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Following Trump order, IRS shifts on health care mandate
WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS says it's following President Donald Trump's executive order on health care by easing enforcement of the unpopular Obama-era requirement for people to have coverage or risk fines.

CMS issues proposals for Obamacare individual insurance market
(Reuters) - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed on Wednesday to reduce the period for the enrollment for individual Obamacare plans for 2018, as part of the agency's efforts to stabilize the individual insurance market. The rule proposes to shorten the upcoming annual open enrollment period for the individual market to Nov. 1-Dec. 15, 2017. The proposal also suggests changes to the special enrollment periods, guaranteed availability and network adequacy rules.

Insurer Anthem fires back at Cigna
Health insurers Anthem and Cigna are now trading lawsuits instead of working together to salvage a shaky $48-billion buyout agreement. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield carrier Anthem said Wednesday that it is ...

NYC officials: 1 person dies, 2 ill from rat-related disease
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York City health department says one person has died and two others have become severely ill after they contracted a rare disease transmitted by rats.

China bird flu deaths surge in what could be the worst season ever

A quarantine researcher checks on a chicken at a poultry farm in XiangyangAs many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in China last month, the government said, stoking worries that the spread of the virus this season could be the worst on record. The official government total is 306 since October, with 192 reported last month.


Aetna CEO says Obamacare individual plans are in 'death spiral'

FILE PHOTO - Mark Bertolini, Chairman and CEO of Aetna, participates in a panel discussion at the 2015 Fortune Global Forum in San FranciscoNEW YORK (Reuters) - Aetna Inc Chief Executive Mark Bertolini on Wednesday said the individual Obamacare exchanges are in a "death spiral" where rising premiums push out healthy customers and leave only the sickest customers behind, which then drives up premium rates further. Bertolini was speaking at a Wall Street Journal conference one day after it and Humana Inc walked away from their merger because the government blocked it on antitrust grounds. ...


WHO declares end to yellow fever outbreak in Congo, Angola

FILE - In this Friday, July 22, 2016, file photo teams from MSF carry out fumigation efforts in the Yolo Sud neighborhood of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, in a bid to kill the mosquitos that transmit yellow fever. The World Health Organization has declared an end to the yellow fever outbreak that killed about 400 people in Congo and Angola, calling it "one of the largest and most challenging" in recent years. The outbreak, first detected in Angola in late 2015, caused 965 confirmed cases and thousands of suspected cases in both countries, the WHO said in a statement Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The World Health Organization has declared an end to the yellow fever outbreak that killed about 400 people in Congo and Angola, calling it "one of the largest and most challenging" in recent years.


Congo declares end to worst yellow fever epidemic in decades

A Congolese child is vaccinated during an emergency campaign of vaccination against yellow fever in Kisenso district, of the DRC's capital KinshasaBy Katy Migiro NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Democratic Republic of Congo's worst yellow fever outbreak in decades has ended two months after Angola declared its epidemic to be over, following a massive U.N.-backed vaccine campaign, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. No new cases have been reported in either country in six months, just over a year after the outbreak began in December 2015 in a slum in Angola's capital, Luanda, before spreading into neighbouring DRC. "We are able to declare the end of one of the largest and most challenging yellow fever outbreak in recent years," the WHO's Africa director Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement late on Tuesday.


Highlights: The Trump presidency on Feb. 15 at 8:40 A.M. EST
(Reuters) - Highlights of the day for U.S. President Donald Trump's administration on Wednesday: RUSSIA Trump dismisses the idea of any "Russian connection" in a tweet after a New York Times report that said members of his presidential campaign had contacts with Russian intelligence officials. The Kremlin says U.S. media reports about Russian intelligence connections to Trump's presidential campaign are groundless. Russia says it will not hand back Crimea to Ukraine or discuss the matter with foreign partners after the White House says Trump expects the annexed Black Sea peninsula to be returned.

