Health

Fitness, well-being, disease, medical research and issues related to Seton and St. David's Healthcare, Austin Regional Clinic and other health care providers in Austin and Central Texas

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A federal judge in Fort Worth has ruled the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, in a lawsuit filed by 18 Republican state attorneys general and two Republican governors. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

An estimated 17 percent of Travis County residents under the age of 65 were uninsured in 2018, a new report finds. That's up from 15 percent last year. Seventy-one percent of those uninsured were from working families.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Race and geography are good predictors of whether a woman in Texas will have a severe complication during childbirth, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler studied public hospital records submitted to the state from 2011 to 2016 for instances of severe maternal morbidity, which are complications that could almost kill a woman who is giving birth that include heart attacks, severe bleeding, eclampsia and blood clots, among other things.

Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News

With less than two weeks of open enrollment left, Austin nonprofit Foundation Communities says it's reporting a noticeable decline in the number of Latinos signing up for health insurance through healthcare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A new study suggests a proposed Trump administration policy could discourage immigrant families from enrolling their citizen children in public health insurance programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP.

Rick Bowmer/AP

For the second time in three years, life expectancy in the U.S. has ticked downward. In three reports issued Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out a series of statistics that revealed some troubling trend lines — including rapidly increasing rates of death from drug overdoses and suicide.

CDC Director Robert Redfield described the data as "troubling."

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

After a decade of decline in the rate of uninsured children in Texas, a new study shows that rate is increasing again.

Julia Reihs / KUT

UT Austin’s two university unions are set to offer free tampons and pads for students who may struggle to afford them.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

More people in Central Texas sought help getting health insurance through the Affordable Care Act during the first week of open enrollment this year than during the same period last year, according to a group that helps people get plans.

Cheryl Gerber for The Texas Tribune

NEW ORLEANS ­— The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Monday morning about whether Texas should be able to ban doctors from performing the most common second-trimester abortion procedure, called dilation and evacuation.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texans who want to buy health insurance plans on the individual marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, can start enrolling today through Dec. 15 on healthcare.gov.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Editor's note: Shortly after this story aired, Rodriguez said St. David's reached out to him to discuss possible financial assistance. According to Rodriguez, the matter has been settled and he now owes only $1,600 as of Nov. 14.

There’s an uptick in health insurance companies not covering emergency room care, according to a consumer advocacy group.

Washington, D.C.-based Consumers for Quality Care said the increase is the result of the Trump administration pushing less regulated health care plans in its effort to undo protections created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

University of Texas System

It may not feel like it, but it's flu season. Though the virus typically reaches its peak in winter, when exactly are you supposed to get your flu shot? 

Dr. Coburn Allen, an infectious disease specialist, physician and associate professor of pediatrics at UT Austin's Dell Medical School, says, like many factors surrounding the flu, it's all about timing. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Update: Travis County commissioners unanimously passed Central Health's budget and tax rate for fiscal year 2018-19. Included in the $258 million budget is $26 million for Sendero Health Plans.

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Our original post continues: 

The Travis County Commissioners Court is scheduled to vote Tuesday on Central Health's budget, which includes money for the nonprofit Sendero Health Plans.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County commissioners have decided to push back a decision on whether Central Health should shut down its nonprofit health insurance company, known as Sendero. They said they will wait to vote until there is a public hearing.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

For the first time in years, the uninsured rate in Texas is starting to climb again. After the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014, the state’s uninsured rate dropped from 22 percent to about 16 percent in 2016. However, that trend has started to move in another direction.

Emree Weaver for KUT

During the last legislative session, state lawmakers eliminated funding for the Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement. It's last day was Aug. 31. 

The agency was small. Its budget was about $2 million. It had about two dozen full-time employees. Yet, it was trying to solve one of the biggest problems facing the state: racial inequities in government services. In other words, the agency was trying to tackle institutional racism.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A federal judge in Austin has blocked Texas' so-called fetal burial law.

