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AJ Schalk(NEW YORK) -- One school made sure that a student's furry friend was remembered in the yearbook.

Andrew "AJ" Schalk, 16, a junior at Stafford High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia, goes to school every day with his service dog, Alpha.

Schalk told ABC News that he and Alpha, a black Labrador, were paired Jan. 2, 2014, after Schalk was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on July 9, 2009.

Getting Alpha was a community affair, as Schalk had to raise $25,000 to get his dog trained properly, and leaned on his classmates along with his parents' co-workers and friends.

He said of Alpha, "He can predict 20 to 40 minutes before my blood sugar goes low or high, and that saves me from huge blood sugar spikes and drops and also benefits my health overall."

So when Alpha was finally able to accompany Schalk at Stafford High starting last year, he said, the students "were so excited to see him in the hallways," adding that students had been hearing about him for years, thanks to multiple fundraisers.

The students took to Alpha so much, they wanted to include him in the 2017 yearbook.

Schalk recalled the students "loved the idea of having him in there because he's been such a big part of the Stafford community. It was so easy to get him in."

Principal Joseph Lewis said in a statement to ABC News that including Alpha in the yearbook "was just fun to do."

"Beyond this, Alpha is just a part of everyday school life here at Stafford High School, as much as any student is," the statement continued.

they put his service dog in the yearbook i'm CRYING

— diana bloom (@nycstheplacetob) May 18, 2017

Schalk said he loved the way Alpha's photo turned out, with his head barely in the box.

"It's quite funny," he said. "I love it."

Schalk said it's important for his community to know that not only is Alpha a "great companion" but also that "he's saved my life before."

"Service dogs are very important, and Alpha has had a great benefit in my life," he said. "You wouldn't think that having a disability is a blessing ... but Alpha has turned a disability into a much more positive experience for me."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Republican health care bill currently making its way through Congress could have a major impact on how many people have access to health services through Medicaid --changes that would fall disproportionately on women.

Today, more than 17 million women in the U.S. aged 18 to 64 have health insurance because of Medicaid, according to data from the National Women’s Law Center. Nearly a fourth of these women gained access to health insurance for the first time as a result of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that passed in 2010.

Just within the first two years of expansion, nearly four million women were newly insured through Medicaid between 2013 and 2015 -- women who are now at risk of losing health care coverage.

The Republican plan, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), could reverse these gains since the bill proposes drastic cuts to Medicaid. The safety-net program is projected to lose over $800 billion over 10 years, according to a newly released report from Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Women, who are the primary beneficiaries of Medicaid, could be the hardest hit by these changes. In 2015 alone, nearly four million more women were using Medicaid than men according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Medicaid is a critical lifeline to health care services,” said Alina Salganicoff, vice president and director of women's health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Now, nearly one in five women have Medicaid coverage and anything you do to change Medicaid will impact women in this country, especially the women who have the fewest resources to get care.”

Medicaid expansion under the ACA discarded "categorical" eligibility -- where low-income individuals only qualified if they were pregnant, a parent of a dependent child, over age 65, or had a disability—in favor of criteria solely based on income. For the first time, it allowed low income women without children to gain access to health insurance.

Expansion was adopted by 31 states and the District of Columbia, and according to the National Women’s Law Center, these states saw the biggest leaps in Medicaid enrollment for women aged 18–64.

The CBO estimates that under the AHCA, Medicaid expansion would no longer be sustainable, with states curtailing their programs or choosing not to expand eligibility due to the lack of funds. By 2018 the CBO estimates that 4 million people will lose coverage with that number steadily increasing to 14 million by 2026.

The dramatic losses in insurance coverage are primarily driven by changes to Medicaid enrollment and funding under the legislation, according to the CBO. The AHCA would cut federal funds to match state budgets and place caps on the amount that can be spent for each Medicaid user.

Instead, the new bill proposes a system of block grants in which fixed amounts of money are doled out to states, allowing them to tailor health care services offered to their local populations.

“We believe that it's important to allow states to have that flexibility to fashion the program for their vulnerable population that actually responds to that population in a way that gives them the authority, them the choices, them the opportunity to gain coverage and the care that they believe most appropriate,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price during a White House press briefing in March.

