Health Policy News and Views
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd
Georgia has been plagued with more than its fair share of bad weather for a Southeastern winter; hundreds of thousands were left without power for days. The weekend’s earthquake was almost the last straw, as residents vowed they’re moving if they see as much as ONE locust! Icejam 2014 brought metro Atlanta – and my Checking Up on Health roundup – to a standstill on January 28. I hope you and yours pulled through the mess with minimal damage. Read my commentary on the positive aspects of the weather disaster here.
A few points of “foundational privilege” before Checking Up On Health: (To paraphrase President Obama, “That’s the good thing about being the author: I can do whatever I want.”)
Will you rally for Moise? Last year, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s Legislative Policy Forum highlighted triple amputee Moise Brutus, a young man who lost both legs and an arm in a motorcycle wreck. Thanks to Florida’s Medicaid reform, Moise came back and has flourished physically and psychologically. At the time, he was training for the 2016 Paralympics U.S. cycling team. Unfortunately, Moise’s custom bicycle was destroyed recently in a hit-and-run incident. A replacement bicycle for this courageous young man will cost $4,000, and friends and supporters are raising money so he can get back on and continue his training. Our friends at the Foundation for Government Accountability are spearheading the effort. Your contribution of S10, $20 or more can make a dream come true. Go to https://rally.org/MoiseBrutus/c/gP64My3fSAh to contribute.
It’s like ‘Google it’: It’s now commonly referred to as ObamaCare, the federal health law that President Obama championed – and has “unilaterally delayed” 20 times since 2013, according to Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. Officially, it’s the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It’s shortened by the politically correct media to the Affordable Care Act, or PPACA or ACA. Opponents began derisively calling it ObamaCare at first. I took to calling it ObamaCare a couple of years ago, because I believed he needed to take ownership of it. But guess what? He’s really proud of it being named after him. “I like it, Obama said in an interview with Charles Barkley on Sunday. at aired Sunday evening on MSNBC. “I don’t mind.” “I tell you, five years from now, when everybody’s saying, ‘Man, I’m sure glad we got health care,’ there are going to be a whole bunch of people who don’t call it ObamaCare anymore because they don’t want me to get the credit,” the president added. Democrats apparently don’t want to get the credit either!
Crossing the line: Seventy-seven percent of voters think employers and individuals should be allowed to buy insurance plans across state lines, something that is now prohibited by law, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey released Monday. That’s up from 71 percent in the previous survey and is the highest level of support measured for this type of choice in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Eleven percent believe they should only be allowed to buy plans approved for their state while 12 percent are not sure.
Sweet news: With a mother and grandmother who died of complications from diabetes, R&D on this disease is near and dear to my heart. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America announced last week that more than 180 new diabetes medicines are either being developed or are under FDA review. Of them, 30 are focused on type 1 diabetes treatment, 100 are for type 2 diabetes and 52 would treat diabetes-related disorders.
Test tube lungs: Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch have grown human lungs in a lab, raising hopes to one day address donor shortages. Researchers combined the shell of a damaged lung with viable cells from another lung and submerged them in nutrient-rich liquid, growing an engineered lung. Scientists say it will be at least 12 years before the engineered lungs could be ready for transplant trials. Stem cell specialists have been working on growing lung tissue for some years, but the lung is a complex organ, which presents more problems than regenerating other organ tissue, such as human skin. Source: Medical News Today
GMO bogeyman: I’ll be first to admit that genetically modified (GM) foods used to scare me. But the more I read about the nutritional and agricultural advantages the provided, especially for developing nations, the less I fear and the more I welcome them. National Review Online had a great article recently that that highlights why women should ignore the anti-GMO scare tactics and points out: “The latest analysis, which examined more than 1,700 separate studies on GM food, was conducted at the University of Perugia and published in the September issue of Critical Reviews in Biotechnology. The researchers found no instances of harm, to humans or to animals, caused by GM food, nor did researchers find any evidence that GM food is toxic or allergenic. Researchers also debunked the claim that GM crops damage the environment. This is only the latest study among hundreds of independent studies with similar findings.”
Bridging the technology gap: The vast majority of physicians use mobile devices at work, but few use them to access patients’ electronic health records (EHRs). A survey of 3,000 physicians across 22 specialties found 78 percent of physicians use smartphones and 51 percent use tablets in a professional capacity. But just 8 percent of physicians access EHRs with a smartphone and 17 percent access them with a tablet. Source: Becker’s Hospital Review
Pricing transparency: If legislation under consideration in Idaho passes, consumers could soon be able to compare costs for hospitals’ top 50 most common inpatient and outpatient procedures, according to an Idaho Press report. A consumer-friendly Web site and mobile application would show costs for hospitals’ 50 most common inpatient and outpatient procedures, along with the 25 most common surgical procedures, updated on a quarterly basis.
What’s in store for 2014? Becker’s Hospital Review looks at eight trends to watch in health care in 2014. Among them, an increase in home-based care and several trends toward consumer-driven care: giving a large role to personal responsibility, such as health coaches, employee incentives and a focus on chronic care. Last but not least on the list: “Partnerships will expand to facilitate new approaches to care delivery.” That includes community-based groups, such as social service agencies, gyms and other non-health care service providers, as the industry strives to better manage the health of patient populations, according to the report. And that’s great: Georgia is one of the leaders when it comes to charity networks. Also, just when you thought it was over, No. 6 is “Big health care policy changes lie in wait.”
Government quantity over quality: The Food and Drug Administration is creating an Office of Pharmaceutical Quality whose focus will include branded, generic and over-the-counter medications. (Isn’t that the FDA’s job already?) According to Bloomberg News, the move is prompted by regulators’ drug quality concerns, such as those that have banned U.S. sales of generic medicines from several Indian manufacturing plants. The FDA is talking with the pharmaceutical industry to develop data that may signal which manufacturing plants are straying from standards and need inspection. Or, as one official put it, “These people aren’t in trouble yet but they could be.”
Quotes of Note
“In December, Covered California wrote me a letter explaining why it could not release the public records I had requested about its navigators’ criminal histories, offering statistics as a compromise. It cited ‘deliberative process privilege,’ and it also claimed that releasing the records would violate the privacy of the navigators. (Odd, isn’t it, that the criminal navigators’ privacy rights are apparently valued more than consumers’ privacy rights?)” – Jillian Kay Melchoir
“The problem is not whether we need health reform; it is what kind of reform. To date, the PPACA has been plagued by poor design, poor execution and spectacular political missteps, amounting to a failure of basic competence and oversight.” – Chuck Lauer
As an employer, and a parent and a graduate of Georgia public schools, I am pleased that the Foundation has undertaken this project. (The report card) provides an excellent tool for parents and educators to objectively evaluate our public high schools. It will further serve a useful purpose as a benchmark for the future to measure our schools’ progress.