Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hump Day Headlines

The White House has appealed the Florida judge's ruling invalidating the health reform law. Based on the judge's order, that means the law will remain in effect until the appeals are resolved. The appeal to the Eleventh Circuit will take months, even on an expedited basis. Then, on to the Supremes.

On the budget front, it seems like there will be a stalemate in the Senate, which does not have the votes to pass either the House GOP budget or the Democrat/White House budget. Test votes will be held today. 9 days until shut-down. However, the GOP leaders are preparing another short-term extension. Not everybody's in favor of more short-term fixes -- but neither side appears willing to budge. The GOP won't accept less in the way of tax cuts, and the Dems feel they've offered to meet the GOP half way.

And here's another source saying the nomination of Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is doomed. So sad, such a loss for all Americans. The man is a visionary. Yet another decision made based on politics rather than merit. So far, the White House is sticking with him, as well they should.

The State of Maine has received a waiver of the medical loss ratio requirements (that insurers must spent 80 or 85 percent of premium dollars on health care). The basis for the waiver is that imposing the new requirement would destabilize the market in Maine. Several other states have applied for a similar waiver, but Maine's is the first to be approved.

Meanwhile, state budget cuts are destroying the mental health safety net. States have slashed $1.8 billion in mental health funds.

A new study says Massachusetts health reform has not had an impact on medical bankruptcies. What is needed is out-of-pocket caps (copays, deductibles) that people can afford.

And another new report says that spikes in Medicare spending in some parts of the country are not due to over-utilization of health care. Indeed, the report says that, when you take into account the severity of the patients' illnesses and their medical needs, these parts of the country are actually spending below the national average.

Here's an interesting article about how race affects attitudes to health reform. It's not about attitudes to President Obama; it's about a bias the authors call racial resentment -- the bias that Blacks are getting something to which they are not entitled. I don't know if I buy one word of this, but I thought I'd put it out there and see what you think.

Health reform no longer allows people to use funds from flexible spending accounts to pay for over-the-counter meds, so patients are going to doctors to get prescriptions for aspirin, and pharmacists have to fill them -- and that drives up the cost of these medications.

A new study shows that palliative (pain) care helps to reduce Medicaid costs.

And here's another piece on a trend, medical practices charging monthly membership fees and providing care without billing insurance.

And that's it for this morning. Have a great day! Jennifer

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