Checking Up On Health: December 11, 2012

December 11th, 2012 by Leave a Comment
Benita Dodd, Vice President, Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Health Policy Briefs

Compiled by Benita M. Dodd

Americans are living longer, with fewer deaths from heart disease and cancer, but more chronic illnesses, according to the 2012 America’s Health Rankings. The report highlights troubling levels of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and sedentary behavior. Medical advances are allowing more people to live with those conditions. Americans “are living longer, sicker” with more chronic illness, says Reed Tuckson of the United Health Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation that sponsors the report with the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention. Where did Georgia rank among the states? No. 36. No. 1 was Vermont; tied for the bottom of the heap were Louisiana and Mississippi. Source: USA Today 

All or nothing: States will not be able to expand Medicaid only part of the way and still get the additional federal funding provided in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in a letter sent to governors. The federal government (i.e., taxpayers) will pay 100 percent of the cost of all newly eligible residents in Medicaid for three years, beginning in 2014. In a posting on the HealthCare.gov blog, Sebelius said that “the law does not create an option for enhanced match for a partial or phased-in Medicaid expansion.” The decision is significant because after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June made the Medicaid expansion optional, several states floated the idea of a smaller expansion. The Sebelius letter is in response to the Republican Governors Association’s letter to the White House with requests regarding state implementation of ObamaCare. The Republican governors, who will lead 60 percent of states starting in January 2013, posed 20 questions regarding exchange implementation and 14 regarding Medicaid expansion and stated that they would not be able to move forward unless the questions were addressed by HHS. Source: Kaiser Health News

Pay for delay: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a case that has the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accusing generic drug makers of violating competition laws by agreeing to accept $42 million in annual payments in exchange for not selling cheaper generic versions of a more-expensive brand-name gel. The companies maintain their actions were legal and immune from FTC scrutiny. Source: Reuters   

The gift that keeps on giving: Your medical plan is facing an unexpected expense, so you probably are, too. It’s a new, $63-per-head fee to cushion the cost of covering people with pre-existing conditions under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. The charge, buried in a recent regulation, works out to tens of millions of dollars for the largest companies, employers say. Most of that is likely to be passed on to workers. Source: Huffington Post

Disease research: Ten drug makers and 23 academic institutions are establishing StemBANCC, an academic-industry partnership to use human-induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells as tools for drug discovery and research. Their goal is to generate and characterize 1,500 stem cell lines from 500 patients, “that can be used by researchers to study a range of diseases including diabetes and dementia,” a project coordinator said. (About iPS cells: Most adult cells can only divide to produce other cells of the same type. For example, skin cells can only make other skin cells, and liver cells can only make other liver cells. But in recent years researchers have developed a way of reprogramming ordinary adult cells to create stem cells that can be used to generate any kind of cell.) Source: Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News 

Drug approvals up: Through November, the Food and Drug Administration had approved 31 new drugs this year for conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, multiple sclerosis and cancer. The number is the highest since it approved 36 in 2004. For the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 and using a more inclusive definition of new drugs, the agency said last week that it had granted 35 new approvals.

Quotes of Note

“There’s lots of people in this world who spend so much time watching their health that they haven’t the time to enjoy it.” – Josh Billings 

“If I’d known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” – Leon Eldred 

“Be careful about reading health books.  You may die of a misprint.” – Mark Twain

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