Monday, March 30, 2009

Should Health Insurance Be Required?

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You're Saying I Have No Choice...

The debate is on. On one side you have government regulators who insist all Americans be offered affordable health insurance. On the other side you have the insurers who insist every American be required to purchase health insurance.

In the middle, of course, are the 46 million Americans who have no say in the argument -- the 46 million Americans who currently have no health insurance coverage.

Health insurance is a hot topic, with the Obama administration insisting reforms take place in the near term. On this point, at least, the insurers are in full agreement. Reform is necessary and it must occur quickly. But beyond that it gets a bit trickier.

Administration reformers want to eliminate an insurer’s ability to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions. But, say insurers, to do so will send costs through the roof. The only way to absorb the cost, they say, is to impose an individual health insurance coverage mandate: a requirement that every individual in the United States purchase some form of health insurance coverage.

It's hard to say how this will play out, but the need is obvious. Health insurance costs continue to soar, with premiums increasing eight times faster than incomes over the past fifteen years.

So, stay tuned. The health of the nation is at stake.

To read more about the debate, see this from Reuters. To learn more about health insurance issues and coverage, see this from

Monday, March 23, 2009

Big Tobacco Meets Big Tax

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What's it Worth...

How much is it worth? Really -- deep down, at the very heart of your being. How much is that puff, especially the very first one, really worth to you?

Well, this is a question that may soon be answered.

A new federal cigarette tax is scheduled to take effect on April 1. The increase is likely to send cigarette prices soaring. The new tax will add about $.60 per pack to the already pricey little joysticks. And, the real question then becomes, exactly how much joy will be left in each costly pack?

Officials say that smoking currently kills over 400,000 Americans each year. The burden on the healthcare system is quickly approaching $200 billion annually. So, these are big stakes any way you look at it.

Analysts predict the new tax might prevent as many as 1 million people from picking up the cigarette habit. That's fabulous news. And, with fewer smokers comes reduced healthcare expenditures. Possibly, over time, a reduction over $44 billion

So, after you ask yourself what that cigarette is really worth, take a good look in the mirror. Ask that person staring back at you the same question -- then go out for a walk. You'll save both your health and money with a few simple steps.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To find resources to help you smoking, see this from

Monday, March 16, 2009

Smoking Bans Make for Happy Hearts

news you may not know The Only Way to Treat a Cigarette...

A fascinating new study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the power of government put to good use. Now, admittedly, that's not necessarily always the case. But, in this particular situation, it seems good government and good health sometime go hand in hand.

Officials in Pueblo, Colorado, instituted a municipal code banning smoking in workplaces and public places in 2003. The results were stunning. Sure, people still continued to smoke. That goes without saying -- once addicted, well...

But, consider these figures.

In the 18 months prior to the initiation of the smoking ban, there were 399 admissions to Pueblo hospitals for heart attacks. But, after the smoking ban went into effect, the next 18 months saw only 237 hospital admissions for heart attacks. For those of you without a calculator handy, that's a reduction of 41 percent.

And, according to the CDC, positive impact lasted a full three years.

The culprit appears to be secondhand smoke. The CDC says exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart attacks for non-smokers by over 25%. That's huge number. Each year in the United States it's estimated over 45,000 people die as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke.

So, let's be thankful that every once in a while government intervention can, indeed, be quite a useful thing.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about quitting smoking, see this useful information from yet another government organization,

Monday, March 09, 2009

Stem Cell Breakthrough

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Some Are Tired of Dolly's Fame...

Do you like sheep? Well, if so, you're in good company. One of the researchers who cloned Dolly the sheep is part of the team that recently announced a major breakthrough in stem cell technology. Word on the farm is Dolly's ancestors will make their own announcement shortly.

The breakthrough has to do with the use of ordinary skin cells to create induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells -- these are cells that behave identically to embryonic stem cells. Researchers had previously shown they could create stem cells from ordinary skin cells. But to do so they had to rely on using viruses to complete the process. While this worked, it also raised the possibility of inducing cancer at a later date.

The new technology no longer uses viruses -- it's a huge step in the right direction.

“I was very excited when I found stem cell-like cells in my culture dishes. Nobody, including me, thought it was really possible,” said Dr Keisuke Kaji from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Regenerative Medicine. "This new method will advance the field of regenerative medicine, and should help understand diseases and test new drugs. It is a step towards the practical use of reprogrammed cells in medicine, perhaps even eliminating the need for human embryos as a source of stem cells.”

... excellent news indeed.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about stem cells, see this from the National Institutes of Health.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Clean Living Cuts Cancer

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The Ultimate Cancer Fighting Substances

Life often feels as if things are spinning out of control. The mortgage payment is due on Tuesday, the kids need braces, your health insurance premiums are skyrocketing, and the cat has forgotten how to use the litter box. Much more significantly, you feel terrible. This time, you're afraid, it might be more than a simple case of indigestion.

It might be cancer.

No word strikes more fear into our hearts when it comes to medical issues. It's the whole spinning out of control issue. When it comes to cancer, we simply feel we have no control. But, a new research study begs to differ.

As a matter of fact, the study indicates that as many as one-third of all cancers can be prevented by simple lifestyle changes. Eating healthier diets, getting more exercise, and controlling our weight are at the heart of the matter. The study, from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer research, found, for example, that 43 percent of colon cancer cases in Britain could be avoided.

The study findings held true across both rich and poor nations. While the effect was greatest in richer nations, the study found that 27 percent of all cancers in China could be avoided.

"On a global level every year, there are millions of cancer cases that could have been prevented and this is why we need to act now before the situation gets even worse,” said the study’s leader, Michael Marmot.

How important is it?

11 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year worldwide. Close to eight million people will die each year as a result of their cancer. Yes, it's hugely important.

So, next time you feel life is spinning out of control, take a look around. There's got to be at least one serving of fruit or vegetables in the house -- see if you can find it.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about natural foods, see this from The World's Healthiest Foods.