Health

Health
12:58 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Are Pre-Existing Condition Bans For Health Insurance Still With Us?

Cigna's letter to Julie Rovner saying she had no proof of past coverage, so limitations based on pre-existing conditions could apply. (Highlights added.)
Julie Rovner for NPR

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 1:50 pm

"Welcome to Cigna," said the letter, dated May 16, on behalf of my new employer, the Kaiser Family Foundation. The letter also said the insurer was placing me on a one-year waiting period for any pre-existing conditions.

Seriously? Wasn't the health law supposed to end that?

"We have reviewed the evidence of prior creditable coverage provided by you and/or your prior carrier and have determined that you have 0 days of creditable coverage," the letter said.

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Health
12:39 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Medicare Frequently Overpays Doctors For Patients' Visits

Medicare spent $6.7 billion too much for office visits and other patient evaluations in 2010, according to a report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services.

But in its reply to the findings, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs Medicare, said it doesn't plan to review the billings of doctors who almost always charge for the most expensive visits because it isn't cost-effective to do so.

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Health
11:28 am
Thu May 29, 2014

Doctors Say They Would Shun Aggressive Treatment When Near Death

The vast majority of young physicians surveyed by Stanford researchers wouldn't want to receive CPR or cardiac life support if they were terminally ill and their heart or breathing stopped.
UygarGeographic/iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 2:49 pm

Everybody dies.

But when doctors' time is up, they are different from the rest of us. They "go gently" rather than opt for aggressive end-of-life treatments, as one physician wrote a few years ago. They have seen the suffering of their patients at the end of life and want no part of it.

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Health
3:03 am
Thu May 29, 2014

The Divide Over Involuntary Mental Health Treatment

Involuntary commitment to a hospital for mental illness can be a lengthy and complex process. A California law makes mandatory outpatient treatment an option.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 1:19 pm

The attacks near the University of California, Santa Barbara, are renewing focus on programs aimed at requiring treatment for people who are mentally ill as a way to prevent mass shootings and other violence.

In California, a 2002 law allows authorities to require outpatient mental health care for people who have been refusing it. Proponents argue that this kind of intervention could prevent violent acts.

But counties within the state have been slow to adopt the legislation, and mental health professionals are divided over its effects.

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Health
4:08 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Today's Heroin Addict Is Young, White And Suburban

A heroin user in St. Johnsbury, Vt., prepares to shoot up.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 2:50 pm

Heroin was once the scourge of the urban poor, but today the typical user is a young, white suburbanite, a study finds. And the path to addiction usually starts with prescription painkillers.

A survey of 9,000 patients at treatment centers around the country found that 90 percent of heroin users were white men and women. Most were relatively young — their average age was 23. And three-quarters said they first started not with heroin but with prescription opioids like OxyContin.

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Health
10:23 am
Wed May 28, 2014

Can Employers Dump Workers On Health Exchanges? Yes, For A Price

retrorocket/iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 2:50 pm

Can the Affordable Care Act expand Americans' health insurance choices without sabotaging employer coverage? The Obama administration is still working to get the balance right.

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Health
3:28 am
Wed May 28, 2014

How To Shop For Long-Term Care Insurance

The first lesson of long-term care insurance: Shopping before health problems set in improves your chances of being accepted while tempering lifetime premium payments.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 12:57 pm

One of the toughest money decisions Americans face as they age is whether to buy long-term care insurance. Many people don't realize that Medicare usually doesn't cover long-term care, yet lengthy assisted-living or nursing home stays can decimate even the best-laid retirement plan.

Long-term care insurance is a complex product that requires a long-term commitment if you're buying it. So how can you tell if this insurance is right for you?

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Health
1:36 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

When Older People Walk Now, They Stay Independent Later

Walking: so simple, yet difficult for many people as they age.
Justin Horrocks iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 11:19 am

Millions of older people have trouble walking a quarter of a mile, which puts them at high risk of losing their mobility, being hospitalized or dying.

But it's hard to get people who are already sedentary to become more active and stay that way.

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Health
3:44 am
Mon May 26, 2014

Anxious Parents Can Learn How To Reduce Anxiety In Their Kids

Noah Cummings, 13, starts the morning with his mom, Heather Cummings, at home in Epsom, N.H.
Ellen Webber for NPR

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 2:35 pm

Children are increasingly anxious, stressed out and overly worried. Part of that has to do with increased pressures to excel in school, sports and extracurricular activities. But part of it has a lot to do with parents.

Like other mental and physical health problems, anxiety can be inherited. And some children are more vulnerable because of the way their anxious parents "parent."

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Health
6:38 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Think Work Is Stressful? For Many, It's More Relaxing Than Home

Work can be rough, but a researcher has found that for many people, being at home is more stressful than being at the office.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 7:10 pm

Many Americans say their jobs are stressful — we complain of too much to do in too little time, demanding bosses or difficult colleagues. But researcher Sarah Damaske wanted to know, objectively, is being at work any harder than being at home?

