Health Highlights: Feb. 14, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

San Francisco Commuters Warned About Possible Measles Exposure

Thousands of San Francisco-area train commuters are being alerted they may have been exposed to measles by an infected passenger.

Health officials said a University of California, Berkeley student who was infected on a trip to Asia rode the BART trains between Feb. 4 and 7, USA Today reported.

Measles symptoms can take seven to 10 days to develop so any commuter infected by the student could just be starting to get sick, according to authorities.

"It is very important for them to recognize the symptoms of fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and perhaps a rash," and to contact health care providers immediately," said Erika Janssen, a communicable disease officer for Contra Costa County, USA Today reported.


Many People Didn't Pay First Health Insurance Plan Premiums

About 20 percent of Americans who enrolled in health insurance plans under the new health care law did not have coverage in January because they did not pay their initial premiums, according to industry officials.

Under the law, consumers have to pay the first premium in order for their coverage to take effect. Due to difficulties with the introduction of the new insurance enrollment system, federal officials asked insurers to give customers more time to make the first payment, and many did so, the The New York Times reported.

Despite those extensions, many people missed the first payment.

About 80 percent of consumers who signed up for plans with Blue Shield of California made their initial payment by the due date of Jan. 15, and about 70 percent of people who enrolled in plans with Aetna paid their first premiums on time, according to spokespeople for the companies, The Times reported.

The number of customers who paid their first installments by the due date was 76 percent at WellPoint, 75 percent at Humana, and about 80 percent at Health Care Service Corporation, which offers Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Texas and three other states.

There could be a number of reasons why some people didn't make their first payments on insurance plans. These include deciding they didn't want the plan, not receiving an invoice or receiving it late, or not being able to get through besieged health plan line phone lines, The Times reported.

Federal officials said they don't know how many people who signed up for coverage had paid their initial premiums because the part of the computer system needed to pay insurers hasn't been completed.


Put Health Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks: California Lawmaker

A California lawmaker wants the state to become the first to have health warning labels on sodas and other sugary beverages.

The proposed bill is supported by the California Medical Association, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, and a number of other groups, the Associated Press reported.

Democratic Sen. William Monning wants all drinks that have sweeteners and contain 75 or more calories in every 12 ounces to carry the following label: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay."

Monning noted that there is extensive evidence showing the connection between sugary drinks and those health problems, and added that the wording on the warning label was developing by a national panel of public health and nutrition experts, the AP reported.

A similar type of bill is being considered in Vermont.

Friday, February 14, 2014

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