Health Buzz: Medicare Bill, and Other Health News

Less active teens, kidney stones in summertime, and Deborah Kotz on the abortion pill

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Congress Overrides President Bush’s Medicare Veto

The vote by Congress to override President Bush's veto of the Medicare bill yesterday protects doctors from taking a 10.6 percent pay cut, the New York Times reports. The House voted 383 to 41 in favor of overriding the veto, and the Senate voted 70 to 26. The bill also reduces copayments for mental health services and increases low-income people's assistance through Medicare. Congress's override means the bill is now law.

In June, Michelle Andrews reported that health costs after age 65 can be a burden even with Medicare.

Children Less Active by the Time They Reach Their Teens

Children are participating in less physical activity by the time they reach their teens, according to a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Those who were getting three hours of moderate to vigorous activity at age 9 were barely getting a half-hour of daily exercise by the time they hit age 15. Why aren't kids moving more? "There may be competing, more interesting things to do; physical education is being done away with in some places, and so is recess; there aren't as many open spaces or parks, and being outside is one of the main things that keeps people active," says study author Philip Nader, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of California-San Diego.

Lack of exercise is linked to the growing problem of childhood obesity. Most experts say that kids should get at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise every day, the study says.

Last year, Deborah Kotz explained the debate over whether kids should be warned about the dangers of childhood obesity. Bernadine Healy described the early roots of obesity in 2006.

Does Global Warming Mean More Kidney Stones?

A new study released this week suggests that it's not just farmers who ought to be on edge about global warming. Rising temperatures may leave Americans with a deluge of kidney stones as well, Adam Voiland reports. It's well known that kidney stone formation accelerates in warm climates. Sweating removes fluid from the body, which increases the salt concentration of the urine and the rate at which stones develop. The study authors predict that by 2050, there will be an additional 1.6 million to 2.2 million kidney-stone cases, representing an increase of up to 30 percent in some areas of the country. Also, as temperatures rise, the "kidney stone belt" will expand beyond the Southeast into higher latitudes.

Voiland provides five summertime tips to prevent kidney stones.

The Abortion Pill Is No Vitamin

A new study of Women on Web—a website that allows women who live in countries that outlaw abortions to purchase abortion pills over the Internet—finds that 6.8 percent of customers had incomplete abortions after taking the medications and needed surgical procedures, Deborah Kotz reports. But study author Rebecca Gomperts, who serves as a consultant for Women on Web, says that this percentage is also typical for women under a doctor's care. Still, the study is a reminder that even with a doctor's supervision, taking an abortion pill isn't like taking a vitamin. A handful of deaths have been reported to the FDA since the abortion pill's approval in 2000, most related to infection with a rare bacteria.

In June, Kotz reported on pro-life antiabortion drugstores and the meaning of abortion.

—January W. Payne