Weekly Dose of Health News

The big news this week was that NYS received federal approval to establish its health insurance exchange, which will start serving patients in Jan 2014. Other health news include reports that show: cigarette use is falling among teens; no clear link between dust/debris/fumes from WTC site and cancer; and talks of banning a mercury compound used in vaccines.

Health Insurance Exchanges

The Wall Street Journal reports that New York State received federal approval to operate the online marketplace for individuals and small business to purchase health insurance.   The New York Health Benefit Exchange already has a website running with information on eligibility, federal subsidies and how the plan is unfolding (AP, 12/14).

Affordable Care Act

The New York Times profiles efforts by Enroll America to educate Americans about the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Enroll America is a nonprofit group formed last year to get the word out to the uninsured and encourage them get coverage under healthcare reform (Goodnough, 12/19).


The New York Times  writes that a group of prominent doctors and public health experts have published an article in the journal Pediatrics warning that a possible ban on thimerosal, a mercury compound used as a preservative in vaccines, would devastate public health efforts in developing countries. Thimerosal has been used since the 1930s to prevent bacterial and fungal contamination in vaccines. The United Nations Environmental Program is scheduled to prepare a global treaty to reduce health hazards by banning certain products and processes that release mercury into the environment. The proposal to ban include thimerosal has drawn strong criticism from pediatricians (Tavernise, 12/17).

Many hospitals have been struggling with how to reduce patient length of stay and hospitals readmissions.  A new study, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that a drop in length of stay was not associated with an increase in 30-day readmission rates. The study used 14 years of data from 129 Veterans Affairs hospitals.

The New York Times reports that a new study by the New York City health department, has found that there is no clear link between cancer and the dust, debris and fumes from the World Trade Center site. The report comes on the heels of cancer being added to a list of sicknesses covered by the World Trade Center compensation fund (Hartocollis, 12/19).

USA Today highlights the findings of an annual report that shows cigarette use among U.S. teenagers fell to historic lows and that a four-year rise in marijuana use appears to have leveled off. The annual report, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and conducted by the University of Michigan, found the number of teenagers who reported smoking cigarettes in the prior 30 days fell to 10.6% this year from 11.7% in 2011, the lowest level recorded since the survey began in 1975 (Leger, 12/20).

NPR published a story this week that examines a new trend in the insurance industry. Many insurance companies have begun running their own doctors’ offices and clinics. Insurance companies reason that by providing primary care for patients, they might reduce costly diseases and hospital stays in the long run (Samuelson, 12/21).

Prompted by the death of a young boy in April, the New York Times  reports that New York State health officials are poised to issue new regulations that require nation to require that hospitals aggressively look for sepsis in patients so treatment can begin sooner. Under the regulations, which are now being drafted, the hospitals will also have to publicly report the results of their efforts (Dwyer, 12/21).

-Jaime Venditti, 12/21/12