Health Reform Will Face Important Test at June 8 Hearing

Dynamic Graphics/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- A Florida appeals court has scheduled oral arguments on June 8th to hear the Obama administration’s appeal to a lower court ruling that threw out the entire health care law. The hearing will take place in Atlanta at 9:30 a.m. before a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Significantly, former Solicitor General Paul Clement, one of the best Supreme Court advocates in the country, has signed on to argue the case for Florida and the 25 other states challenging the law. Clement served in the Bush administration.

For those keeping score, three federal judges have upheld the constitutionality of the health care law, and two have struck down its main provision, the individual mandate.

No appeals courts have ruled on the issue so far.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Medicare Agrees to Cover Expensive Prostate Cancer Treatment

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare will pay for Provenge, an immunotherapy for prostate cancer. 

In a proposed decision memo, the agency said, "The evidence is adequate to conclude that the use of…[Provenge] improves health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries with asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castrate-resistant (hormone refractory) prostate cancer, and thus is reasonable and necessary for that indication."

CMS has decided against endorsing or prohibiting nationwide off-label coverage, but will allow for local contractors to cover off-label uses according to their own judgment.

CMS will evaluate public comments on the memo, whereafter a final decision will be issued by June 30.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Victoria's Secret Model: Alarmingly Thin?

Mark Sullivan/WireImage(LOS ANGELES) -- Victoria's Secret model Candice Swanepoel has made headlines after appearing alarmingly thin during a recent photo shoot.

The entertainment website Hollywood Life called her "scarily, skeletally, stick-thin," adding, "That's not how the human body is meant to look."

Swanepoel revealed her skinny frame while modeling the lingerie line's new swimwear at Los Angeles' Mondrian Hotel. With stick-thin legs and a hollowed stomach, the once-curvy model stood out among her fellow Victoria's Secret angels. The 22-year-old South African looked significantly skinnier than she did in photos just two months ago, when she was the face of the company's Valentine's Day campaign.

In November, during New York's fashion week, Swanepoel told ABC News that she was having trouble keeping weight on.

"This year my problem has been more putting the weight on and getting muscle on because it's been really busy," she said. "I've been traveling around like crazy. I get skinnier if I'm very busy. I've been eating steak and everything, so I'm actually looking forward to eating some lighter food after this."

Last year, during a pre-Valentine's Day event, Swanepoel said food was the way to her heart.

"Usually my boyfriend cooks for me, which I really love," Swanepoel said, adding that pasta always wins points in her book. "It's really sexy."

Swanepoel also reflects what appears to be a shift by the fashion line away from its traditionally curvy models, like Tyra Banks, Claudia Schiffer, Gisele Bundchen and Heidi Klum, toward super-slim girls like Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Radiation in US Milk: What It Means

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Milk from America's West Coast containing trace amounts of radioactive iodine is safe to drink, health officials say.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration reported higher-than-normal levels of radioactive Iodine-131 in milk samples from California and Washington Wednesday. But the levels are 5,000 times below the danger threshold.

"These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children," the EPA said on its website.

A March 25 radiation reading from milk in Spokane, Wash. -- 0.8 picocuries per liter -- is more than 4,000 times less than that of a normal banana, which naturally contains radioactive potassium.

Agencies will continue to measure radiation levels in milk and other food products in the U.S. during Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis.

"Radioactivity levels in milk products are monitored, so it is unlikely that any significantly contaminated milk would make it to the marketplace," said Dr. Timothy Jorgensen, associate professor in the department of radiation medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center. "The U.S. population need not be concerned about this level of Iodine-131."

On March 28 the EPA reported very low levels of radiation in the air over Alaska, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Saipan, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Washington state.

On March 22, the FDA banned milk and produce imported from Japan's Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CDC Reports Biggest Birth Rate Drop in 30 Years

David De Lossy/Digital Vision(WASHINGTON) -- There has been a four percent drop in births in the U.S. from 2007 to 2009 -- the largest two-year decline in 30 years, according to a report released Thursday from the Center for Disease and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

"Certainly the economy and war have been two of the biggest influences on birth rate historically," said Paul Sutton, statistician and lead author of the report.

The number of births in the United States reached an all-time high of 4,316,233 in 2007. The subsequent decline, which shows no sign of leveling off, mirrors the country's ongoing economic crisis -- an observation consistent with other recessions.

