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Health overhaul debate snags Senate pharmacy bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — A year after a meningitis outbreak from contaminated pain injections killed at least 64 people and sickened hundreds, Congress is ready to increase federal oversight over compounding pharmacies that custom-mix medications.


Before the bill gets to President Barack Obama for his signature, it first has to clear a hurdle put in its path by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter in his ongoing campaign to discredit the president's health care overhaul. A test vote is scheduled for Tuesday evening.


The legislation, passed by the House in September, also creates a national system for tracking prescription drugs from manufacturers to retail pharmacies, first through serial numbers on bottles and containers and later through electronic codes.


Although the bill enjoys nearly universal support in Congress, Vitter has objected to the Senate voting on it without first voting on his measure to make members of Congress disclose which of their aides are signing up for the health care law, and which are instead being allowed to remain in the Federal Employee Benefit Program.


Vitter objects to an Obama administration decision earlier this year allowing lawmakers to choose between the two programs for their aides, and directing the government to pick up three-fourths of the premium costs for members of Congress and their aides either way. Lawmakers themselves have to switch to coverage under the health care law. Vitter's insistence on ending the employer match earlier this year prompted Senate Democrats to scuttle an energy bill. The issue arose again in last month's showdown over the government shutdown.

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  • Written by Associated Press
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Nine Sneaky Reasons You're Ravenously Hungry

Photo: Getty

It's not lunchtime, not even close. And yet all you can think about is the next time you get to eat and what it's going to be. It's all you can do not to scarf down whatever's edible within arm's reach. But what gives?

Turns out, our brains and bodies are frequently conspiring to trick us into thinking it's time to eat when it really isn't. Here are nine of those times.

You didn't sleep enough last night.
Ever notice a grumbling stomach on the days the alarm went off way before you were ready to face the morning? That's because too little sleep has been linked to higher levels of the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for triggering hunger.

And to make matters worse, when you're sleep deprived, you'll usually crave carb-y, calorie-laden foods, as your body searches for alternate sources of energy. Researchers think this could be a clue as to why people who regularly get too little sleep are at a greater risk of obesity.

You ate too much yesterday.

Science doesn't have a completely hole-proof explanation for this sensation yet, but there's no denying that occasional feeling of going to bed stuffed and waking up hungrier than ever. Contrary to folk wisdom, it's not that your stomach is actually expanding, but more likely a result of the type of foods you overindulged in. If you overdid it on starches, you could have triggered the dramatic changes in blood sugar that trick the brain into thinking you're still not full, Healthy Living's Meredith Melnick reported.

You're pre-menstrual.
Many women know this to be intuitively true, but there's solid proof to back up those PMS-fueled binges. During the pre-menstrual phase, progesterone production increases. This seems to boost not only appetite but also your general dissatisfaction with your body in general, as if you weren't already emotional enough. Interestingly, non-human animals also follow a similar pre-menstrual over-eating pattern, Psychology Today reported.

You could have built a better breakfast.

The most important meal of the day is also one of the easiest to mess up, but eating the wrong thing for breakfast can throw off an entire day. A 2013 study suggested that one of the most important components to a filling breakfast is protein. In the small study, people who ate high-protein breakfasts were less likely to reach for fatty, sugary foods later in the day. You might also be getting too little fiber or fat, both of which help keep you full. Or, maybe you're simply eating too little for breakfast. A granola bar or a piece of fruit certainly is a quick-and-easy option for mornings when you're rushing out the door, but 300 to 400 calories are much more likely to keep you satisfied until lunch, registered dietitian Keri Gans wrote for US News.

You take certain meds.
Medications for everything from arthritis to allergies can stimulate your appetite. In the last 20 years, the number of meds which such a side effect has increased from one in 10 to one in four, Dr. George Blackburn, associate director of the Harvard Medical School Division of Nutrition, told Health magazine. In some instances, as soon as you've finished your course of medications, your appetite will return to normal. But for chronic conditions that require life-long treatment, experts suggest discussing your medication options with your doctor. There could be a similar drug with lesser side effects.

You have a diet soda habit.

A zero-calorie sweet drink sends a message to the brain that calories are on their way. Then, no calories are actually delivered. The taste alone may trigger the brain to send out some hunger pangs to compensate for that bait-and-switch. We still need more research to help us totally understand this trick. In the meantime, it's probably still a good idea to cut out or at least cut back on artificially-sweetened sips.

