Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hump Day Edition

It's Wednesday and I'm tired. It's been a long week already, it seems. But we keep on doing our thing here at Advocacy for Patients, and that starts with the day's news.

As I posted last night, the GOP will seek to eliminate all funding for implementation of health reform in the continuing budget resolution that has to be passed by March 4 or the federal government will shut down. This promises to be quite a show-down, a game of chicken to see who blinks first. The Senate will not pass a budget that prohibits health reform implementation from proceeding, and the President will not sign it. That sets us up for a government shut-down. The last time the Republicans owned the House of Representatives, they brought things to a shut-down, as well. It didn't work out very well for them then. I don't know why they think the American people will be happy with no government services again. One GOP Congressman (Steve King) says defunding health care is like defunding the Vietnam War. He doesn't just want to defund implementation for this year; he wants to make sure no funding to implement the law ever sees the light of day.

Health reform has been transformed into a platform for anti-abortionists. Although the law is very clear in providing that no federal funding, including health insurance premium subsidies, can be used to pay for abortions. But that's not enough. There are several bills that would represent huge restrictions on access to abortions. They want to eliminate tax breaks for employers whose insurance policy covers abortion, and to forbid women from using money in a flexible spending account to pay for an abortion. They also want to prevent any insurance policy offered on an Exchange from covering abortions, even with private dollars. There's even a bill that would allow hospitals to refuse treatment to a woman even in an emergency situation. Is this really what the voters last November wanted the GOP to focus on? Democrats vow to block these laws.

A few freshmen Republicans who turned down federal health insurance benefits are struggling to pay their premiums and out of pocket expenses, as well as to find policies that cover pre-existing conditions. Their experience is causing them to rethink their opposition to the law.

The new Accountable Care Organizations, that allow health care providers to band together to care for patients and lower costs, present antitrust implications.

The appeals court in Cincinnati has set an expedited briefing schedule on the health reform challenge. This court is hearing an appeal from a Michigan decision upholding the law. Argument should be in May or June.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration says it is standing firm with the individual mandate. If there was a better way to accomplish the goals of affordable health care for all, somebody would have come up with it by now, they say. Until someone does, the individual mandate will be defended by this White House.

Vermont's Governor proposes a single-payer health plan. I hope this happens; if one State shows how much money can be saved this way, single-payer may finally catch on more broadly.

A new study shows that, in some markets, one insurance company dominates, which restricts competition, thereby failing to drive down costs.

Another new study says that early breast cancers don't require removal of lymph nodes. Women who are treated early with lumpectomy and radiation survive at a rate of about 92% after five years, even without removal of lymph nodes.

Illinois is restricting HIV/AIDS drugs as part of their budget cutting.

Large employers increased wellness initiatives last year.

And that should keep you busy for a little while! Have a great day. Jennifer

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