Headlines: October 17, 2011

Kyle Thomson

The Obama administration has decided to cancel a long-term care insurance program that was passed as part of health care reform in 2010.  The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports or “CLASS Act” was a program similar to those available in the private sector that would allow workers to sign up and pay a monthly premium that would later be used as insurance for assisted living.  Due to concerns over the financial viability of the program, the bill included a provision that required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to certify that the plan would be sustainable for 75 years.  On Friday, Secretary Sebelius announced that there was no viable path for implementation under these terms as not enough young and healthy people are likely to sign up.

According to new treatment guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children as young as four can be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  The guidelines further suggest that doctors should consider prescribing methamphetamines, commonly sold by the brand name Ritalin, to any children diagnosed with the disorder, a potentially controversial recommendation because the drug is only approved for use in children older than six.  The guidelines show that symptoms of ADHD in preschool-age children is much different than in older children and should be observed for four to six months before behavior training or medication are prescribed.

A new study shows that babies born with a low birth weight are five times more likely to develop autism than a baby born with a normal birth weight.  Studies have consistently shown that children with low birth weights are at higher risk of developing cognitive and motor function disabilities, but this is the first study linking low birth weight to autism.  While the study does not show that low birth weight causes autism, the correlation between the two should influence pediatric practice moving forward.  Specifically, the study underscores the need to administer developmental tests to children who were born at a low birth weight early in life in order to provide intensive services to the child at critical developmental junctures.