Tag Archives: medical

Cancer Treatment and Health Care Reform

Blogged by: BarbaraOBrien1

One argument you may hear against health care reform concerns cancer survival rates. The United States has higher cancer survivor rates than countries with national health care systems, we’re told. Doesn’t this mean we should keep what we’ve got and not change it?

Certainly cancer survival rates are a critical issue for people suffering from the deadly lung mesothelioma cancer. So let’s look at this claim and see if there is any substance to it.

First, it’s important to understand that “cancer survival rate” doesn’t mean the rate of people who are cured of a cancer. The cancer survival rate is the percentage of people who survive a certain type of cancer for a specific amount of time, usually five years after diagnosis.

For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, the survivor rate of prostate cancer in the United States is 98 percent. This means that 98 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive five years later. However, this statistic does not tell us whether the men who have survived for five years still have cancer or what number of them may die from it eventually.

Misunderstanding of the term “survivor rate” sometimes is exploited to make misleading claims. For example, in 2007 a pharmaceutical company promoting a drug used to treat colon cancer released statistics showing superior survival rates for its drug over other treatments. Some journalists who used this data in their reporting assumed it meant that the people who survived were cured of cancer, and they wrote that the drug “saved lives.” The drug did extend the lives of of patients, on average by a few months. However, the mortality rate for people who used this drug — meaning the rate of patients who died of the disease — was not improved.

But bloggers and editorial writers who oppose health care reform seized these stories about “saving lives,” noting that this wondrous drug was available in the United States for at least a year before it was in use in Great Britain. Further, Britain has lower cancer survival rates than the U.S. This proved, they said, the superiority of U.S. health care over “socialist” countries.

This is one way propagandists use data to argue that health care in the United States is superior to countries with government-funded health care systems. They selectively compare the most favorable data from the United States with data from the nations least successful at treating cancer. A favorite “comparison” country is Great Britain, whose underfunded National Health Service is struggling.

It is true that the United States compares very well in the area of cancer survival rates, but other countries with national health care systems have similar results.

For example, in 2008 the British medical journal Lancet Oncology published a widely hailed study comparing cancer survival rates in 31 countries. Called the CONCORD study, the researchers found that United States has the highest survival rates for breast and prostate cancer. However, Japan has the highest survival for colon and rectal cancers in men, and France has the highest survival for colon and rectal cancers in women. Canada and Australia also ranked relatively high for most cancers. The differences in the survival data for these “best” countries is very small, and is possibly caused by discrepancies in reporting of data and not the treatment result itself.

And it should be noted that Japan, France, Canada and Australia all have government-funded national health care systems. So, there is no reason to assume that changing the way health care is funded in the U.S. would reduce the quality of cancer care.

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Filed under Austrailia, Cancer, Culture, England, France, Health, Health Care Reform, Japan, Medicine, Mesothelioma, News, Opinions, Uncategorized, Women's Issues, World

Why Progressives Are Batsh*t Crazy to Oppose the Senate Bill

Op-ed by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com

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Pick your sub-headline:

a) It’s time to stop being polite and start getting real.
b) Here’s hoping a picture is worth 1,000 words.



Any questions?

OK, I imagine that there will be a few. Here’s how I came up with these numbers.

Senate Bill. These estimates are straightforward — they’re taken directly from the CBO’s report on premiums for people at different income levels. A family of four earning an income of $54,000 would pay $4,000 in premiums, and could expect to incur another $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs. The $4,000 premium represents a substantial discount, because the government is covering 72 percent of the premium — meaning that the gross cost of the premium is $14,286, some $10,286 of which the government pays.

One caution: this reflects the situation before the public option was removed from the bill. But, provided that the subsidy schedule isn’t changed as well, that shouldn’t change these numbers much.

