Archive for December of 2007

Health Policy Notes

December 22, 2007
New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine announced on 12/19/07 that the State will begin offering low-cost health insurance to uninsured children through Horizon/Blue Cross Blue Shield, with whom the state has negotiated a reduced rate under its FamilyCare program, the 12/18/07 Star-Ledger reported.

A national survey conducted by the American Cancer Society found that uninsured cancer patients are almost twice as likely to die within five years of contracting the disease than patients who have private insurance, according to the 12/20/07 Yahoo News.

Cancer researchers found that non-smokers who eat raw broccoli or cauliflower three times a month can reduce their risk of bladder cancer by 70%, and those that eat black raspberries regularly have reduced risks for oral, esophageal and colon cancers, the 12/11/07 Chicago Tribune reported.

Health Policy Notes

December 20, 2007
Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis highlighted her top ten health policy stories of 2007 in a 12/19/07 article. Her list is available online and includes Americans ranking health care as their top domestic issue and the Census Bureau’s change in the number of uninsured Americans.

A recent survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health found that 90% of patients consult sources in addition to their physician when selecting health care treatment options, the 12/7/07 CQ HealthBeat reported.

Health Day News reported on 12/18/07 that there is a bone mineral density test that can accurately predict a woman’s chance of having a spinal fracture within 15 years, according to new research on osteoporosis published on 12/19/07 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Health Policy Notes

December 19, 2007
The 12/18/07 New York Times reported on a University of Michigan study suggesting that parents do not recognize their children’s obesity. In a survey of 2,000 parents, 25% of the children were overweight or obese, although just 13% of obese children’s parents reported their child as overweight.

Recent restrictions on the number of hours a resident can work did not seem to affect mortality for Medicare patients in the first two years of implementation, according to an analysis of data from 8.5 million Medicare patients in 3,321 American hospitals, the October 2007 LDI Issue Brief reported.

The USA Today reported on 12/19/07 that the number of nursing homes that were issued citations for putting residents in “immediate jeopardy,” the most serious citation a nursing home can receive, rose 22% from 200 to 2006.

Health Policy Notes

December 18, 2007
As reported yesterday, California lawmakers have agreed on a $14.4 billion proposal set to take effect in 2010 to provide health insurance coverage to 70% of the state’s 5.1 million uninsured residents through taxes on tobacco products and hospital revenues, according to the 12/18/07 New York Times.

The Mayor of San Francisco has proposed imposing a surcharge on drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup and using the monies collected for various anti-obesity programs in the City, also reported in the 12/18/07 New York Times.

A new survey published by Health Affairs on 12/16/07 found that few organizations are actively facilitating or achieving electronic clinical data exchange, with only 20 of 145 regional health information organizations (RHIOs) exchanging some clinical data.

Health Policy Notes

December 17, 2007
Researchers have found a molecular profile that can detect which precancerous breast tumors can become lethal from those that will never become life-threatening, potentially saving thousands of women from unneeded treatment, the 12/17/07 Chicago Tribune reported.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California’s Assembly Speaker have reached an agreement on a plan to extend health care coverage to 3.6 million uninsured residents by imposing new taxes on employees and tobacco sales, according to the 12/15/07 Los Angeles Times.

A Congressional Budget Office report released on 12/13/07 stated that US spending on health care is on an unsustainable path and, unless significant increases in revenue or decreases in spending are made, it has the potential to “seriously harm the economy,” the 12/13/07 Congress Daily reported.

Health Policy Notes

December 14, 2007
The average total cholesterol levels for American adults met physician-recommended levels for the first time in over 40 years, and experts say that a cholesterol-fighting drug may be the main reason, according to the 12/13/07 Chicago Tribune.

The 12/10/07 Las Vegas Review Journal reported that researchers have found that every 11 pounds a woman gains after being diagnosed with breast cancer increases her chances of dying from the disease or other causes by 14%.

Wisconsin may soon join 22 states nationwide that now ban or soon will ban smoking in bars and restaurants, as the Wisconsin Governor has urged the State Legislature to pass a smoking ban this year, the 12/10/07 USA Today reported.

Health Policy Notes

December 13, 2007
A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that 20% of US adults stated that they did not receive needed medical care, prescription medication, psychiatric care, dental work, or eye care in 2007 because they could not afford them, according to the 12/4/07 CQ HealthBeat.

Scientists studying fasting in Utah found that skipping a meal once a month was shown to reduce a person’s likelihood of being diagnosed with clogged arteries by 40%, the 12/11/07 Las Vegas Review Journal reported.

The Dallas Morning News reported on 12/6/07 that Texas has submitted a plan to the federal government that would redesign the State’s health care system to reduce the reliance on expensive, hospital-based care by making primary and preventive care affordable.

Health Policy Notes

December 12, 2007
The 12/6/07 Financial Times reported that the proliferation of retail clinics in major drugstores, including Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Target, CVS, and Rite-Aid, is continuing: industry experts expect the number of such clinics to reach 5,000-10,000 within the next few years.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it has reached a $486 million settlement in a stock-options backdating case against William McGuire, MD, the former CEO of UnitedHealth Group, a 12/6/07 Modern Healthcare Alert reported.

