Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for the ‘health issues’ Category

Most Americans Want The Government To Step In And Fix Health Care

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 21, 2009

In news that will make Pete Peterson cry when he hears it, we find that most Americans would prefer the government rather than private industry to run the nation’s health-care system.

However, our legislators — many of whom have been bought off by people like the billionaire Peterson — are a little deaf to that news. Let’s help them hear us, shall we?

Call your legislators and tell them that you want the public option at the very least (and no, the co-op nonsense of Kent Conrad’s doesn’t count), and single-payer as the preferred choice.

Posted in health care, health issues | 1 Comment »

Oh, yes, Americans just loooooove their healthcare system

Posted by Charles II on June 18, 2009

Via Greg Sargent, we learn just how much the healthcare companies are lying:

U.S. HEALTH SYSTEM GETS POOR MARKS, BUT SO DOES A MAJOR OVERHAUL: A majority rate the nation’s health care system as fair (30 percent) or poor (29 percent). Only a small minority rate it excellent (6 percent) or very good (10 percent). While 14 percent of Americans think the health care system needs a major overhaul, 51 percent agree with the statement “there are some good things about our health care system, but major changes are needed.”

NATIONAL HEALTH PLAN ELEMENTS RATED HIGHLY: Between 68 percent and 88 percent of Americans either strongly or somewhat support health reform ideas such as national health plans, a public plan option, guaranteed issue, expansion of
Medicare and Medicaid, and employer and individual mandates.

MIXED REACTION TO HEALTH BENEFITS TAX CAP: Reaction to capping the current tax exclusion of employment-based health benefits is mixed. Nearly one-half of Americans (47 percent) would switch to a lower-cost plan if the tax exclusion were capped, 38 percent would stay on their current plan and pay the additional taxes, and 9 percent don’t know.

CONTINUED FAITH IN EMPLOYMENT-BASED BENEFITS, BUT DOUBTS ON AFFORDABILITY: Individuals with employment-based health benefits are confident that employers will continue to offer such benefits. They are much less confident that they would be able to afford coverage on their own, even if employers gave them the money they currently spend on health benefits. However, were employers to stop offering coverage, respondents report that they are likely to
purchase it on their own.

RISING HEALTH COSTS HURTING FAMILY FINANCES: Those experiencing health cost increases tend to say these increases have negatively affected their household finances. In particular, they indicate that increased health care costs have resulted in a decrease in contributions to a retirement plan (32 percent) and other savings (53 percent) and in difficulty paying for basic necessities (29 percent) and other bills (37 percent).

COSTS ALSO AFFECTING HEALTH CARE USE: Many consumers report they are changing the way they use the health care system in response to rising health care costs. Roughly 80 percent of those with higher out-of-pocket expenses say these increased costs have led them to try to take better care of themselves and choose generic drugs more often. One-quarter also say they did not fill or skipped does of their prescribed medications in response to increased costs.

The best part. The poll was commissioned by “AARP, American Express, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Buck Consultants, Chevron, Deere & Company, IBM, Mercer, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Principal Financial Group, Schering-Plough Corp., Shell Oil Company, The Commonwealth Fund, and Towers Perrin.”

If you loooove your healthcare as much as I do, give your Senators a smack.

Posted in health care, health issues | 1 Comment »

Piggybacking On MEC’s Post

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 16, 2009

Guess what, Senator McConnell? Government-run health care systems are more efficient and get better ratings overall, as the examples of the Veterans Administration (as reformed by Bill Clinton) and various overseas systems show.

Of course, you already know that, don’t you?

Posted in health care, health issues, when government is a good thing | Comments Off on Piggybacking On MEC’s Post

Obama Versus The AMA

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 15, 2009

The folks at Oxdown are discussing it right now.

By the way, if you want to tell the AMA to stop opposing the public option, Americans United for Change has a petition you might like to sign.

Posted in health care, health issues, President Obama | 1 Comment »

Moyers on consumer products

Posted by Charles II on May 16, 2009

Moyers also had on NYT writer Daniel Goleman with an interesting idea for pushing manufacturers to produce safer, greener products. Goleman recommended for general consumer products and specifically for cosmetic products.

