How the Salmonella Outbreak Affects Food Banks
Food banks across the country are throwing out peanut products that have been recalled in the nationwide salmonella outbreak, which has made at least 600 people ill and is tied to nine deaths, the Associated Press reports. With the poor economy and millions of families depending on food pantries for help, it's a particularly bad time to have to toss thousands of pounds of food. The Houston Food Bank, for example, has already thrown out 3,000 recalled peanut products, and the Cleveland Food Clinic has discarded about 1,000 pounds of food. To put those numbers into perspective, 1,000 pounds of food can feed about 780 people, according to the AP.
It's now possible to track the effects of the salmonella outbreak on Twitter and Facebook, and some stores have begun calling customers about tainted peanut products. The Peanut Corp. of America plant in Georgia that shipped salmonella-tainted food items was contaminated with potentially deadly salmonella as far back as 2007, according to tests the company did then. This salmonella outbreak may be the scariest one yet because it involves peanut butter and peanut paste that manufacturers bought by the tanker-load and mixed into hundreds of products on supermarket shelves. Here's how to reduce your risk of becoming ill.
Stimulus Bill to Cover 65 Percent of COBRA Costs for 9 Months
The final economic stimulus bill includes a provision that gives a 65 percent federal subsidy for COBRA premiums for up to nine months for workers who lose their jobs, Michelle Andrews reports. Workers laid off between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009, will be eligible, and those who were laid off since last September and who initially declined COBRA will now have 60 days to elect it. The subsidy isn't available to workers whose income in the year they would receive it exceeds $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for families.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that 7 million people would keep their health insurance thanks to this provision, though that prediction seems optimistic, Andrews reports. Under COBRA, workers must pay 100 percent of the premium, plus a 2 percent administrative fee. With premiums for a typical family policy costing nearly $13,000 a year, under the new legislation a family would still be looking at spending close to $400 a month on health insurance premiums. Meanwhile, the average weekly unemployment insurance check is about $300, and even with the extra $25 per week that the stimulus bill tacks on to weekly benefits, people are going to have to think long and hard about whether they can afford to extend their coverage under COBRA.
How to Protect Your Child's Mental Health
Mental health problems often can be prevented if children get the help they need early on from parents and schools, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine. With 14 to 20 percent of children suffering from a mental illness, that's very good news, Nancy Shute reports. The IOM estimates that mental disorders, which include depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, and substance abuse, cost the United States about $247 billion annually. "We have consistent scientific evidence that parents, along with the other important people in their children's lives, can use to help shape the positive behaviors of children," says David Shern, president and CEO of Mental Health America, an advocacy group.
The new expanded version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which President Obama signed into law earlier this month, expands mental health coverage for poor kids. But it is often up to parents to be proactive, as overworked pediatricians may not ask if children have mental-health problems—and may not know where to refer them if they do.
—January W. Payne
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