Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Musings

It's the dreaded Monday again, and I have to work the next 2 week-ends, so I'm trying to ready myself for a long few weeks. Let's start with the news:

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 was yesterday. I'm not going to blog much about it except to say that thousands of first-responders are sick as a result, and they're still not getting the health care they need an deserve. We should be ashamed.

Pressure mounts on the super-committee to go big -- bigger than their $1.5 trillion mandate. This terrifies me. Take more and more money out of a sagging economy and it sags even more. The debate over taxes and the size of government challenge the Roosevelt and Johnson legacies like never before. Apparently, I'm not the only healthcare advocate nervous about this. And children's advocates are worrying about cuts to Medicaid.

GOP state senators in New York -- yup, liberal New York -- are blocking the state from receiving federal aid to build their health insurance exchange. New York is one of the few states in the US that doesn't allow pre-existing condition exclusions, so they don't really "get" what the big deal is. Except that premiums are through the roof, and the exchange would bring subsidies -- and if the state doesn't open an exchange, the feds will do it for them. So this brick wall is not smart for a host of reasons. But New York isn't the only state lagging behind. The feds really don't want to run the exchanges all over the country, so they're starting to talk about state-federal partnerships.

Health insurers deny coverage all the time. It's not just for well-established pre-existing condition. It's pretty much if you've ever been to a doctor for anything other than a check-up.

Opposition to the merger of Medco and ExpressScripts grows over concern that it will mean higher prices. What took you so long?

The more technology, the more we need to worry about ergonomics, say the experts. We have other things to worry about, too. As doctors switch to electronic medical records, we begin to see a computer screen in between us and our doctors, with face-to-face communication out the window. But listening is so critical to being a good doctor. We can't afford to lose communication for the sake of technology -- there must be a way to do both.

Remember Watson, the IBM computer that beat humans at Jeopardy!? Well, IBM is now putting him/it to work in health insurance. Wellpoint (Anthem) is using it. It will search the insurer's database, the patient's medical records, and its own library of data and come up with the best treatments. Supposedly, it's to help providers, not to decide what claims to pay. Hmm.

School-based health clinics play a critical role in the lives of children.

FDA Panel backs sterner warnings on bone drugs for women like Fosamax and Boniva. I've heard about some bad side-effects, so I suspect the labels are necessary.

And that's today's news. Have a great day. Jennifer

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