- U.S. Uninsured Reaches 46.3 Million: Census
- Thousands of N.J. Patients Need Hepatitis Tests
- Medicare May Cover HIV Screening
- Baby Boomers' Hospital Care Costs Mounting: Report
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
U.S. Uninsured Reaches 46.3 Million: Census
Because of the recession, the number of Americans without health insurance reached 46.3 million last year as workers lost jobs and employers cut coverage, according to a U.S. Census report released Thursday.
In 2008, the first full year of the recession, the report found 15.4 percent of the U.S. population had no health insurance, but that number has probably grown in 2009, President Barack Obama said from the White House, the Associated Press reported.
"The situation's grown worse over the last 12 months," he said. "It's estimated that the ranks of the uninsured have swelled by at least six million."
Although higher than in 2007, the uninsured figures fall short of the peak of 47 million people in 2006 because of the expansion of government insurance programs, such as Medicaid, for the poor.
The poverty rate inched up too -- to 13.2 percent from 12.5 percent in 2007, the AP said. That meant 39.8 million Americans, or nearly one in seven, were living in poverty in 2008. For a family of four, the official poverty level is $22,025.
Geographically, most of the uninsured were in the West (17.4 percent) and the South (18.2 percent). In the Northeast and the Midwest, 11.6 percent were uninsured.
Thousands of N.J. Patients Need Hepatitis Tests
With 29 patients of a New Jersey oncologist diagnosed with hepatitis B, state health officials have advised his other patients, who number in the thousands, to get tested for blood-borne diseases.
As of last month, the state had asked nearly 4,800 patients of Dr. Parvez Dara to get tested for hepatitis B and other diseases, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Antibodies were detected in another 68 patients, but these could not definitively be attributed to the outbreak, the Associated Press reported.
So far, the state knows of about 1,400 who've had testing. The health department "quietly" released the records on its Web site Sept. 1, the AP said.
The state Board of Medical Examiners suspended Dara's license in April, the AP said. Dara, who had practiced in Toms River for 23 years, estimated that 12 of the 45 to 60 patients he saw a day were receiving chemotherapy.
The health department said the investigation is ongoing. A spokesman for Dara criticized the department for a "rush to judgment," the AP reported.
After visiting the doctor's office last March, health officials described unsanitary conditions, including blood on the floor of a treatment room and in a blood-vial storage container, open medication vials, unsterile gauze and use of contaminated gloves.
"The investigation to date suggests that the hepatitis B infections identified may be associated with the method by which medications were administered and procedures performed at the practice," health officials wrote in a letter to patients last month.
Medicare May Cover HIV Screening
Screening for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, would be covered by Medicare under a U.S. government proposal made Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
About 19 percent of all U.S. residents with AIDS are age 50 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This proposal to cover HIV screening for our Medicare population has great potential in terms of saving lives and improving the quality of life for many seniors, as well as beneficiaries under age 65," said Charlene Frizzera, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"Knowing about their HIV status can help patients live longer, fuller lives as well as avoid unintentional transmission of the virus to others," she said.
According to the AP, the Department of Health and Human Services said coverage would extend to Medicare beneficiaries of any age who are at increased risk for the infection, including pregnant women, and those who request the service.