Integra offers to buy J&J's Codman business for $1.05 billion
(Reuters) - Medical device maker Integra LifeSciences Holdings Corp said on Wednesday it has offered to buy Johnson & Johnson's Codman neurosurgery business for $1.05 billion in cash. Integra, which makes products used in neurosurgery, reconstruction, wound and dental care, said Codman's devices would bolster its pipeline of offerings for tissue ablation, spinal cord repair and cranial stabilization. The Codman neurosurgery business, which is part of J&J's Depuy unit and markets devices for use in neuro-critical care and electrosurgery, generated sales of about $370 million in 2016.

French producers estimate bird flu toll at 3.3 million birds

Mulard ducks are pictured at a poultry farm in Montsoue as France continues a massive cull of ducks in three regions most affected by a severe outbreak of bird fluThe number of poultry killed or culled due to bird flu in France is forecast to reach 3.3 million birds after France extended on Wednesday the area where poultry must be slaughtered to contain the fast-spreading virus, foie gras producers said. The toll is likely to rise further as new outbreaks continue to be detected daily in the southwestern part of the country, the main production zone for the duck and goose liver specialty, Marie-Pierre Pe, general secretary of producers group Cifog, said. France and Hungary have been the countries hardest hit by the highly contagious H5N8 avian flu virus that has been spreading across Europe as well as Middle eastern countries in the past three months.


Anthem sues Cigna to block deal termination

A sign at the office building of health insurer Anthem is seen in Los Angeles, CaliforniaCigna said on Tuesday it notified Anthem it had ended the deal and that Anthem was required to pay a $1.85 billion break-up fee. Cigna also filed a lawsuit in Delaware, seeking legal sanction for its decision to end the deal and approval for $13 billion in damages for its shareholders who did not receive the takeover premium. Aetna Inc and Humana Inc walked away from their $34 billion merger on Tuesday, weeks after a separate judge blocked their deal on similar grounds, stopping the industry consolidation the health insurers charted to address former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.


Kenyan court frees doctors' leaders jailed during health sector strike

Kenyan doctors chant slogans to demand fulfilment of a 2013 agreement between their union and the government that would raise their pay and improve working conditions outside the employment and labour relations courts in NairobiBy Clement Uwiringiyimana NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's Court of Appeal on Wednesday ordered the release from jail of officials from the national doctors' union so they can negotiate with the government over a strike that has paralyzed the public health sector. The strike has angered Kenyans and turned into a test of President Uhuru Kenyatta's leadership ahead of an election in August. The union, which has about 5,000 members, wants the government to implement a deal agreed in 2013 to give doctors a 150 to 180 percent pay rise on basic salaries, review working conditions, job structures and criteria for promotions and address under-staffing in state hospitals.


'Apple-shaped' body could raise risk of diabetes

Researchers found that people with certain genes that predisposed them to higher waist-to-hip ratio also had higher lipids, insulin, glucose and systolic blood pressure, as well as a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.People who are genetically predisposed to storing belly fat, or having an apple-shaped body type, could face a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, researchers said Tuesday. The study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests a person's genetic makeup may cause health problems down the road. "People vary in their distribution of body fat -- some put fat in their belly, which we call abdominal adiposity, and some in their hips and thighs," said senior author Sekar Kathiresan, associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.


South Africa's Imperial buys stake in Kenyan pharmaceutical distributor
South African logistics group Imperial Holdings will buy a 70 percent stake in Kenyan pharmaceutical distributor Surgipharm for $35 million in line with its African growth strategy, the company said on Wednesday. Surgipharm, which is headquartered in Nairobi, is a leading distributor of pharmaceutical, medical, surgical and allied supplies in Kenya, with an annual turnover of about $70 million, the company said in a statement. Imperial has made acquisitions in the pharmaceutical sector in Nigeria and the Netherlands.

Europe ready to embrace first copies of biotech cancer drugs

FILE PHOTO: Packets of Herceptin sit on pharmacy shelf in LondonBy Ben Hirschler LONDON (Reuters) - Treatment with two important cancer drugs is about to get much cheaper in Europe with a cut-price copy of Roche's blood cancer drug Rituxan likely to hit the market imminently followed by a rival to its breast cancer medicine Herceptin. As cancer drug prices spiral, the arrival of the first biosimilars or copies of biotech drugs, ones made inside living cells, puts European oncologist in the forefront of a treatment shift that could slash costs and expand patient access. Copycat versions of Rituxan, also known as MabThera, and Herceptin have faced several delays in development in the past.


