Articles Posted in Statistics

newmitch-300x176After weeks of huddling in partisan secrecy, majority Republicans in the U.S. Senate have coughed up what they’ve dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act , aka their version of Trumpcare.

In brief, the GOP Senate bill would:

  • Slash Medicaid, faster and more than the House version, aka the American Health Care Act

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Although most Americans finally may be breaking out of cigarette smoking’s killer grip, Big Tobacco keeps inflicting terrible harm on some of the nation’s most vulnerable—the poor, uneducated, and those who live in rural areas.

The federal Centers for Disease Control has just offered its annual assessment on Americans’ smoking habits, providing some rare good news about most of us and especially kids: Cigarette smoking among the nation’s youth is diving to new lows, and the use of smokeless or e-cigarettes for “vaping” showed its first declines.

Anti-smoking campaigns may be working, persuading teens and many adults to avoid smoking or to quit the bad habit that has been proven to cause cancers and to contribute to heart disease and other damaging conditions, the CDC says. The agency also notes that youth vaping and smoking may have declined due to new age-based restrictions on product sales and advertising.

kid-belts-300x300Keeping kids safe is a constant challenge. Here are some new cautions from recent news reports:

Seat belts save lives—if used, and correctly

Although seat belts can be big lifesavers and a major way to protect passengers from injury, they don’t work if they’re not used—and correctly—especially with children. More than 4 in 10 youngsters killed in vehicular crashes between 2010 and 2014 were improperly restrained, particularly in vehicles’ front seat, or they weren’t buckled in at all, researchers found after studying National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

mitchPresident Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress haven’t repealed the Affordable Care Act. Yet.

Still, analyses show how, as one critic said, the GOP plans a big move of federal money from “health to wealth”—to take support from the poor and middle class, especially from the very voters who put Trump in office, to finance a $1 trillion tax cut for the rich, Big Pharma, medical device makers, and, yes, operators of tanning salons.

There’s been a huge amount of press coverage, but look at some key health care numbers—from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the White House, and health policy experts— and see if this motivates you to get in touch with your elected officials:

PE-Color-240x300As partisans race to fulfill their seven-year political pledge to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, aka  Obamacare, their rhetoric has collided with reality, posing huge questions as to how responsibly they will act in the days ahead in regard to Americans’ health.

Curiously, the new president made no mention of health care in his inaugural address, and the White House web site, when it changed over, did not list this among top issues for the new administration.

But late Friday, President Trump signed an executive order, just several paragraphs long, that directed federal agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay” ACA rules — a move, symbolically if nothing else, to gut Obamacare, by undercutting, for example,  enforcement of its key requirement for Americans to carry health insurance or face penalties.

price-portrait-300x253The Republican-controlled Senate has launched itself in a late-night session on the path to its long-pledged repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The GOP-controlled House on  Friday the 13th followed close behind.

Lawmakers have chosen a complex parliamentary path. GOP members are expressing confusion about their way forward, even as doubts are being voiced by GOP governors in states where the ACA has expanded health care for the poor through Medicaid. The president-elect has called for swift action — insisting on not just Obamacare’s repeal but also its replacement with an undefined plan that he says will provide health care coverage that’s better than what exists now and for more Americans.

With big, many, and byzantine legislative steps needing to be taken even beyond “repeal,” can the ACA be replaced, too — and with what?

money-300x193What if you bought the hottest car around, only to find a neighbor found a model just as sporty and paid much less? How would you react if you opened your credit card bill and learned that the family budget was in tatters because your daughter commuted a few blocks to school by taxi, and your son had racked up huge charges for junky electronic gadgets and questionable movies online? Your consternation would be a tiny fraction of the great concern that most of us should experience due to a new study that finds that Americans spent $3.2 trillion on health care in 2014.

If you’re like me, when figures get that big, they become hard to grasp. But for comparison’s sake, the United States’ medical spending  exceeded the 2015 gross domestic product (the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a given country’s borders in a specific time period) for the economies of: Britain, France, Canada, Russia, Italy, Mexico, Indonesia, Australia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and the Netherlands.

Americans spent more on back and neck pain than Russia did on its military and national defense.

cdc death causesImportant indicators about Americans’ health and well-being are trending the wrong way: For the first time in almost a quarter century, the nation’s life expectancy has declined.  Meantime, fatal overdoses by Americans taking opioid drugs continued to surge and exceeded 30,000 in 2015. And abuse of heroin has exceeded that of traditional prescription painkillers, with deaths due to heroin-related causes surpassing gun homicides.

Experts were surprised by the life expectancy decline, which reflected an increase in eight of the top 10 causes of death (see figure right from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics) including heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s—but not cancer.

It may be a statistical blip from one particularly bad year. The last time a comparable dip occurred was in 1993 due to high rates of deaths from HIV-AIDS, flu, homicides, and accidental deaths. Some experts said the decline in life expectancy, which for men fell on average in years from 78.9 to 78.8, may be attributable to increasing issues with Americans and obesity, and health care hitting limits on progress against heart disease.

seqcore_slider_img_resizedAlthough doctors and hospitals report potentially sunnier news by the day about novel cancer treatments, it’s also worth keeping in mind that difficult obstacles like data misinterpretation still must be worked out to avoid endangering patients. The therapies themselves as well as cancer care overall can be crushing in their costs. And some experts also are raising questions about Big Pharma and the independence of advocacy groups that patients and families often turn to when diagnosed with different cancers.

Let’s start with the ray of optimism that the Washington Post reported for patients with advanced lung cancer. It kills more than 160,000 Americans annually, and isn’t diagnosed often until it reaches late stages. Lung cancer, the Post says, retains its stigma because of its proven link to smoking. Both smokers—and nonsmokers who also may develop the disease for many other complex reasons—are blamed for causing their own illness.

Oncologists have begun to look at this cancer not as one but many different disease, and the paper says immunotherapy may improve outcomes for a slice of late-stage patients, halting the disease’s spread and without the significant side-effects of current chemo or radiation treatments. In immunotherapy, patients’ cancers are tested to determine which drugs may best target and destroy tumors by unleashing the bodies’ own disease-fighting (immunity) systems.

smoke_devilAmerican adults’ cigarette smoking keeps declining, but this “persistent and preventable health threat” takes a terrible toll on those who still light up, with 40 percent of cancer diagnoses in the country linked to tobacco use, public health experts say.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that between 2005 and 2015, “smoking among adults declined from 20.9 percent, or 45.1 million people, to 15.1 percent, or 36.5 million. The overall rate fell 1.7 percentage points last year alone, resulting in the lowest prevalence since the CDC began collecting data in 1965,” the Washington Post notes.

That might sound like good news. But CDC Director Tom Frieden also told reporters, “Of the 36 million current smokers, nearly half could die prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses, including 6 million from cancer, unless we implement the programs that will help smokers quit.”

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