Saturday, July 30, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - July 30, 2011

The U.S. Health System in Perspective: A Comparison of Twelve Industrialized Nations
David A. Squires
Abstract: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) tracks and reports on more than 1,200 health system measures across 34 industrialized countries. This analysis concentrated on 2010 OECD health data for Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Health care spending in the U.S. towers over the other countries. The U.S. has fewer hospital beds and physicians, and sees fewer hospital and physician visits, than in most other countries. Prescription drug utilization, prices, and spending all appear to be highest in the U.S., as does the supply, utilization, and price of diagnostic imaging. U.S. per- formance on a limited set of quality measures is variable, ranking highly on five-year cancer survival, middling on in-hospital case-specific mortality, and poorly on hospital admissions for chronic conditions and amputations due to diabetes. Findings suggest opportunities for cross- national learning to improve health system performance.

JULY 28, 2011, 9:40 PM

Treating the Cause, Not the Illness

Fixes looks at solutions to social problems and why they work.
In 1965, in an impoverished rural county in the Mississippi Delta, the pioneering physician Jack Geigerhelped found one of the nation’s first community health centers. Many of the children Geiger treated were seriously malnourished, so he began writing “prescriptions” for food — stipulating quantities of milk, vegetables, meat, and fruit that could be “filled” at grocery stores, which were instructed to send the bills to the health center, where they were paid out of the pharmacy budget. When word of this reached the Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington, which financed the center, an official was dispatched to Mississippi to reprimand Geiger and make sure he understood that the center’s money could be used only for medical purposes. Geiger replied: “The last time I looked in my textbooks, the specific therapy for malnutrition was food.” The official had nothing to say and returned to Washington.

July 29, 2011

Defying a Stereotype With Gourmet Dishes

IT’S lunchtime in New Milford and Mayor Patricia Murphy is dining in the most unlikely place: the hospital cafe.
The pecan-crusted chicken tucked beneath a fresh sage velouté did not pique Ms. Murphy’s interest, nor did the celery root bisque with its subtle essence of fennel. Instead, she made a beeline for the chicken salad with tart cranberries, fresh herbs and toasted almonds.
“Sometimes I find myself sitting at my desk thinking I’ve just got to have some of that chicken salad; it’s the best,” Ms. Murphy said.

Single Payer Ahead -- Cost Control and the Evolving Vermont Model

By Anya Rader Wallack, Ph.D.
The New England Journal of Medicine, July 20, 2011
Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont recently signed into law ambitious health care reform legislation that puts Vermont on course to implement a single-payer health care system. The law creates a Health Benefit Exchange, consistent with the federal Affordable Care Act, and anticipates using it as the administrative structure for a publicly funded program of health insurance coverage for all Vermonters. The Shumlin administration believes that a single-payer system offers the greatest promise for reducing administrative waste and hassle in our health care system, guaranteeing coverage to everyone in the state, and relieving employers of the increasingly crushing burden of health insurance costs.

The Empty Bully Pulpit
Posted: 7/29/11 01:02 PM  (From The American Prospect site)

How did we get into this mess?
I thought I'd seen Washington at its worst. I was there just after Watergate. I was there when Jimmy Carter imploded. I was there during the government shut-down of 1995.
But I hadn't seen the worst. This is the worst.
How can it be that with over 9 percent unemployment, essentially no job growth, widening inequality, falling real wages, and an economy that's almost dead in the water -- we're locked in a battle over how to cut the budget deficit?
Part of the answer is a Republican Party that's the most irresponsible and rigidly ideological I've ever witnessed.
Part of the answer is the continuing gravitational pull of the Great Recession.
But another part of the answer lies with the president -- and his inability or unwillingness to use the bully pulpit to tell Americans the truth, and mobilize them for what must be done.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - July 29, 2011

July 25, 2011

Federal Auditors Will Soon Review Health Insurance Rates in 10 States

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will soon take over the review of health insurance rates in 10 states where it says state officials do not adequately regulate premiums for insurance sold to individuals or small businesses.
At least one state, Iowa, has protested the federal decision and asked administration officials to reconsider.
Several other states acknowledged that they lacked the power under state law to review health insurance rates. Several insurance commissioners tried and failed to get such authority from their state legislatures this year.

