Health reform hits the highest court

MassDevice On Call

MASSDEVICE ON CALL — Health care reform challengers took their complaints to the Supreme Court for the first time this week, asking the judges to rule on the validity of the individual insurance mandate in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based firm generally focused on promoting religious freedom for Christians, filed a cert petition appealing a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the health care overhaul is within constitutional bounds, specifically in regard to the mandate that nearly all Americans buy health insurance.

Last month’s decision was the second win for the health insurance law, and the first time a judge appointed by a Republican president upheld the individual mandate.

"Congress had a rational basis for concluding that the minimum coverage provision is essential to the Affordable Care Act’s larger reforms to the national markets in health care delivery and health insurance," 6th Circuit Judge Boyce Martin, appointed by former President Jimmy Carter, wrote for the majority in the 2-1 ruling.

The TMLC challenged the law with a "slippery slope" argument in a press release, writing, "If the Act [Obamacare] is understood to fall within Congress’s Commerce Clause authority, the federal government will have absolute and unfettered power to create complex regulatory schemes to fix every perceived problem."

Dialing down cell phone brain tumor concerns

Mobile phone use had no connection to brain tumors in children and adolescents in the latest European study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Despite a massive leap in mobile phone use, which the study claims begins at age 9 or 10 for most youths, public health data showed no increase in tumors among children in the U.S. any parts of Europe, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The study responds to growing clamour that cellular phone use can lead to brain injury, especially among the more vulnerable younger crowd.

Early last month, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, classified cell phone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic,” putting it in the same category as coffee and gasoline engine exhaust. The verdict meant that there was some evidence of a connection but that the science was too weak to draw solid conclusions.

House Dems get behind no-cost contraception

More than 90 Democrats in the House backed the Institute of Medicine’s recent recommendation that no-charge prescription contraception may be required of all health insurance plans, as a preventative health service.

"Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol, be depressed, and experience domestic violence during pregnancy," an IOM panel wrote last week. "Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems," it noted.

Challengers to the IOM’s recommendations include members of the conservative Family Research Council likened the measure to a federal mandate to cover abortions, since some emergency birth control methods can destroy a blastocyst before or after it implants in the womb, NPR reported.

Researchers aim for mind-controlled prosthetic arms that can "feel"

Engineers at four U.S. universities have teamed up to design a mind-controlled prosthetic arm with tactile sensation.

"There’s nothing fictional about this," Rice University co-principal investigator Marcia O’Malley said in a press release. "The investigators on this grant have already demonstrated that much of this is possible. What remains is to bring all of it — noninvasive neural decoding, direct brain control and tactile sensory feedback — together into one device."

The research at Rice University, the University of Michigan, Drexel University and the University of Maryland is made possible by a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Human-Centered Computing program.

European dental implant market to hit $2 billion by 2015

The European market for dental implants could hit $2 billion by 2015, according to med-tech market analysis firm Millennium Research Group.

“Growth in dental implants will be strongest in Eastern Europe,” MRG analyst Carmen Chan said in a press release. “The relatively low cost of procedures allows these dental implant markets to benefit from dental tourism from Germany, the United Kingdom and France.”