But Dr. Diane Cosper Horvath, a reproductive health advocacy fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health disagrees, saying that the cuts to Medicaid would be “catastrophic to health care in our country.”

“When Medicaid gets cut, the people that are hurt the most are women,” she said. “Women who are heads of households, single mothers. People who are struggling to make ends meet, they lose insurance coverage and risk not being healthy enough to work and not being able to maintain their health well enough to care for their families.”

Since its inception in 1965, Medicaid has become a linchpin in America’s health safety net, especially for low-income women. The program is an important protection for vulnerable populations, providing coverage for nearly half of reproductive aged women living below the federal poverty line according to the Guttmacher Institute. Women of color are also more likely to rely on Medicaid -- the Kaiser Family Foundation found that one in four African American and Latina women using the program.

Medicaid provides access to a broad range of services integral to a women's health across her lifespan, including reproductive health care, maternity care, family planning, mental health, preventive cancer screenings, and treatment services.

Horvath, a practicing physician, has personally witnessed how health insurance can be the difference between life or death for many women. She recalls a patient from her early days of training: a young woman in her early forties who came to the hospital with advanced cervical cancer— a cancer that had progressed so far that not even a year later, she died, leaving three children behind.

Years ago, this woman had an abnormal Pap smear, but “she was too poor to buy insurance through work, but made too much to qualify for Medicaid,” said Horvath. Her patient would likely have been eligible for Medicaid under the current law.

Without insurance, this woman never sought out more medical care and succumbed to an illness that is eminently preventable, Horvath said.

“I think about how life would’ve been different for her if she was able to come in and get routine health care, it would have saved her life," Horvath said.

With millions of women at risk of losing access to health care, Horvath views the cuts to Medicaid as a part of a larger trend to disadvantage women.

“It’s a clear pattern of de-prioritizing women's health, reproductive health, and health and well-being of families,” she said. “This is really an assault on families in this country, low-income individuals, people of color. It’s terrifying.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With Memorial Day signaling the unofficial kick-off to summer, everyone may be ready to enjoy some fun. But the season can also mean increased risk for a few health hazards like sunburns, spoiled foods and insect bites.

Here's a rundown of the top summer hazards and how to avoid them.


One of the best parts of the summer is finally being able to bask in the sun. But too much sun can obviously lead to an uncomfortable and unsightly sunburn.

To enjoy the sun safely, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The sunscreen should have an SPF of 30 or higher.

Experts also advise seeking shade from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest.

Water can amplify the sun's rays, so be extra careful at the beach or the pool. And be sure to reapply sun block every two hours or after taking a dip.

Spoiled Food

The start of summer means the start of outdoor dining season, including barbecues and picnics. But, food that sits in the sun can go bad quickly.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a handy guide on how to keep food safe from spoilage. Any perishable foods should not sit outside for more than two hours. If the temperature creeps up over 90 degrees, food should be put back in the fridge or cooler after one hour.

Grilled meats should be checked with a meat thermometer to ensure they've reached a safe temperature.

Insect-Born Diseases

Insect bites aren't just a nuisance anymore. The rise of the Zika virus last year and the ongoing spread of Lyme disease have drawn attention to real health risks from insect-born diseases in the U.S.

In the northeast, deer ticks can spread Lyme disease via bites. The disease can cause serious symptoms like fever, rash or infection of the heart and nervous system if untreated. The tiny insects are also known to spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever and an extremely rare disease called Powassan virus that can cause neurological symptoms including brain swelling.

In addition to ticks, mosquitoes have been known to spread a few dangerous illnesses including the Zika virus. This year there has been no local spread of the Zika virus in the U.S. yet, but people traveling to areas where the virus was spread previously may want to take extra precautions.

To avoid bites from ticks, mosquitoes and other insects, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise wearing long sleeves and pants when in the wilderness. Additionally, the agency recommends using bug spray with ingredients such as DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil. The Environmental Protection Agency has a database of insect repellents to help consumers choose the best bug spray for their situations.

More information on avoiding bug bites can be found here.

Safety on the Road

Summer means plenty of travel, including road trips for many families. The AAA estimates that as many as 39 million Americans may take to the road on Memorial Day weekend.

Because of increased traffic, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises taking extra care when getting behind the wheel during the summer months.

