Health notes: Nation waits for court rulingThe Supreme Court’s long-awaited ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is expected today.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
The Supreme Court’s long-awaited ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is expected today.
Regardless of what the court decides, advocacy groups on all sides are primed to respond.
The Citizens Federation of Duluth plans a statement from the standpoint of health-care consumers. The National Federation of Independent Business — one of the plaintiffs challenging the act — let reporters know its Minnesota director would be available to comment. Former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle was set to join pro-reform advocates in a news conference at 1 p.m. today — or later, if the decision is delayed — to offer their reactions. The Service Employees International Union plans a rally at 11 a.m. Friday at Government Plaza in Minneapolis, regardless of the decision, “so that corporate insurance companies know we are standing strong to build a health care system that stops profiting off people’s health,” the union announced.
The legal argument might have been settled, but clearly the political debate will continue.
Fighting drug shortages
A measure intended to prevent drug shortages is headed to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
The House and Senate have approved the final version of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in a news release. It includes a provision Klobuchar worked on to require prescription drug manufacturers to give early notification to the Food and Drug Administration of any incident that likely would result in a drug shortage.
It also directs the FDA to expedite inspections and reviews of manufacturing sites or new products that could be helpful in addressing a drug shortage, and require the FDA to keep detailed records of previous drug shortages and the actions taken to prevent them, Klobuchar’s office said in a news release.
A severe nationwide shortage of drugs last year and into this year for chemotherapy, infections and other serious ailments endangered patients and forced some hospitals to buy life-saving medications from secondary suppliers at huge markups because they couldn’t get them any other way.
Pharmacists at hospitals in the Northland avoided the secondary suppliers, also known as “gray market vendors,” but had to turn to alternatives for some medications.
A very noisy holiday
The Fourth of July is America’s noisiest day of the year, according to Hearing Associates of Duluth. In a news release, the local practice joined with the Better Hearing Institute in encouraging people to use sound judgment and ear plugs while they celebrate.
“The single bang of a firecracker at a close range can permanently damage hearing in an instant,” the news release said.
Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, the news release said. Ten million Americans have suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise, and 30 million are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.
Other summer activities also are loud, including concerts, stock car races, using lawn mowers and power equipment, shooting practice, power boating and listening to MP3 players and other electronic devices with ear buds and headphones.
Disposable ear plugs, made of foam or silicone, are available at pharmacies, the news release said. They allow the user to hear music and conversation, but when they fit snuggly they adequately block out dangerously loud sounds.
Cutting through background
For people who already have hearing difficulties, Essentia Health is installing a “hearing loop” in a couple of its auditoriums.
In a news release, Essentia said a hearing loop already is in use in its Dwan Auditorium, and another will be installed on Friday in the Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center Auditorium, with testing planned for Tuesday.
The system uses a wire installed in the auditorium ceiling to send out a signal that can be picked up by a tiny receiver called a telecoil, which is found in most hearing aids and cochlear implants, the news release said. That enables the person with a listening device to receive a clear sound from the auditorium’s microphones, cutting through background noise.
The system is being used elsewhere in concert halls, churches and even in New York City’s subway system, the news release said.
Keep water on hand
It’s ironic that in a time of flooding, lack of water can be a problem.
But people should be prepared for water emergencies, such as last week’s flood, the U.S. Department of Health said in a news release.
Dr. Julia Gargano, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said households should store at least 1 gallon of water per day per person. Gargano, who is in the CDC’s Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, said a two-week supply is ideal. If you don’t have that kind of storage room, at least a three-day supply is recommended.
A disaster supply kit also should include food, first aid supplies, a whistle to signal for help and local maps, the news release said.
Compiled by John Lundy, News Tribune staff writer