Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Schilling Votes to Empower Seniors, Repeal IPAB PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Andie Pivarunas   
Friday, 23 March 2012 13:48

Bill would guarantee patients and doctors the right to make health care choices, not unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats

Washington, DC – Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17) today voted in favor of H.R. 5, the Protecting Access to Health Care (PATH) Act, which will repeal the health care reform law’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), among other things.  Opposition to the IPAB is broad and bipartisan, and today’s vote marks the House of Representatives’ 26th vote to repeal or defund parts of the unpopular health care law.

“Two short years ago when I was home running St. Giuseppe’s Heavenly Pizza with my family, folks like us were led to believe that when the health care reform bill was passed and we found out what was in it that we’d like it,” Schilling said.  “We were told that if we liked our health care we could keep it, assured that the law wouldn’t be a budget-buster, and promised that the government would stay out of our health care decisions.  As many of us learned, though, that hasn’t been the case.”

The IPAB is a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats given power under the health care reform law to make cost-cutting decisions that restrict access to health care for Medicare beneficiaries.  There is no requirement for the panel’s meetings or hearings to be held publicly, for the panel to consider public or Congressional input on its proposals, or to make its deliberations open to the public.  Further, according to the law the board “may accept, use, and dispose of gifts or donations of services or property,” essentially inviting lobbyists to shower the unelected and unaccountable Board members with meals, cash, cars, vacations, or even homes.   

“I firmly disagree with the Independent Payment Advisory Board – the Health Care IRS – approach to Medicare, which threatens American seniors’ access to quality health care,” Schilling said.  “Medicare is a lifeline to American seniors, and nothing is as important to them as having guaranteed health care coverage.  With today’s vote we are protecting and empowering our seniors, removing bureaucrats from health care decisions that should be made by patients, doctors, and families.”

In addition to repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the PATH Act includes lawsuit abuse reform.  According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 40% of medical malpractice suits filed in the United States are “without merit,” leading to the widespread practice of defensive medicine that drives up health care costs without improving patient care.  The PATH Act will reduce the practice of defensive medicine, including a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages (pain and suffering, in other words) and limits on the contingency fees lawyers can charge.  The PATH Act does allow for the payment of 100% of plaintiffs’ economic damages (including medical costs, lost wages and future lost wages, rehabilitation costs, etc).

“In last year’s State of the Union Address the President said he would be willing to work with us to make health care better or more affordable, and look at ideas like medical malpractice reform that Republicans had suggested to bring down health care costs,” Schilling said.  “The PATH Act does just that.  I hope we can move this bill forward together to bring down costs, rein in frivolous lawsuits, and put seniors and their doctors back in charge of their health care decisions."

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lost health coverage and Medicare cuts PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:42

Broken Promises in the 2010 Affordable Care Act

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

 

In 1994, the health care reform bill proposed by then President Clinton failed, in large part, because it would fundamentally changed health care coverage for nearly every American.  In 2009, President Obama decided he would combat the failure of the Clinton Administration by repeating over and over again to the American public “if you like what you have, you can keep it.”

 

It is my understanding he said that on 47 separate occasions while the bill was being debated in Congress.  And while it may have been political useful to make that promise to the American people, it remains a promise he can’t keep.  The fact is that millions of Americans are seeing changes in their existing health plan due to the health law.

 

The Administration’s regulations governing so called “grandfathered health plans” will force most firms—and up to 80 percent of small businesses—to give up their current plan by next year.  When those businesses lose their ‘grandfathered’ status, they immediately become subject to costly new mandates and the increased premiums that follow.

 

Families in 17 states no longer have access to ‘child-only’ plans as a result of the health law.  It’s not known how many of the families that lost coverage for their children because of the law have been able to find an affordable replacement.  In Medicare Advantage, there is one study showing Medicare Advantage enrollment will be cut in half, choices available to seniors will be reduced by two-thirds.

 

Then there is the open question about Americans who receive their health care through large employers.  The Congressional Budget Office recently released a report with that constructed a scenario where as many as 20 million Americans could lose their employers coverage.  And while I acknowledge the Congressional Budget Office report provided the number I just mentioned as only one plausible scenario, there are many of us who believe it is very plausible given the incentives the health law creates for large businesses.

 

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The President made a further promise that I think we should talk about.  On July 29, 2009, during the consideration of the health law, the President said “Medicare is a government program.  But don’t worry: I’m not going to touch it.”