U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra voided the law, which the Texas Legislature passed in 2017, on the grounds that it violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is challenging the Affordable Care Act at a hearing in federal court in Fort Worth today.

Consumers who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act markets may be pleasantly surprised this fall as average premiums are forecast to rise much less than in recent years.

The price of a 2019 policy sold on the ACA exchanges will increase less than 4 percent, according to an analysis of preliminary filings from insurers in all 50 states by ACASignups.net, a website and blog run by analyst Charles Gaba that tracks ACA enrollment and insurer participation.

And those insurers are expanding their offerings.

A hospital in Texas has cut ties with a nurse who apparently posted about a young patient with the measles in a Facebook group dedicated to "anti-vaxxers," people who reject the scientific evidence of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

Screenshots show a self-identified nurse saying the sick child's symptoms helped her understand why people vaccinate their children, but that "I'll continue along my little non-vax journey with no regrets."

Editor's note: Shortly after this story by Kaiser Health News and NPR was published and broadcast on Monday, St. David's said it was now willing to accept $782.29 to resolve the $108,951 balance because Drew Calver qualifies for its "financial assistance discount." In a statement, the hospital said this offer was contingent on Calver submitting his application for a discount based on his household finances. Calver disputed that he owes any additional money to St. David's and said this situation should have been resolved long before now.

A Medicaid committee in Texas is requiring those who comment at its meetings to disclose more details about their ties to pharmaceutical companies after a Center for Public Integrity and NPR investigation into the drug industry's influence on such boards.

The state is one of the latest to respond to the findings of the Medicaid, Under the Influence project. Officials in Arizona, Colorado and New York have already taken action.

Julia Reihs / KUT

In a little-noticed court filing last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked a federal judge to get rid of a popular part of the Affordable Care Act in Texas. In particular, his request could affect a part of the law that protects people with pre-existing conditions from being denied health insurance or being priced out of a health plan.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Researchers and data experts at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin say a new database will help doctors treat children with asthma, while helping parents better understand how to reduce the frequency of attacks.

Was it hard to concentrate during that long meeting? Does the crossword seem a little tougher? You could be mildly dehydrated.

A growing body of evidence finds that being just a little dehydrated is tied to a range of subtle effects — from mood changes to muddled thinking.

Alex Proimos/Flickr

From Texas Standard: 

Texas has almost a dozen medical schools, but it also has a rural healthcare worker shortage. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is set to vote tomorrow on whether to approve another medical school.

Huntsville-based Sam Houston State University thinks it can address Texas’ critical shortage of doctors in rural parts of the state. It’s seeking accreditation this week for its proposed college of osteopathic medicine. Dr. Stephan McKernan is the associate dean for clinical affairs at the proposed school. He says the goal is to teach students from underserved, rural areas.

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT

Eduardo Labastida just got his first bike. It’s silver with training wheels and a frame that dips low in front of the seat to help him get on and off. His mother, Yamilet Labastida, runs alongside him in their Round Rock neighborhood, helping to push and steady him.

Eduardo pedals with all his might. Every turn is an accomplishment, because he has mitochondrial disease. The disease can make verbal expression difficult, so his mother speaks for him.

Christopher Connelly/KERA

Texas regularly leads the nation in drowning deaths, and this year is shaping up to be no different. At least 122 people have died from drowning in Texas this year, according to statistics kept by Swimming USA, and most of those deaths have happened since May 1.

Because the heat came early this year and scorching temperatures are setting new records, Texans have been flocking to pools, lakes and rivers for relief all summer. And there are many more blisteringly hot days to come.

Bramadi Arya / Wikimedia Commons

From Texas Standard:

In July of 2013, 49-year-old Candace Stark donated blood in honor of her mother who had leukemia. Seven weeks later – she received a letter from the Blood Centers of Central Texas diagnosing her with Chagas disease.

"It came with a letter that stated I needed to see a healthcare provider and that I couldn’t donate blood any longer," Stark says.

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