July 25, 2011

Lawsuit Says Drugs Were Wasted to Buoy Profit

One of the nation’s largest providers of kidney dialysis deliberately wasted medicine in order to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in extra payments from Medicare, a former clinic nurse and a doctor are charging in a whistle-blower lawsuit.
The lawsuit says that the company, DaVita, used larger than necessary vials of medicine knowing that Medicare would pay for the unused portion of each vial if it were deemed unavoidable waste. DaVita, which treats nearly a third of the nation’s dialysis patients, denies the accusations.

Healthcare in America: Sacred Cow or Cash Cow?

 Drs. Kris Alman and Mike Siegel
OPINION July 26, 2011 -- Envious of conservatives who control moral politics with "pro-life," "tax relief," and "family values," progressives have embraced George Lakoff's linguistic framing strategies.
President Obama won the hearts and minds of independent and progressive voters with his message of "hope" and "change." Yet the Obama administration repackaged his rhetoric with conservative ideology and pragmatism.
This is certainly true in regards to the Affordable Care Act, conceived (and now disowned) by Mitt Romney. Obama rejected single payer activists from the negotiation table. Ironically, the current snapshot of the Obama administration is framed by "socialized medicine," "death panels," and "Obamacare."
Rays of hope for single payer financing shine on Vermont, where a new law creates Green Mountain Care Board, a public board that "can wield traditional tools such as fee-for-service rate setting, controls on the acquisition of technology, and reviews of both health insurers’ rates and hospitals’ budgets."

July 28, 2011

Useless Studies, Real Harm

LAST month, the Archives of Internal Medicine published a scathing reassessment of a 12-year-old research study of Neurontin, a seizure drug made by Pfizer. The study, which had included more than 2,700 subjects and was carried out by Parke-Davis (now part of Pfizer), was notable for how poorly it was conducted. The investigators were inexperienced and untrained, and the design of the study was so flawed it generated few if any useful conclusions. Even more alarming, 11 patients in the study died and 73 more experienced “serious adverse events.” Yet there have been few headlines, no demands for sanctions or apologies, no national bioethics commissions pledging to investigate. Why not?

As boomers hit old age, a new nursing home model is needed

Posted July 28, 2011, at 5:54 p.m.
There’s no denying baby boomers challenged and reinvented many of life’s conventions.
Getting a job after school? Maybe not; maybe a backpacking trip through Europe first. Climbing the career ladder into the upper-income zone? No, job satisfaction is more important.
Marrying? Maybe after living together for a time. Setting aside sports, surfing, running, hiking and dancing at 50? No way.
But there’s one phase of life boomers may not be able redefine. They will age, decline, fall ill and die, like every generation before them. Those who are younger must face the burden of caring for these 76 million Americans, the oldest of whom are now hitting their mid-60s.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - July 25, 2011

Problems of U.S. Health Care Are Rooted in the Private Sector, Despite Right-Wing Claims

Mark Weisbrot
The Sacramento Bee (CA), July 21, 2011
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, July 20, 2011
Bellingham Herald (WA), July 21, 2011
Centre Daily Times (PA), July 21, 2011
Belleville News-Democrat (IL), July 21, 2011
Juneau Empire (AK), July 22, 2011
A recent report by McKinsey and Company was seized upon by opponents of health care reform to create a new myth: that President Obama’s health insurance reform (the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- PPACA) will cause huge numbers of employers to drop health insurance coverage that they currently provide for employees.

The McKinsey study was soon shown to be worthless, and McKinsey itself acknowledged that it “was not intended as predictive economic analysis.” But the myth seems to not be completely dead yet. For a more reasonable estimate of the impact of the health insurance reform, we can look to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. They estimated that the number of people (including family members) covered by employment-based insurance would be about 1.8 percent fewer in 2019, as a result of the PPACA legislation. Of course, this is more than counter-balanced by the fact that the percentage of the (non-elderly) population with insurance would increase from 82 to 92 percent – the main purpose of the reform.

Barack Obama is gutting the core principles of the Democratic party

The president's attacks on America's social safety net are destroying the soul of the Democratic party's platform

July 24, 2011

Messing With Medicare

At the time of writing, President Obama’s hoped-for “Grand Bargain” with Republicans is apparently dead. And I say good riddance. I’m no more eager than other rational people (a category that fails to include many Congressional Republicans) to see what happens if the debt limit isn’t raised. But what the president was offering to the G.O.P., especially on Medicare, was a very bad deal for America.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - July 23, 2011

Gang of Six’ plan drops long-term care provision

By Shira Schoenberg
Globe Correspondent / July 21, 2011

Impact of health reform law debated

One expert says business and workers will benefit; another predicts higher rates in some regions.

