Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - December 1, 2011

Does the U.S. Have the World's Best Health Care System? Yes, If You're Talking About the Third World

A little more than a year ago, on the day after the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives, Speaker-to-be John Boehner said one of the first orders of business after he took charge would be the repeal of health care reform.
"I believe that the health care bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health care system in the world, and bankrupt our country," Boehner said at a press conference. "That means we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with common sense reforms to bring down the cost of health care."
Boehner is not the first nor the only Republican to try to make us believe that the U.S. has the world's best health care system and that we're bound to lose that distinction because of Obamacare. I've heard GOP candidates for president say the same thing in recent months, charging that we need to get rid of a President who clearly is trying to fix something that doesn't need fixing, something that isn't broken in the first place.

One in five U.S. adults takes medication for a mental disorder

By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
9:53 AM PST, November 16, 2011
Medications to treat mental health disorders is soaring among U.S. adults, according to data released Wednesday by Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefit manager.

Twenty percent of all adults said they took at least one medication to treat a mental disorder. Among women, 25% said they took such medication and 20% said they were using an antidepressant.,0,4660172,print.story

November 30 

Our View: 'Concierge' medicine
shows value of quality

It makes sense to pay more up front if it will head off more expensive problems later.

Kagan, Thomas pressed to stay out of healthcare fight

By James Oliphant
Washington Bureau
9:28 AM PST, December 1, 2011

Updated: Today at 10:28 PM 

Letters to the editor, Dec. 1, 2011
Concierge medicine impractical, unjust

In view of the problems we're having with the cost and availability of health care in this country, ideas about the provision of that care are always welcome. However, the "concierge medicine" model presented on the front page of the Nov. 27 Maine Sunday Telegram has little to recommend it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - November 28, 2011

Consumer advocate Harvey Rosenfield takes on health insurers

Rosenfield, who used California's initiative process to regulate auto insurance rates more than two decades ago, is preparing a new initiative that would force health insurers to get state approval before they could raise premiums.

By Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times
November 26, 2011
Reporting from Sacramento,0,6104234,print.story

Taking healthcare to students

Clinics at schools are becoming a key part of the nation's medical safety net.

By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times
November 28, 2011,0,4279456,print.story

A grim diagnosis for our ailing health care system

By Published: November 27

Even had it succeeded, the supercommittee would have failed. Ultimately, the only way to control federal spending and deficits is to suppress the upward spiral of health costs. These are already the budget’s largest single expense (27 percent in 2010, compared with 20 percent for defense), and their continued rapid growth, combined with the scheduled introduction of Obamacare, will soon bring them to nearly one-third. The supercommittee didn’t have the time or staff to solve a problem as contentious and complex as health care.

State considers putting prisoners on Medicaid

Posted Nov. 27, 2011, at 2:49 p.m.
AUGUSTA, Maine — Medical care for inmates in the state’s correctional system is expensive and the state foots the bill, although a 1997 ruling by the federal government would allow some inmates that are hospitalized to get the mostly federally funded Medicaid program.
“To the best of my knowledge, it has never been done here in Maine,” said Corrections Commissioner Joe Ponte. “I don’t know why it has not been used even though it has been available to a limited number of inmates.”
The federal Department of Health and Human Services informed states in 1997 that inmates that leave prison facilities and are admitted to a hospital for more than 24 hours and meet the poverty and other state rules of Medicaid are eligible for coverage. The federal government pays for roughly two-thirds of Medicaid, with the state paying the rest.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - November 25, 2011

Health Care and the States

In reviewing the constitutionality of health care reform, the Supreme Court said it would consider the legality of the Medicaid expansion included in the reform laEdit HTMLw. The question seems narrow, but it could have significant implications for redefining Congress’s spending power.
The only appellate court that even addressed this question, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit,rejected the constitutional challenge. Having taken up the question, the Supreme Court should affirm that ruling. It would be a serious mistake for the court to use this case to restrict Congress’s authority by placing any additional requirements for the commitment of federal money.

Medicare chief steps aside in political impasse

The following article says it all about the functionality of the US Senate, and the fecklessness of the Obama administration.

