Weekend Reading: Seniors Smoking Marijuana; Same-Sex Marriage And Public Health

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The New York Times: Shuffleboard? Oh, Maybe Let's Get High Instead
For Cher Neufer, a 65-year-old retired teacher, socializing with friends (all in their 60s) means using marijuana. Once a week they get together to play Texas Hold ’Em poker "and pass around a doobie," Ms. Neufer said. … Statistics suggest that more members of the older generations, like Ms. Neufer, are using marijuana. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2011 that 6.3 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 59 used the drug. That number has risen from 2.7 percent in 2002. And anecdotal evidence points to much of this use being sociable rather than medical (Alyson Krueger, 3/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Science Fiction Comes Alive As Researchers Grow Organs In Lab
Reaching into a stainless steel tray, Francisco Fernandez-Aviles lifted up a gray, rubbery mass the size of a fat fist. … Inside a warren of rooms buried in the basement of Gregorio Marañón hospital here, Dr. Aviles and his team are at the sharpest edge of the bioengineering revolution that has turned the science-fiction dream of building replacement parts for the human body into a reality. … Now, with the quest to build a heart, researchers are tackling the most complex organ yet. The payoff could be huge, both medically and financially, because so many people around the world are afflicted with heart disease. Researchers see a multi-billion-dollar market developing for heart parts that could repair diseased hearts and clogged arteries (Gautam Naik, 3/22). 

NPR: Unfit For Work
In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. … But the story of these programs -- who goes on them, and why, and what happens after that -- is, to a large extent, the story of the U.S. economy. It's the story not only of an aging workforce, but also of a hidden, increasingly expensive safety net (Chana Joffe-Walt, 3/25). 

Forbes: Medicare Has Stopped Paying Bills For Medical Diagnostic Tests. Patients Will Feel The Effects
The Obama Administration has stopped paying the bills from hundreds of health care companies, and it has nothing to do with sequestration. ... At issue is the way that Medicare reimburses everyone from the big laboratory companies such as the Laboratory Corp of America and Quest Diagnostics Inc., to the molecular diagnostic labs inside academic hospitals, and especially smaller firms that make proprietary tests used by doctors to more effectively target treatments to patients with conditions like cancer (Scott Gottlieb, 3/27).

Los Angeles Times: Fate Of Same-Sex Marriage Cases Likely To Influence Public Health
Advocates for and against same-sex marriage will make legal arguments to the Supreme Court this week about whether laws such as the federal  Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 run afoul of the Constitution.  Meanwhile, in medical literature, doctors, psychologists, sociologists and other researchers have been making the case that allowing gays and lesbians to marry results in tangible health benefits for the couples involved, their children and even taxpayers as a whole (Karen Kaplan, 3/26).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.