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The Takeaway: Medicare Part D; Breast Cancer and Race

Part D is keeping you out of the hospital: Five years after the drug plan's debut, seniors covered by Medicare Part D are healthier and taking better care of themselves. From today's Journal of the American Medical Association: " Medicare saved an average of about $1,200 a year for each senior  who had inadequate drug coverage before Medicare Part D. Most of the savings came from hospital and nursing home costs." That saves the federal program $12 billion a year.  The government spends $55 billion a year to operate the program.

Racial disparities in breast cancer.  Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer, but researchers are not sure why, a new study shows. About 78 percent of black women survive five years after being diagnosed, compared to 90 percent of white women. Past research linked a higher mortality rate to obesity and other related illnesses, but not this time. "While there aren't any bulletproof answers yet, researchers believe differences in tumor biology as well as health care access could be at play." ... FYI: Social Security to trim office hours. Due to budget cuts most field offices will be open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., instead of 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, the Social Security Administration announced. How the reduction in hours affects your transactions.

The brain can shrink up to 15 percent as a person ages. Studies have long linked the loss of brain tissue to dementia and Alzheimer's  - stress, diet, lack of stimulation and longevity play a role - but new research shows this phenomenon is unique to humans. (Our senior primate cousins don't experience any brain loss.) Scientists hope that by understanding the basic biology of the brain, they can devise ways to treat or postpone the harmful mental effects of age.  More on brain health and how to stay mentally sharp.


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