Health

Health
9:54 am
Mon June 9, 2014

Gripes About Health Costs Punctuate A Cross-Country Trip

Dudley Pratt (left) talks to reporter Jenny Gold at a gas station in Fenner, Calif. He's frustrated by all the paperwork related to his health insurance these days.
Ilana Lipsett Jenny Gold

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 3:26 pm

Recently, I moved from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco. I drove the Southern route and decided to conduct an informal survey.

I asked folks I met along the way a question relevant to the health care reporting I've been doing for the past five years: What bugs you most about your medical care?

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Health
9:41 am
Mon June 9, 2014

A Doctor Takes A Look In The Medicare Mirror

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 9:13 am

After decades of fighting to keep how much Medicare pays individual doctors a secret, the federal government bowed to pressure from journalists and consumer groups and released the information in April.

The data let reporters — and anyone else — figure out who is getting paid by Medicare for what.

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Health
8:14 am
Mon June 9, 2014

Hospitals Put Pharmacists In The ER To Cut Medication Errors

Brian Micalizzi, a pharmacist at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, prepares an antibiotic prescribed to a patient in the emergency department.
Juan Pulido Courtesy of Children's Medical Center

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 10:47 am

In the emergency department at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, pharmacists who specialize in emergency medicine review each medication to make sure it's the right one in the right dose.

It's part of the hospital's efforts to cut down on medication errors and dangerous drug interactions, which contribute to more than 7,000 deaths across the country each year.

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Health
8:14 am
Mon June 9, 2014

More And More, Young Women Are Being Diagnosed With ADHD

The stress of adult life can make living with undiagnosed ADHD very difficult, doctors say.
Jing Wei for NPR

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 9:33 am

As a child, Diany Levy was called lazy and unfocused. She remembers that teachers called home on a daily basis to tell her parents she was not paying attention in class. Now, at the age of 23, Diany has finally been diagnosed with the cause of her problems – ADHD.

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Health
3:18 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

R U Ready To Quit Smoking? Texting Can Help

Want a cig? Researcher Lorien Abroms displays a sample Text2Quit message.
William Atkins George Washington University

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 8:22 am

Smokers who want to quit have all sorts of tools at their disposal: call lines, nicotine patches, medication, friends, doctors. And now, texts.

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Health
1:15 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Early Exposure To Bacteria Protects Children From Asthma And Allergies

To keep children healthy, it may take a city that's dirty in just the right way.
Carey Kirkella Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 3:57 pm

Babies who are exposed to both bacteria and allergens in the first year of life are less likely to develop asthma and allergies, a study finds.

It's the latest wrinkle in the hygiene hypothesis — the notion that exposure to bacteria trains the infant immune system to attack bad bugs and ignore harmless things like pollen and cat dander.

But what's interesting about this study is that it gets specific; not just any old germs or allergens will do.

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Health
3:02 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Taking More Time Between Babies Reduces Risk Of Premature Birth

Being born prematurely increases the risk of lifelong health problems.
AndyL/iStockphoto

Originally published on Sat June 7, 2014 9:07 am

An ideal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. And it looks like there's also an ideal time between pregnancies.

The length of time between giving birth to one baby and getting pregnant with the next should be 18 months or more. Women who get pregnant sooner than that are more likely to have a premature baby.

Women who got pregnant within a year of giving birth were twice as likely to have that new baby born prematurely, a study finds, compared with women who waited at least 18 months.

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Health
6:32 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

The Camel Did It: Scientists Nail Down Source Of Middle East Virus

A Saudi Arabian man wears a mask to protect against the Middle East respiratory syndrome at his farm outside Riyadh, May 12.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 5, 2014 4:40 pm

In the two years since Middle East respiratory syndrome was first diagnosed in people, scientists have struggled to figure out how we catch the deadly virus. Some blamed bats. Others pointed at camels.

Now scientists in Saudi Arabia offer the strongest evidence yet that the one-humped dromedaries can indeed spread the MERS virus — which has infected more than 800 people on four continents, including two men in the U.S.

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Health
5:00 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Privacy Law Frustrates Parents Of Mentally Ill Adult Children

Mark, a California minister, says the day he was first shut out of all treatment discussions regarding his mentally ill teenage son "was the first time we really started to feel hopeless."
Jenny Gold Kaiser Health News

Originally published on Thu June 5, 2014 4:40 pm

The horrifying mass shooting in Isla Vista, Calif., last month brought up many questions. What could parents have done to prevent the tragedy? And what did they actually know about their son's mental illness?

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Health
1:19 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

A Cut That Won't Heal Transforms One Woman's View Of Obamacare

Tammy Boudreaux tries a tendon-stretching drill after surgery. Boudreaux was able to get much of her operation and rehabilitation covered by the insurance plan she bought via the Affordable Care Act.
Carrie Feibel

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 12:07 pm

When we first met Tammy Boudreaux, a freelance social worker in Houston, last December, she was still weighing her health insurance options.

She told us she was overwhelmed and confused by the choices she was finding on HealthCare.gov. And the high deductibles of the Obamacare plans didn't seem like such a great deal. But when we checked back in with Boudreaux this month, we learned that a chance encounter with a bottle of hot sauce ultimately changed her mind.

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Health
4:19 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Odds Of Abuse And Mistreatment Add Up Over Children's Lives

Maltreatment in childhood raises the risk of physical and mental health problems throughout life.
RenoCdZ iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 12:33 pm

Children who are maltreated are much more likely to have physical and mental health problems later on. They face a higher risk of suicide and of getting in trouble with the law.

But there's a big gap between the number of people who say they were abused or neglected as children and the official rate of annual confirmed cases, which runs about 1 percent.

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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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