Health Highlights: Jan. 20, 2015
Concerns Raised About HealthCare.gov Users' Privacy Artificial Heart Recipient Heads Home
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Uninsured Rate Lowest in Years: Poll
Your privacy may be at risk when you use the HealthCare.gov website to apply for health insurance, according to experts.
Some data companies have embedded connections on the site that can track individual users and collect information about them -- such as age and income and whether you're a smoker or are pregnant -- in order to create personal profiles that can be used by advertisers, the Associated Press reported.
While there is no evidence that personal data from HealthCare.gov has been misused, the data collection by outside companies is cause for concern, experts say.
"As I look at vendors on a website...they could be another potential point of failure," corporate cybersecurity consultant Theresa Payton told the AP. "Vendor management can often be the weakest link in your privacy and security chain."
The large number of outside connections on HealthCare.gov seems like "overkill" and makes it "kind of an outlier" among government websites, said Payton, a former White House chief information officer under President George W. Bush.
Outside vendors are "are prohibited from using information from these tools on HealthCare.gov for their companies' purposes," Medicare spokesman Aaron Albright told the AP. The vendors measure the performance of HealthCare.gov so users get "a simpler, more streamlined and intuitive experience," he said.
No details were provided about how the federal government ensures adherence to privacy and security policies.
HealthCare.gov currently serves people in 37 states, while the remaining states operate their own insurance markets. The White House wants to get 9.1 million Americans signed up through the insurance exchanges this year and paying premiums, the AP reported.
Concerns about privacy on HealthCare.gov come to light just as the White House is calling for stronger cybersecurity protection for consumers. An initiative to protect personal data online is one of the main points of President Barack Obama's State of the Union message scheduled for Tuesday night.
Artificial Heart Recipient Heads Home
A 68-year-old French man with terminal congestive heart failure has headed home after receiving a completely artificial heart, the French company that makes the device said Monday.
As reported by The New York Times, the man was implanted with the artificial heart at the University of Nantes hospital on Aug. 5, and was discharged from the hospital with a portable power and alert system that allows him freedom to move about.
The man -- who wishes to remain anonymous -- "is living a completely normal life now," Dr. Alain Carpentier, the French surgeon who invented the artificial heart, told the Le Parisien newspaper. He said the man is even "pedaling like crazy" on a stationary bike.
According to the Times, a total artificial heart would replace the heart's two lower chambers, or ventricles. The new device, made by the French company Carmat, is composed of both synthetic materials and animal tissues. It was first implanted in a 76-year-old man in December 2013. That patient lived 74 days with the device, the Times said.
Carmat plans to sell the device to people who are deemed ineligible for traditional heart transplants and have no other possible therapy available to them. The device costs between $162,000 to $208,000, the Times said.