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Daily Archives: December 5, 2013

Cancer mutation likely trigger of scleroderma

Johns Hopkins scientists have found evidence that cancer triggers the autoimmune disease scleroderma, which causes thickening and hardening of the skin and widespread organ damage.A report on the discovery, published in the Dec. 5 issue of Science, also suggests that a normal immune system is critical for preventing the development of common types of cancer.According to researchers, patients with scleroderma often make immune proteins or antibodies to another protein, called RPC1.

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Singapore scientists engineer human stem cells and move closer to mastering regenerative medicine

In an important scientific breakthrough in regenerative medicine, researchers at A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) have successfully converted human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) cultured in the laboratory to a state that is closer to the cells found in the human blastocyst. This means that scientists are one step closer to cultivating stem cells for research and potential therapeutic purposes, as well as understanding the processes of early human development. These findings are published in the current issue of the prestigious science journal Cell Stem Cell.

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HIV cure may lie in radioimmunotherapy

A new study suggests targeting HIV with radioimmunotherapy could eradicate HIV from infected cells. If given in conjunction with highly active antiretroviral therapy, it may form the basis of a cure.Although highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) kills human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the bloodstream, it does not completely eliminate it from the body because the virus can linger in infected cells and replicate.

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Microscopic hazards in your home this winter

Allergies are traditionally associated with spring and summer, when high pollen counts fill the air and leave hay fever sufferers sneezing and scratching at sore eyes. But winter brings its own allergens, with dust mites and mold spores spelling misery for a whole new batch of sufferers.Allergic reactions occur when the immune system responds to the presence of a foreign substance. When it suspects an invasion, the immune system produces proteins called antibodies.

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The White House's Latest Health Law Campaign Message

A key to this “messaging” effort is highlighting the popular parts of the overhaul and connecting it to better economic conditions.  

The New York Times: Obama Presses Case For Health Law And Wage Increase
President Obama left the White House on Wednesday for one of the capital’s working-class neighborhoods to talk about the economy, not simply to divert attention from the troubles of his Affordable Care Act but also to explain how that law, for all of its flaws, fits into his vision for Americans’ economic security and upward mobility. … For decades, he said, health care “was one yawning gap in the safety net that did more than anything else to expose working families” to economic insecurity. “That’s why we fought for the Affordable Care Act,” he said (Calmes, 12/4).

The New York Times: Democrats’ Latest Campaign For Health Care Law Begins
President Obama and congressional Democrats, seizing on the good news of an improving health care website and rising enrollments, on Wednesday highlighted parts of the law that are popular with the public and reminded Americans, and the law’s opponents, of what would be lost if the Affordable Care Act were repealed (Weisman and Shear, 12/5).

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Obama Seeks To Connect With Young Adults, Encourages Them To Sign Up For Coverage

The 18-35-year-old demographic is seen as key to achieving stability in the new online insurance marketplaces. But reaching this group is no easy task — their interest and support for the health law appears to be waning.

The Washington Post: Obama Urges On Young Activists; 3-Day Healthcare.gov Enrollment Hits 56,000
President Obama urged a group of young activists Wednesday not to give up on promoting his signature health-care law, as enrollment picked up on HealthCare.gov. Roughly 27,000 Americans signed up for insurance on the federal exchange on Tuesday, according to internal figures, bringing the site’s three-day enrollment total to 56,000. That figure is more than double the number who enrolled online in the entire month of October, which was almost 27,000 (Eilperin and Goldstein, 12/4).

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Happy Hour? Obama Urges Creativity In Touting Health Law
With the federal health insurance exchange now operating more smoothly for most users, President Obama assembled 160 youth leaders at the White House on Wednesday, enlisting them to help sign up their peers for health insurance — a crucial factor in whether his signature law will succeed. As the student body presidents and youth activists gathered for an afternoon of seminars with White House officials and leaders of allied groups, a new poll showed that the administration and its allies have their work cut out for them (Reston, 12/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Hopes Youth Not Discouraged By Health Woes
President Barack Obama says he hopes young people don’t get discouraged by how hard it has been to implement health care reform. Obama spoke Wednesday to an audience of young leaders at a White House youth summit on health care. He told the participants that it has never been easy to make big changes in the United States, citing the civil rights movement and efforts by women to win the right to vote (12/4).

Politico: President Obama Wants A Hard Sell For Young Adults
The millennials hung out with the president at the White House on Wednesday, not to shoot hoops or shoot the breeze but to strategize on how to get young adults to sign up for health care. The Youth Summit drew 160 participants from across the country, all members of the 18-35 age demographic that is seen as critical to the financial stability of Obamacare exchanges. The gathering was shy on celebrities in favor of college student body presidents, DJs, YouTube stars, early-career entrepreneurs and leaders from a diverse spread of organizations that have influence with young people, even if it’s typically on subjects other than health care. Teen Vogue, for one, was represented (Villacorta, 12/4).

