Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Health: December 2009


What I Want in Health Care Reform

WICHITA, Kan. - Last week, the Senate approved their version of health care reform, quite different from the House version. Among progressives, a cry is going out: either include public option or kill the bill. A public option, it is reasoned, is the only way to control costs, and since both bills include a mandate, not including a public option forces the American people to buy into an industry that has proven itself as little more than a money-making machine allowing access to little in the way of true health care. But many Democrats are pushing back: at least it's reform, and we can change it later if we need to. Health care reform died under the Nixon Administration because Ted Kennedy would not accept the public option compromise and fought only for single-payer. When reform was brought up again under the Clinton Administration, it died a painful death. We need something, the argument goes. Both arguments are completely valid, and both are still quite short-sighted.

HAYS, Kan. - Hays Medical Center is taking a leadership role in responding to its community's concern for local victims of sexual assault. The hospital will develop a program so that rape victims living in northwest Kansas will be able to receive expert medical forensic examinations much closer to home.


Hospital staff heard community concerns at meeting at the Sternberg Museum in December
(photo by Anne Bannister)

According to Human Rights Watch, there are approximately 200,000 reported rapes each year and, in most cases, DNA evidence is collected and stored in a "rape kit." Rape kits are evidence packets, containing tissue samples, photographs, notes and DNA collected from rape victims. The kits are collected by trained hospital staff and turned over to law enforcement for testing.

The U.S. Senate held hearings recently to figure out why approximately 180,000 rape kits held by law enforcement are never tested or examined.

In Kansas, some communities have had additional barriers to prosecution. Some rape victims have had to travel many miles from their homes in order to find health care professionals that were adequately trained to complete the rape kits or to collect the proper medical evidence in the first place.

Unsafe At Any Weight

YOCEMENTO, Kan. - In 1965 Ralph Nader wrote his earthshaking Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile, addressing the automobile industry's resistance to the introduction to safety features such as seat belts in designing cars.

Is football the new GM?

In an earlier article, I attempted to explain the physiology of repetitive hits to the head in football and the consequent brain damage. I mentioned the case of an eighteen year old. He died of other causes, but his brain upon examination showed evidence of tau neurofibrillary tangles; the same kind of tangles found in Alzheimer victims. The young man played only two years of high school football.

This evidence should be the source of concern for parents and young players. Is playing football at any age a potential threat to the brain?

GREAT BEND, Kan. - If the Democratic party was in the vacuum cleaner business, it would have warehouses full of unsold vacuum cleaners. If the health care debate these last six months was a boxing match, the referee would have stopped the fight in August, and declared the Republicans the winner.

It was over before Labor Day, at least in terms of getting any meaningful reform. Because the Republicans "got there first with the most men." They defined the Democrat health care plan before the Democrats defined it, and it was over.

The Republicans know how to frame a debate, and how to play on people's emotions. The Republicans immediately framed the debate, using dynamite phrases like: "government-run health care", "socialized medicine","death panels", "a bureaucrat between you and your doctor", "throwing seniors under the bus."

By the time the bill was passed on Christmas Eve, it was Swiss cheese, and less than 40% of Americans support the bill. The Democrats only reached 60 votes by giving suspicious sweetheart deals to several senators.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - This morning, the U.S. Senate passed (60-39) the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The House of Representatives had passed their own health care bill last month. Now, with two different bills passed by the two bodies, the U.S. House and Senate will send delegations to meet together in January, working out compromises between the two bills. The end result of the House and Senate conference will be a combined bill that will need to be passed by both bodies. The new bill could come as soon as February.

Senate Democrats united to pass what President Barack Obama is characterizing as landmark health care legislation. The Senate bill has measures that provide choice and increased competition and provides significant savings for small businesses and small employers.

Proponents of the Senate bill say that it will effectively reduce costs, increase access, and provide critical insurance reforms that will put patients first. This legislation also makes Medicare more solvent and expands prescription drug coverage, all while reducing the deficit and reining in health care costs.

However, many progressive leaders in the Democratic party are expressing disappointment in the Senate bill. They say that it doesn't go nearly far enough in reforming the broken health care system.

Their disappointment is largely centered around the fact that the Senate bill, in its final form, does not include the Public Option plan, whereas the House bill does. Proponents of the Public Option believe that the Public Option is the only way to introduce real change and competition into the insurance industry.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' HHS office has released a report, How Health Insurance Reform Will Lower Costs and Increase Choices.

