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Health Headlines - April 12

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

Groups Demand End to Two-Year Medicare Wait for Disabled People

The U.S. Congress must eliminate the current two-year wait for Medicare coverage for people whose severe and debilitating disabilities prevent them from working, dozens of patient advocacy groups contend.

The groups' position came in response to a report released Wednesday that found 600,000 disabled people go without health care or go into debt while waiting for Medicare coverage.

"Congress must eliminate the cruel and arbitrary two-year wait for Medicare, which punishes Americans who are hit by severe illness or injuries that make it impossible to keep working," report co-author Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, said in a prepared statement. The Medicare Rights Center is a national consumer service organization.

People who are deemed unable to work due to incapacitating health problems are not eligible for Medicare until two years after they receive their first Social Security Disability Income benefit. Currently, about 1.5 million Americans with severe and permanent disabilities are in the Medicare waiting period. Each year, about 12 percent of disabled people die before their Medicare coverage begins.

"The report chronicles the devastating health and financial toll that the waiting period takes on the lives of hard-working Americans who are stranded without health coverage after they become disabled," Hayes said.

The report, which includes the experiences of 21 disabled people while waiting for Medicare coverage, was published by The Commonwealth Fund.

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New York City Produces 1% of U.S. Greenhouse Gases

New York City produces almost 1 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to a just-release report by the mayor's Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability.

That means that the city pumps out the same amount of emissions as some small countries, such as Ireland and Portugal, the Associated Press reported.

New York, the largest city in the United States and home to 2.7 percent of the nation's population, produced 58.3 million metric tons of the 7.26 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases emitted in the country in 2005, the report said.

Buildings, subways, buses, cars and the decomposition of waste are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the city, the AP reported.

But the report also noted that the average New York City resident actually produces less than a third of the greenhouse emissions generated by their fellow average Americans. That's largely because the city's mass transit system enables many residents to get around without cars.

The report was ordered by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to provide a benchmark for his goal of reducing the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

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Actor, Politician Fred Thompson Reveals Cancer Diagnosis

Actor and former U.S. Senator Fred Dalton Thompson, widely believed to be considering running for the Republican presidential nomination, revealed Wednesday that he was diagnosed with lymphoma more than two years ago, Bloomberg News reported.

The indolent lymphoma is in remission and Thompson, 64, says he has had no symptoms or illness from the cancer. His office released a statement from his physician, Dr. Bruce Cheson, head of hematology at Georgetown University Hospital. Cheson said that Thompson's form of lymphoma is so slow-growing that people with the disease often die "from natural causes associated with old age."

On an Internet site popular with conservative Republicans, Thompson wrote: "My life expectancy should not be affected. I am in remission, and it is very treatable with drugs if treatment is needed in the future -- and with no debilitating side effects."

Thompson was first elected to the Senate in 1994 in a special election in Tennessee to replace Al Gore, who'd been elected vice-president. Thompson then won a full six-year term in 1996 but did not seek re-election after that, Bloomberg reported.

As an actor, Thompson has appeared in dozens of movies and has a major role in the television series "Law and Order."

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U.S. Diabetes-Related Costs Hit $22.9 Billion

About three of five people (57.9 percent) in the United States with type 2 diabetes have serious health problems associated with the disease, and those complications amounted to $22.9 billion in direct medical costs in 2006, says a new report made public by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) at its annual meeting in Seattle.

Heart disease, stroke, eye damage, chronic kidney disease, and serious foot problems were among the complications mentioned in the report.

The analysis, based on data from two large national studies, also found that annual healthcare costs for people with type 2 diabetes and its complications were about three times more than those of the average person without diabetes.

These complication can cost almost $10,000 a year, and the average person with type 2 diabetes paid nearly $1,600 in out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-payments.

The report said one-third of people with type 2 diabetes had one other serious health problem, 10.3 percent had two others, 6.7 percent had three others, and 7.6 percent had four or more other serious health problems.

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Glass Fragments Prompt Grifulvin Recall

Reports of glass fragments in Grifulvin -- a medication used to treat ringworm and other fungal infections -- have prompted a recall by U.S. manufacturer Ortho-McNeil.

The recall involves lots of the liquid formulation of Grifulvin and griseofulvin oral suspension, which has a Patriot Pharmaceuticals label, distributed between Aug. 23, 2005 and March 14, 2007, United Press International reported.

Ortho-McNeil said the recall is a precaution and that there have been no reports of anyone being harmed by the glass fragments. The company said it has two reports of glass fragments in Grifulvin bottles, which Ortho-McNeil believes were caused by bottles breaking during shipment, UPI reported.

Specific lot numbers included in the recall are listed at http://www.aboutgrifulvin.com/recall.asp.

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Journal Removes Wolf-Cloning Study From Web Site

A South Korean research report on wolf cloning has been pulled from the Web site of the international journal Cloning and Stem Cells, pending an investigation into incorrect data, Agence France Presse reported.

In a message posted on its Web site, the journal said the study's authors had requested corrections and that the journal was awaiting results of a Seoul National University (SNU) investigation into the research.

On March 26, an SNU team led by Lee Byung-Chun and Shin Nam-Shik announced that it had created the world's first two cloned wolves in October 2005. However, it's been revealed that the researchers provided incorrect data in a table analyzing the mitochondrial DNA sequence of the two wolves and their surrogate mother dogs.

Another error describing the team's past attempts to clone dogs appeared to make its progress more impressive than it actually was, AFP reported.

Researcher Lee said both errors were inadvertent.

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