Kenyan court frees doctors' leaders jailed during health sector strike

Striking doctors hold placards and chant slogans outside the Court of Appeal as they wait for the release of jailed officials of the national doctors' union in Kenya's capital NairobiBy Clement Uwiringiyimana NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's Court of Appeal on Wednesday ordered the release from jail of officials from the national doctors' union so they can negotiate with the government over a strike that has paralyzed the public health sector. The strike has angered Kenyans and turned into a test of President Uhuru Kenyatta's leadership ahead of an election in August. The union, which has about 5,000 members, wants the government to implement a deal agreed in 2013 to give doctors a 150 to 180 percent pay rise on basic salaries, review working conditions, job structures and criteria for promotions and address under-staffing in state hospitals.


Swimming-Olympic great Hackett arrested after 'breakdown'

Olympic swimmer Grant Hackett of Australia speaks at a news conference at an event to unveil the new line of Speedo LZR Racer X swim suits inNew YorkAustralian long distance swimming great Grant Hackett was arrested and detained by police in the Gold Coast on Wednesday after a "breakdown" at his parents' home, local media reported. The troubled triple Olympic champion's father told local newspaper, the Gold Coast Bulletin, that he had called the police so his 36-year-old son could be given help. "Grant's got a medical problem and it manifested itself here this morning... he was raving and ranting a bit," Neville Hackett told the paper.


Swimming-Olympic great Hackett arrested after 'breakdown'
* Swimmer's father says Hackett was "raving and ranting" * Brother says Olympian poses danger to himself and community (Adds quotes) MELBOURNE, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Australian long distance swimming great Grant Hackett was arrested and detained by police in the Gold Coast on Wednesday after a "breakdown" at his parents' home, local media reported. The troubled triple Olympic champion's father told local newspaper, the Gold Coast Bulletin, that he had called the police so his 36-year-old son could be given help. "Grant's got a medical problem and it manifested itself here this morning... he was raving and ranting a bit," Neville Hackett told the paper.

Could gene editing help avoid disease? Maybe

Graphic explains the CRISPR-Cas9 method of gene editing; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;WASHINGTON (AP) — Don't expect designer babies any time soon — but a major new ethics report leaves open the possibility of one day altering human heredity to fight genetic diseases, with stringent oversight, using new tools that precisely edit genes inside living cells.


Actor Hugh Jackman treated for skin cancer again

Australian actor Hugh JackmanAustralian movie star Hugh Jackman has undergone treatment for skin cancer again and renewed his warning to wear sunscreen. Thanks to frequent body checks and amazing doctors, all is well," his Tuesday post read. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and can develop on parts of the body which receive high sun exposure.


Pharma industry shuns Trump push for radical shift at FDA

A view shows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Silver SpringThe prospect of big change at the regulatory agency comes as drugmakers are under fire for high prices, including Marathon Pharmaceuticals LLC, which said Monday it was "pausing" the launch of its Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug after U.S. lawmakers questioned its $89,000 a year price. Industry trade group Biotechnology Innovation Organization told Reuters that during high-level discussions with Trump advisors, lobbyists urged the administration not to name a new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration who would act rashly to speed up the agency’s approval of new medicines.


Pick for Medicare post faces questions on Indiana contracts

FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2017 file photo, Seema Verma, left, then President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, gets on an elevator in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. Verma, President Trump's pick to oversee Medicare and Medicaid consulted Vice President Mike Pence on health care issues while he was Indiana's governor, a post she maintained amid a web of business arrangements, including one that ethics experts say conflicted with her public duties. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci File)INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — President Donald Trump's pick to oversee Medicare and Medicaid advised Vice President Mike Pence on health care issues while he was Indiana's governor, a post she maintained amid a web of business arrangements — including one that ethics experts say conflicted with her public duties.


2 big insurance breakups on Valentine's Day

Aetna, Humana call off $34 billion dealIt was a rough day for the already-roiled U.S. health insurance market: One giant merger was abandoned, another is threatened by infighting, and a major insurer announced it will stop selling coverage ...


