HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cloning Animals For Traits?

The LATimes reports on a new twist in animal cloning,      

Even in the sometimes bizarre world of novelty animal cloning, this case is expected to generate debate and curiosity.

The Northern California cloning firm BioArts International is holding a news conference today to announce that it has cloned a dog that helped searched for victims in the rubble of New York's World Trade Center after 9/11. A retired Canadian police officer, who now lives in Los Angeles, won a contest sponsored by BioArts explaining why his rescue dog, Trakr, should be cloned. He was presented with the five cloned puppies a few days ago.

"Once in a lifetime, a dog comes along that not only captures the hearts of all he touches but also plays a private role in history," the retired officer, James Symington, wrote in his contest submission.

BioArts said in a statement that it partnered with South Korean cloning specialist Hwang Woo-Suk to clone the German shepherd. Woo-Suk is a controversial cloning pioneer who has been accused of faking human cloning evidence. . . .

[Updated at 7:50 a.m.: The debate is already beginning. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes its concerns about pet cloning: "Our current knowledge of animal cloning indicates that there are important welfare concerns at issue. Reports on the health and condition of mammalian animals produced by cloning have indicated a variety of anatomical and physiological problems."]

June 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Health Insurance CEOs - The Reason So Many People Support Health Reform?

Kevin Drum writing at Mother Jones reports on the recent hearing on health insurance:

Yesterday the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations decided to investigate the practice of recission.  This is when you pay your premiums for years to a healthcare insurer, then get sick, and then have your insurance cancelled.  The insurance industry executives at the hearing did not exactly cover themselves with glory:

A Texas nurse said she lost her coverage, after she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, for failing to disclose a visit to a dermatologist for acne.

The sister of an Illinois man who died of lymphoma said his policy was rescinded for the failure to report a possible aneurysm and gallstones that his physician noted in his chart but did not discuss with him.

....Late in the hearing, [Bart] Stupak, the committee chairman, put the executives on the spot. Stupak asked each of them whether he would at least commit his company to immediately stop rescissions except where they could show "intentional fraud."

The answer from all three executives: "No."

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said that a public insurance plan should be a part of any overhaul because it would force private companies to treat consumers fairly or risk losing them. "This is precisely why we need a public option," Dingell said. ..  .

June 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Health Stocks and Health Reform

Kaiser Health News reports on recent market activity in the health sector -

Setbacks for Democrats on health reforms earlier this week – including delays in one Senate committee and a higher-than-expected cost estimate in another – are good for the market, Dow Jones Newswires reports. "Health-care stocks rose Thursday on doubts that the Obama Administration's health reforms would be as extensive or speedy as anticipated. Humana, Coventry Healthcare and Health Net were all up more than 8 percent today, while four major insurers, UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, WellPoint and CIGNA Corp. all gained 4 to 7 percent, Dow Jones reports.

Thanks to DemFromCt at DailyKos for the link.

June 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Health Reform: On Life Support links to the New York Times report on the health reform effort and how things are not looking too good right now.     

What’s the latest assessment from those closely monitoring health care reform? Prognosis negative.

“Health reform is, I think it fair to say, in danger right now,” wrote Ezra Klein this morning at the Washington Post.

“Attention fellow liberals who want health care reform,” wrote Jonathan Cohn yesterday at the New Republic. “You are in danger of losing the fight for universal health insurance. And it’s not only — or even primarily — because of the public plan.”

“Anyone else think the net result of health reform is going to be that insurance companies have even more political power?,” twittered Atrios this afternoon.

What’s got the pro-reform contingent worried?

“It’s because of the money,” writes Cohn.

However, the article does provide some glimmer of hope    - 

In another post at the Democratic Strategist, former Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg concurs:

At the moment, the country is tilting toward enacting Obama’s reforms, and it will do so more enthusiastically if Obama learns from the Clinton experience and rises to the educative role that he relishes. He must respect the thoughts, feelings and calculations of ordinary citizens who are not easily spun on important issues. People will take out their calculators when he lays out his plan, and he can’t avoid speaking candidly about its costs and consequences. And he can’t forget that he has a big story to tell about a changed America, one in which health care is but a pile of bricks in the new foundation he is laying.

