Health Highlights: Dec. 5, 2014

Health Highlights: Dec. 5, 2014

Health Highlights: Dec. 5, 2014

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

Health Insurance Premiums Rising Next Year: Obama Administration

Many Americans who have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act will have higher premiums next year, federal officials say.

But they added that customers may be able to reduce their price hike by shopping around for another plan, and that subsidies will help soften the effect of premium increases, the Associated Press reported.

Premiums for the lowest cost silver plan -- the most popular type of coverage -- will rise an average of five percent next year in the 35 states where the federal government operates health insurance exchanges, while premiums for the second-lowest cost silver plan will increase an average of two percent.

Comparision shopping will enable about two-thirds of current customers to find coverage comparable to their current plan for $100 a month or less, according to the Obama administration. That figure takes into account tax credits that cover an average of three-fourths of premiums, the AP reported.

About 91 percent of customers will be able to choose from three or more insurers this year, compared with 74 percent of customers last year.

But while average premium increases will be modest, there will be significant differences between states and even between regions within states. People in some areas will face double-digit increases while others will see decreases, the AP reported.

"Prior to the Affordable Care Act taking place, we saw double-digit increases in health care costs in this country," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. "Those were routine."

This year, many customers "will now find that their costs are limited to only five percent on average," which is "a much lower cost increase than was in place before the Affordable Care Act," he added.

Last year's administration report on average premium increases included 48 states, 13 more than the 35 included this year. Two of the most populous states -- California and New York -- are not included in this year's analysis of premiums, the AP reported.


U.S. Births Fall for 6th Straight Year

Births in the United Stated declined for the sixth year in a row last year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

There were 3.93 million births in 2013, down from 3.95 million in 2012 and a nine percent decrease from the high in 2007, The New York Times reported.

The general fertility rate - the average number of children women ages 15 to 44 have over a lifetime -- fell to a record low of 1.86 babies per woman in 2013. That's well below the 2.1 babies per woman required for a stable population.

In 2013, there were 62.5 births for every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, compared with 63 in 2012. That decrease is particularly noteworthy because the number of women in their prime childbearing years, ages 20 to 39, has been rising since 2007, The Times reported.

Birthrates for teens and women in their 20s have been declining, while births among older women are increasing. Women older than 44 are not included in the general fertility rate, but there has been a 14 percent rise in births to women ages 45 to 49.

Twin births are becoming more common and now account for about one in every 30 babies, according to the report. Both preterm births and cesarean-section deliveries are dropping.

White women once had the highest c-section rates, but have had the largest decline and now have the lowest rate. Black women now have the highest c-section rate, while the rate among Hispanic women -- who previously had the lowest rate -- is now slightly higher than among white women, The Times reported.
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