Daily Rounds: NY Health Insurance 'Secrets'; NC 'Hospital Wars'; Placenta Power; Vitamin Risks

In Seeking Rate Increases In NY, Health Insurers Fight To Keep Secrets ( — "Major health insurance companies seeking steep premium increases in New York have submitted memos to state officials to justify the higher rates. Now they are fighting to keep the memos from the public, saying they include trade secrets that competitors could use against them.
'How these companies are setting these rates is vital for the public to know, and should not be treated like a state secret,' Benjamin M. Lawsky, the state superintendent of financial services, said on Tuesday. 'Transparency will promote healthy competition and enable the public to rigorously comment on proposed rates, two goals that all of us should favor.'"  (

Hospital Wars: The Battle For Patients In Asheville, NC ( -- "The battle for customers in south Buncombe and north Henderson counties is emblematic of the strategy at hospitals nationally and in North Carolina, where patients spent nearly $20 billion in 2009. To what extent hospitals choose to compete or cooperate will very much affect the rapidly changing face of health care. Hospitals increasingly find themselves looking for better margins as costs outpace payments from the federal government, and the increasing number of uninsured mean losses." (

Placenta: Organ of Change (Proto, MGH research magazine) — "Now, however, Penn and other scientists have helped usher in a very different view of the spongy, veiny placenta. It has turned out to be an active, even aggressive orchestrator of the events of pregnancy and fetal development. Interrupting the placenta in that job has serious consequences for mother and baby alike. And though the organ (like no other in the body) has an ephemeral existence, the molecules it produces, its tissues and other features provide essential information about the pregnancy and the fetus that is available from no other source. While researchers are still learning how to interpret and use much of that information, studies have already yielded compelling conclusions that argue for a deeper appreciation of the placenta’s role." (Proto)

Two cautionary reports about vitamins from NPR's Shots blog:

Vitamin E for men: "Daily vitamin E supplements may actually raise a man's risk of prostate cancer. "The practical implication," says Dr. Ian Thompson, a study author, "is that a man should go to his medicine cabinet and look to see if he's taking a vitamin E supplement and very seriously consider whether he should continue taking it.'"

Supplements in older women: "Use of many common supplements — iron, in particular — appeared to increase the risk of dying, and only calcium supplements appeared to reduce mortality risk. The increased risk amounted to a few percentage points in most instances. The bad news is that the findings went against so many of the supplemental nutrients — from multivitamins to zinc."

This program aired on October 12, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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