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Many Are Not Getting The Preventive Care They’re Entitled To

Who doesn’t think preventive health care is important?  Probably nobody if you ask this question abstractly.   But when it comes to getting it–well that’s a different matter.  Medicare stats show that too few people are getting preventive services even when they are free.  It’s darn difficult, it seems, to get people to take good care of themselves.

By mid-November, of the four million or so new beneficiaries who signed up for Medicare this year, only 3.6 percent had had their “Welcome to Medicare” exam.  Only 1.7 million of the more than 40 million seniors, most of whom were already on Medicare, had had their “Annual Wellness Visit.” A poor showing indeed given all the hoopla and hype surrounding the preventive benefits that health reform was supposed to bring to seniors.

To review:  All new Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to a free physical exam within the first twelve months that their medical, or Part B, coverage becomes effective.  It’s a one-time benefit, and Medicare says that seniors are told about the benefit when they sign up.   A Medicare spokesperson added that Read more »

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

Why Doctors Should Participate In The Debt Ceiling Debate

Joe Scarborough reminds us that the divisions in American government are hardly new, paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin’s observation that “When you assemble a number of men, to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble . . . all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected?” (This comes from a September 17, 1787 speech by Mr. Franklin to urge ratification of the U.S. Constitution, read on his behalf because he was too ill to deliver it in person. The Constitution was ratified the same day.)

I suppose we should be encouraged that Congress’s prejudices, passions, errors of opinion, local interests and selfish views are as American as apple pie, and the Republic has somehow survived nonetheless. Still, I find it deeply troubling that today’s politicians can’t find their way to agree on the debt ceiling.

No one should expect a “perfect production” to come out of this Congress and this administration, given how far apart they are on the need for tax increases and entitlement reforms. But they need to agree to something, and they need to do it soon.

I will leave it to others, who know a lot more about global economics than me, to explain what likely will happen to the economy if the debt ceiling isn’t increased by August 2. Let’s talk about the impact on health care, something I know quite a bit about—and why physicians especially should be concerned: Read more »

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

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*

Medicare’s Deficit Effect On The Economy

Medicare poses a deficit problem, note some very influential analysts. A former Congressional Budget Office head and a former Medicare chief chime in on the scope of the program’s impact on the economy, and the difficulties of trying to scale it back.

Yet, a presidential commission is considering just that among other measures. The 18-member, bipartisan commission released its report weeks ago and was scheduled to have voted today on a shocking scope of deficit-trimming measures that included changes to military spending, Social Security and Medicare, among other areas. But they deferred the vote until Friday to try to garner more votes from members who are also currently elected officials. The panel needs 14 votes and substantive approval from its roster of Congress members to gain serious attention.

In related news for Medicare recipients, the Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that seniors will need hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings to cover health insurance and other out-of-pocket health needs. (NPR, The New York Times, ACP Internist, The Washington Post, Reuters)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

The Timeline Of Healthcare Reform

As the dust settles on the Great Healthcare Reform Bill of 2010 passage in Congress, it’s time to ask what we got for the effort. No matter what people thought of the bill before, like it or not, it’s here.

Still, few people really understand what the bill contains and when the benefits and costs for the measure will be incurred on a year-by-year basis. Given the bill’s complexity and tortuous path though Social Security and IRS tax codes, this really isn’t a surprise, I suppose.

So here’s my simplified broad-brush overview, broken down by year, culled from several sources as referenced. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

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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