Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday Themes

Longest. Week. In. History. Oh, well. Let's check out the news.

Gridlock deadlock on the budget, payroll tax cut extension, unemployment extension, dealing with the major cut to Medicare reimbursement rates because the GOP keeps tacking policy riders onto these bills. Speed up the Keystone pipeline. Travel to Cuba. Abortions in DC. Cut unemployment benefits and federal employees' pay. Means-test Medicare. The White House now wants another short-term budget extension because of all the policy measures attached to the GOP bill, but instead, the House GOP released a massive $1 trillion spending bill. Dems want the payroll tax issue resolved before the budget, but the federal government runs out of money TOMORROW. Dems have dropped their call to pay for the payroll tax cut with a surcharge on millionaires to try to start negotiations, but the two sides are pretty far apart. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell won't even let the House payroll tax bill come to a vote, preferring to stall things. Sens. Reid and McConnell met with Speaker Boehner yesterday; Boehner can't negotiate with Reid without angering his members, so it looks like it's up to the Senate to come up with a compromise that can pass the House. What's the end game going to be?

Opponents of health reform are praising the Obama Administration for relaxing some of the rules, waiving the elimination of annual and lifetime limits for mini-med plans, granting waivers of the medical loss ratio requirements in some states. Consumer advocates (like me) are not happy.

As doctors switch to using more technology -- electronic medical records, for example -- they face more distractions and focus less on the patient. I know my wonderful PCP stopped listening to me when a computer turned up in the exam room, but the only way he could use it was to have his back to me. Stupid and thoughtless -- a problem screaming out for solutions.

A bipartisan plan to restructure Medicare, providing a fixed amount the government will pay per person. So people with chronic illnesses with greater medical needs will go broke? Really? This is just the Paul Ryan voucher plan redux.

The Social Security Administration has commissioned an outside review of its disability system amidst complaints that benefits are granted to some who don't need them and denied to some who do. This could be great if it's taken seriously enough.

Nearly 1 in 5 women in America say they have been victims of sexual assault. That's a shockingly high number. Equally (or perhaps more) shocking is a census figure -- nearly 1 in 2 Americans is poor.

Hospitals are trying to control readmissions, even when that cuts into their bottom line.

Statins -- cholesterol meds -- appear to be useful in battling serious flu.

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

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