Headlines: March 24, 2010
by Meg Larkin
In an Oval Office Ceremony yesterday, President Obama signed the landmark health reform bill into law. The bill was signed with twenty pens, which were given to key staffers and others in appreciation of their support. One of the pens was given to Victoria Kennedy, the widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, as an acknowledgment of the late Senator’s life-long dedication to health reform. As Democrats celebrated their success, Republicans worked to mount a challenge to the law. Republicans are rallying around the issue of repealing the legislation, and more than 12 State Attorneys general have brought legal challenges.
Many parts of the health reform law will not come into effect for another four years. While some of the regulations on insurers take effect immediately, the core of the legislation, the individual mandate, will not come into force until 2014. Some small taxes and popular provisions like guaranteed issue of health insurance will start sooner, but individuals have some time to decide how to best meet the requirements of the bill that will come into effect later.
In other health news, the rate of Caesarian Sections in the United States is increasing rapidly. The rate of Caesarian Sections hit a high of 32 percent in 2007, and it is showing no sign of slowing. Because C-Sections are now such a common approach to childbirth, many women may not understand that it has all the risks of major abdominal surgery. According to the New York Times, “Risks to the mother increase with each subsequent Caesarean, because the surgery raises the odds that the uterus will rupture in the next pregnancy, an event that can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby. Caesareans also increase the risk of dangerous abnormalities in the placenta during later pregnancies, which can cause hemorrhaging and lead to a hysterectomy. Repeated Caesareans can make it risky or even impossible to have a large family.” While rates of C-Sections are higher in the US than most industrialized nations, some developing countries have rates as high as 40 to 50 percent.
In other children’s health news, the risk of obesity later in life may start in the womb. New research suggests that several risk factors for obesity begin with the mother during pregnancy. If the mother is overweight or smokes, the child is more likely to be obese. It is also recommended that infants get at least 12 hours of sleep a day and be breast-fed in order to lower the risk of obesity in later life. The Times pointed out that, “Like children and teenagers, babies and toddlers have been getting fatter. One in 10 children under age 2 is overweight. The percentage of children ages 2 to 5 who are obese increased to 12.4 percent in 2006 from 5 percent in 1980.” The new research may spur earlier health interventions for children under the age of 5.
Finally, new research suggests that long-term use of osteoporosis medication may lead to unusual leg fractures. The FDA has not established a clear link between the drugs and atypical fractures, but “the unusual bone breaks — called atypical subtrochanteric femur fractures — were first documented in small clinical reports and through the FDA's MedWatch system, which monitors side effects of drugs after they've been approved.” While the Med Watch findings point to correlation, they do not mean that the drugs are the cause of the fractures.
Meg Larkin is a second year law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments