Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday Tidbits

The health pages are full on Tuesdays, so let's get right to the news:

As you know, there are 3 issues Congress has to resolve by the end of the month: payroll tax cut, unemployment extension, and the cut to Medicare doctors' reimbursement rate. No surprise that they're not doing very well. The House and Senate are at an impasse on Medicare reimbursement rates, unable to agree on how to pay for it. As for the payroll tax, everybody agrees it needs to be extended, but how? Thousands of people are about to find out that unemployment now ends at 79 weeks, not 99. It's all a huge mess. Congress does have a recess planned for the end of the month, so if they don't make progress soon, we will have yet another nail-biter.

What's really on the line in the Supreme Court's health reform case is coverage of people with pre-existing conditions. The LA Times's David Lazarus explains that, without the individual mandate, driving healthy people into the market for health insurance, we'll never get coverage of people with pre-existing conditions at rates that anybody can afford. This is pretty much the same argument we made in our brief to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the States filed their brief against the law yesterday. Meanwhile, a new survey shows the state of our health -- especially that of the poor -- to be dismal. One-third of poor people haven't had insurance in 2 years. Half of families at 2 1/2 times the poverty level lack a regular source of care. Doesn't this trouble you? Don't we have a moral imperative to act?

Does it take surveillance cameras to get ICU staff to wash their hands? Apparently.

Cardiologists often pass up safe treatment with medication to go for the more expensive, high tech angioplasty and stenting. If, as studies show, the two treatments are equally effective, is it wrong to go with the less expensive alternative to save costs? And if this is okay with cardiology, what about the rest of medicine? A huge question that matters a whole lot. Meanwhile, if you want to eat heart healthy, here are some tips and myth-busters.

Consumer Reports says women are taking drugs unnecessarily.

Another piece about how important it can be to have blood pressure checked in both arms to diagnose peripheral vascular disease.

A high fiber diet may not protect against diverticulosis.

There's a push for family input to detect dementia.

Researchers are working on a test to figure out whether someone is dangerously fatigued so that they can predict and, thus, avoid "performance failure," like falling asleep when driving.

Should you be eating gluten? Apparently, those with Celiac disease aren't the only ones who should avoid it.

Is your doctor following ovarian cancer screening guidelines? Apparently, many are not.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology says advanced cancer patients should be given both cancer care and palliative care, making end of life decisions. It actually helps people with their treatment, and they live a little longer.

Should all children be screened for a condition marked by high cholesterol? An expensive option, and some say one that over-diagnoses. But is the cost worth it for the few who are helped?

A Georgia law seeking to curtail assisted suicide has been ruled unconstitutional because it would have prevented people from advocating for assisted suicide, making it a free speech violation.

A couple of years ago, scientists released a paper saying they found a virus that causes chronic fatigue syndrome. Then this study got discredited and then retracted, and patients were left dangling without answers.

And that's where we leave it for this morning. Have a great day! Jennifer

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