Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Musings

I am thoroughly bummed about being back at work. I think I'd have been in really good shape with another couple of days. But you gotta do what you gotta do, so here I am, in the office at 6 am, trying to psych myself up. Will the news help or hurt? We're about to find out:

We're back to the fight over whether to extend the payroll tax cut. You've been paying less than the norm of FICA tax throughout 2011. Will this cut be extended to 2012? We may find out later this week, but the GOP is already saying it didn't lead to job increases, so no reason to extend it. If it's not extended, you'll pay about $1000 more in tax in 2012 than you did this year. Some GOPers say it will pass. Others say no way.

And then, of course, there's still the rest of the 2012 budget to agree on. Five agencies are set for the year, but the rest are only funded through December 16. Can Congress agree on anything?

Okay, you can be scared now. A bipartisan group of members of Congress are favoring providing Medicare beneficiaries with a lump sum to buy Medicare insurance rather than providing it through the government. A gift to the insurance industry. And if you think you'll get coverage of the same things through insurance that you get through Medicare, think again. This is a disaster. We must speak up and be heard on this one.

Meanwhile, because the GOP blocked the appointment of the most qualified person on earth to run the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services, Dr. Donald Berwick, he steps down this Friday as his recess appointment expires. This is a huge loss for America. The GOP claimed he was in favor of rationing health care. He never said that. He is a visionary and has launched several pilot programs to test new health care delivery systems during his tenure in office. It's a shame that we will lose his inventiveness when we need it the most. The President has nominated Berwick's deputeee, Marilyn Tavenner, whose experience lies in management rather than policy.

A fight over who should hear the health reform case. Should Clarence Thomas recuse himself from hearing the challenge to the health reform law because his wife is an active opponent and he "forgot" to report his wife's income for several years? Should Elena Kagan recuse herself from hearing the case because she was Solicitor General when the law was passed and some claim (without evidence) that she engaged in discussions of legal strategy to support the law? No way will one be recused without the other; doing so would ensure a victory for the other side.

Safety net hospitals lack electronic medical records, which means doctors have to hope they guess right about a patient's medical history. They say they are flying blind. I do not want my doctor flying blind, ever.

A push towards state regulation of insurance premium rate hikes in California. This needs to be national.

Taking too much Tylenol (acetaminophen) can harm your liver and ultimately kill you.

The growth in school-based health clinics. Making sure kids have a place to go to get free or discounted care.

Three confirmed cases of swine flu. Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

Employers are creating incentives to prod employees to improve their health, stop smoking, lose weight.

Doctors are being paid by pharmaceutical companies. Can you say conflict of interest?

A candid and poignant story about living with severe mental illness. Really, not so different from living with any chronic illness -- baby steps, one at a time.

Success means borrowing other people's expertise, not trying to do it all yourself. I have trouble with delegating, but at times, you have no choice. Anybody know how to build an App for Advocacy for Patients?!!!

Medicare open enrollment ends on December 7. Please don't forget. This year's doughnut hole is a lot smaller due to health reform. So pick your plan wisely and look forward to reaping some of the benefits of health reform.

And that's how our week begins. Have a great day! Jennifer

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