Health

Fitness, well-being, disease, medical research and issues related to Seton and St. David's Healthcare, Austin Regional Clinic and other health care providers in Austin and Central Texas

Monik Marcus/flickr http://bit.ly/ODQleE

Starting today, millions of women are going to receive birth control coverage at no upfront cost, a change supporters say gives women greater access and control over their own health care.

Through a provision in the Affordable Care Act, “non-grandfathered” insurance plans must provide eight new, free prevention-related health services for policies renewed or issued on or after September 23, 2012.

The new services, provided with no cost-sharing, include: well-woman exams, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV DNA testing, domestic violence screenings and counseling, HIV screenings, breastfeeding supplies, contraception and family counseling services. 

flickr/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.

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.”

Pascal Dolémieux/flickr

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.   

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.

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. 

Todd Wiseman / Kjetil Ree for Texas Tribune

Texas will not expand Medicaid or establish a health insurance exchange, two major tenets of the federal health reform that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld last month, Gov. Rick Perry said in an early morning announcement.

KUT News

A new report says Texas is dead last compared to other states when it comes to the overall quality of health care.

The report was conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Home health care was the worst performing category in Texas, earning the lowest possible rating in terms of quality. The report also showed declines in diabetes care, nursing homes and treating chronic diseases.

“Because we’re comparing to other states and not some fantasy world, we know it is possible, we know other states are achieving higher performance levels," says Ernest Moy with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. "And so I don’t think there’s necessarily a reason to think that Texas can’t also achieve that higher level of performance.”

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.”

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Health Care Law Upheld: Now What?

Jun 28, 2012

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:

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.

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.”

Pages