Monday, August 31, 2009
NYT's freelance writer, Anne Underwood, interviews Tom Baker, professor of law and health sciences at U. Penn School of Law, about tort reform and its potential impact on lowering health care costs. This issue has raised interest from scholars and politicians alike:
Medical tort reform is moving to the fore of the health care debate. On Sunday in The New York Times, former Senator Bill Bradley, Democrat of New Jersey, argued that one way to gain support of both Democrats and Republicans might be to combine universal coverage with tort reform. Mr. Bradley also suggested that medical courts with special judges could be established, similar to bankruptcy or admiralty courts.
On “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Senators Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, and John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, seemed to agree that medical malpractice lawsuits are driving up health care costs and should be limited in some way. “We’ve got to find some way of getting rid of the frivolous cases, and most of them are,” Mr. Hatch said. “And that’s doable, most definitely,” Mr. Kerry replied.
Read the interview here.
NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene just launched a new public awareness campaign to address over-consumption of junk foods and sodas and resulting obesity. The city launched a similar campaign to address tobacco use and feels that this effort, which will include 1,500 Subway posters, will be successful. Surveys will be conducted in the upcoming weeks to gauge New Yorkers' response to the ads. Read more from LA Times here.
(Image from LA Times)
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Washington Post examines the concerns of one hospital executive in light of health care reform.
Nicolas Kristof of the NYT highlights one woman's story of how cracks in the health care system tore apart her family when her husband was diagnosed with early onset dementia. Because her husband required long-term care, hospital workers suggested the two divorce in order to prevent the family from losing everything.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
NYT columnist David Leonhardt analyzes whether personal choice can be a part of health care reform.
He argues that the Wyden-Bennett Bill of 2007 offers more choice than current versions of health care legislation:
The best-known proposal for giving people more choice is the Wyden-Bennett bill, named for Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Robert Bennett, a Utah Republican, who introduced it in the Senate in 2007. There are other broadly similar versions of the idea, too. One comes from Victor Fuchs, a Stanford professor sometimes called the dean of health economists, and Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and an Obama health-policy adviser.
In the simplest version, families would receive a voucher worth as much as their employer spends on their health insurance. They would then buy an insurance plan on an “exchange” where insurers would compete for their business. The government would regulate this exchange. Insurers would be required to offer basic benefits, and insurers that attracted a sicker group of patients would be subsidized by those that attracted a healthier group.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Will the S. African government make addressing the AIDS epidemic a more critical focus of its administration? With leading scientists urging the government to take action, the answer may be yes.
Embracing a policy of transparency at hospitals benefits patient and hospital, one test study found. After adopting the model four years ago, findings indicate that at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, disclosing medical errors upfront has actually led to a decrease in lawsuits by 40%.
Monday, August 24, 2009
With universities and schools opening its doors, swine flu continues to spread. In Cincinnati, both Xavier University and University of Cincinnati have each reported cases of swine flu (See article here).On Monday, a presidential panel recommended increased access to the swine flu vaccine. Shots of the vaccine are being prepared but are not slated to be readily available until October. Reported the Washington Post:
The system for tracking the spread of the new virus also should be improved and the Obama administration should take other steps to prepare for a second wave of infection expected to begin this winter, including the accelerated development of communications strategies, the panel concluded in an 86-page report.
On the brink of selling its $3 billion prescription drug business to Warner Chilcott Ltd, P&G has raised interesting considerations about the state of the pharmaceutical market. WSJ believes that factors in P&G's decision to put the business on the market include increasingly tough competition from generic brand drugs and a recent lawsuit:
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Eight companies were warned by the FDA that they are no longer permitted to sell ibuprofen creams.
Only problem is the Food and Drug Administration never said that was OK. So the agency warned eight companies they're out of line for selling the topical ibuprofen and told them to stop.
One of the companies, Wonder Laboratories (really), got dinged for selling IBU-RELIEF12, a cream containing ibuprofen, Arnica montana (or wolf's bane), and methyl salicylate, the smelly wintergreen stuff in Bengay.
Read more here.
LA Times examines whether taxing junk food, traditionally cheaper than healthier alternatives, will reduce obesity and encourage consumers to purchase more nutritious foods.
To make a significant dent in escalating rates of obesity, taxes would have to be steep and widespread. Two-thirds of states now impose a modest soft-drink tax -- the average rate is 5.2% -- and though the taxes are linked to a drop in body weight, the difference is extremely slight: about 3 ounces for a 5-foot-10, 279-pound person.
However, whether taxing junk food would be effective is debatable. Statistics suggest that while taxing cigarettes does curb consumer spending, it may be more difficult to alter consumer purchasing of junk foods.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Using San Fransisco as a model, NYT columnists debate a public health care option.