Study links working remotely to more stress, insomnia

A new report from the United Nations International Labour Organization studied the impacts of working remotely, with technological advances continuing to revolutionise conceptions of the workplaceWorking outside an office may spare you from commutes and interruptions by colleagues but it also makes you more vulnerable to unpaid overtime, stress and insomnia, the UN said Wednesday. A new report from the United Nations International Labour Organization studied the impacts of working remotely, with technological advances continuing to revolutionise conceptions of the workplace.


Brain damage in former players fuels soccer 'heading' fears

Players from a soccer academy practice against the setting sun in ChandigarhBy Ben Hirschler LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have found signs of brain damage that could cause dementia in a handful of former soccer players, fuelling worries about the danger of frequent knocks from heading the ball or colliding with others on the field. The small study was the first of its kind, involving post mortems on six men who died with dementia after long careers playing soccer. It suggests that some professional soccer players might risk the same long-term cognitive problems suffered by boxers and some American football players.


Obamacare significantly expanded insurance for people with HIV

FILE PHOTO - Applications are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act in Jackson MississippiBy Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - The first national analysis of the impact of the Affordable Care Act on people with HIV showed significant increases in health insurance coverage among people infected with the virus that causes AIDS, according to a report released on Tuesday. The report comes as Republican lawmakers and President Donald Trump discuss ways to repeal the health insurance law, also known as Obamacare, which expanded insurance coverage to 20 million people. The study was based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Medical Monitoring Project, which gathers nationally representative information about people who have or are being treated for HIV infections - but not all people with HIV.


Sold into marriage: how Rohingya girls become child brides in Malaysia

A Rohingya child bride who ran away from her husband, carries her sister outside a shack she shares with her mother and siblings, on the outskirts of Kuala LumpurBy Rozanna Latiff and Ebrahim Harris KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The slight girl in a turquoise headscarf held back tears as she recalled what happened when she fled to Malaysia from Myanmar's violence-hit Rakhine state. The teenager, who is not being named by Reuters because she is still only 13, is like hundreds of Rohingya girls escaping persecution, violence and apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine, only to be sold into marriage to Rohingya men in neighboring Malaysia, migrant groups and community members said. Separated from her family while escaping to Malaysia, she said she was caught by traffickers and held for weeks in a filthy and brutal jungle camp near the Thai-Malaysian border with dozens of others.


Brain damage in former players fuels soccer 'heading' fears
Scientists have found signs of brain damage that could cause dementia in a handful of former soccer players, fuelling worries about the danger of frequent knocks from heading the ball or colliding with others on the field. The small study was the first of its kind, involving post mortems on six men who died with dementia after long careers playing soccer. It suggests that some professional soccer players might risk the same long-term cognitive problems suffered by boxers and some American football players.

Merck stopping late stage study as another Alzheimer's drug fails
(Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc said on Tuesday it will halt a late-stage trial of an Alzheimer's drug after it was determined that it had no chance of working, marking the latest in a long line of crushing disappointments in efforts to find an effective treatment for the mind-wasting disease. The company was testing its drug, verubecestat, in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. The news sent Merck shares down nearly 2 percent in after hours trading.

Revised US tally: HIV infections fell 18 percent in 6 years

Revised US tally: HIV infections fell 18 percent in 6 yearsNew calculations to better track HIV infections confirm that the U.S. is seeing a strong and steady decline. The number of new cases has been falling for years. But health officials wanted a clearer picture ...


Aetna, Humana drop merger; Cigna wants to end Anthem deal

FILE PHOTO - A trader points up at a display on the floor of the New York Stock ExchangeBy Caroline Humer and Diane Bartz NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Health insurers Aetna Inc and Humana Inc walked away from their $34 billion merger on Tuesday and Cigna Corp sought to end its deal with Anthem, shelving the industry consolidation they charted to address former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. Humana also said it would exit the Obamacare individual insurance market after this year, saying that early medical costs were running a bit high. Humana was one of several insurers that lost money in 2016 and then cut back offerings for this year, saying the program needs to be changed.


