Category Archives: Health Care

The price tag on universal health care in California is bigger than state’s budget

government solve all problems

Shocker, not.

From Sacramento Bee: The pricetag is in: It would cost $400 billion to remake California’s health insurance marketplace and create a publicly funded universal health care system, according to a state financial analysis released Monday.

California would have to find an additional $200 billion per year, including in new tax revenues, to create a so-called “single-payer” system, the analysis by the Senate Appropriations committee found. The estimate assumes the state would retain the existing $200 billion in local, state and federal funding it currently receives to offset the total $400 billion price tag.

The cost analysis is seen as the biggest hurdle to create a universal system, proposed by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

It remains a longshot bid. Steep projected costs have derailed efforts over the past two decades to establish such a health care system in California. The cost is higher than the $180 billion in proposed general fund and special fund spending for the budget year beginning July 1.

Employers currently spend between $100 billion to $150 billion per year, which could be available to help offset total costs, according to the analysis. Under that scenario, total new spending to implement the system would be between $50 billion and $100 billion per year.

“Health care spending is growing faster than the overall economy…yet we do not have better health outcomes and we cover fewer people,” Lara said at Monday’s appropriations hearing. “Given this picture of increasing costs, health care inefficiencies and the uncertainty created by Congress, it is critical that California chart our own path.”

The idea behind Senate Bill 562 is to overhaul California’s insurance marketplace, reduce overall health care costs and expand coverage to everyone in the state regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. Instead of private insurers, state government would be the “single payer” for everyone’s health care through a new payroll taxing structure, similar to the way Medicare operates.

Lara and Atkins say they are driven by the belief that health care is a human right and should be guaranteed to everyone similar to public services like safe roads and clean drinking water. They seek to rein in rising health care costs by lowering administrative expenses, reducing expensive emergency room visits and eliminating insurance company profits and executive salaries.

In addition to covering undocumented people illegal aliens, Lara said the goal is to expand health access to people who, even with insurance, may skip doctor visits or stretch out medications due to high co-pays and deductibles.  “Doctors and hospitals would no longer need to negotiate rates and deal with insurance companies to seek reimbursement,” Lara said.

Insurance groups, health plans and Kaiser Permanente are against the bill. Industry representatives say California should focus on improving the Affordable Care Act. Business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, have deemed the bill a “job-killer.”

“A single-payer system is massively, if not prohibitively expensive,” said Nick Louizos, vice president of legislative affairs for the California Association of Health Plans. “It will cost employers and taxpayers billions of dollars and result in significant loss of jobs in the state,” the Chamber of Commerce said in its opposition letter.

Underlying the debate is uncertainty at the federal level over what President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will do with Obamacare. The House Republican bill advanced earlier this month would dismantle it by removing its foundation – the individual mandate that requires everyone to have coverage or pay a tax penalty.

Republican-led efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare is fueling political support for the bill, Atkins said at a universal health care rally this past weekend in Sacramento hosted by the California Nurses Association, a co-sponsor.

“This is a high-ticket expense…We have to figure out how to cover everyone and work on addressing the costs in the long-term — that’s our challenge,” Atkins said. “I’m optimistic.”

The bill has to get approval on the Senate floor by June 2 to advance to the Assembly. A financing plan is underway, which could suggest diverting money employers pay for worker’s compensation insurance to a state-run coverage system.

Lara said he believes California can and should play a prominent role in improving people’s lives. “We can do better,” he said.

DCG

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1/4 of Americans can’t pay their monthly bills

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System just published its 172-page annual Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2016.

First, the good news:

  1. “Overall, the modest improvements in financial well-being that were observed in recent years continued into 2016” with 70% of adults reporting “that they are either living comfortably or doing okay financially,” compared to 69% in 2015 and 62% in 2013.
  2. “Compared to previous years, fewer adults are ill-prepared for a modest financial disruption”.

