Health Highlights: Nov. 7, 2014

Health Highlights: Nov. 7, 2014

Health Highlights: Nov. 7, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Supreme Court Will Hear Challenge to Health Insurance Subsidies

The U.S. Supreme Court says it will hear a new challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

On Friday, the justices accepted an appeal from opponents of subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income Americans afford their health insurance premiums, the Associated Press reported.

Critics of the subsidies contend that most of them are illegal and say the issue needs to be resolved by the Supreme Court now because it involves billions of dollars in public money.

In July, a federal appeals court in Virginia upheld the Internal Revenue Services rules that permit health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for people in all 50 states, the AP reported.

However, on the same day a panel of appellate judges in Washington, D.C. ruled against the IRS regulations, saying that financial aid can be provided only in states that have set up their own insurance markets.

In October, the entire Washington, D.C. appeals court voted to toss out the panel's ruling and rehear the case, which was scheduled for Dec. 17, the AP reported.

However, that hearing is overshadowed by the Supreme Court's decision to rule on the matter.

Nearly five million people have received subsidies to help them purchase health insurance, according to the White House. On average, the subsidies cover 76 percent of people's premiums, or $264 of total monthly premiums averaging $346, the AP reported.

This will be the second time the Supreme Court has dealt with the Affordable Care Act. In 2012, the justices upheld the core of the law in a 5-4 decision.


Ebola Outbreak Could End Next Year: U.N. Official

The intense international response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa could help end the outbreak in 2015, according to the doctor leading the United Nations' fight against the deadly disease.

However, the effort to contain the outbreak that has killed nearly 5,000 people is not even a quarter done, Dr. David Nabarro added.

"Until the last case of Ebola is under treatment, we have to stay on full alert," he told the Associated Press. "It's still bad."

Just one month ago, the number of Ebola cases was likely doubling every three to four weeks. But in the past four weeks, infection rates appear to be slowing in some regions of West Africa, Nabarro said.

In other areas though, Ebola cases seem to be increasing at the same speed they were a month ago, he told the AP.

Nabarro said a number of factors have "made me incredibly optimistic that in the coming months we could certainly see a diminution, and hopefully in the next year the outbreak will come to an end."

However, "we are really not saying to the world that the job is even half done or a quarter done," he told the AP.

"We're simply saying we had a strategy and the strategy predicted that as things got implemented, numbers of cases wouldn't increase at the rate they were increasing in August and September," Nabarro explained.

While that's what is happening, "I'm afraid I cannot say to you that it looks as if we're over the worst," he added.
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