Before hitting the road, make sure the vehicle is in good working order. Check for recalls on vehicles and their parts, have a tune-up and check tires and car batteries.

Take an emergency roadside kit, complete with cellphone and charger, in case of distress.

On the drive, make sure everyone is buckled properly, share the road with other drivers and stay alert.

As always, don't drink and drive. The NHTSA estimated that in 2015 there was one fatality related to drunk driving every 51 minutes.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Robert Selby(FALLOT, Va.) -- One Virginia dad has a touching tradition with his son, who was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.

When Robert Selby became a first-time dad in October 2013 he told ABC News he wasn't prepared when they diagnosed his son Chase with Tetralogy of Fallot, or a congenital heart defect, the same day he was set to go home.

Tetralogy of Fallot is a very rare heart defect, affecting 5 out of every 10,000 babies, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It's also the same defect late night host Jimmy Kimmel's son was diagnosed with earlier this month.

"I was devastated because ... you never prepare for the what ifs," he continued. "You prepare for the gender, the baby shower, everything positive. But you never prepare for that what if, like what if my child has this type of defect or something is really wrong with him?"

The Woodbridge, Virginia, dad, who co-parents with Chase's mother, said his son had to undergo heart surgery at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He also had other complications. Chase, who was born at 5 pounds and 2 ounces, had to spend more than three months in the hospital because of his size.

When Chase was strong enough to go home he needed to be outfitted with a gastrostomy tube, or G-tube, for feeding since he had been in the hospital for months and hadn't yet learned how to eat orally.

After he turned six months, a milestone for him, Robert Selby, 33, decided to show solidarity with his son by gluing a g tube to his own stomach and posing for photos. He continued this tradition every year, including this year.

This year's photo has gone viral on Facebook with 27,000 people liking or loving it.

The tradition has also served as a teaching moment for Chase Selby, who can now eat orally during the day and relies on his g tube at night.

"Last year, he asked, 'Dad, why do I have a g tube and you don't? I said, 'Well son, only superheroes have a g tube. This is your special power. You're my super baby,'" Selby said.

Not only has the experience empowered his now 3-year-old son, but Selby said it also appears to have inspired thousands of parents online.

"When Chase was diagnosed, I didn't have anybody to go to. But when I went online and saw other parents ... that gave me the inspiration. It gave me comfort," he recalled.

"So I'm just trying to be a light to somebody that's going through the same situation to let them know everything will be alright," Robert Selby added.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) — Two high school sweethearts finally got their chance to say “I do,” but their wedding didn’t happen the way they expected.

Ronda Mager was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, one year ago. Doctors recently told her she only had days to live.

“I ask God every day, why,” her husband Matthew Mager said to ABC affiliate WATE-TV.

Ronda and Matthew, who live in Knoxville, Tennessee, have been together for 10 years and have two children. A big wedding was always something the couple dreamed of, but it wasn’t financially possible.

“I brought her home and I fulfilled what I promised to her, that we’re getting married,” Matthew told WATE.

The family continues to pray for a miracle but are grateful for the time they have left with Ronda. “If it’s a week or a year or the rest of her life, I’m thankful for that time,” Matthew said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) — A couple who tried nearly two decades to conceive has welcomed a set of sextuplets in Richmond, Virginia.

Adeboye and Ajibola Taiwo tried for 17 years to have children. In January, they learned they were expecting six.

“I was excited,” said dad Adeboye Taiwo. “For the very first time we were expecting.”

The babies, three boys and three girls, range in weight from 1 pound, 10 ounces, to 2 pounds, 15 ounces, according to VCU Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia.

“We’re going through this extraordinary journey together with the family,” Ronald Ramus, M.D., director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at VCU Medical Center, said in the hospital's press release. “It’s not every day that parents bring home sextuplets. Mrs. Taiwo was eating, sleeping and breathing for seven. A lot of the support and encouragement we gave her to make it as far as she did was important, and one of the biggest contributions we made as a team.”

In 2015, there were close to 4 million live births in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 24 of those births were quintuplets or other higher-order births.

“I hope for the smallest of my six children to grow up and say, ‘I was so small, and look at me now,’” said Ajibola Taiwo. “I want my kids [to] come back to VCU to study and learn to care for others with the same people who cared for me and my family.”