Obama has scheduled a nationally televised town hall on health care next Wednesday, June 24. And as Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight notes, the public is still with him on reform. But it is going to take a bigger effort, says Silver, than just one meeting:

So far, there is no sign of erosion in the public’s support for health care reform. And the Administration appears poised to begin doing some more explicit advocacy for the legislation, beginning with a one-hour national forum on June 24th. But it had better be prepared for that town hall meeting to be a start of a trend, because history suggests that leaving a health care bill unattended before Congress is just about the worst place for it to be. . . .

June 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Daily Show on Health Care Reform

Jon Stewart had a fun look at President Obama's speech before the AMA and some of the talking points provided by politicians on the public option.    Click here to view.

June 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Atul Gawande on Fresh Air

Dr. Gawande will discuss his New Yorker article, The Cost Conundrum, on NPR's Fresh Air today.

In "The Cost Conundrum," his latest article for The New Yorker, staff writer Dr. Atul Gawande reports from McAllen, Texas, a border-town with the dubious distinction of spending more per person on health care than almost any other market in America.

But higher spending doesn't necessarily correlate with better care, as Gawande discovers when he compares health outcomes in McAllen with those of El Paso, Texas — a city with similar population demographics, but where Medicare spending per enrollee that is half that of McAllen.

Gawande writes that his findings, based on Medicare's 25 metrics of care, indicate that: "On all but two of these [standards of care], McAllen's five largest hospitals performed worse, on average, than El Paso's. McAllen costs Medicare seven thousand dollars more per person each year than does the average city in America. But not, so far as one can tell, because it's delivering better health care." ...

June 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

File under - if it sounds to good to be true ...

The New York Times science section contains an article concerning the science behind those studies alleging showing that moderate drinking is good for you.  Apparently, the science may be a little weak ...

Study after study suggests that alcohol in moderation may promote heart health and even ward off diabetes and dementia. The evidence is so plentiful that some experts consider moderate drinking — about one drink a day for women, about two for men — a central component of a healthy lifestyle.   But what if it’s all a big mistake?

For some scientists, the question will not go away. No study, these critics say, has ever proved a causal relationship between moderate drinking and lower risk of death — only that the two often go together. It may be that moderate drinking is just something healthy people tend to do, not something that makes people healthy.

“The moderate drinkers tend to do everything right — they exercise, they don’t smoke, they eat right and they drink moderately,” said Kaye Middleton Fillmore, a retired sociologist from the University of California, San Francisco, who has criticized the research. “It’s very hard to disentangle all of that, and that’s a real problem.”

Some researchers say they are haunted by the mistakes made in studies about hormone replacement therapy, which was widely prescribed for years on the basis of observational studies similar to the kind done on alcohol. Questions have also been raised about the financial relationships that have sprung up between the alcoholic beverage industry and many academic centers, which have accepted industry money to pay for research, train students and promote their findings.

“The bottom line is there has not been a single study done on moderate alcohol consumption and mortality outcomes that is a ‘gold standard’ kind of study — the kind of randomized controlled clinical trial that we would be required to have in order to approve a new pharmaceutical agent in this country,” said Dr. Tim Naimi, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . . .

June 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Peer Review Journal-Pace Environmental Law Review

For those of you who publish or wish to publish in environmental law  -  here is some exciting news:
Pace Environmental Law Review Announces Shift to Peer-Review

Established in 1982, PELR was one of the first scholarly environmental law journals.  As of August 1, 2009, Pace Environmental Law Review (PELR) will use a new Peer Review process to select articles for publication.  Submissions will be reviewed internally and then forwarded to a select group of Peer Reviewers − academics, practitioners, and experts in the field, including members of Pace Law School’s world-renowned environmental law faculty.  The Peer Review process will offer new and distinctive opportunities to foster continued debate and reflection upon some of the most pressing topics within the field of environmental law. Articles selected for publication will benefit from:

•       Expedited editorial processing of 8 to 10 weeks from acceptance.

•       Single-article hard copy publication.

•       Inclusion in a bound volume distributed to PELR’s wide-ranging list of subscribers.

All articles submitted to PELR must be original scholarship and not previously published.  Exclusive submission not required.  Scholarship related to the intersection of health law and environmental law very welcome.

