Health Updates 4 October 2011

  • California lettuce recalled on listeria concerns: “But the chief executive of Church Brothers, which sells and markets the farm’s produce, clarified Saturday that the recall involved nearly 2,500  cartons.  Only 90 cartons went to retail sales, said CEO Steve Church, and those were the ones mentioned in the initial announcement.  The rest of the cartons, Church said, went to institutions such as restaurants and cafeterias, which were notified about the recall.” (Associated Press)
  • Drug abusers exploit Medicare: Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem for all types of insurance plans….Medicare, however, may be hobbled in its ability to confront the situation.  Program officials told investigators that federal law does not allow Medicare to limit the access of beneficiaries who appear to be abusing drugs.  Many private insurance plans and state Medicaid  programs restrict patients who appear to be abusing drugs so they can only get narcotics from specific doctors and pharmacies.” (Associated Press)
  • Yawning cools the brain?  Seriously? “The medical literature is rife with explanations for yawning, but one has gained substantial ground in recent years: This mysterious habit may help regulate brain temperature.  The brain operates best within a narrow range of temperatures, and like a car engine, it sometimes needs a way to cool down.  To lower the brain’s thermostat, researchers say, the body takes in cooler air from its surroundings – prompting deep inhalation.  Yawning is contagious.  Simply watching someone do it is enough to induce the behavior.  But when scientists had people watch yawning videos in a 2007 study, they found that applying cold packs to the subjects’ heads practically eliminated contagious yawning….The findings may explain why people yawn when tired:  Sleep deprivation raises brain temperature.”  So, the bottom line: “Growing evidence suggests yawning may be a way for the brain to cool off, though it is still just a theory.” (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)
  • Supreme Court hears Medicaid case that tests whether cash-strapped states can cut payments to providers: “The providers went to count in San Francisco arguing that California was violating federal law by imposing the cuts.  They said the reduced payments were so low that patients would be denied the care they  needed.  In response, federal district and appeals court judges issued orders blocking the cuts from going into effect.  Lawyers for California, backed by 31 other states, appealed to the higher court, and were joined by the Obama administration.  Together, they argued that disputes over Medicaid funding should be resolved by healthcare administrators in Washington and Sacramento, not by judges in San Francisco.” (LA Times)

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