Health Highlights: Dec. 14, 2011

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

More Young U.S. Adults Have Health Insurance: Obama Administration

The number of young American adults with health insurance has risen by nearly 2.5 million since the new health care law took effect, according to a White House analysis to be released Wednesday.

That growth in the number of adults ages 19-25 with coverage is much larger than the 1-million increase indicated by previous government and private estimates released earlier this year, the Associated Press reported.

Obama administration officials say they now have more data and are being more precise about their numbers.

Under the new health care law, children can remain on their parents' health insurance plans until they turn 26. Many families are taking advantage of that as young adults try to find work in a struggling economy, the AP reported.

Analysts in the policy office of the Department of Health and Human Services examined unpublished quarterly statistics from the federal government's ongoing National Health Interview Survey.

They found that nearly 36 percent of adults ages 19-25 (more than 10.5 million people) were uninsured in the third calendar quarter of 2010, before the provision allowing young adults to remain on their parent's health insurance took effect.

That rate dropped to just over 27 percent (about 8 million people) by the second calendar quarter of 2011, the AP reported.

Obama administration officials say that nearly 2.5-million increase in the number of young adults with insurance can only be due to the health care law, because there was a slight decrease in the number of young adults covered by public programs such as Medicaid.

"The increase in coverage among 19- to 25-year-olds can be directly attributed to the Affordable Care Act's new dependent coverage provision," said a Health and Human Services Department draft report obtained by the AP. "Initial gains from this policy have continued to grow as ... students graduate from high school and college."

The report was scheduled to be released Wednesday by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

There are about 30 million Americans ages 19-25. Among those ages 26-35, the uninsured rate increased between September 2010 to June 2011, the AP reported.


Medicare Won't Pay Prescription Drug Bills Believed to be Fraudulent

If there's evidence of fraud, Medicare will not pay prescription drug bills, Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday.

He said the new policy will eliminate the need for Medicare to try to recover money after it has been paid out. The move was welcomed by experts, USA Today reported.

Instead of waiting until after a claim is paid, Medicare can now stop payment when fraud is first detected in the Part D prescription drug program.

In 2011, the Justice Department recovered $2.9 billion from health care fraud, USA Today reported.


FDA Issues Warning Letters About Lap-Band Ads

Warning letters have been sent to a number of California surgical centers and a marketing firm about misleading advertising of the Lap-Band weight-loss device, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

The Lap-Band is FDA-approved for weight loss in obese adults. The warning letters inform the recipients that their billboards and advertising inserts promoting the Lap-Band do not provide required risk information, including warnings, precautions, possible side effects and contraindications.

In addition, the font size of advertising insert information outlining risks may be too small to be read by consumers, the FDA said.

The warning letters were sent to: Beverly Hills Surgery Center; Palmdale Ambulatory Center; Valley Surgical Center; Top Surgeons LLC; Valencia Ambulatory Center LLC; Cosmopolitan Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery; San Diego Ambulatory Center LLC; and to the marketing firm 1-800-GET-THIN.

If the companies don't take action to correct these issues, the FDA says it is prepared to take further measures, including product seizures or fines.


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