Health Highlights: Aug. 20, 2013

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Health Insurance Premiums Rose 4 to 5 Percent in 2012

For the second year in a row, there were modest increases in premiums for employer-provided health insurance, a new survey finds.

The findings suggest that once-extreme health care inflation may be slowing, The New York Times reported.

The Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that the average annual premium for a family is now $16,351, up 4 percent from last year. Of that amount, workers paid an average of $4,565.

Annual individual premiums for workers rose nearly 5 percent, from $5,884 in 2011 to $5,615 in 2012. The average employee's contribution is $999, The Times reported.

The modest 4 percent increase in family premiums is still much higher than the 1.8 average increase in wages last year, the foundation noted.


VP Biden's Son Undergoing Medical Tests

Beau Biden, who is U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's son, is undergoing medical tests Tuesday after experiencing weakness and disorientation last week. The vice president is in Houston while his son has the tests.

The younger Biden, 44, is the attorney general of Delaware. He suffered a mild stroke in 2010 and began experiencing the new symptoms after driving to Indiana for a family holiday, according to a Delaware Department of Justice spokesman, the Associated Press reported.

He was admitted to a Chicago Hospital and then went to Philadelphia to consult with his doctor.

The vice president had been at home in Delaware and accompanied his son to Houston, the White House said. It's not clear how long the elder Biden will remain in Texas, but is scheduled to join President Obama in Scranton, Pa. later this week, the AP reported.


New Mexico Poultry Hatchery Likely Source of Salmonella Outbreak

A salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 300 people in 37 states since March has been linked to a poultry hatchery in New Mexico.

Nearly three-fifths of the people who've become ill are children. No deaths have been reported, but 51 people have been hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Associated Press reported.

Officials said the strain of salmonella causing the outbreak was found at Privett Hatchery in Portales, which sells live baby chickens, ducks and other poultry by mail and supplies them to feed stores.

But while the New Mexico hatchery is the most likely source of the outbreak, investigators have found that people sickened with salmonella bought poultry at 113 feed store locations that were supplied by 18 mail order hatcheries in several states, according to state public health veterinarian Paul Ettestad, the AP reported.

Further tests are being conducted, the CDC said.


Radiation Rx for Prostate Cancer Prescribed More Often by Docs Who Profit: Report

Radiation treatment for Medicare patients with prostate cancer is much more likely to be prescribed by doctors with a financial interest in radiation treatment centers, according to report by Congressional investigators.

They also found that patients often did not know that their doctors would profit from the use of radiation therapy, according to The New York Times.

The Government Accountability Office report noted that alternative treatments may be equally effective and are less costly for Medicare and for patients with prostate cancer, which is one of the most common cancers in men.

In other recent studies, GAO investigators found that doctors who owned laboratories and imaging centers were more likely recommend CT scans and MRIs for Medicare patients, The Times reported.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

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