Health

Health
1:16 pm
Tue July 31, 2012

West Nile Virus Claims One Central Texan

At least five people in Travis County have been sickened with West Nile - but health officials say 80 percent of those infected show no symptoms.
flickr.com/jamesjordan

The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department says one local person has died from the West Nile virus. It's the first reported case of death from the virus in Central Texas since 2003.

To date, a total of five people in the area have had the virus this year. One has fully recovered from it.

The virus is in the Travis County mosquito population and health officials say everyone should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

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Health
12:26 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

Millions in Rebates Doled Out to Insured Texans

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

As if perfectly cued to election season, multimillion-dollar rebates are being doled out across America by insurance companies thanks to a new rule in the federal Affordable Care Act, or ACA. Although the much-maligned “Obamacare” remains a prime target for Texas Republicans on the campaign trail, Democrats and other political consultants say the tangible benefits of the ACA now taking effect could change voters’ perspectives on President Obama's signature legislative package. 

“The hardest part politically for ACA has always been that it will take a while for the program to kick in and even longer for people to realize benefits,” Mark McKinnon, a political consultant and former media strategist for George W. Bush, said in an email. “These rebates will be a welcome surprise to a lot of consumers and help reduce angst about ACA.”

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Health
3:34 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Whooping Cough Cases On the Rise

Vaccinations can reduce the risk of whooping cough infection.
Pascal Dolémieux, flickr.com/sanofi-pasteur

The Austin-Travis County health department has released its Critical Health Indicator Report, which examines the community’s major health problems.

The report shows a sharp rise in the cases of whooping cough disease — also known as pertussis — from 2006 to 2010. There were 908 reported whooping cough cases in 2010 in the Austin-area. 

While these statistics might make it look like Austin is on the edge of epidemic, Dr. Philip Huang with the Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department says pertussis numbers are likely part of the disease’s natural cycle.

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Health
2:30 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

CBO: Supreme Court Ruling On Health Care Saves U.S. $84 Billion Over 11 Years

Susan Clark argues with another protester about the Affordable Care Act outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kris Connor Getty Images

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 11:23 pm

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office finds that the Supreme Court ruling on President Obama's health care law will save the government $84 billion over the next 11 years.

While the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act, it also said it was up to states to choose whether to participate in an expansion of Medicaid.

That $84 billion in savings, the non-partisan CBO explained, comes from predictions that fewer states will enroll in the program.

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Health
9:59 am
Tue July 24, 2012

U.S. AIDS Cases Come Into View

Almost half of new AIDS cases in the U.S. each year are seen in the South.
AIDSVu

Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 3:26 pm

The HIV epidemic in the U.S. started in 1981, mainly in major cities along the East and West Coasts.

The first reports were from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco among gay and bisexual men. Within months, it was clear that injecting drug users were also getting the virus.

Even now, you can see the lingering geographic contours of how the epidemic unfolded.

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Health
4:34 pm
Fri July 20, 2012

Texas Slow To Review Health Insurance Rate Hikes

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has opposed the expansion of Medicaid under the Accountable Care Act, and his administration has yet to review big health insurance rate hikes under the law.
L.M. Otero AP

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 5:56 pm

Few governors have been as vocal and as unequivocal in their opposition to the federal health care law as Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Perry, a Republican, has vowed not to expand Medicaid and not to create an insurance exchange. Consumer advocates in Texas say the Perry administration has also been dragging its feet when it comes to insurance rate review.

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Health
2:49 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

West Nile Virus Found in Central Texas Mosquitoes

West Nile positive mosquitoes have been found in Austin, officials urge common sense precautions to prevent its spread to humans.
flickr.com/prashantmaxsteel

The Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department recently announced that West Nile virus has been detected in area mosquito samples.

"The last two or three years ago with the drought, we haven't had a big mosquito problem,” says Health and Human Services employee Eda Gowdy. But the West Nile reprieve seems to be at an end. 

“This year, due to the recent rains, we have had mosquito pulls that are coming back West Nile virus positive,” says Gowdy.   

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Health
11:39 am
Fri July 13, 2012

Estimate of Texas Medicaid Expansion Drops by Billions

Estimates for the cost of expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act have been dramatically reduced.
Flickr user Images_Of_Money, bit.ly/LeSsiT

The cost of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act – which Texas Gov. Rick Perry has long opposed – has been dramatically reduced.

Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs told members of the Texas House Appropriations Committee the cost of expanded Medicaid services under the ACA would be $15 to $16 billion – some 40 percent less than an original estimate of $26 to $27 billion.

While a recent Supreme Court decision upheld the bulk of the Affordable Care Act, the court found states could not be denied existing Meidcaid funds if they opted-out of the Medicaid expansion the act allows for – instead, the states would be denied new Medicaid funds associated with the expansion.

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Health
3:32 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

As Elderly Population Increases, So Do Senior Disappearances

'Silver Alerts' for missing elderly are on the rise, and can be especially dangerous in hotter months.
nccrimecontrol.org

Summer is often a time to sit back, relax, and lather on the sunscreen. But those with elderly family members might want to think twice before letting their summer routines go lax. 

Senior Helpers, an in-home care service for the elderly, recently released a “Senior Lost and Found Plan” to combat the increase in senior disappearances. 

“Nationwide, there’s an uptake in senior disappearances,” said Frank Hayes with the Austin-area Senior Helpers. Hayes attributes the increase in senior population at a national level with the rising rate of missing elderly. 

The Capital Area Council of Governments recently released a survey showing that the aging population in Central Texas will nearly double in the next two decades. The survey projects that the number of Austinites over the age of 65 will double to make up nearly 20 percent of the population by 2040. 