Status Quo. In 2009, the average premium for a family in the individual market was $6,328, according to the insurance lobbying group AHIP. However, this figure paints an optimistic picture for two reasons. Firstly, the average family size in the AHIP dataset is 3.03 people; for a family of four, that number would scale upward to $7,925, by my calculations. Secondly, the CBO’s estimates are based on 2016 figures, not 2009, so to make an apples-to-apples comparison, we have to account for inflation. According to Kaiser, the average cost of health coverage has increased by about 8.7 percent annually over the past decade, and by 8.8 percent for family coverage. Let’s scale that down slightly, assuming 7.5 annual inflation in premiums from 2009 through 2016 inclusive. That would bring the cost of the family’s premium up by a nominal 66 percent, to $13,149. And remember: these are based on estimates of premiums provided by the insurance lobby. I have no particular reason to think that they’re biased, but if they are, it’s probably on the low side.

Not only, however, would this family paying a lot more under the status quo, but they’d be doing so for inferior insurance. According to the CBO, the amount of coverage in the individual market would improve by between 27 and 30 percent under the Senate’s bill. Taking the midpoint of those numbers (28.5 percent), we can infer that there would be about $1,427 in additional cost sharing to this family in the status quo as compared with the Senate bill; this would bring their cost sharing to $6,427 total.

Add the $6,247 to the $13,149 and you get an annual cost of $19,576 — for a family earning $54,000! Obviously, very few such families are going to be able to afford that unless they have a lot of money in the bank. So, some of these families will go without insurance, or they’ll by really crappy insurance, or they’ll pay the premiums but skimp on out-of-pocket costs, which will negatively impact their fiscal and physical health. But if this family were to want to obtain equivalent coverage to that which would be available to them for $9,000 in the Senate bill, it would cost them between $19,000 and $20,000, according to my estimates.

Status Quo with SCHIP. Fortunately, some families in this predicament do receive some relief via the SCHIP program. SCHIP eligibility varies from state to state; a family earning income at 225 percent of the poverty line, as this family does, is eligible for SCHIP in about half of the country.

Premiums are fairly cheap under SCHIP — for a family at 225 percent of poverty, generally on the order of about $60 per month to cover two children. We’ll assume that this will inflate slightly to $75 per month, or $900 per year, by 2016.

The two adults in the household will still have to buy insurance in the individual market, which will cost $7,684 by 2016. That makes the family’s total premium $8,584.

For the adults, we assume that the cost sharing component runs proportional to premiums, and totals $3,756. For the children, this calculation is a little bit more ambiguous. Out-of-pocket costs under SCHIP are capped at 5 percent of family income, which would be $2,700 for this family. But that’s a cap and not an average — we’ll assume that the average is half of the cap, or $1,350. Total cost-sharing, therefore, is $5,106 between the adults and the children.

This means that premiums plus out of pocket costs will equal $13,690 for this family. I estimate the subsidy by subtracting this figure from the cost of unsubsidized insurance in the individual market; the difference is $5,885.

Caveat/Disclaimer. There are, obviously, some simplifying assumptions here, especially with regard to SCHIP. The only thing I can promise you is that I’m “showing my work“. I would actively encourage people to pick apart these numbers and come up with their own, more robust estimates. One thing that should probably be accounted for is that the families in both the status quo and the status quo + SCHIP cases will frequently be able to deduct their health care expenses from their taxable income, especially if they’ve incurred substantial out-of-pocket costs. That means that the difference in net costs is slightly exaggerated by my figures.

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Read the rest @

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The closing…

Nate SilverI understand that most of the liberal skepticism over the Senate bill is well intentioned. But it has become way, way off the mark. Where do you think the $800 billion goes? It goes to low-income families just like these. Where do you think it comes from? We won’t know for sure until the Senate and House produce their conference bill, but it comes substantially from corporations and high-income earners, plus some efficiency gains.

Because this is primarily a political analysis blog, I think people tend to assume that I’m lost in the political forest and not seeing the policy trees. In fact, the opposite is true. For any “progressive” who is concerned about the inequality of wealth, income and opportunity in America, this bill would be an absolutely monumental achievement. The more compelling critique, rather, is that the bill would fail to significantly “bend the cost curve“. I don’t dismiss that criticism at all, and certainly the insertion of a public option would have helped at the margins. But fundamentally, that is a critique that would traditionally be associated with the conservative side of the debate, as it ultimately goes to mounting deficits in the wake of expanded government entitlements.

