Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hump Day Headlines

Trying to get back in the swing of things, so let's start with the news.

As you know, the Senate passed a 2 month extension of the payroll tax, unemployment, and the delay of Medicare provider reimbursement cuts. However, the House has refused to even hold a vote on this deal, instead voting to reject the bill and name a conference committee to work out the details. Three million people could lose unemployment benefits if this isn't resolved. And most of Congress has left Washington, leaving no hope of a resolution before the end of the year. Nice that they have a couple of weeks off for the holidays, isn't it? (sarcasm). Speaker Boehner says House Republicans are "on call" for negotiations. But that's hard to maintain when they've left the area and gone home. The President, though, has postponed his annual trip to Hawaii for the holidays, staying in Washington to try to work on a solution. Who will blink first? John McCain says this battle is harming the Republican party.

More about the decision to allow states to define "essential health benefits," the basic package that all insurance has to include if it will be sold through the exchange. This is a tough one. There are huge benefits to national standards in states that are against reform and not particularly consumer friendly. In other states -- like Connecticut, where we have laws requiring coverage of a lot of things like overnight stays for mastectomies and $1000/year of ostomy supplies -- using a state standard would ensure that the plan will be generous.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has scheduled three days of oral argument in the health reform case -- March 26 to 28. They've broken up the argument by issue. Day two will be the day when they review the individual mandate and, thus, probably the most important part of the argument.

Did hedge funds have inside information during negotiations on health reform that allowed them to capitalize on the rejection of a public option? Wow -- it doesn't get more cynical than this.

Thirty-two groups have been chosen as "pioneers" to test the new accountable care organization structure. ACOs are intended to promote care coordination and, thus, improve patient outcomes, thereby saving money. Very exciting prospects here.

Immigrants can receive dialysis, but if they need a transplant, they're out of luck. Dialysis costs $75,000 per year. A transplant costs $100,000 and then dialysis no longer is necessary.

A patient loses trust in her doctor due to his ties to pharmaceutical companies.

As Medicare starts assessing penalties for hospital readmissions, hospitals in poor areas will be hardest hit. They can't afford their meds, and that lands them in the hospital more often. It would be so much cheaper to find a way to pay for their meds.

A government panel has asked a medical journal not to publish all of the details of its experiments with the flu out of fear that terrorists will learn from it.

Patients with mental health and substance abuse disorders become counselors for each other. Who better to understand?

When terminally ill patients ask how long they have to live, most often their doctor can't know, finds it hard to say, and is often wrong.

Would reading your medical records improve your health? Patients say yes; doctors aren't so sure.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker cut cancer screenings for uninsured women. Love that Christmas spirit. (more sarcasm)

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

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