Alchemical Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘health and medical

And the saga continues as Congress has pretty much proven that they are bought and sold by the insurance industry. I am really, really trying not to go on a rant, but it is getting harder these days not to. I get the impression that we pretty much are not going to get any significant reform at all from the current crop of legislators. In the unlikely miracle that something were passed, as soon as mid-elections come around, and the right wing machine steamrolls in with misinformation and fear, thus getting rid of the current Democrat majority, you know those people will be working hard to repeal said miracle of something passing. In plain English, we may well end up worse off.

When I kept the blog for students here on Vox, under a different url, one of the things I used to do was collect links and resources on various hot topics. These were things I thought they would find useful for their papers, especially for freshman composition where they had to write argumentative essays on current events. Health care reform back then, we are talking four or five years ago, was a hot topic as it is now. Anyone with access could find articles on a database, so I tried to go past that to locate government documents, think tank reports, so on, that students often overlook. Also, I like the idea of having the studies that news organizations like CNN report on. People really need to read the actual documents once in a while, so to that end I do these little link dump postings with some commentary. I can get some of my thoughts off my chest, and I can provide pieces of information. And when it comes to health care reform, we need all the information we can get. We need to dispel the fears and educate people. Maybe, even though the hope is infinitesimal, people will wake up and do what is right. By the way, as a disclosure, when I used to keep the student resource blog, I would not add my personal comment like I did above, tempting as it could be. Since this is my "scratch pad," I feel more comfortable throwing in an opinion or two.

So, here are the links for this week:

  • Let's start with the infamous IHAP (America's Health Insurance Plans; note that AHIP is basically the health insurance industry's lobbying organization) report, the one on "Potential Impact of Health Reform on the Cost of Private Health Insurance Coverage" (link to full report in PDF). This is the report that some of the news organizations have identified as biased, incomplete and debunked. See for example MArc Ambinder posting for The Atlantic here. Here is some reporting on the pushback against the report from CNN. Now, I link to the report because I think people should at least look at the executive summary with the key findings. Of course, they also need to seek other sources, including sources that not show as much self-interest and bias as AHIP does. That is basic information literacy right there: the ability to evaluate sources for bias and interest. Report found via Docuticker
  • The Urban Institute released a report on "The Cost of Failure to Enact Health Care Reform: Implications for States (link to the publication abstract. You can get the full report there in PDF). You could go with the IHAP report and give a pass to the insurance companies, who will keep raising rates and dropping coverage for people regardless of whether there is reform or not. Or you can read this report and see what can (and will likely happen) if no reform is enacted. From the abstract: "The report makes clear that the cost of failure would be substantial and felt in every state. The analysis shows that if federal reform efforts fail, over the next decade in every state, the percent of the population that is uninsured will increase, employer-sponsored coverage will continue to erode, spending on public programs will balloon, and individual and family out-of-pocket costs could increase by more than 35 percent." I think I can trust an organization that provides "independent nonpartisan analysis of the problems facing America's cities and their residents." Report found via Docuticker
  • The Urban Institute also has put out a brief looking at age issues when it comes to insurance premiums, in other words, what they may charge a senior when compared to a younger person. This one may require a bit closer reading because these are the things discussed when the insurance companies claim that rates will go up and bring up the idea of sharing risk. The brief is "Age Rating Under Comprehensive Health Care Reform: Implications for Coverage, Costs, and Household Financial Burdens" (link to PDF). 
  • The Center for Community Change reports that "New Report, Documentary Debunk Myth; Show Heartland Favors Favors Health Care Reform" (link to press release. You can get the report and look at the short documentary via their links). This is the kind of resource you would rarely see in the major news. Much of the news coverage covers the angry people, the so-called teabaggers who claim that people in the middle of America hate any idea of health care reform. This source should start providing some refutation to the claim. But we still have a long way to educating people. Found via Docuticker. You can find the direct link to the full documentary on You Tube here; get the documentary's stories in segments here. The stories are simply heart breaking.
  • K.G. Schneider responded to a comment on her blog by conservative (by her own identification) Ellie Dworak. Worth a look if just to see how some people respond to the issue. If I was showing this to students, I would point them to how both sides are talking to each other. Ms. Dworak apparently did not like being taken to task on a blog. All I will say if you write it publicly, and she did by commenting on Ms. Schneider's blog, then be ready to be questioned and engaged. I think Ms. Schneider gave a pretty good reply to an issue many bloggers with an audience deal with, in addition to her thoughts on the health care reform debate.
  • Do you need help understanding the health care reform debate? So do I very often. Ze Frank, a comedian, helps to put it in perspective, with some humor in the process. The Free Government Information Blog gives us a link in "Ze Frank Tries to Understand Healthcare." Ze Frank pokes fun at a lot of the rumors and myths going around about health care reform. Overall, he puts things in pretty good perspective. He mentions FactCheck.org in the video, a site I have linked to before but I will do so again because it is an excellent resource to get perspective on issues and, well, check the facts people and so-called experts throw around, often hoping no one is really paying attention. In essence, use FactCheck.org and show others that you are indeed paying attention. 

