Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thursday Themes

I'm taking a short break today, going to lunch with my college friend Miles. We escape our lives a couple of times a year and get together to remind each other who we are. I'm looking forward to it today; I need a break. But first, the news:

Speaker Boehner says it's time for government to stop helping people avoid foreclosure. We have to allow "the clearing of the market," he says. Mitt Romney says he doesn't have to worry about the poor because there's a safety net for them. These are people who cannot imagine being in the position of losing a job, then losing health insurance, spending thousands of dollars on health care using credit cards, and ultimately losing one's home. The downward spiral is not something they can even imagine. It happens to other people; not people they know. And, if you ask me, they believe it's the fault of the people who are suffering. How else could they justify turning a blind eye? To quote Pearl Jam, "the haves have not a f-ing clue." So true. So sad. The lack of compassion -- the inability to imagine misfortune hitting you -- is startling.

Because when we lack compassion, we do horrible things. Jesus Navarro is an undocumented immigrant. He needs a kidney transplant. He has a willing donor -- his wife -- and he has insurance. However, he has been denied a transplant due to his "immigration status." I do not want to live in a country where we withhold care from people who have been here for 14 years, working, paid taxes, built a life, because they don't have a green card.

And Congress has left itself a month to negotiate an extension of the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits, and the Medicare reimbursement rate cut, and talks are off to a slow start. Why am I not surprised?

States are struggling to set up Exchanges and are waiting for the federal government to issue regulations telling them what they have to do. Some states are looking for information about partnering with the federal government to set up and Exchange. Who will decide whether someone is eligible for Medicaid or for a subsidy, federal or state? We don't know -- and we need to know really soon if states are going to meet their deadlines.

Among the decisions that have to be made is what to do with people who are just above the Medicaid income limit. States have the option of creating a basic health program (BHP) that will be much like Medicaid, allowing people to easily transition without taking on the cost of premiums, copays, coinsurance. These plans would be paid for mostly with federal dollars. But not everybody is enthused about them. It's a fight here in Connecticut; what's happening in your state?

The House has voted to repeal the CLASS Act (long-term care). The Obama Administration has said that this program is unaffordable now, but they want to keep the law on the books as something we can try to do down the road. The GOP wants it gone. In what I can only assume was an attempt at humor, they actually said they need to get rid of this plan that doesn't work to make room for a plan that does. When was the last time we saw the GOP come up with a plan to help pay for health care costs?

California's ballot initiative to give the State authority to scrutinize health insurance rate hikes gained a huge ally in Diane Feinstein. This undoubtedly is an issue whose time has come.

Providing health care to combat troops has created a medical backlog for people who are trying to take medical retirements.

We have another medical riddle from the NY Times. I love these. Can you figure it out?

The war on women's health has always been at its most brutal from within, in my experience. And so the uproar over the Komen Foundation's defunding of Planned Parenthood is aimed at just the latest incident, one women's group harming another. When will everybody "get" that we all need to stand together?

Researchers have found that Alzheimer's spreads like a virus in the brain. The more we understand it, the closer we are to stopping it.

California Blue Shield agrees to cover autism therapy. Great news.

Massage reduces inflammation. It also increases the production of mitochondria -- the cell's energy factory. Awesome. So will insurance cover it? Good luck with that.

Interesting story about a doctor who treats Jehovah's witnesses with leukemia who refuse blood transfusions. He calls it respect; I call it a life saver.

More about Elizabeth Bailey's book on checklists for hospital survival.

And that's it for today's news. Have a great day. And try to have a little compassion. Jennifer

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