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Health Issues

One role of government is to ensure that companies - who have access to experts and the latest information - do not mislead consumers. We'll inform you of relevant happenings that could affect your health.

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Hearning aids to be available without prescription

2022-Aug-17By: Barry Shatzman

Sometime this fall you will be able to buy hearing aids without a prescription.

A new regulation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow retailers to sell certain types of hearing aids over-the-counter (OTC) - something not previously allowed.

4 out of 5 Americans don't treat their hearing loss

Of the more than 30 million Americans with some degree of hearing loss, only about 6 million actually use hearing aids.

For some, it's the stigma of appearing to be old. But for others, it's the cost. With the new rule, the FDA hopes to lower the cost barrier.

Eyeglasses for the ears?

The types of hearing aid that will become available differ from those that will remain available only by prescription.

Prescription hearing aids don't just make sounds louder. They are tuned to adjust frequencies that the wearer's ears have trouble discerning. An exam by an audiologist is required to determine the exact nature of the hearing loss. Prescription hearing aids also are fitted for the patient's ears.

The newly available OTC hearing aids, on the other hand, are more general devices that could help with mild or situational hearing loss. They will not be available to anyone under 18, since hearing loss in younger people often is linked to other health issues.

The difference can be compared to eyeglasses. Prescription glasses are made to correct the wearer's specific vision problem, while inexpensive reading glasses can be purchased over-the-counter for just a few dollars, but essentially just magnify text.

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Supreme Court rejects and allows vaccine requirements

2022-Jan-13  (Updated: 2022-Jan-25)By: Barry Shatzman

The federal government can demand that health care providers who accept Medicare or Medicaid require their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, the Supreme Court has ruled.

In a related ruling, it stopped the government from enforcing its rule that large companies require their employees to either be vaccinated or get regularly tested.

President Joe Biden had imposed the vaccine requirements in November 2021. They took effect in early January.

Government can require vaccine for health care providers

In Biden v. Missouri, the majority affirmed that a vaccine mandate "will substantially reduce the likelihood that healthcare workers will contract the virus and transmit it to their patients."

It added that healthcare facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid always have been obligated to address "the safe and effective provision of healthcare."

OSHA not authorized to set vaccine policy in private companies

Despite those acknowledgments regarding the dangers of Covid and the effectiveness of the vaccines, a majority came to a different conclusion in NFIB v. OSHA - saying that vaccine standards could not be enforced for employees of large companies until that case is decided by a lower court.

In his majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is empowered "to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures."

A vaccine is different from normal workplace requirements, he wrote, because a vaccination "cannot be undone at the end of the workday."

Dissent contradicts Gorsuch

In their dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonya Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan wrote that the requirement does exactly what Congress commanded OSHA to do.

They wrote that the policy does not require employees be vaccinated - only that they undergo regular testing if not vaccinated. It is something the majority obscures "by insistently calling the policy a vaccine mandate."

COVID "presents heightened dangers in most workplaces," they wrote, because it spreads in shared indoor spaces.

They also pointed out that Congress made it clear that it wanted OSHA "to carry out COVID-19 rleated worker protection activities" when it appropriated $100 million for the agency to do just that.

Companies still can mandate vaccines

Despite the ruling that companies cannot be forced to require their employees be vaccinated, they still are able to determine their own policy regarding vaccinations.

Update 2022-Jan-25: OSHA has withdrawn the emergency workplace requirement and is expected to work to reinstate the requirement using the standard rule-making process.

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Fake COVID cards could mean "Go To Jail"

2021-Aug-16By: Barry Shatzman

As more workplaces and public venues require employees and attendees to be vaccinated from COVID-19, some of the non-vaccinated are turning to counterfeit certification cards bearing the label of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They could face years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

Those using fake cards give others false assurance about their risk of getting infected. But aside from that, federal law prohibits the unauthorized use of an official government agency's seal.

Fake cards are being offered for up to $200. And federal agents recently seized several thousand fake vaccination cards coming from China.

The vaccine is safer - and cheaper

Current vaccines have been shown to prevent severe symptoms from coronavirus disease. In the first four months of 2021, more than 99 percent of COVID hospitalizations were for unvaccinated people.

The vaccines are free and readily available to virtually any adult in the United States.

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Agency investigating AIDS and Ebola viruses to shut down

2019-Oct-30By: Barry Shatzman

A government program that monitors diseases such as AIDS and Ebola is being shut down.

PREDICT - a program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) - monitors viruses that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

It has monitored the viruses that cause diseases such as AIDS, Ebola, MERS, SARS, and avian flu for the past decade. It also trains people to deal with these diseases in other countries.

By preventing pandemics, the program is much more cost-effective than dealing with them once they occur, according to nonprofit organization EcoHealth Alliance.

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Measles on the rise. Culprit no surprise.

2019-Apr-30By: Barry Shatzman

There are two numbers that stand out when considering the more than 700 reported measles cases in the first four months of this year.

One is that it was the highest number of cases in the past 25 years.

The other is that more than 500 of those infected had not been vaccinated.

Measles used to infect more than 3 million people per year. Since 1963 - when the measles vaccination program began - there has been a 99 percent reduction in measles cases.

In 2000, measles was declared to be eliminated in the United States.

Why the resurgence?

Since 2001, the percentage of unvaccinated children has quadrupled.

Many of the unvaccinated come from close-knit communities such as religious communities. More than 85 percent of this year's cases in the U.S. occurred in such communities.

A key culprit is organized efforts to discredit vaccines with misinformation, whether about personal freedoms or perceived harm from the vaccines.

Myths about potential dangers, however, have been completely debunked.

In a statement to reporters, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar pointed out that measles is a disease with deadly consequences that most people have not seen because it had been virtually eliminated.

"Vaccine-preventable diseases belong in the history books, not in our emergency rooms. The suffering we are seeing today is completely avoidable. Vaccines are safe because they are among the most studied medical products we have."

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E-cigarette sales now limited to those over 18

2016-May-05By: Barry Shatzman

The sale of e-cigarettes will be restricted to people over the age of 18, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced.

The policy will take effect in August.

According to the FDA, more than 15 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes.

In addition to e-cigarettes, the new regulation covers cigars, hookah tobacco, and pipe tobacco by classifying them as tobacco products under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

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FDA will lift lifetime ban on blood donations from gay men

2014-Dec-24By: Barry Shatzman

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to allow men who have had sexual relations with men to donate blood.

Since 1983 any male who has had sex with another male has been banned from donating. The proposed policy would allow a man to donate if it has been more than a year since his most recent sexual experience with a male.

The ban came about in response to the AIDS epidemic at a time when little was known about it. But today testing can detect HIV in less than 2 weeks after exposure. All donated blood is tested for HIV, regardless of the donor.

The ban has been disproportionate to the policy regarding other ways to become infected with HIV. Those who have had sex with prostitutes or intravenous drug users need only wait a year.

The new policy must go through a public comment period next year before it can be implemented.

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Tobacco companies ordered to admit smoking danger lies


A federal judge has ordered tobacco companies to run ads saying they misled the publc about the dangers of smoking.

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