Healthcare

A new lead in the effort to eliminate cancer health disparities

Regardless of an individual’s dietary and lifestyle risk factors, living in a poorer or more socioeconomically deprived neighborhood may increase a person’s risk for death.

This was the conclusion of one of many breakthrough studies presented earlier this week at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference. This annual meeting brings together researchers from all disciplines of cancer prevention research to foster the exchange of ideas and collaboration in hopes of some day preventing cancer altogether.

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Senate's vote against the Pro-Life Amendment was immoral (Rep. Paul Broun)

The vast majority of America does not want the federal government to subsidize abortions.  Unfortunately, that message has not reached the U.S. Senate, which took a step towards overturning more than thirty years of public policy - policy which has been supported by Americans on both sides of the issue.

In September, President Barack Obama stated that he would not support a health care plan that subsidizes abortions.  Just last month, House leadership barely passed its health care experiment, which at least included the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, continuing the ban on taxpayer subsidized abortions.  Without this amendment, the House bill would have failed.  Unfortunately, when the Senate considered a similar amendment, it was voted down.  This is both immoral and inexcusable.

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Time to lower drug prices (Sen. Byron Dorgan)

After a long summer of committee debates and discussions with constituents, health care reform is finally out in the open on the Senate floor -- but it doesn't include much of anything to lower drug prices. And the big drug companies are pulling out all the stops to keep it that way.

I've offered a bipartisan amendment that would give the American people the freedom to purchase prescription drugs from other countries at a fraction of the price they are required to pay here. As you know, the American people are charged the highest prices in the world for brand-name prescription drugs. Those same drugs are sold elsewhere at a much lower price. I want the American people to have the ability to force the pharmaceutical companies to offer fair prices here in the United States.

My legislation will get that done.

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Current healthcare legislation: Bad medicine for Hispanics

As a Hispanic American, I have watched with amazement as President Obama and his team have communicated one message on health care to the mainstream media and have sent a very different and conflicting message to left-leaning Hispanic groups.  During his speech to Congress, the President said, “illegal immigrants would not be covered.”  At a recent Hispanic gathering; however, the President’s message was clear that the issue of undocumented workers needed to be resolved.  So, if immigration reform passes next year allowing undocumented individuals to become legal, this policy change could potentially add an extra 12 million individuals to the health care government program, which has not been calculated into the cost of either the House or Senate bills.  These unanticipated costs would add to the trillions of dollars that will likely be spent by the government, which is exactly what the American people fear.  It is time for the President to be straightforward with the Hispanic community and the American people.

Like all Americans, health care is an incredibly important issue for the Hispanic community.  Surprisingly, a recent poll by Latino Decisions showed that health care is the top issue for Hispanics voters surpassing the economy and immigration reform and including strong support for the public option.  These findings make it even more essential that Hispanics understand the true costs of the so-called “reforms” being debated in Congress. I am concerned that the Hispanic community is unaware of the details in the health care legislation and in turn, Hispanics, especially in urban areas, will be the losers.  While liberal congressional members have promised that the health care reform legislation is the fix-it-all wonder drug for providing insurance and affordable health care for minority communities, the outcome is pushing more individuals into the broken Medicaid program, less funds directed towards urban hospitals that disproportionately serve minority communities and cuts in Medicare Advantage that greatly impact Hispanic seniors.

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Effective reform must consider needs of speciality care physicians in addition to patients and primary care providers

Late last week, the American Urological Association, along with other groups in the surgical community, issued a statement calling for the U.S. Senate to consider changes to its healthcare reform legislation, the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act of 2009.

While we agree there is a need for substantial healthcare reform, it cannot be at the expense of physicians’ ability to provide quality care. Reform efforts should not unthinkingly sacrifice the care provided by specialists day in, day out,  in collaboration with primary care providers. High quality specialty care is an integral part of our current system and seems to have been taken for granted in some of the proposals that Congress is considering. Access to healthcare is a major issue for patients in this country and the AUA, like the rest of organized medicine, supports universal access to insurance to allow greater access.  However, legislative reforms that fail to consider the organizational capacity of our healthcare system to absorb these patients, and in particular, the capacity of all healthcare professionals, including specialists, to meet the needs of these patients,  will fall far short of their laudable goals.