The report includes statistics, summaries and CBO conclusions that assist citizens in sorting out the issues Congress is addressing as it tackles health care reform.

Upon its release, Sec. Sebelius said, "Health insurance reform isn't about politics, it's about families. Every day, millions of families across the country wonder how they will pay their skyrocketing medical bills or what they will do if their children get sick. Those families are our priority and we are fighting to give them the affordable, secure, stable coverage they need."

The report compiled by HHS states that health care reform will boost employment and raise individual families' incomes, claiming that "lowering health care costs by 1 percent will create 320,000 jobs nationwide and raise median family income by $6,800 by 2030. And reform will drive down premiums and limit out-of-pocket costs that eat into the family budget."

SALINA, Kan. - One dose of vaccine may be effective to protect infants and children and reduce transmission of the H1N1 virus, according to a study in JAMA.

Initial reports of 2009 influenza A(H1N1) infection in many countries have largely involved children, especially those attending school. Reports have also indicated high hospitalization rates of children younger than 5 years of age in the current pandemic, according to background information provided by the authors.

Earlier, recommendations were for a two vaccines for babies and young children - one regular followed by a booster. These new findings suggest that a single dose 15-microgram dose vaccine regimen may be effective and well tolerated in children, and may have positive implications for disease protection and reduced transmission of pandemic H1N1 in the wider population.

COLBY, Kan. - Now is the time for Congress and the President to bring about real health reform to cover every child in 2009 and provide quality, affordable health coverage for every family in America. I'm disturbed that neither of the health care bills being considered in the House or the Senate begin until 2012 or later.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Some readers may notice on C-SPAN that obstructionism is in play on the floor of the U.S. Senate this weekend.

Meanwhile, rising health care costs are crippling the economy, squeezing middle class families' budgets, and making health care unattainable for a growing number of Americans. More than 14,000 people lose their coverage every day. We know that as the number of unemployed goes up, the number of uninsured goes up as well. Most of these individuals are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare. They are exposed and vulnerable, without access to any health care services.

Approximately 46 million Americans went without insurance in 2008 - a figure expected to rise in 2009 due to the recession - causing an estimated 45,000 premature deaths this year alone (pdf). Over the next decade, the cost of private health insurance is expected to double.

Once the current diversionary antics are finished on the floor, the Senate leadership hopes to pass a health care reform bill by its own self-imposed Christmas deadline. This comes after months of debates, town hall meetings, countless revisions and ongoing confusion.

Is the Senate bill still worth passing in the Senate? Most Republicans, on the right, and many Democrats, on the left, say it's not worth passing. Not me. I guess I'm "going rogue" today. I think the Senate should pass this bill. Here's why...

healthcare.gifSALINA, Kan. - Some programs that the government has previously said would be in deficit in the near future may actually have a surplus instead, once you account for the improved health and productivity of the population if real health care reform is implemented.

As the national discussion of health care focuses on costs, a new study from North Carolina State University shows that it might be more accurate to think of health care spending as an investment that can spur economic growth. The study also shows that government projections of health care costs and financing may be unduly pessimistic.

"Health care spending should be viewed as an investment in future capital, contributing to a productive workforce, rather than merely as an expenditure," says Dr. Al Headen, associate professor of economics at NC State and a co-author of a paper appearing in the Dec. 15 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

People are living longer and are retaining their ability to be productive members of society - they are able to work, pay taxes, consume goods and go on vacation.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - After a morning of shore leave on Grand Turk Island, the participants of The Nation Cruise sat down to discuss the state of health care reform. Many members in the audience had supported the efforts of Health Care for America Now and other groups pushing for a robust public option. The vast majority of those gathered are unhappy, if not down right disappointed with what has transpired over the past seven months and share a common belief that Obama has failed to lead on this issue.


Health Care Panel: Patricia Williams, Howard Dean,
Betsy Reed, Katrina vanden Heuvel, William Greider
Coming together to express their opinions and what progressives need to be doing in the weeks ahead were panelists Howard Dean; Besty Reed, executive editor of The Nation and author of Going Rouge: An American Nightmare; Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation; and, William Greider. Patricia Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University and author of Open House: Of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons, and the Search for a Room of My Own, moderated the panel.