These marginal improvements aside, the report contains some disturbing information although the U.S. supposedly is nearly eight years into an economic recovery:

  • As many as 30%, or approximately 73 million adults, are either finding it difficult to get by or are just getting by financially.
  • 13% of adults struggle to pay their bills in some months due to “income volatility” or month-to-month variability, while just under one-fourth of adults are not able to pay all of their current month’s bills in full.
  • 44% of adults say they either could not cover an emergency expense costing $400, or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money. (In 2013, the percentage was an even more alarming 50%.)
  • 47% of adults of adults report that their income exceeded their spending in the prior year.
  • 46% of adults with a credit card report that they are carrying credit card debt.

Some other findings:

  • Education, specifically a college education, makes a big difference:
    • 40% of adults with a high school degree or less report that they are struggling financially, compared to 17% of those with at least a bachelor’s degree.
    • 82% of adults with a bachelor’s degree or more in education said last year they were “living comfortably” or “doing okay,” up from 80% the year before, as well as 69% of those with some college or an associate degree, up from 66%.
    • 79% of those with at least a bachelor’s degree vs. 52% of those with only a high school diploma said they would still be able to pay all of their other bills in full if hit with a $400 charge.
  • Whites are slipping behind other races: “Non-Hispanic white adults with a high school degree or less are somewhat less likely than those of other races and ethnicities or those with more education to report that their financial well-being improved in 2016.”
  • 28% of adults who haven’t yet retired reported to being grossly unprepared, which suggests they have no retirement savings or pension.
  • Healthcare costs continue to be a burden:
    • 23% of adults had to pay a major unexpected out-of-pocket medical expense in the prior year.
    • 1/4 of adults report forgoing one or more type of health care in the prior year due to affordability.
    • Approximately 24 million people, representing 10% of adults, are carrying debt from medical expenses that they had to pay out of pocket in the previous year.

ZeroHedge reports that commenting on the report’s findings, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, a Hillary Clinton supporter, said:

“the survey findings remind us that many American households are struggling financially, including fully 40 percent of those with a high school diploma or less. More broadly, 44 percent of all respondents could not cover an unexpected $400 emergency expense or would rely on borrowing or selling something to do so. The survey also shows that many adults have no savings for retirement.”

~Eowyn

Planned Parenthood Will Close 4 Iowa Clinics Due To New State Restrictions

mammograms

Don’t’ believe the fearmongering of this article from Refinery29. There are still PLENTY of health care clinics in Iowa. My quick search found the following:

The Iowa Association of Rural Health Clinics has a list of over 140 rural health clinics in Iowa. And of course, there are the countless other municipal health care clinics as well as private health care facilities.

Plenty of facilities for Iowa residents to receive “vital health services” that only Planned Parenthood can provide.

From Yahoo (Refinery29): Following in Texas’ disastrous footsteps, four Planned Parenthood clinics will close in Iowa because of the state government’s actions to partially defund the health organization. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a health and human services budget that discontinued the state’s federal Medicaid family planning waiver and replaced it with a state program that excludes any clinic that offers abortions.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced on Thursday that it will close one third of its 12 health centers in Iowa this summer, leaving an estimated 14,600 patients in Quad Cities, Burlington, Keokuk, and Sioux City without their current healthcare provider.

Iowa’s $1.77 billion health and human services budget keeps roughly the same amount of funds for family planning as the previous year, but places new restrictions on which facilities can receive money to cover low-income patients’ health care. Because the Hyde Amendment already prevents federal funds from paying for abortion, the budget change is the latest attempt by Republican politicians to shut down abortion providers.

Defunding Planned Parenthood and forcing clinics to shutter keeps low-income women from accessing vital health services such as contraception and cancer screenings, as the organization says abortions make up roughly 3% all services it performs.

Back in 2011, Texas took similarly drastic measures, cutting its family planning budget by more than $70 million and directing it away from clinics that provided abortion. Across the state, 25% of all family planning clinics closed, and about 30,000 fewer women had access to a health clinic two years later.

