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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Health Health News From the Associated Press


White House: Gov't to make health law payments this month

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:02:45 UT

The so-called "cost-sharing" subsidies total about $7 billion this year and are considered vital to guarantee stability for consumers who buy their own individual health insurance policies. "State insurance commissioners have warned that abrupt cancellation of cost-sharing subsidies would cause premiums, copays and deductibles to increase and more insurance companies to leave the markets," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The Congressional Budget Office reported this week that premiums for a popular type of individual health care plan under the Affordable Care Act would rise sharply, and that more people would be left without options for coverage, if Trump kept his threat to stop the payments. [...] ending the payments would only increase federal deficits since it would trigger a rise in separate health law subsidies for premiums, wiping out any potential savings. The subsidies are snared in a legal dispute over whether the Obama health care law properly approved the payments to insurers.

Express Scripts to limit opioids; doctors concerned

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 19:40:02 UT

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The nation's largest pharmacy benefit manager will soon limit the number and strength of opioid drugs prescribed to first-time users as part of a wide-ranging effort to curb an epidemic affecting millions of Americans. [...] the new program from Express Scripts is drawing criticism from the American Medical Association, the largest association of physicians and medical students in the U.S., which believes treatment plans should be left to doctors and their patients. Express Scripts launched a yearlong pilot program in 2016 aimed at reducing patients' dependency on opioids and the risk of addiction, said Snezana Mahon, the Missouri-based company's vice president of clinical product development. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already requires label warnings about misuse on all prescription medications, but Express Scripts will take the additional step of sending a letter to new opioid patients warning about the dangers of misuse and addiction. CVS Caremark also has a monitoring process to identify pill shopping and other forms of misuse or fraud, and works with its retail pharmacies to review "prescribing trends and irregular behavior and with physicians to ensure appropriate therapy for patients with chronic pain," spokeswoman Christine Cramer said in an email.

Austria orders recall of unapproved cancer drug

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:42:14 UT

VIENNA (AP) — Austrian authorities have ordered a recall of a cancer medication that was put on the market without proper approval. Melphalan is a commonly injected in a solution to treat certain bone marrow cancers. But government medical authorities said Wednesday that "Melphalan Koanaa" — which comes from India — was packaged in Austria by a local company and marketed without official approval. Austria's food and drug agency said Wednesday that initial results from analyzing the medication suggest it is safe. It and the Health Ministry say they have filed a criminal complaint against the Austrian company.

Is it really Lyme? Researchers developing a new test to tell

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:04:31 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Diagnosing if a tick bite caused Lyme or another disease can be difficult but scientists are developing a new way to do it early — using a "signature" of molecules in patients' blood. It's still highly experimental, but initial studies suggest the novel tool just might uncover early-stage Lyme disease more accurately than today's standard test, researchers reported Wednesday. [...] it could tell the difference between two tick-borne diseases with nearly identical early symptoms. Lyme typically starts as a fever, fatigue and flu-like symptoms — often but not always with a hallmark bulls-eye rash — and people usually recover quickly with prompt antibiotics. [...] Belisle and Molins found a signature — specific changes in those metabolites — that enabled them to distinguish between blood from Lyme patients and from healthy people. [...] scientists don't yet know the cause of STARI, and there's no test for it. [...] the team is turning its sophisticated metabolic-measuring techniques into a test that standard laboratories could use.

The Associated Press' guide to the best free online workouts

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:42:49 UT

(AP) — It's easy to get discouraged by the boutique fitness craze with $25 per class fees and the weekly chore of sitting by your computer to reserve a spot in that popular spin class that always sells out. If you're short on time there are 10-minute ab workouts and if you're super advanced, and if you want to be pushed, their 60 minute "insane cardio workout challenge" is killer and promises to burn roughly 1,000 calories. The website is easily customized so you can pick workouts based on difficulty level, what body parts you want to target and whether you want to use weights or if you prefer a no-equipment option. Her YouTube channel has more than 250 free workouts that includes Pilates, yoga, strength training and cardio plus workouts specifically targeted for beginners. [...] since many of her workouts are filmed in her living room, there's usually a few fun shots that include her dog Peanut who likes to get in the way because, hey, that's life. The UK brand has some of the most coveted workout clothes around but they're also really committed to giving their tribe access to free, fun workouts even if they don't have a gym membership. [...] if you're not looking for an entirely new workout program but maybe just a few new moves to add to your routine there's plenty of inspiration, including 10 free weight moves you can try if you're looking to swap out machines or 15 burpee variations. Or try something new like belly dance cardio, surfer girl workout, Krav Maga defense, Ballet Beautiful or channel your inner aerialist at Cirque School.

