Health Buzz: Medicaid Covering Unapproved Drugs and Other Health News

Medical tourism incentives, and holiday help for shopping addicts.

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Medicaid Covers Unapproved Drugs

Medicaid covered nearly $198 million in costs between 2004 and 2007 for more than 100 unapproved medications used for pain, colds, and other problems, the Associated Press reports. The Food and Drug Administration says that it is trying to squeeze unapproved drugs from the market, but certain federal laws allow Medicaid to continue to cover the drugs. Officials in charge of the Medicaid program say they are aware of the issue, but they say congressional assistance is needed to fix the problem. Both Medicaid and the FDA are under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

U.S. News's Sarah Baldauf wrote a primer on the Medicaid rulebook two years ago. In January, Kenneth Terrell reported that schools faced a cut in Medicaid funding.

Expanding Incentives for Medical Travel

In January, Serigraph Inc., a West Bend, Wis., manufacturer, will become the first U.S. company of any size to embrace medical travel or medical tourism, offering employees the option of having certain nonemergency operations, such as joint replacement, in India. The company will pay all expenses, including travel and lodging for a companion, Avery Comarow reports. The incentive for employees is that they don't have to pay a deductible—typically $1,000 to $5,000—or the hospital copay, which would be 10 percent to 20 percent of the charges. Until now, the medical tourism movement has largely been fueled by patients paying out of pocket.

Earlier this year, U.S. News published a consumers guide to medical travel. We explained the potential savings on surgery offered by going abroad and detailed the possible perils of undergoing cosmetic surgery in a foreign country.

Holiday Advice for Shopping Addicts

For shopping addicts, the holiday season isn't always so merry, Kimberly Palmer reports. Compulsive spenders "often feel the holiday shopping time almost gives them permission to do it, and they feel greater pressure sometimes. There are a lot of sights and sounds that trigger desires, including catalogues in the mail and shopping ads on the radio and television," says Jon Grant, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, which houses a clinic for impulsive disorders.

About 5 percent of Americans suffer from compulsive shopping, and even more struggle with lesser forms of overspending, says Terrence Shulman, founder of the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft and Spending. Shulman says that as spending money has become easier, through the Internet and credit cards, more people seem to have been experiencing problems with self-control.

Palmer recently listed seven ways to battle shopping addiction and provided other advice for overcoming the problem. In October, she explored whether now, with the poor economy, is a bad time for shopaholics.

—January W. Payne

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