Clinic closures in the Lone Star State also forced women to drive four times farther to have an abortion. A Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) study found that Texas women whose closest clinic stayed open drove an average of 22 miles, while women whose closest clinic closed drove an average of 85 miles for health services. The women furthest from an open clinic had to drive more than 250 miles.

Iowa’s new regulations forced clinics to close right away, which foreshadows what will happen if the healthcare bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier in May becomes law. The GOP’s American Health Care Act proposes cutting off Medicaid reimbursements Planned Parenthood currently receives for treating low-income patients for one year unless its clinics stop performing abortions.

“We have seen what happens in states like Texas, and now in Iowa, when politicians attack access to care at Planned Parenthood — it’s devastating, and sometimes deadly, for the women who are left with nowhere to turn for care,” Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement to Refinery29. “I am concerned about the health and well-being of the people in Iowa who now can no longer turn to their trusted health care provider.”

Texas has already proven that when a state cuts off Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funds, it forces clinics to close and keeps women from getting the health services they need. Now, Iowa has followed suit and essential care for women is at stake in one more state.

DCG

WHO spends more on travel costs than fighting AIDS

margaret chan UN

Traveling large: UN Health Agency Director-General Margaret Chan

Your tax dollars at work.

From NY Post: The World Health Organization is spending more money on the travel bug than on fighting AIDS or malaria, according to a new report.

The UN health agency blows around $200 million a year on travel costs so its honchos can fly business class and stay in five-star hotels — more than what it reserves for battling some of the world’s biggest health crisis, the AP reports.

“We don’t trust people to do the right thing when it comes to travel,” the agency’s finance director Nick Jeffreys was caught saying at a 2015 seminar, according to the report.

WHO last year spent around $71 million on AIDS and hepatitis, $61 million on malaria and $59 million on tuberculosis, the wire service reports — although it does allocate a generous $450 million to polio every year.

Meanwhile, the agency’s director-general Dr. Margaret Chan racked up a $370,000 travel bill in one year, and recently stayed in a $1,008-a-night hotel in Guinea, the AP reports.

WHO is nevertheless asking for more moolah to fight disease — and taxpayers will be footing the bill.

UN member countries pay for the agency’s $2 billion annual budget, and the US is the largest contributor.

The agency defended itself by saying “the nature of WHO’s work often requires WHO staff to travel” and noting that it reduced travel costs by 14 percent last year — although that came after the particularly pricey 2014 Ebola outbreak, the AP notes.

And other aid agencies manage to fly staff around on much tighter budgets — the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF spends $140 million a year and has twice the staff, while Doctors Without Borders forbids business-class travel and spends on $43 million a year despite having more than five times as many staffers, the outlet reports.

DCG

Scientist wins Miss USA, slammed for ‘conservative’ comments

miss usa

Kara: Intelligent, gorgeous, and leans conservative. No wonder the proggies despise her.

Of course she was slammed. Proggies have a funny way of displaying their tolerance.

Via NY Post: A 25-year-old scientist from the District of Columbia who works for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission was crowned Miss USA Sunday — and she did it after making some controversial comments about political issues during the competition.

Kara McCullough caused a firestorm on social media after she gave conservative answers to questions — saying she wasn’t a feminist and that she thought people need to have a job to have health care.

“I’m definitely going to say it’s a privilege,” McCullough said, when asked if access to medical care was a right, as liberals such as Sen. Bernie Sanders say, or a privilege, as many conservatives say.

She then added: “As a government employee, I’m granted health care and I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs.”

Later in the competition, McCullough and two other challengers were asked to explain what they consider feminism to be and whether they consider themselves feminists.

Miss District of Columbia replied that she likes to “transpose” the word feminism to “equalism.”

“I don’t want to call myself a feminist,” McCullough said. “Women, we are just as equal as men, especially in the workplace.”

McCullough, who graduated with a chemistry degree from South Carolina State University, said after the contest: “I believe we’ve come a long way and there is more work to be done. I think domestically we are making progress and I do believe that we will become equal one day.”

