Checking Up on Health

By Benita Dodd

Benita Dodd, Vice President, Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Health Policy Briefs: July 24, 2012

– What’s in YOUR wallet? Health care expert Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, is a frequent contributor to Forbes magazine and is scheduled to participate in the Foundation’s Georgia Legislative Policy Briefing on Friday, September 21, in Atlanta. Turner’s column in Forbes this week warns that the “tax” that you’ll pay for not buying government-approved health insurance is a lot more than you think.

The individual mandate section of the federal health law (ObamaCare) outlines the structure of the “taxes” that must be paid by those who don’t get coverage, starting at $95 a year the first year for individuals. Many people are thinking it will be much cheaper to simply pay the tax than to buy policies that will cost thousands of dollars more.
“Most news reports have emphasized that refusal to comply with the health insurance mandate subjects these ‘scofflaws’ to a ‘modest fee,'” Turner writes. “But some citizens could face much higher tax taxes — $12,000 a year or more — for failing to comply.” Read more here:
– Justice Roberts ‘eviscerated’ health care law: In her July 12 column in Forbes, Grace-Marie Turner opines that, “In his tortured effort to preserve the health overhaul statute, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has eviscerated it.”  “Conservative lawyers consoled themselves in defeat by focusing on the silver linings in Roberts’ legal rationale, but there is no such consolation from the conservative policy perspective. And while liberals were initially elated that the court had left the law standing, they, too, are anguished. The central goal of the law was to increase access to health  insurance toward their holy grail of universal coverage, but Roberts destroyed that by making enrollment in private health insurance and the Medicaid expansion optional.” Read more here
– Taking on TB: After decades rampaging across the globe, tuberculosis may soon have a real fight on its hands, reports. A new three-in-one drug combination called PaMZ could for the first time dramatically shorten treatment and tackle both ordinary and multi-drug-resistant strains of TB.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 2010 that there are 12 million prevalent cases of TB globally, with an estimated 650,000 of them multi-drug-resistant cases. PaMZ could wipe out several resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis – the cause of most cases of TB – which have been spreading through South Africa, India and the countries that made up the former Soviet Union. What’s more, it could work in a sixth of the time of existing treatments, at a tenth of the cost – as well as slashing by a third the number of pills required.
Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO’s Stop TB campaign, said the new treatment is “simpler, less toxic and much cheaper” than existing regimes. It also shows promise in treating TB in HIV-positive people, a real problem in sub-Saharan Africa.
– Investments paying dividends: Earlier this year, Foundation Senior Fellow Ross Mason wrote an Issue Analysis, “Health Care: A Road Map to Innovation,” which highlighted how Georgia is well positioned to be a leader in global health innovation, with a competitive advantage in manyareas that can drive early-stage job creation. A new report from should encourage Georgia to seize the opportunity for job creation and economic development: Life science venture capitalists are apparently hitting more of their investments out of the park. There were 17 so-called “Big Exits” for investors in privately held biotech companies and 18 in the medical device business in 2011, the most of any year since 2005 in a new set of data analyzed by Silicon Valley Bank. A “Big Exit” is each time a venture-backed life sciences company is acquired for an up-front payment  worth at least $75 million.
“Ironically, the increase in ‘Big Exit’ returns comes at a tough period for the industry, as tech investing in companies like Facebook, Groupon and Zynga has overshadowed all  things biotech,” the report notes. Many investors are clearly worried about how much time and money it takes to invest in new drugs, devices, and diagnostics, when regulatory barriers are high at the FDA and insurers are looking hard for ways to get health spending under control. In summary, the report suggests that investors with patience are able to cherry-pick among the companies.
– Quote of note: “In a nutshell, the mainstream media depends on health reporters for news about the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). But the health reporters aren’t functioning like real reporters these days. All too often they are uncritically passing along messages that appear in White House press releases. Or, they are allowing politicians and agents of the Obama administration to spin the effects of health reform without serious challenge.” – John Goodman
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