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Stopping Stupak in the Senate (Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand)

As you know, last week the U.S. Senate began debate on our version of the health insurance reform legislation. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the fact that we have gotten this far is monumental but the fight is not over. The debate has already been fierce and I'm extremely disappointed that one of my fellow Democratic colleagues is introducing a measure similar to the House's Stupak-Pitts amendment. I was proud that the bill brought to the Senate did not have this provision in it, but the opponents of choice are fighting hard to get it put back in and I am prepared to fight this effort.

And I'm going to need your help. Please join me in signing Emily's LIST's Stop Stupak petition here.

It's important that we set the record straight about some grave misinformation being spread about what the Senate bill means for women and reproductive rights.

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The Big Question: Is reconciliation an idle threat or next step?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Is the Democratic leadership's threat to use reconciliation on healthcare reform a politically viable option or an idle threat?

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said:

Reconciliation is simply a maneuver for Democrats to force their terribly flawed, outrageously expensive, government-run healthcare system on an American public that doesn't want it. It's hard to believes the citizens of this country will stand for that kind of behavior.

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and a Pundits Blog contributor said:

We need Senators and Representatives to vote their conscience and give Americans a break via health care reform. A lot of people are suffering out here, thousands more every day.

If not the case, we need the leadership to do what it takes.

Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:

This one requires political insight beyond my capacities, however there is an obvious point to be made. If the use of reconciliation really is an idle threat, then an awful lot of people around DC look really stupid right now since, they made such a big point of pushing for the inclusion of health care under reconciliation last spring. If there is no conceivable scenario under which reconciliation will be used to get health care passed, then maybe the political insiders who were pushing it last spring should look for a new line of work. They wasted a lot of people's time and energy when they obviously didn't have a clue as to what they were talking about.

A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, said:

Reconciliation is used for legislation that saves or spends money, which is why it was used to pass President George W. Bush's tax cuts in 2001. Anyone in the Democratic leadership will admit privately that though it remains on the table it would be nearly impossible to pass a bill the Democrats could defend using the reconciliation procedure. Since any of the insurance reforms and consumer protections that remain the most popular part of the bill would be subject to a point of order and would likely be thrown out, Democrats would end up with a massive subsidy bill that cuts Medicare but doesn't reform the health care delivery system. Democrats know that to end up with a conference-bill that can get signed into law they are likely better off with a product now that wins over 60 votes and appeals to conservatives. 

John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

It seems to me that the Democratic leadership will do whatever it takes to enact some sort of healthcare program beyond the truly gargantuan ones (in cost and bureaucratic management) already in place. My surmise is that, if allowed to do so, they will resort to the time-tested and despicable process known as "get something on the books; we'll fix it later."  The "fixing" that might come later would bring the measure up to their ill-conceived standards, the plateaus that in time will help us to duplicate what Cubans endure. The real solution for any American who gives a hoot about the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of the American people is to bar the government from having anything to do with healthcare.  Does anyone see "health" or "medicine" in the Constitution?  I don't!

Bill Press, host of the Bill Press Show, said:

I certainly hope the use of reconciliation to pass a strong health care reform bill is more than just an idle threat. With zero help from Republicans, Democrats are closer to passing health care reform than they've ever been. Harry Reid must not let two or three so-called Democrats, who oppose the public plan option, scuttle the whole bill. If Leader Reid can't get 60 votes, he should not hesitate to invoke reconciliation.

John Feehery, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

It's a real threat, but should Reid follow through with that threat, it will be dangerous for him politically. Nevadans are not happy with where Reid is taking the healthcare debate (and the country), and a bill that employs reconciliation would be significantly to the left of where Reid's constituents are. So, if Reid decides to go that route, he may lose his seat as a consequence. That is why he is trying to thread a needle and pass a bill without going the reconciliation route. 