The idea is good, though the execution is far from optimal. From my brief scan of the two sites–the servers appear to be slammed, so it was tough going–GoodGuide is better done, but still leaves much to be desired. Here are a couple of examples:

1. Unlike GoodGuide, Cosmetics Database does not have a rating of product effectiveness. It’s nice to have green products, but if they don’t do the job, then they are not useful. Under the category of anti-dandruff shampoos, for example, most of Cosmetics Database’s top products have no recognized active ingredient. Brittanie’s Thyme LLC Lavender Rosemary Hair Wine, for example, is listed as an anti-dandruff shampoo. It contains, vinegar, rosemary, and vinegar, all very nice and green ingredients, but none of which–to the best of my knowledge– has been proven to stop dandruff.

2. The science needs review. One of the site, I think Cosmetics Database, makes the hair-curling claim that sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are contaminated with 1, 4 dioxin. Dioxins are, of course, dangerous at the parts per trillion level. However, reading around the net, I find no credible confirmation of danger from SLE or SLES. I did find that 1,4 dioxane, a far less dangerous material, can form from chemicals residual in plastic containers (so the problem has nothing to do with SLS or SLES themselves). The American Cancer Society states that the claim that SLS and SLES are in any way carcinogenic is an urban legend, citing the Urban Legends website as follows: “All these Web sites are maintained by ‘independent distributors’ for various multi-level marketing companies hawking natural personal care products.” Greed goals could seriously undermine the green goals.

3. GoodGuide seems to wildly overuse the term “neurotoxin.” Granting a wide range of opinion about what could potentially be neurotoxic if, say, mainlined, I found a magnesium salt listed as neurotoxic. I don’t think so. I also wonder if the science on many ingredients is sound enough to declare them safe or not.

4. Cosmetics Database lists as “worrisome or downright dangerous” products made from animals. It’s important not to confuse issues. Ethical treatment of animals may be important, but it is not a consumer safety issue.

5. Rating the actual hazard of a product based solely on its ingredients is difficult. For example, pure sodium hydroxide is caustic (think of Easy Off), capable of dissolving skin and everything underneath it in very short order. But sodium hydroxide can be added to an acidic solution to bring the pH to neutral, producing harmless salt.

6. Similarly, it matters how much of an ingredient is found in a product and how it is presented to the body. This is the issue with the 1,4 dioxane that might be found in SLS and SLES. It’s at very low levels. Or, for example, saccharine is listed as a mildly carcinogenic compound in a shampoo. It’s only believed to be (very, very) mildly carcinogenic if consumed internally. So, should it even be considered? There are not many people who drink shampoo like diet soda.

7. I’d like to look under the hood of the product rating system. How many consumers are involved in the rating? How are raters chosen? Do they have conflicts of interest?

With all of these criticisms– serious enough that Moyers probably should have vetted this segment much more carefully– the idea of a website that allows consumers to shop based on ingredients is actually a very good one. There are ingredients that are unambiguously bad (like lead and mercury) which need to be forced out of the product world. There are other ingredients that cause problems, which could be exposed by effective consumer ratings. And, as always, people have a right to know what they are using, and what alternatives exist.

Posted in environment, health issues, science and medicine | 1 Comment »

“Don’t buy any food you’ve ever seen advertised.”

Posted by Charles II on May 14, 2009

Michael Pollan did an interesting segment on food on DemocracyNow. It dispensed some excellent advice, and I even found something very interesting on the way to trying to (and failing to) debunk one of his claims.

It was a wide-ranging discussion covering Chinese purchases of land in Africa (and their domestic agricultural problems) to the role of food in illness. He related how the pesticide industry was wroth over Michelle Obama’s announcement that she was planting an organic garden, treating it as disparagement and encouraging her to use their “crop protective products.”

