Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
Child deaths have dropped worldwide in the last 20 years, a study published this week shows. But long-lasting illnesses such as heart disease are causing most deaths for adults, as well as years of poor health, the study says. Lawyers for people who caught meningitis in a recent outbreak say they don't know if their clients will be able to collect from a pharmacy linked to the illness. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed. But the pharmacy is closed and has surrendered its license. Starting in 2014, the government will require a fee of up to $63 a year for each person insured under health plans. The fee will be imposed for 3 years. Most of it will go to offset insurance companies' costs from a new requirement that they cover people with pre-existing health conditions.
This Issue: Long-Term Diseases Biggest Killers Worldwide Lawsuits Target Pharmacy in Meningitis Outbreak Millions in New Employer Fees under Health Law
In the News:
Long-Term Diseases Biggest Killers Worldwide
Non-infectious diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke are the top health problems in the world, a major new study shows. These causes accounted for two-thirds of deaths in 2010, the study found. That's a big increase from half of the deaths in 1990, the last time such a study was done. The new study was part of a project taking a comprehensive look at global health. All of the articles were published this week in a special issue of the journal Lancet. In 1990, the top health problem was deaths of children under 5. There were more than 10 million a year. That total has dropped to 7 million a year because of vaccinations and better pregnancy and childbirth care. But adults are spending more years in poor health, the studies found. High blood pressure is the world's leading health risk, followed by smoking and alcohol. Heart disease and stroke are the top killers. Cancers are listed separately, with lung cancer the world's 5th leading cause of death. AIDS was the 35th cause of death in 1990. Now it's No. 6. The Associated Press wrote about the new studies.
Lawsuits Target Pharmacy in Meningitis Outbreak
People affected by meningitis linked to injection drugs made by a Massachusetts pharmacy are starting to file lawsuits. But it's far from clear if they'll ever recover much money, the Associated Press (AP) said this week. Dozens of suits have been filed against the New England Compounding Center. More than 500 people became sick in recent months after injecting steroids prepared made by the compounding pharmacy. In all, 37 died. Some of those who survived have had heavy expenses for medical care and later therapy. The type of meningitis was caused by a fungus. Inspections found multiple rule violations at the pharmacy. It has been closed since September. But lawyers interviewed by AP said there's little chance of collecting damages. The company has surrendered its pharmacy license and laid off all workers. Some plaintiffs also have sued the company's owners and a sister company. Some also may sue doctors or hospitals involved in their care, lawyers say.
Millions in New Employer Fees under Health Law
Medical plans will be charged a new fee of $63 per person to help offset some costs of the 2010 health law, the Associated Press (AP) reported this week. The fee will affect both employer and individual plans. It's included in a U.S. regulation issued recently as the health reform law moves toward full implementation. The rule is designed to raise $25 billion. The fee will be charged for 3 years. It will start at $63 in the first year and decline from there, AP said. For the largest companies, the total could be tens of millions of dollars. Money will go into a government fund. Most of it will be used to cushion insurance companies from some of the blow of being required to cover even people with pre-existing medical conditions. That part of the law takes effect January 1, 2014. The government will use about $5 billion of the fund to help employers fund health insurance for early retirees. Groups representing employers said the fees are higher than they expected. They also complained that they will pay most of the costs for a rule that mainly will benefit people buying insurance as individuals.
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