Health

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

When state lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2011 that moved $73 million from family planning services to other programs, the goal was largely political: halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics.

Now they are facing the policy implications — and, in some cases, reconsidering.

Friday marks a not-so-happy anniversary for some of President Obama's biggest supporters: It's exactly one year since Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius decided not to lift the age restrictions on availability of the so-called morning-after pill, Plan B.

Pakistan has made a lot of progress this year in wiping out polio. There are signs that one type of poliovirus is gone and transmission of other strains seems to be slowing.

But a recent outbreak of polio there has health officials concerned about the overall effectiveness of the effort to eliminate polio in that country.

Two years and $8.4 billion into the government's effort to get doctors to take their practices digital, some unintended consequences are starting to emerge.

One is a lot of unhappy doctors. In a big survey by Medscape, an online site for doctors, 38 percent of the doctors polled said they were unhappy with their electronic medical records system.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Despite Gov. Rick Perry’s firm opposition to a key tenet of federal health reform — expanding the state’s Medicaid program for those with low incomes — Texas Democrats remain optimistic that the 2013 legislative session can yield a deal that brings in billions in additional federal dollars.

It will be a tough sell: No Republican lawmakers have gone on record supporting the Medicaid expansion, which would add an estimated 1.8 million Texans onto the joint state-federal health plan by 2022.

But state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said fiscal conservatives have an incentive to reach an agreement “because the alternative is going to cost us much more economically and dig a much deeper hole in our budget.”

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The state’s cancer research agency has revealed it handed out an $11 million grant without reviewing the proposal.

It’s the latest challenge facing the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT.

The grant was awarded to Peloton Therapeutics in June 2010, making it one of CPRIT's first grants.

The cancer research institute says the oversight was discovered during an internal review.

flickr.com/ag2r

Update: The City of Pflugerville says “The boil water notice is now lifted. Chlorine levels are now at required levels and water is safe to drink.” You can read more here.

Original post (Nov. 20, 7:02 a.m.): The City of Pflugerville is telling people in several subdivisions to boil their water until further notice. The city says a routine check of  the water revealed the chlorine level is too low.

People who live in Pflugerville Heights, Spring Trails, Springbrook and Enclave should boil tap water for at least two minutes before drinking, cooking and making ice.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

The holiday shopping season is here. But a consumer advocacy group wants to make sure you don’t buy toys that could endanger the health of children.

One example is the Fisher‑Price Dora the Explorer Guitar pictured above, according to Ilya Slavinski with the Texas Public Interest Research Group. 

“The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders recommends that no toy should be above 85 decibels. And this Dora Guitar clocked in at 93 decibels,” Slavinski said. “It’s dangerous and can lead to hearing loss.”

Online insurance markets set to begin selling health coverage to consumers next October may be hampered by software delays.

State regulators learned late last week that an electronic system most insurers will use to submit their policies for state and federal approvals won't be ready for testing next month, as originally planned. The lag is being blamed on the wait for several regulations from the Obama administration that are needed to update the software.

flickr.com/aesum

Update: Nov. 11, 1:09 p.m.:

Dr. Philip Huang is the Medical Director for Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services. He says there are still some people in the county who are very sick from the virus but he’s hopeful the death total won’t continue to rise.

Dr. Huang says it’s not clear if West Nile will be as big of a problem next year.

“This particular season with the warmer winter and then some of the spring rains seemed to be sort of the conditions that really promoted West Nile activity," Huang says. "So we don’t know how things are going to be next year. But I think there’s certainly some concern that there is going to be for the future continued increase in some mosquito activity and things in the Austin-Travis County area.”

Huang says the county has found mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile as recently as late October.

Photos: Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Background Image: flickr.com/thomasletholsen

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has appointed a new head of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

The previous commissioner resigned last week as an Abilene office of the department is under criminal investigation.

Abilene Police say employees at the Child Protective Services office were not cooperative in the investigation into a toddler’s death in August. Police believe some employees may have tampered with evidence.

Kelly Connelly for KUT News

Travis County voters passed Central Health Proposition 1 this week, which increases property taxes to help bring a medical school to Austin.

But a group of citizens is trying to stop the vote from being certified or canvassed.

