Donate

Health

From KQED

San Jose Police Crack Down On Violence

The San Jose Police Department is cracking down on violent crime after the city's 25th homicide this year.

KQED Launches Affordable Care Act Guide

Are you confused about Obamacare? KQED and The California Report created a guide to help answer your questions about the Affordable Care Act.

New State Law to Bring Safe Drinking Water to Tulare County Community

More than a million Californians lack access to safe, clean drinking water. The crisis is particularly acute in the rural Central Valley, where some communities have struggled with polluted water for decades. Solutions to the problem can be expensive and politically complicated, but now a new state law could help.

Study: California's Prescription Drug Cost Increased by $600 Million in Two Years

Despite efforts to the contrary, California's prescription drug costs have increased by $600 million over the past two years, according to a recent CALmatters analysis. In this segment of Forum we'll look at the CALmatters report and examine existing ways the state can try to control its pharmaceutical spending and what controls are being proposed.

PBS NewsHour

Was Walt Whitman a follower of the ‘Paleo’ diet?

-PHOTO TAKEN 13SEP05- A daguerreotype of Walt Whitman is displayed at the New York Public Library September 13, 2005.
         The daguerrotype is part of an exhibit featuring faded photographs, rare manuscripts and even a lock of Whitman's golden-brown
         hair. Titled "I am With You: Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" (1855-2005)" the exhibit opened earlier
         this month and runs through the beginning of January. Photo taken on September 13, 2005. - RTXNT4E

A daguerreotype of Walt Whitman is displayed at the New York Public Library September 13, 2005. Photo by Reuters

There are many takeaways from a series on health written by Walt Whitman in 1858 and recently published online, but one thing is clear — the celebrated American poet was not a fan of vegetarians. 

“Let the main part of a diet be meat, to the exclusion of all else,” he wrote.

The series called “Manly Health Training”, which Whitman wrote under the pseudonym Mose Velsor for a New York paper, was discovered by a graduate student last summer and was digitized for the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review.

While there are about 125 pages of tips and insights – including worries that diseases spread by prostitution threatened man’s ability to procreate – the New York Times pointed out his allegiance to meat, aligning him with the modern Paleo diet.

The path to a “noble-bodied, pure-bodied” according to Whitman, was an almost exclusively meat-based diet of lean meats. He said vegetarianism had a weakening effect, and did not mince words.

“We have seen New England and New York vegetarians, gaunt, hard, melancholy, and unhappy looking persons, that looked like anything else than a recommendation of their doctrine — for that is the proof, after all,” he wrote.

There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

The post Was Walt Whitman a follower of the ‘Paleo’ diet? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

U.S. records first Zika death; Congress breaks without decision on emergency funds

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen at the Laboratory of Entomology and Ecology of the Dengue Branch of the U.S. Centers
         for Disease Control and Prevention in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 6, 2016. Photo by Alvin Baez /Reuters

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen at the Laboratory of Entomology and Ecology of the Dengue Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 6. Photo by Alvin Baez /Reuters

The United States has reported its first Zika-related death in Puerto Rico. The announcement from Puerto Rico’s Health Secretary Ana Rius follows a new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention on the status of the outbreak on the U.S. territory.

Ruis said a 70-year-old man died from a Zika-related illness in the San Juan metro area in late February, according to the Associated Press. Health officials described the fatal condition as an autoimmune disease, wherein the patient’s antibodies attacked his blood platelet cells. These cells heal cuts in skin or damaged blood vessels. The man died from internal bleeding less than 24 hours after seeking medical assistance.

The new report from the CDC confirmed a single fatality during Puerto Rico’s outbreak due to thrombocytopenia, a deficiency of blood platelets. The CDC did not give further details of the case.

Zika-related deaths are rare. Of the 683 confirmed cases recorded in Puerto Rico since the outbreak blossomed in early November, only one fatality has been noted. Rash is the most common symptom among these patients, followed by muscle pain and headache. Sixty-five of these cases — 10 percent — have involved pregnant women. Puerto Rico has experienced five cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that attacks brain tissue, but no reported cases of microcephaly so far.

Mosquito season is stirring in the southern U.S., and the virus has emerged in a new carrier across the border. Virus hunter have spotted the disease in tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) in Mexico, according an April 21 update from the Pan American Health Organization. This is the first reported occurrence of Zika virus found in wild tiger mosquitoes in the Western Hemisphere, according to the PAHO.

So far, tropical Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been the primary ferryman for Zika virus, and stateside, this breed resides primarily in Florida and southern Texas. In contrast, tiger mosquitoes extend as far as southern Minnesota, Ohio and New Jersey east of the Rocky Mountains and Northern California in the West.

NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research predictions on  Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus abundance based
         on weather predictions for January through July. Monaghan AJ et al., PLOS Current Outbreaks, (2016)

NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research predictions on Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus abundance based on weather predictions for January through July. Monaghan AJ et al., PLOS Current Outbreaks, (2016)

“I think some states and local governments have been focusing on aegypti and less on albopictus, but this finding makes clear that both will require control measures,” Director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Center for Health Security Thomas Inglesby told The Washington Post.

Congress broke session on Friday, for a weeklong recess, without coming to a decision on President Barack Obama’s more than $1 billion request for emergency funding to fight the Zika virus, according to the AP. The White House has allocated $589 million, collected from funds originally meant for the 2014 Ebola crisis, to combat and prepare for the Zika virus.

The post U.S. records first Zika death; Congress breaks without decision on emergency funds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Hospitals and doctors under attack in Aleppo ‘difficult to replace’

Children walk near garbage in al-Jazmati neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman
         Ismail - RTX2B9AM

Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

HARI SREENIVASAN: We return to the bombing of the hospital in the Syrian town of Aleppo. According to reports, 27 people were killed.

With me now is Pablo Marco, Middle East operations manager for Doctors Without Borders, which supports the facility.

Pablo, you have probably been in touch with your colleagues on the ground there. What’s the latest they’re telling you?

PABLO MARCO, Doctors Without Borders: Yes.

So, we are speaking with the head of the hospital just a couple of hours ago to go the last — and he was telling us how all these events unfolded. He explained to us that, 10:00 p.m. yesterday, two barrel bombs fell close to the hospital.

Then a lot of wounded people were driven to the hospital. Directors were waiting at the gate of the hospitals to know about the news about the families. And it was at that moment that the third barrel bomb fell at the entrance of the hospital in the emergency room, provoking this massive killing of people.

HARI SREENIVASAN: It was actually staged so that the people would rush to the hospital, there would be more people there for that secondary attack?

PABLO MARCO: So, we cannot ascertain it, but all elements show this, that this attack was, as you say, staged to provoke the maximum number of citizens killed.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, tell me what kind of impact it means to not have this facility in this corner of the city.

PABLO MARCO: Well, there are already very few facilities working in Aleppo.

We need to know around 95 percent of the doctors in Aleppo have either fled or they have been killed by bombings already. So, every single facility that is destroyed or every single doctor that is killed has a massive impact.

This hospital was a reference hospital for pediatrics and, in addition, one of the key hospitals for internal medicine, especially for the (INAUDIBLE) so very, very high impact, for sure.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how many people, roughly, are treated in this facility, and how long are the wait lines, so to speak? There’s probably not that many options for people in that area.

PABLO MARCO: Yes, exactly, exactly.

We were talking with the director. He was telling us that all the wounded have been taken to the hospitals, but, of course, they are absolutely overwhelmed, as you can imagine.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And what does it mean for this hospital to be supported by Doctors Without Borders? What’s your involvement there?

PABLO MARCO: Yes.

So, we have been working with them for at least now three years. We have been in Aleppo. We were going to the hospital every other week, providing support in terms of technical advice (INAUDIBLE) medical equipment.

In the last year, the hospital was attacked twice also with barrel bombings. And at that time, also, after the request for support, we provided new equipment to restart the hospital. And even until this week, we were having direct conversations and about donations.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what happens now? Are you sending in more doctors into this hospital, into this area?

PABLO MARCO: So, we will keep supporting these hospitals, if we are able to make it happen, to make it work again. It’s not very clear.

And we will keep supporting many other hospitals in Aleppo city. At the same time, something important we need to know is that we think it is really important that there is an independent investigation to clarify who has been responsible for this attack. And if this attack has been delivered, some elements can point out.

We will — there will be a (INAUDIBLE) for the resolution in the city council in the next days regarding the protection of hospitals. And this terrible event shows us that this resolution is more important now in the city than ever.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there any other aid agencies that are going to come in and try to fill that gap? Who else supports this hospital? What happens to all those people in that region who no longer have access to any facilities?

PABLO MARCO: There’s not much more that anyone can do until the attacks on the hospital are finished.

We need to understand that anyone is really afraid to go to Aleppo now. Doctors, medical staff, they are a target in this war. Hundreds of them have been killed. Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to replace those having been killed in this attack yesterday.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Do you see this as a pattern now to target medical facilities? It’s not just in Syria, but in other parts of the world, too.

PABLO MARCO: Yes, yes.

We are seeing it happening. You were talking just a few minutes ago about the attack in Afghanistan. We have had several attacks in Yemen also in the last month. Especially the most worrying in the situation in Syria, where there have been tens, if not hundreds of attacks against medical facilities. And this trend is even worsening in the last, say, six months.

HARI SREENIVASAN: There was that other story in the news today.

Does your organization have any sort of a response yet to the U.S. government deciding to discipline 16 members of the U.S. military in that tragedy that affected the hospital in Kunduz last year, the Doctors Without Borders hospital?

PABLO MARCO: Yes. Yes.