November 23, 2011

Obama’s Pick to Head Medicare and Medicaid Resigns Post

WASHINGTON — Dr. Donald M. Berwick, the official in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, who became a symbol of all that Republicans dislike in President Obama’s health care policies, said on Wednesday that he was resigning.
His temporary recess appointment was due to expire at the end of the year. He will step down at the end of next week.

Medicare administrator Donald Berwick resigns in the face of Republican opposition

By Published: November 23

President Obama’s top Medicare official has resigned in the face of Republican pledges to block his confirmation in the Senate.
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Donald M. Berwick notified colleagues Wednesday that he will step down Dec. 2, nearly a month before the expiration of his recess appointment.
The White House will nominate Marilyn Tavenner, Medicare’s deputy administrator, as his replacement.

Support Builds for a Plan to Rein In Medicare Costs

WASHINGTON — Though it reached no agreement, the special Congressional committee on deficit reduction built a case for major structural changes in Medicare that would limit the government’s open-ended financial commitment to the program, lawmakers and health policy experts say.
Members of both parties told the panel that Medicare should offer a fixed amount of money to each beneficiary to buy coverage from competing private plans, whose costs and benefits would be tightly regulated by the government.

Payments to Doctors by Pharmaceutical Companies Raise Issues of Conflicts

Thousands of Texas doctors, researchers and medical experts — including more than 100 who are employed by the state and are paid with taxpayer dollars — routinely supplement their salaries with income from pharmaceutical companies.
Drug companies pay medical professionals for a wide range of activities, from speaking engagements to consulting. While legal, the practice raises questions about potential conflicts, and whether the interests of patients may be compromised.

Medicaid has a problem, but block grants won’t solve it

Health Care Reform Articles - November 23, 2011

Health Care and the States

In reviewing the constitutionality of health care reform, the Supreme Court said it would consider the legality of the Medicaid expansion included in the reform law. The question seems narrow, but it could have significant implications for redefining Congress’s spending power.
The only appellate court that even addressed this question, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit,rejected the constitutional challenge. Having taken up the question, the Supreme Court should affirm that ruling. It would be a serious mistake for the court to use this case to restrict Congress’s authority by placing any additional requirements for the commitment of federal money.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - November 22, 2011

NOVEMBER 21, 2011, 5:04 PM

Patients, Too, Turn to the Internet for Fund-Raising

Peter W. Cross for The New York TimesJessica Haley, with her husband Sean, posted an online appeal to raise money for fertility treatment.
On Jessica Haley’s 28th birthday in June, she posted a wish on the fund-raising Web site IndieGoGo. Ms. Haley and her husband, Sean, of Melbourne, Fla., wanted a baby, but their insurance did not cover fertility treatment.
To their astonishment, donations started pouring in. Word of the couple’s plight spread on Twitter and Facebook, and a “Help the Haleys Have a Baby” campaign raised $8,050 — including $423 from a total stranger.

A Hard Turn: Better Health on the Highway

After driving hundreds of miles, the last thing Roy Williams, a truck driver from Denton, Tex., wanted to do wasexercise. After a day trapped in the cab, stopping only to gorge on greasy fare at truck stops, who could think of working out?
But once he ballooned to 405 pounds, he knew he had to make a change. So last year, Mr. Williams, 5

‘Cancer’ or ‘Weird Cells’: Which Sounds Deadlier?

My friend’s mother got terrifying news after she had a mammogram. She had Stage 0 breast cancerCancer. That dreadful word. Of course she had to have surgery to get it out of her breast, followed by hormonal therapy.
Or did she?
Though it is impossible to say whether the treatment was necessary in this case, one thing is growing increasingly clear to many researchers: The word “cancer” is out of date, and all too often it can be unnecessarily frightening.

Why Doesn’t No Mean No?

In 1998, The New York Times published a front-page article suggesting that two new drugs, angiostatin and endostatin, might finally win the war on cancer.
Though not yet tested in humans, the drugs had “eradicated” cancer in mice, the article said; and while some researchers were cautious, others could barely contain themselves. Dr. Richard Klausner, then the director of the National Cancer Institute called the drugs “the single most exciting thing on the horizon.”
In the subsequent 13 years, oncologists have come to the sobering realization these new drugs are not the holy grail after all. Usually used in conjunction with chemotherapy, they extend life and suppress tumor growth — but only by months, not years. Sometimes they do less than that — with serious side effects. As a breast cancer therapy, alas, the angiostatin Avastin falls in the latter category.

