Health Highlights: April 23, 2012

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

Scrap Medicare Bonus Program for Insurers: GAO

An $8 billion Medicare demonstration program that provides bonuses as a way to improve the quality of Medicare Advantage insurance plans should be cancelled, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report to be released Monday.

The government auditors said most of the bonus money is going to plans rated average, which means they receive three to three-and-a-half stars on Medicare's five-star rating scale, the Associated Press reported.

There's no evidence that the bonus program will improve the quality of Medicare Advantage plans, the GAO said.

The Obama administration said it disagrees with the GAO findings and insists the bonus program will improve the quality of care, the AP reported.


160 Now Sickened in Tuna-Linked Salmonella Outbreak

A salmonella outbreak linked to a frozen yellowfin tuna product has now sickened 160 people in 20 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late Tuesday.

In a statement, the agency said 26 people have been hospitalized but there have been no deaths reported.

On Monday, nearly 59,000 pounds of the product, labeled Nakaochi Scrape AA or AAA, was recalled by Moon Marine USA Corp. of Cupertino, Calif. The product, which is scraped off fish bones, was sold to grocery stores and restaurants to make dishes such as sushi, sashimi and ceviche.

As reported by the Associated Press, many people who became ill reported eating raw tuna in sushi as "spicy tuna."

As of Friday, the CDC said illnesses linked to the recalled product had been reported in: Alabama (2), Arkansas (1), Connecticut (6), District of Columbia (2), Florida (1), Georgia (6), Illinois (14), Louisiana (3), Maryland (14), Massachusetts (23), Mississippi (2), Missouri (4), New Jersey (8), New York (30), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (6), Rhode Island (5), South Carolina (3), Texas (4), Virginia (9) and Wisconsin (14).

The CDC noted that salmonella illness is often serious for infants, older adults, pregnant women and persons with impaired immune systems, and these individuals should not eat raw or partially cooked fish or shellfish.


U.S. Women Trail Men in Life Span Gains: Study

American men's lifespans increased by an average of 4.6 years between 1989 and 2009, while women's increased by only 2.7 years, a new study says.

It also found large variations in average county-to-county life spans across the nation, ranging from 66.1 to 81.6 years for men and 73.5 to 86 years for women, USA Today reported. In many counties, women's life spans are shorter than they were 20 years ago.

Even though women are still expected to outlive men by 4 years, these finding are cause for concern, according to the study by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

"A gain in life expectancy should be equal among men and women," said research team director Ali Mokdad, USA Today reported. "This is a wake-up call for all of us. It's tragic that in a country as wealthy as the United States, and with all the medical expertise we have, that so many girls will live shorter lives than their mothers."

Preventable causes of death, such as smoking, obesity and alcohol, are key reasons for the differences between men and women.


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