Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thursday Themes

Congressional leaders reached a budget deal that ensures that there will be no threat of a government shut-down through the election season.  That doesn't mean there won't be bitter partisan battles, though.  The GOP-led House has voted to extend the Bush tax cuts for everybody, including the very wealthy -- a vote that cannot be duplicated in the Senate, and that the President has threatened to veto.  And there's still the threat of $110 billion in automatic budget cuts linked to last year's horrible deal to increase the debt limitMembers of Congress are looking to point the finger of blame at each other for this ridiculous deal that was made at the 11th hour when compromise proved impossible.  They don't seem to get that it's this kind of nonsense that's making Americans turn off to all of them, regardless of party affiliation.

Kaiser Health News -- a nonpartisan news service -- has a profile of Mitt Romney's positions on health care.  I offer it to you without comment; you already know what I think, and you all need to decide for yourselves.  All I ask is that you make educated choices -- so read! 

Rebates resulting from the medical loss ratio -- a limit on the percentage of premium dollars that can be spent on administration as opposed to health care -- should be in the mail.  In California alone, the rebates total nearly $74 million.

To save money, though, look to insurers creating more hoops to jump through before they will authorize care -- more prior authorizations, smaller networks.  We've noticed that the appeals we're getting these days are far more complex and challenging.  Not sure what exactly explains that. But I'd expect to see more of this grab for control over health care spending as insurers looks for ways to increase profits while complying with the health reform law.

But health reform will transform decisionmaking for young people, who will be able to get affordable insurance (with subsidies) on the exchange and, thus, will no longer have to choose a job solely based on whether health insurance is offered.  Gee -- wonder what this will mean for Starbucks (one of the companies that offers health insurance to low-paid workers).

Group Health Cooperative -- a nonprofit health plan in Washington state -- is teaming with a Catholic hospital system to create a larger medical home-type system.  This should be very interesting to watch -- can health plans and providers come together to provide better care, more  care coordination, more patient-centered care, at less cost?  We'll see.

You know how you can never sleep in the hospital?  Well, it turns out that less hospital noise improves your health -- so hospitals are looking to see how they can reduce noise.  About time.  But then again, they're still going to wake you to take your vitals every few hours!

What's the connection between psychology and obesity?  This will be one of the issues addressed at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting in Orlando starting today.  We talk about what to eat and how to exercise, but there's a psychological component that drives the decision of what to put in your mouth.  After all, obesity really is an eating disorder; we don't treat it as such, but perhaps we should.

Home health providers will be part of a get out the vote drive this year.  They say the goal is not political -- it's about getting people to participate in the democratic process.  But it's also calculated to increase the political clout of the home health industry.

Consumer health apps are a growing sector of the health care industry.  Will consumers use them?  Should be interesting to watch.

And that's this morning's news.  Have a great day.  Jennifer

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