Ajibola Taiwo was discharged from the hospital May 18, but the sextuplets remain in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. All six babies are "doing well and continue to thrive" in the NICU, according to VCU.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

The umbilical cord is the physical link between a mother and her child. It allows oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to flow between the fetus and placenta. But is there a benefit to waiting a full minute after birth before making the cut?

Recommendations from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggest that delayed clamping may have a favorable effect on the baby’s development. It’s thought that by waiting 30-60 seconds before clamping, vital nutrients from the placenta, including iron, can be passed onto the baby.  

As an OB/GYN who’s delivered over 1,500 babies, I can tell you there are times when every second matters -- like when the cord is tightly wrapped around the baby’s neck and needs to be immediately cut. There are also times when there is definitely 60 seconds to spare.

If you’re pregnant, discuss the timing of cord clamping with your obstetrician or midwife.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Brandi Rogers(NEW YORK) -- A couple carrying their terminally ill child to term is hoping to donate her organs and help keep other parents from facing the same fate.

Brandi Rogers' unborn daughter, Emersyn, was diagnosed with anencephaly when Brandi was 20 weeks pregnant. Anencephaly is a birth defect where a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull.

"It's for Emersyn," Rogers said. "She's a sister and she's a daughter and it's not just for organ donation. It gets a lot deeper than that. You're in a room and you're listening to your baby's heartbeat and then you go into another room and they say, 'Well, you can stop it.' That's extremely hard."

"We decided on the spot that it wasn't something we were going to do," she added.

Rogers, 25, a mom of two from Effingham, South Carolina, said she and her husband, Michael Rogers, learned of their baby's condition after an ultrasound technician noticed fluid on the brain.

"I think I kind of sat there when they told me," she added. "It's just one of those things you don't think could ever happen to you, especially when I have two healthy children."

Michael Rogers, 29, told ABC News that hearing his daughter's diagnosis put him in a state of shock and that he had never before heard of anencephaly.

"When we first found out ... I think [the doctor] said it was a 75 percent chance survival rate," he continued. "We kind of held onto hope for that. I really thought she was going to make it. We went back and they pretty much told us there's no chance."

About 3 pregnancies in every 10,000 in the United States will have anencephaly annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Conrad Williams, MD, of the Medical University of South Carolina, told ABC News that there is no known cause of anencephaly.

Williams is the director of the Palliative Care Program at MUSC and will be working with the Rogers after Emersyn's birth.

"Many of these babies are stillborn and many of the babies born alive typically only live for hours or days," Williams said. "Our focus is on providing patients and families with support or relief for any of the challenges that come forth. If they can remember the brief moments that they had with their child ... it will help them tremendously in the grieving process, that's really our goal."

Because Emersyn has a grim chance of survival, Brandi Rogers said she could have made the choice to induce early, which would terminate the pregnancy, but decided otherwise.

"When we got home and we were researching, I was looking for a voice of someone who went full term and didn't regret it," Brandi Rogers said. "I want to be that voice. It's OK to celebrate Emersyn even though she's not going to survive. She's still our third child and she's still very much loved."

In March, parents Royce and Keri Young of Oklahoma, spoke out in an interview with ABC News' Good Morning America, after their baby was diagnosed with anencephaly like Emersyn. The Youngs also decided to carry their child to term in order to donate her organs and, hopefully, save the lives of others.

Brandi Rogers said she was inspired by the Youngs' choice to donate their baby's organs, but more so believes her child's birth deserves to be celebrated.

"We decided to embrace it," she added. "I think with pregnancy loss and infant loss and miscarriage and stillborn, it's so taboo and nobody talks about it. I think it would do women a lot of good to speak about that."

The Rogers said they would like to donate Emersyn's organs to anencephaly research. They also hope sharing their daughter's story will show other parents that they are not alone.

"I don't want her to ever be forgotten ... she wasn't just a baby that never made it," Michael Rogers said. "I'd love to start an organization in her name for this specific type of disease. That could be her legacy. I don't know how to start that, but that would be something I'd love to do."

Brandi Rogers' due date is Sept. 11. She will give birth at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, South Carolina.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The anticipated report from the Congressional Budget Office has shed new light on how the Republicans' American Health Care Act could affect premiums for many in the U.S.

