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Healthcare Reform And A Divided Congress

Republicans who had opposed healthcare reform before the election are now elected officials with a say in how the programs are funded. At federal and state levels, the program’s opponents either have a larger voice or are now in charge of implementing elements of reform. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid said he’d consider adjustments to healthcare reform.

Frightened seniors flipped toward opposition to healthcare reform, while flipping on the issue may have saved a few Democrats. Exit polling showed 48 percent would repeal healthcare reform, 16 percent would leave it as is, and 31 percent would expand it.

Now that Republicans have a larger say in the matter, take a look at their plan for healthcare in A Pledge to America, starting on page 25, and decide for yourself. (New York Times, Kaiser Health News, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Politico, CBS News,

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Medicaid In A Squeeze

New reports peg Medicaid’s future as dismal and unsustainable, as states struggle for ways to pay for the rising costs of caring for their poorest residents. The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions study, “Medicaid Long-Term Care: The Ticking Time Bomb,” estimates Medicaid costs will nearly double as a percentage of state budgets by 2030, or perhaps nearly triple.

Meanwhile, the Urban Institute for the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimates Medicaid expansion will cost $464.7 billion by 2019. The federal government will cover $443.5 billion (95.4 percent) and the states will cover the remaining $21.2 billion. Minnesota won’t expand its Medicaid program until 2014 because of budget fears. Connecticut will. (The Fiscal Times, MedPage Today, Reuters, U.S. House Rep. John B. Larson)

U.S. Senators, meanwhile, are looking to phase out federal subsidies Medicaid as a way of pushing through stalled legislation – the same package that had included the “doc fix.” Speaking of that, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate may soon turn its attention away from that toward other issues. (Wall Street Journal, The Hill, ABC News)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

For Medicare Patients, “The Doctor Is Out”

In a last-minute shocker, the Senate voted Thursday against postponing a scheduled 21-percent cut in Medicare reimbursement to physicians and other healthcare providers. Sixty senators were needed to end filibuster debate and stop the cuts under Senate rules. Fifty six voted in favor, while 40 opposed. There was no Republican support. (And, of course, no support from Senator Lieberman, who is a Republican in disguise.)

Another consequence of the vote is that tens of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits would not be eligible for more. In addition, new taxes on wealthy investment managers would not be imposed, along with an increase in liability taxes on oil companies, leading Democrats to contend that Republicans were protecting Wall Street and the oil industry, according to the New York Times.

“We’re not going to give up,” said Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader. “We know the American people only have us to depend on.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Congress Acts On Doc Fix: Music To Doctors’ Ears

Leading members of the Senate Finance Committee came to an agreement Thursday night on a six-month “doc fix,” paving the way for physicians to be reimbursed a little more for seeing Medicare patients instead of a lot less. (This is now separate from the rest of the legislative package it had been part of, which is still under debate.)

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that without passage, there’d be “havoc in America.” But the American Medical Association (AMA) continued its attack on anything less than a permanent solution. The AMA compared it to fiddling while Rome burns. What tune are members of Congress playing?

A) Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees
B) Doctor, Doctor! by the Thompson Twins
C) Time to Get Ill by the Beastie Boys

(The Hill, Politico, American Medical Association)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Why Would Health Insurers Tell Congress: Please Hurry!?

One would think American health insurance companies would be caterwauling about the provisions laid out for them in the healthcare reform legislation which Harry Reid (and a few of his elves) assembled for us Americans in their secret workshop just before Christmas.

On their face, those provisions do not appear to allow insurance companies a viable business model. Insurers under Reid’s bill would be required to accept all comers, regardless of age or underlying medical conditions. They would be required to cover all manner of healthcare services, including outpatient and inpatient services, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse services, rehabilitative services, lab services, preventive and wellness services, chronic disease management, prescription drugs, dental care, and eye care. They would be limited in what they can charge in the way of insurance premiums, and their profits (if by some miracle there were any), would be strictly capped. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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