Feb. 7 - 11, 2011

Washington should insure the futures of children with autism (Guest Columnist)
The Seattle Times (Seattle, WA)
AUTISM is a challenging neurobiological condition that can leave families feeling overwhelmed, isolated and hopeless. Contributing to these troubles is the fact that in about half of U.S. states — Washington included — state laws don't require health-insurance coverage for autism treatments. For thousands of families whose insurance policies are regulated by Washington state, this means they face a critical gap in coverage for their loved one.
(Geraldine Dawson is the chief science officer for Autism Speaks, a research professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and professor emeritus at the University of Washington.)

UNC health system, Aetna at standoff on payments
The Associated Press
A dispute over payments between a health insurance company and one of North Carolina's largest hospital systems could leave 8,000 people outside their network after the contract expired Saturday. Aetna members will have to stop using the University of North Carolina's health care system or pay higher costs for using out-of-network facilities, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported. UNC Health Care, a state-owned nonprofit, includes its main hospital in Chapel Hill, Rex Healthcare in Raleigh and clinics and doctors' practices across central North Carolina.
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In Search of Alcoholism Genes (Blog)
The Wall Street Journal
... Researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill have tentatively identified a similar "tipsy gene" that makes carriers feel inebriated after just one or two drinks. Between 10% and 20% of the population has this variation, which is also thought to protect against becoming alcohol-dependent.

Health benefits of falling and staying in love
The Washington Post
... Hugging and hand-holding, meanwhile, have been found to release the hormone oxytocin, which lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood and increasing tolerance for pain, according to research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Health Care Showdown: Obama Administration Calls Out GOP Governors
The Huffington Post
... "While you have this legal theater, the odds are that in the trenches, most states are going to take and spend the money," said Jonathan Oberlander, a health care policy professor at the University of North Carolina. "The further people get invested in this, not just the states but also the health care industry, it becomes harder to roll it back ... the more they get involved, the harder it becomes to reverse."

Hospitals offer Medicaid deal
The News & Observer (Raleigh)
North Carolina hospitals want to set up a program that they say would add $43 million to state coffers and bring in as much as $350 million in federal money for hospital care for Medicaid and uninsured patients. ... UNC Hospitals support the proposal, though they would not participate, said spokeswoman Karen McCall. UNC Hospitals and East Carolina University are part of a separate Medicaid-enhancement deal worked out with state officials that brings in more money for state-owned hospitals and their doctors.

Aetna reassures pregnant women

The News & Observer (Raleigh)
Aetna won't abandon any pregnant women. In a story on Saturday's front page about the health insurer's contract dispute with the UNC Health Care System, a member who is 35 weeks pregnant discussed her fears of having to change her doctor and hospital. Jennifer Marks is scheduled to deliver her baby next month at Rex Healthcare, the Raleigh hospital owned by UNC Health. For Aetna members, Rex is "out of network" now that the insurer's contract has expired after a fight about how much Aetna should pay UNC Health for medical care.

Fertile possibilities
The Charlotte Observer
... In the Triangle area, at least two clinics - at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University - offer egg freezing only to patients undergoing cancer treatment. So far, none have returned to try to get pregnant. ... For now, fertility clinics at UNC, Duke and Carolinas Medical Center limit their egg-freezing programs to patients undergoing cancer treatment. They won't open it to other patients until results are more reliable. "We have no idea what to tell patients about their actual chances of having a child," said Dr. Jennifer Mersereau, a reproductive endocrinologist at UNC Fertility Center. "Your chances of pregnancy from banked eggs might be really low at (age) 40."

Health cost heights (Letter to the Editor)
The News & Observer (Raleigh)
How ironic that the Feb. 5 N&O article on the 8,000 patients left in the lurch by the Aetna and UNC Health Care dispute over money should be followed the next day by a full-page advertisement celebrating the UNC Health Care physicians mentioned in a Best in America publication. The claim that UNC Health Care's commitment to caring reaches new heights may be true, but clearly only for those who can afford to pay for the steep incline.

Time to punt (Letter to the Editor)
The News & Observer (Raleigh)
Your Feb. 3 front-page article on UNC-Chapel Hill's treatment of the head of the Carolina Mammography Registry was fascinating ("Researcher's demotion hurts UNC image"). Apparently, illegal activities occurred within her area at UNC. She claimed ignorance of the issue, stated she could not be expected to monitor every aspect and suggested other people who may be the root cause of the problems.

Cary teen's death points to flu's danger
The News & Observer (Raleigh)
..."One of the reasons we see severe disease in young adults is it may be their body's reaction to the virus," said Dr. David Weber, an infectious disease specialist at UNC-Chapel Hill. "It's not the virus itself - it's having a vigorous response, and some of the damage may be from their own immune system."

Short time on antipsychotics may up heart disease
Reuters (Wire Service)
Antipsychotic medications, which have raised red flags in the past, may increase the risk of heart disease in as little as a few months, a new study says. ...But antipsychotic drugs are also given to some patients with bipolar disorder, personality disorders, or anxiety, said Dr. Karen Graham, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. She was not involved in the study.

Banjo-picking doctor cares about patients
WRAL-TV (CBS/Raleigh)
A doctor at UNC Hospitals is determined to do away with cold, impersonal medicine and to make his patients feel special – even if it means bringing along his banjo. "I hate for people to be just a patient or a case, so I try to always find out who the person is," cardiologist David Tate said.

Kids' Health and Probiotics
Whether probiotics are effective for all of these issues is a difficult question, says Michael Steiner, MD, medical director of Children’s Clinics at North Carolina Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill. “Because there is a wide variety of probiotics, making a statement about whether probiotics ‘work’ for all of these can be very confusing. Different probiotics work differently, and some are effective and some are not,” Dr. Steiner says.

Freezing eggs allows women more options
News & Observer
"We have no idea what to tell patients about their actual chances of having a child," said Dr. Jennifer Mersereau, a reproductive endocrinologist at UNC Fertility Center. "Your chances of pregnancy from banked eggs might be really low at [age] 40."

UNC Radiation Oncology’s Gong Ceremony
When the gong sounds in the UNC Radiation Oncology waiting area, everyone smiles. It means that someone has completed radiation therapy.

The health care mess in Wake County and across the state
Beufort Observer
The Raleigh News & Observer is reporting that Aetna Insurance Company and UNC Health Care System are at loggerheads over a contract the provides a schedule of payments for Aetna customers who use the UNC system for health care.

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