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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

US health policy

Coming Federal Battles over Kid's Coverage

Children's health insurance coverage is shaping up to be a major national battleground issue in 2007-08. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has a new report showing an $800 million shortfall facing at least 17 states in their SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program). Click here for the report. According to the report, Massachusetts may face a shortfall between $70 and $82 million. Ouch! SCHIP was established in 1997 and will require Congressional reauthorization in 2007 to continue. Some groups, such as Families USA, hope to use the process to engineer a further, broader... Read more »

Michael Bloomberg, Mark Twain, Thunder and Lightening

Heard NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg speak last week at the Public Health Law Conference in Atlanta. In a word, wow. Clear, forthright, smart, gutsy. He quoted Mark Twain on thunder vs. lightening. "Thunder is good, thunder is impressive," wrote Twain, "...but lightening gets the job done." And so it is, MB suggests, with public health and the law. Voluntary, educational approaches to public health challenges are often good and impressive. But if you really want to change behavior to improve society, you need a form a lightening called "the law." MB was referring to his moves in NYC to ban... Read more »

New Families USA Video on Medicare Part D

Our friends at Families USA have produced a new video: The Problems with the Medicare Drug Program -- and How to Fix Them. It's narrated by Walter Cronkite, lasts about ten minutes, and is a good overview of issues and problems with the program moving forward. Click here for the Families USA link. Brief summary: "The new Medicare Part D drug program is complex, confusing, and costly. For millions of seniors, it is also disappointing. Disappointing because the programs's benefits contain glaring gaps, such as the so-called "doughnut hole." And disappointing because it won't actually contain... Read more »

H. Clinton and B. Obama on Malpractice: Worth Reading

This week's New England Journal of Medicine has an article by Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama attempting to create a progressive space on medical malpractice reform. I think their ideas and proposals deserve serious consideration. Click here for free access (thanks, NEJM for making this available). Read more »

Health Wonk Review #7 -- and a Review of Right Wing Blogs on MA Health Reform

The new Health Wonk Review is up and available, full of links to lots of interesting commentary and perspective on recent developments in the parallel universe of heath policy. Click here to reach it. Favorite entry: a website called the Lucidicus project ("Selected Writings on Capitalism in Medicine" -- from a pro-capitalist perspective) provides a useful overview of conservative critiques of MA health reform. Its thesis -- because MA reform was bipartisan, commentary avoids the stale Democratic/Republican dichotomy and actually focuses on the opposing world views of free market forces: "The... Read more »

Does US Have Most Advanced Health System? Apparently Not

We know the US health system is the least efficient on the planet, the costliest, and the least equitable. The one thing I always thought was true was that we have the most technologically advanced health system on the planet. Wrong again. Boy, am I dumb. An article in the May/June Health Affairs (subscription required) by Gerard Anderson et al concludes: "The United States lags as much as a dozen years behind other industrialized countries in Health Information Technology [HIT] adoption -- countries where national governments have played major roles in establishing the rule, and health... Read more »

Enzi Bill to Gut Insurance Protections Dies in US Senate

Very good news from our friends at Families USA: Thanks to the thousands of e-mails and phone calls from advocates like you, the Enzi Bill--the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act (HIMMA, S.1955)--went down in defeat last night on the Senate floor. The Senate leadership needed 60 votes to end debate on the bill--known as a vote for “cloture” in Senate jargon. But thanks to your efforts, the cloture vote failed, 55-43. One Republican, Senator Lincoln Chaffee (RI), voted against cloture, while two Democrats, Senators Ben Nelson (NE) and Mary Landrieu (LA), voted for... Read more »

New Health Wonk Review Now Up

Check out the May 8th version of the Health Wonk Review, an overview of recent health care policy blogs from across the nation. My favorite: this entry from San Francisco's Matthew Holt: So can there be a health-system endorsed “soft-landing” into reform where a combination or employer or individual mandates, greater regulation of insurers, and cross-subsidies from the wealthy and healthy eliminates the uninsured—and the consequent fear of middle class voters that they might join their number—without fundamentally restructuring the health care delivery system? Several very smart people, like... Read more »

Where Is Health Care Heading? A National Look

Paul Fronstein runs the Health Research and Education Program at the Employee Benefits and Research Institute (EBRI) and has been a thoughtful commentator on national health care directions from a nonpartisan perspective for many years. He did a Q&A for Managed Care magazine recently that contains lots of provocative and important insights -- click here for the whole interview. Some insights: The erosion in employer sponsored coverage is tied to rising health premiums and also to the overall economic environment. Low unemployment kept businesses in the health insurance game in the late... Read more »

Disreputable Republican Congress Moves to Preempt State Insurance Consumer Protections

In this week's Newsweek, conservative columnist George Will openly wonders -- who are those 22% of the public who give the US Congress a positive job performance? I know who -- it's the crowd supporting the dangerous bill outlined below: Read more »

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