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Mitt Romney's health care plan: Pre-existing conditions
Mitt Romney says he'll "prevent discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage."
August 28th, 2012
10:30 AM ET

Mitt Romney's health care plan: Pre-existing conditions

The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

This week during the Republican convention I’ll be dissecting Mitt Romney’s health care plan, examining what it means to various groups of American patients.

Monday, we put preventive care under the microscope. Tuesday, we're looking at Romney's plan for helping people with pre-existing conditions - anything from back pain to cancer to diabetes - who have often been denied insurance  or asked to pay exorbitant premiums.

Obamacare requires insurance companies to sell policies to people with pre-existing conditions without charging a higher premium.

Romney has vowed he would act to repeal Obamacare on his first day as president. Instead, he says he would "prevent discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage," according to his website.

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Mitt Romney's health care plan
Mitt Romney has said that if elected president, he would repeal Obamacare "on my first day."
August 27th, 2012
10:18 AM ET

Mitt Romney's health care plan

The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

This week during the Republican National Convention, I’ll be dissecting Mitt Romney’s health care plan, examining what it means to various groups of American patients.

First under the microscope: Preventive care.

Romney said he would act to repeal Obamacare “on my first day if elected president of the United States.” The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, requires insurers to provide free preventive services such as mammograms, immunizations, and cholesterol checks. Patients will not have to pay a co-pay or meet a deductible.

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Older fathers may be linked to child autism
As many as 20 to 30% of cases of autism and schizophrenia may be because of the father’s advanced age, a new study found.
August 23rd, 2012
05:33 PM ET

Older fathers may be linked to child autism

The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

Women aren’t the only ones whose biological clocks are ticking: A new study on the genetics of autism finds the sperm of older men may be to blame for many cases of the disorder.

The study, done by researchers in Iceland, indicates that as many as 20-30% of cases of autism and schizophrenia may be linked to the father’s advanced age.  Unlike findings on disorders such as Down Syndrome, this study found that the age of the mother made no difference.

“This is really a paradigm shift,” said Dr. Jamie Grifo, program director of the New York University Fertility Center.

Traditionally, women have borne the brunt of concerns about having a healthy child as they age, while many men have assumed their sperm were no different at 80 than at 20.

“I had my babies at 38 and 39 and I was terrified,” said anchor Ashleigh Banfield on CNN Newsroom. “Honey, you’re in the conversation now. It’s not just me.”

Video: Older fathers may be linked to autism

While older men have an increased risk of fathering a child with autism, the risk is still low – 2% at the most for dads over 40, according to the new study.

The authors looked at random mutations in genes that are linked to autism and schizophrenia. Looking at 78 families, the researchers found that on average, a child born to a 20-year-old father had 25 random mutations that could be traced to the father’s genes. Children born to 40-year-old fathers had 65 mutations.

As men age, "Sperm will have acquired more mutations than when they were younger, which will increase the chance of children they father inheriting a disease-producing mutation,” said Richard Sharpe, who does research on male reproductive health at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh.

One scientist said men might want to take a tip from some young women who freeze their eggs to use when they’re older.

“Collecting the sperm of young adult men and cold-storing for later use could be a wise individual decision,” wrote Alexey Kondrashov, a professor who studies evolution at the University of Michigan’s Life Sciences Institute.

With autism, no longer invisible


Some women get new benefits under Obamacare
Beginning Wednesday, all new insurance plans are required to provide eight preventive benefits to women for free.
July 31st, 2012
02:50 PM ET

Some women get new benefits under Obamacare

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.

10 lesser known effects of the health care law

“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.


A medical home makeover begins
July 3rd, 2012
11:14 AM ET

A medical home makeover begins

Editor's note: Flesh-eating bacteria almost killed Aimee Copeland. Now, after two months in the hospital, she's moving to a rehab facility to continue her recovery. Erin Burnett talks to the 24-year-old's parents about their daughter’s ordeal and her inspirational attitude, tonight at 7 p.m. ET on CNN.

Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia woman who lost most of her hands, one of her legs and her remaining foot after a flesh-eating bacteria infection, now faces the daunting task of learning how to live her life without her full limbs.