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Health
6:08 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Diabetes Raises Women's Risk Of Heart Disease More Than For Men

About 8 percent of Americans have diabetes.
iStockphoto

Diabetes increases a woman's risk of dying from a heart attack or a stroke much more than it does for men, and scientists are trying to figure out why.

Women with diabetes were almost three times more likely to develop heart disease than women without the disease, a relative risk that's 44 percent higher than it is for men. That's despite the fact that men are more likely to have heart disease than women overall.

Since heart disease already is the number one killer of women, and the number of people with diabetes has been rising rapidly, this is not good news.

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Health
5:09 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Anxiety And MRIs May Be Driving The Rise In Double Mastectomies

More women are choosing double mastectomy even if they don't have a high cancer risk.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 10:21 am

The number of women getting double mastectomies after a breast cancer diagnosis has been rising in the past 10 years, even though most of them don't face a higher risk of getting cancer in the other breast.

That has cancer doctors troubled, because for those women having the other breast removed doesn't reduce their risk of getting breast cancer again or increase their odds of survival. And they don't know why women are making this choice.

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Health
8:50 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Beezin' May Be Bogus, But Other Dopey Teen Fads Can Bite Back

Leif Parsons for NPR

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 2:00 pm

Another month, another apocalyptic news report of some weird substance that kids are abusing in pursuit of a high.

The most recent example is "beezin'," which supposedly involves smearing Burt's Bee's lip balm on one's eyelids. The tingling allegedly heightens the sensation of being drunk or high, according to the Oklahoma Fox News affiliate that first declared this a "viral trend."

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Health
8:37 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Just One-Third Of People Can Tell If You're Faking That Laugh

Does she really think you're funny, or is she just being polite?
Jon Feingersh/Getty Getty Images/Blend Images RM

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 11:42 am

Scene: The happy-hour office party.

Your boss is relaxed, drink in hand. A little liquid courage of your own, and you approach her, taking a shot at an opportunity to impress. You open with a quip. She chuckles.

But does she really mean it? Or is she faking?

Only one-third of people can tell the difference between a fake laugh and the real deal, according to a study by Greg Bryant, a professor of communication at University of California, Los Angeles.

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Health
7:19 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Don't Salmon, Don't Shoal: Learning The Lingo Of Safe Cycling

What's that salmon doing in the bike lane?
Leif Parsons for NPR

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 9:48 am

Alec Baldwin, you were salmoning!

The actor was ticketed in New York on Tuesday for riding his bicycle the wrong way on a one-way street.

Cyclists use the term "salmoning" to describe a biker going against the stream on a one-way bike lane. Surely the definition can be broadened to include Baldwin's infraction.

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Health
10:39 am
Fri May 9, 2014

If Polar Bears Can Eat A Ton Of Fat And Be Healthy, Why Can't We?

Lots of swimming in icy seas may have helped bears evolve to eat a high-fat diet yet remain healthy.
Sebastien Bozon AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 6:20 pm

If you were a bear and wanted to make a go of it in the frozen North (think polar bear, of course), what would you need to survive?

White fur would help, to help you sneak up on prey. Also plenty of body fat to stay warm. And you'd need great stamina to swim many miles from one ice floe to the next.

And there's another important trait, researchers reported Thursday: Polar bears have genes that help them live on a diet that's overloaded with fat — without suffering the sorts of human diseases that typically come with a diet of that sort.

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Health
3:04 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Less Nutritious Grains May Be In Our Future

Wheat fields like this one could yield wheat with less zinc and iron in the future if they are exposed to higher levels of CO2, according to the journal Nature.
Zaharov Evgeniy iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 9:26 am

In the future, Earth's atmosphere is likely to include a whole lot more carbon dioxide. And many have been puzzling over what that may mean for the future of food crops. Now, scientists are reporting that some of the world's most important crops contain fewer crucial nutrients when they grow in such an environment.

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Health
5:35 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Doctors Think The Other Guy Often Prescribes Unnecessary Care

She ordered the test, not me.
iStockphoto

Three out of four physicians believe that fellow doctors prescribe an unnecessary test or procedure at least once a week, a survey released Thursday finds.

The most frequent reasons that physicians order extraneous — and costly --medical care are fears of being sued, impulses to be extra careful and desires to reassure themselves about their assessments of patients, the survey said.

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Health
4:54 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

'Provocative' Research Turns Skin Cells Into Sperm

New research could be promising for infertile men. Scientists were able to make immature sperm cells from skin cells. Their next challenge is to make that sperm viable.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 8:46 am

Scientists reported Thursday they had figured out a way to make primitive human sperm out of skin cells, an advance that could someday help infertile men have children.

"I probably get 200 emails a year from people who are infertile, and very often the heading on the emails is: Can you help me?" says Renee Reijo Pera of Montana State University, who led the research when she was at Stanford University.

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Health
1:34 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

A Brief Tour Of The Alimentary Canal, From Spit To You Know What

There's a lot more going on in our guts than just digestion.
Andreas Lindlahr iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 10:41 am

Not so long ago, the workings of the digestive system were of interest only to gastroenterologists and 10-year-old boys. But the gut is now chic, with its microbiome playing a huge role in human health, and passing gas deemed a sign of healthy gut microbes.

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