Sugary Drink Tax and Health Reform
A new review of studies suggests that a tax on sugary drinks—soda, energy drinks, iced tea, and the like-should help lighten the nation's obesity epidemic, HealthDay reports. The review authors advocate a national tax of 1 cent per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages that would raise $14.9 billion in the first year. Such taxes could fund programs to stop obesity and help finance health reform, HealthDay reports. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine , the review included studies that linked sugar-sweetened beverages to weight gain. Yale professor and lead author Kelly Brownell first proposed levying a "fat tax" or "Twinkie tax" in 1994, according to HealthDay.
Senate Bill Could Increase Abortion Coverage
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus released a new version of a healthcare reform bill yesterday, and—not surprisingly—abortion coverage is again a sticking point, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz reports.
Just three pages of the 223-page proposal deal with abortion coverage, and, at first blush, the provisions seem pretty innocuous, Kotz writes. The law would ensure that abortion can't be mandated as part of a minimum benefits package except in cases where federal funds are already permitted to be used, that is, in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. According to Kotz, however, here's where it gets sticky: Insurers that participate in a government exchange and provide abortion coverage beyond the limits set by the federal government for its own employees, to terminate an unplanned pregnancy for reasons other than the ones above, must separate the cost of coverage for abortions from their total costs for all coverage that they report to the federal government for tax credits. Read more.
Time to Switch to an Online Personal Health Record?
A host of Web-based personal health records, or PHRs, have been rolled out over the past few years, including offerings from Internet heavyweights Google and Microsoft. What they provide is a central repository for all your health information—from family history to lab results to cholesterol readings—and ways to share it with doctors or other people that you deem appropriate. Plus, cool tools that draw on your information to alert you, for example, if you are taking medications that might interact or to help you track weight loss. But there are cons as well as pros to putting all your personal health information online, U.S. News's Katherine Hobson reports.
For those of us with only occasional medical problems, convenience will most likely be the biggest factor in deciding whether to use a PHR and, if so, which one. Google Health and Microsoft, among others, provide secure access to some health insurers, pharmacies, and providers so you can request and upload your records, saving yourself some work. Even if your doctor hasn't already moved into the 21st century, those sites can link you to third-party applications like yourHealth that, if you send them your paper records by fax, will scan and digitize them and put them in your PHR. Read more.
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