HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Choice Factors into Health Care Reform

NYT columnist David Leonhardt analyzes whether personal choice can be a part of health care reform.

Health insurers often act like monopolies — like a cable company or the Department of Motor Vehicles — because they resemble monopolies. Consumers, instead of being able to choose freely among insurers, are restricted to the plans their employer offers. So insurers are spared the rigors of true competition, and they end up with high costs and spotty service.

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.

August 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Managing Health Policies in South Africa

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.

Leading South African scientists challenged the governing party on Monday to break with its deeply flawed record on AIDS and public health, spurring the country’s new health minister to say that he and his party shared their diagnosis of systemic problems and were determined to repair them.

The decision by the health minister, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, to embrace the often withering assessment of his party’s failings, laid out in six papers published online Monday by The Lancet, a medical journal based in London, provided a strong signal that the governing party’s new leadership intended to shake up a badly managed health system.

August 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Moving Toward Increased Hospital Transparency

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%.

“How we respond to these events defines who we are as individuals, organizations and our professions as a whole,” says McDonald, who is both a pediatric anesthesiologist and a lawyer by training. “Open and honest communication between caregivers and their patients and families starts the process of healing and closure – for both the patient and the caregiver.”

August 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Presidential Panel Recommends Speeding up Access to Swine Flu Vaccine

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 federal government should expedite the availability of a vaccine against swine flu, clarify how antiviral drugs should be used to fight the pandemic and designate someone at the White House to coordinate the nation's response to the virus, a presidential panel recommended Monday.

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.

August 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

P&G May Sell Drug Business

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:

One reminder of that fact: A key issue in talks to sell the unit was a lawsuit over a patent dispute between P&G and a generics unit of Boehringer Ingelheim, the WSJ says. The suit involves P&G’s ulcerative colitis drug Asacol. P&G has won similar cases in the past, the article notes, including one against Teva that involved Actonel, the osteoporosis drug that is the division’s best-selling product.

August 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

FDA Requires Halt of Sale of Ibuprofen Creams

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.

August 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Taxing Junk Food To Curb Obesity

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.  

August 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)