Health Highlights: July 28, 2010

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

White House OKs Limited Enrollment Periods For Children’s Health Insurance

Private insurers can establish limited sign-up periods for a new kind of coverage available to children regardless of any medical problems, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said Wednesday.

The announcement is a concession to insurers, who were concerned the new federal health law would permit parents to enroll their children while they were experiencing a health crisis, the Associated Press reported.

But the Obama administration says insurers can limit the sign-up for insurance to an “open enrollment” period. For example, the enrollment period may be December 1 to December 31 for plans that start January 1.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said it’s “extremely pleased” with the federal government’s decision, the AP reported.


Major Differences Between States In Rates Of Uninsured

There are huge state-by-state differences in the rates of people without health insurance, reveal new 2007 U.S. census data released Tuesday.

Massachusetts had the lowest rate (about 7.8 percent) of uninsured people under age 65, while the highest rates were in Texas (26.8 percent), New Mexico (26.7 percent) and Florida (24.2 percent), the Washington Post reported.

Other rates included 11.9 percent in Washington, D.C., 14.5 percent in Maryland, and 15 percent in Virginia.

The statistics include those with private and public insurance but don’t reflect the impact of the recent recession, in which millions of people lost their jobs and health insurance.

The data suggest there will be big differences between states in the expected impact of the new health care law, which will require all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or be hit with a penalty tax, the Post reported.


Cost Of Treating Back Problems Doubles Over 10 Years: Report

The cost of treating Americans’ back problems increased from $16 billion in 1997 to more than $30.5 billion in 2007, says a federal government report released Wednesday. The figures are in 2007 dollars.

In 2007, nearly 12 percent of adults age 18 and older (about 27 million people) reported having back problems. Of those, more than 19 million sought medical treatment, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Among the other findings from the analysis of data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey:

  • In 2007, $18 billion was spent on physicians, chiropractors and physical therapists for ambulatory care and $4.5 billion was spent on prescription drugs. In 1997, those amounts were $9.3 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively.
  • Hospital care, emergency room visits, and home health services accounted for the remaining expenses in 1997 and 2007.
  • In 2007, the average among spent for treatment of back problems was $1,589 per adult — $1,146 for ambulatory care and $446 for prescription drugs.
  • Out-of-pocket payments by patients accounted for about 17 percent of the total spent in 2007 for treatment of back problems. The remainder was paid by private insurance (45 percent), Medicare (23 percent), and other sources such as workers’ compensation (15 percent).


Major Food Safety Violations At Many U.S. Stadiums

Mold on ice, mouse droppings and cockroaches crawling on soda dispensers are among the health code violations found at some of the biggest sporting venues across the United States.

The sports network ESPN examined health department inspection reports from 2009 for food and beverage concessions at all 107 professional sports arenas and stadiums in the country, FoxNews reported.

The analysis revealed that at 30 of the venues, more than half the food stands or restaurants had been cited for at least one “critical” or “major” health violation.

The worst venues were the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., the Tropicana Field in Florida, and six other stadiums in the Sunshine State, FoxNews reported.

The findings tell “consumers that they should be very concerned about some of the food that they are eating and purchasing in a lot of these stadiums,” Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, told ESPN.


BPA Found On Cash Register Receipts: Study

High levels of the estrogen-like chemical bisphenol A (BPA) were found on 40 percent of 36 cash register receipts collected from a number of major U.S. businesses, says an environmental group.

BPA is a plastic hardener that’s been linked to diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer and other health problems. The chemical reacts with dye to form a black print on receipts, USA Today reported.

“A typical employee at any large retailer who runs the register could handle hundreds of the contaminated receipts in a single day at work,” said Jane Houlihan, senior vice president for research at the Environmental Working Group, based in Washington, D.C.

The group said it’s not clear how much BPA could be absorbed into the body by handling cash register receipts, USA Today reported.