 

So let’s take a look at the health care law and see if that promise was kept.  The health care law made significant cuts in the Medicare program.  On April 22, 2010, the Chief Actuary for Medicare analyzed the law and found that it would cut Medicare by $575 billion over ten years.  The President said about Medicare “I’m not going to touch it.”  The bill cuts $575 billion from Medicare.  The Congressional Budget Office wrote that over $500 billion in Medicare reductions “would not enhance the ability of the government to pay for future Medicare benefits.”  The President said about Medicare “I’m not going to touch it.”

 

The CMS actuary had this to say about the Medicare spending reductions:  “Providers for whom Medicare constitutes a substantive portion of their business could find it difficult to remain profitable and, absent legislative intervention, might end their participation in the program.”  The President said about Medicare “I’m not going to touch it.”

 

The CMS actuary said, in essence, these cuts could drive providers from the Medicare program.  I have a hard time understanding how these massive cuts to Medicare count as not touching the program.  On the other hand, the biggest problem facing Medicare in the near term is the physician payment update problem that we constantly have to address here in Congress.  Of course, the health care law did nothing to address that problem.  Perhaps that’s what the President meant when he said about Medicare, “I’m not going to touch it.”

 
Local Health Partners Release Findings from the 2012 Quad Cities Community Health Assessment PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Nicole Carkner   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:29

The Quad City Health Initiative, Genesis Health System, Trinity Regional Health System, Community Health Care, Inc., Rock Island County Health Department and Scott County Health Department, are pleased to share their findings from the 2012 Quad Cities Community Health Assessment.  The assessment and associated documents are available for viewing and download at www.quadcities.healthforecast.net and on the websites of the study sponsors.

Over a year in the making, this Community Health Assessment is a systematic, data-driven approach to determining the health status, behaviors and needs of residents in the Quad Cities Area.  The study is a follow-up to similar studies conducted in 2002 and 2007.  The 2012 study, however, is innovative for its alignment of methodology between the local health providers and public health systems.

The 2012 Community Health Assessment included a telephone survey of over 900 individuals in Scott and Rock Island counties, extensive secondary data analysis and the gathering of input and priorities from local community leaders.  With funding provided by Genesis Health System and Trinity Regional Health System, the partners hired Professional Research Consultants of Omaha, NE to conduct a survey, analyze data and provide a comprehensive report.  Additional secondary data analysis, stakeholder meetings and issue prioritization were administered by staff at the Rock Island and Scott County Health Departments with input from Community Health Care.  Quad City Health Initiative staff facilitated the assessment work across the partnering organizations.

The integrated process met the assessment reporting requirements of the Scott County and Rock Island County Health Departments as well as the new assessment requirements for Genesis Health System and Trinity Regional Health System as established by the Affordable Care Act.   The assessment was designed to have wide benchmarking potential at the state and national levels, as well as to Healthy People 2020 targets.

"As members of the Quad City Health Initiative, our health organizations have a long history of partnering together.  This year, we were able to leverage the ongoing planning processes of the health departments and wrap around them a comprehensive community survey and secondary data collection.  This made our assessment process more aligned, more efficient and more respectful of community stakeholders' time," says Nicole Carkner, Executive Director of the Quad City Health Initiative.

"We are one of the first communities in our region to successfully integrate health system and public health assessment processes," says Wendy Trute, Administrator for the Rock Island County Health Department.  "The comprehensive assessment provides data for the entire Quad Cities region that can be used by our community partners to improve the health of all Quad Citians."

"Our process has already been cited nationally and we are pleased to be a leading example for this work, " continues Ed Rivers, Director for the Scott County Health Department.

The 2012 Quad Cities Community Health Assessment identified some improvements in community health status since the prior assessments.  Notably, a higher percentage of adults and children have visited a dentist or dental clinic in the past year and fewer adults now smoke.  In addition, the Quad Cities also fares better than the national average on selected indicators such as the percentage of adults who have health care insurance, low-weight births, and overall community perceptions like being a good place to raise a family.

