Checking Up on Health

February 28th, 2012 by Leave a Comment

Health Policy Briefs: February 28, 2012

Compiled by Benita Dodd

Registration is open and seats are filling quickly for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s next Leadership Breakfast, 8 a.m. Thursday, March 22, at Cobb County’s Georgian Club. State Attorney General Sam Olens and health care expert Ronald E. Bachman will give the “Georgia Health Care Update,” just days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in the challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Georgia is one of 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business that filed the challenge to the law. The cost to register for the Leadership Breakfast is $25. Register here: http://tinyurl.com/7ldaqnk. Find out more here: http://tinyurl.com/7vuh7oe.

Beyond Scotus: Whether the U.S. Supreme Court leaves nothing standing in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), affirms it across the board or provides a split decision (such as invalidating the individual mandate but leaving portions of the health law in place), the political climate will change, Thomas P. Miller, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes in the National Journal. “Republican members of the current Congress, let alone the GOP presidential nominee and Republican leaders of the next Congress, will need to outline and articulate their own basic visions of health policy that go beyond ‘none of the above’ or “back to the future.’ And they can do better. Repeal of the current health law is a necessary, but not a sufficient, part of fixing our health care system.” Miller outlines where leaders should go. His proposals include ending the bias policy between employer-sponsored insurance and individual insurance; and “Taking Medicaid off [PP]ACA-injected steroids, delegating most of its operational policies to the states.” Read more in “Repeal to replace: starting this year,” at http://tinyurl.com/76xtjzj.

States bide their time: Only a handful of states, including California, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, are moving at a brisk pace to establish health insurance exchanges, the supermarkets where millions of consumers are supposed to buy subsidized private coverage under President Obama’s health care overhaul, according to The New York Times. Research by the Urban Institute found that 14 states had made significant progress in creating exchanges, 16 had made little or no progress and 20 were somewhere in between.

Many states are waiting for a Supreme Court decision or even the November election results, to see whether central elements of the new law might be overturned or repealed. The Obama administration is supposed to decide by Jan. 1, 2013, whether each state is ready to run its own exchange or whether the federal government should do the job instead. Read the article here: http://tinyurl.com/6wax6xc.

Skeptical about Mass. health plan poll: Writing in John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog, Linda Gorman declares surprise that Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal, published a recent article on the Massachusetts health reform in which the authors report RomneyCare “continued to fare well in 2010.”  “Unfortunately, in several cases the authors fail to inform readers that their results are contradicted by other, possibly more reliable, sources of information. They also neglect to put some of their results in proper context.”

Gorman cites several examples, among them:

  • “Failing to mention that although the nonelderly adults in the telephone survey samples reported a drop in emergency department (ED) use from 2006 to 2010, data from other reputable sources suggest that total ED visits have risen.
  • “Failing to mention that the ‘strong and sustained gains in the share of nonelderly adults in Massachusetts who reported their health as very good or excellent’ are similar to the gains reported by all American adults.
  • “Asserting that ‘access to health care in the community is better than it was in 2006,’ without reporting on evidence that contradicts this conclusion.
  • “Inappropriately limiting the definition of ‘affordability’ to out-of-pocket expenses, while ignoring higher premiums, fees, and taxes.”

Read more of Gorman’s take on the survey in
http://healthblog.ncpa.org/what-were-they-thinking-at-health-affairs/
. This is an important finding because, as Gorman points out, the authors consider RomneyCare “the template for the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010.”

Meth and methodology: Having to ask the pharmacist to retrieve cold medication from behind the counter is a nuisance, but a move that many Georgia lawmakers and law enforcement officials say is necessary to reduce the proliferation of methamphetamine usage and labs. Oregon is one of two states that went even further, requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine (the meth-manufacturing ingredient found in cold medication). Does it work? The Cascade Policy Institute of Oregon has found that meth usage in Oregon has declined since its 2006 prescription-only law was put into effect. “However, Oregon’s decline in methamphetamine usage is consistent with a very similar decline in other states in the region and also more generally in the United States,” Cascade found. “There is little to distinguish the trend of methamphetamine usage in Oregon from states that have not adopted prescription-only laws.” One unfortunate effect has been to raise the cost of using the cold medication. Read the study at http://cascadepolicy.org/pdf/pub/Oregon_Meth_Law.pdf.

Quote of Note: “The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private affairs of cities or citizens is likely to cause endless trouble, through the rivalry of schools and creeds that are anxious to obtain official recognition, and there is great danger that our people will lose our independence of thought and action which is the cause of much of our greatness, and sink into the helplessness of the Frenchman or German who expects his government to feed him when hungry, clothe him when naked, to prescribe when his child may be born and when he may die, and, in fine, to regulate every act of humanity from the cradle to the tomb, including the manner in which he may seek future admission to  paradise.” – Mark Twain, “Official Physic”

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