So, what I will say is that, since this terrible event happened, we’re having — asking the U.S. government and to other actors that we think really that we need an independent investigation to clarify what has happened in this attack.

The U.S. government has carried out their own investigation, but, of course, it hasn’t been independent. And we keep asking for this investigation to happen.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Pablo Marco of Doctors Without Borders, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

PABLO MARCO: Thank you to you. Bye-bye.

The post Hospitals and doctors under attack in Aleppo ‘difficult to replace’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Significant premium hikes expected under Obama health law

Insurers said Obama's health care law has been a burden financially, leading health insurance analysts to predict
         premium hikes for 2017. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Insurers said Obama’s health care law has been a burden financially, leading health insurance analysts to predict premium hikes for 2017. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.


WASHINGTON — Expect insurers to seek significant premium increases under President Barack Obama’s health care law, in a wave of state-level requests rippling across the country ahead of the political conventions this summer.

Insurers say the law’s coverage has been a financial drain for many of them, and they’re setting the stage for 2017 hikes that in some cases could reach well into the double digits.

For example in Virginia, a state that reports early, nine insurers returning to the HealthCare.gov marketplace are seeking average premium increases that range from 9.4 percent to 37.1 percent. Those initial estimates filed with the state may change.

The health law’s insurance markets offer subsidized private plans, with more than 12 million customers enrolled nationwide. Going into their fourth year, they don’t yet seem to have achieved stability. That’s a contrast with more-established government programs like Medicaid and Medicare Advantage, in which private insurers profitably cover tens of millions of people.

The health law’s nagging problems seem to center on lower-than-hoped-for enrollment, sicker-than-expected customers, and a balky internal stabilization system that didn’t deliver as advertised and was already scheduled to be pared back next year.

This year, premiums for a benchmark silver plan rose by a little more than 7 percent on average, according to administration figures. Sharp increases for 2017 would fire up the long-running political debate over the divisive law, which persists despite two Supreme Court decisions upholding Obama’s signature program, and the president’s veto of a Republican repeal bill.

Of the presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton is the only one promising to build on the Affordable Care Act. She’s proposed an aggressive effort to increase enrollment along with measures to reduce consumer costs. The Republican candidates all want to repeal “Obamacare.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would incorporate it into a bigger government-run system covering everyone.

The health law is “likely in for a significant market correction over the next year or two,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “There have been a lot of signals from insurers that premiums are headed up.”

The administration says talk of premium increases is premature and overblown. Initial requests from insurers will get knocked back in some states, officials say. Standard & Poor’s health insurance analyst Deep Banerjee said he expects premium hikes to be higher for 2017 than in the more stable market for employer coverage. Insurers are facing higher medical costs from health law customers, and companies priced their initial coverage too low in an attempt to grab new business.

“What they are doing now is trying to catch up,” said Banerjee.

The head of the health insurance industry’s main trade group predicts sharper increases.

“It is a sustainable market for the long term, but right now it is not stable,” said Marilyn Tavenner of America’s Health Insurance Plans. “Folks will try to price this year to get to stability.”

Tavenner came to the industry from the Obama administration, where she oversaw the troubled launch of the insurance markets.

The administration says talk of premium increases is premature and overblown. Initial requests from insurers will get knocked back in some states, officials say, aided by a rate-review process strengthened under the health law.

Most significantly, the law’s subsidies are designed to shield consumers from rising costs. More than 8 out of 10 customers receive tax credits to help pay their premiums, and that assistance will increase as premiums rise. Many consumers have also shown they’re willing to shop around for lower-priced coverage. Taken together, officials say that means increases that consumers face would be much lower than what insurers request.

“Marketplace consumers would do well to put little stock in initial rate filings,” spokesman Ben Wakana said in a statement. “Averages based on proposed premium changes are not a reliable indicator of what typical consumers will actually pay.”

Also mitigating the pressure for higher premiums is a one-year moratorium — for 2017 — on a health law tax on insurers, part of last year’s federal budget deal.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the litany of insurance industry complaints.

Last month, an analysis of medical claims from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association concluded that insurers gained a sicker, more expensive patient population as a result of the law. The “Blues” represent the most common brand of insurance.

Recently UnitedHealth, the nation’s biggest insurer, said it will radically pull back from the health law’s markets, citing estimated losses of $650 million this year, on top of $475 million it lost last year.

Many insurers struggled because they didn’t know how much health care their new customers would use. Some patients had been out of the health care system for years and had been holding off getting needed care. Insurers also say they’ve been hurt by customers who signed up outside the regular enrollment period and then used a lot of health care.

Insurers who are more bullish on the program tend to be ones that expanded slowly into the markets and have a lot of experience working with low-income Medicaid recipients.

Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Richmond contributed to this article. Murphy reported from Indianapolis.

The post Significant premium hikes expected under Obama health law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.