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Health Highlights: Oct. 7, 2010

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

White House Didn't Reveal Oil Spill Worst-Case Scenario: Panel

Preliminary reports from a presidential commission say the White House failed to act upon or fully inform Americans about its worst-case estimates of the amount of oil spewing from the blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico.

These failures slowed response efforts and meant that the public went weeks without being fully informed about the extent of the disaster, said the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, The New York Times reported.

"By initially underestimating the amount of oil flow and then, at the end of the summer, appearing to underestimate the amount of oil remaining in the gulf, the federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem," said one of the reports, which were released Wednesday.

The Obama administration defended itself, saying it never tried to hide its most serious estimates of the spill and that it directed all available resources to tackle the disaster, the Times reported.

The commission's final report will be submitted to the White House early next year.


Ban Food Stamp Use for Sugary Drinks: NYC Mayor

A proposal to prohibit New York City residents to use food stamps on sugar-sweetened drinks will be announced Thursday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson.

They'll ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture to add sugary drinks to the list of prohibited goods for the 1.7 million city residents receiving food stamps, the Associated Press reported. The USDA administers the nation's food stamp program.

The effectiveness of the temporary two-year program would be studied by officials.

"This initiative will give New York families more money to spend on foods and drinks that provide real nourishment," Bloomberg said in a news release, the AP reported.


30 Companies Given Health Coverage Waivers

McDonald's and Jack in the Box are among the 30 U.S. employers that have been given health coverage waivers in order to protect coverage for nearly one million workers, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

The waivers mean the companies won't have to raise the minimum annual benefit included in low-cost plans typically used to provide coverage for part-time or low-wage workers, Bloomberg News reported.

The waivers were granted in September so that workers with these types of plans wouldn't lose coverage if an employer decided to drop health insurance altogether due to increasing coverage levels, government officials said.

"The big political issue here is the president promised no one would lose the coverage they've got," Robert Laszewski, chief executive officer of consulting company Health Policy and Strategy Associates, told Bloomberg. "Here we are a month before the election, and these companies represent 1 million people who would lose the coverage they've got."

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Posted: October 2010