The report was released just weeks after Republicans narrowly passed a health bill through the House of Representatives. But Senate Republicans will have to pass their version of the bill and will likely face more questions about its effects after this report.

The CBO analyzed the bill as currently written and found it would drastically change health care in the U.S. They estimate the law would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion oven ten years, but also leave 23 million more Americans without health insurance compared to current law.

 Additionally the bill would have huge effects on premiums for older Americans and those with health conditions. Here's a break down on how premiums could change:

Pre-Existing Conditions

Under the new law, people with pre-existing conditions cannot be barred from insurance coverage. However, some states could apply for waivers that would allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for those individuals. States that apply for the waiver would have to implement high-risk insurance pools to accommodate them. But some health care experts are skeptical that high-risk pools would have enough money to fully cover people in need.

The CBO found that people with pre-existing conditions could face insurance premiums so high they would be unable to afford coverage.

"Community-rated premiums would rise over time, and people who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all," reads the report.

The community rating provision is a way of setting premiums designed to ensure risk is spread evenly across a larger pool. This means that people are charged the same rate regardless of factors like health status. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies may charge different rates for identical plans only on the basis of age, geographic location, the number of people covered and tobacco use, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told ABC News in an earlier interview that without protection from higher premiums, people with pre-existing conditions would likely be priced out of coverage. In the 1990s, she added, people with pre-existing conditions who recently lost their jobs were supposed to be protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act from losing or being prevented from obtaining insurance coverage. However, insurance companies charged far higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions.

"To actually protect someone with pre-existing condition ... they need full protection," Pollitz said. "Otherwise, it's like giving someone half a bulletproof vest."

Older People vs. Younger People

The CBO also estimated that older people could see premiums drastically increase; some could face premiums nine times higher than under the current law. This is due in part to the proposed changes to the age ratio and tax credits.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies may charge an older person no more than three times its premium for a younger person with an identical plan. The new bill would increase the maximum allowable ratio to five to one, which could significantly increase older people's premiums for comparable plans.

Additionally, tax credits to help pay for healthcare would change dramatically. While the ACA offers a scale of credits that take into account several factors, including family income, cost of insurance and age, the Trumpcare plan would offer flat tax credits per individual, according to age. The bill outlines tax credits of $2,000 to $14,000 a year for individuals who don’t get insurance coverage from an employer or the government. The credits would be based on age instead of income and would be capped for higher earners.

"Under the act, premiums for older people could be five times larger than those for younger people in many states, but the size of the tax credits for older people would be only twice the size of the credits for younger people," the report says.

The CBO estimated that in 2026 the net premiums for a 64-year-old earning $28,500 would rise from $1,700 per year to as much as $13,600 to $16,100 under the current bill, depending on whether the person lives in a waiver state. At an income of $68,200, the same person's out-of-pocket cost for premiums could go down slightly from $15,300 to as low as $13,600, if state had a waiver, or increase slightly to $16,100 without a waiver.

But, younger people under the AHCA may not see their premiums change greatly, or they may decrease due in part to the age ratio change.

The CBO estimated that a 21-year-old making $26,500 would have premiums between $1,750 and $1,250 depending on if their state applied for waivers. The same person's premiums are estimated at $1,700 under the ACA.

At an income of $68,200, out-of-pocket cost for premiums may decrease from $5,100 to between $1,750 and $1,250.

Officials at the CBO acknowledge that these estimates "are inherently uncertain because the ways in which federal agencies, states, insurers, employers, individuals, doctors, hospitals, and other affected parties would respond to the changes made by the legislation are all difficult to predict."

Medical and patient groups have pointed to the CBO score as further evidence the bill could harm those who need care the most, older Americans who have low incomes and do not yet qualify for Medicare.

AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond, said in a statement that the bill would have a "devastating impact" on older Americans.

"The CBO analysis found that premiums would go up to unaffordable levels by inflicting an Age Tax and removing current protections for people with common conditions including diabetes and weight gain. Putting a greater financial burden on older Americans is not the way to solve the problems in our health care system," LeaMond said.

An American Medical Association statement urged the Senate to take action to keep people from losing affordable health coverage.

