Articles Posted in Health Care Reform

capitolus-300x200It may be tempting to get caught up in cynical views of congressional lawmaking, budgeting, and spending — seeing it as gross “sausage making” or in sporting “who wins and who loses” score-keeping.

But for anyone who believes that health care in the wealthiest nation in the world ought to be a right and not a privilege, much is at stake in deliberations under way and, perhaps, soon to reach culmination.

It is difficult to predict exactly what will happen with President Biden’s agenda and his “Build Back Better” package, which contains major proposals that would improve Americans’ health.

bloodtest-300x200Lights are flashing and alarms are blaring. A health care nightmare is growing before us and threatens the future of the nation: Younger people — those under age 40 or even age 50 — are sicker than they should be, and their conditions are worsening, not improving, especially with the destructive coronavirus pandemic.

An independent and highly respected federal advisory panel has just recommended a drop in the age at which doctors should screen overweight adults for diabetes and prediabetes, urging that a fasting blood test or possibly a glucose tolerance test be given to these patients and lifestyle questions be posed to them at age 35, not at 40 years old, as was the previous advice.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) — elite specialists who review tests and screenings for their effectiveness and usefulness and issue recommendations that hold big sway, notably with insurers — said that diabetes poses serious and growing risks to young adults. They can benefit from earlier interventions, such as changes in diet and lifestyle, that can prevent prediabetes from developing into a chronic, and potentially debilitating or even fatal condition. As experts reported in an accompanying editorial, published in an online section of the Journal of the American Medical Association:

hospitalinvesting-khn-300x106In an unbelievable fiscal oasis surrounding a spot that a newspaper columnist dubbed Baghdad by the Bay, slick dudes who call themselves VCs (as in venture capitalists) scurry around carrying the equivalent of magic wands and sacks of money in pursuit of elusive unicorns — rare start-up enterprises that Wall Street will value at $1 billion or more.

The sky-high stakes in this modern equivalent of an investing casino typically deters more cautious investors. But apparently not an increasing number of hospitals, which, of course, describe themselves, especially for tax purposes, as nonprofits, reports Jordan Rau of the Kaiser Health News (KHN) service.

As he laid out in a recent article:

diabetesreuterrise-300x120More than 100,000 people in this country died last year due to diabetes. That’s 17% more than the year before. And in younger age groups, it’s even worse: deaths from diabetes climbed 29% last year  among those ages 25-44, federal data show.

The figures should raise huge alarms that diabetes, as exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, is “out of control,” reported Chad Terhune, Robin Respaut, and Deborah J. Nelson for Reuters news service.

Their investigation, including an analysis of federal data to draw a depressing depiction of diabetes’ significant damages to the health of millions of Americans, found that the pandemic only begins to show huge failures in the care of what should be a manageable illness:

commonwealthintlcomp-300x196The U.S. health care system, again, ranks last among 11 high-income countries — the seventh such time it trailed its peers since a leading, independent nonprofit conducted its first study in 2004.

The Commonwealth Fund, in its latest published research, says it examined 71 different measures to study health systems in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

commonweatlhspend2019-300x194The U.S. performed worst among these countries, based on surveys conducted in each country and administrative data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Health Organization, the Washington Post reported. Eric Schneider, the lead author behind the findings and Fund senior vice president for policy and research, told the newspaper:

debtmedicalnytjuly2021-300x250A scandal of the U.S. health system may be far worse than imagined, with the medical debt sold to collection agencies alone amounting to a staggering $140 billion.

The $140 billion estimate came from researchers who published in a medical journal and found that such unpaid sums had increased significantly from an $84 billion calculation in a similar 2016 study, the New York Times reported (see excellent chart, courtesy of the newspaper).

The newspaper noted the debt estimate is an ugly number hanging over the finances of tens of millions of patients who are too often poor and uninsured — debtors who could benefit significantly, if politicians in their states had expanded Medicaid coverage for them as allowed under the Affordable Care Act:

Patients, politicians, and regulators may find it tough to believe, so they need sharp periodic reminders: While there are many terrific, dedicated doctors working today, there also are some truly terrible ones. And dealing with the harms of medical malpractice by the incompetent and abusive can require courage and vigilance.

  • Perhaps a new, streamed Hollywood serial — starring the likes of Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, AnnaSophia Robb, and Joshua Jackson — can underscore for the public how grisly the results can be until a rare criminal prosecution derails the likes of Christopher Duntsch, a Dallas surgeon so grim he is nicknamed “Dr. Death?”

scotusbldg-300x193It’s three strikes now from the U.S. Supreme Court: Have Republicans finally gotten themselves thrown out of their game to strip tens of millions of Americans of their health insurance?

The conservative-packed high court, in a 7-2 vote, rejected the latest and third GOP attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans in Congress also have failed to kill in more than five dozen votes over more than a decade.

The case decided by the justices — supported by the Trump Administration and brought by attorneys general in Republican-controlled states like Texas and opposed by their counterparts in Democratic-controlled states — proved to be the legal equivalent of a belly flop.

brooks-lasureandbecerra-300x240Chiquita Brooks-LaSure has won U.S. Senate confirmation and will become the first black woman to lead the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS.

The longtime government official, who was an adviser to President Obama and has served in multiple other top federal roles (shown right, with her boss, Health and Human Services head Xavier Becerra), jumps into a role with gigantic challenges. These include:

  • The administration by her agency of federal health insurance programs, including for children and those covered under the Affordable Care Act. The Biden Administration and Democrats, as part of coronavirus pandemic rescue efforts, bolstered Obamacare and opened enrollment in it, with subsidies, to millions of Americans slammed by the coronavirus pandemic. But those efforts, which have boosted ACA enrollment, also will need renewed legislative support — which may occur right as the midterm elections are under way. CMS also may be a key part of some Democrats’ plans to improve health care coverage in this country by lowering the qualifying age for Medicare for 60-something Americans who often must pay staggering premiums and who lose jobs and employer-related coverage at scary rates. This is an idea that Republicans reject.
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