Health

Health
12:21 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Can A Doctor Really Demand An Extra $75 Upfront?

Insurers prohibit doctors from charging more than a copayment or other amount specified in your plan.
Douglas W Allen iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 4:25 pm

This week, I answer readers' questions about what doctors can ask for in advance and the nuances of switching insurance plans, both on and off the health exchanges.

Q. After signing up for a gold level plan on the health insurance marketplace, my physician, who is part of my plan, asked for $75 up front. My copayment is $25. His office also wants to keep a credit card on file. Is this legal?

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Health
11:25 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Scant Evidence To Support Vitamins Against Cancer, Heart Disease

Vitamin E for your heart? Don't bother, new guidelines say.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 8:27 am

If you're taking vitamins to guard against cancer or a heart attack, you've got plenty of company.

Nearly half of American adults take a vitamin of some kind each a day. About a third take a multivitamin.

But are they worth it?

For people in good health and without any special nutritional deficiencies, there isn't enough evidence to say it's a good idea — at least when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer.

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Health
12:09 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Deadly MERS Virus Circulates Among Arabian Camels

Jockeys take their camels home after racing in Egypt's El Arish desert. The annual race draws competitors from around the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, where camels carry the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus.
Nasser Nouri Xinhua /Landov

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 4:15 pm

Scientists have gotten close to pinning down the origin of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a dangerous respiratory disease that emerged in Saudi Arabia 17 months ago.

It turns out the MERS virus has been circulating in Arabian camels for more than two decades, scientists report in a study published Tuesday.

So far MERS has sickened more than 180 people, killing at least 77 of them — an alarming 43 percent. But scientists haven't been sure where the virus came from or how people catch it.

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Health
3:35 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Orphans' Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape A Child's Brain

In the Institute for the Unsalvageable in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania, shown here in 1992, children were left in cribs for days on end.
Tom Szalay

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 12:07 pm

Parents do a lot more than make sure a child has food and shelter, researchers say. They play a critical role in brain development.

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Health
12:55 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Tiny Iron Particles Help Find Cancer Without Using Risky Radiation

CT scans are valuable for finding cancers, but deliver a lot of radiation in the process. That's an especially big concern for children.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 10:20 am

Full body CT scans can save lives by helping detect cancer early. But the scans use high doses of radiation to create their detailed images, which means they also increase patients' risk of developing cancer later on in life.

Children and teenagers are at greatest risk, because they tend to live long enough to develop secondary cancers. And their growing tissues may be more susceptible to radiation.

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Health
11:00 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Insurance, Not Injuries, May Determine Who Goes To Trauma Centers

For someone with a serious injury, it's not just a matter of getting in the door at the closest hospital, but getting in the door at the right hospital, says Dr. Arthur Kellermann, an emergency medicine specialist.
micheal kennedy iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 2:00 pm

When private hospitals transfer patients who don't have insurance to public hospitals, it's called "patient dumping." But a study from Stanford University published Wednesday suggests a twist: Hospitals, it seems, are less likely to transfer critically injured patients to trauma centers if the patients have health insurance.

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Health
3:41 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Elusive Goal: A Transparent Price List For Health Care

Some states are trying to make health care prices available to the public by collecting receipts from those who pay the bills: Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers. Some states' efforts to make these prices available are in jeopardy.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 7:37 am

Coffee is important to many of us, but let's say your coffee maker breaks. Finding a new one is as easy as typing "shop coffee maker" into your browser. Voila — you've got models, prices and customer reviews at your fingertips.

But say you need something less fun than a coffee maker — like a colonoscopy. Shopping for one of those is a lot harder. Actual prices for the procedure are almost impossible to find, and Bob Kershner says there's huge variation in cost from one clinic to the next.

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Health
3:39 am
Mon February 17, 2014

Finessing Health Coverage: When To Buy Insurance For A New Baby

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Mon February 17, 2014 9:59 am

We're heading into the home stretch to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act this year. The open enrollment period ends March 31 for most people.

But there are exceptions. And they are the subject of many of our questions this month.

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Health
1:26 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Here's One More Reason To Play Video Games: Beating Dyslexia

Video games with lots of action might be useful for helping people with dyslexia train the brain's attention system.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 2:38 pm

Most parents prefer that their children pick up a book rather than a game controller. But for kids with dyslexia, action video games may be just what the doctor ordered.

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities, affecting an estimated 5 to 10 percent of the world's population. Many approaches to help struggling readers focus on words and phonetics, but researchers at Oxford University say dyslexia is more of an attention issue.

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Health
12:11 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

The 10 Places Where Health Insurance Costs The Least

St. Paul, capital of Minnesota, the land of inexpensive health insurance.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 4:55 pm

People in much of Minnesota, northwestern Pennsylvania and Tucson, Ariz., are getting the best bargains from the health care law's new insurance marketplaces. Their premiums run half as much as those in the country's most expensive markets.

The 10 regions with the lowest premiums in the nation also include Salt Lake City, all of Hawaii and eastern Tennessee. This ranking is based on the lowest cost of a silver plan, the midrange plan most consumers are choosing.

