Health Update: Health Care Deadline; Other Changes; Heart Valves; New Cholesterol Drug

Study finds slightly fewer people die after non surgical replacement of heart valves versus those involving surgical replacement.
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Monday is the deadline to sign up for private health insurance in the new online markets created by President Barack Obama's health care law. So far, about 4 out of every 5 people enrolling have qualified for tax credits to reduce the cost of their premiums.
Here's what you need to know:
-- The deadline is Mar. 31 at midnight EDT for the states where the federal government is running the sign-up website; states running their own exchanges set their own deadlines.
-- You can sign up online by going to or your state insurance exchange. If you don't know what your state marketplace is called, will direct you.
--You can call 1-800-318-2596 to sign up by phone or get help from an enrollment specialist.
--Check online for sign-up centers that may be open locally, offering in-person assistance.
--If you started an application by Monday but didn't finish, perhaps because of errors, missing information or website glitches, you can take advantage of a grace period. The government says it will accept paper applications until April 7 and take as much time as necessary to handle unfinished cases on
--Be prepared for the possibility of long wait times.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A hectic sign-up season is winding down for President Barack Obama's health care law.
So where do things stand?
With more than 6 million enrolled, so-called Obamacare has managed to change the country. Americans are unlikely to return to a time when people with medical problems could be denied coverage.
But other major parts of the Affordable Care Act face an uncertain future.
New insurance markets created by the law are anything but consumer friendly. The administration can't afford to fumble open enrollment next year. But what if premiums jump?
Nearly half the states are still opposed to or undecided about the law's expansion of Medicaid for the poor.
Requirements that medium- to large-sized employers offer affordable coverage are just over the horizon. That will stir up more opposition.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new study gives a boost to fixing a bad aortic valve, the heart's main gate, without open-heart surgery. Survival rates were better one year later for people who had a new valve placed through a tube into an artery instead.
Several hundred thousand Americans have bad aortic valves, which can stiffen and narrow with age and not let blood through as they should. The only solution used to be open-heart surgery to replace one.
The study tested an artificial valve from Medtronic Inc. that can be placed through a catheter instead. After one year, 19 percent of the surgery patients died, but only 14 percent of those given the catheter valve had died.
The results were reported Saturday at an American College of Cardiology conference in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new group of experimental medicines can dramatically lower cholesterol, raising hopes of a fresh option for people who can't tolerate or don't get enough help from Lipitor and other statin drugs that have been used for this for decades.
The first large studies of the new drugs were presented Saturday at an American College of Cardiology conference in Washington.
They are aimed at more than 70 million Americans and millions more worldwide who have high LDL or "bad" cholesterol, a major risk for heart disease.
One of these drugs, Amgen's evolocumab (ev-oh-LOKE-you-mab), cut cholesterol by 55 to 66 percent compared to a fake drug in some studies. The company plans to seek federal approval for it this year.