U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Menu

Health Highlights: June 2, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Head of Veterans Affairs Resigns Amid Scandal

Eric Shinseki, the embattled secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, resigned Friday morning after a meeting with President Barack Obama.

Shinseki's resignation followed increasing evidence of widespread misconduct and mismanagement at the agency's nationwide network of hospitals and medical facilities, The New York Times reported.

Recent revelations found that department hospitals had manipulated waiting lists to hide the fact that thousands of veterans had experienced long delays in scheduling appointments, the Times reported.

Obama said he regretted accepting Shinseki's resignation, but added that "the VA needs new leadership" and Shinseki had become a distraction, USA Today reported.

"We don't have time for distractions," Obama said. "We need to fix the problem."

Obama said Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson will temporarily head up the department, and he plans to nominate a new permanent secretary soon, USA Today reported.

------

Sex-Change Surgery Coverage Ban Lifted by Medicare

Medicare will no longer automatically deny coverage for sex-change surgery for transgender people.

In a ruling Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Services review board said sex-change surgery is a medically necessary and effective treatment for people who do not identify with their biological sex, the Associated Press reported.

The board made its ruling in an appeal brought by a 74-year-old Army veteran whose request to have Medicare pay for her genital reconstruction was denied two years ago.

The decision does not mean Medicare recipients are necessarily entitled to coverage for sex-change surgery, Jennifer Levi, a lawyer who directs the Transgender Rights Project of Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston, told the AP.

But she said the ruling does mean that transgender people stand a better chance of having their surgery paid for by Medicare if they have documentation from a physician and mental health providers that the surgery is medically necessary.

It's unclear how many people might be affected by Friday's decision. About 0.3 percent of the U.S. adult population self-identity as transgender, Gary Gates, a demographer with The Williams Institute, a think tank on LGBT issues based at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the AP. More than 49 million people are enrolled in Medicare.

-----

House Supports State Medical Marijuana Laws

In a surprise move, the Republican-controlled House voted in favor of preventing the federal government from interfering with states that allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons. Medical marijuana is legal in nearly half the states.

The 219-189 vote early Friday was on a measure introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana, the Associated Press reported.

"Public opinion is shifting," Rohrabacher said. "Despite this overwhelming shift of public opinion, the federal government continues its hard line of oppression against medical marijuana."

He pointed out that a recent Pew Research Center that found 61 percent of Republicans support medical marijuana. Support is even higher among Democrats and independents, the AP reported.

The measure now goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate.

-----

Sex-Change Surgery Ban Lifted by Medicare

Medicare will no longer automatically deny coverage for sex-change surgery for transgender people.

In a ruling Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review board said sex-change surgery is a medically necessary and effective treatment for people who do not identify with their biological sex, the Associated Press reported.

The board made its ruling in an appeal brought by a 74-year-old Army veteran whose request to have Medicare pay for her genital reconstruction was denied two years ago.

The decision does not mean Medicare recipients are necessarily entitled to coverage for sex-change surgery, Jennifer Levi, a lawyer who directs the Transgender Rights Project of Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston, told the AP.

But she said the ruling does mean that transgender people stand a better chance of having their surgery paid for by Medicare if they have documentation from a physician and mental health providers that the surgery is medically necessary.

It's unclear how many people might be affected by Friday's decision. About 0.3 percent of the U.S. adult population self-identity as transgender, Gary Gates, a demographer with The Williams Institute, a think tank on LGBT issues based at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the AP. More than 49 million people are enrolled in Medicare.

-----

Obama Calls for More Youth Concussion Research

More research into youth sports concussion is needed in order to better understand he scope of the issue and the long-term impacts of this type of injury, President Barack Obama said Thursday at a day-long summit on the topic at the White House.

"We want our kids participating in sports," Obama said as he opened the event. "As parents though, we want to keep them safe and that means we have to have better information."

The summit included medical experts, young athletes, parents, coaches, professional sports league representatives and others, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

Additional research into youth concussions needs to be combined with a wider recognition of the need to take the issue seriously, the president noted.

"We have to change a culture that says, 'suck it up,' " Obama said.

He highlighted commitments from the National Institutes of Health, the National Football League and others to conduct research that could improve understanding and athlete safety, CBS/AP reported.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay.  All rights reserved.

HealthDayNews articles are derived from various sources and do not reflect federal policy. healthfinder.gov does not endorse opinions, products, or services that may appear in news stories. For more information on health topics in the news, visit Health News on healthfinder.gov.

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®.