And please do pick apart my numbers: I’m sure that you will find some questionable assumptions and possibly some outright errors. But if you found a persuasive, progressive policy rationale against the bill, I’d be stunned.~~Nate Silver

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Filed under (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid, Government, Health, Health Care Reform, Media and Entertainment, Medicine, Nate Silver, Obama Administration, Politics, Pres. Barack Obama, Public Option, Senate, Uncategorized, United States

New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees and President Obama Team Up for Children’s Fitness

Posted by Buellboy

Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware, President Barack Obama, Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Pittsburgh Steelers' Troy Polamalu with Washington, D.C.-area children at the White House. Brees said it was the only time he had thrown a pass to someone wearing a Chicago Bears jacket.

Times-Picayune—In support of his United We Serve initiative, President Barack Obama and NFL stars Drew Brees, DeMarcus Ware and Troy Polamalu team up to highlight the importance of fitness for America’s children.

Obama joins Saints quarterback Brees, Steelers safety Polamalu and Cowboys linebacker Ware in a special public service announcement debuting during each of the three NFL games played on Thanksgiving.

The 90-second PSA is a joint effort of the NFL’s PLAY 60 campaign, a league-wide effort to fight childhood obesity by getting kids active for 60 minutes a day, and United We Serve, the president’s initiative encouraging all Americans to participate in community service.

The spot will continue airing throughout the rest of the season in a shorter format.

Through United We Serve, I have challenged all Americans to roll up their sleeves and engage in sustained service to strengthen our communities,” the president said. “For some of us that means volunteering at a soup kitchen or cleaning up a local park. For others, it means taking time to build a playground or volunteering your time to improve the life of a child.

Quarterback Drew Brees

No matter how we serve, we find common purpose when we dedicate ourselves to helping others. This holiday season, I am asking all Americans to find their own way to give back to their communities.”

The Saints’ Brees, who has been a national spokesman for the PLAY 60 campaign for the past two years, said, “We had about 25 minutes and did three different takes. I threw him a couple of passes. He was wearing his Chicago Bears jacket, so there was some ribbing about that.

Thanksgiving is a time when families come together, and it is also a perfect time to focus on the importance of keeping kids healthy and active,” Brees said. “I was honored to spend time with the president on an issue that is clearly important to him. I was also impressed by his wide receiver skills.”

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Filed under Barack Obama, Change, Children, Football, Health, Media and Entertainment, New Orleans, LA, Politics, Pop Culture, Pres. Barack Obama, Presidents, PSA, Sports, Thanksgiving, Volunteerism

The Care They Were Promised and the Benefits That They Have Earned

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama presents new proposals to care for veterans to an audience of Wounded Warriors in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on 4/9/09.

President Barack Obama presents new proposals to care for veterans to an audience of Wounded Warriors in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on 4/9/09.

It’s time to give our veterans a 21st-century VA. Over the past few months we’ve made much progress towards that end, and today I’m pleased to announce some new progress.
Under the leadership of Secretary Gates and Secretary Shinseki, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have taken a first step towards creating one unified lifetime electronic health record for members of our armed services that will contain their administrative and medical information — from the day they first enlist to the day that they are laid to rest.

Currently, there is no comprehensive system in place that allows for a streamlined transition of health records between DOD and the VA. And that results in extraordinary hardship for a awful lot of veterans, who end up finding their records lost, unable to get their benefits processed in a timely fashion. I can’t tell you how many stories that I heard during the course of the last several years, first as a United States senator and then as a candidate, about veterans who were finding it almost impossible to get the benefits that they had earned despite the fact that their disabilities or their needs were evident for all to see.

And that’s why I’m asking both departments to work together to define and build a seamless system of integration with a simple goal: When a member of the Armed Forces separates from the military, he or she will no longer have to walk paperwork from a DOD duty station to a local VA health center; their electronic records will transition along with them and remain with them forever.~~President Barack Obama

Vice President Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden inspects the 18th Airborne Corps with CSM Allen and Lt. General Austin at the units' welcome home ceremonies at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Vice President Joe Biden inspects the 18th Airborne Corps with CSM Allen and Lt. General Austin at the units' welcome home ceremonies at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Wednesday, April 8, 2009

If we only have $10 to spend in the entire federal government, then we are convinced that we have to spend six of it caring for those who come home in need. We will spend all six before we spend it on anything else — on the elderly, on children, on the poor, on our roads, on our security — because this is the only genuinely sacred obligation this nation has. The service that you and thousands and thousands of others who went before you in Iraq over the last six years — the services you’ve performed have come at great cost for some. Some of our warriors and their families have paid a much steeper price than others. Some had given their lives, the ultimate sacrifice, and we honor their memory.