CNN: Obama Urges Young Supporters To Talk Up Obamacare
Sounding like a motivational speaker, President Barack Obama asked young supporters on Wednesday to encourage their peers to sign up for health coverage under his embattled reforms known both affectionately and derisively as Obamacare. At a White House Youth Summit, Obama used the opportunity to rally a key demographic for the success of the 2010 Affordable Care Act now that the system’s problem-plagued website appeared to working smoothly for most users (Cohen, 12/4).

NPR: White House Cites Pre-Existing Condition Case From Its Own Ranks
It’s Day 4 of the White House’s new messaging push for the Affordable Care Act. Today the goal is to tell the stories of people with pre-existing conditions who are now entitled to coverage under the new health care law. One such story comes from within the White House. Michael Robertson, chief of staff in the Cabinet Affairs Office, was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer at age 35. “I went overnight from being completely healthy and exercising and all that to having this catastrophic disease,” he said in an interview at the White House on Wednesday. Robertson described the shock of realizing “these things can happen in an instant. They don’t just happen to older people” (Shapiro, 12/5).

But a new poll shows the president and the health law are losing favor with this population –

Bloomberg: Youth Break With President On Obamacare Support In Poll
The nation’s youth, a group that twice rallied behind President Barack Obama at the ballot box, is failing to support his signature domestic achievement and increasingly disillusioned with his presidency. More than half of those 18 to 29 years old say they disapprove of Obamacare and half expect it will increase their health-care costs, a survey by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics shows. Four in 10 say they anticipate the quality of their coverage will get worse because of the law (McCormick, 12/4

The New York Times: Poll Finds Young People Souring On Health Law And Obama
A majority of 18- to 29-year-olds – a constituency crucial to the success of President Obama’s health overhaul — disapprove of the law, and fewer than a third of those who are uninsured are likely to sign up for coverage, according to a new poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. The survey, released Wednesday, also found a stark drop in Mr. Obama’s approval ratings among those so-called millennial voters, who have long been his most ardent supporters (Stolberg, 12/4).

Los Angeles Times: Millennial Generation Sours On Obama, Skeptical Of Healthcare Law
Members of the huge millennial generation, who have strongly supported President Obama in the past, have soured on him and take a skeptical view of his signature healthcare law, according to a new poll from Harvard’s Institute of Politics. “Millennials have always been one of two significant parts of the Obama coalition,” said John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director. Throughout Obama’s national political career, members of the millennial generation gave him a significantly higher approval rating than the rest of the population, he said (Lauter, 12/4).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Poll: Millennials No Big Fans Of Obamacare
As President Barack Obama gave remarks Wednesday to a White House Youth Summit on health care, a new poll shows the Affordable Care Act isn’t faring well among young adults, who share the largely skeptical views of other Americans. A majority of millennials — adults aged 18-29 — in the poll disapprove of Mr. Obama’s signature health-care law, and fewer than 30% of uninsured millennials said they will definitely or probably enroll if and when they are eligible, a Harvard Institute of Politics poll found (Ballhaus, 12/4).

PBS NewsHour: Presidential Approval Ratings Wane As Millennials Grow Wary Of ACA
A new poll of Americans aged 18-29 revealed a “solid majority” of young people disapprove of the Affordable Care Act. Of those without health care coverage, only 29 percent said they were likely to enroll in the insurance exchanges. Judy Woodruff talks to John Della Volpe of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University (Woodruff, Ǭ/4).

Fox News: ‘Sea Change’: Poll Shows Young People Skeptical Of Obamacare, Amid Obama Outreach
As the president hosts a White House youth summit, a new poll from his alma mater shows a majority of young people aren’t interested in signing up for his signature health care plan. The Harvard “Millennials” poll found only 22 percent of young Americans — defined in the survey as between 18 and 29 years old — plan to sign up for ObamaCare. Even more troubling for the administration, fewer than a third — only 29 percent — of people who currently do not have health insurance plan to enroll (Roberts, 12/4).

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Political Cartoon: 'Seen But Not Herd?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with “Seen But Not Herd?” by Mike Smith. 

Here’s today’s health policy haiku:  

MIXING AND MINGLING WITH YOUNG INVINCIBLES

 Time for happy hour?
Then it’s time to talk health plans…
Young people love that.
-Anonymous 

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please send it to us at http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/ContactUs.aspx and let us know if you want to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story. 

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29,000 Americans Enroll Through Healthcare.gov In 2 Days, Says Source

That total exceeds the number who enrolled during the entire month of October, demonstrating that recent fixes have made the website easier to use.

The New York Times: Enrollment Numbers Rise After Website Improves
About 29,000 people successfully navigated HealthCare.gov and selected an insurance plan on Sunday and Monday, more than the entire number of people who were able to enroll through the federal exchange during the month of October, according to a person familiar with the project. Officials are still double-checking the data and said they would not release enrollment numbers for November until later this month. But the person said the website was working much better than in October, when only 26,000 people were able to enroll in a plan. Politico first reported the weekend enrollment numbers (Shear, 12/4).

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare.gov Sees Enrollment Jump After Repairs To Troubled Website
In the clearest sign yet that the federal health insurance website is vastly improved, about 29,000 people enrolled in insurance plans over the first two days of this week, exceeding the number of enrollments on the site in all of October, according to a source familiar with the data. The 29,000 figure tallies the number of people able to select health plans Sunday and Monday, the 48-hour window after the administration’s deadline for making major repairs to the HealthCare.gov website  (Hennessey, 12/4).

