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Message To The IRS: “Leave Medicine To The Experts”

I saw this via a friend’s Facebook post:

Really, IRS?

Believe it or not, the folks at the IRS think they know more about breastfeeding than doctors and medical researchers.

According to an article in the New York Times, the Internal Revenue Service has determined that breastfeeding “does not have enough health benefits to qualify as a form of medical care.”  Therefore, women cannot count expenses for breastfeeding supplies in their tax-sheltered healthcare spending accounts.

In doing so, the IRS has ignored the guidance of experts at the Department of Health & Human Services and World Health Organization who are actively promoting breastfeeding because of its significant health benefits for mothers and children.

Sign our petition reminding the IRS to leave medicine to the experts!

Oh get real, people!

First of all, you will never — by which I mean not EVER — find someone more supportive of breastfeeding than I am. I nursed my last kid for two whole years, and the only reason I gave up the first time was because there were two of them (kids, that is). So don’t go trying to lump me in with those terrible, mean, unsupportive doctors who are sucking at the teat (pardon the choice of idiom) of the amoral, soulless baby formula manufacturers.

The IRS may have worded the decision poorly, but they are not making medical decisions. They’re not even expressing a medical opinion. They are drawing a line that needs to be drawn between what constitutes “medical care” and “being healthy.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Real Reform In Healthcare

“We want our employees to spend their time on real issues,” said Charlie Salter, VP of Benefits at ConAgra. He means it. Charlie and ConAgra have built their healthcare benefits around some simple concepts that are yielding impressive results. How impressive? Close to flat healthcare cost trend since 2007.

Charlie’s work is part of a growing trend among America’s most innovative companies: Designing healthcare benefits in ways that have a real impact on quality and cost. It’s why I [recently] asked Charlie to share the podium with me in Boca Raton. ConAgra is showing it’s possible to control healthcare costs by helping people do the right thing.

The vision behind ConAgra’s programs is simple: Employees have to be responsible for managing their own care. But, says Charlie, this is easy to say, harder to do. “So we do as much as we can to make it as easy for people to do the right thing.” ConAgra gives its employees a significant financial stake in their well-being, through a health plan that has a $1,500 deductible. ConAgra supplements the plan with a health savings account (HSA) that lets workers use pre-tax dollars to pay for the deductible. Like other HSAs, any money the employee doesn’t spend is theirs to keep. It means employees are more engaged in healthcare decisions. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Healthcare Reform: What We Should Learn From Massachusetts And Indiana

Obamacare is fashioned after the Massachusetts healthcare reform plan. It leaves the administrative services in the hands of the healthcare insurance industry.

Indiana empowers consumers to control their healthcare dollars.

Therein lies the difference between ineffective and effective healthcare reform.

President Obama has even given the State of Massachusetts $8 billion dollars in bailout money to support the failed healthcare reform plan. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Repairing the Healthcare System*

Pay More, Get Less – The Certain Future Of Healthcare

Even with healthcare reform, Americans will increasingly be burdened with high deductibles, more financial responsibility, and less satisfaction with their health insurance for the foreseeable future. Why? Because the healthcare system is unable to transform its services in a manner that other industries have done to improve quality and service while decreasing costs. The two biggest culprits are the mentality of healthcare providers and the fee for service reimbursement system.

Doctors and patients haven’t altered the way they communicate over the past hundred years. Except for the invention of the telephone, an office visit is unchanged. A doctor and patient converse as the physician scribbles notes in a paper chart. Despite the innovations of cell phones, laptop computers, and other time saving devices, patients still get care through face to face contact even though banking, travel, and business collaboration can be done via the internet, webcams, and sharing of documentation. As Dr. Pauline Chen noted in a recent article, doctors are not willing to use technology to collaborate and to deliver medical care better, more quickly and efficiently. Mostly it is due to culture resistant to change. Partly it is due to lack of reimbursement. Both are unlikely to be addressed or fixed anytime soon. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

Do People Really Want More Control Of Their Healthcare Costs?

Over at The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru theorizes that people want more control over how they spend their health care dollars:

[Ezra] Klein’s argument is that if employees understood that the employer’s alleged share of their health-care costs are really part of their wages — and if they saw it on their paychecks — they would be more supportive of cost control. I agree with that. But I assume he means (based on his examples in this op-ed) that they would be more supportive of cost controls imposed by HMOs or Congress. I think they would be more inclined to favor turning over control of health insurance from their employers to themselves, and making the cost-quality trade-offs for themselves with their own money. Under the status quo, those trade-offs are made by other people and the fact that it’s the employees’ money is obscured.

It sounds nice in theory.  But in practice it seems to be exactly wrong.

Here’s why. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First 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

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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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