Friday, October 28, 2011

Finally Friday Edition

A week ago, I was headed to Florida. Now, we've had our first snow and my stress level is back to normal, meaning high. I suspect the news can only make it worse, but here goes:

The big news late yesterday: Medicare part B premiums are going up only $3.50 -- far less than was expected. Great news for seniors.

However, California seniors are up in arms at the closing of adult day care centers that will send many of them to nursing homes. More harm from budget cutting.

Speaker Boehner has rejected the Dems' $3 trillion deficit reduction plan, as expected. I don't know how we get past this logjam when the Dems insist on raising revenue and the GOP refuses to even consider it.

Meanwhile, with the expiration of stimulus funding, states' spending on Medicaid is through the roof. It threatens the continued viability of the program -- and without it, we have hoards of the poor with no health care. California has received federal approval to cut payments to providers as much as 10% -- which will make it even harder for patients to find a doctor who takes Medicaid (called MediCal in California). Of course, some of this might be addressed if we were better at rooting out fraud -- 17 doctors and pharmacists in California are accused of massive fraud.

We have to worry about all this budget cutting not only because people need health care, but because health care is one of the few sectors of the economy that has consistently created jobs.

The Wall St. Journal explains that it won't be so easy to repeal the health reform law. This may be true, but don't relax. If we lose coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, we might as well lose it all. And since that won't take effect until 2014, there's still time to repeal it before then. That would be a disaster for those of us with chronic illnesses.

This one's a little complex, but stay with me. Under health reform, Social Security benefits wouldn't count as income when applying for Medicaid, which is good for people on Social Security disability, for example. But it would allow some people age 62-65 to qualify for Medicaid even though they have income up to about $60,000/year. So Congress and President Obama decided to fix this by eliminating the provision, claiming the law was never intended to benefit middle class people. However, by eliminating this, they will take benefits away from many who can't afford any other coverage -- people on disability, for example, who are not yet eligible for Medicare. The House approved the "fix" yesterday. Now it goes to the Senate. Do we err on the side of covering too many or too few?

Meanwhile, support for the health reform law has hit a new low. People are frustrated that the key provisions don't take effect until 2014, so they've started to believe that the law won't do them any good. This really concerns me. We absolutely must have coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and subsidies that make insurance more affordable. Please don't lose faith.

This was so great. On Wednesday, I posted a link to a NY Times blog -- a puzzle -- a set of symptoms, and you had to decide what test to order and guess at a diagnosis. The patient had full body aches and pains, weakness in her legs, was shorter than the rest of her family, headaches, depression. Want to guess? Celiac disease! Wow -- isn't that something? An intolerance to grains can cause all of those symptoms. This was so much fun! I hope they do it again.

Massive disability pension fraud by 11 Long Island Railroad retirees costing about $1 billion. Now, think of the people with legitimate disability retirement claims and how much harder it's going to be for them to prove their cases. Fraud hurts all of the participants in the system.

A new study shows that aspirin may reduce colon cancer risk. Wow!

And that, my friends, is today's news. Have a great day and a great week-end. Catch you on Monday. Jennifer

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