Health Policy News and Views
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd
“Health Reform 2.0: The Great Debate”: Are you a member of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation? If so, it gets you a discount rate to attend the first face-to-face debate between two of the nation’s most influential health care experts as they battle with ideas regarding the future of health reform in the United States: John Goodman, a key thought leader for free market solutions and Dr. Kenneth Thorpe, who worked in the Clinton administration on “HillaryCare,” has been an advisor to Congress, and has been a key resource to most every Democratic presidential nominee during the last 20 years. The conference is hosted by the Institute for Healthcare Consumerism at the Galleria Centre in Cobb County. For a special price of $159 – which will expire April 15 – Foundation members can attend the events of Wednesday, May 7. This includes the Great Debate and Opening Night Reception. To find out more. go to www.theihccforum.com/2014-ihc-forum-and-expo/ or email me.
Healthy counties: If you live in Forsyth County, Ga., congratulations! You’re in Georgia’s healthiest county. The County Health Rankings were produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. They examined all 57 states to determine health based on 29 outcomes and factors, including smoking, obesity, excessive drinking, high school graduation rates, violent crime, unemployment, housing problems and more.
Keep Calm and Carry On: Heed this health warning as you sit down to do your tax returns this month. Anger is bad for your health! A flash of anger could send the body down a path ending in a heart attack or stroke, a systematic review showed. Although relatively few studies have explored the link between short bouts of anger and cardiovascular events in the hours immediately following the outburst, the evidence is consistent in showing a direct relationship, say researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health .But it’s not clear how substantial the risk is, the researchers reported online in the European Heart Journal. Source: Medpagetoday.com
The wrong antibiotic: Most patients are treated in community hospitals, which is why it’s scary to read that researchers found more than one patient in three treated for a bloodstream infection in community hospitals got inappropriate antibiotic therapy. In a study involving nine community hospitals, 38 percent of patients were treated incorrectly, according to Duke University researchers. Source: Medpagetoday.com
Deadline? What deadline? ObamaCare’s exchange enrollment has passed its suggested deadline of March 31, but if you haven’t signed up for health insurance, no worries. “If you were trying to enroll on our system by the March 31 enrollment deadline for coverage in 2014 and didn’t finish, we may still be able to help you get covered,” the Department of Health and Human Services wrote in a post on the Healthcare.gov site.
You can keep your 7 million … After all those months of pleading ignorance on enrollment numbers, isn’t it weird how the administration can suddenly come up with exact numbers on enrollments the day after the suggested deadline? And isn’t it weird how they can’t come up with how many have actually paid for their plan? Or how many were people who lost their plan despite the president’s promise that they could keep their plan?
Affordable care: Health care expenses grew 5.6 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2013, the highest growth rate recorded in the past decade, according to a report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The acceleration was largely because of an $8 billion increase in hospital revenue in the fourth quarter, more than the previous four quarters combined, according to the Census Bureau and Royal Bank of Scotland. USA Today notes that the development could foreshadow higher costs for consumers this year.
What’s behind ObamaCare? An article in Investor’s Business Daily maintains that ObamaCare was never about health but about wealth redistribution.”What’s really at work is breathtaking arrogance of power by the federal government — a Washington, D.C., takeover of health care,” writes Cato Institute Board Chairman Robert A. Levy as he opines on the Hobby Lobby case that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the land of dumb ideas, this protectionist one is king: Becker’s Hospital Review reports that the Federation of State Medical Boards is considering a proposed telemedicine policy that would require physicians to be licensed in the patient’s state in order to deliver care remotely. The requirement is based on a belief that “the practice of medicine occurs where the patient is located,” and therefore physicians who treat patients or prescribe medicine remotely “must possess appropriate licensure in all jurisdictions where patients receive care,” according to the proposed policy. It’s not as if we have looming physician shortage or anything. Right?
Telemedicine savings I: Florida TaxWatch recently released a report that found increasing the use of telemedicine in Florida to provide the appropriate level of care to more patients could save Floridians more than $1 billion annually.
Telemedicine savings II: Insurers are embracing telemedicine as a cost-efficient, reliable means of delivering many care services, Becker’s Hospital Review reports. Through a partnership with American Well, WellPoint beneficiaries have access to American Well’s Online Care platform and are able to connect with physicians via video, secure online chat or telephone. In the next 12 to 18 months, WellPoint expects to expand the service to reach 32.5 million members, according to a Bloomberg report. Users of the service, LiveHealth Online, save an average of $71 per visit and, instead of traveling to a physician’s office, most patients saved two or three hours of time, according to the report.
Hey. Fatty. U shd lose w8: My very tall friend Erik Telford (see photo) writes in RedState today that the Obama administration plans to send text messages to fat people and offer online weigh-ins to help the country’s obese population get down to what a cartel of career academics considers to be a healthy weight. “To tell Obama’s armada of academics to keep their hands off our diets, let’s tweet at them with #ObamasHungerGames and #FatPolice,” Telford suggests. “And I’d love to hear your most creative slogans and motivational texts that the government could send our full-figured friends. Tweet them to me @BlameTelford or email them to me at Telford@franklincenterhq.org. Winner gets a Big Gulp.”
Got one for you, Erik. R U 2 short 4 UR W8 2?
These apps were made for walking: The New York Times has an article on several nifty pedometer apps that you can download to your smartphone and keep track of how many steps you fall short of the required 10,000 steps. They’re for Android and iPhone, and most of them are free.
Hospitalization savings: What if unnecessary hospitalizations could be prevented? Chest pain sends more than 15 million people to emergency rooms in the United States and Europe each year, and it usually turns out to be due to anxiety, indigestion or other less-serious things than a heart attack. A new test is available that accurately rules out heart attacks. A large study in Sweden found that a blood test plus the usual electrocardiogram of the heartbeat were 99 percent accurate at showing which patients could safely be sent home rather than be admitted for observation and more diagnostics. The test has been available in Europe, Asia and Canada for about three years. Unfortunately, it’s not yet available in the United States.
Good drug for bad cholesterol: A new class of drugs known as PCSK9 inhibitors demonstrates the ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels by 50-66 percent. If approved, PCSK9 inhibitors would be the first new cholesterol treatment to reach the market since the appearance of statins 25 years ago. Clinical outcomes are still needed to show whether lowering LDL will result in a reduction of cardiovascular events, such as stroke and heart attack. Drug companies are vying in a market that includes millions of patients who can’t control their cholesterol with statins, which are among the most widely used and most lucrative drugs ever developed by the pharmaceutical industry, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Quotes of Note
“ObamaCare lines might have been impressive if they’d begun to form in the last days of September. At the end of open enrollment, the White House boast is akin to the IRS’s citing a “surge” in filing of tax returns two weeks from now as evidence that the income tax system is popular and well designed.” – James Taranto