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Health Highlights: May 30, 2014

Head of Veterans Affairs Resigns Amid ScandalSex-Change Surgery Coverage Ban Lifted by MedicareHouse Supports State Medical Marijuana LawsSex-Change Surgery Ban Lifted by MedicareObama Calls for More Youth Concussion Research


He pointed out that a recent Pew Research Center that found 61 percent of Republicans support medical marijuana. Support is even higher among Democrats and independents, the AP reported.

The measure now goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate.


Sex-Change Surgery Ban Lifted by Medicare

Medicare will no longer automatically deny coverage for sex-change surgery for transgender people.

In a ruling Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review board said sex-change surgery is a medically necessary and effective treatment for people who do not identify with their biological sex, the Associated Press reported.

The board made its ruling in an appeal brought by a 74-year-old Army veteran whose request to have Medicare pay for her genital reconstruction was denied two years ago.

The decision does not mean Medicare recipients are necessarily entitled to coverage for sex-change surgery, Jennifer Levi, a lawyer who directs the Transgender Rights Project of Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston, told the AP.

But she said the ruling does mean that transgender people stand a better chance of having their surgery paid for by Medicare if they have documentation from a physician and mental health providers that the surgery is medically necessary.

It's unclear how many people might be affected by Friday's decision. About 0.3 percent of the U.S. adult population self-identity as transgender, Gary Gates, a demographer with The Williams Institute, a think tank on LGBT issues based at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the AP. More than 49 million people are enrolled in Medicare.


Obama Calls for More Youth Concussion Research

More research into youth sports concussion is needed in order to better understand he scope of the issue and the long-term impacts of this type of injury, President Barack Obama said Thursday at a day-long summit on the topic at the White House.

"We want our kids participating in sports," Obama said as he opened the event. "As parents though, we want to keep them safe and that means we have to have better information."

The summit included medical experts, young athletes, parents, coaches, professional sports league representatives and others, CBS News/Associated Press reported.

Additional research into youth concussions needs to be combined with a wider recognition of the need to take the issue seriously, the president noted.

"We have to change a culture that says, 'suck it up,' " Obama said.

He highlighted commitments from the National Institutes of Health, the National Football League and others to conduct research that could improve understanding and athlete safety, CBS/AP reported.

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