Health

Health

Federal health officials have this message for people who want health insurance: Don't wait.

There are just four days left to sign up for an insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act, and officials from the Department of Health and Human Services are stressing that they won't extend the enrollment period this year beyond Jan. 31.

Private health plans invoiced the state of California $387.5 million to cover high-cost hepatitis C treatments in Medi-Cal between July 2014 and November 2015, when just 3,624 patients received the treatments, according to the California Department of Health Care Services.

Just 1 percent of doctors are linked to nearly one-third of all paid malpractice claims, an analysis by researchers at Stanford finds. And the physicians who account for an outsize share of the claims have a set of distinctive characteristics.

The researchers said that the claim-prone physicians were disproportionately male (82 percent) and were older, rather than younger. More than half the claims were by doctors in four areas: internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery and general practice/family medicine.

The World Health Organization says it expects the Zika virus to spread to every country in the Western Hemisphere except Canada.

It says the virus has already "spread to 21 countries and territories of the Americas."

"Canada is off the list simply because it's too cold for the type of mosquito that transmits the Zika virus," NPR's Jason Beaubien reports to our Newscast unit.

If you pictured a dancer, you probably wouldn't imagine someone with Parkinson's disease. Worldwide, there are 10 million people with the progressive movement disorder, and they struggle with stiff limbs, tremors and poor balance.

Stillbirth remains largely hidden from society, and the tragic loss of a fetus late in pregnancy remains far too common.

A collection of research published Monday in The Lancet pulls back the curtain on the often-ignored subject and gives a global snapshot of the countries making the most progress to lower death rates.

Meeting girls at the bar didn't come as easily for Adrial Dale as it did for his friends. Standing on the sidelines, Dale watched his pals saunter up to women, cool and confident, perfect for the pickup scene.

But Dale could never bring himself to do it. He was terrified about having to reveal a secret, one that had brought him shame for years.

Editors' note, Feb. 1, 2016: On Jan. 20, we reported on a statement from the American Psychological Association that a research paper, "Chronic Adolescent Marijuana Use as a Risk Factor for Physical and Mental Health Problems in Young Adult Men," had a statistical error. The APA now says that statement, which was titled "APA Corrects Article Regarding Teen Marijuana Use," should not have said there was an error in the paper. Jim Sliwa, a spokesman for the APA, told NPR: "There was no error.

Maybe it was last January's big measles outbreak at Disneyland that scared more California parents into getting their kids vaccinated. Or maybe health campaigns have become more persuasive. Or maybe schools getting stricter about requiring shots for entry made a difference.

Whatever the reasons, childhood vaccination rates last fall went up in 49 of 58 counties in California, according to data released Tuesday by state health officials.

Butte is an old mining town, tucked away in the southwest corner of Montana with a population of about 34,000. Locals enjoy many things you can't find elsewhere — campgrounds a quick drive from downtown and gorgeous mountain ranges nearby. But in Butte, as in much of rural America, advanced medical care is absent.

People in Butte who experience serious trauma or need specialty care rely on air ambulance flights to get them the help they need.

When Cathy Fields was in her late 50s, she noticed she was having trouble following conversations with friends.

"I could sense something was wrong with me," she says. "I couldn't focus. I could not follow."

Fields was worried she had suffered a stroke or was showing signs of early dementia. Instead she found out she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Addicted to prescription painkillers after a high-school sports injury, Cameron Burke moved on to heroin, which was cheaper and more easily accessible. His parents tried everything, more than once sending him out of state for treatment.

"It was never enough," Jennifer Weiss-Burke of Albuquerque, N.M., told a local TV reporter last year. "Thirty days here, 30 days there, maybe detox for five days. It was never long-term, and that's what he needed. Recovery from heroin addiction requires long-term treatment."

MetLife says it's planning to break off part of its business that sells life insurance to U.S. households because of stiffer federal regulations regarding the amount of capital the company is expected to hold.

In a statement, MetLife said it is "currently evaluating structural alternatives for such a separation, including a public offering of shares in an independent, publicly traded company, a spin-off, or a sale."

Many women in the U.S. are waiting longer than ever to have their first child.

Fifteen years ago, the mean age of a woman when she first gave birth was 24.9 years old. In 2014, that age had risen to 26.3.

Lower-back pain is very democratic in the people it strikes.

"It's a universal experience. You'd be a really uncommon person never to have had an episode of back pain," says Chris Maher, a physical therapist turned health researcher at the University of Sydney in Australia. "It's a common problem across the whole of the globe," he says, whether it's North America, sub-Saharan Africa or rural India.

Former United Nations bioweapons inspector Rocco Casagrande has a Ph.D. in experimental biology from MIT. He's got a rational, science-loving mind, so he's not the kind of guy you'd expect to have a big picture of a tarot card over his office desk.

"I like what it symbolizes," says Casagrande, hastening to explain he doesn't believe in tarot. He just thinks that this particular card, known as the Hanged Man, illustrates something important for solving problems.

In the 10 years he spent driving an ambulance in Atlanta, former paramedic Kevin Hazzard rescued people from choking, overdoses, cardiac arrest, gunshot wounds and a host of other medical emergencies.

Insurance policies that pay a lump sum if workers get cancer or another serious illness are being offered in growing numbers by employers. Companies say they want to help protect their workers against the financial pain of increasingly high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. But it's important to understand the limitations of these plans before buying.

Critical illness plans have been around for decades, but they've become more common lately as employers have shifted more health care costs onto their workers' shoulders.

When East Cleveland's emergency medical squad gets called to treat a man with a severe nosebleed, it's a pretty run-of-the-mill case.

The patient walks woozily out to the ambulance from a tan house on a tree-lined street. Anthony Savoy, the head medic, calls ahead to University Hospitals, which has the closest emergency room. Savoy wants to make sure the ER has space for the patient.

Pages