Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Congress Passes Bill Stopping Medicare Payment Cuts to Docs
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a
bipartisan bill that prevents a proposed 25 percent cut in 2011 to
the reimbursement rates Medicare provides to doctors.
The hotly contested bill, which passed the Senate Wednesday, now
goes to President Barack Obama for his signature,
The American Medical Association has lobbied hard against the
cuts, saying that some doctors might stop seeing Medicare patients
if reimbursements fell. More than 43 million older Americans now
receive Medicare benefits,
"Stopping the steep 25 percent Medicare cut for one year was vital to preserve seniors' access to physician care in 2011," Dr. Cecil Wilson, the association's president, told the news agency.
A law enacted in 1997 requires that Medicare adjust its payments
to physicians each year, based on the economic situation at the
time, so that the program remains solvent. But rate cuts have been
thwarted 10 times over the past eight years,
The bill passed by Congress is estimated to cost $19.3 billion
over 10 years, and will be paid for by revisions in tax credits for
people purchasing health insurance -- part of the health care
WTC Worker Health Bill Fails Senate Vote
A bill to provide as much as $7.4 billion in health care and
compensation to 9/11 responders sickened by dust at the World Trade
Center has been blocked by Senate Republicans.
The bill, which fell short of the 60 Senate votes needed to
carry it forward, has passed the House, the
Associated Press reported.
New York and New Jersey lawmakers have led the push for the bill
and believe this session of Congress may be its last chance.
Opponents are concerned about the cost and question whether the
government can guarantee the money will only go to eligible
Americans Using Nutmeg to Get High
Some Americans are getting high on nutmeg, which can be
hallucinogenic like LSD and give a buzz that lasts for one to two
days. But the awful side effects mean it's a one-time thing in most
"It's the flavor of the month," said Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, ABC News reported. "But most people only try it once because
they have such nasty side effects. The rewards are not worth the
Nutmeg contains a compound called myristicin, which can have
mind-altering effects if ingested in large quantities.
However, consuming copious amounts of nutmeg can cause severe
gut reactions such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as
heart and nerve problems,
ABC News reported.
CDC Urges Older Adults to Get Flu Vaccine
Flu vaccination is critical for adults age 65 and older because
they're at greater risk for serious flu complications such as
pneumonia, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
As part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, the agency
designated Thursday as Older Adults Vaccination Day.
Because the body's ability to fight illness weakens with age,
older adults have some of the highest rates of hospitalization and
death from the flu, the CDC said. Each year, older adults account
for about 9 out of 10 seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 6
out of 10 seasonal flu-related hospital stays in the United
The CDC is working with a number of grassroots and national
organizations to educate older adults about the serious threat
posed by the flu and the protection offered by flu vaccination.
Aretha Franklin Has Pancreatic Cancer, Reports Say
Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, has been diagnosed with
pancreatic cancer, according to media reports.
Detroit-based news outlets reported on Wednesday that the
68-year-old singer underwent surgery last week. Last month,
Franklin announced she was canceling all concert dates and personal
appearances through May.
The Detroit News confirmed that Franklin has pancreatic
cancer, which has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers,
killing around 95 percent of patients within five years of
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Wednesday that he has visited
Franklin several times recently and she is "recovering very well"
from the surgery.