TWO burning questions are at the center of America’s health care debate. First, should employers be required to pay for their employees’ health insurance? And second, should there be a “public option” that competes with private insurance?
Answers might be found in San Francisco, where ambitious health care legislation went into effect early last year. San Francisco and Massachusetts now offer the only near-universal health care programs in the United States.
Read more about the results here.
Schools in both D.C. and Virginia are requesting sixth grade girls receive Gardasil, the vaccine that was approved by the FDA in 2006 that protects against genital warts and cervical cancer. The vaccine is most effective if it is administered before girls become sexually active. Though both D.C. and Virginia have provided for opting-out of the requirement, proponents are hopeful that this legislation will protect million girls from cervical cancer. However, opponents voice concerns that the drug has not been tested enough. Such apprehension is what has prevented other states, such as Maryland, from making the vaccination mandatory.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Many elderly drivers are unaware that prescription drugs may affect their ability to drive safely, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Some mothers-to-be in D.C. are concerned that a new swine flu vaccine has not been tested enough to be administered to pregnant women. Debate stems from the recent recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that pregnant women receive the swine flu vaccination as a preventative health measure. A recent study in the Lancet medical journal study indicated that pregnant women are more likely to be affected by swine flu than other groups. Read here.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
When only about one third of Americans leave living wills or specify end of life protocol, physicians and hospitals are left to consider the costs and benefits of end of life care themselves. Some issues that remain include:
Or should the patient receive just comfort care — treatment for pain, nausea, anxiety, depression and other debilitating symptoms — and be allowed to die a natural death?
Dr Charles A. Bush, the medical director of Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital at the Ohio State University, believes this adversely impacts the health care system through higher costs and debilitating procedures for patients.
Washington Post discuss a sensitive question many patients find themselves wondering but perhaps not directly asking their doctors - what companies their doctors have relationships with and how deep those ties run. One market research company estimated that pharmaceutical sales spends $20 billion a year marketing directly to doctors.
As a response in 2003, D.C. enacted legislation to improve transparency among drug manufacturers. A national effort was initiated this year:
But then again, complete skepticism of doctor-pharmaceutical sales relationships may not always be fair, as Chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic points out:
California may be suffering from a terrible financial crisis but Governor Schwartzenner has found time to sign legislation that raises the standard for lawsuits against non-professional medical individuals who aid others in emergency situations. Law.com reports
"The bar has been set higher," she said. "People who do something and unintentionally cause additional harm aren't going to be faced with having to be potentially sued. It's really more for someone who is aware of the fact that what they're doing is not right and they're going to potentially cause harm and go ahead and do it anyway." . . . .
Monday, August 17, 2009
LatCrit XIV promises to be a rich and memorable conference. Over 145 panel and work-in-porogress proposals were submitted. We hope that many of you will be able to join us. Please note that September 14th is the deadline both for conference early bird registration (at a discounted rate) as well as for the early bird LatCrit hotel rate of $189, but that Labor Day, September 7th, is the deadline for an even lower "earlier bird" room rates of $169 for Friday and Saturday and $179 for other nights -- significantly less than the hotel's standard room rate. Our room block is selling very swiftly, and the hotel may sell out before these deadlines, so please do not delay in making your reservations. Washington is hosting a number of large conferences around the LatCrit XIV weekend and hotel rooms outside of our block may be scarce and expensive.
The full preliminary conference program schedule for LatCrit XIV and the LatCrit/SALT New Faculty Development Workshop, hosted by American University Washington College of Law Oct. 1-4, has been released. It is here:
Hotel and conference registration materials are here:
And the conference theme narrative and initial call for papers/panels are here, although the submission deadline has long past and, absent cancellations, there will be no more panel and work-in-progress slots available (with the exception of commentators for works-in-progress colloquia):
In case you are interested in a slightly more friendly town hall discussion of health care issues, you may want to tune into the Diane Rehm show today to hear some of your fellow citizens ask questions about some of the potential issues the health reform bills hope to address and how.
10:00A Radio Town-Hall Forum on the Health Care Debate
Angry debates over changing the nation's health care system break out at public forums across the country. Now it’s your turn to participate in a radio town hall. Your questions and concerns on health care overhaul.
Ceci Connolly, reporter, The Washington Post.
Mary Agnes Carey, senior correspondent with Kaiser Health News. She most recently served as associate editor for CQ HealthBeat, a daily report on health care policy. She has also served as Capitol Hill Bureau Chief for CQ.
Carrie Budoff Brown, Health Care reporter for Politico.