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Rationed Care, Denied Treatment, And “Death Panels”

One of the canards slung at the Affordable Care Act is that it creates “death panels” that would allow the government to deny patients lifesaving treatments, even though two independent and non-partisan fact-checking organizations found it would do no such thing.

I don’t bring this up now to rehash the debate, but because the New York Times had a recent story on Arizona’s decision to deny certain transplants to Medicaid enrollees — “death by budget cuts” in the words of reporter Marc Lacey. His story profiles several patients who died when they were unable to raise money on their own to fund a transplant. Lacey quotes a physician expert on transplants who flatly states: “There’s no doubt that people aren’t going to make it because of this decision.”

Arizona Medicaid officials told the Times that they “recommended discontinuing some transplants only after assessing the success rates for previous patients. Among the discontinued procedures are lung transplants, liver transplants for hepatitis C patients and some bone marrow and pancreas transplants, which altogether would save the state about $4.5 million a year.” Read more »

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

Addressing Healthcare Spending: “Cowardice” Or Bravery?

In assessing the “best and worst” of the recommendations from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein accuses the Commission of “cowardice” in addressing healthcare spending:

“The plan’s healthcare savings largely consist of hoping the cost controls . . . and various demonstration projects in the new healthcare law work and expanding their power and reach. . . In the event that more savings are needed, they throw out a grab bag of liberal and conservative policies . . . but don’t really put their weight behind any. . .[their] decision to hide from the big questions here is quite disappointing . . . ”

Pretty harsh words, considering that in other respects Klein gives the Commission high marks. But I think there is a lot more to the Commission’s recommendations on healthcare spending than meet’s (Klein’s) eyes, even though I have my own doubts about the advisability and political acceptability of many of them. Read more »

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

Health Reform: “Compete And Succeed” Or “Repeal Or Replace?”

Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) thinks so. So does Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). And Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Senators Brown, Wyden and Sanders have introduced the “Empowering States to Innovate Act.” Ezra Klein blogs that the Senators may have found a way forward on health reform.

“If a state can think of a plan that covers as many people, with as comprehensive insurance, at as low a cost, without adding to the deficit, the state can get the money the federal government would’ve given it for health-care reform but be freed from the individual mandate, the exchanges, the insurance requirements, the subsidy scheme and pretty much everything else in the bill,” Ezra Klein writes. “If conservative solutions are more efficient, that will be clear when their beneficiaries save money. If liberal ideas really work better, it’s time we found out. Forget repeal and replace, or even reform and replace. How about compete and succeed?”

The Wonk Room reports that Wyden, Brown, Sanders, who co-sponsored the original innovative waivers amendment, believe that their home states of Oregon, Massachusetts, and Vermont are leading the pack in adopting innovative approaches. These include the well-known Massachusetts program that Brown voted for as a state legislator, and single payer bills that have been introduced in Vermont and Oregon. The bill, though, also could appeal to states seeking a more conservative, less regulatory solution, since they would be able to decide how they wanted to provide comprehensive coverage to the uninsured, free of most of the mandates of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Read more »

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

Mr. Roger’s “Medical Home” Neighborhood

My image of Pittsburgh has been one of a blue-collar, rough-and-tumble town: Perogies, Heinz ketchup, steelworkers, football, and Roberto Clemente. But an exhibit in Pittsburgh’s airport the other day informed me that Pittsburgh also is the home of the iconic “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” — the gentle PBS show that entertained toddlers for generations. Mr. Rogers always started the show off with the following verse:

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please,
Won’t you please,
Please won’t you be my neighbor?

Fittingly, the same week that I was reminded of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” the American College of Physicians (ACP) released its “medical home neighborhood” position paper. The paper was developed by a workgroup of ACP’s Council of Subspecialty Societies (CSS), which is comprised of representatives of internal medicine subspecialty societies and related organizations.

Read more »

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

Health Insurance: New Survey Reveals Record Number Of Uninsured

Last month the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual survey on health insurance coverage. The results were startling, yet few politicians seemed to take notice:

— The number of people with health insurance declined for the first time ever in almost two decades. In fact, as reported by CNN this is the first time since the Census Bureau started collecting data on health insurance coverage in 1987 that fewer people reported that they had health insurance: “There were 253.6 million people with health insurance in 2009, the latest data available, down from 255.1 million a year earlier.” The percentage of the population without coverage increased from 15.4 percent to 16.7 percent.

— Almost 51 million U.S. residents had no health insurance coverage at all, a record high, and an increase of almost five million uninsured from 2008.

— Fewer Americans received health insurance coverage through their jobs, continuing a decade-long trend. The number covered by employment-based health insurance declined from 176.3 million to 169.7 million, reports the Census Bureau. Based on the Census numbers, the Economic Policy Institute observes that “the share of non-elderly Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance declined for the ninth year in a row, down from 61.9% in 2008 to 58.9% in 2009, a total decline of 9.4 percentage points since 2000.” Read more »

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

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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