The findings of this study will be used to inform decisions and guide future efforts to improve health status and quality of life in our area.  Issues identified in prior studies, such as the percentage of adults who have one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease, continue to be a concern.  "These findings renew the importance of addressing and promoting healthy behaviors such as healthy eating and active living," says Dr. Jim Lehman, Vice President of Quality, Genesis Health System.  "Although the Quad City Health Initiative has been responding to many of these challenges, we welcome this opportunity to educate the entire community on the importance of creating a culture that supports health and wellness."

One of the overarching themes of the assessment is that lower-income residents in the Quad Cities experience notably poorer health status including physical and mental health.  "We understand that lower-income residents tend to have a higher prevalence of chronic disease but greater difficulty accessing healthcare," says Tom Bowman, CEO of Community Health Care, Inc.  "It is very important for our community to understand how societal issues such as income and education levels translate to health status."

Qualitative input from community stakeholders also identified behavioral health and access to mental health care as a continuing priority for the Quad Cities; this issue was identified in the 2007 assessment and launched several community coalitions in response.  "Our community is at the forefront of understanding the importance of integrated health care," says Berlinda Tyler-Jamison, Vice President of Community Impact & Advocacy, Trinity Regional Health System.  "Behavioral health and physical health are linked and the more we study, the more we understand that we need to have a holistic approach to creating health for people and for our community."

Questions on the 2012 Community Health Assessment may be directed to the Quad City Health Initiative which will be working with the study sponsors to improve health status and quality of life through ongoing projects and community assessments.  Website:  www.qchealthinitiative.org.

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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Highlights Benefits of the Affordable Care Act to Rural Americans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by USDA Communications   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:28
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Highlights Benefits of the Affordable Care Act to Rural Americans

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2012 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today discussed how the Affordable Care Act is building a stronger health system in rural communities and providing better care for farm families and the agricultural community.

"No one should have to go without health care because of where they live, and for too long, rural Americans have been getting the short end of the health care stick." said Vilsack. "The Affordable Care Act is helping millions of young people access health care, strengthening Medicare, and training thousands of new doctors to serve rural areas to give middle-class families the health security they deserve."

Two years ago, President Obama signed the Act into law and today the law is giving Americans more freedom in their health care choices, lowering costs, and improving the quality of care.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act:

  • 2.5 million more young adults have health insurance on their parent's plan.
  • 3.6 million seniors with Medicare in 2011 alone saved an average of $600 on the cost of their prescription drugs. And everyone on Medicare can get preventive services like mammograms for free.
  • Insurance companies must spend at least 80% of your premium dollars on health care and quality improvements and not overhead, and cannot raise your premiums by 10% or more with no accountability.
  • It's illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition. And in 2014, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition will be illegal.

As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack is working to ensure that rural Americans are aware of the many ways the new health care law helps them. Specifically, rural families will see improved access to care, new options for those with pre-existing conditions, coverage for young adults so they can take local jobs and contribute to their rural economies, and reduced insurance barriers to emergency services.

Here are a few components of how the law is helping rural families:

  • Encourages thousands of new primary care doctors and nurses to practice in rural communities and increases payments to rural health providers.
  • Removes insurance barriers to emergency services. Rural citizens can seek care from a hospital outside their health plan's network when there is no time to travel to a hospital that is farther away.
  • Gives options for those with pre-existing conditions and forbids insurers from using an unintentional error in your application to cancel your coverage when you get sick.
  • Gives seniors freedom to get the care they need, including free preventive care, lower cost prescription drugs, and Medicare they can count on.
  • Gives farm families the flexibility to keep children on their parent's health insurance until they are 26. Having health insurance allows young people to remain locally and contribute to their rural economies.

This FACT SHEET has more about how the Affordable Care Act helps Rural America.

In 2012, as part of a series of recommendations from the White House Rural Council, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding to connect community colleges and technical colleges that support rural communities with the materials and resources they need to support the training of Health Information Technology (HIT) professionals that work in rural hospitals and clinics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the needed HIT workforce will increase by 20 percent by 2016.

Also due to efforts by the White House Rural Council, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between USDA Rural Development and Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve collaboration and strengthen the healthcare infrastructure in rural communities. This MOU will connect rural hospitals and clinicians to existing capital loan programs that enable them to purchase software and hardware to implement HIT.