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

I see no reason to consider it politically unviable. If that's the only way they can pass it, then it seems likely they will.

Michael J. Wilson, national director of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), said:

It can’t be an idle threat – it has to be a promise.  While President Obama has been fighting for health care reform – as have many Democratic Senators -- Senators McConnell, Kyl, and DeMint have proven that there is great solidarity among those opposed to health care reform in their opposition to make it the President’s Waterloo (their term, not mine). Senator Reid has three options; work with the Senate to pass the best bill possible through regular procedures, garner 60 votes to end the filibuster, or utilize reconciliation in order to keep faith with the American people.  Call it a threat or call it a promise, but the finish line is within sight.  To show acquiesce to those who are not in the majority and let them determine the outcome of health care for the rest of us would be criminal.  Sen. Reid has to keep reconciliation in his breast pocket and willing to use it if necessary.  If only to keep the promise.

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Industry funded report is more of the same false attacks on real health care reform (Sen. Tom Harkin)

Yesterday the health insurance industry released yet another report that claims insurance premiums will rise under the Senate hearth reform bill,  the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  This study’s “findings”  are far from the truth.  In fact, the findings go against reports from the non-partisan, independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which show that the bill will save average Americans money by creating more competition in the health insurance industry and cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse.  In fact, just yesterday a new analysis showed that our legislation will result in significant savings of 14 to 20 percent for Americans purchasing coverage on their own.  In my home state of Iowa, individual will save from $148 to $355 annually and Iowa families will save between $960 to $1,177 on their health insurance premiums.

And lower costs are just the start.  The bill will also ensure that Americans will no longer be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions and will no longer be subject to gender rating or rate hikes because of health history.  At the same time, the measure will extend coverage to an additional 31 million Americans, which will save lives.

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A Day of Action!

We called for a day of action to stop the Stupak abortion ban and that's exactly what we got! Like me, hundreds of activists from across the country flooded the U.S. Capitol today with one mission in mind -- to pass health care reform and to ensure that the anti-choice abortion ban, known as the Stupak amendment, is not part of the health care reform bill.

I was blown away by the energy of the standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,000 advocates at our noontime Stop Stupak Event on the Hill. Pro-choice American women of every age and geographic background and some pro-choice men, too -- thank goodness for them -- made it clear that health reform that robs women of access to reproductive health care is not health care reform at all. The power of our movement was palpable.

Planned Parenthood representatives from 30 states were there. Seeing all of our supporters and our many coalition partners (too many to list here) in one room was awe-inspiring.

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Should Americans be allowed to spend their own money to save their own lives? Rationing in the Senate and House health care bills

Although there has been much discussion of the Medicare cuts in the Senate and House heath care bills, little notice has been taken of provisions in both that would effectively empower the Health and Human Services Department to deny senior citizens the right they currently have to add their own money on top of the government Medicare contribution in order to get insurance less likely to ration health care.  In practice, this means limiting older Americans’ ability to spend their own money to save their own lives.

Both Section 3209 of the Senate’s Reid Substitute and Section 1175 of the bill passed by the House indirectly amend the section in existing law that allows private fee-for-service Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to set their premiums without interference by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to add, “Nothing in this section shall be construed as requiring the Secretary to accept any or every bid submitted by an MA organization under this subsection.” This allows CMS, at its absolute and unlimited discretion,  to refuse to allow private-fee-for-service plans that charge premiums adequate to avoid rationing treatment to be offered– or, literally, allows CMS to ban private-fee-for-service plans (or any other MA plans) altogether, without having to base its decision on any statutory or regulatory standard.

Similarly, both bills, instead of allowing American consumers themselves to balance benefit and cost in choosing what health plans to be purchased in the new insurance exchange that would be set up (nationally under the House bill, and separately in each state under the Senate bill ) would authorize the exchange to exclude plans offered by insurers deemed to have a “pattern or practice of excessive or unjustified premium increases”– terms completely undefined by the bill and thus left to the unfettered discretion of the exchange to interpret and apply.

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