July 29, 2014

Sen. Johanns expects Supreme Court to resolve conflicting health rulings (AUDIO)

Conflicting rulings on the federal health care law might have to be resolved by the United States Supreme Court, according to Sen. Mike Johanns.

Johanns expects the Obama Administration to request the entire Washington, D.C. appellate court to reconsider a ruling unfavorable to the law. Johanns, a Republican, says that might work. Johanns notes Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, changed the rules on judicial confirmations, allowing Democrats – in his words – to use simple-majority votes to stack the court with their hand-picked judges.

“You know, Democrats stick together and there’s been a number of judges confirmed to the D.C. circuit. That may tilt the balance in favor of overruling what the three-judge panel decided,” Johanns says. “But, at the end of the day, it seems to me that these cases are probably headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s what I think is going to happen.”

A three-judge panel in the D.C. circuit ruled 2-1 that the federal government couldn’t subsidize the purchase of health insurance through the federal exchange. Thirty-six states, including Nebraska, operate under the federal exchange.

Only a couple of hours later, another appellate court in Richmond, VA upheld the subsidies for those in the federal exchange on a 3-0 vote.

Johanns says a definitive legal ruling has yet to be reached.

“The Richmond court, and I’ve got the opinion in front of me, said that the defendants had the stronger position, that would be basically the government, and then they went on to say, quote ‘although only slightly’ unquote,” Johanns says. “So, they know they’re out there on pretty thin ice and so what I would suggest is that this probably is going to be resolved at the Supreme Court level.”

The courts upheld subsidies for those getting coverage under state exchanges.

AUDIO:  Sen. Mike Johanns reacts to conflicting ACA rulings. [2:20]

Summer blood supply is “stable” but donors are still needed

Hospitals in Nebraska and two neighboring states use 38-thousand pints of blood every day, yet only about one-in-ten residents who are eligible to give blood do so once a year.

The LifeServe Blood Center is appealing for blood donors this summer. While the region has a “stable” blood supply at the moment, spokeswoman Nicole Hanger says volunteers are still very much needed.

Hanger says, “During the summer months, our blood donations tend to decrease simply because people are busy with summer plans, traveling, various activities.”

The process of donating blood takes about an hour and that one pint could help to save as many as three lives. Hanger says the lack of donors is a reason to worry about the summer’s blood supply.

“The need for blood remains the same,” Hanger says. “We still need donors on a regular basis to maintain that stable blood supply for the community.”

Lifeserve provides blood and blood products to more than 100 hospitals in South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton

Tips for beating the heat, while avoiding skin cancer…and ‘skeeters

skeeterThe hottest days of summer have arrived in Nebraska, prompting reminders from health officials to drink plenty of water and wear light-weight, light-colored clothing. Also, take plenty of breaks if you’re exerting in the sun, especially when high temperatures are in the upper 80s and lower 90s.

Epidemiologist Patty Quinlisk encourages everyone who’s spending time outdoors to use plenty of sunscreen.

“We know that people who get burned or have lots of sun exposure are at risk for quite a few health events that you don’t want, the worst one being a kind of skin cancer called melanoma,” Quinlisk said. “But the bottom line is, you don’t want to burn yourself and you need to take precautions.”

Around 340 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are expected to be diagnosed in Nebraska this year.

Quinlisk advises applying sunscreen that’s SPF 15 or higher at least 20 minutes before heading outdoors. If you’re also using bug spray, it should be added on top of sunscreen.

“We do recommend you use them separately, that way you use the right amounts of both,” she says. “Put your sunscreen on first, then put bug spray on top of it. That makes sure the bug spray is on the outside and will repel the insects.”

Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours, according to Quinlisk.


Busy season for the Nebraska Regional Poison Center

Many Nebraska families will be packing a lot of fun into the final weeks of summer. Joan McVoy is the Public Education Coordinator with the Nebraska Regional Poison Center and urges everyone to program this number into their phone- 1-800-222-1222. McVoy says no matter where you are at in the county you will then be able to contact the Poison Center if there is an emergency.

McVoy has a few reminders as we wrap up the season. When it comes to insect repellents they recommend using products with DEET. It should be applied sparingly and only to exposed skin and clothing. Lower concentrations of less than 10% have been found to be just as effective as higher concentrations. McVoy says it is best not to put it on hands as kids can rub their faces or put fingers in their mouths and that may cause a reaction. She says check the label and don’t over-apply the repellent.

McVoy says there is also a concern about bee stings. Bee populations continue to increase through the first hard freeze. It is always a good idea to carefully monitor those stung for the first hour as that is when they likely will have a reaction. She says if you call the Poison Center they have some tips on what to watch for and will help you monitor the situation from home and that may save you a trip to the emergency room.

McVoy says this is also the time of year they receive a number of calls with children eating berries. Some may cause unpleasant symptoms. If you are not sure of what the child consumed call the poison center and they will help you identify the plant and if is poisonous.

UNMC Physician with update on chikungunya

Physicians in the U-S are learning more about the exotic-sounding illness that originated in the Caribbean - chikungunya. Most of those in the U-S with the illness had recently traveled to that area and returned home ill. Chief of the Infectious Disease Division at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Dr. Mark Rupp says like West Nile it is spread my mosquitoes but there are a few differences.

Dr. Rupp says birds and other animals can carry West Nile disease but not chikungunya. The only way it can spread is if a mosquito bites an infected person and then bites others. He wouldn’t be surprised to see small pockets of chikungunya outbreaks here in the U-S. There has been one confirmed case in Nebraska but that individual had recently traveled to the Caribbean.

There is not cure and symptoms can last for months. Dr. Rupp says those symptoms include fever and severe joint pain. In Haiti it is called “bone breaking disease” because it feels like you have broken bones.

Health officials recommend those traveling to the Caribbean take precautions. That includes wearing long sleeves and long pants and using a repellant with DEET.