Health Highlights: March 26, 2015

Health Highlights: March 26, 2015

Health Highlights: March 26, 2015

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

Medicare Overhaul Bill Passed by House

A Medicare overhaul bill that would create a new formula for payments to doctors was passed by the House on Thursday in a 392-to-17 vote.

Under the bill, Medicare payments to doctors would be based on performance, rewarding them for high-quality care rather than the volume of services, The New York Times reported.

The bill would also extend the Children's Health Insurance Program for two years, rather than the four years sought by Democrats. More money would be provided for community health centers, with a restriction for abortion services.

In order to cover some of the costs of the bill, some higher-income Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay higher premiums for coverage of prescription drugs and doctors' services, The Times reported.

The bill, which has President Barack Obama's support, now goes to a vote in the Senate. That vote could be delayed until after a two-week recess scheduled to start Friday.

Unless Congress takes action, doctors face a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees on April 1. However, Medicare officials could extend the deadline and delay the cuts for about two weeks, The Times reported.


Homeopathic Drugs to be Reviewed at Meeting: FDA

The safety and effectiveness of homeopathic medicines will be the subject of a two-day meeting next month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

Like dietary supplements, homeopathic medicines do not have to prove they are safe or effective before they're sold in the United States. Unlike supplements, homeopathic medicines claim to treat specific medical conditions, the Associated Press reported.

In a notice posted online Thursday, the FDA said experts attending the meeting on April 20 and 21 will be asked if there is data to "better assess the risks and benefits" of homeopathic medicines. The agency also wants to assess the appropriateness of selling some homeopathic drugs without a prescription.

The FDA noted that many of the medical conditions listed on homeopathic medicines "have never been considered for over-the-counter use under a formal regulatory process," the AP reported.


Controversial Abortion Requirement Passed by Arizona Lawmakers

A bill that requires abortion providers to tell women they can reverse the effects of a drug-induced abortion was passed Wednesday by Arizona lawmakers. There is no science to support the requirement, critics say.

It's the first time such a reversal requirement has been passed in the United States, but Arkansas is considering similar legislation, the Associated Press reported.

The bill also blocks women from buying any health care plan through the federal insurance marketplace that included abortion coverage.

The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who hasn't expressed an opinion about the legislation, the AP reported.


Needle Exchange Program Approved to Fight Indiana HIV Outbreak

A short-term needle exchange program has been introduced to combat an HIV outbreak in southeastern Indiana, where a health emergency was declared Thursday by Gov. Mike Pence.

He said the needle exchange will last for 30 days before being re-evaluated, the Indianapolis Star reported.

The "sole purpose" of the needle exchange is to halt the spread of HIV and needle exchanges will not become an "anti-drug" policy, Pence said. He added he would veto any broad-based needle exchange program sent to him by the legislature.

There have been 79 HIV cases linked to injection drug use in Scott County. Normally, there are about five such cases a year in the county, according to Pence.

The needle exchange program will be supervised by the state department of health, the Star reported.


Kelly Osbourne Will 'One Day"'Have Same Surgery as Angelina Jolie

Celebrity Kelly Osbourne has the same cancer-promoting gene mutation as Angelina Jolie and says she plans to one day have the same surgery the actress recently underwent to reduce her risk of ovarian cancer.

Jolie has a high genetic risk for breast and ovarian cancer. She revealed Tuesday that she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed last week. In 2013, she had a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer.

"I agree with this 100 percent," Osbourne, 30, said Tuesday on the CBS television show "The Talk," ABC News reported. "I know that one day I will eventually have to do it, too," Osbourne added.

Osbourne's mother Sharon survived colon cancer in 2002.

"I'm so lucky to have the mother I have, the brave mother I have that has taught me so much. ... I actually do have the cancer gene," Kelly said on Tuesday's show, ABC News reported. "My mom made all of us get tested after she found out that she had it and got her double mastectomy."


Researchers Can Assess 'Entire Genome' of Iceland

Researchers in Iceland say they can effectively determine the genome of the entire nation.

The team said they accomplished this by combining whole genome sequences of 10,000 people with nation-wide family trees, BBC News reported.

The research described in the journal Nature Genetics could be used for a wide range of purposes, such as identifying people at genetic risk for serious diseases.

For example, the investigators said they could now pinpoint every woman in Iceland with a high risk of breast cancer, BBC News reported.


Lumber Liquidators Under Investigation: Federal Officials

An investigation has been launched into whether Lumber Liquidators sold products with dangerous levels of formaldehyde, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said Wednesday.

The company, one of the nation's largest discount flooring retailers, has been cooperating with the agency's inquiry into the matter, said commission chairman Elliot Kaye, The New York Times reported.

A report on the CBS News program "60 Minutes" accused Lumber Liquidators of selling laminate flooring in California that violated the state's safety standards for formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

The company has repeatedly said that its products are safe and has challenged the testing methods used by "60 Minutes," The Times reported.

The federal government has no standards on formaldehyde emissions. The CPSC plans to conduct its own testing and to evaluate scientific findings on the risks of formaldehyde. Kaye said the process could take months, The Times reported.
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