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

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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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.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Kristie Reeves woke up to her clock blinking 9:43 a.m. She and her husband, Brett Cavaliero, had overslept. Their baby Sophia, or "Ray Ray," hadn't awakened them to be fed, which Kristi usually used as an alarm clock.

The Austin couple scrambled to get ready for work, but other than their oversleeping, Reeves said, it was a typical morning. She walked outside to say goodbye and watched as Cavaliero drove off to take Ray Ray to daycare.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Trump administration recently announced big cuts to a program that helps people sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

State and reproductive rights attorneys are going head to head again in federal court on Monday to argue whether Texas should require health providers to cremate or bury fetal remains.

“It’s a tough case for everybody,” U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra said Friday during a pretrial hearing. In January, he had granted an injunction blocking a state fetal remains burial rule, but he said last week that the previous decision is no indication of how he would rule in the trial.

Renee Dominguez for KUT

There’s a lot of uncertainty about what’s happening with children separated from their parents at the Mexico border, but Austin-based Circle of Health International says much of what it sees these days is predictable and familiar.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Many Texans are struggling to afford health care, according to a new survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation.

The study found more than half of those surveyed (55 percent) said it is difficult for them and their families to afford health care; a quarter said it is "very difficult."

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A group of students at Rice University embarked on a trip to Austin last spring to study maternal mortality in Texas. The students say health disparities and social justice issues are at the core of why some women are dying while pregnant or shortly after giving birth.

Julia Reihs

Kids crowd in a room for summer camp at the University of Texas Sports Recreation Center. They horse around, they sing and dance – and they're not embarrassed to speak.

At this free camp for children who stutter, it's not about fixing speech; it’s about encouraging it.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Abortion providers across Texas filed a lawsuit in federal court today, challenging a slew of “burdensome” laws that have made legal abortions harder to obtain in the state.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texans think the Legislature should expand Medicaid to more low-income people and make health care more affordable, according to a survey released today from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation.

Pan American Health Organization/Flickr

Only about a third of kids in Texas are getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is linked to several cancers. The state ranks 47th in the country for its vaccination rate, according to the Texas Medical Association.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Pediatricians are warning that a federal policy separating parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border poses serious long-term health issues for children. In some cases, they say, the separation could cause “irreparable harm.”

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Two-thirds of Texas hospitals offering maternity services are taking part in a statewide initiative aimed at reducing maternal mortality.

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