A lawsuit filed by the Travis County Taxpayers Union (TCTU) says the ballot language of Prop 1 was misleading and made promises that the health care district is not legally able to fulfill.

“We want a federal judge to agree with us that the misleading and illegal ballot language contributed to the victory of Prop 1 at the polls. So the point being, if they had told the truth, we thing the voting outcome would have been different,” Don Zimmerman, TCTU Treasurer, says.

Credit flickr.com/dogra, Lizzie Chen for KUT News

Update: Planned Parenthood received a temporary injunction against the state today. You can read more here

Original Post: Planned Parenthood is awaiting a judge’s ruling on their request to extend an injunction against the State of Texas banning its clinics from the Women’s Health Program. The program provides basic screenings and other health services for 130,000 low-income Texas women.

Texas is trying to enforce a law that says state money can’t go to clinics affiliated with abortion clinics. That would exclude Planned Parenthood, which has been the program’s largest provider.

Two weeks ago, Planned Parenthood won a temporary restraining order allowing its clinics to stay in the program. Now, Planned Parenthood is trying to extend the time its clinics can stay in the program.

With Obama's Victory, Health Law Stays On Track

Nov 7, 2012

After a shaky few years, President Obama's health care legacy looks secure.

His health overhaul law barely made it through Congress and to his desk. Then there were the legal challenges, launched when the ink of his signature was barely dry, that were resolved by a surprising Supreme Court ruling in June.

Vampires and monsters will be out in force tonight, but some of the darkest creatures out there might be your little angels inside those Halloween costumes.

You can barely listen to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney make a speech or give an interview without hearing some variation of this vow:

"On Day 1 of my administration, I'll direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to grant a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states. And then I'll go about getting it repealed," he told Newsmax TV in September 2011.

flickr.com/8113246@N02

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is partnering with Baylor College of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study Alzheimer’s and similar neurodegenerative diseases.

Together, the researchers are forming the Neurodegeneration Consortium (NDC). The researchers plan to take what they say is a new approach to studying Alzheimer’s. Most previous research has been based primarily on one theory, which posits that Alzheimer’s and the related degeneration are caused by the build-up of a specific chemical in the brain.

But NDC investigators believe recent medical research and advances indicate that many factors may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. They plan to study and identify these factors and hope the knowledge they gain can be used to create better diagnostics and treatments for Alzheimer’s and similar conditions.

flickr.com/wenews

Update: 1:25 p.m.:

Planned Parenthood isn't giving up the legal fight over whether the state can ban its clinics from the Women's Health Program.

In a lawsuit filed today in state court, Planned Parenthood claims the “Affiliate Ban Rule” that bars its clinics from the program is "invalid" under state law.

Original Story: 6:43 a.m.:

Governor Rick Perry says the state is moving to immediately to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood.

The announcement came after a federal appeals court said Thursday it will not reconsider a decision that says Texas can withhold funds under the Women’s Health Program.

flickr.com/kominyetska

Homeowners never relish the idea of a skunk in their yard, but some western Travis County residents have even more reason to be wary.

The Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department says there’s been two cases of rabid skunks in western Travis County, one of which was documented  just days ago.

Health and Human Services shares the following four tips to avoid contact with rabies, which it notes is “almost always fatal in humans once symptoms occur:”

  • Avoid feeding, touching or adopting wild animals, such as bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes.
  • Report suspicious animals to animal control by calling 3-1-1.
  • Vaccinate your family pets or livestock against rabies.
  • If you are bitten or if saliva from a suspected rabid animal comes in contact with your eyes, nose, mouth or a wound, wash the exposure site and seek medical attention immediately.
Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

In a peace offering of sorts to medical and women's groups on Thursday, Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek announced rules for the new state-run Women's Health Program that permit doctors to discuss abortion with their patients and practice alongside physicians who provide abortions.

“What we wanted was to allow for the one-on-one, private, non-directive counseling between a physician and her patient,” Janek said.

But the new rules have done little to stem the frustration of family planning providers: They come as the state's Republican leaders prepare to run the Women's Health Program on their own — without the federal support the state has received for years, and without Planned Parenthood clinics.

“Once and for all, we implore Texas to put politics aside and put women’s health first," said Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. "The Women’s Health Program and Planned Parenthood have worked together to provide women with essential health services, including cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams, for the past five years." 

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