Health Highlights: Feb. 28, 2018

There May Be a Better IV Fluid Than Saline, Studies Find Trump Administration Proposes Alternative to Pre-Existing Conditions Health Plans

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

There May Be a Better IV Fluid Than Saline, Studies Find

Patients who receive balanced fluid intravenous (IV) solution instead of more widely used saline solution are much less likely to die or to suffer kidney damage, according to two large studies.

Saline -- salt dissolved in water -- is the most common type of IV in the U.S. despite growing evidence that it can harm the kidneys. Balanced fluids contain other ingredients in addition to saline, the Associated Press reported.

The two studies included 28,000 patients who received IVs of either saline or balanced fluid. For every 100 patients on balanced fluids, there was one fewer severe kidney problem or death.

The researchers said that could translate into 50,000 to 70,000 fewer deaths and 100,000 fewer cases of kidney failure each year in the U.S., the AP reported.

The studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and discussed Tuesday at a critical care conference in San Antonio.

"We've been sounding the alarm for 20 years" about the potential risks of saline IVs, Dr. John Kellum, a critical care specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, told the AP. He was not involved in the studies.

"It's purely inertia" that prevents hospitals from using balanced fluid instead of saline IVs, according to Kellum.

Doctors say it shouldn't be difficult or expensive for hospitals to switch because both types of fluids cost about a dollar or two per IV and many suppliers make both types, the AP reported.


Trump Administration Proposes Alternative to Pre-Existing Conditions Health Plans

An expansion of low-cost temporary health insurance is being proposed by the Trump administration.

Under the proposal announced Tuesday, people would be able to buy short-term plans for up to a year instead of the current three-month limit. However, such plans do not have to cover pre-existing conditions or specific treatments, or provide unlimited benefits, NBC News reported.

The objective is to provide cheaper options for people who can't find an affordable plan through the Affordable Care Act, according to White House officials.

While these plans could offer cheaper plans for some, they could increase premiums for patients who require comprehensive plans through the Affordable Care Act by luring young and healthy patients into a separate market, NBC News reported.

Between 100,000 to 200,000 people are likely to buy short-term insurance coverage, according to the administration.

Critics of the change say it's a deliberate attempt to boost costs for Affordable Care Act customers, many of whom require more extensive plans in order to cover a chronic illness or medical emergency, NBC News reported.

"The Trump administration should stop hurting people with pre-existing conditions, stop pushing skimpy plans, and stop raising costs up for millions of Americans. They must call off this harmful proposal," Brad Woodhouse, director of the Protect Our Care Campaign, said in a statement.

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