Most Patients in Measles Outbreak Hadn't Been Vaccinated
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received 64 reports of the measles between January 1 and April 25, the largest number of cases reported for that period since 2001. The illnesses occurred in nine states, according to the CDC, and outbreaks are ongoing in four of those states—Arizona, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Ten of the patients contracted measles abroad, and the other cases are considered to be linked to the cases in which the disease was imported from other countries.
The CDC says that many measles cases happen in kids whose parents claim an exemption from vaccination due to religious or personal beliefs, or in children not yet old enough to be vaccinated. Only one recently infected person had documentation of prior vaccination against the illness. The ill also include 14 infants, who were too young to have been vaccinated yet. The recent outbreak emphasizes how important it is for adults and kids to be vaccinated against the measles, the agency says.
Health Savings Accounts Grow in Number; McCain Endorses Them
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, in a major healthcare speech this week, said people need to make their own healthcare decisions, and he said he supports health savings accounts (HSAs) as one way to help "put the family in charge of what they pay for," Michelle Andrews reports. McCain outlined a health plan that could mean higher taxes, mostly for those with higher incomes and more expensive health plans, according to the New York Times.
In 2007, the number of Americans covered by HSAs grew to 6.1 million, up from 4.5 million the year before, according to a new survey by America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group. But with total private insurance coverage topping 170 million, that's small potatoes, Andrews reports.
The plans must have a deductible of at least $2,200 for families and $1,100 for individuals in 2008, among other criteria. An HSA that links to the plan allows people to accumulate money tax free to pay for medical expenses. Discover why such high-deductible plans may be too costly for many people, and learn about the costs of such plans for couples planning to have a baby.
Genetic Nondiscrimination Bill Passes Congress
Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act yesterday. If signed into law, the bill would make it illegal for companies and insurers to discriminate against people based on genetic information about them, such as predispositions certain people may have to developing breast cancer, sickle cell disease, or diabetes. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.
The legislation had been in the works for years, as U.S. News's Bernadine Healy explained in November. And in the On Women blog, Deborah Kotz provides examples of people who've been denied insurance and even jobs because of their genes.
Medical "Tourists" Find Cheaper Surgery Abroad
Thousands of Americans are leaving the United States to undergo surgery in other countries where it can be substantially cheaper, Avery Comarow reports. Estimates of medical travelers outbound from the United States range from an ultraconservative 5,000 to 500,000 annually, if minor procedures are counted. They may be self-employed or work for a small business and lack health insurance, for example, or their procedure may not be covered.
More than 1 in 4 workers earning at least $60,000 a year went without insurance in 2006, according to a Census Bureau survey; too well-off to be eligible for medical assistance, they can often wring tens of thousands of dollars out of hospital "rack rates" by going abroad. Some employers and big insurers like UnitedHealth and Blue Cross and Blue Shield are so intrigued by "medical tourism" that they're beginning to sniff for signs that it might be smart to cover it.
U.S. News has published the brand-new Consumer's Guide to Medical Travel, where you can learn about saving on surgery by going abroad, foreign clinics that offer unproven treatments, and plastic surgery overseas.
—January W. Payne