Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Morning Musings

Week-end fly by and I have a staffer on vacation today and tomorrow, so I'm trying to pump myself up for the busy days ahead. I guess the news is one way to ease into it -- here goes:

The National Governors' Association health committee met this week-end. Governors are split on the effects of health reform. But they all agree that we need to do something about the cost of chronic illness if we are to get a handle on health care costs. Americans are split on health reform, too. The House GOP is planning a series of votes to gut health reform during the Supreme Court arguments beginning March 26.

Meanwhile, Republican-led states are putting off the task of building an Exchange in the hope that the Supreme Court will strike down the law and/or President Obama will lose the election and the health reform law will be repealed. Of course, having an Exchange -- a place where people can shop for and buy insurance -- isn't a bad idea even without federal health reform. And there's not a very strong chance that the Supreme Court will strike down the entire law. Indeed, by January 2013, the Obama Administration will decide whether a state is making good progress, and if not, they will start building a federal exchange. So inaction is a risky move.

Just to put this all in context, here's a history of our healthcare system that gives you an idea of how we got to be where we are today.

We're hearing stories like this every day, people with legitimate pain control needs who cannot get pain medication. There is a growing stigma attached to pain medication. Patients are blamed rather than helped. Maine is looking at capping pain meds in their Medicaid program to 45 days -- period. Washington state has made it so impossible to get pain meds that one of my clients has tried to commit suicide and now is inpatient detox. It's a terrible situation. I understand the urge to crack down on the use of pain meds as they are sold and used illegally. But what about the people who really are in pain?

Last week, we told you about a study that shows that colonoscopies help prevent colon cancer. But during the recession, the number of screening colonoscopies has decreased tremendously. Watch this to learn when colonoscopies are free under the health reform law.

California continues to try to find ways to cut the costs of Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), but the feds appear inclined against allowing them to charge co-pays. Other states also are looking for federal waivers. But here's what happens when you cut Medicaid.

More about contraceptive coverage -- five Q & A's.

Want to know your life expectancy? Take the quiz. Mine's 77.1 years. I was sort of counting on not having that many years left!

Cachexia -- weight and energy loss, muscle wasting -- often accompanying cancer. There's a word for it, and soon, perhaps a drug for it.

Had tests done but haven't heard from your doctor? Here's what can happen when you don't stay on top of things.

The large hospital chain Prime Healthcare is under investigation for price gouging.

Scientists at Mass General have found that stem cells can generate human eggs -- a potential boon for infertility treatment.

Insurance for a cancer survivor or for cancer treatment -- I'm quoted in the response to the second question.

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

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