But the best way to honor their memory, of those thousands — over 14,000 seriously injured coming home from the wars which we are engaged in and have been engaged in — we owe them the obligation to — we know we can never fully repay it, but we know we owe them the obligation to provide them the absolute best medical care and service they need. Some will need that for the rest of their lives. Their life expectancies will be 35 to 40 years, and some will need care for the entirety of those lives.~~Vice President Joe Biden

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Filed under Army, Computers, Marines, Military, Navy, Politics, Pres. Barack Obama, Reserve, Robert M. Gates (Sec of Defense), Technology, Uncategorized, Veterans, Vice-President Joe Biden

Wounded Warriors at the White House

The President hosted a remarkable group of wounded veterans a few weeks ago on the White House basketball court. These “Wounded Warriors” from Walter Reed Army Medical Center showed President Obama a thing or two about wheelchair basketball. Check out the impressive moves that can be performed on four wheels.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

About the Wounded Warrior Project

Wounded Warrior ProjectThe Wounded Warrior Project began when several individuals took small, inspired actions to help others in need.

One night while watching the evening news, a group of veterans and brothers were moved by the difficult stories of the first wounded service members returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. They realized then and there that something needed to be done for these brave individuals beyond the brass bands and ticker tape parades.

The resulting objective was to provide tangible support for the severely wounded and help them on the road to healing, both physically and mentally. What had been initially viewed as a small contribution (compared with what the warriors had sacrificed while serving our country) has become WWP’s signature program: “WWP backpacks delivered bedside to wounded warriors.” Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit organization.

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Filed under Basketball, Military, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, Veterans, Video/YouTube

Feds to Issue New Medical Marijuana Policy

AP/—Federal drug agents won’t pursue pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers in states that allow medical marijuana, under new legal guidelines to be issued Monday by the Obama administration.

Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.

The guidelines to be issued by the department do, however, make it clear that agents will go after people whose marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes, the officials said.

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

Fourteen states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

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More @ Associated Press

History of Weed Part I

History of Weed Part II

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Filed under Culture, Green, Law, Politics, Uncategorized, Video/YouTube

Mayor Daley to Sign Abortion Protest Bubble Law

Posted by Audiegrl

ABORTIONprotestors-largeChicago-Sun Times/Fran Spielman—In a political about-face, Mayor Daley said Friday he would sign legislation creating a protective zone around Chicago hospitals and clinics to keep patients and employees from being hounded by “in-your-face” abortion protests.

In 1996, Daley ridiculed a proposal that would have given women entering Chicago abortion clinics an eight-foot buffer between themselves and the nearest protester during the Democratic National Convention here.

At the time, he denounced it as the equivalent of a “free trade zone” and said enforcing the buffer would require “measuring tapes…You’d get into arguments.”

What a difference thirteen years makes.

On Friday, the mayor said he would sign the permanent protective zone created by a divided City Council.

On Friday, the mayor said he would sign the permanent protective zone created by a divided City Council.

On Friday, the mayor said he would sign the permanent protective zone created by a divided City Council.

You’re just trying to make sure no one’s being harassed. …If someone is going into a medical complex and I disagree with them going there, I should not harass and scream and yell at them. It doesn’t matter whether it deals with the word abortion or anything else,” the mayor said.

There has to be some civility left in our society. Everybody has the right to demonstrate and picket. But, to use words and other things to frighten people going in to seek assistance — that is another question.

Daley said he anticipates a court challenge. But, he’s confident the ordinance drafted by his Law Department will stand up to legal scrutiny.

Many people are going into many of these medical complexes for other reasons as well—not just for that [abortion] reason,” he said.

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Filed under Abortion, Democrats, Law, Politics, Supreme Court, Women's Issues