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Eight million people have enrolled for health insurance under Obamacare, President Obama said yesterday, easily surpassing earlier projections by the Congressional Budget Office for 6-7M signups by the end of March.
The high number of enrollments was achieved despite the technical problems that the online exchanges suffered, particularly when the Affordable Care Act was launched last year.
Around 35% of those who purchased coverage were people under 35, who are thought to be less likely need to treatment and so can help balance the cost of claims for those who need care.
However, Obama didn't provide details about the number of enrollees who already had insurance before Obamacare was introduced.
The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed 135 people was caused by a new strain of the virus that was not imported from Central Africa. Although it is 97% similar to the Zaire strain scientists believe it has been circulating undetected in the region for an undetermined amount of time.
WHO states that it will take as long as four months to contain the outbreak.
Scientists create patient-specific cell lines from the skin cells of two adult men in a procedure called somatic cell nuclear transfer demonstrating that the technique can work for people of all ages. The embryonic cells are genetically identical to the donor and have profound therapeutic potential.
The cloning procedure is difficult, however. Only one in thirty-nine attempts was successful.
In therapeutic cloning, a jolt of electricity fuses a grown cell (e.g. skin cell) with an ovum whose DNA has been removed. After ~5 days of dividing and multiplying it develops into a hollow sphere-shaped embryo. The interior cells are pluripotent stem cells which can develop into many different kinds of cells. The goal is to coax them to develop into specialized cells for therapeutic purposes.
Complicating the ability to create patient-specific cell lines for millions of people are women's reticence over donating eggs, a sometimes painful process. Widespread donations may not be ultimately necessary since many people have genetically similar immune systems so 100 human embryonic stem cell lines would match over 50% of the U.S. population according to the co-author of the study, Dr. Robert Lanza.
The new approach will select a range of drugs for a specific patient instead of designing a study around a specific drug. In a profound change it eliminates randomization, the hallmark of clinical trial design.
Some mutations occur on only 1% - 2% of patients so the traditional method of clinical trial design is too expensive, time-consuming and inefficient.
AstraZeneca (AZN) will supply up to twelve experimental drugs that will be given to patients who do not show one of twenty-one sets of genetic abnormalities.
Researchers in Boston find that casual pot use (one - seven joints a week) changes the size, shape and density of the nucleus accumbens and the nucleus amygdala, regions of the brain that regulate emotion and motivation.
More study is needed to determine the specific effects of the changes which appear different than the effects of consuming alcohol.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy partially funded the work.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) takes exception to the way the EPA solicits volunteers for its air pollution experiments over the past 10 years. They assert that the agency fails to adequately inform sufferers of asthma, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and other maladies that the concentrated diesel exhaust and other pollutants they breathe in the experiments could cause them harm. Allegedly, agency researchers watch for serious events in the volunteers such as asthma attacks and heart attacks as part of their assessments of the deleterious effects of said pollutants.
The EPA calculates the risk of such events when exposed to much lower concentrations of the pollutants, multiplies the result by the U.S. population and then claims to save millions of lives.
The physicians group and some lawmakers accuse the EPA of spinning volunteers' participation as "making the world a better and healthier place" instead of fully informing them of the risks. They cite a 2011 Congressional hearing where EPA representative Lisa Jackson stated that inhaling particulate matter causes premature death.
The White House has confirmed that Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning and will be replaced by Sylvia Burwell, the director of the Office of Management & Budget, assuming the latter is confirmed by the Senate.
Sebelius' departure comes after she said in October that she should be held "accountable for the debacle" of the launch of Obamacare, although the program did reach the government's target of 7M sign-ups by the end of March. She said yesterday that at least 7.5M people have enrolled.
One of Burwell's first challenges will be to work with health insurers as they set prices for Obamacare plans in 2015, which industry executives have warned could rise sharply.
The selloff accelerates, with the Nasdaq 100 (QQQ) and Russell 2000 (IWM) each now lower by 2.3%. Little-changed earlier, selling comes to the S&P 500 (SPY -0.7%) and DJIA (DIA -0.4%).
What's working? Emerging markets for one. Another area of green is the utility sector (XLU +0.9%). Healthcare (XLV -0.8%) would usually get a bid on these days, but it's being dragged down by the continuing liquidation of the biotechs. There are also some pockets of green in basic materials (XLB -0.7%).
The government has met its goal for signing up 7M people for Obamacare by the end of March, with at least 7.1M people enrolling despite the technical chaos that accompanied the launch of the policy last year and then on Monday.
The number could rise further, as people finish the process even though the latest deadline has passed, and it doesn't include complete final-day figures from state exchanges.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act say key information is missing, such as how many people have paid premiums, how many already had insurance, and which plans have been bought.
Health insurers fear that they will have to sharply raise premiums for 2015 and beyond, as they haven't signed up enough young and healthy people who are less likely to need care.