By Susan M.
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA — Health care experts disagreed Wednesday about the impact of new legislation that makes sweeping changes to the health insurance system in Maine.

But at least it's better than the status quo, said a spokesman for business interests.
"It is a legitimate attempt to try and change the status quo that was absolutely, in the eyes of the business community, not working for them," said Peter Gore, vice president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.
Gore served on a five-member panel Wednesday at a breakfast meeting at Maine Hospital Association headquarters. The forum was sponsored by the Maine Health Access Foundation, the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Development Foundation and Quality Counts.

Deep health cuts brought Coburn back
By: Matt DoBias
July 20, 2011 05:12 PM EDT
A central figure in the Senate’s “Gang of Six” on Wednesday described what he called “ferocious” negotiations over additional cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that were needed to woo back Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican whose return to the group helped cinch a plan to slash federal spending.
Sen. Mark Warner, a charter member of the bipartisan group, said lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum had to show some give before they released their deficit reduction blueprint on Tuesday.
“I understood Sen. Coburn,” the Virginia Democrat said. “He wanted even more reductions in certain entitlement programs. He wanted specific policy adjustments that [Sen. Dick Durbin] and others did not.”

July 22, 2011

New Path for Small-Town Doctors Starts in a Kansas Small Town

SALINA, Kan. — This state, so sparsely populated in parts that five counties have no doctors at all, has struggled for years to encourage young doctors to relocate to rural communities, where health problems are often exacerbated by a lack of even the most basic care.
On Friday, a new medical school campus opened here to provide a novel solution to the persistent problem: an inaugural class of eight aspiring doctors who will receive all their training in exactly the kind of small community where officials hope they will practice medicine.
For Medicare and Medicaid, drama
By: J. Lester Feder
July 21, 2011 10:47 PM EDT
A default scenario is so unthinkable that not too many people have thought about what happens to Medicare and Medicaid if a deal isn’t reached.
One longtime Washington health hand said he had not contemplated the overall picture of what happens after Aug. 2 without a deal because, “I think it’s unlikely, but it’s also kind of [too] horrible” to think about.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - July 20, 2011

Once politically taboo, proposals to shift more Medicare costs to elderly are gaining traction

Maine Gov. touts market-based healthcare solutions for rural America

By Julian Pecquet 07/18/11 05:19 PM ET
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) told an enthusiastic crowd at the Heritage Foundation on Monday that his Republican administration thinks "taking off the shackles" from insurers is the way to keep healthcare costs low for rural residents.
LePage is among the state leaders who have vowed to repeal Democrats' healthcare reform law and replace it with market-based solutions, such as allowing people to buy cheap insurance that's not as comprehensive as called for in the law. Maine has recently sought to pare down its Medicaid program, forced out its Democratic-appointed insurance commissioner and allowed residents to buy insurance from other New England states.
LePage defended his decisions to deregulate the insurance market with his trademark dry humor and a story about regulations that force nuns to buy maternity care.
"We should have exempted the nuns," he said. "Then if they got into trouble, we could call the Pope."

uly 19, 2011

Panel Recommends Coverage for Contraception

WASHINGTON — A leading medical advisory panel recommended on Tuesday that all insurers be required to cover contraceptives for women free of charge as one of several preventive services under the new health care law.
Obama administration officials said that they were inclined to accept the panel’s advice and that the new requirements could take effect for many plans at the beginning of 2013. The administration signaled its intentions in January when Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, unveiled a 10-year program to improve the nation’s health. One goal was to “increase the proportion of health insurance plans that cover contraceptive supplies and services.”

Lahey, Northeast Health set merger deal

Plan a 675-bed hospital network

ALEC Exposed: Milton Friedman's Little Shop of Horrors

Although he passed away in 2006, states are now grappling with many of the toxic notions left behind by University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman.
In her groundbreaking book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein coined the term "disaster capitalism" for the rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies still reeling from shock. The master of disaster? Privatization and free market guru Milton Friedman. Friedman advised governments in economic crisis to follow strict austerity measures, combining radical cuts in social services with the full-scale privatization of their more lucrative assets. Many countries in Latin America auctioned off everything standing -- from energy and water utilities to Social Security -- to for profit multinational firms, crushing unions and other dissenters along the way.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - July 18, 2011

Wired Homes Keep Tabs On Aging Parents