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Health Highlights: June 13, 2017

Centene to Offer Insurance in Obamacare Exchanges in 3 States U.S. Congress Considering Over-the-Counter Sales of Hearing Aids New PTSD Treatment Being Studied by U.S. Army Congress Should Remove Protections for Medical Marijuana, Sessions Says

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

Centene to Offer Insurance in Obamacare Exchanges in 3 States

Coverage under the Affordable Care Act for insurance exchanges in Missouri, Kansas and Nevada will become available next year from Centene Corp.

The annnouncement comes at a time when some other insurance companies are cutting back on participation in the exchanges.

In making the announcement Tuesday, the company did not say if it's expansion into Missouri and Kansas will help about 67,000 people in 32 counties after Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City abandons that individual insurance marketplace next year, the Associated Press reported.

Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Texas and Washington are also in Centene's future expansion plans.

The company said 90 percent of its exchange customers are eligible for subsidies, the AP reported.


U.S. Congress Considering Over-the-Counter Sales of Hearing Aids

Over-the-counter hearing aids may become available in the United States if a bill now making its way through Congress succeeds.

Instead of having to go to an audiologist, consumers would be able to go to retail stores to try out various models of hearing aids to determine which one works and feels best, The New York Times reported.

Users could go to an audiologist for customization, such as adjusting amplification levels or frequencies.

It's also expected that over-the-counter sales could slash the cost of a hearing aid from an average of $1,500 to $2,000 to $300 or even less, according to The Times.

The bill would give the Food and Drug Administration three years to develop a regulatory category for over-the-counter hearing aids and create standards for safety, effectiveness and labeling.


New PTSD Treatment Being Studied by U.S. Army

The U.S. Army is studying whether a neck injection can help treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

The single shot of a drug called ropivacaine is meant to alter the brain's "fight or flight" response, the Wall Street Jounal said, according to published reports. The Army decided to commission the study after lobbying from special operations forces members who've received the injections and the doctors who treated them.

"Once people have the shot, they get dramatically better immediately," Col. Jim Lynch, command surgeon at the joint Special Operations Command-Africa, told the WSJ.

As of mid-May, the study had 43 volunteers out of a target enrollment of 240.

The study will be conducted at military hospitals in Germany, Hawaii and North Carolina, the newspaper reported.


Congress Should Remove Protections for Medical Marijuana, Sessions Says

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants Congress to scrap federal medical marijuana protections implemented in 2014, according to a letter made public Monday.

The protections prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to block certain states from "from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana," the Washington Post reported.

In his letter written in May, Sessions said the protections prevent the Justice Department's "authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act."

"I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime. The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives," according to Sessions.

However, his mention of a "historic drug epidemic" to justify an offensive against medical marijuana doesn't mesh with what's known about current drug use and abuse in the country, according to the Post.

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