Friday, March 9, 2012

Finally Friday!

Good morning! TGIF! And here's the last news of the week:

The Obama Administration is working to use the Supreme Court arguments on the health reform law to shape opinion about the law. There will be events outside the Supreme Court during arguments, and the Administration is touting the elements of the law that already have done some good -- coverage of kids to age 26, free preventive care, reduced drug costs for seniors, the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan. I, on the other hand, am begging anybody and everybody to get that coverage of people with pre-existing conditions is a major civil rights victory for people with chronic illnesses. We cannot lose that when January 1, 2014 is not that far away. There will be protests against the law, too. Please help to make sure our voices don't get drowned out by false claims of death panels and limits on how many babies you can have (see yesterday's blog for this latest from Michelle Bachmann, who I guarantee you has not read the law and wouldn't understand it if she did). Indeed, we now have Rick Santorum claiming that 100 percent of Americans will receive a government hand-out under health reform -- another complete falsehood, according to the WaPo fact-checker.

Indeed, one of the people who sued to stop the health reform law's individual mandate because she did not want to buy insurance and preferred to self-fund her health care got sick and ended up going bankrupt due to medical debt. We, the taxpayers, will end up footing that bill. This is why it must be constitutional for Congress to force people to stop behaving so irresponsibly in ways that punish the rest of us.

Also yesterday, I posted about the fact that the abortion battle is leaving women without access to reproductive health care -- pap smears, breast exams, etc. In Texas in particular, the state's decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood has meant the closure of clinics that did not perform abortions at all. Well, Rick Perry yesterday responded, saying the state will fund the Women's Health Program with state dollars if the feds object to the elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood, which greatly restricts women's access to care. Why does this not make me feel better? Indeed, Texas is already limiting care to the elderly poor and their doctors. I have little confidence in their commitment to provide care to women. Meanwhile, women Senators are pressing Speaker Boehner to drop the fight against contraceptive coverage. But on International Women's Day, Congress debated a measure to curtail reproductive rights. We really haven't come as far as we'd like to think we have.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a report yesterday about insurance coverage of out-of-network benefits. Too often, patients go to an in-network hospital and, unbeknownst to them, get treated by an out-of-network anesthesiologist or ER doctor and they are hit by a huge bill. And the amounts that are paid for out-of-network benefits are pathetic -- I had an $1800 upper endoscopy that my insurance company thinks should cost $220!

The FDA is considering allowing the sale of many more drugs over the counter, without a prescription. Drugs for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. Hmmm.

Dr. Pauline Chen again writes about the doctor-patient relationship. There's a lot of talk about transparency, but patients really don't want to know everything, says the medical ethicist she interviewed, nor do doctors want to provide it. Is that true? Do you really not want to know everything? I think I really do want to know. But this ethicist, Dr. Truog, says we have to make decision about where to spend our health care dollars, and that's the conversation he thinks we are not ready to have with our doctors. When is it okay to talk money, doctor to patient?

Medicare and Medicaid laws are very complex and difficult to parse, say many judges whose job it is to interpret them. Meanwhile cuts in reimbursement rates to clinical labs -- the latest casualty of thoughtless budget-cutting -- are hurting small labs in a big way. And the GOP seems bound and determined to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, tasked with determining which treatments are most effective and cost efficient -- a repeal that would cost billions of dollars. The GOP has its own plans for Medicare -- and though they say they will retain the option of keeping the present system, that seems doubtful.

HIV/AIDS docs are testing an injection that may prevent HIV. Awesome.

A patient survival guide -- learn to protect your health in the hospital.

A donor's dilemma. A woman whose mother and brother each needs a kidney transplant. She's a match for both. Who should she save?

What to do when a hospital visitor gets sick? They have no doctor assigned to their case. They are not registered with the hospital. It's actually more of a dilemma than I would have thought.

There aren't enough health professionals to treat an aging population. We boomers better pay attention to this.

The Alzheimer's Association says we need to spend $2 billion per year on research to unlock the mysteries of this difficult disease.

And that's it for this Friday morning. Have a great day! Jennifer

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