Health Highlights: Feb. 14, 2014
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Many People Didn't Pay First Health Insurance Plan Premiums
About 20 percent of Americans who enrolled in health insurance plans under the new health care law did not have coverage in January because they did not pay their initial premiums, according to industry officials.
Under the law, consumers have to pay the first premium in order for their coverage to take effect. Due to difficulties with the introduction of the new insurance enrollment system, federal officials asked insurers to give customers more time to make the first payment, and many did so, the The New York Times reported.
Despite those extensions, many people missed the first payment.
About 80 percent of consumers who signed up for plans with Blue Shield of California made their initial payment by the due date of Jan. 15, and about 70 percent of people who enrolled in plans with Aetna paid their first premiums on time, according to spokespeople for the companies, The Times reported.
The number of customers who paid their first installments by the due date was 76 percent at WellPoint, 75 percent at Humana, and about 80 percent at Health Care Service Corporation, which offers Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Texas and three other states.
There could be a number of reasons why some people didn't make their first payments on insurance plans. These include deciding they didn't want the plan, not receiving an invoice or receiving it late, or not being able to get through besieged health plan line phone lines, The Times reported.
Federal officials said they don't know how many people who signed up for coverage had paid their initial premiums because the part of the computer system needed to pay insurers hasn't been completed.
Put Health Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks: California Lawmaker
A California lawmaker wants the state to become the first to have health warning labels on sodas and other sugary beverages.
The proposed bill is supported by the California Medical Association, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, and a number of other groups, the Associated Press reported.
Democratic Sen. William Monning wants all drinks that have sweeteners and contain 75 or more calories in every 12 ounces to carry the following label: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay."
Monning noted that there is extensive evidence showing the connection between sugary drinks and those health problems, and added that the wording on the warning label was developing by a national panel of public health and nutrition experts, the AP reported.
A similar type of bill is being considered in Vermont.
Bill Allowing Child Euthanasia Passed in Belgium
Belgian lawmakers have passed a bill that allows terminally ill children to request euthanasia.
The nation's parliament passed the bill in an 86-44 vote, with 12 abstentions. It's expected to be signed into law by the king and will make Belgium the first country in the world to remove any age restrictions on requests for euthanasia, BBC News reported.
Belgium has allowed euthanasia for people older than 18 since 2002.
Before euthanasia is considered, a child must be terminally ill and face extreme physical suffering and make repeated requests to die. Parents, doctors and psychiatrists would have to be in agreement before a decision is made.
Supporters of the move say it will affect only a small number of youngsters, while opponents say children are not equipped to make such a difficult decision, BBC News reported.
Global Effort to Reduce Infectious Disease Risk Announced
An international effort to reduce the risk of infectious disease was announced Thursday.
Over the next five years, the United States will work with at least 30 other countries and three global groups -- the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health -- to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats worldwide.
The Global Health Security Agenda seeks to counter natural threats and those caused by accidental or intentional releases of dangerous germs.
"While we have made great progress in fighting and treating diseases, biological threats can emerge anywhere, travel quickly, and take lives," Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said in a U.S. government news release.
"The recent outbreaks of H7N9 influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome are reminders of the need to step up our efforts as a global community. The Global Health Security Agenda is about accelerating progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats," she explained.
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