Friday News Update: Health and the Economy

Unemployment rate falls, but momentum weak in job market

The nation’s unemployment rate fell in June, though hiring by the private sector remained soft, according to a government report Friday. The figures suggest the economic recovery is moving forward this summer, but with weak momentum in the job market.

The jobless rate was 9.5 percent last month, down from 9.7 percent in May, a surprising decrease that came as hundreds of thousands of workers dropped out of the labor force. Private employers added 83,000 jobs in June, more than double the rate in May but still below the six-figure job creation numbers that would suggest a strong recovery in employment.

‘Game Changer’ Rule Looms For Health Insurers

One number in the health-care overhaul law could dramatically alter the health-insurance landscape.

How federal regulators interpret a metric known as a medical-loss ratio could affect players from industry giant UnitedHealth Group Inc. down to specialized companies such as American National Insurance Co. Plans could be forced to pay out millions in rebates, while others may be driven out of the market.

The medical-loss ratio measures how much of premiums insurers pay out for medical care versus administrative costs. The new law requires that insurers use at least 80% of the premiums from individuals and small businesses to pay for medical care and profit-taking, and 85% of premiums from larger employers.

Study: High-Fructose Diets May Raise Blood Pressure

July 1, 2010 — Foods and beverages with high amounts of fructose from added sugar may increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

A type of sugar, fructose is a key ingredient in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Added sugars are found in processed foods such as candy, cookies, and cakes, as well as soda.

For the study, data on 4,528 U.S. adults were collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2003-2006. Fructose intake was calculated based on self-reported diet information. Those participants who reported eating or drinking 74 grams of fructose or more per day (which the study equates to 2.5 sugary soft drinks per day) had a higher risk of high blood pressure than their counterparts who got less fructose. The findings took into account factors such as age, smoking history, physical activity level, and salt and alcohol intake.

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