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Health
9:03 am
Thu July 5, 2012

State Looks to Cut Number of Medicaid-Covered Premature Births

Natasha and Mark Rosen, of Austin, with premature baby Matthew, in Seton Medical Center Austin's neonatal intensive care unit.
Caleb Miller Bryant, Texas Tribune

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is launching a new Medicaid initiative to help prevent premature births.

The program was launched this week and provides a 24-hour help line and other resources to help mothers carry their babies to term.

Medicaid pays for more than half of the births in Texas. HHSC spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman told The Texas Tribune that premature births are especially expensive.

“One of those babies is more than 18 times the cost of a regular newborn,” said Goodman. “If we can reduce that, we can save a lot of money.”

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Homelessness
3:16 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

After Slaying, a Call for Homeless Women's Shelter

House the Homeless' memorial marker in memory of fallen homeless.
House the Homeless

In the aftermath of a recent tragedy, the push to create a shelter for homeless women is gaining momentum.

On June 15, Valerie Godoy was murdered and her body left at Duncan Park on Ninth Street in downtown Austin. (Police are still looking for her assailant.) Local advocacy organization House the Homeless says the murder is a wake-up call to Austin.

A life on the streets leaves all homeless susceptible to crime and attacks. But noting the dangers unique to female members of the homeless population, House the Homeless is calling for the creation of a women’s homeless shelter – the Valerie Godoy Women’s Shelter.

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Health
2:15 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Why Newest Teen Sexting Study May Be the Most Accurate

A sexting study author attributes surprising findings to more thorough sampling.
KUT News

Twenty-eight percent of high school students have sent naked pictures of themselves through email or text, according to a study led by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

The researchers also found that teens who sexted were more likely to have had sex than those who did not send out nude photos of themselves.

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The Two-Way
12:19 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Chief Justice Roberts Jokes He's Headed to 'An Impregnable Fortress'

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 11:53 am

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts surprised the country yesterday by siding with the liberal wing of the court in the health care decision.

Roberts was appointed by President George W. Bush and has reliably taken conservative positions. But after yesterday's decision, you can bet his welcome from conservatives who saw him as a hero has chilled.

Speaking to a conference of judges and lawyers outside of Pittsburg, Roberts acknowledged his predicament.

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Health
10:30 am
Fri June 29, 2012

Video: Health Care Rally at Texas Capitol

A few dozen people rallied in front of the Capitol yesterday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling upholding most of the Affordable Care Act. We sent our University of Porto interns, Filipa Rodrigues and Mario Jacinto, to produce this video showing us what it looked like. 

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Health
4:59 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

As It Happened: Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law

Supporters of President Obama's health care legislation celebrated outside after hearing that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 28, 2012 11:39 am

The Supreme Court ruled today that the 2010 Affordable Care Act is constitutional — giving the Obama administration a big election year win over conservative critics who argue that the health care overhaul is a step on the way toward socialized medicine.

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Health
3:22 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Health Care Law Upheld: Now What?

A bulletin board in New York's Jamaica Hospital offers advice for uninsured patients.
Seth Wenig AP

Originally published on Thu June 28, 2012 3:26 pm

Now that the Supreme Court has decided that the Affordable Care Act can stand, it's time to think about what the law actually means for your medical coverage. The requirement that everyone buy health insurance (the individual mandate) has gotten all the attention, but there's a lot more to the health law. So let's review the changes the law has already wrought and those that still lie ahead:

WHAT'S IN EFFECT:

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Health
12:33 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

They Got it Wrong - CNN, Fox Mistakenly Report Health Care Law Overturned

A Photoshopped alteration of the iconic Harry Truman photo. Tweeted by Gary He.
http://yfrog.com/hw7ozrfj

Originally published on Thu June 28, 2012 1:32 pm

MarketWatch calls this CNN and Fox's 'Dewey Defeats Truman' moment. For several surprising minutes this morning, both media companies wrongly announced that the Affordable Care Act had been overturned by the Supreme Court.

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Health
11:15 am
Thu June 28, 2012

Texas Reactions to SCOTUS’ Affordable Care Act Opinion

flickr.com/brendel

Lone star politicians are wasting no time sounding off on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision this morning upholding the individual mandate at the heart of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature package of health care reforms.

Governor Rick Perry calls the opinion “a stomach punch to the American economy.”  

“Freedom was frontally attacked by passage of this monstrosity,” Perry says, “and the Court utterly failed in its duty to uphold the Constitutional limits placed on Washington. Now that the Supreme Court has abandoned us, we citizens must take action at every level of government and demand real reform, done with respect for our Constitution and our liberty.”

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Health
10:36 am
Thu June 28, 2012

SCOTUS Rules Federal Health Reform Constitutional

Todd Wiseman / Eddie Codel, Texas Tribune

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care legislation, is constitutional — including the individual mandate that forces Americans to carry health insurance, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The decision has far-reaching implications for Texas, where leaders have ardently opposed “Obamacare” even though the state has the country’s highest percent of uninsured residents. In addition to requiring all citizens to purchase health insurance, the law dramatically expands Medicaid, which already makes up close to a quarter of Texas’ state budget.

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8:18 am
Thu June 28, 2012

SCOTUS Health Care Ruling Today?

Lead in text: 
Excuse us if we sound like a broken record, but the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Affordable Care Act today. NPR's health blog Shots has a quick primer on the issues at stake in the decision.
At the heart of it all is one legal question: Can the federal government compel uninsured people to buy health coverage?Opponents of the law see the so-called individual mandate as coercive and an illegal intrusion by the federal government. Some supporters of the law liken the insurance requirement to the same one for auto coverage.The high court could strike down the law entirely, chuck the mandate and leave other parts of the law intact, or uphold the whole thing.

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