Health Highlights: Feb. 24, 2015

Health Highlights: Feb. 24, 2015

Health Highlights: Feb. 24, 2015

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

'Bionic Eye' Enables Man to See Wife for First Time in Years

A new "bionic eye" enabled a 68-year-old American man to see his wife for the first time in a decade.

Allen Zderad of Minnesota appeared to laugh and cry at the same time as he got a glimpse of his wife of 45 years, CBS News reported.

Zderad has a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, which causes deterioration of the part of the retina that turns light into vision, eventually resulting in total blindness.

He is one of just a few people worldwide to get the recently developed implantable device called the Second Sight Argus II retinal prosthesis system. The device was implanted at the Mayo Clinic.

"It's pulsing light, it's not like regular vision where it's constant," Zderad told his wife and the Mayo doctors, CBS News reported. "It's the flash, and I've got to be able to interpret the changes in that shape."

The device doesn't restore normal vision. It features specially-equipped glasses that enable a patient to see light and the silhouettes and contours of objects and people.

The Second Sight Argus II became available in the United States in 2013. Last October, a 66-year-old man received the device at Duke Medicine, CBS News reported.

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U.S. Uninsured Rate Lowest in Seven Years: Poll

The percentage of Americans without health insurance in 2014 was the lowest in seven years, according to a large survey released Tuesday.

The number of Americans without insurance fell 3.5 percent from 2013 to 2014, with about 12.3 million fewer uninsured adults in the last three months of 2014 than in the last three months of 2013, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found.

HealthCare.gov was launched in 2013 and currently serves 37 states.

There were declines in the five most populous states: California, 6.3 percent; Texas, 2.6 percent; Florida, 3.8 percent; New York, 2.5 percent, and Illinois, 4.5 percent, the Associated Press reported.

Texas still had the highest rate of uninsured people (24.4 percent) and Massachusetts had the lowest rate (4.6 percent), the Gallup survey found.

There was no statistically significant rise in any state's uninsured rate, but states that welcomed the federal health care law have lower rates than states that strongly oppose the law, the AP reported.

Of the 11 states with the largest decreases in their uninsured rates, 10 accepted the health care law's Medicaid expansion that offers safety-net coverage for low-income people, mainly adults with no children living at home. Arkansas and Kentucky led the way with double-digit declines.

The poll also found that the decrease in the number of uninsured Americans is likely to continue this year because 55 percent of respondents without coverage said they planned to get insurance rather than be hit with rising tax penalties, the AP reported.

The survey results were released at a time when the future of the health care law is uncertain. A Supreme Court hearing next week involves a challenge against insurance subsidies for residents of states that have not created their own insurance exchanges and rely on federal management.

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Marijuana Now Legal in Alaska

Alaska has become the third U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use, but it's still illegal to smoke marijuana in public.

The change in the law that took effect Tuesday was approved by state lawmakers last November. While it allows adults to use marijuana in private places, there is a $100 fine for people who smoke the drug in public, the Associated Press reported.

Washington state and Colorado also allow the recreational use of marijuana, and Oregon will do the same beginning July 1.

Under Alaska's new law, adults can keep and use pot, grow it, transport it and give it away. A second phase that will establish a regulated and taxed marijuana market won't take effect until 2016 at the earliest, the AP reported.

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