"Today’s estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office show that last-minute changes to the AHCA made by the House offered no real improvements. Millions of Americans will become uninsured--with low-income families on Medicaid being hit the hardest," the statement said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans left their last lunch meeting before a weeklong recess optimistic that they can at least start working on their own version of a health care bill, with something on paper to discuss when they return in June.

“I think leadership is going to spend this recess trying to develop a product,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said. “Now we’ll have a base of a Senate bill based on all these discussions, based on what the House did, based on the CBO score,” he continued, referring to analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which measures the budgetary impact of all legislation.

While many lawmakers said there had been enough intra-conference discussions to at least launch Senate leaders and the heads of relevant committees on writing a blueprint, they also made clear there would still be plenty of wrangling among the rank-and-file before anything final emerges.

“We’re negotiating. It’s too early,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said.

The Republican-led Senate can only afford to lose two of its 52 members and still pass a health care bill. But there are diverse opinions and priorities among that group, and senators are well aware that the legislation must have almost universal appeal.

“This exercise happens to be one that involves everybody. We know that. I mean, we don’t have any margin,” Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, a member of Senate leadership, said.

He and other senators said they would be spending the Memorial Day recess reviewing the discussions that have been taking place in the Senate over the past few weeks. While all members have been invited to join the meetings, the core group includes the chairmen of the Budget, Finance, and Help, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committees, Senate leadership and a handful of other senators that have met to discuss health care long before the House passed its version of the bill on May 4.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions and now the timing is serious about the drafting process and that’ll of course take some time,” Thune said.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, another member of Senate leadership, said members of the conference have been meeting about five hours each week.

The upper chamber is focused, as were their House counterparts, on lowering insurance premiums as the ultimate goal, even if fewer people end up being covered because the new bill will have removed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

But some Republicans object to the House plan’s age-based tax credit structure, which some have argued places an undue burden on groups that can least afford it.

“Unfortunately, the CBO estimates that 23 million Americans would lose insurance coverage over the next decade, and the impact would disproportionately affect older, low-income Americans,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate Republican who has been working with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, on an entirely different plan, said of the House bill.

For his part, Cassidy reiterated his call for any bill to provide coverage for anyone with a life-threatening illness even if they exceed a certain amount of costs, which he called the “Jimmy Kimmel test” after the late-night talk show host revealed his newborn son’s medical travails, making a plea for affordable health care for all.

The Senate bill must appease Cassidy and Collins as well as senators like Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who object to the tax credit structure in general.

Some Republicans have also expressed concerns about the House’s waiver program that would allow them to opt out of certain regulations like providing what’s known as essential health benefits, required to be covered under Obamacare, and not charging people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums.

Others, especially senators who come from states that accepted the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, object to the House bill’s phasing out of that expansion.

Senators have long made clear that their version will look much different from the House one, but besides getting all their members on board, they must also be mindful of what is passable in the House, which will likely have to vote on whatever final bill is hammered out between the two.

For now, the upper chamber is focused on an agreement that can satisfy 96 percent of its members (plus Vice President Mike Pence as a tiebreaker if needed).

Asked what he will say to constituents back home in Florida who might be concerned about the CBO report showing so many people could lose coverage under the House proposal, Sen. Marco Rubio said he’ll make clear that the Senate is working on its own legislation, the implication being that it won’t mirror the House bill.

“The Senate bill is going to be the Senate bill,” he said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The rate of deaths related to Alzheimer's disease jumped by 54.5 percent over 15 years, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There were 93,541 deaths related to Alzheimer's disease in 2014, a rate of 25.4 deaths per 100,000 population, up from 44,536 deaths in 1999, a rate of 16.5 death per 100,000 people, according to the report.

The disease currently affects an estimated 5.5 million people in the U.S. but that number is expected to rise dramatically in people over the age of 65 to 13.8 million in 2050. The researchers examined death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System to reach their findings.

Keith Fargo, director of the scientific program at the Alzheimer's Association, said that the study highlights the need for support and research into therapies to treat Alzheimer's disease.

"It's the only cause of death in the top 10 that does not have a way to prevent it or stop it," Fargo told ABC News.

CDC researchers did not study why there was in an increase but reported one likely factor is that more people were surviving to old age. They found from 1999 to 2005 the greatest increase in mortality rate related to Alzheimer's disease was in people over the age of 85.

