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What We're Reading: HRA Announcement; Overdose Deaths Dip; Microplastic Discovered in Gut

AJMC Staff
The Trump administration will allow small employers to use tax-free health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) to provide health coverage to workers; the number of fatal drug overdoses nationwide has fallen for 6 consecutive months; a pilot study with a small sample size of 8 people discovered that microplastics can make their way into the human gut.

Trump Administration to Unveil Plan to Allow HRAs to Pay for Insurance Premiums

The Trump administration will allow small employers to use tax-free health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) to provide health coverage to workers, the Associated Press reported. Under the plan, expected to be formally announced Tuesday, employees could buy their own individual health insurance policies. Health policy critics have said the approach will undermine traditional job-based coverage, and the Obama administration had discouraged the practice. HRAs join other health insurance changes, including association health plans and short-term policies.

 

Number of Fatal Drug Overdoses Dips for First Time

The number of fatal drug overdoses nationwide has fallen for 6 consecutive months, reversing a sharp rise during the past few years, but public health experts warned against drawing firm conclusions based on a small timeframe, STAT News reported. In in the 12-month period ending in March 2018, the CDC reported a decline of 2.8% in the number of overdose deaths, to an estimated 71,073 people, compared with the 12 months ending in September 2017.

 

Researchers Discover Microplastics in Human Stool

A pilot study with a small sample size of 8 people discovered that microplastics can make their way into the human gut, The New York Times reported. In a European study, researchers examined stool samples from volunteers in 8 countries and were surprised when every single sample tested positive for the presence of a variety of microplastics. Microplastics, about the size of a grain of rice, have become a major concern for environmental researchers over the past decade as plastic bags and bottles make their way into the ocean. The most common plastics detected were polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate—both major components of plastic bottles and caps. The health effects are unknown and more research is needed.

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