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Health insurance

11/14/12 4:15pm

Medicaid Boost Could Help Millions of Addicts

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Ready for a shot in the arm. Photo via

The nonprofit advocacy group Faces and Voices of Recovery hosted a webinar yesterday, outlining coming changes to the American health-care landscape as a result of Medicaid's expansion. This is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—aka Obamacare. Under the law, in states that choose to participate (as per a Supreme Court ruling this summer), Medicaid eligibility will be extended to everyone under 65 years of age with income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL). At present that's $14,404 a year for an individual and $29,327 for a family of four. According to Suzanne Fields, senior advisor on health care financing for SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), "The key point from my piece of the conversation is that the Medicaid expansion will provide benefits to mental-health and substance-abuse clientele."

Who are these people? According to Fields, there are currently 37.9 million uninsured individuals who make less than 400% of the FPL. Eleven million of them, or 29%, have a behavioral health problem. Seven percent of this subset have a serious mental illness; 14.9% suffer from "serious psychological distress"; and 14.2%, or 2.6 million people, have a substance-use disorder. These 2.6 million previously uninsured alcoholics and addicts—73% of whom are male, 34% aged 18–34, and 79% white or hispanic—now will be eligible for substance-abuse treatment benefits. As Fields pointed out, structures are already in place to make this happen: "There are several vehicles by which Medicaid can cover substance-abuse programs, and those vehicles exist today." Yet another important aspect of the Medicaid expansion, she added, is "the inclusion of both mental health and substance abuse as essential benefits."

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By Hunter R. Slaton

overdose

11/14/12 3:24pm

Bon Jovi's Daughter Arrested After "Heroin OD"

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Bon Jovi and his daughter, Stephanie
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Jon Bon Jovi’s 19-year-old daughter, Stephanie Bongiovi, was arrested early this morning after allegedly overdosing on heroin. Cops responded to a dorm room at Hamilton College in upstate New York, after someone reported that Bongiovi had OD-ed and was unresponsive. They found a small amount of heroin, marijuana and drug paraphernalia on the scene. Bongiovi, who is currently recovering at the hospital, was arrested on misdemeanor charges for possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and criminally using drug paraphernalia. Her rocker dad also did drugs early in life—but has avoided them ever since. "I did the drug thing very young and wised up very young too, because I was into drugs a little too much," he told People in 2007. "I've never been a drug guy. I've always felt I didn't have the mental stability to handle drugs." Bongiovi is Bon Jovi’s only daughter and his oldest child with his wife, Hurley.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Legalization of Marijuana

11/14/12 2:17pm

How to Make a Mint From the Marijuana Biz

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Boom time? Photo via

Marijuana's changing legal status—with Colorado and Washington backing full legalization last week, and Massachusetts becoming the latest of 18 states (plus Washington DC) to allow medical pot—could make it the new boom market for investors to cash in on. The medical marijuana industry is already worth $1.7 billion as of 2011, and Colorado sales topped $180 million in 2010—well before full, state-level legalization. “Call it the ‘green rush,’” says Derek Peterson, CEO of GrowOp Technology, an online hydroponics retailer. “The industry is expanding, and there are all kinds of investment opportunities.” Hydroponics is just one of the ways for investors to get in on the action without actually growing or selling drugs: for example, Medbox, an OTC stock with a $45 million market cap, sells its patented dispensing machines to licensed MMJ dispensaries, which could also theoretically be used in standard drugstores. Of course, federal law still outlaws marijuana across the US. Uncertainty over the government's next moves means investors in this realm do face substantial risks. And the same is true for banks that receive requests to handle marijuana-generated profits, and could be breaking the law if they do so without telling the government. "My opinion would be, if you want to open the account, go ahead," says Richard A. Small, a former Federal Reserve deputy associate director who now handles anti-money laundering compliance at American Express Co. "But every time you take in money, you file a suspicious-activity report, because you do have a violation of the law."