In case the random reader that finds this blog is interested, you can find my previous posts on this topic here, here, and here.

Update Note (Same day): Oops, almost forgot to include this. This is an article on "How to Read Articles About Health and Health Care" by Dr. Alicia White (link leads to PDF).  This is an excellent piece to use in teaching information literacy. Also, it is very good for just reminding people not to panic when they see some headline about some medical "breakthrough" that is often not a big deal, if at all. The article comes from the British National Health Service (NHS) Behind the Headlines webpage. Actually, this NHS site is another very good source of health information and health literacy. With a hat tip to Resource Shelf
 

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These are some items I have come across on the topic of sex education in the U.S., specifically the failure of it. I have a friend who works as a wellness counselor, and these are things I would share with her. I figure they are things a lot more people should read as well.

  • The Guttmacher Institute has a report which finds that "the progress made in the 1990s and early 2000s in improving teen contraceptive use and reducing teen pregnancy and childbearing stalled, and may even have reversed among certain groups of teens" The report is entitled “Changing Behavior Risk for Pregnancy Among High School Students in the United States, 1991–2007,” Previous studies, which are linked in the press release, have found that contraceptive use has been found to be a key factor in reducing teen pregnancies in the 1990s. What changed? The new federal policies favoring abstinence only education under G.W. Bush. A hat tip to Docuticker
  • Do you need to know what your teen needs to know about sex? Here are "6 Things Your Teen Needs to Know about Sex" via Health.com. This is the kind of thing we should be printing out or forwarding the link to every parent and teen in the nation. Dispel the myths and get the facts. 
  • The Guardian has an excellent summary of how the Bush Administration's policy of abstinence-only failed miserably and lead to a new rise in teen pregnancies and STDs for young people. The article features some very good links to studies and sources of information as well. It is sad that it takes a British news source to point out what people in the U.S. should be discussing. Then again, I often find as a reader and librarian that the best coverage of issues in the U.S. comes from outside the United States. And this kind of ignorant, myopic, religiously influenced policies do continue after G.W. is gone. For instance, Planned Parenthood getting its funding cut so some religious fundie influenced abstinence-only peddler can get more funding. That's the way to go: keep teens ignorant, and while at it, deprive women of basic health services (yes, Planned Parenthood does a lot more than just sex education and reproductive services. For many women, PP is their health provider, especially for poor and disadvantaged women).
  • Here is another study, this one from the Journal of Adolescent Health, looking at "Trends in Sexual Experience, Contraceptive Use, and Teenage Childbearing, 1992-2002." The findings are not as black and white: there has been some reduction in teen pregnancies, but also increases in contraceptive use and decreases in early sexual experience. "However, researchers, advocates, and policy makers disagree about whether the decline in teen birth rates is because of increases in abstinence or to increases in contraceptive use or more effective method use among sexually active teens." A hat tip to Docuticker.
  • Marie Cocco, on AlterNet, describes "Unprotected Sex: Abstinence Education's Main Accomplishment." The article does look at the Guttmacher Institute report I link above. From the article, I think this says quite a bit and makes for quite the indictment: "But now we have sad and clear evidence that political foolishness among adults is leading to foolish and harmful behavior among kids. Who could reasonably want more teen pregnancies, more abortions among teenagers, more unmarried mothers, more babies born with greater health risks and with the sorely limited economic prospects that burden the children of young, single mothers? No one would dare promote such a policy. Yet these are the results of our recent national sex-education policy, which was based on religious faith, not science, and put political gamesmanship ahead of public health."
  • Of course, you can find a fine example of how to keep your kids ignorant in my own current backyard of Texas, where it turns out Haitians know more about STD transmission and how to prevent it than Texans. Haitians for cripes sake. From the TFN Insider.
  • I am tossing this one as a bonus. This is a site I just discovered called Whyzz. If your kid is asking tough questions, type it in here, and get a helpful answer. I typed in "where do babies come from?" to try it out. It gave me a couple of choices, including a pretty nice answer on how to give an answer to a young kid. This is more for dealing with children, but keep in mind, you have to start educating early. The response I got was well-written and thoughtful. The site gets answers from users as well as experts, and often, answers have sources from some very reputable sources. For instance, the answer I read drew from information by SIECUS
  • And apparently teens are not the only ones needing some education. "Ten percent of Americans with AIDS are over 50" according to this article. Some seniors took matters into their own hands and made a video to educate their peers. Get the story with links and the video here. Via YesButNoButYes. Figure after all this, I had to toss in a bit of humor, but the issue of seniors and sex is a serious one. And it also shows that sex education needs to go on at all ages.

