Friday, December 16, 2011

Finally Friday Edition

WOOHOO!!! If I get through the next 12 hours, I will have made it through the hardest week ever, albeit a little the worse for wear. So let's get to the news:

Lawmakers have agreed on a spending bill, averting a government shut down. Here are details on the HHS budget. No final decision on the payroll tax and unemployment yet, but they're now talking about a short-term extension rather than a full year. But is it good to cut the payroll tax that finances Social Security? Last year, when this first passed, I warned that this could threaten the Social Security trust fund, and now some others are expressing that concern. In any event, the parties are about $90 billion apart on the payroll tax and unemployment, so they are talking about a two-month deal.

And there's still the huge cut to Medicare reimbursement rates to doctors if Congress doesn't act before the end of the year. This cut would wreak havoc on doctors and patients. But postponing the cut further is very expensive. This would be included in a two-month deal to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.

As expected, Paul Ryan released a new plan that would change Medicare by providing a fixed amount of funding per patient, with the patient choosing either traditional Medicare or private insurance. And Dems and advocates resoundingly rejected it. The plan doesn't tell us how seniors are supposed to pay to fund their own health care.

The Obama administration has rejected Florida's request for a waiver of the medical loss ratio rules (which would cap the amount of administrative costs that could be included in insurance premiums). Considering what we see in Florida -- horrible lack of health care and health insurance -- I'm really glad about this decision.

You know I love Dr. Pauline Chen's columns. This one is about what happens to doctors when they get sued -- and 1 in 4 surgeons is currently being sued and 99 percent of doctors will experience being sued at least once in their careers, despite the fact that most medical errors to not result in legal action. This is stressful and expensive for doctors. But I have to say, what about the patients who were harmed by medical errors? Sure, some of these lawsuits are ridiculous, but there are bad doctors who deserve to be sued. Where's the right balance -- the never-ending question.

Health care costs are a key worry for those nearing retirement. Personally, I don't think most of us will ever be able to afford to retire.

The federal government will not fund any more research on chimpanzees.

The health effects of rape are wide-ranging.

A recall on heart defibrillator leads -- if you have a defibrillator, check with your doctor to see if yours is on recall.

There's a real possibility of a nursing strike in Manhattan as the union fights with hospitals over cuts to health benefits. Not a good time to be in a New York hospital. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has proposed rules that would provide wage and overtime protection for home care workers.

Here in Connecticut, a push is on to reform the long-term care system to accommodate more seniors in the community and out of nursing homes.

Brain stimulation may help stroke victims recover.

Again, I'm trying to stay out of electoral politics, but when there's something you should know, I will provide it. And here's something you should know -- Newt Gingrich's former policy on health care, which is very much like what he's now criticizing. If he'd stop changing his mind, I might actually not be so scared of him.

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

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