You're actually just thirsty.
A little mild dehydration can give you a sluggish, fatigued feeling -- and, just like when you're sleep deprived, the body often turns to calories for fuel. That means, then, that you may experience what you think is hunger, when it's really thirst. Weight-loss experts often suggest drinking a glass of water and then waiting a few minutes before giving in to a food craving. To help you distinguish hunger from thirst, imagine eating a big meal, Men's Health suggests. If it doesn't sound appealing, have some H2O instead.

You're bored.

Much of what we do in life is driven by dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain linked with motivation, stimulation and reward. At the biological level, dopamine makes us feel good about eating so we don't forget to do it -- not exactly a problem for most of us in the 21st century. So, when nothing exciting is going on, the brain looks for ways to trigger the dopamine neurons for some thrill, according to Psychology Today, and food starts to look pretty good. It's probably a better idea to get your kicks elsewhere: Grab a good book, listen to your favorite music, meditate or exercise for a calorie-free pick-me-up instead.

You're stressed.
There's a biological basis for stress-eating, too. Our natural stress response is technically an evolutionary tactic to help us avoid becoming someone else's dinner. In the face of stress, hearts race, muscles fire -- all to give us the ability to run away from that lion or tiger or bear. After the chase, a depleted body needs to refuel, so stress activates a couple of brain systems to increase appetite. It seems to trigger cravings particularly for fatty, sugary foods, too. But, since today's stressors are more often looming deadlines than savage beasts, a doughnut craving isn't exactly helpful.

  • Written by The Huffington Post
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Feds boosting mental health access, treatment

(CNN) -- In a move aimed at boosting mental health treatment, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday announced new rules that will put teeth in a 2008 mental health equity law.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, signed by President George W. Bush, requires doctors and insurers to treat mental illness the same as physical illness.

Sebelius made the announcement to applause at the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in Atlanta.

The move "finally puts mental health and behavioral health on equal footing," Sebelius said.

On paper, the law made mental health more accessible, but there has been virtually no enforcement of it, said Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, president of the American Psychiatric Association and a Columbia University psychiatrist.

"Up to now, the law has not been complied with," Lieberman said. "Companies have only sort of adhered to it."

Insurance companies often cover mental illness in a more limited fashion than physical illness.

"Many private insurers gave nothing. Some provided benefits, but they were limited and inadequate," Lieberman said. The law, the new rules and provisions of Obamacare combined will ensure mental and physical illness would be covered similarly.

For example, insurance companies can no longer authorize a 30-day hospital stay for a stroke and only a two-day stay in the hospital for someone who has had a psychotic break.

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Cells offer hope for Type 1 diabetes

(CNN) -- The e-mail ended with a question that belied the author's pain: "It's a small world, isn't it?"

Michael Schofield read the message from Elizabeth Baptiste again. Baptiste worked at AT&T, just like him. She had three sons, like him. And her youngest, Michael, was the donor who had changed his life.

"It sent shivers down my body, you know, because you don't expect..."

Schofield's voice, with its lingering Liverpool accent, trails off.

Schofield, 53, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1982. People who have Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin, a hormone the body needs to convert sugar and starches into energy. Their white blood cells attack and destroy the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.

Like most Type 1 diabetics, Schofield learned to control his diabetes with insulin injections and constant monitoring. But he still experienced hypoglycemic attacks when his blood sugar levels got too low. It was like being in a fog -- one he couldn't escape until someone helped him. If it went on too long, he would lose consciousness.

As he got older, Schofield's body adapted to the extreme lows; so when his blood sugar levels dropped below normal, he didn't experience the typical symptoms. In other words, he didn't know he was in danger until he passed out.

"Over time, your body just starts to break down," he says. "They say (diabetes) is a slow killer, and it is."

Tiny cells offer hope

Pancreas transplants for patients such as Schofield are not typically an option because they are difficult to perform, said Dr. Michael Rickels, associate professor of medicine at University of Pennsylvania. But an experimental procedure using the pancreas' islet cells is being tested at medical centers around the country. If it's approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it could make a difference for patients who are no longer able to successfully manage their diabetes.

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