health

What insurers offer to spouses in a traditional marriage, they must make available to same-sex couples, the federal government said Friday.

The change means that same-sex couples, who haven't been able to buy family health policies, will be able to do so now.

"It's a big deal," says Katie Keith, director of research at the Trimpa Group, a consulting firm that works on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. "If you identify as married, it's hard to stomach that you can't get family coverage."

A Kentucky Congressman is pushing legislation to force the withdrawal of a powerful painkiller from the market.

Somerset Republican Hal Rogers says the drug will only worsen the nation’s prescription drug abuse problems. Rogers describes Zohydro as a “crushable, pure hydrocodone pill” that threatens to become the next Oxycontin, another crushable painkiller that has been widely abused across the nation.

The Courier-Journal reports a single Zohydro pill has up to five times more hydrocodone that medications combined with non-addictive drugs, such as Vicodin.

In addition to the U.S. House legislation, a similar measure has been introduced in the Senate.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has defended her agency’s approval of Zohydro, saying that the drug doesn’t contain the same risk of potentially fatal liver damage that is found in other pain-killing narcotics.

Over 40 consumer watchdog groups have petitioned the FDA to pull Zohydro off the market.

Many of us will happily eat a gummy bear or cookie after it falls on the floor, as long as we snatch it up quickly. Say, five seconds or less, right?

Well, science just gave us another excuse to continue this food-saving habit, especially when it comes to carpet-dusted snacks.

Biology students at the Aston University in Birmingham, U.K., measured how quickly two common bacteria hop aboard foods dropped on tiles, linoleum and carpet.

The vast majority of Kentucky's health benefit exchange enrollees are signing up for coverage under Medicaid.

Numbers released Thursday by the state show 80 percent of those who have signed up for medical coverage through Kentucky's benefit exchange have done so through the expanded Medicaid program. The remaining 20 percent will get coverage through private insurance companies.

Kentucky has enrolled nearly 300,000 people so far in its health exchange, known as Kynect. Deputy Executive Director Bill Nold says officials are pleased with the number of young Kentuckians who have signed up through the exchange.

"If you look at our total enrollment, about 48 percent are under the age of 35," Nold said.

Health exchange operators throughout the nation have been concerned that not enough younger, healthier people would sign up for coverage before the March 31 deadline.

Those younger customers are needed to subsidize health care for older and less healthy individuals.

Sign Up Saturday

To avoid a tax penalty in 2015, people must have signed up for insurance by the end of March, or at least be insured for nine months of the year.

Many of us can barely make it through the morning without first downing a cup of hot coffee. It's become such a big part of our daily rituals that few actually give much thought to what it is that we're putting in our bodies.

To help us break down the little-known things about caffeine, NPR's David Greene spoke with Murray Carpenter, author of Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts and Hooks Us. These are the things you probably aren't thinking about as you wait in line at your local coffee shop.

Caffeine is a drug. Treat it as such.

A major deadline looms at the end of the month for Kentuckians still seeking health insurance. 

March 31 is the last day until November to sign up for insurance on Kynect, the state’s online health exchange.

"They would not be able to enroll in coverage again until the next open enrollment  period which, right now, we understand to be starting November 15 for effective dates of coverage of January 1, 2015," explains Janie Miller, CEO of Kentucky Health Cooperative.  "So basically for the remainder of this year they would not be able to get coverage for themselves or their family."

There will be exceptions for qualifying events such as marriage or job changes.   

According to the state, 279,601 people had obtained health coverage on the exchange, including 222,719 individuals who enrolled in Medicaid and 56,882 individuals who picked up private insurance as of last Friday.

While electronic cigarettes may be marketed as alternatives that will keep teenagers away from tobacco, a study suggests that may not be the case.

Trying e-cigarettes increased the odds that a teenager would also try tobacco cigarettes and become regular smokers, the study found. Those who said they had ever used an e-cigarette were six times more likely to try tobacco than ones who had never tried the e-cig.

The teenager's brain has a lot of developing to do: It must transform from the brain of a child into the brain of an adult. Some researchers worry how marijuana might affect that crucial process.

"Actually, in childhood our brain is larger," says Krista Lisdahl, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. "Then, during the teenage years, our brain is getting rid of those connections that weren't really used, and it prunes back.

Rita Wooten holds up her smartphone and plays a video: her three-year-old son, Eli, clad in a diaper, writhes on a couch, his limbs twitching, his lips a pale shade of blue.

Eli has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, or LGS, a rare neurological disorder that causes chronic seizures.Wooton says her son has suffered thousands of them, causing extensive brain damage.

Wooton testified before the Senate Health & Welfare Committee Wednesday in support of a measure filed by Sen. Julie Denton that would permit state universities to research and ultimately prescribe the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound derived from the cannabis plant that is believed to successfully treat certain neurological disorders.

“Our neurologist told us two weeks ago..she said ‘Rita, try this CBD oil and see if it’ll help’. I said we can’t because it’s not legal in our state. I said we’re looking at going to Colorado. We shouldn’t have to leave our homes and our families and our jobs to seek treatment for him.”

The bill passed the committee by a 9-1 vote.

I am 51 years old and have had a yearly mammogram, more or less, since the age of 40.

I got them despite the fact that there is no history of breast cancer in my family. I did it because that was what my doctor and others, including the American Cancer Society, recommended.

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in situ breast cancer after a screening mammogram. I underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy. The doctors say my prognosis is good.

With a bit more than a month left for people to sign up for health insurance plans set up under the Affordable Care Act, the federal website known as HealthCare.gov finally seems to be working smoothly — in 36 states.

But what's happening in the 14 states that are running their own exchanges?

Gov. Steve Beshear has announced a new initiative aimed at improving Kentucky’s health outcomes over the next five years.

‘KyHealthNow’ (Kentucky Health Now) will seek to improve Kentuckians’ health in the areas of smoking, obesity, cancer, heart disease and more by 10 percent.

Beshear says the initiative will piggyback off of the success of the state’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, which has enrolled over 240,000 people across the commonwealth.

“We want to reduce Kentucky’s rate of uninsured individuals to less than five percent," the Governor said Thursday. "The link between access to affordable health care and good health is clear, it’s direct, it’s indisputable.”

Beshear says  the initiative will  coordinate executive and legislative actions, as well as public private partnerships.

Kentucky ranks among the worst states for rates of smoking, cancer deaths and heart attacks.

January was a miserable month for weather, but the wintry blasts in much of the country weren't enough to stop people from shopping for health insurance.

More than 1.1 million people signed up for coverage through state and federal health exchanges in January, according to a just-released report, bringing the total to just shy of 3.3 million people.

A new Bluegrass Poll shows a majority of Kentuckians are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

According to the poll, 52 percent of those surveyed favor legalizing medical marijuana in the commonwealth, while 37 percent are opposed.

It’s the second year in a row a Bluegrass Poll has shown strong support for legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Last year’s poll asked Kentuckians if they supported “prescribed” medical marijuana, and 60 percent responded favorably. This year’s poll dropped the word “prescribed.”

Medical marijuana proponents in Kentucky say the poll shows the effort is gaining momentum, though changes to state law seem unlikely during this year’s General Assembly.

The Bluegrass Poll was conducted January 30 through February 3 by SurveyUSA, and included the responses of 1,082 Kentuckians. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

The drug company Merck, maker of the NuvaRing contraceptive, says it will pay out $100 million to settle thousands of liability lawsuits from women who say they were harmed by using the product.

These women say that the birth control method put them at greater risk of life-threatening blood clots, and that they were not adequately warned of that risk.

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