Health Highlights: July 21, 2010

By on July 21, 2010

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Cost of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Up 54% Since 2000

Between 2000 and 2009, the average annual premium for family health coverage provided by employers increased about 54 percent, from an average of $8,437 (adjusted for inflation) to $13,027, says a new U.S. government report.

During that time, the average yearly premium for single plan coverage rose 41 percent, from $3,308 to $4,669, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The analysis of data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey also found:

  • Half of the 59 million workers enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans had single coverage, 30.5 percent had family coverage, and nearly one-fifth had employee-plus-one coverage, which covers the worker plus one family member for a lower premium than full family coverage.
  • Among the 10 largest states, New York had the highest average premiums, ranging from $13,757 for family plans to $5,121 for single coverage. Ohio had the lowest average premiums, ranging from $11,870 for family coverage to $4,261 for single coverage.
  • Average annual worker contributions to premiums were $3,474 for family coverage (26.7 percent of the total cost), $2,363 for employee-plus-one coverage (26.1 percent of the total cost), and $957 for single coverage (20.5 percent of the total cost).
  • About 21 percent of workers with single coverage, 11 percent with family coverage, and 10 percent with employee-plus-one coverage paid nothing toward their health insurance premium.

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Chicken Nuggets Sold at Wal-Mart May Contain Plastic Pieces

More than 91,000 pounds of frozen chicken nuggets sold at Wal-Mart are being recalled because they may contain pieces of plastic.

The recall is for 1 lb., 13 oz. bags of “Great Value Fully Cooked Chicken Nuggets” distributed by Perdue Farms Inc., said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, reported CBS News and the Associated Press.

The recall was ordered after Perdue found small pieces of blue plastic in the chicken nuggets after receiving consumer complaints.

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Questions Raised About Reprogrammed Adult Stem Cells

Reprogrammed adult stem cells may not offer an alternative to embryonic stem cells, according to new research.

Scientists believe that reprogrammed adult stem cells (called induced pluripotent stem cells) can be used as blank cells that can become any other type of cell. The new cells could then be used in stem cell treatments and for laboratory research.

Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston genetically engineered adult cells in mice to imitate embryonic stem cells but found that the reprogrammed cells retained characteristics of the tissue they once were, ABC News reported.

“We’re finding that there’s a subtle memory of where the [adult] cells came from,” said Dr. George Daley, director of the stem cell transplantation program at Children’s Hospital Boston.

“We thought we could reset [blood cells] so we can make a bone tissue or other tissue types, and realized it did not make a bone tissue as well. But it did well going back to a blood cell,” Daley told ABC News.

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California Whooping Cough Outbreak May Be Worst in 50 Years

Children, pregnant women and elderly people in California should get vaccinated against whooping cough in order to protect them against what may be the worst epidemic of the contagious disease in the state in 50 years, warn health officials.

So far this year, nearly 1,500 whooping cough (pertussis) cases have been reported in California, nearly five times the number of cases last year, said state epidemiologist Dr. Gil Chavez, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Five infants, all under three months old, have died of whooping cough so far this year and a sixth infant death was still being investigated Monday.

Chavez said that babies younger than six months are at greatest risk because even those who’ve been vaccinated against whooping cough have yet to develop immunity, the Times reported.

Three-quarters of infants who get whooping cough are infected by someone in their home, said Dr. Dean Blumberg, an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis.

“That’s why it’s important to make sure their siblings and caregivers are protected,” he told the Times.

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