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State Of Healthcare In The Union

Short and sweet. That’s how President Obama addressed healthcare reform in his State of the Union address [Tuesday] night. In less than 700 words, he outlined how he’d improve but not retreat on what’s been enacted into law.

He’s willing to work on changes, he said, naming malpractice reform and reducing onerous paperwork burdens for small businesses. But, he cautioned, “What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.”

President Obama had invited two real people to his address to highlight the law’s successes. One is a brain cancer survivor who can access health insurance through high-risk pools created by the law. The other is a small business owner who lowered health insurance costs by $10,000 for his nine employees, a probable jab at the “job-killing” title of an attempted yet futile repeal vote last week.

The President’s remarks come at a time when the public is of two minds on healthcare reform. While many state they don’t like the entire package, they also love individual aspects of it. The individual mandate remains widely unpopular, but allowing those with pre-existing conditions to access insurance is widely popular, as does Medicare and Social Security.

The Republican response by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Chairman of the House Budget Committee, responded that, “The President mentioned the need for regulatory reform to ease the burden on American businesses. We agree — and we think his healthcare law would be a great place to start.” The House has voted for a repeal and Senate Republicans are preparing legislation and promising to ask for a vote. (Los Angeles Times, Politico, Kaiser Health News, Greenville [South Carolina] Online)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Know Thy Calories: Nutrition Labeling Guidelines For Restaurants

As part of the new healthcare legislation (Affordable Care Act), the FDA has now published its guidelines for restaurants to inform consumers of the calorie counts of food. It establishes requirements for nutrition labeling of standard menu items for chain restaurants and chain vending machine operators.

This is important because Americans now consume an estimated one-third of their total calories from foods prepared outside the home. Consumers are generally unaware of the number of calories they consume from these foods, and being overweight or obese increases the risk of a number of diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer.

Here’s what the guidelines say:

– Restaurants with 20 or more locations must disclose the number of calories in each standard menu item on menus and menu boards (have 19 chain locations? You get a pass. Daily specials also get a pass.)

– Additional written nutrition information must be available to consumers upon request (total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium sugars, carbs, fiber, protein, etc.)

– The menu must say that the additional nutritional information is available. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Government Decisions About Avandia And Preventive Services

An FDA advisory panel has voted that the diabetes drug Avandia (rosiglitazone) can remain on the market, but recommended further warnings associated with its use. The panel was divided, the New York Times reported, with 12 of 33 members saying the drug should be removed from the market, 10 voting to restrict sales and strengthen the warning label, 7 recommending only strengthening the warning label, and 3 voting for no change. One panel member abstained. (New York Times)

The White House yesterday announced which preventive services would be available at no charge to patients under the new healthcare legislation. Adult patients who choose a health plan after September 23 will receive mammograms, diabetes screening, and tobacco cessation counseling, among other services, at no increased cost, but insurers have said patients will eventually pay in the form of higher premiums, the Wall Street Journal reported. (Wall Street Journal)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

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