#MissUSA trended on Twitter, as many users criticized her answers. “#MissUSA Miss DC just lost me with that answer….Affordable healthcare is a privilege? Girl bye,” tweeted a user named @dazella_may.

“DC just disqualified herself with that answer #MissUSA,” a user named Keeni Rodgers piled.

Others rushed to defend her.

“Black people hating on #MissUSA because of conservative positions need to stop acting like owned brainwashed slaves to the left,” a user named Darnell Wesh said of McCullough, who is African-American.

She will go on to compete in the Miss Universe contest.

“I’m extremely thankful for this opportunity,” she said after the event, which was held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on the Las Vegas Strip. “I just want to encourage so many women nationwide to find their passion in any subject possible and understand that nothing is difficult if you really, truly put the work in for it.”

DCG

Long-winded speech may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s

Approximately 7.7 million new cases of dementia are identified every year—which amounts to one new case every four seconds. Last year, dementia overtook heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales. There are 850,000 people with dementia in Britain and this figure is expected to reach 1 million by 2025.

The dreaded Alzheimer’s disease is a severe form of dementia which affects as many as 1 in 8 people 65 and older, or an estimated 5.2 million Americans in 2013.

Alzheimer’s causes nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. As the disease gets worse, brain tissue shrinks and areas that contain cerebrospinal fluid become larger. The damage harms memory, speech, and comprehension.

On left is a diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease

Hannah Devlin reports for The Guardian, Feb. 21, 2017, on the disappointing news that drugs designed to treat Alzheimer’s have shown to be ineffective. Between 2002 and 2012, 99.6% of drugs studies aimed at preventing, curing or improving Alzheimer’s symptoms were either halted or discontinued.

Some believe that these failures may be, in part, because by the time Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, the disease has already caused irreparable damage to the brain, making it too late for treatment to help. That is why scientists now try to push the detection period back to the very subtle, early changes in Alzheimer’s disease.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on February 19, 2017 in Boston, Dr. Janet Cohen Sherman, clinical director of the Psychology Assessment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, said: “With the growth in the aging population and the concomitant rise in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, the need to define changes in cognitive functioning at the earliest stages, prior to disease onset, when treatments are likely to be most effective, has become increasingly important.”

Dementia is accompanied by not just memory loss, but characteristic language deficits. New research suggests that an early sign of Alzheimer’s may be rambling and long-winded anecdotes — subtle changes in speech style from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a known precursor of Alzheimer’s in which there is evidence of cognitive decline years before dementia takes hold. The scientists behind the work say it may be possible to detect these speech changes and predict if someone is at risk more than a decade before meeting the clinical threshold for an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

At the AAAS meeting, Dr. Sherman presented new findings on distinctive language deficits in people with MCI, a precursor to dementia:

  • Studies of novelist Iris Murdoch’s later works found that her vocabulary showed signs of Alzheimer’s years before her diagnosis.
  • The final novels of famous crime writer Agatha Christie display increasingly repetitive and vague phrasing that suggests she was suffering from Alzheimer’s.
  • A study of White House press conference transcripts found striking changes in President Ronald Reagan’s speech over the course of his presidency, whereas George H.W. Bush, who was a similar age when president, showed no such decline. Dr. Sherman said, “Ronald Reagan started to have a decline in the number of unique words with repetitions of statements over time. He started using more fillers, more empty phrases, like ‘thing’ or ‘something’ or things like ‘basically’ or ‘actually’ or ‘well’.”
  • Sherman points out that the key is not long-winded, because many people without dementia are long-winded or verbose. The subtle change in speech style that indicates mild cognitive impairment is worsening mental imprecision.

So what’s an example of the kind of long-winded speech that is indicative of early Alzheimer’s?

In a study, the scientists compared the language abilities of 22 healthy young individuals, 24 healthy older individuals, and 22 people with MCI — the precursor to Alzheimer’s.

