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Does The U.S. Have Plans To Pay For Long-Term Care?

The Obama administration has dealt a mighty blow to one part of the health reform law by effectively killing off the CLASS Act, which was to be a baby step in the development of a national program to pay for long-term care.   The CLASS Act, short for Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act, was supposed to be a voluntary and federally backed insurance program for people to use to cover potential long-term care needs.  The idea was for Americans to pay premiums into the fund during their working years.  If they later became disabled and needed assistance, they would be entitled to a daily cash benefit of, say, $50 to buy services of a personal care attendant or make home improvements that would allow them to stay in their homes—the preference of most seniors.  Advocates of the CLASS Act even envisioned that some of the benefit could be used for nursing home care.

The program, though, was never popular with insurance companies and politicians who listened to them, and the Act barely made it into the final bill.  It ran into trouble from the beginning.  The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, was tasked with Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Should Medicare Focus On Long-Term Care?

“HERE is the dirty little secret of health care in America for the elderly, the one group we all assume has universal coverage thanks to the 1965 Medicare law: what Medicare paid for then is no longer what recipients need or want today.”

So argues New York Times reporter Jane Gross in a provocative op-ed in last Sunday’s New York Times. She makes the case that too much of Medicare is going to medical treatments and drugs of little value to the elderly, and nearly nothing on long-term care, citing the case of her own family’s experience:

“In the case of my mother, who died at 88 in 2003, room and board in various assisted living communities, at $2,000 to $3,500 a month for seven years, was not paid for by Medicare. Yet neurosurgery, I later learned was not expected to be effective in her case, was fully reimbursed, along with two weeks of in-patient care. Her stay of two years at a nursing home, at $14,000 a month (yes, $14,000) was also not paid for by Medicare. Nor were Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

5 Tips On How To Be A Healthcare Survivalist

There are plenty of “survivalists” out there who stock their basements with canned goods, getting ready for some unexpected (and unlikely) apocalypse. Meanwhile there are things that are much more likely to happen to you — like getting sick — which many of us don’t prepare for at all. So to help you get started, here are five important tips on how you can become a healthcare survivalist:

1.  Take care of your chronic conditions. Whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, asthma or any other kind of ailment, do what it takes to manage your own care. Take your medications and follow your doctors’ instructions. Why? Because if you don’t, your condition can get worse and lead to even more serious problems. As much of a pain as it may (literally) be, there’s a reason the old saying “an ounce of prevention” still resonates today — because it’s true.

2.  Live a healthy lifestyle. Everyone gives you this advice, but with studies showing that 42% of Americans will be obese by 2050, it doesn’t seem to be getting through. Denial can wonderfully appealing;  but when it comes to your health, it can also kill you. Stop smoking, exercise, and eat right. You may find that your employer has programs in place that will help you do all of those things, and many of them work. Why not give one of them a try? You can’t improve your life all at once, but you can start. Your life will be happier if you keep yourself healthy. So rather than whistling past the graveyard, jog past it. Read more »

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

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*

Wireless Incontience Detection Device

An Australian company called Simavita is releasing an incontinence detection device to be used in nursing homes across New South Wales. The SIMsystem uses a strip that detects liquid and a cellular device to send a note to a nursing station or a care provider.

From the product page:

The SIM™box, when fitted into the individual resident’s stretchpants (SIM™pants), transmits sensor readings from the SIM™strip in the SIMpad® over a wireless network to the SIM™server. The SIMsystem™ Manager software running on the SIM™server then detects key information about continence events and determines when to alert care staff about an event requiring attention.

Alerts are sent via text message to the carer’s mobile phone or via the facility’s paging system if preferred. As carers are often unable to immediately respond to events, the software will display a summary log of alerts and manual observations can also be entered. The final bladder chart includes all observations in one easy-to-read report. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

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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