Health Highlights: Jan. 16, 2014
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Judge Rejects Legal Challenge Against Health Insurance Subsidies
A legal challenge against health care insurance subsidies for millions of Americans was rejected Wednesday by a federal judge.
The subsidies are a key part of the Affordable Care Act and are available to low- and middle-income people regardless of whether they purchase health coverage through the federal insurance exchange or in state-run marketplaces, The New York Times reported.
People who may qualify for subsidies include those with annual incomes up to $45,960 for individuals and up to $94,200 for a family of four.
Opponents of the health care law filed a lawsuit claiming that a literal reading of the act would permit subsidies only in the 14 states with their own insurance exchanges. The legal action was launched by several people in states that use the federal exchange: Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
But Judge Paul Friedman of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. said the claim made in the lawsuit was absurd and contrary to the whole purpose of the health care law, The Times reported.
"The plain text of the statute, the statutory structure and the statutory purpose make clear that Congress intended to make premium tax credits available on both state-run and federally facilitated exchanges," Friedman said.
He added: "Congress assumed that tax credits would be available nationwide" and "on any exchange, regardless of whether it is operated by a state" or by the federal government.
The ruling is "an important win for health care consumers across the country," Ronald Pollack, executive director of Families U.S.A., told The Times.
The plaintiffs will appeal the decision, according to Sam Kazman, general counsel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is coordinating and helping finance the lawsuit.
Similar lawsuits against subsidies in the federal exchange have been filed by several Virginia residents and by state officials in Oklahoma and Indiana, The Times reported.
The exchanges opened Oct. 1 and nearly 1.2 million people had chosen plans in the federal marketplace and nearly a million had selected plans in state exchanges as of Dec. 28.
About 80 percent of people who selected plans from federal or state exchanges qualified for subsidies to lower their premiums, The Times reported.
Health Care Fraud Cases Reach Record High
A record number of health care fraud cases were filed last year by federal prosecutors, according to U.S. Justice Department statistics obtained by a nonprofit group at Syracuse University.
The figures show that prosecutors took action on 377 new federal health care fraud cases in the fiscal year ending in October 2013, which is 3 percent higher than the previous year and 7.7 percent more than five years ago, the Associated Press reported.
The highest rate of filings was in southern Illinois, where federal prosecutors pursued 10.1 cases per 1 million people. That's more than eight times the national average.
The latest numbers may reflect the increased focus the federal government has placed on fighting a crime that costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year, the AP reported.
The Justice Department statistics were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization that monitors federal spending, staffing and enforcement.
Muscle-Building Exercises Reduce Women's Diabetes Risk: Study
Lifting weights and other muscle-building workouts reduce women's risk of diabetes, according to a new study.
Researchers analyzed data collected from nearly 100,000 U.S. nurses over eight years and found that those who lifted weights, did press-ups or similar resistance workouts were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, BBC News reported.
Compared with inactive women, those who did at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity and at least an hour of muscle-strengthening exercises a week were a third less likely to develop diabetes, said the study in the journal PLoS Medicine.
It was already known that regular aerobic workouts can help prevent type 2 diabetes. And previous studies have shown that muscle-building exercises protect men against diabetes, BBC News reported.