Fargo said he was dismayed to see in the report that 24.9 percent of people with Alzheimer's disease were dying at home rather than in a medical facility.

"Before you die people become completely bed bound," said Fargo. "It requires and intense level of caregiving to the end."

Fargo said the fact that more people were dying at home indicated that people did not have the resources to get appropriate help at long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Fargo said providing that level of care can take a severe toll emotionally and physically. The CDC estimates caregivers provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid care to dementia patients in 2015.

"The caregivers for Alzheimer's disease have $9 billion more in Medicare claims of their own," in addition to the claims of their loved ones Fargo said. Caregiving is "so stressful it takes a physical toll on the bodies."

The CDC researchers point out that increasing rates of Alzheimer's disease will mean more people need support to care and treat these patients.

"Until Alzheimer’s can be prevented, slowed, or stopped, caregiving for persons with advanced Alzheimer’s will remain a demanding task," the authors wrote. "An increasing number of Alzheimer’s deaths coupled with an increasing number of patients dying at home suggests that there is an increasing number of caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s. It is likely that these caregivers might benefit from interventions such as education, respite care, and case management that can lessen the potential burden of caregiving."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- These eight moms are all celebrating their little “miracles” that came out of destruction.

They each got pregnant around the time of Hurricane Matthew, which hit South Carolina’s Lowcountry region last October. Residents either evacuated or sheltered in place while trees, homes and property were destroyed.

Cassie Clayshulte, the official newborn photographer for Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville, said she knew there would be a surge of pregnancies after the storm.

“About nine months from a big storm or a big power outage, even nine months from Valentine’s Day or the holidays, I’ll always see a surge in births at the hospital. We were all sequestered in places with no power or evacuated for a week or longer and so I thought I might have a surge in business,” Clayshulte told ABC News. “I got this vision of all these moms lined up celebrating these little miracles that may not have happened if it weren’t for the hurricane.”

She posted the idea for the creative photo shoot on her Facebook page, explaining she was “looking for moms who made babies during the hurricane and are willing to talk about it.”

“I wanted to show everyone that the storm gave some Bluffton, Beaufort, and Hilton Head couples a special miracle,” said Clayshulte. “If it weren’t for Matthew, these eight couples wouldn’t be expecting these little miracles. Some of these couples had trouble conceiving, experienced difficult previous pregnancies, and even had to undergo several rounds of fertility treatments to become pregnant. This storm destroyed trees and property and our area’s tourism industry took a big hit, but the storm helped these couples create something even more beautiful and these stunning mommies-to-be are living proof.”

One of the moms, Lindsey Gullett, said the military forced her to evacuate her Beaufort home.

“We chose to go to Chattanooga, Tennessee, for six nights,” she said. “Our apartment complex was completely under water.”

Another mom, Molly Spears of Bluffton said her family was very fortunate to not have any damage to their home.

“We lost power for about 72 hours and the worst to come of that was I lost my entire freezer stash of breast milk,” said Spears. “We evacuated to Cashiers, North Carolina, and stayed at my sister-in-law’s mountain cabin for the week.

“We decided to go ahead and try for another great kid. I call our first Hurricane Porter, so it will be interesting to see if little sister is just as wild, especially since she was conceived during an actual hurricane!” she quipped.

These moms are thrilled for their new bundles of joy whom they refer to as their “little miracles.”

“I feel babies always come at a time when they are most needed,” said mom Danielle Lewis of Bluffton. “When he is born, I feel he will fill a hole in our lives we didn't even know was missing. I'm so eager and excited to meet him.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Sunday night is the worst night of the week for sleeping, according to a recent survey of nearly 4,280 Americas published by the app

Since your presumably lousy Mondays are presumably caused by being tired, this is important. And you're not alone: nearly half of those surveyed say they have the worst trouble sleeping Sunday compared to other days of the week.

"Many people go to bed later on Friday and Saturday nights and then sleep in later on Saturday and Sunday mornings," says Steve Orma, clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist. "So, when they go to bed on Sunday night, they’re often just not tired. And then when they can’t sleep, they start to think about why they’re not sleeping, which only makes things worse."

While sleep deprivation has been linked to all manner of health issues, from obesity to heart disease, take comfort in one thing as you drift off tonight: Thursdays are the best nights for sleep, the survey reveals.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Diseases of the blood vessels supplying the heart and brain tissues are leading causes of death among Americans.

