Health Highlights: Feb. 12, 2010

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

Jury Acquits Texas Nurse In Whistleblower Case

A Texas nurse charged with a third-degree felony for reporting that a doctor at her hospital was practicing unsafe medicine was found not guilty Thursday.

After a four-day trial, it took the jury only an hour to acquit Anne Mitchell, who faced a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000 if found guilty, The New York Times reported.

The prosecution alleged that Mitchell -- at the time a nurse at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit -- illegally used her position to obtain and disseminate confidential information (patient file numbers) in her letter to the state medical board in an attempt to harm Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr.

This went against state law, which requires that reports of misconduct be made in good faith, according to the prosecution, The Times reported.

However, in a unanimous vote on the first ballot, the jury of six men and six women found Mitchell innocent. After the verdict, Mitchell said she was only trying to protect her patients.

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Applegate Farms Sausage Recalled

More than 1,400 pounds of Applegate Farms-brand sausage are being recalled because of possible contamination with plastic material, says the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The recall is for 12-ounce packages of "Applegate Farms Certified Organic Fire Roasted Red Pepper Fully Cooked Chicken & Turkey Sausage," with a "use by/freeze by" date of February 28, 2010, United Press International reported.

The FSIS said the recalled sausages were distributed in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and Texas.

For more information, consumers can contact the company -- Schmalz European Provisions of Springfield, N.J. -- at 800-587-5858, UPI reported.

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Health Insurer Explains Hefty Rate Hike

Rising medical costs and a change in demographics are the reasons why some California clients will have their Anthem Blue health insurance premiums increase by 39 percent, parent company WellPoint said Thursday.

The explanation comes in response to federal government questions and an announcement that the rate hike will be the focus of a Congressional hearing scheduled for Feb. 24, the Associated Press and CBS News reported.

Angela Braly, president and CEO of WellPoint Inc., has been called to testify at the hearing.

According to WellPoint, healthy people are buying cheaper plans or dropping coverage. That has reduced revenue available to cover claims and led to a 2009 loss for Anthem Blue. WellPoint added that a minority of customers will be hit with a 39 percent increase in their premiums, the AP and CBS News reported.

Earlier this week, California Insurance Commissioner Steven Poizner announced the inquiry into the rate hike.

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Posted: February 2010


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