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Health
10:21 am
Thu February 13, 2014

With This Year's Flu, Young Adults Are Not So Invincible

A flu shot would have helped protect young adults, but most didn't get it.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 11:40 am

We usually think of the flu as an illness that afflicts the elderly. But this season the virus seems to be hitting younger people hard.

This winter at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., the median age of people hospitalized with influenza was 28.5 years. Many of the worst cases of flu occurred in young, otherwise healthy people.

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Health
2:47 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

For Lower-Income Students, Snow Days Can Be Hungry Days

When schools close for bad weather, some kids miss out on much-needed nutritious meals. "It's hard to be a hungry person, and it gets harder when the weather is like this," Nancy Roman, president of the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., says of severe cold and snow.
Jessica Glazer NPR

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 9:32 pm

For many Americans it's been a harsh, disruptive winter, from the country's Northern edges to the Deep South.

When cold snaps and blizzards shutter schools, kids miss more than their daily lessons. Some miss out on the day's nutritious meal as well.

This recently became apparent to school administrators in rural Iowa, where extreme cold delayed openings two days in a row at Laurens-Marathon Community School, where 59 percent of students who eat school lunch qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

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Health
12:49 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

'Lung In A Box' Keeps Organs Breathing Before Transplants

The Organ Care System keeps lungs warm, breathing and nourished while outside the body.
MediCommConsultants

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 8:57 am

When doctors rush a lung to a hospital for a transplant, the precious cargo arrives in the operating room in a container that seems more appropriate for Bud Light — a cooler filled with ice.

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Health
5:45 pm
Sun February 2, 2014

Abortions Reportedly Drop To Lowest Rate Since 1970s

Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 11:39 am

Abortions in the U.S. resumed their downward trend between 2008 and 2011, according to a new study. But its authors say the recent surge of state laws intended to restrict the procedure is likely not the reason.

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Health
12:24 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Access To Toilets And Books Improves Life For Kids Across The Globe

Palestinian girls read the Koran at a camp in Gaza City, June 2012. In poor countries, boys are 20 percent more likely than girls to enroll in school, UNICEF says.
Mahmud Hams AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 12:29 pm

The world is in the midst of a porcelain revolution.

Nearly 2 billion people have gained access to clean toilets, or at least a decent outhouse, since 1990, the nonprofit UNICEF reports Thursday.

That rise in sanitation has led to big health improvements, the agency says, because contaminated drinking water is still a major cause of disease and death for children.

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Health
5:30 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Adult Obesity May Have Origins Way Back In Kindergarten

Playing outside can help kids — and their parents — maintain a healthy weight.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 3:20 pm

A lot of parents like to think their kids will simply outgrow baby fat. But the risk of becoming a severely overweight adult can actually start as early as kindergarten, research suggests.

"As parents, as a society, as clinicians, we need to think about a healthy weight really early on," says Solveig Cunningham, who led the study. But that doesn't mean putting young children on calorie-restricted diets.

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Health
1:19 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

A Little Acid Turns Mouse Blood Into Brain, Heart And Stem Cells

A mouse embryo grows from stem cells made by stressing blood cells with acid. The blood cells are tagged with a protein that creates green light.
Courtesy of Haruko Obokata

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 7:24 am

Back in 1958, a young biologist at Cornell University made a stunning discovery.

He took a single cell from a carrot and then mixed it with some coconut milk. Days went by and the cell started dividing. Little roots formed. Stems started growing. Eventually, a whole new carrot plant rose up from the single cell.

Imagine if you could perform a similar feat with animal cells, even human cells.

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Health
3:35 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Silencing Many Hospital Alarms Leads To Better Health Care

Amanda Gerety, a staff nurse at Boston Medical Center, checks monitors that track patients' vital signs. Fewer beeps means crisis warnings are easier to hear, she says.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 9:46 am

Go into almost any hospital these days and you'll hear a constant stream of beeps and boops. To most people it sounds like medical Muzak.

But to doctors and nurses, it's not just sonic wallpaper. Those incessant beeps contain important coded messages.

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Health
3:35 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

Hospital In Texas Removes Life Support From Brain-Dead Woman

Timm Hobbs, along with his two sons, Keegan and Layton, were part of a group near John Peter Smith Hospital supporting the decision of JPS in the case of Marlise Munoz and her baby earlier this month.
Ben Noey Jr. MCT/Landov

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 10:08 am

A Fort Worth, Texas, woman who was 14 weeks pregnant when she was found unconscious and brain-dead after suffering a pulmonary embolism, has been taken off life support after a weeks-long court battle by the hospital to keep the ventilator on.

A ventilator that had kept Marlise Munoz's heart and lungs functioning for two months was switched off at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, a family attorney said.

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Health
5:15 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Diabetes, Cost Of Care Top Health Concerns For U.S. Latinos

A customer buys produce at the Euclid Market in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles in December. The market was reopened in 2013 as part of a project to promote healthy eating among the city's Hispanic population.
Courtesy of UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 12:57 pm

Latino immigrants in the U.S. say the quality and affordability of health care is better in the U.S. than in the countries they came from, according to the latest survey by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. But many report having health care problems.

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