The Washington Post: 29,000 Americans Enroll Under Healthcare.gov In 2 Days, Officials Say
That total exceeds the total number of Americans who enrolled online between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2, which was 26,794. The government defines enrollment as an individual who has successfully signed up for a plan. The new total, while short of the pace needed to reach the administration’s target of 7 million enrollments by March 31, shows the federal health insurance marketplace is working much more smoothly than it was at its Oct. 1 launch (Eilperin, 12/4).

Politico: Source: Enrollment Surge On Healthcare.gov
The preliminary numbers for the two-day period provide the clearest evidence yet that the federal exchange is on the mend. About 26,000 people selected a health plan during October and about 100,000 people did so in November, the official said (Budoff Brown, 12/4).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Traffic Strong On HealthCare.gov–Will Enrollment Follow?
Strong traffic on HealthCare.gov and new figures from states suggest that enrollment is likely picking up on the federal health-insurance exchange, although federal officials aren’t giving any specific recent enrollment figures. Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency running the federal health-insurance website, say they’re planning on releasing updated enrollment figures in mid-December. “We expect our enrollment numbers to increase given the technology improvements to the site,” CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille told reporters Wednesday in a daily update call (Schatz, 12/4).

Reuters: More Obamacare Enrollees In Two Days Than All Of October: Sources
More people signed up on the government’s new health insurance website on the first two days of December than in the entire first month of the launch of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform, sources familiar with the numbers said on Wednesday. The sources said about 29,000 people enrolled on Sunday and Monday, surpassing nearly 27,000 for all of October when the opening of the HealthCare.gov website was beset by glitches that led to a public apology by the president and a retooling of the portal (Holland, 12/4).

NPR: HealthCare.gov Now Allows Window Shopping, And A Do-Over
One thing that’s clear about the relaunch of the troubled HealthCare.gov website is that it can accommodate more people. Federal officials said more than 1 million users logged in on Monday, and nearly that many on Tuesday. But less attention has been paid to some other upgrades that are also making the site easier for people to use. That’s too bad, says Nancy Metcalf, senior editor of Consumer Reports, who has been chronicling the rollout of the health exchanges. She says some of them are pretty impressive (Rovner, 12/5).

Some news outlets examine issues behind these numbers – 

Politico: Rush To Find Health Options Before Jan. 1
If people whose health insurance was canceled under Obamacare this year don’t line up new coverage this month, the Obama administration could face a political nightmare. More people could have lost coverage than gained it when the health law benefits begin on Jan. 1. That’s by no means a certainty; the sign-up website is doing better, some insurance carriers are extending plans instead of canceling them, and there are millions more uninsured people who stand to get covered than there are covered people facing plan cancellations. Medicaid sign-ups are also running strong (Norman, Ǭ/4).

Modern Healthcare: CMS Works With Insurers On Inaccurate Enrollment Data
The CMS is working to calm the nerves of insurers still rattled by inaccuracies in enrollment information from HealthCare.gov, which the companies say could prevent consumers from getting coverage they’re counting on having Jan. 1. The agency formed a team with QSSI, the contractor assigned to lead the federal website rescue effort, to work directly with insurance companies on the problems with so-called 834 files, which are necessary to transfer enrollment data from the federal insurance marketplace to the plan issuers (Blesch, 12/4).

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Nation's Largest Freight Carriers To Offer Health Benefits To Same-Sex Spouses

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Railroads To Offer Health Care To Same-Sex Spouses
A day after being sued by legally married, gay engineers, the nation’s largest freight rail carriers announced they will provide health care benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees. Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF Railway Co., read the statement Wednesday from the National Railway Labor Conference to The Associated Press. The conference represents the railroad companies in dealings with labor groups, lawmakers and courts (12/5). 

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The Ambulance Biz Adds To Health Costs, Do Hospital Observation Services Lower Them?

News outlets examine hospital costs issues.  

The New York Times: Think The E.R. Is Expensive? Look At How Much It Costs To Get There
Kira Milas has no idea who called 911, summoning an ambulance filled with emergency medical technicians. Ms. Milas, 23, was working as a swim instructor for the summer and had swum into the side of the pool, breaking three teeth. A week later she received a bill for the 15-minute trip: $1,772.42. … Thirty years ago ambulance rides were generally provided free of charge, underwritten by taxpayers as a municipal service or provided by volunteers. Today, like the rest of the health care system in the United States, most ambulance services operate as businesses and contribute to America’s escalating medical bills (Rosenthal, 12/4).

PBS NewsHour: Why Eliminating ‘Hospital Purgatories’ Would Save Billions of Dollars
Few Americans understand [hospital observation services] or even know they exist. Which is why — as health care costs continue to climb by the year — it might come as a shock that these are the very services that could end up saving hospitals billions each year. Put simply, observation services are designed to determine which patients can be safely discharged from the hospital and which should remain for a longer stay (Corapi, 12/4).

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