In one test, the subjects had to join up three words, for instance “pen”, “ink” and “paper”, the healthy volunteers typically joined the three in a simple sentence, while the MCI group gave circuitous accounts of going to the shop and buying a pen. Dr. Sherman explains that they MCI group “were much less concise in conveying information, the sentences they produced were much longer, they had a hard time staying on point and I guess you could say they were much more roundabout in getting their point across. It was a very significant difference.”

In another test, people were asked to repeat phrases read out by the investigator. Complex vocabulary or grammar was not a problem, but those with MCI appeared to have a mental block when they were given phrases involving ambiguous pronouns, such as “Fred visited Bob after his graduation”, which the scientists said required more mental agility to assign a meaning.

As Dr. Sherman summarizes the research findings:

“Our findings suggest that individuals with MCI may have more difficulty integrating syntax and semantics, impacting their ability to precisely and effectively convey meaning. Our findings suggest that the language changes cannot be accounted for by a decline in memory.”

Dr. Sherman hopes that in the next five years, researchers will develop a linguistic test for pre-Alzheimer’s mild cognitive impairment, as well as a determination whether engaging in language-based activities, including reading, writing and social activities, may serve as protective factors for dementia.

See also:

~Eowyn

Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner on why many trans women don’t have surgery: “A lot like their own parts”

And Caitlyn says “gender reassignment surgery” is not as bad as you think. I guarantee you every man reading this will have a different opinion.

From Daily Mail: Caitlyn Jenner spoke candidly about her sex life and gender reassignment surgery in an interview with friend and TV legend Larry King on Thursday. When King asked Jenner why she has elected to not speak about her surgery, which she underwent this past January, the former Olympian said it was out of ‘respect’ that she elected to stay quiet.

She later said of the procedure: ‘It’s not as bad as you think.’ 

Jenner was also asked to speak about her sexual orientation, and revealed that she still was not sure which sex she was attracted to at this time.

That is when King, 83, told Jenner that she still had some ‘pretty good sexual years’ left at the age of 67 before asking: ‘What are you doing later?’

This caused Caitlyn to light up, laughing and blushing as she said: ‘I just got hit on by Larry King!’

‘Who do you desire? Do you desire women or men?’ asked King. ‘I don’t know. I don’t really know. I don’t even go there Larry,’ said Jenner.

King then asked Jenner how old she was, before stating she had ‘good sexual years’ ahead of her, which made Jenner smile. ‘Do you want to talk about that? Do I have hope?’ asked Jenner, who paused for a few seconds and looked at King before bursting out in laughter. ‘Yeah,’ said King, before asking Jenner about her plans later that day.  

Jenner only recently announced that she had undergone reassignment surgery, sharing the news in her recently released memoir. She has been reluctant to speak in depth about what she underwent in her recent wave of interviews, but did open up a bit while speaking with King. ‘Those things are very personal, wouldn’t you agree,’ said Jenner.

‘Just because your trans doesn’t mean you have to answer every question. I understand that people are fascinated by that stuff.’

King then interjected to explain that the he was only interested in the subject for one reason, asking: ‘What is the surgery like, what is it like to go through with it.’

King also made a point of noting that he had previously asked other transgender individuals the same question and that many told him: ‘It’s not as bad as you think.’

Jenner echoed that sentiment, adding that despite that fact approximately 68 percent of transgender women do not get reassignment surgery to her knowledge. It is unclear where Jenner got that number or its accuracy.

When asked about why less than half of transgender women elect to undergo the surgery, Jenner said because it was ‘expensive.’

King then pointed out that the expense was not an issue for Jenner, who appeared to get a bit riled up by that statement. ‘Well no, fortunately I work,’ said Jenner. ‘And I’m not going to apologize, I worked all my life.’

Jenner later told King however that ‘what’s between your legs doesn’t define who you are.’

She also said that ‘a lot’ of transgender women ‘like their own parts.’ 

DCG