Health Highlights: Dec. 9, 2014

Health Highlights: Dec. 9, 2014

Health Highlights: Dec. 9, 2014

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

Many Medicaid-Listed Doctors Unavailable to Patients

Half of the doctors who are supposed to provide care to Medicaid enrollees could not offer appointments to those patients, according to a federal government report to be issued Tuesday.

Investigators contacted 1,800 doctors listed by more than 200 health plans under contract with Medicaid in 32 states, but many of those doctors were not accepting new Medicaid patients or could not be found at their last known address, The New York Times reported.

The findings in the report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services raise concerns about whether Medicaid patients' access to health care services.

"When providers listed as participating in a plan cannot offer appointments, it may create a significant obstacle for an enrollee seeking care," said Inspector General Daniel Levinson, The Times reported.

"Moreover, it raises questions about the adequacy of provider networks. It suggests that the actual size of provider networks may be considerably smaller than what is presented by Medicaid managed-care plans," he added.


Malaria Deaths Fall by Half: WHO

The number of people worldwide dying from malaria has been cut in half, according to the World Health Organization.

Between 2001 and 2013, 4.3 million malaria deaths were prevented. Of the lives saved, 3.9 million were children younger than five in sub-Saharan Africa, BBC News reported.

A growing number of people have access to life-saving malaria prevention measures, the WHO said. For example, 50 percent of at-risk people now have access to mosquito bed nets, compared with only three percent in 2004.

Testing for malaria has increased and more people receive medicines to treat the mosquito-borne disease.

Infections in Africa -- where 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur -- fell from 173 million in 2000 to 128 million in 2013, despite a 43 percent increase in the number of people living in malaria transmission areas, BBC News reported.


Ebola Fight Focused on Two Areas: U.N. Official

High levels of Ebola transmission in western Sierra Leone and the interior of Guinea remain a cause for concern, U.N. Ebola chief Dr. David Nabarro says.

He told reporters Tuesday in Geneva that his team is focusing on "two particularly troublesome areas." One is around Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, and the other is a forested mountainous region in southeastern Guinea, the Associated Press reported.

Medical workers are "dealing with these still quite inflamed areas where there is a lot of transmission," Nabarro said.

He added that his staff is working closely with officials in Mali to ensure a quick response in case Ebola spreads across that country's border, the AP reported.
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