Ethics office urges White House to weigh disciplining Conway

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway speaks at the annual March for Life rally in WashingtonThe White House should consider disciplinary action against presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway for appearing to violate government ethics rules by publicly endorsing Ivanka Trump products, the Office of Government Ethics wrote in a letter made public on Tuesday. The letter, dated Monday and addressed to a White House ethics official, asked President Donald Trump's administration to investigate the incident and gave it two weeks to provide its findings and detail any disciplinary steps taken. Conway, Trump's presidential campaign manager and now a senior counselor, said on Fox News last week that Americans should "go buy Ivanka's stuff." She spoke after retailer Nordstrom announced it was dropping the branded line of Ivanka Trump, the president's older daughter.


Texas anti-abortion efforts renew after Supreme Court defeat
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Undeterred by a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down sweeping abortion restrictions that were sold as protecting women's health, Texas Republicans are pushing new measures pitched as protecting fetuses, with a hopeful eye toward Washington.

Exercise during pregnancy may help obese women avoid dangerous complications
(This version of the Feb 13th story corrects the meeting location in paragraph 3.) By Rob Goodier (Reuters Health) - Exercise may be an efficient way for obese pregnant women to lower their risk of diabetes, dangerously high blood pressure and other complications, research suggests. “The study suggests that a prenatal exercise-based intervention leads to both decreased costs and improved outcomes in obese women,” said Leah Savitsky, a medical student at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland who led the study. As reported at the 37th annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Las Vegas, Nevada, Savitsky and her team analyzed previously published research on the effect of exercise on pregnant women with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30.

Nativity and ethnicity may influence quality of breast cancer care
By Lisa Rapaport (Reuters Health) - Doctors may diagnose breast cancer later and be less likely to offer needed radiation for Hispanic immigrants than for Hispanic women born in the U.S. and white women, a recent study suggests. The results indicate that disparities in care and biases that influence treatment may be based not just on immigration status but also on race, said senior study author Dr. David Chang of Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Compared to white women born in the U.S., Hispanic women born in the country were 18 percent more likely to be diagnosed when tumors had already advanced to become more difficult to treat, and Hispanic immigrants were 26 percent more likely to get a later diagnosis.

Cooling caps help women keep hair during breast cancer chemo
By Andrew M. Seaman (Reuters Health) - Women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer are more likely to keep most of their hair with the help of devices that cool the scalp, according to two new studies. The devices work like refrigerators by sending fluid into a special helmet to cool the scalp before, during and after chemotherapy treatments. "I think it’s a very exciting tool, because hair loss is such a horrible manifestation of chemotherapy," said Dr. Harold Burstein, a breast cancer specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Recovering from memory loss, Kanye West focuses on fashion comeback

Kanye West on stage during the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in New YorkBy Melissa Fares NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two months after being hospitalized for exhaustion and still recovering from memory loss, Kanye West is expected to make his first major public appearance at New York Fashion Week, his producer revealed. West, who was hospitalized after abruptly canceling the remainder of his "Pablo" tour following a week of curtailed concerts and rants about politics, is expected to be at Wednesday's New York presentation of his latest Yeezy collection of high-end athleisure wear for sports brand Adidas. Music producer Malik Yusef said he has visited with the rapper recently and that West was focused on his recovery and spending time with his two young children with wife, reality star Kim Kardashian.


No designer babies, but gene editing to avoid disease? Maybe

Graphic explains the CRISPR-Cas9 method of gene editing; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;WASHINGTON (AP) — Don't expect designer babies any time soon — but a major new ethics report leaves open the possibility of one day altering human heredity to fight genetic diseases, with stringent oversight, using new tools that precisely edit genes inside living cells.


Don't reach for pills for most chronic low back pain
By Andrew M. Seaman (Reuters Health) - People should try non-drug treatment options like massage or stretching for most cases of chronic low back pain before choosing treatment with over-the-counter or prescription drugs, according to new guidelines. If the pain began recently, the guidelines recommend superficial heat, massage, acupuncture or spinal manipulation. If patients wish to take medication, they should use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, or skeletal muscle relaxants prescribed by a doctor.

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