Aimee was released from the hospital Monday and has started physical therapy near her home in Snellville, Georgia. Her father, Andy, says the therapy will take six to eight weeks.

In the meantime, Andy and his wife, Donna, are rapidly giving the house Aimee has lived in since she was 6 years old a medical home makeover.
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Finding clues to Alzheimer’s in DNA
July 2nd, 2012
05:13 PM ET

Finding clues to Alzheimer’s in DNA

In what's being described as the largest, most complete genetic mapping project for a single disease, scientists Monday announced a plan to obtain the genetic make-up of more than 800 individuals enrolled in an Alzheimer’s research study.

The research will determine all 6 billion letters in each individual’s DNA. The new data – vast and shared worldwide with eligible researchers – may explain how genes cause changes in the body that lead people to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s probably dozens or scores of genes that are contributing to whether you get it and how severe it is in you,” said Dr. Robert Green, a physician-scientist at Harvard Medical School who is tasked with coordinating the genetic sequencing. “The genome is a complicated place. It’s not just about identifying a gene that puts you at risk. It’s about identifying other genes that modify those genes. It’s about identifying genes that protect you.”
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Low carb, high protein diets linked to women's heart disease
June 27th, 2012
07:13 AM ET

Low carb, high protein diets linked to women's heart disease

Women who regularly cut back on carbohydrates and eat high amounts of protein are at increased risk of heart disease, concludes a study published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.

To gauge the impact of the popular Atkins-style diets on women's hearts, researchers in Greece turned to a food survey completed by more than 43,000 women in Sweden. The women, who were between 30 and 49 years old, recorded the frequency and quantities of food they ate over six months in 1991 and 1992.

Using the survey, researchers calculated which women were eating the least amount of carbohydrates and the most amount of protein. The women were then followed for 15 years on average to see who became diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. The women's food habits were not tracked long-term but did provide researchers a snapshot in time.
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CT scans for children linked to increased cancer risk
June 6th, 2012
06:30 PM ET

CT scans for children linked to increased cancer risk

CT scans expose children to radiation that could give them cancer, according to a  review of children’s imaging data published Wednesday in the British medical journal Lancet.

The researchers estimate that for every 10,000 computed tomography scans performed on children aged 10 or younger, one additional child will get a brain tumor and another additional child will get leukemia within a decade of the first scan. These cancers wouldn’t otherwise be expected, even if none of the imaging was done.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute and Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University in England say their investigation is the first direct evidence of such a link.  They reviewed 175,000 cases.

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Dick Clark died a day after prostate surgery
Dick Clark had a heart attack just a day after having prostate surgery, a procedure that an expert says is “exceedingly safe.”
April 24th, 2012
01:43 PM ET

Dick Clark died a day after prostate surgery

The Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver's seat when it comes to health care.

Hollywood producer and television legend Dick Clark died of a heart attack a day after having prostate surgery, according to a death certificate obtained by CNN.

Clark died last Wednesday at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. The day before his death, he had an operation to relieve “acute urinary retention,” an inability to urinate.

“It’s a very painful condition,” says Dr. Kevin McVary, professor of urology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

The operation is “exceedingly safe” according to McVary, a spokesman with the American Urological Association.

“The mortality rate is less than one in 1,000. That’s very low risk,” he says.
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FDA to livestock producers: Limit antibiotics
April 11th, 2012
03:38 PM ET

FDA to livestock producers: Limit antibiotics

For decades farmers have used antibiotics to improve food consumption rates and enhance the growth of otherwise healthy animals. The Food and Drug Administration wants farmers and animal producers to phase out such uses, concerned that they are undermining the fight against illness in humans.

On Wednesday the FDA asked the livestock industry to voluntarily limit the use of  medicines for treating, controlling and preventing specific diseases. It also asked drug manufacturers to make changes so that the antibiotics can only be prescribed by a veterinarian.

At issue is the ability to produce safe, inexpensive meat products versus protecting the human population from dangerous bacteria that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

Critics say the voluntary program doesn’t go far enough. And some animal producers in rural areas are concerned they might not have access to veterinarians to order the drugs.

Producers will have three years to phase in the guidance and the FDA says it will monitor compliance.


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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.

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