Obama administration calls on health insurer to reduce rate hike

Using a tool in the new healthcare law for the first time, officials call the 12% increase 'unreasonable.'

By Noam N. Levey, Washington Bureau
November 22, 2011
Reporting from Washington

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - November 21, 2011

JUNE 19, 2009, 6:00 AM

In Health Care Overhaul, Language Matters

Uwe E. Reinhardt is an economics professor at Princeton.
Sitting at breakfast last Sunday morning and listening to my soliloquy on President Obama’s radio address of the previous day, my wife impatiently interrupted me to administer a tongue lashing on my sloppy use of English.
“Why do you always speak of reimbursing hospitals?” she queried. “When have you last said ‘May I reimburse you?’ when checking out of a hotel? And what do you mean by Medicarepayment cuts? Does it mean spending by Medicare actually goes down? If so, why does Medicare spending always go up after such ‘spending cuts’?”
To my complaint that she was being pedantic, she responded: “Language matters, because it induces habits of the mind and actions that follow from them.” (On this point, see this marvelous little book).

Fixing Medicare

There is no way to wrestle down the deficit without reining in Medicare costs. Ensuring that the program provides quality health care coverage to millions of older and disabled Americans is essential. These goals are not incompatible, but they require a judicious approach to policy making that is depressingly absent in Washington.
Medicare is nothing less than a lifeline for 49 million older and disabled Americans. It helps pay for care in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, doctors’ offices, hospices and at home, as well as for prescription drugs.

Drugs Used for Psychotics Go to Youths in Foster Care

Foster children are being prescribed cocktails of powerful antipsychosis drugs just as frequently as some of the most mentally disabled youngsters on Medicaid, a new study suggests.
The report, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to investigate how often youngsters in foster careare given two antipsychotic drugs at once, the authors said. The drugs include RisperdalSeroquel and Zyprexa — among other so-called major tranquilizers — which were developed for schizophrenia but are now used as all-purpose drugs for almost any psychiatric symptoms.

Health care? N.H. residents not buying it

Say they have more to fret about

Eat like a Mediterranean — but how?

Here's what the research says — and doesn't say — about the Mediterranean diet.

By Karen Ravn, Special to the Los Angeles Times
November 21, 2011

FSAs encourage rather than reduce unnecessary healthcare spending

The flexible spending account for healthcare is a shining example of a government program conceived as a consumer benefit, then encrusted with so many peculiarities that it crosses the line into insanity.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Health Care Reform Articles - November 20, 2011

Deal Assures Market for Anemia Drug

Moving to protect a lucrative monopoly against impending competition, Amgen has reached an agreement that will preserve its status as the main supplier of anemia drugs to one of the nation’s two large kidney dialysis chains.
The dialysis chain, DaVita, agreed that Amgen’s drug, Epogen, will account for at least 90 percent of its purchases of that type of anemia drug through the end of 2018. DaVita will get discounts and rebates on the drug, Amgen said in a regulatory filing Friday morning.

F.D.A. Revokes Approval of Avastin for Use as Breast Cancer Drug

The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on Friday revoked the approval of the drug Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer, ruling on an emotional issue that pitted the hopes of some desperate patients against the statistics of clinical trials.
The commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, said that clinical trials had shown that the drug was not helping breast cancer patients to live longer or to meaningfully control their tumors, but did expose them to potentially serious side effects like severe high blood pressureand hemorrhaging.

Sunday Dialogue: Judging the Health Law

Readers react to a letter saying the health reform law is reasonable and needed, and should be upheld by the Supreme Court.

In 2012, both Obama and Romney would bear the burdens of health-care reform

By Paul Starr, Published: November 16

If former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and President Obama face off in the 2012 presidential campaign, America will witness the singular spectacle of two candidates getting very little love — and plenty of hate — for the same signature achievement: reforming health care.
Both overcame long odds to pass legislation, Romney in Massachusetts, Obama at the national level. Even the specifics of their reform laws are similar — both include subsidies for private insurance, the establishment of insurance exchanges and a mandate for individuals to maintain a minimum level of coverage. Each man expected to reap credit for his effort. But neither has gotten any political mileage out of it — in fact, both may have lost more ground than they picked up.

Hillarycare: The Sequel