 percent drop spotlights a trend in how payments are changing for all providers since the health law rolled out the Medicaid expansion and subsidies that help some lower-income people purchase policies on the new insurance marketplaces, said John Palmer, spokesperson for Ohio Hospital Association.

States with expansion saw significant reductions in uncompensated care costs – which includes charity care and bad debt, such as when an insured patient doesn’t pay her share of a hospital bill.

“Now that you’re starting to see that shift from uninsured or underserved on over into health care programs such as Medicaid and the exchange, that has had a good impact,” he said. “And, obviously, it is reflective of what hospitals are experiencing with uncompensated care in the areas of charity care especially.”

The clinic is not alone. The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that the number of uninsured and self-pay patients has fallen substantially in Medicaid expansion states since the program went into effect last year.

In addition, states with expansion saw significant reductions in uncompensated care costs – which includes charity care and bad debt, such as when an insured patient doesn’t pay her share of a hospital bill. Hospitals in those states had an estimated savings of $2.6 billion over that seen in non-expansion states.

 (Photo by KevinMNord via Flickr)

Continue reading

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Premera negligent In data breach, 5 lawsuits claim | Seattle Times / Kaiser Health News

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Blue crossThe complaints say Premera should be held financially responsible for any losses customers suffer, as well as award damages and restitution, immediately notify each person whose information was compromised and prevent breaches from happening in the future, according to documents filed with the court.

via Premera Negligent In Data Breach, 5 Lawsuits Claim | Kaiser Health News.

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Older men who exercise more have better erectile function | Reuters

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Road BikeMen who exercise more have better erectile and sexual function, suggests a small study of older overweight men.

The authors say their results support the idea that exercise might one day be prescribed as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.

via Older men who exercise more have better erectile function | Reuters.

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Steer Clear of Raw Milk, Researchers Warn – WebMD

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Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Raw milk causes more than half of all milk-related foodborne illnesses in the United States, even though only about 3.5 percent of Americans drink raw milk, according to a new report.

The researchers warned that people are nearly 100 times more likely to get a foodborne illness from raw (unpasteurized) milk than from pasteurized milk.

via Steer Clear of Raw Milk, Researchers Warn – WebMD.

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