Health Highlights: Aug 12, 2015

Health Highlights: Aug 12, 2015

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

Number of Uninsured Americans Fell Nearly 16 Million Since 2013

The number of Americans without health insurance fell by 15.8 million, or one-third, since 2013, and continues to decline, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report.

The number of uninsured people ages 18-64 declined from 39.6 million in 2013 to 25.5 million in the first quarter of this year, while the number uninsured children younger than 18 fell from 4.8 million to 3.4 million, The New York Times reported.

The proportion of Americans without insurance fell from 14.4 percent in 2013 to 9.2 percent in the first quarter of this year, the center said.

The number of uninsured people dropped as major parts of the Affordable Care Act took effect. Starting in 2014, the law expanded coverage through Medicaid and through subsidies for private insurance, The Times reported.

At the same time, the economy has improved and there has been a steady fall in the unemployment rate over the last two years.

The most significant gains in coverage appear to have been among poor people and those with incomes just over the poverty level, which is $11,770 for an individual, The Times reported.

The proportion of poor people ages 18-64 without insurance declined from 39.3 percent in 2013 to about 28 percent in the first quarter of this year. Among Americans ages 18-64 with incomes ranging from the poverty level to twice that amount, those without insurance fell from 38.5 percent in 2013 to 23.8 percent in the first three months of this year.

There was also a significant rise in coverage among Hispanics, who have long been more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to be uninsured. Among Hispanics ages 18-64, the proportion who were uninsured dropped from 40.6 percent in 2013 to 28.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, The Times reported.

The uninsured rate fell from 24.9 percent to 15.6 percent among black adults, and from 14.5 percent to 8.7 percent among white adults, the center said.

It also found that states that expanded Medicaid had a larger drop in the number of uninsured people. In those states, the proportion of adults ages 18-64 without insurance fell from 18.4 percent in 2013 to 10.6 percent in the first quarter of this year. In states that did not expand Medicare, the rate dropped from 22.7 percent to 16.8 percent, The Times reported.


Warning Sign Proposed for Edible Pot Products in Colorado

A red stop sign-shaped symbol may soon be mandatory on edible marijuana products sold in Colorado.

The symbol — which would include the letters “THC” to alert consumers about the presence of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — would have to be on individual edible items, not just labels, according to new rules proposed by state marijuana regulators.

The draft document also suggests banning the word “candy” from edible pot products, even on actual candy items such as suckers, the Associated Press reported.

Officials rejected a suggestion to mark edible marijuana products with a marijuana-leaf symbol after parents warned the symbol would attract children instead of dissuading them from eating the products.

The proposed rules would also ban premade edible marijuana products. For example, a businesses could not buy bulk candy and spray it with cannabis oil, the AP reported.


FDA Warning Letter Sent Over Kardashian’s Promotion of Drug on Social Media

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter about Kim Kardashian’s social media posts promoting the morning sickness drug Diclegis.

An Instagram picture features Kardashian, the drug and accompanying text promoting the drug, NBC News reported.

That prompted the FDA to send a warning letter to the drug maker, Duchesnay. In the letter, the FDA says, “The social media post is misleading because it presents various efficacy claims for Diclegis, but fails to communicate any risk information.”

The company said it would take quick action in response to the FDA’s letter, NBC News reported.


Blue Bell Resumes Ice Cream Shipments

Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries announced Tuesday that it has resumed ice cream shipments, but the company did not say where or when the products would be available to consumers.

In April, Blue Bell announced a recall and halted production and sales after its products were linked to 10 listeria cases in four states, including three deaths in Kansas, the Associated Press reported.

The company launched major cleaning and decontamination programs at its plants in Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma. Last week, Alabama officials said Blue Bell could restart production at its plant in that state.

Blue Bell used Twitter and Facebook to announce the resumption of ice cream shipments, the AP reported.


Scientists Trying to Grow Limbs in Laboratory

Scientists are experimenting with monkey arms to test whether it’s possible to create new limbs for people in the laboratory.

First, the team strips a monkey arm down as far as its basic cells, leaving behind a bare scaffold. They then use infusions of cells from other individuals in order to grow and transform the limb, CNN reported.

The goal is to create a fully functional limb that has the blood, bones, muscles and cartilage of the individual that provided the new cells, thereby reducing the risk that it will be attacked by that individual’s immune system after transplant.

The work is being led by Harald Ott, director of the organ repair and regeneration lab at Massachusetts General Hospital.

If this approach proves successful, “you could regenerate … on demand,” Ott told CNN.

So far, he has used this technique to grow lungs and a beating heart in the laboratory. Earlier this year, he regenerated the limb of a rat and is now placing human cells in a monkey arm scaffold in an attempt to create fully functioning blood cells and vessels.

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