Over the last three years, USDA has worked within existing programs to invest in rural healthcare, providing funding to improve nearly 600 rural health facilities serving more than 11 million Americans. Our programs have funded equipment – like CT scans, MRIs, ultra sound and lab equipment. Since 1974, more than 40% of USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities Programs' portfolio has been invested in rural health care facilities. Over 3 years, USDA has also awarded grants and loans to help rural health facilities serving 730 counties expand opportunities – though telemedicine – to provide advanced diagnosis for patients or to consult with colleagues at other hospitals.

The Affordable Care Act is giving rural Americans more freedom in their health care choices, lowering costs, and improving the quality of care. Learn more about the new law and how to take advantage of these benefits by visiting www.healthcare.gov.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).


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The One Ingredient Label You Have Never Read… And Should! PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:06
You Probably Know What’s In Your Kids’ Peanut Butter, But Do You
Know What’s In Their Toothpaste?

Most parents are careful about learning what’s in the stuff their kids eat and drink. They avoid artificial dyes, preservatives, chemicals, and sweeteners. Yet ask just about any of those same folks if they have ever looked at what is in their toothpaste and you’ll likely get blank stares.

Considering the fact that children – and adults -- ingest toothpaste twice a day every day, it’s probably the most frequent thing we put in our mouths other than water or other beverages. And still, most people have never looked at what is in their toothpaste.

Dentist and national oral health care expert Harold Katz, (www.therabreath.com), suggests that needs to change. Many ingredients in some commercial toothpastes are of questionable benefit and some are just plain bad for you.

Consumers have become increasingly aware of the hidden toxins in foods, beverages and eating and drinking utensils, he says. They avoid high fat and high sodium foods, sulfates in their personal care products, aerosol sprays, and toxic chemicals in their household cleaners.

“They’re taking no chances, and rightfully so. Remember the rush to replace plastic baby bottles with glass ones after the BPA scare in 2008?” he asked.

However there has been a surprising lack of attention to toothpaste, Katz says. The dentist suggests that all consumers – but especially parents – take the time to read their toothpaste tubes today. Effects of potentially unhealthy toothpaste ingredients are multiplied in the smaller bodies of children.

Here are a few ingredients to stay away from:

• FD&C blue dye No. 2: This commonly used toothpaste dye is one of several on the list of additives to avoid, maintained by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It’s said to be linked to learning, behavioral and health problems, severe allergic reactions, and headaches, among other problems.

• Sodium lauryl sulfate: The American College of Toxicology reports this ingredient in cosmetics and industrial cleaning agents can cause skin corrosion and irritation. Doses of .8 to 110 grams/kilogram in lab rats caused depression, labored breathing, diarrhea and death in 4 out of 20 animals.

• Triclosan: An anti-microbial ingredient, the federal Environmental Protection Agency lists triclosan as a pesticide and regulates its use in over-the-counter toothpastes and hand soaps. According to the agency’s fact sheet, “Studies on the thyroid and estrogen effects led EPA to determine that more research on the potential health consequences of endocrine effects of triclosan is warranted. … Because of the amount of research being planned and currently in progress, it will undertake another comprehensive review of triclosan beginning in 2013.”

• Saccharin and aspartame: Both of these artificial sweeteners are on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s list of additives to avoid.

Toothpaste buyers should look for natural ingredients, such as aloe vera juice, which cleans and soothes teeth and gums and helps fight cavities, according to the May/June 2009 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's clinical, peer-reviewed journal. Aloe vera tooth gel is said to kill disease-causing bacteria in the mouth, Katz says.

Also, avoid all toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a harsh detergent that has been linked to canker sores. Toothpastes that are free of sulfates include Weleda’s Salt Toothpaste, TheraBreath and Tom’s of Maine.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day and get children into the habit from a young age, Katz says. You’ll have fresh breath, avoid painful dental problems, and be far more likely to have your teeth in your mouth when you go to sleep at night as you age.

Just be sure to check what’s in your family’s toothpaste and avoid buying anything with problematic ingredients. And when it comes to brushing kids teeth use a pea-sized drop of paste on the brush – no more – and oversee brushing to ensure young children don’t swallow their toothpaste, says Dr Katz.

About Dr. Harold Katz

Dr. Harold Katz received his degree in bacteriology from UCLA and is the founder of The California Breath Clinics and author of The Bad Breath Bible. He has been featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’s “Early Show” and “The View” with Barbara Walters and countless other TV shows. Dr. Katz’s formulated the TheraBreath oral care program in 1994 and has continued to update products in order to make use of the most effective and most natural ingredients.

 
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