Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
White House Wants to Limit Health Insurance Rate Hikes
New government power to prevent excessive health insurance rate increases will be included in proposed health care reform legislation to be introduced Monday by President Barack Obama.
Under the bill, the health and human services secretary would have authority to review and forbid premium increases by private insurers, The New York Times reported.
In addition, a new Health Insurance Rate Authority would prepare an annual report outlining reasonable rate increases based on market conditions.
The White House said the seven-member rate board would include consumer representatives, a physician, an insurance industry representative and others such as health economists and actuaries, The Times reported.
The move to control health insurance rate increases comes in response to recent news of large premium hikes in a number of states.
Most 'Test-Tube' Children Healthy: Researchers
Most "test-tube" children are healthy and normal, according to experts at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"Overall, these children do well. It is a reassuring message, but we must continue to follow up," said Andre Van Steirteghem of the Brussels Free University Center for Reproductive Medicine in Belgium, the Associated Press reported.
It's been more than 30 years since the first birth of a baby conceived using assisted reproductive technology, in which sperm is injected into the egg outside of the human body. This type of conception now accounts for about 4 percent of live births.
Researchers have found differences in 5 percent to 10 percent of chromosomes between test-tube children and other children, said Carmen Sapienza, a geneticist at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, the AP reported.
It's not known if these genetic differences result in some way from assisted reproductive techniques or if they're caused by other factors, such as those that caused the couple's infertility.
Claim That Brain-Injured Patient Communicated by Computer Was False
Previous reports that a patient wrongly diagnosed as comatose for 23 years could communicate by computer were wrong, according to the man's neurologist.
Rom Houben, 46, was incorrectly diagnosed as comatose after a traffic crash in 1983. But neurologist Steven Laureys determined in 2006 that Houben was conscious but paralyzed, Agence France Presse reported.
Last November, Houben's family said that he could communicate using a method called facilitated communication, in which the hand of the patient is held above a computer keyboard and a medical assistant taps letters based on pressure from the patient's fingers.
But in a recently presented study, Laureys concluded that Houben isn't capable of facilitated communication. He noted that he had said from the start that "one must wait for scientific confirmation," AFP reported.
TB-Patient Flight Rules Questioned
International rules that forbid potentially infectious tuberculosis patients from flying are too strict, according to a new study.
Researcher Dr. Ibrahim Abubakar, of the University of East Anglia in Britain, analyzed 13 studies of 4,300 airline passengers from six countries and found there were only 10 TB infections diagnosed among thousands of passengers who flew with other passengers infected with TB, the Associated Press reported.
The findings appear in the March issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
Abubakar says people with easily treatable TB who've been taking medicine for at least two weeks should be allowed on commercial flights, the AP reported. He also said World Health Organization and U.S. health guidelines are too aggressive in testing passengers and crew who were on the same long-distance flight as an infected passenger.
But the study findings are unconvincing, said Dr. Richard Chaisson, a TB expert at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the editorial board of The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
He added he doesn't believe there's a problem with U.S. or WHO guidelines, the AP reported.
Obama Administration Details Healthy Food Financing Initiative
Making good on its goal to bring healthy foods into poor neighborhoods, Obama administration officials on Friday laid out the details of the $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
The initiative, which dovetails with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign to battle childhood obesity in the United States, will provide financing and technical assistance to companies that bring healthy foods to urban and rural communities in dire need of nutritious alternatives, according to the Associated Press.
The initiative, a partnership between the departments of the U.S. Treasury, Agriculture and Health and Human Services, was launched in Philadelphia by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the wire service said.
Efforts will include developing and equipping grocery stores and other small businesses and retailers selling healthy food in communities that currently lack these choices. These low-income communities, often referred to as "food deserts," are usually populated by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer little or no fresh produce. Lack of healthy, affordable foods can contribute to obesity and the diet-related diseases that follow, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
The goal is to reach all of these underserved communities, creating new jobs in the process, within seven years, administration officials noted.
"Our effort to improve access to healthy and affordable food is a critically important step toward First Lady Michelle Obama's goal to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation," said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. "The Healthy Food Financing Initiative will enhance access to healthy and affordable choices in struggling urban and rural communities, create jobs and economic development, and establish market opportunities for farmers and ranchers."
An estimated 23.5 million people, including 6.5 million children, live in low-income areas where they are more than a mile from a supermarket. Of the 23.5 million, 11.5 million are low-income individuals in households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the poverty line, government statistics show.