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Aug 28, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- HEALTH INSURANCE SCAMS SPREADING

An outbreak of illegal health insurance plans has left about 100,000 people with millions of dollars in medical debts and no coverage. According to a new report by The Commonwealth Fund, companies selling phony insurance collect premiums from enrollees but fail to pay health care providers. With no safety net, such as a state guarantee fund, the medical claims go unpaid when these plans become insolvent, and their victims often are left with huge medical debts. Though every state has laws making it illegal to operate an insurance company without a license, unlicensed plans are ignoring state and federal insurance regulations, including solvency standards that ensure a company will be able to pay the claims of enrolled individuals. "These scams prey on people who are seeking access to affordable health insurance coverage," said a fund spokeswoman. "Not only do we need better methods to identify and shut down illegal operations, we need to expand access to affordable coverage and reduce the demand that phony plans are exploiting."


A new study of people with type 2 diabetes has revealed how chromium picolinate improves insulin resistance in human skeletal muscle -- the primary site for glucose metabolism. The data suggest when chromium picolinate is added to the diet, insulin sensitivity improves for people with diabetes, which currently affects nearly 200-million people worldwide. In the study, two groups of subjects with type 2 diabetes were treated with either sulfonylureas -- a class of diabetic drugs that increase insulin secretion -- or a diet program. Both groups were randomized to receive either 1,000-milligrams of chromium picolinate daily or a placebo. Of the subjects, those who received chromium picolinate had a mean increase in insulin sensitivity of 8.9 percent, while the placebo group had a mean decrease of 3.6 percent. "This study demonstrates that those individuals with type 2 diabetes who supplemented their diet with chromium picolinate had an enhanced activity of the protein compared to those who were on placebo," researchers said.


Cancer patients who expected acupressure wrist bands to ease the nausea they have from chemotherapy were much more likely to gain relief than either patients who were not given the bands or those who received them but did not expect them to help. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center compared the response in 700 cancer patients who received either two acupressure bands, an acustimulation band, or no band. Both the pressure and the stimulation bands are worn on the wrist, and several studies have shown them to be helpful in reducing nausea from seasickness, motion sickness, and morning sickness from pregnancy. The pressure band applies steady pressure to an acupuncture point on the inside of the wrist, while the acustimulation band gives a mild electrical pulse to the same point. Such bands are sold at some drugstores but are not widely used in medicine. Participants in the study wore the bands on the day of their chemotherapy treatment and the following four days. Researchers found the acupressure bands were more helpful to patients who expected the device to ease their nausea. Patients who expected the bands to help rated their nausea 25 percent less severe than other patients on the day of treatment and approximately 13 percent less severe on subsequent days. They also reported having a higher quality of life on those days, and they used less anti-nausea medication. Acupressure patients who did not expect the bands to work did not show any benefit.


Commonly made claims about changes in family and other intimate relations are not supported by actual research, British scientists argue. Instead, accounts of present-day personal relations seem to be more a reflection of ideological stances. Today's theorists tend to emphasize either family breakdown and moral decline, or transformation and democratization. The more negative account of family change appeals to traditionalist, conservative interpretations, while liberals favor the more positive version. But statistical research supports a third perspective: there has been little substantial change in the way people relate to one another, and individuals continue to place great importance on personal ties and obligations. Though demographic data show an increased diversity of living arrangements, such as divorcees, lone parents and step-families, the statistics also demonstrate an enduring continuity of traditional ties, with the majority of families still composed of heterosexual couples. This finding is "an counterbalance to dominant and unsubstantiated claims of family breakdown or greater individual freedom," the researchers said.

(Editors: For more information on INSURANCE SCAMS, contact Mary Mahon at 212-606-3853 or For CHROMIUM, Stacey Antine at 914-701-4567. For WRISTBANDS, Tom Rickey at trickey@admin.rochester. For FAMILIES, Anna Hinds in the U.K. at +44-01-793-413-122 or

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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