And while researchers have known that things like metabolic syndrome -- high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and/or triglycerides, high body mass index and high blood sugar -- and poor sleep increase the risk of these diseases, the true impact of these other factors has remained poorly understood so far.

Researchers at Stanford University examined these metabolic risk measures, along with sleep duration, in more than 1,300 individuals using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's death records and the National Death Index.

They then tracked their survival about 16 years later. Stanford researchers found that individuals who had three or more metabolic risk factors and slept less than six hours nightly were twice as likely to have died compared with those with similar risks but who slept more than six hours a night.

Most importantly, high blood pressure and blood sugar issues were most strongly tied to this increased risk.

Click here for more information on the article in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Courtesy Judy O'Connor(NEW YORK) -- A mother who attended every class with her quadriplegic son so he could pursue his Master of Business Administration (MBA) was surprised with her own honorary degree at her son’s graduation.

“I was just blown away,” Judy O’Connor said of the honor. “I’d been in the trenches with his fellow grad students for two years and gotten to know them so it was really special.”

Judy O’Connor, a retired elementary school teacher, relocated from Florida to California in 2013 to care for her son, Marty O’Connor, who was paralyzed a year earlier after falling down a flight of stairs.

Marty O’Connor was a former competitive athlete who had a promising career in sales at the time of his accident. After spending nearly two years focused on his physical recovery, Marty O’Connor said he was ready for a new challenge.

“After a certain point I realized that physical therapy wasn’t going to be the end all answer,” Marty O’Connor, 29, told ABC News. “I was ready to take on another mental challenge.”

When Marty O’Connor decided to pursue an MBA degree at Chapman University, in Orange, California, his mom was right by his side.

Judy O’Connor attended every class, tutoring session, group study session and more with her son over the course of his two-year MBA program. When Marty O’Connor had a question in class, it was his mother who raised her hand for him.

Judy O’Connor also took notes and wrote test answers for her son, who uses an iPad, laptop, voice recognition software and a mouth stick to communicate.

“I did it willingly,” said Judy O’Connor, who has an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame. “When a spinal cord injury happens, you want to swoop in and make everything better and you can’t.”

She continued, “This was something that I could do for my son and I was really happy that I was able to help him in that way.”

Judy O’Connor said she watched a “total transformation” of her son as he redefined his future through his education. Marty O’Connor excelled in the MBA program, making it into the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society and receiving the business school’s nomination for Chapman’s outstanding graduate student award.

Back to school, and back to work Marty O'Connor resets career with #ChapmanU #MBA after accident

— Chapman University (@ChapmanU) May 16, 2017

While being recognized for his accomplishments earlier this year, Marty O’Connor had the chance to meet with Chapman University president Daniele Struppa. During that meeting, he made a formal nomination for his mom to receive an honorary MBA.

“When Marty came to me asking if Chapman could present an honorary degree to his mom – and to keep it a surprise – there was no hesitation to make this happen,” Struppa said in a statement to ABC News. “The provost, the dean and the faculty senate immediately approved my request. The dedication from both Marty and his mother in his pursuit for a Master’s in Business Administration is nothing short of admirable. We were more than happy to make this happen.”

After months of planning in secret with school officials, Marty O’Connor watched as his mom was surprised at his graduation last Saturday.

O’Connor stood behind her son’s wheelchair until a school official pulled her to the front and handed her an honorary degree.

The graduation announcer choked up while describing why O'Connor deserved the award. Afterward Judy O’Connor blew a kiss to the crowd that gave her a standing ovation.

"I was so touched that my son would do that," she said. "It was therapeutic for me to do what I did.”

Marty O’Connor has already secured a job as the head of corporate sponsorships for a youth action sports startup called DIVERTcity. He is still working out the logistics but plans to have a professional assistant help him in his new career.

O’Connor will continue as her son’s primary caregiver and may start tutoring again.

Both mother and son say their graduate school journey changed their lives for the better.

“We really formed such a great bond,” Marty O’Connor said. “I learned to be patient, more thoughtful and to ask for help.”

He continued, “We were able to accomplish so much more together than if I had just tried to muscle through it on my own. We were just able to do some great things together.”

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