Medicare beneficiaries who have prescription drug benefits under Part D will see an average of 10% fewer drugs covered by the program, with some larger insurers like UnitedHealth and Humana experiencing a 30% drop in their plans’ covered drugs, according to the 12/4/07 USA Today.

Health Policy Notes

December 12, 2007
The Boston Globe reported on 12/6/07 that 293,000 formerly uninsured Massachusetts residents have signed up for health insurance since the State passed a universal coverage bill into law last year, the majority opting for coverage under one of two state health insurance programs.

New York State Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried has proposed a $59 billion universal health care bill for his state that would be funded by a tax increase and extend health care coverage to all state residents, replacing current private health plans, as reported in the 12/6/07 New York Times.

The 11/29/07 CQ HealthBeat reported that residents of Utah and West Virginia are the most likely to suffer from depression, while South Dakotans and Hawaiians are least likely to be depressed, according to a new study that ranks states on their levels of depression.

Health Policy Notes

December 11, 2007
The 12/6/07 Washington Post reported that being overweight as a child significantly increases one’s risk for heart disease from ages 25-71, even if only slightly chubby and seemingly regardless if one lost the weight, according to a new study of 276,000 Danish children.

Using data from the World Health Organization’s database, researchers have found a “mathematical relationship” between women who live in sunnier countries and lower rates of endometrial cancer, finding that the higher the latitude, the higher the risk for the cancer, as reported in the 12/5/07 Chicago Tribune.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent a report to Congress on 11/26/07 providing several options for how to change Medicare hospital payments to be based on quality of care, in accordance with last year’s budget-savings law, the 11/26/07 CQ HealthBeat reported.

Health Policy Notes

December 07, 2007
An Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) Issue Brief found that employment-based health insurance coverage is not disappearing, but fewer employers are providing health benefits to retirees. In 1993, 46% of firms of 500 or more offered retiree health benefits; in 2006, only 29% did.

Medicare has released new rules that limit reimbursement for drugs used to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to $16,000 per treatment, even through the drugs themselves can cost upwards of $30,000, according to the 12/7/06 New York Times.

A new study commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association estimates that Senate legislation to require Medicare drug plans to pay pharmacies within 14 days of filing claims would cost $1.9 billion over 10 years in new costs and administrative burdens, the 11/29/07 CQ HealthBeat reported.

Health Policy Notes

December 06, 2007
The US Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved on 12/5/07 a quartet of bills to improve veterans’ health care, including the establishment of post-traumatic stress treatment centers and protocols for treatment of mental conditions, the 11/14/07 CQ HealthBeat reported.

The National Center for Health Statistics announced on 12/5/07 that birth rates among women aged 15-19 rose 3% between 2005 and 2006, reversing a 14-year decline of 34% between 1991 and 2005, the 12/6/07 Washington Post reported.

The 12/4/07 USA Today reported that the United Auto Workers union and Ford Motor Company have signed a four-year agreement under which the UAW will steward a $61.9 billion trust to fund health care for 600,000 to 700,000 retired autoworkers and their dependants.

Health Policy Notes

December 05, 2007
More evidence to support President Ajluni’s “Fit for Life” Initiative: Reuters reported today that fitness is more important than weight in terms of mortality levels, according to a study that found that overweight people who were fit had lower mortality rates than normal weight people who were not fit.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt stated on 12/4/07 in a letter to the Senate Finance Committee that the White House would veto any Medicare legislation that includes cuts to Medicare Advantage plans or changes Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, according to the 12/4/07 CQ HealthBeat.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) will host a free Web seminar regarding the top ten state legislative issues and the top three emerging trends for 2008. Register online today!

Health Policy Notes

December 04, 2007
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its 31st annual report on 12/3/07 regarding the nation's health, finding that more than 40 million people do not have adequate access to health care and that nearly 20% of adults needed but did not receive certain medical services because they could not afford them.

The 12/4/07 Washington Post reported on a study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine that found that 45% of physicians have overlooked or not reported a colleague’s incompetence or impairment even though 96% agreed that one should do so.

HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt announced on 12/03/07 that it is his view that doctors should be required to implement electronic medical records in order to qualify for higher Medicare payments, according to the 12/3/07 Associated Press.

Health Policy Notes

December 03, 2007
Federal health officials announced this weekend that 55,000 people in the US are infected with the AIDS virus each year, more people than was previously thought, according to a new method for estimating AIDS cases, the 12/2/07 New York Times reported.

Obesity rates for American men and women are stabilizing at approximately 30% of the US population, which some experts say is the first step in controlling the obesity epidemic, according to the 11/29/07 Chicago Tribune.

Researchers studying the diabetes drug Avandia found that it can cause bone thinning and may increase one’s risk for osteoporosis, the 12/2/07 Washington Post reported.