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Health Highlights: July 29, 2010

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

Support Increases For New Health Care Law: Poll

Opposition to the new U.S. health care law declined from 41 percent to 35 percent over the past month, while support increased from 48 percent to 50 percent, according to a poll released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

About 14 percent of respondents had no opinion about the health care overhaul, the Washington Post reported.

The most recent approval level is the highest for the legislation since it was enacted in March. A survey conducted in April found 46 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.

The current poll found that 69 percent of Republicans oppose the new health care law. Democrats are 73 percent to 15 percent in favor and Independents are 48 percent to 37 percent in favor, the Post reported.

The poll of 1,504 adults was conducted July 8 to July 13.


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).


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Posted: July 2010