Pollan said that he had discovered that the food industry had taken to running their marketing campaigns based on the health warnings he issued. So, for example, his admonition to avoid high-fructose corn syrup because it’s a marker of highly processed foods was twisted into health claims for soft drinks using sugar! I admit to admiring any marketing person audacious enough to develop verbal jujitsu that subtle, but what is brilliant can also be against our national interest.

Pollan’s simple advice was to avoid processed foods, don’t eat too much, and eat mostly plants, which is probably as close to ideal dietary advice as one can achieve in 25 words or less. He also made an interesting claim linking sugar with type II diabetes. While that’s an old hypothesis, in the course of trying to show that this is more of a correlation-causation thing, I discovered fascinating evidence that it’s not, sugar itself is a real, primary risk factor:

Novel findings suggest that “what makes a beta-cell a beta-cell”, i.e., its enormous capacity to synthesize and secrete insulin, is also its Achilles heel, rendering it vulnerable to chronic high glucose and fatty acid exposure, agents that contribute to beta-cell failure in type 2 diabetes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in health issues, sustainability | 4 Comments »

Senate Dems Lay Down Marker on Healthcare

Posted by Charles II on May 3, 2009

This is good enough to quote in full.

Why We Must Act: Senate Democrats Make the Case for Health Reform
April 30, 2009
–Democratic Policy Committee
Byron L. Dorgan, Chairman

While Senate Republicans debate arcane parliamentary procedure, Senate Democrats have are focused on improving health care for all Americans. Democrats, like most Americans, want to ensure that those who like their current coverage can keep it, while ensuring that all American families have access to quality, affordable health care. Democrats know that for our economy to truly recover and prosper, we must help middle-class families and businesses cope with skyrocketing health care costs. Rather than becoming distracted by process, Senate Democrats are focused on the case for health reform, and they, like millions of Americans, know we must act.

Why We Must Act: Eight Years of Inaction Contributed to High Costs and a Rising Number of Uninsured

Skyrocketing health care costs are contributing to the current economic crisis, weighing heavily on family, business and government budgets. As highlighted in a report recently released at, “The Costs of Inaction,” inherited flaws in our health care system have led to higher health care costs, reduced access to care, and inconsistent quality of care throughout the country.[1]

High health care costs. In 2007, the United States spent approximately $2.2 trillion on health care, about $7,421 per person or 16.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid accounting for 4 percent of GDP.[2][3]

Rising health care costs are not only affecting federal health expenditures, they are also squeezing family budgets. Health insurance premiums have doubled in the past eight years and, when combined with increasing out-of-pocket costs like co-payments and deductibles, more Americans than ever struggle to afford the health care they need.[4] Increasing medical costs contribute to bankruptcies, foreclosures, and burden American businesses trying to remain competitive in the global economy. [5][6][7] In addition, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found that, within the past year, high health care costs have led six in ten Americans to delay or skip medical care.[8]

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Democrats, health care, health issues, Senate | 3 Comments »

Don’t Let A Chiropractor Crack Your Neck

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 16, 2009

Not unless you want to risk stroke and/or death:

Stroke from chiropractic neck manipulation occurs when an artery to the brain ruptures or becomes blocked as a result of being stretched. The injury often results from extreme rotation in which the practitioner’s hands are placed on the patient’s head in order to rotate the cervical spine by rotating the head [1]. The vertebral artery, which is shown in the picture to the right, is vulnerable because it winds around the topmost cervical vertebra (atlas) to enter the skull, so that any abrupt rotation may stretch the artery and tear its delicate lining. The anatomical problem is illustrated on page 7 of The Chiropractic Report, July 1999. A blood clot formed over the injured area may subsequently be dislodged and block a smaller artery that supplies the brain. Less frequently, the vessel may be blocked by blood that collects in the vessel wall at the site of the dissection [2].

Chiropractors would like you to believe that the incidence of stroke following neck manipulation is extremely small. Speculations exist that the odds of a serious complication due to neck manipulation are somewhere between one in 40,000 and one in 10 million manipulations. No one really knows, however, because (a) there has been little systematic study of its frequency; (b) the largest malpractice insurers won’t reveal how many cases they know about; and (c) a large majority of cases that medical doctors see are not reported in scientific journals.

