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Health Highlights: May 4, 2010

Face Transplant Patient Makes Public Appearance Insurance Pool Program Refused by 18 States World's Oldest Person Dies FDA Orders Baxter to Recall and Destroy Infusion Pumps Subsidy Reduces Employers' Early Retiree Health Coverage Costs

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

Face Transplant Patient Makes Public Appearance

A Spanish man who received a partial face transplant in January made his first public appearance at a news conference Tuesday and thanked his surgeons and the donor's family.

The man, identified only as Rafael, underwent the 30-hour surgery at Seville's Virgen del Rocio Hospital to replace the bottom two-thirds of his face, which was deformed with benign tumors from a congenital disease, the Associated Press reported.

He has to undergo months of rehabilitation, but Rafael said he can now feel pain in his lips and distinguish between hot and cold.

One reason Rafael decided to appear at a news conference was because he believed it may encourage donations that would help others who need these types of transplants, the AP reported.

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Insurance Pool Program Refused by 18 States

As of Monday, 18 states said they won't administer an insurance pool for people who can't get health insurance because they have preexisting conditions. The federal government will have to run the program in those states.

The new U.S. health care law includes a $5 billion provision to extend temporary help to people with preexisting medical conditions beginning this year, rather than making them wait until 2014. That's when insurers will be forbidden to refuse people or charge higher premiums based on a person's health status, the Washington Post reported.

The federal government wants to use state programs to run the insurance pool and gave governors until April 30 to say whether they would participate. So far, 29 states and the District of Columbia have agreed.

Among those who have refused, some said they didn't want to take on the task because they believe Congress has allocated too little money for it, the Post reported.

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World's Oldest Person Dies

The world's oldest person died Sunday, a week before her 115th birthday.

Kama Chinen, who was born May 10, 1895, died at her care facility on the Japanese island of Okinawa, the Associated Press reported.

She became the world's oldest person last September after the death of 115-year-old Gertrude Baines of California.

A French woman, 114-year-old Eugenie Blanchard, is now the oldest living person, according to the Gerontology Research Group. She was born on Feb. 16, 1896, the AP reported.

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FDA Orders Baxter to Recall and Destroy Infusion Pumps

Baxter International must recall and destroy all of its Colleague infusion pumps in the United States because the company has failed to fix serious problems with the pumps, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The pumps are used to deliver intravenous fluids and medicine, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA also ordered the Deerfield, Ill.-based company to give refunds or replacement pumps to customers at no cost.

The agency said as many as 200,000 Colleague infusion pumps may be in use, the AP reported.

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Subsidy Reduces Employers' Early Retiree Health Coverage Costs

The Obama administration will provide $5 billion in subsidies to help employers provide medical coverage to early retirees.

White House officials said the subsidy program, which begins June 1, will enable employers to recover a large part of the cost of medical claims for retirees ages 55 to 64 who aren't eligible for Medicare, the Associated Press reported.

Employers can get reimbursed for up to 80 percent of the cost of early retiree medical claims between $15,000 and $90,000. The government money can be used to lower premiums for retirees and their dependents, or by employers to keep their costs under control.

The early retiree subsidy was included in the new health care law. Currently, nearly two million Americans ages 55 to 64 have health insurance through a former employer, the AP reported.

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