healthcare

President Obama on Monday called on Congress to revisit the controversial idea of providing a government-run insurance plan as part of the offerings under the Affordable Care Act.

What's been described as the "public option" was jettisoned from the health law in 2009 by a handful of conservative Democrats in the Senate. Every Democrat's vote was needed to pass the bill in the face of unanimous Republican opposition.

Zac Talbott sees the irony of running an opioid treatment program from a former doctor's office.

"The funny thing is, a lot of patients are like, 'This is where I first started getting prescribed pain pills,' " Talbott says.

Now, the Tennessee native says those same patients are coming to his clinic in Chatsworth, Ga., a small city about a half-hour south of the Tennessee border, to fight their addiction to those very pills.

More Low-Income Kids Now Have Health Coverage

May 13, 2016

Bolstered by the federal health care law, the number of lower-income kids getting health coverage continues to rise.

It's been nearly two years since the Department of Veterans Affairs came under fire for the amount of time veterans had to wait to see a doctor. The agency scrambled to find a fix, including allowing vets the option of seeing a private doctor via a program they call Veterans Choice.

Denise Johnson works two jobs, but neither of them offers health insurance to part-timers like her. She signed up for a marketplace plan this year, but for routine medical care Johnson still goes to the free clinic near her home in Charlottesville, Va.

The problem is her plan's deductible of at least $1,000. She can't recall the precise figure, but it doesn't really matter. "It's absolutely high," said Johnson, 58. "Who can afford that?" She struggles to pay her $28 monthly premium.

At 85 years old, Alpha Edwards did not expect to be out of savings or to have $3,000 of credit card debt.

"I don't do anything that costs money," Edwards says. "I can't."

The problem started four years ago, when Edwards moved to Miami Springs, Fla., with her little brown dog. Her husband had recently died, and Edwards wanted to be closer to her daughter.

Edwards regularly sees doctors for her chronic lung disease and her pacemaker. And not long after she moved, she needed a cardiac procedure.

Adults in Ohio are divided when it comes to whether they believe the Affordable Care Act has been good or bad for them.

And while most rate their own health care positively, far more Ohioans rate the state's overall health care system as fair or poor than rate it as excellent. Those are some of the findings in a series of recent polls by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

When it's time for medical care, where do you go? The doctor's office? An urgent care clinic? Or the nearest hospital?

As many as 1 in 3 Americans sought care in an ER in the past two years, according to a recent poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. That relatively high frequency may be a matter of convenience, even though many in the poll also report frustration with the cost and quality of care they received in an ER.

Insurance giant Humana Inc., which operates some of the nation's largest private Medicare health plans, knew for years of billing fraud at some South Florida clinics but did little to curb the practice even though it could harm patients, a doctor alleges in a newly unsealed whistleblower lawsuit.

San Jorge Children's Hospital is Puerto Rico's largest pediatric hospital, drawing patients from throughout the Caribbean. It's a bustling facility in San Juan, with specialties in surgery, rheumatology and oncology. It also has brightly colored live parrots at every entrance.

"It just sends a message to the patient that they're in a friendly place," explains San Jorge's vice president of operations, Domingo Cruz Vivaldi. "That they're here to be treated, but they're also going to have a good time."

It's only March, but Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen already has an embarrassingly full calendar.

She's put together the city's plan for dealing with the Zika virus, launched a campaign against soda and other sugary beverages and overseen an investigation into why so many people in the city are overdosing on fentanyl.

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow Tuesday to nascent efforts to track the quality and cost of health care, ruling that a 1974 law precludes states from requiring that every health care claim involving their residents be submitted to a massive database.

The arguments were arcane, but the effect is clear: We're a long way off from having a true picture of the country's health care spending, especially differences in the way hospitals treat patients and doctors practice medicine.

Dr. Seth Ammerman listens intently to his new, 21-year-old patient. Ernesto, who does not want his last name disclosed, is homeless. He is earning a high school degree and working part time, but at night, he and his brother share a tent that they set up on the streets of San Jose, Calif. The daily stress of being homeless is wearing Ernesto out, and making him light up too many cigarettes.

"I just want to cut down on my smoking," says Ernesto, in a tentative, soft voice. "I've been on the streets all the time, you know? I just want to make sure I'm OK."

When 28-year-old Charis Hill discovered that the cost of medication to treat her degenerative arthritis had risen to $2,000 a month, she chose to be in pain instead.

"I felt like an invalid," said Hill, who lives in Sacramento and at the time had only catastrophic health coverage. She said the month without the medicine made it hard to get out of bed.

Paying for drugs isn't a problem for Hill now. She has a more robust Covered California health plan, and she gets assistance from a drug company.

Almost 20 percent of the people in low-income communities who die of colon cancer could have been saved with early screening. And those premature deaths take a toll on communities that can least bear it.

Lower-income communities in the United States face $6.4 billion in lost wages and productivity because of premature deaths due to colon cancer, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Laticia Aossey was flat on her back in an Iowa hospital bed with a tube up her nose, a needle for a peripheral IV stuck in one arm and monitors pasted to her body. It was early June 2014, a week after her 18th birthday, when a friend brought Aossey's mail from home — including one ominous letter. Aossey's health insurance was about to be discontinued.

"My heart dropped. I just wondered to myself, 'Are they going to pull this tube out, unhook me from everything and roll me down to the street?' " Aossey said. "Could I get the medicine I needed?"

Almost every American will experience an error in diagnosis at some point in life. But the problem has taken a back seat to other patient safety concerns, an influential panel said in a report released Tuesday.

The report from a blue-ribbon panel of the Institute of Medicine called for widespread changes in health care to improve diagnoses.

When Portland resident Doris Keene raised her four children, she walked everywhere and stayed active. But when she turned 59, she says, everything fell apart.

"My leg started bothering me. First it was my knees." She ignored the pain, and thinks now it was her sciatic nerve acting up, all along. "I just tried to deal with it," Keene says.

In anesthesiology, it pays – literally – to be a man.

At least, that's what's suggested by a study examining this specialty's demographics and salaries in 2007 and again in 2013. The study, by the RAND Corp., a nonpartisan research institute, was published Thursday in the journal Anesthesiology.


Does a federal law stretching back to 1867 bar the Supreme Court from deciding on the merits of the administration's health law right now?

The court on Monday heard the first arguments in a historic three-day session that could decide the fate of the Obama administration's signature domestic achievement.

Washington State Coalition for Mental Health Reporting

Mental health advocates say news stories of social service budge cuts are unfairly stereotyping people who suffer from mental illness.

They say a case in point is a recent cover of The Stranger, which included the headline "How a decimated state budget equals more unmedicated loons with hatchets."