Click on the link for more. You’re better off seeing a licensed massage therapist or a doctor who specializes in sports medicine.

Posted in health care, health issues, science and medicine | 11 Comments »

Crucifying America on a Cross of Paper

Posted by Charles II on February 27, 2009


JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the Massachusetts plan has been held up in recent years as a model. What are the main problems that you see with how the plan has operated there?

DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN: Well, I see them day to day. I’m a primary care doctor here in Massachusetts, and my patients still can’t afford the care they need. They’ve given some people insurance, but they’ve actually given them insurance, in most cases, that has such holes in deductibles, co-payments, that people still can’t afford care. And there are still hundreds of thousands uninsured.

And meanwhile, the thing is costing much more than they said it would….in order to keep the insurance industry in business, they’re actually having to slash care and leave it unaffordable to people who have coverage.

AMY GOODMAN: Len Nichols, are you for preserving private health insurance industry?

LEN NICHOLS: Well, like I said, Ms. Goodman, I’m for getting everybody covered and for enabling that coverage to let us buy high quality care that we can sustain over time.

I think the way to think about what’s being talked about down here is, I think Massachusetts is something of an example, but you want to be careful about how to interpret the implications of it. The first big problem is that Massachusetts tried to cover people without being able to do anything serious about cost growth containment over time, so that, as a nation, we know we have to do both.

But I would also say that while David’s right—there has been an underestimate of how much it would cost in Massachusetts—that was because of, I would say, a technical error over the estimation of the number of people who were uninsured. There were two different surveys that were done. The government, a combination of then-Governor Romney and the legislature, chose to go with the survey that was basically saying there were half as many uninsured as a different survey suggested. The national experts thought the latter was the better. That had the right number of uninsured. The legislature budgeted for the lower number of uninsured, and that’s why they’ve hit a budget constraint.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Himmelstein?

DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN: Well, first of all, we don’t have everyone covered. In fact, there are lots of uninsured people left in Massachusetts despite this massive spending, and more and more every day. We’ve lost 85,000 jobs in our state in just the last year, and the coverage hasn’t expanded to take those 85,000 people in. So, that’s a myth.

And we told them off—right off the bat it was going to cost more than they said. They refused to believe us. And we’re telling the Obama people that the plan they’re talking about costs much more than what they are saying. The cost containment they’re claiming in their plan, the Congressional Budget Office has told them won’t work. They’re saying computers are going to save massive amounts of money. There’s no evidence for that at all. The Congressional Budget Office says there’s no evidence for that at all.

The efficiencies Mr. Nichols is talking about, we could get those efficiencies, but only if we get the insurance companies out of the system. We do $400 billion each year in useless paperwork in healthcare, and there’s no way of getting rid of that unless you get rid of the private health insurance companies.

Posted in health care, health issues | 2 Comments »

Things get crazier in recessions

Posted by Charles II on October 22, 2008

So maybe there’s a reason why McCain and Palin’s rallies verge into the unhinged. Stephanie Saul, NYT:

For the first time in at least a decade, the nation’s consumers are trying to get by on fewer prescription drugs.

As people around the country respond to financial and economic hard times by juggling the cost of necessities like groceries and housing, drugs are sometimes having to wait.

“People are having to choose between gas, meals and medication,” said Dr. James King, the chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians….

If enough people try to save money by forgoing drugs, controllable conditions could escalate into major medical problems. That could eventually raise the nation’s total health care bill and lower the nation’s standard of living….

The average co-payment for drugs on insurers’ “preferred” lists rose to $25 in 2007, from $15 in 2000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health care research organization. And, of course, lots of people have no drug insurance at all. …

For older Americans, the addition of Medicare drug coverage in 2006 through the Part D program has meant that 90 percent of Medicare-age people now have drug insurance….

But a potential coverage gap in each recipient’s benefit each year — the so-called Part D doughnut hole — means that many Medicare patients are without coverage for part of the year.

Posted in health issues, Medicare drug plan | Comments Off on Things get crazier in recessions

%d bloggers like this: