Checking Up On Health: January 6, 2015

January 6th, 2015 by 1 Comment

Health Policy News and Views
Compiled by Benita Dodd


Happy New Year and welcome back to Checking Up On Health, where I’m back to sharing news and views on health care and policy!

It’s old news now that bitterly cold weather is approaching Georgia this week. I have fond memories of being one of the thousands trapped in icy weather for 12 hours in January 2014. People spent nights and days stuck on the interstate, in stores and hotels and schools. I traveled slowly home to Cobb County from the State Capitol, well aware that if I stopped, I’d be stuck for days.

I’m not going to tell you to wear a hat or dress in layers or put on gloves. If you read this, you’re smarter than the average bear. But it’s not the extreme weather that’s likely to kill you. In fact, according to, more than 600 weather-related deaths occur each year, but just one in four deaths is due to temperature extremes.

Unfortunately, about 11,500 injuries requiring medical treatment occur each year from shoveling – more than half from exertion, 20 percent from falls and nearly 7 percent from cardiac problems. And inside the home, 50 percent of home heating fires are reported in December, January and February. 

We’re in Georgia, and I’m going to assume that you bears know not to put your hand in a snowblower, even if you don’t own one. I will repeat EHSToday’s suggestion, however, that you equip your vehicle with a winter storm kit that includes blankets, a flashlight, a cellphone with charger and extra batteries, a shovel, first-aid kit, non-perishable food, extra warm clothes and a water container. I had everything except a shovel in my car (none of it placed there on purpose!) for the 2014 storm.

A scarf could help. Notice how I didn’t discount scarves earlier? That’s because a friend just shared an article suggesting a scarf could actually help ward off both the cold weather and the common cold. Yale University has found that when core body temperature inside the nose falls, the immune system does not work as well to fight the cold virus. One in five people carries the rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of the common cold, in their nasal passages at any one time. Mostly the immune system stops the virus taking hold, but as the temperature drops, so does the body’s ability to fight off the intruder. So wearing a warm scarf over the nose may not stop the virus entering in the first place, but could boost the ability to tackle it. Source: Calgary Herald

Self-diagnosis and doctors: In case you missed my whining ways on Facebook, I took very ill in December and gave a feverish keynote speech at the Gilmer County TEA Party’s Christmas dinner. I suspected it was my usual sinus infection and told the doctor at the urgent care center so, but they had to upsize the diagnostic process. They couldn’t “just hand over antibiotics,” I was told. They tested me first for strep throat, then for the flu (I’d had a flu shot) and THEN only conducted a blood test (white cell count elevated = “bacterial infection,” aka sinusitis.) I was not happy. When we say physicians should listen, this is what we mean.  My immune system had taken such a hit that I broke out in cold sores around my mouth and nose. When I called to ask for a prescription for the herpes outbreak, I was told I’d have to come in to see the doctor to verify the diagnosis. Really? I got a second opinion. I looked in the mirror and the diagnosis, to my layperson’s eye, was “nickeled and dimed.”

Walk softly and carry hand sanitizer: Flu activity in Georgia is now at the highest level the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures for five straight weeks. It’s the first time that has happened in five years. So far this flu season, the CDC has confirmed 13 flu-related deaths in Georgia. Over 450 people were hospitalized for the flu in the metro area. Health officials said so far there are 26 flu outbreaks statewide. Source: WSBTV

Medicaid reimbursement drops: Reimbursements to primary care doctors under Medicaid just went down in Georgia and many other states. The Affordable Care Act had awarded primary care doctors treating Medicaid patients a two-year pay increase, funded entirely with federal money, and pushed their Medicaid pay to the level of Medicare reimbursement. But that additional Medicaid reimbursement, which went to family physicians, pediatricians and internists, ended Jan. 1, resulting in a pay cut for them. The end of the federally funded raise means that Medicaid fees in Georgia will now be reduced by 34.8 percent, according to a recent Urban Institute study and there’s no sign Georgia will make up the difference, according to Andy Miller of Georgia Health News. If Georgia is reluctant to expand Medicaid because of the cost, isn’t this a good time to do so … while the cost is down? No? That’s not how it works?

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