"The two-year decline was notable, but not truly of historic proportions when compared with the large, extended fertility declines in the early 20th century and in the 1960s and early 1970s," the authors wrote.

After the Great Depression of the 1930s, the biggest drop in birth rate followed the post World War Two baby boom -- the so-called baby bust of the'60s and '70s.

The CDC report released Thursday breaks down birth data by maternal age, race and geographical location. And not surprisingly, the biggest drop occurred in states hit hardest by the recession, including Florida, Arizona and California.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


More Federal Funding for LGBT Research

Medioimages/Photodisc(WASHINGTON) -- In a landmark moment for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the Institute of Medicine on Thursday published a report for the National Institutes of Health emphasizing the need for more federally funded research on LGBT health problems.

Those in the LGBT community face rampant discrimination and misinformation when it comes to getting adequate health care. Gaps in practitioner education and overall gaps in available data on the needs, risks and concerns of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are identified in the IOM report.

The purpose of the report was to inform the National Institutes of Health on research needs, but many hope it will motivate a range of health care professionals to start collecting data and looking at the specific health problems facing lesbians, gays, bisexuals and lesbians, says Brian Moulton, chief legislative counsel of the Human Rights Campaign.

The report identifies dozens of health findings regarding LGBT health disparities, synthesizing more than 100 studies from the past decades on this topic.

Poor access to health insurance because of discrimination among employee-provided health care to spouses and domestic partners, high rates of mental health problems, including substance abuse, depression and thoughts of suicide, and increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases are just a few of the more pressing concerns identified in the report, says report committee member Judith Bradford, director of the Center or Population Research in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health at the Fenway Institute.

Less publicized health problems include a lack of LGBT training in medical schools, the special health risks experienced by elder LGBTs and a dearth of research into almost all areas of the transgender experience.

Many who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender recognize the IOM report as an enormous step in the direction of health care parity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Jersey Woman Sues, Can't Fully Blink After Eyelid Surgery

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(PARAMUS, N.J.) -- After cosmetic eyelid surgery left her incapable of fully closing her eyes, Marilyn Leisz said her life has been thrown into shambles.

When the lawsuit against her New Jersey plastic surgeon was all said and done, a jury on Wednesday awarded Leisz $115,000 -- an amount she called "a joke."

"The award given to me can't anywhere touch what has happened with my eyes," said Leisz of her medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Paul Parker, a cosmetic surgeon in Paramus, New Jersey.

"I'm not happy with the decision," she said.  "They didn't take into consideration what I go through everyday.  I expected around $500,000.  But even with that, nothing can really make up for it.  You can't put a price on your eyes."

In a statement, Parker said, "As a board certified plastic surgeon, over the past 25 years I have performed more than 10,000 surgical procedures.  Our practice is centered on compassion, attention-to-detail and superior patient care."

"We have thousands of happy patients who voice their satisfaction through the personal letters they send us and countless, unprompted positive reviews and testimonials they post online," the statement went on to say.

Leisz has had two other eye procedures in the past.  The first was meant to fix a congenital condition known as ptosis, where the muscles are not strong enough to hold up the lid, thus creating a droopy eyelid.  The second was cosmetic. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Government Issues Warning on Use of Water Walking Balls

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning Thursday, urging consumers to stay away from water walking balls, a popular recreational activity that encapsules people into giant inflatable spheres and lets them tread over water.

The commission essentially called the balls a death trap, saying, "We do not know of a safe way to use this product."  They said a combination of health risks could result from the product, including suffocation, drowning and impact injuries.

The CPSC said it's aware of two incidents involving recreational activity -- one in which a child was found unresponsive after being inside the sphere for a brief time, and another in which a person suffered a fracture when the ball fell and hit the ground.

Several states have already banned or refused to provide permits for the water walking balls, and now the commission is pushing for a nationwide ban.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Eating Disorders Not Just for White Teen Girls

Comstock/Thinkstock (MIAMI) -- At the peak of her eating disorder, Stephanie Covington Armstrong threw up 15 times a day. Any food in her stomach made her uncomfortable, and it was only when she vomited that "everything was right with the world," even if it was only five minutes until she would do it again. It was like crack, she said. Drugs and alcohol seemed messy but binging and purging offered that same high; the kind of high that would take away the self-hatred that constantly weighed her down.