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While the politicians in Congress are more worried about appeasing the insurance companies than actually doing something decent and humane for the people who need health care now, the evidence keeps coming in of why it is we need a good, universal health care system that will take care of all citizens. These are things that I think more people should be reading. Also, if I had a student researching the topic, this would links I would like him or her to read.

  • I saw this from Families USA. It is a short report entitled "The Clock is Ticking: More Americans Losing Health Coverage" (link to PDF) that details how people are losing health care coverage on a daily basis. You can look at your own state and see how they are doing in terms of losses. By the way, Texas, where I reside now, is not doing very well. This definitely worth a look.(via Docuticker). 
  • The AFL-CIO reports on a survey they ran with Working America. The Health Care Survey (link to the survey on here; press release here). This survey, which includes personal stories, is a very good dataset on the topic. From the press release, "Over half of the 23,460 people who responded online to a health care survey sponsored by the AFL-CIO and Working America say they cannot get the health care they need at a price they can afford, and the problem is even more acute among people who buy their own insurance, Hispanics and young adults." And that is just for starters. (via Docuticker). In the meantime, the politicians in Congress are more worried about appeasing the insurance companies than actually doing something decent and humane for the people who need health care now. 
  • The Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, has a Middle Class Task Force. This task force has put out a statement on "Why Middle Class Americans Need Health Care Reform" (note PDF link; found via Docuticker). This is definitely a good question to answer. This country has a very screwed hierarchy. The rich can obviously pay any doctor and get the best care since they can pay for it. The poor can go to the emergency room at any time, since the hospitals can't turn them away; the hospitals just pass the cost on to the middle class workers with insurance, which is a reason why premiums for people like me, who are gainfully employed, keep going up. It has been argued that it is a hidden health tax for middle class workers when they have to pay increased premiums because insurance companies and hospitals have to "eat the cost" of the poor and unemployed. Granted, with a universal system, someone still has to pay, but the cost would likely go around and certainly be a lot more equitable. 
  • I just saw that Congressional Budget Office, according to ABC News, stated that there are no cost savings in the Democrats' health plans. Now, before the other side gets too excited, keep in mind that you do have to look at the costs, and it is likely that some costs will go up no matter whose plan is being applied. Actually, the CBO has a few other reports related to health and health care that may be worth looking at before people get too excited. 
  • And while talking about costs, you can get a look at cost implications of three health reform scenarios (link to press release; the report page is here). The report is presented by the Commonwealth Fund (via Docuticker). 
  • Oh, the famous number of 45 million uninsured? FactCheck takes a look at it in context

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The items just keep coming in, and I want to be able to share them with readers out there as possible. If people need yet another reason to consider why we need a universal care system that is not based on whether some pirate insurance company let's you get treated or not, here are a few more things to consider. For now, this is just some fodder or food for thought.

From Docuticker (this is a great lifesaver when it comes to tracking down specific documents, whether government or think tanks):

