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Health Headlines - March 21

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

Cheney Visits Hospital for Checkup on Leg Clot

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visited a Washington, D.C., hospital on Tuesday after complaining of discomfort in his left lower leg, NBC News reported. Two weeks ago, doctors diagnosed a deep venous thrombosis (DVT) blood clot in that leg and put the vice president on a blood-thinning medication.

According to a statement from Cheney's office, he felt discomfort in the leg Tuesday morning and contacted his physicians. They advised him to return to George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates for "repeat ultrasound imaging" of the DVT.

That imaging has revealed no extension or complications of the clot, and the blood thinner seems to be working, NBC reported. Doctors have advised Cheney to stay on the anticoagulant for several months.

"These results are expected and reassuring and the current course of treatment will continue," the statement read. "The Vice President has returned to the White House to resume his schedule," it added.

DVTs are blood clots that typically form in the legs. They become especially dangerous if they break off and travel to the lungs, triggering a condition called pulmonary embolism.

The leg clots have been associated with prolonged immobility, such as happens on long-haul flights. Prior to his diagnosis, Cheney had just completed a nine-day round-the-world tour involving more than 65 hours on a plane, NBC noted.

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Most Seniors Satisfied with Medicare Advantage: Survey

About 75 percent of doctors believe that seniors will be harmed if the U.S. Congress cuts the Medicare advantage program and 35 percent of seniors -- including 62 percent of those with low incomes -- said they'd forego some healthcare treatments they currently receive if they no longer have the option of choosing a Medicare health plan, according to two surveys released Tuesday by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

The surveys of Medicare beneficiaries and doctors highlight the importance of Medicare health plans to seniors, said Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of AHIP.

"Seniors and their physicians agree that Medicare Advantage is a vital health coverage option. As members of Congress engage in budget discussions, they will be hearing from their low-income and minority constituents who count on the essential benefits and lower out-of-pocket costs Medicare health plans provide," Ignagni said in a prepared statement.

Other findings from the surveys:

  • 42 percent of seniors believe they would pay higher out-of-pocket costs if the option of choosing a Medicare Advantage plan was taken away.
  • 60 percent of seniors said lower costs or better benefits were the reason they joined a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • 90 percent of beneficiaries said they're satisfied with their Medicare Advantage coverage overall, up from 84 percent in 2003.
  • By a two-to-one margin, doctors said that Medicare Part D has helped seniors get the prescription drugs they need.

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Hodgkin's Survivors Face Increased Risk of Second Cancer Later in Life

Survivors of Hodgkin's lymphoma have a greatly increased risk of developing a second cancer later in life and need to get screened for certain kinds of cancer at an earlier age than other people, concludes a study published online Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Hodgkin's, a cancer that attacks the lymph system and mainly strikes young adults, has a high survival rate. But researchers said the radiation used to treat Hodgkin's can cause new cancers later in life, the Toronto Star reported.

The study tracked more than 18,000 Hodgkin's survivors in Europe and North America and found that survivors in their mid-30s have the same risk level for colorectal cancer as an average 50-year-old.

The increased risk for a second cancer (most likely breast cancer) is especially evident in young women, the study found.

"Women who are diagnosed (with Hodgkin's) at age 20 have a 25 percent chance of getting a second cancer compared to under five percent for the general population," study lead author Dr. David Hodgson, an oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada, told the Star.

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Administrative Costs Make Up a Third of U.S. Health Care Spending

Administration expenses consume nearly one of every three dollars spent on health care in the United States, but most consumers (76 percent) think that administrative costs should account for just 10 percent of health care spending, according to a national survey of 200 hospital and insurance company executives and 1,000 consumers.

Seventy-nine percent of consumer respondents also said they would like to see an itemization of the portion of their health care bills that goes to administration costs associated with health care claims and billing.

The poll was commissioned by The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.

"While it is possible that consumers do not fully appreciate the cost and complexity of health care administration, hospital and health plan executives identified significant inefficiencies in the business office, describing a medical claims, billing and payment process that is error-prone, redundant and costly," Paula Fryland, executive vice president and manager of PNC's national health care group, said in a prepared statement.

Among the other survey findings:

  • Hospital executives said that, on average, 20 percent of submitted claims are delayed or denied and 96 percent of all claims must be submitted more than once.
  • Hospitals that don't use electronic billing or claims submission processes reported that, on average, they resubmit a claim 11 times or more. That's nearly four times more often than hospitals that use electronic processes.
  • Nearly 25 percent of consumers reported that they'd had a legitimate claim denied by their health plan, and one in five paid the claim out of their own pocket.

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Scientists Develop Malaria Parasite-Resistant Mosquitoes

Genetically-modified mosquitoes that are resistant to the malaria parasite have been developed by American scientists, an achievement that may one day help stop the spread of the deadly disease among humans, Agence France Presse reported.

People contract malaria after being bitten by infected mosquitoes.

The Johns Hopkins University scientists found that the genetically-engineered mosquitoes outbred natural mosquitoes when both were fed malaria-infected blood from mice, says a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That suggests that it may be possible to introduce the genetically-altered mosquitoes into the wild, where they will push aside natural mosquitoes, AFP reported.

More research is required before this may occur, the scientists noted.

Between 350 million to 500 million people worldwide are infected with malaria each year and 700,000 to 2.7 million die, according to the World Health Organization.

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Duct Tape Won't Treat Warts: Study

Duct tape has many uses, but the claim that it's a cheap, effective treatment for warts is challenged by a new U.S. study in the March issue of the journal Archives of Dermatology.

A small study in 2002 suggested that duct tape helped treat warts on children and young adults. The theory is that the tape irritates the skin and prompts the immune system to attack the virus that causes warts, the Associated Press reported.

But this new study found that warts disappeared in 21 percent of 39 patients who used duct tape for seven days, compared to 22 percent of 41 patients who used moleskin, a cotton-type bandage used to protect the skin.

This new study used transparent duct tape, while the 2002 study used the better-known gray duct tape. Grey duct tape contains rubber while transparent duct tape does not, the AP reported.

"Whether or not the standard type of duct type is effective is up in the air," said study co-author Dr. Rachel Wenner of the University of Minnesota. "Theoretically, the rubber adhesive could somehow stimulate the immune system or irritate the skin in a different manner."

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