For seven years, Armstrong's bulimia was her deepest secret. And as a black woman, Armstrong said, carrying the stigma of an eating disorder was even worse.

"There is that shame of not being a strong black woman," said Armstrong, a Los Angeles playwright and author of the book Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat. "People would ask me, 'What, do you want to be white or something?'"

More than 10 million Americans suffer from some kind of eating disorder, and many of them are not white, young or female, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, executive director of the Oliver-Pyatt Centers in Florida, said that, at any given time, at least half of her patients are not what society typically thinks of someone having an eating disorder: people older then 40, mothers, men and minorities.

"Minorities, men and older people have an even more difficult time," said Oliver-Pyatt, speaking on behalf of the National Eating Disorders Association. "It's almost culturally accepted for a young white woman to have an eating disorder."

Oliver-Pyatt said that many older female patients who come to her clinic actually did not fully recover from an eating disorder in their early years. She said many of this subgroup of women had a bad experience while receiving treatment for their condition in their 20s and teens. And now, many of these women fly under the doctor's radar for eating disorders.

"A couple years ago, treatment was very institutional-based," Oliver-Pyatt said. "They had a bad experience and were afraid to receive further treatment."

More than one million men and boys battle eating disorders every day, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. And, many doctors argue, the stigma for a man is worse than that of teenage girl.

While many people say that eating disorders are a way of responding to lack of control in one's life, Oliver-Pyatt said, such an explanation is oversimplifying the seriousness of the illness.

If you or someone you know might suffer from an eating disorder, contact the Information and Referral Helpline at the National Eating Disorder Association by calling (800) 931-2237.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Are School Allergy Policies Going Too Far?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(EDGEWATER, Fla.) -- Until recently, students in an Edgewater, Fla., elementary school were required to rinse their mouths out twice daily at school to avoid spreading peanut residue to a first-grade student with a severe peanut allergy.

Teachers had to monitor the mouth rinsing and frequent hand washing and ensure surfaces were continually swabbed with Clorox. The school banned all peanut products, eliminated snacks in the classroom and forbade outside food at holiday parties. A peanut-sniffing dog patrolled the school halls.

All this proved too much for parents, who said the requirements went too far. The battle culminated last Thursday when parents stormed the school, holding up picket signs that read "Our Kids Have Rights Too!"

Most situations don't boil over into angry confrontations as they did in Florida, but changing school policies to accommodate children with allergies is definitely becoming a bone of contention in many school districts. Parents complain that allergy-aware policies created extra expense, forcing them to buy pricier foods. Soy butter and sunflower butter, two peanut butter alternatives, can cost up to twice as much as the real thing.

In one school district, the hostility reached a boiling point when the family of a peanut-allergic child was spotted at the local Walmart bakery that used peanut oil. People began to openly question the necessity of a ban on a favorite low-cost food to oblige the one child.

No one doubts that food allergy-aware policies can be lifesavers for children who depend on them. Aimee Kandrac, whose son Elliot has several severe food allergies, said she does not like inconveniencing other families but without her vigiliance her son could wind up in the hospital, or worse. Her son's school has been generally responsive to his needs, and most of the other parents have been understanding. But not all.

Kendrac said she tries not to come off as an overprotective, hysterical mom but worried that her son might feel ostracized because of his allergies. He was sometimes excluded from birthday parties because, as a friend privately confided, other parents didn't feel like dealing with his food issues.

The prevalence of food allergies among children under the age of 18 is about four percent, and has risen about 18 percent in the past decade, according to the most recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. Children with food allergies are two to four times more likely to have other related conditions, such as asthma, and other allergies, compared with children who don't have food allergies. From 2004 to 2006, there were approximately 9,500 hospital discharges a year with a diagnosis related to food allergies among children younger than 18.

"Anyone who has a serious food allergy risks having an anaphylaxis reaction when exposed to the allergen. Therefore, it's reasonable for schools to take the proper precautions," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, a board certified allergist and president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Besides, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, schools are legally obligated to protect children who have allergies against discrimination. Fineman emphasized that policies must be reasonable and practical. Equally important, they need to have scientific validity.

The most updated guidelines for coping with food allergies may be found on the ACAAI website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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