Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Tidbits

Tuesday is the busy day for health news, so I'm going to get right to it.

Health care costs an average of $8000 per person per year -- twice as much as in European countries. Interesting discussion of the reasons why. We use too many specialists. Administrative costs are too high. We have less support for the poor, so when they do get treatment, their condition is out of control. Drug prices are higher here, and so is physician compensation.

Senate GOP and conservative groups are clashing on whether to hold a vote this year to repeal health reform. A majority of Americans opposes outright repeal of the entire law. And to go ahead with a vote during the Presidential campaign could be really bad for Mitt Romney, who signed the Massachusetts health reform into law. But staunch conservative groups want to push ahead nonetheless. What has health reform done in your state? It's National Consumer Protection Week, and the Administration is touting the health reform law. For example, health reform has done away with lifetime limits on benefits for 105 million Americans.

Will electronic medical records save money? The thought is that they might prevent medication interactions, assist with continuity of care. But a new study shows that doctors with electronic records ordered more expensive tests more often. Interesting.

The ongoing controversy over chronic Lyme disease. It sure looks and feels real, but the NIH doesn't buy it, nor do many medical licensing boards, who have disciplined doctors for treating it. The politics of Lyme disease have been brutal for many years, and still, we don't have definitive answers. The author of this piece calls for research, and I strongly agree. We need to get to the bottom of this.

Drug makers have paid $8 billion in fraud penalties to the federal government, and yet the government keeps doing business with them because Medicare and Medicaid enrollees need their products.

Young kids with serious dental problems may even require anesthesia so they will sit still and get the treatment they need. We can't overestimate the importance of pediatric dentistry.

Statins leave patients feeling fuzzy, with memory problems. Did you know your cholesterol meds could be causing cognitive problems? Why isn't this being talked about? Then again, statins can help with depression. My gut tells me that these two things are not unrelated -- something's going on in the brain, and I'd like to know what it is before I take these meds!

How much of medicine depends on luck? Doctors use luck to explain what they can't. I suspect there's more to it than luck, though, so we need to keep looking for answers. Then again, karma is a bitch!

Why is it so important to keep moving? People who are sedentary (like me) have a higher risk of type II diabetes and heart disease. Apparently, if you are sedentary, your blood sugar spikes after a meal, but if you are more active, it doesn't. Interesting.

Oregon has passed a law changing the way Medicaid pays for services, prizing care coordination and prevention. If it works, the hope is that this program would grow to include state employees and others, creating a full-blown public option. Indeed, many states have gotten waivers from the feds allowing them more flexibility in designing Medicaid programs in anticipation of Medicaid expansion in 2014, part of health reform. But Medicaid cuts threaten safety net hospitals. So while flexibility may be a good thing, giving states license to cut Medicaid may end up undermining the providers who stand ready to serve the poor.

Spots on your retina can be a sign of colon cancer.

A study finds an increased risk of death and cancer among people who take sleeping pills. Without the sleeping pills, there would be an increased risk of insanity! Hard choices.

More on checklists. I reviewed Elizabeth Bayley's book, A Patient's Checklist, a couple of months ago. It continues to get great media attention (who's her PR person?), but mostly because checklists are easy, inexpensive -- and they work.

In another new book, advice for asthma patients with seven principles to help control the disease.

We've all heard about good fats and bad fats. Well, here's more. It seems that, in Denmark, there's a tax on dietary fat. Does this work?

Does your doctor understand the studies she/he reads? Hmmm.

And that, my friends, is Tuesday's health news. Have a great day! Jennifer

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