July 31st, 2012
02:50 PM ET
Beginning Wednesday, all new health insurance plans will be required to provide eight preventive health benefits to women for free.
The benefits include contraceptives, breast-feeding supplies and screenings for gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted infections and domestic violence, as well as routine check-ups for breast and pelvic exams, Pap tests and prenatal care.
The services are a requirement of the health care reform law Congress passed in 2010. A new report released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services estimates 47 million women are in health plans that must offer the new benefits.
“Women will be able to have access to essential preventive services that will provide early detection and screening for those situations where they’re most at risk, and also provide opportunities to care and services that they need as wives and mothers,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, said at a press conference Monday.
An additional 14 free preventative service benefits for women have already taken effect as a requirement of health care reform, including mammograms to screen for breast cancer in women over 40 and screenings for osteoporosis in women over age 60.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius trumpeted the need for the reforms.
“Before the health care law, many insurers didn’t even cover basic women’s health care. Other care plans charged such high copayments that they discouraged many women from getting basic preventive services. So as a result, surveys show that more than half of the women in this country delayed or avoided preventive care because of its cost,” Sebelius said Monday. “That’s simply not right.”
Not all insured women will have access to the new services. Certain insurance plans that existed prior to the passage of health care reform may have “grandfathered” status and may be exempt from offering the benefits.
“You may or may not have them offered to you, and if they’re offered, you may have to pay cost sharing. In other words, you may have to pay a portion of the costs,” said Gary Claxton, a vice president on health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s not immediately clear how many women are in such plans. A 2011 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 56% of covered workers are in “grandfathered” plans. Experts anticipate the number of those plans will shrink as significant changes are made to them, resulting in a loss of “grandfathered” status.
Women can call their employers to ask whether they are in “grandfathered” health insurance plans, Claxton said.
July 31st, 2012
09:15 AM ET
Sixteen people have died so far from the Ebola outbreak that began earlier this month in Western Uganda. According to the World Health Organization, the first case is believed to be from the Nyanswiga village in Nyamarunda, a sub-county of the Kibaale district of Uganda.
So far, 36 suspected cases have been reported, WHO spokesman Tariq Jasarevic said Tuesday. Nine of the deaths are reported to have occurred in one household; a health official who was treating one of the patients also died. Unfortunately family members and health officials - those caring for the already sickened - are the most likely to be infected as well.
When was Ebola first discovered?
The Ebola virus was first detected in 1976 in the central African nation of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The virus is named after a river in that country, where the first outbreak of the disease was found. There are five species of Ebola viruses, all named after the areas they were found in: Zaire, Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire, Bundibugyo and Reston, according to the WHO. (There can be different strains of Ebola within each species).
July 30th, 2012
12:19 PM ET
The father of Aimee Copeland says while it is far from easy, his daughter is making great strides as she undergoes physical therapy. The 24-year-old woman lost part of four limbs to a flesh-eating bacteria in May after a zip line accident over a river in western Georgia.
"During each of her physical therapy sessions, Aimee does 200 crunches in 7 minutes," writes Andy. "At this point, I have to pause and ask a simple question: How many of you can do 200 crunches in 7 minutes?"
July 28th, 2012
03:10 PM ET
In the wake of the suicide of former New England Patriot and San Diego Charger Junior Seau, the National Football League launched the NFL Life Line this week. The Life Line is an around-the-clock crisis support line to help current and former players, as well as their families, in times of need.
In a letter to NFL personnel and fans announcing the program, Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote, “There is no higher priority for the National Football League than the health and wellness of our players.”
The phone line will be independently run from the NFL, and all calls will be kept confidential.
“It’s a relief that that’s going to be there,” said Shannon Jordan, president of Gridiron Greats, a program devoted to helping retired NFL players in need get financial and medical assistance.
As talk of mental health issues become more mainstream in the football community, Jordan is sure that more players will be willing to reach out for help.
On the NFL’s Life Line website, a series of video messages from players including Michael Irvin and Brett Favre emphasize it’s OK to ask for help.
In one video, titled “To My Brothers,” Irvin says, “We have to share with one another.”
The NFL teamed up with national mental health organizations such as the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to implement the program.
Dr . Tim Lineberry, a psychiatrist with the Mayo Clinic and suicide prevention specialist, hopes the message will be felt beyond the football field. “The NFL is such a big part of American life,” he said. “I think it might have potential impact on others.”
Seau committed suicide in May. He was 43.
July 27th, 2012
02:54 PM ET
Dr. Scott Zahn was one of six CNN viewers chosen to be a part of the 2011 Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. He trained with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and raced the New York City Triathlon on August 7 of last year. Since then, Zahn has kept up his new healthy lifestyle and plans to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with this year's team.
As the CNN Fit Nation Lucky 7 continues to prepare for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, another group has just completed their journey.
I was lucky enough to be a member of the 2011 CNN Fit Nation 6-Pack and complete the New York City Triathlon. My trainers and I wanted to bring that experience back to Green Bay and recreate the CNN program.
This was the birth of the Aurora BayCare LiveFit Triathlon Challenge. We took applications from employees of the company, picked six and created our own Six-Pack. The goal was the 2012 Green Bay sprint triathlon.
July 27th, 2012
09:27 AM ET
Your check really might be in the mail.
By August 1, health insurance companies have to refund $1.1 billion in premiums to about 12.8 million customers, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
The "80/20 rule" in the ACA mandates that health insurers spend at least 80% of their customers' premiums on health services, leaving no more than 20% for administrative costs and advertising. That means if an insurance company spends 78% of the money it collects on health benefits for customers, it has to send rebate checks for the additional 2%.
"The 80/20 rule in the Affordable Care Act is intended to ensure that consumers get value for their health care dollars," a letter accompanying the refund checks says.
July 25th, 2012
06:05 PM ET
The Senate Commerce Committee bashed drug distributors for up-charging patients at a hearing Wednesday about the “grey-market” for short-supply drugs.
The “grey market” is the second-hand market, where drugs, frequently in short supply, are re-distributed and sold by various distributors and wholesalers.
It’s an already dire situation for many patients in need. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, drug shortages have increased nearly 300% since 2005. Many of the drugs on this list are cancer treatments. The “grey market” only exacerbates the price and the shortage issue.
July 24th, 2012
01:54 PM ET
Thousands are gathering in Washington this week for the International AIDS Conference - the first time in 22 years the conference is being held in the United States, thanks to the lifting of a ban that forbade people with HIV from entering the country.
The conference is bringing the world's largest assembly of experts together to discuss the latest developments regarding HIV/AIDS. One of the problems they'll address is the much higher rate of HIV infection among black men who have sex with men.
An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States live with HIV, and one in five of those people are unaware, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. African American men who have sex with men carry the most severe burden of HIV in the U.S., accounting for 44% of all new HIV cases in the U.S.
July 24th, 2012
12:18 PM ET
The Malibu Nautica Triathlon is only 8 weeks away, and as you can imagine, we have all picked up the training.
Personally, I have been working hard to improve my endurance, while also trying to increase that elusive speed (remember speed is a relative term). I have also been practicing my bike-to-run transition, and brick training - where you go straight to the run after getting off the bike. I am not sure where the term brick comes from, but in my experience the term brick is how my legs feel when I start my run after hopping off the bike.
In Minnesota, just as in much of the nation, it has been an incredibly hot and humid summer. I can’t remember the last time the high temperature was below 90 degrees and the humidity has been consistently stifling.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.