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The exterior of Huntsville Unit, a prison in Huntsville, Texas on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.
Sergio Flores / The Texas Tribune

Even though Texas' prison population shrank this decade, the publicly funded costs to treat inmates' medical conditions continue to rise.

The state spent over $750 million on prison health care during the 2019 fiscal year, a 53% increase from seven years earlier, when that cost was less than $500 million.

It was a moment of genuine bipartisanship at the House Ways and Means Committee in October, as Democratic and Republican sponsors alike praised a bill called the "Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2019."

The bill, approved by the panel on a voice vote, would allow consumers to use their tax-free flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts to pay for over-the-counter medications and women's menstrual products.

Nearly 1 in 3 Texans in neighborhoods of color have medical debt, according to a new study from the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged 58 people across Texas with health care fraud costing at least $66 million, including “pill mill” schemes involving opioids. Doctors and medical professionals are among those facing charges.

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Federal prosecutors say 58 people across Texas have been charged with assorted health care fraud that's been blamed for $66 million in losses and unlawful distribution of opioids.

From Texas Standard:

Johns Hopkins University researchers recently analyzed hospital fees nationwide and found that Texas had the country’s highest health care markup ratio. Those ratios were highest in Brownsville-Harlingen, Laredo and El Paso. A markup ratio is what a hospital charges for a service, compared to the Medicare "allowable amount" – the rate that the federal government determines a service is worth.

Graduate student Shahab Haghayegh has long had trouble sleeping. But when the biomedical engineering student began his doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin five years ago, his issues worsened. "I would go to bed at 3 or 4 a.m. and wake up at 8 a.m.," he says. The exhausted Haghayegh was getting an average of just 4 or 5 hours sleep a night.

From Texas Standard:

For people who experience psychosis, getting care early on helps them better manage symptoms and lead productive lives. But for those living in rural Texas, care is often impossible to find. And without it, those living with psychosis can struggle to stay employed, maintain relationships or simply move through the world.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson / The Texas Tribune

Last year, after a federal judge in Texas declared the entirety of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, throwing into question millions of Americans’ health coverage, the state’s Republican leaders promised they would come up with a plan to replace it.

Texas must turn in legal briefs to a federal appeals court today ahead of a hearing next week on the state’s effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. 

Dr. Louise Aronson says the U.S. doesn't have nearly enough geriatricians — physicians devoted to the health and care of older people: "There may be maybe six or seven thousand geriatricians," she says. "Compare that to the membership of the pediatric society, which is about 70,000."

It can be hard to quantify the problem of elder abuse. Experts believe that many cases go unreported. And Wednesday morning, their belief was confirmed by two new government studies.

The research, conducted and published by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, finds that in many cases of abuse or neglect severe enough to require medical attention, the incidents have not been reported to enforcement agencies, though that's required by law.

Amanda Bacon's eating disorder was growing worse. She had lost 60% of her body weight and was consuming only about 100 calories a day.

But that wasn't sick enough for her Medicaid managed-care company to cover an inpatient treatment program. She was told in 2017 that unless she weighed 10 pounds less — which would have put her at 5-foot-7 and 90 pounds — or was admitted to a psychiatric unit, she wasn't eligible for coverage.

"I remember thinking, 'I'm going to die,' " the Las Cruces, N.M., resident recalls.

Associated Press

New research shows fatal falls have nearly tripled in older Americans in recent years, rising to more than 25,000 deaths yearly.

What's Doctor Burnout Costing America?

May 31, 2019

Doctor burnout is costing the U.S. health care system a lot — roughly $4.6 billion a year, according to a study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Everybody who goes into medicine knows that it's a stressful career and that it's a lot of hard work," says Lotte Dyrbye, a physician and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who co-authored the study.

Cancer drugs that speed onto the market based on encouraging preliminary studies often don't show clear benefits when more careful follow-up trials are done, according to research published Tuesday.

These cancer drugs are granted accelerated approval to give patients faster access to the treatments and to allow drug companies to reap the economic rewards sooner. As a condition of this process, the Food and Drug Administration requires drug companies to conduct more research, to confirm whether the medications actually work and are safe.

Staid and steeped in parliamentary rules, the annual World Health Assembly is a mostly predictable exercise. Delegates from 194 member states of the World Health Organization gather each May to plod through a lengthy agenda and haggle over policies and priorities for the WHO's upcoming year. A few decisions are momentous, most mundane.

If you've ever had a little one at home with a fever, you might have noticed two options for Tylenol at the store.

There's one for infants and one for children. They contain the same amount of medicine — 160 milligrams of acetaminophen per 5 milliliters of liquid — but the infant version costs three times more.

What gives? It turns out, there's a backstory.

Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured women between the ages of 18 to 44, according to a new study from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

A surprise medical bill may be a thing of the past for many Texans. In a unanimous vote, the Texas House approved a Senate bill banning health care providers from sending steep medical bills to insured Texans in emergencies.

From Texas Standard:

Momentum for one of Gov. Greg Abbott's priority issues this legislative session appears to have dwindled. Ordinances passed in Dallas, Austin and other Texas cities, which require private employers to offer paid sick leave to employees, will remain on the books now that an attempt to prohibit them failed to pass in the legislature.

Measles and mumps have shown up in Texas, and both are preventable if children get the MMR vaccine. But some doctors are concerned that people may be not be aware of the third illness included in the MMR vaccine acronym. The R stands for rubella, also known as German measles.

The Texas Senate unanimously passed legislation expanding the Texas Compassionate Use Program on Wednesday. The legislation is expected to become law, enabling more patients to purchase marijuana-derived CBD oil in Texas.

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Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Health have developed a new screening approach that can more quickly identify diseases hard to diagnose in kids.

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State legislation with bipartisan support is taking aim at "surprise medical bills" and may get a final vote Monday, May 20, in Austin. It's designed to protect the consumer by requiring medical providers and insurance companies to work things out themselves.

The Unanswered Questions About Anthrax

May 17, 2019

Nowadays, many people associate anthrax with bioterrorism.

Indeed, the anthrax bacteria is "one of the biological agents most likely to be used" in terrorism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because microscopic anthrax spores can be produced in a lab and be put into powders, sprays, food and water.

As more states legalize marijuana, more people in the U.S. are buying and using weed — and the kind of weed they can buy has become much stronger.

That concerns scientists who study marijuana and its effects on the body, as well as emergency room doctors who say they're starting to see more patients who come into the ER with weed-associated issues.

Updated at 6:50 p.m. ET

This year's measles outbreak is the largest since the 1990s. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that 75 more measles cases were confirmed last week in 23 states, bringing the U.S. total to 839 so far this year.

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The American Diabetes Association has launched a public awareness campaign in Dallas County to battle an ongoing high rate of type 2 diabetes.

President Donald Trump announced ongoing bipartisan efforts in Congress to tackle surprise medical billing, during an event at the White House on Thursday.

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