HEALTH

Kraft debuts LiveActive chewy granola bars

BY Alaric DeArment

GLENVIEW, Ill. A granola bar featuring live bacterial culture and fiber will soon become available, its manufacturer announced Wednesday.

Kraft described its LiveActive Chewy Granola Bars as the first-ever, non-refrigerated bars combining a live, probiotic culture and fiber. Probiotics exist naturally in the digestive system as well as in yogurt and some cheeses. Kraft said the bars promote digestive health.

The bars are available in blueberry, almond, peanut butter and chocolate raspberry flavors. They are available in stores for around $3.59.

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HEALTH

Medicare bill sees other effects

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON One of the issues involved in the H.R. 6331 bill, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, was the delaying of the Medicare competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies.

The DMEPOS competitive bidding program went into effect July 1 and was estimated at saving Medicare $1 billion per year, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services already had signed contracts with 325 suppliers to provide specified medical equipment and supplies to Medicare beneficiaries in 10 communities, according to a CMS press release. The bidding program was set to expand to an additional 70 communities next year.

But since the act was passed after the program became effective, all contracts awarded will be terminated, and DMEPOS payment rates in effect prior to July 1 will be reinstated retroactively, according to CMS. The act also pushes the expansion of the bidding program to 2011.

While the president’s main objections to the legislation had to do with its potentially negative impact on Medicare prescription programs, he expressed concern with stopping the DMEPOS bidding program after bids had been awarded.

In his message to the House on July 15 when he originally vetoed the bill, the president called the program an “important reform” that would produce significant savings for Medicare and its beneficiaries. Passage of H.R. 6331 “would leave the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund vulnerable to litigation because of the awarded contracts,” he said. “Changing a policy in mid-stream is also confusing to beneficiaries who are receiving services from quality suppliers at lower prices.”

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Walgreens, Nutrition 21 ink supply deal

BY Alaric DeArment

A company that manufactures nutritional supplements for blood sugar, cardiovascular health, memory and joint pain will partner to sell some of its products at Walgreens under its own brand and Walgreens’ private label.

Nutrition 21 announced the agreement Tuesday, whereby it will sell three new chromium picolinate products under its Finest Natural brand and one product under the drug store chain’s Gold Seal label starting later this summer or in early fall.

“Walgreens commitment is a major milestone in our move to expand our retail nutrition supplement business by working with industry-moving retailers to meet the growing needs of health-conscious consumers,” said Michael Fink, one of Nutrition 21’s chief operating officers.

Nutrition 21’s product line includes Chromax, Core4Life Advanced Memory Formula, DiabetesEssentials, Iceland Health Maximum Strength Omega-3 and Iceland Health Joint Relief.

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