Williams set the tone by saying we all thought that health care reform was going to be a straight forward discussion, instead it "has become a convoluted reality" that few of us are able to follow. The mission of the panel was to "find something coherent" to say about the issue and bring the discussion back into the realm of understandability.

EMPORIA, Kan. - Today, I was driving past the Lyon County Health Department and noticed a long line of people waiting on the sidewalk to gain entrance. I parked across the street and contacted the security guard who was stationed out front to inquire as to why so many people were waiting. By the way, this was in 15 degree weather!

It turns out that the several hundred people I observed were waiting to receive flu shots! The county was offering $20 seasonal flu shots and free H1N1 [Swine Flu] shots.

This is what passes for health care under the current system. There are 2 systems in this county. One for the insured and well to do and the other in which the working poor are forced to depend on government handouts.

WASHINGTON - The talk now is that the Senate bill has stripped away any mention of a public option in order to capitulate to Joe Lieberman because they need his vote. The story goes that all the Republicans are going to vote against any sort of health care reform because they don't want to see any Obama policy put into law (which is true) and Democrats need Lieberman's vote in order to get any bill passed (which may or may not be true as well). So the Democrats now have the scapegoats they need in place in order to begin the great flim-flam they are going to call "health care reform."

While it is true that the obstructionist party would have voted no on anything that the Democrats put forward and Lieberman has been huffing and puffing all along about what he "will" and "will not" vote for, this is all smoke and mirrors, folks. Let me tell you what is really going on behind the scenes right now.

Obstructionist Senators

brownback.jpgCOLBY, Kan. - We have 2 senators, just like the other 49 states. Well, no, they aren't just like all the other senators. Some senators are contributing input to the health care issue and the war issue our nation is facing.

What do we hear from our senators? Not much! About all they are doing is standing in the way. We cannot have health care reform by default. When we have to put up with a 41% minority holding legislation hostage, the wheels of progress come to a standstill. They need to either actively become vocal with solutions to the inequity of our system or move to support allowing a vote on what has been proposed. Our system of government is supposed to protect the human rights and welfare of the minorities in society. That does not mean the minorities should be able to limit, indefinitely, the ability of the majority to effectively enact legislation that has majority support.

The Road to Health Care Reform

HAYS, Kan. - According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), some U.S. homes built or remodeled between 2001 and 2008 contain imported drywall, known in the press as Chinese drywall. The defective drywall gives off a toxic sulfuric gas that is thought to corrode metal components in homes and create health and safety problems for residents.

Some consumers who live in these homes have reported health and safety problems, including a strong sulfur smell, like rotten eggs; health issues, like irritated and itchy eyes and skin, difficulty breathing, a persistent cough and headaches; and premature corrosion or deterioration of certain metal components in their homes, like air conditioner coils and wiring behind electrical outlets and inside electrical panel boxes.

To date, the federal government has received 2,276 complaints of defective drywall from homeowners in 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. State governments and local authorities have received untold numbers of additional reports. No complaints have yet been verified in Kansas, but the Kansas Department of Health and Environment would like homeowners to notify KDHE if they suspect that Chinese drywall may have been installed anywhere in Kansas.

TOPEKA, Kan. - A 72-year-old woman from the Wichita metro area has died from infection with the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.

It is important to note that the number of deaths confirmed to be caused by pandemic H1N1 influenza under-represents the true number of deaths; many more deaths may have been caused by the virus in Kansas. Numbers are not complete because routine testing for H1N1 was stopped earlier this year because once a patient has acquired a flu-like illness, those with the swine flu are offered the same medications as thought with just seasonal flu.

The great majority of all influenza or pneumonia-related deaths that occur (pneumonia is the most common severe complication of influenza) do not have a confirmatory lab result associated with them.

Though the vaccine is not yet widely available in all counties to all Kansans, Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, Kansas State Health Officer, points out, "Healthy adults are susceptible to severe complications of the pandemic H1N1 flu virus."

We have more! This page only lists entries in a particular month. We encourage you to look back through our archives in this same category.

The previous archive is Health: November 2009. The next archive is Health: January 2010.

If you want to browse other topics, you can also check our Table of Contents. The most current posts can always be found on our Front Page.


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This is an archive page containing all of the stories posted to Kansas Free Press in one particular topic in a particular month. These stories were published in the Health: December 2009 section.

The previous archive is Health: November 2009. The next archive is Health: January 2010.

The most current posts can always be found on our Front Page.

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