Belgium joins legal action against tainted egg 'cheats'

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:32:37 UT

BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgium's Agriculture Minister Denis Ducarme says the government will join in legal action against those responsible for the egg contamination scandal, which has hit at least 17 countries. Ducarme told The Associated Press Wednesday that "the Belgian government wants to take part in civil proceedings."

US teen drug overdose deaths inch up after years of decline

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:02:48 UT

The drop in teen deaths had been a rare bright spot in the opioid epidemic that has seen adult overdose deaths surge year after year — fueled by abuse of prescription painkillers, heroin and newer drugs like fentanyl. To their surprise, CDC researchers found that teen overdose deaths actually fell after 2008, and dropped as low as about 3 per 100,000 during 2012 through 2014. The drop tracks with previously reported declines in teen drug use, smoking, drinking, sex and other risky behaviors, Keyes said. Health expert said it's likely teen overdoses edged up in 2015 because of the increasing availability of newer and more lethal kinds of opioids like fentanyl, which is sometimes mixed with heroin.

Report: Higher premiums if Trump halts 'Obamacare' subsidies

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:17:10 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Premiums for a popular type of individual health care plan would rise sharply, and more people would be left with no insurance options if President Donald Trump makes good on his threat to stop "Obamacare" payments to insurers, the Congressional Budget Office says. — Consumers who now qualify for tax credits to offset their monthly premiums would be largely shielded from the estimated 20 percent jump in the cost of a standard "silver" plan, because of the automatic increase in the ACA's premium subsidies. — Depending on factors like their income and age, some subsidized customers would be able to take their higher premium tax credits and buy a generous "gold" level plan for about the same money, or a skimpy "bronze" plan for much less or nothing. "When the house is on fire, you put out the fire, and Congress should work quickly in September to pass limited, bipartisan legislation that funds cost-sharing payments for 2018 and gives states more flexibility to offer lower cost plans," he said in a statement. The subsidies are snared in a legal dispute over whether the Obama health care law properly approved the payments to insurers. House Republicans trying to thwart the ACA sued the Obama administration in federal court in Washington, arguing that the law lacked specific language appropriating the cost-sharing subsidies.

Robert Yancy, only child of singer Natalie Cole, dies at 39

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 04:51:55 UT

The Los Angeles County coroner's office said Tuesday that his death was reported as due to natural causes but the official cause must await an autopsy. Yancy's aunt, Timolin Cole Augustus, told The Associated Press, "It appears to be a sudden heart attack." Yancy, whose father was the first of Cole's three husbands, was a drummer who played in his mother's touring band and performed at her funeral in January 2016. Cole Augustus said by phone from her Florida home that Yancy was "completely torn apart" upon his mother's death, but had since rebounded and was performing again. "The dynasty is up in heaven," said Cole Augustus, who along with her sister runs the Nat King Cole Generation Hope organization that works to keep music in schools.

Colorful portraits show faces of New Hampshire drug crisis

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 04:27:34 UT

Colorful portraits show faces of New Hampshire drug crisis CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — At the New Hampshire State Library's latest art exhibit, the bright smiles and bold colors of the canvases belied the broken hearts of those who attended its opening reception. What started as one mother's private outlet for grief has grown into a larger effort to comfort others and reduce the stigma of addiction. [...] wanting to remember her daughter's beauty and vibrancy, she experimented with a posterized style featuring bright pinks and purples contrasting with stark black and white. Zanfagna began getting requests for portraits after she brought the painting to a grief support group, and the requests poured in after NPR featured her story in 2015. In a recent report, Dartmouth College researchers said New Hampshire's disproportionately high rate of opioid overdoses is the result of prescription practices, underfunded and scarce treatment options and the state's proximity to the drug supply chain. The state's death rate due to synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, increased by nearly 1,600 percent from 2010 to 2015.