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Health Highlights: Jan. 23, 2019

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

Insulin Price More Than Doubles in U.S.

Some Americans with type 1 diabetes have cut back on their insulin usage as the cost of the lifesaving drug nearly doubled over a five-year period.

The annual amount that people with type 1 diabetes spent on the drug rose from about $2,900 in 2012 to about $5,700 in 2016, according to a new analysis from the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI), CBS News reported.

Those are gross amounts and don't factor in the use of rebates or coupons, which can reduce costs for some people.

The cost of living rose 6.5 percent between 2012 and 2016.

A study published last year found that more than one-quarter of people with diabetes said they reduced their use of insulin due to the rising cost. Doctors warn against cutting back on insulin usage, CBS News reported.

"There has been a flurry of news reports sharing stories of individuals with diabetes rationing their insulin because they cannot afford higher and higher prices," according to HCCI.

"These anecdotes are consistent with findings of researchers documenting price increases on diabetic therapies, specifically insulin, over the last several years," the institute said.

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U.S. Government Shutdown Putting Workers' Health at Risk

The U.S. government shutdown could pose a risk to the health of some employees who aren't receiving paychecks.

Even though they still have health insurance benefits during the partial shutdown that's lasted just over a month so far, the lack of pay makes it difficult to afford some health needs and medications, CNN reported.

Another problem is that "many agencies do not have the HR employees working that process paperwork for qualifying life events," according to Dania Palanker, an assistant research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms, Health Policy Institute, Georgetown University.

"This means that employees that are eligible to change their insurance election -- because they had a child, got married, or a family member lost coverage -- are not able to make the change until the government reopens," she told CNN.

"Another important piece is that after two pay periods where there were no paychecks, employees will receive bills for their vision or dental insurance," Palanker added.

One of the affected employees is Tamela Worthen, who told CNN that she hasn't been able to afford her diabetes medication in a week, and has "cried so much that it's just making my head hurt."

She said she normally takes her metformin diabetes medication twice a day to treat her type 2 diabetes, "and then I take high blood pressure medicine, one in the morning and one in the evening, and then I take my high cholesterol medicine."

Now, "I'm not able to get either one," the security worker at the Smithsonian Institution told CNN. "My body and everything is aching. I don't know whether it has something to do with because I haven't had my medicine."

Other federal workers going without paychecks due to the shutdown are Yvette Hicks, who said her children haven't been able to receive their proper asthma treatment, and John Kostelnik, who said he won't be able to learn if he has cancer until the shutdown is over, CNN reported.

Kostelnik is a local president of the American Federation of Government Employees and is worried about members who are military veterans and have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"With the shutdown and people having trouble putting food on the table, I'm worried this is an additional stressor," Kostelnik told CNN. "We are the ones that are suffering."

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: January 2019

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