We invite authors to submit articles either via ExpressO or directly in either MSWord or PDF format to the PELR Development & Acquisitions Editor at

For more information, please visit the website at

June 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Taxing Health Benefits ...

Over the weekend, there was some discussion of whether taxing employer-provided health benefits should be considered but that idea does not seem to be terribly popular. The Associated Press reports,

Lawmakers and administration officials on Sunday distanced themselves from the idea of taxing health benefits to help pay President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and bickered over whether government insurance would strengthen the market.

The debate over a government insurance plan has broken mainly along party lines. But Democrats and Republicans appearing on Sunday's TV news programs either rejected or offered no support for raising revenues on some people through a tax on health benefits. Obama has not supported the idea, but has said it should be considered along with other proposals.

Vice President Joe Biden said that administration doesn't want to tax health care benefits even though the proposal should be on the table. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., called taxing health benefits a "bad idea" as well as unnecessary.The Senate Finance Committee is expected to consider a tax on workers whose family health coverage costs $15,000 a year or more in premiums paid by employer and employee combined. .  .  .

Republicans are reluctant to use the government to drastically change the health care system. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said lawmakers should focus on making the existing health care system work better and predicted that Obama's plan would result in massive government controls."We know that if the government gets in this business, pretty soon nobody else will be in the business," McConnell said.

Bills in the House and Senate would require people to purchase health insurance if they could afford it, a proposal that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said is more likely to draw bipartisan congressional support than mandating coverage through employers.

June 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

President Obama Speaks to the AMA -The Public Option

Earlier today, President Obama spoke to the AMA about health care reform. Sam Stein at the reports,

President Obama walked into the lion's den on Monday, delivering a lengthy speech on his approach to health care reform in front of the annual gathering of the American Medical Association. But he did not dodge the major issue of contention -- the role the government will play in remaking the insurance market.  "The public option is not your enemy, it is your friend," Obama declared at one point.  His prepared remarks were a bit more detailed:

If you don't like your health coverage or don't have any insurance, you will have a chance to take part in what we're calling a Health Insurance Exchange.... You will have your choice of a number of plans that offer a few different packages, but every plan would offer an affordable, basic package. And one of these options needs to be a public option that will give people a broader range of choices and inject competition into the health care market so that force waste out of the system and keep the insurance companies honest.

The crowd, comprised of members of the nation's largest physician community, received those remarks with slightly less enthusiasm than other points of the president's lengthy address, including Obama's insistence that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, his nod towards the need for medical malpractice reform, and his touting of legislation that would discourage smoking among the nation's youth.  But the discussion of the public plan didn't end there.

"Now, I know there's some concern about a public option," Obama declared. "In particular, I understand that you are concerned that today's Medicare rates will be applied broadly in a way that means our cost savings are coming off your backs. These are legitimate concerns, but ones, I believe, that can be overcome. As I stated earlier, the reforms we propose are to reward best practices, focus on patient care, not the current piece-work reimbursement. What we seek is more stability and a health care system on a sound financial footing. And these reforms need to take place regardless of what happens with a public option..."

The comments about a public option were some of the most widely anticipated of Obama's address. One week earlier, the AMA had expressed its opposition to a public plan before gently backing off their initial critiques. The concerns among its 250,000 physician members are over salary cuts and administrative requirements that could come with greater government involvement in the insurance industry.

There is also a general fear that a public option could be a gateway toward a single-payer system, something that the president dismissed during Monday's speech. .  . .

June 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New Study: Ice Cream Favorites Divided by Male/Female

Majikthise helpfully points out an interesting study that breaks down the types of ice cream favored by  men and women.  The study report states,  

Mintel has released new findings about the varying ice cream preferences of men and women. According to the Chicago-based market research firm, seven in 10 men prefer plain ice cream flavors, such as chocolate or vanilla, while 74 percent of women look for those varieties featuring chocolate or candy bits.

Despite this marked split, each gender seems to enjoy the other’s preferred type of ice cream: 66 percent of women say they also seek out plain ice cream, and 63 percent of men eat enhanced flavors as well.

On the other hand, fruit flavors don’t fare too well for either men or women, with fewer than one in three respondents interested in fruit-flavored ice cream. . . .    

I am a big fan of strawberry sorbet on super hot days.        

June 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)