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By McCarton Ackerman

Food Addiction

11/14/12 1:00pm

Bruce Springsteen Was the "Gut Bomb King"

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Still in his salad days Photo via

Bruce Springsteen is known for being in great physical shape, but a new biography describes how The Boss dealt with an addiction to junk food earlier in his career. In BrucePeter Ames Carlin writes that the young Springsteen had "the gastronomic sophistication of a feral dog, feasting on Velveeta-and-mayonnaise sandwiches, or the glistening fried chicken at the Tasty Dee-lite drive-through. Vegetables rarely made an appearance." Springsteen—who cooperated with Carlin for the book—has reputedly never taken drugs, but used to self-medicate with food instead. "He had a hard time sleeping at night, so I'd sit up watching TV with him while he wolfed down all this junk food: sodas, cakes, all this horrible stuff," says a former girlfriend, Diane Lozito. He earned the nickname “Gut Bomb King” for bribing friends with “sacks of candy bars, Ring Dings, and Pepsis he brought with him” during weekly Monopoly games. But everything changed in the late '70s, when Springsteen hired a fan named Obie Dziedzic as his assistant. She started buying his groceries and, Carlin writes, "cooking the dinners he chose from the menus she'd crafted to broaden and add real nutrition to his stubbornly adolescent palate." And it worked: "Bruce let Dziedzic maneuver him into eating vegetables and sauces beyond the tomato-based kind you ladle onto spaghetti." Springsteen's whole diet was reversed; one old friend even remembers a scolding for not finishing his salad: “Whaddaya doing? Gimme that salad! It's healthy for you!" These healthy habits have stuck with The Boss through the years; at one of his recent pre-concert meals, the options included veal shank, vegetarian dishes—and at least six kinds of salad. 

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By Chrisanne Grise

legalization of Marijuana

11/14/12 11:41am

Young America Still Split on Pot

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Young people are more pro-gay than
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Contrary to popular belief, America's young adults are not in fact unanimously pro-pot-legalization. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that while most of those aged 18-29 back legalization, that support lags significantly behind their support for gay marriage, and for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants: 55% favor legal pot, compared to 66% in favor of gay marriage and 69% in favor of a path to citizenship. But as expected, young people are more enthusiastic about all three of these policies than their elders. On marijuana legalization, people aged 30-49 are 51% in favor. Support among the '60s generation of baby boomers marginally bucked the trend, with 52% of respondents aged 50-64 in favor—but in the biggest generation-gap, just 30% of over-65s expressed support for legal pot.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Text messages

11/14/12 10:36am

New Message: Texting Is Not an Addiction

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Not an addict, just a student Photo via

We can all breathe again: texting is a compulsion, not an addiction, new research indicates. Many of us spend ever-larger chunks of the day sending texts, and this is particularly true of college students: “They’re digital natives, meaning they’re really used to using technology first and foremost for communication—not as a second option,” says Paul Atchley, professor of psychology at the University of Kansas. Atchley's study, published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, investigated whether cell phone habits interfere with making rational decisions. “We used a technique from behavioral economics called ‘delayed discounting,’” he explains. “We essentially assessed if somebody is willing to wait to engage in that behavior for a reward.” His team tested KU students who'd been using cell phones for at least eight years. Various experiments—like offering students money to delay their texting—indicated that texting is more a compulsion than an addiction. “If they really were addicted to the idea of sending a text immediately, the monetary situation wouldn’t be that critical to them,” says Atchley. “You’d predict a sharp decrease if someone was truly addicted to texting. They’d say, ‘I need to text now and if you’re making me wait too long, there’s no point. So I’m going to give you all of your money back and just text right now.’” Researchers found that students' main concern while not texting was the possibility of missing a window of information. But it all depends on the status of the textee.“If you’re talking about texting an acquaintance back, people are willing to wait almost indefinitely to get that monetary reward,” says Atchley. “But if it’s someone closer to them, that changes. People were willing to give us $25 back, to have the opportunity to text their girlfriend or boyfriend back within 20 minutes.”

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