  • Yes, losing your home can be an extremely traumatic experience. And it will affect your health as well as if things were not already bad enough. "Will the Public's Health Fall Victim to the Home Foreclosure Epidemic?" from the PLoS Medicine Journal. By the way, the journal is open access.
  • Did you know that nearly 44 million Americans were without health insurance in 2008? Here is the press release from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. You can get the full report here. 
  • Learn about funding from the Recovery Act (you know, the bailout) for Community Health Centers. You can check it out by state. From the Health and Human Services Recovery Site.
  • From the Employment Policies Institute, "Who are the Uninsured? An Analysis of America's Uninsured Population, Their Characteristics and Their Health." Get the abstract here. From there, you can get the full report in PDF. Their study looks at the voluntarily and involuntarily insured, i.e. those who actually choose not be insured versus those who can't afford it. Keep in mind a policy institute like this one has an interest in raising the question because if they can say a significant number of people choose not to have insurance, then it must mean there is not really a problem. Not exactly the greatest logic, but worth a read for the sake of seeing the opposition. For instance, from the abstract, "Furthermore, the lack of health insurance is often equated with a lack of healthcare, despite the fact that individuals without coverage often receive medical services from a wide variety of sources within the healthcare system." See for example other links here to issues like home foreclosure or my previous post (linked below) where, sure, they may get health care, but it often drives them to financial ruin, something these people interested in things like "the impact of new labor costs on job creation" (from their About page) are probably not considering as much.
  • To go along with the study by the EPI, you can always get a more accurate picture by looking at "The Hidden Costs of Health Care: Why Americans are Paying More But Getting Less." From the Health Reform website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

From Lifehacker:

  • Since it does not look like we will get a decent universal system anytime soon, odds are you are going to have to buy your own health insurance, especially if you are self-employed, under-employed, or unemployed. The Wall Street Journal had an article on "Buying Health Insurance on Your Own." (Lifehacker link, which has one other item as well). 

This adds to the list from my previous post.

 

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I have been trying to create relevant posts on timely topics for the library's blog. It was something that the boss liked when I made one a while back on Judge Sotomayor. The idea behind stuff like this is to keep your eyes open, and then put together a small and quick list of links of information so patrons can find some good information. It sounds easy enough, but sometimes it can get a little complicated. Health care reform is back in the news, and it is certainly a very timely topic. I have been saving some clippings in preparation for a post at the library's blog, but some are a bit substantial. They are substantial in the sense that I have to go through them and evaluate them. Given a lot of other stuff I have to do at the moment, I am going to throw them here, so I can come back and get them once I review them. If anyone finds the links useful, feel free to use.

  • From the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, an investigative staff report on "Underpayments to Consumers by the Health Insurance Industry" (link to the press release here. You can get the report and additional materials on that link). I think it is important for people to be aware when resources like these are released and available. They are a way to keep tabs on the government, not to mention that very often government reports like this are an excellent research tool for students and interested public. The catch is that you do have to take the time to look through the materia. Found via Docuticker
  • Link to a nonprofit organization, Patient Privacy Rights, that claims to be "dedicated to ensuring Americans control all access to their health records." It was highlighted in the LII Newsletter recently, which is why it caught my eye. Privacy is an important concern when it comes to patients and their health records.
  • From AARP's Policy and Research, "State Health Care Briefs for 2009." From the description, "this set of State Health Care Briefs provides a one-page overview of facts on health care data for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Information is provided about each state’s older population, the uninsured, Medicare beneficiaries including those who fall into the “doughnut hole,” hospital re-admissions among Medicare beneficiaries, the distribution of Medicaid long-term care funds, and prescription drug spending." Documents are provided in PDF format. Found via Docuticker
  • From Pew Internet, "The Social Life of Health Information" (link to overview. You can get the summary and full report from that link). This deals with how people go online to look for health information, and how they then talk to someone about it offline.  Found via Resource Shelf.
  • From the American Journal of Medicine, an article on "Medical Bankruptcy in the United States, 2007: Results of a National Study." Last I looked, you could get the PDF to read the article there. This is a very important topic given that most bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical catastrophe. If that is not a reason to get universal health care and reform the system, I am not sure what is. Found via Docuticker
  • From the Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS), a report on "Health Care Reform: An Introduction." CRS is such a great resource, but given it's lack of transparency,  you have to know how to find them with tools like OpenCRS. One of these days I would also like to write a small post for the library blog on finding CRS items. Found via Docuticker.
  • Though this one does have citations for the facts it presents, I was not sure if I could post these "20 Disturbing Facts About U.S. Health Care that Everyone Should Know." It could work to get some discussion rolling. 
  • The PCLS Senior Services Blog has a post on "Online Health and Wellness Information." It is highlighting the website Healthfinder.gov. I have actually used the Health Finder site in demos to parents of students. They have a very good Spanish component, which I found useful for my audience at the time.

I may add to this list, but this is clearly plenty at the moment. The bankruptcy one is something I have been wanting to write about in my own blog for a while.

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