Headlines: December 11, 2009
by Meg Larkin
According to the Washington Post, House Speaker Nanci Pelosi has endorsed the Senate’s compromise on the public option. While Speaker Pelosi says that she would still prefer a broad public option like the one contained in the House bill, she said that, “"There's certainly a great deal of appeal" to expanding Medicare.” The compromise, which would allow people age 55-64 to buy in to Medicare, is not a new idea among Democratic Senators, but this is its first entry in to the current health care debate. The cost for an individual buying in to Medicare could be substantial. According to the New York Times, “That could cost about $7,600 a year per person or $15,200 for a couple, according to a budget office analysis of an earlier version of the concept.” Additionally, Doctors’ and Hospitals’ groups are concerned about payment. Some Senators from rural areas are hesitant to support the legislation because they worry it will hurt the health care providers back home.
A loophole of the current Senate bill would allow insurers to put caps on the amount of money spend on care for people suffering from expensive illnesses like cancer. The legislation originally banned caps on coverage, but a change to those provisions weakened the legislation, drawing criticism from patients’ groups.
New findings from the Women’s Health Initiative suggest that drugs women take to prevent bone loss may also help prevent cancer. The study was a retrospective data analysis, and not a randomized clinical trial, which leaves some cancer experts skeptical about the results. Dr. Eric P. Winer, a breast cancer specialist at Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute says that women with osteoporosis may see this as an added benefit to their medication, but cautioned against using the drugs solely for their potential to decrease the risk of cancer. While osteoporosis drugs may help prevent breast cancer, drinking alcohol may increase the risk of a recurrence. A study by Kaiser Permanente found that women who consumed 3-4 glasses of wine a week were 34% more likely to experience a recurrence in their cancer than women who drank very little or not at all.
Government epidemiologists have found that the swine flu death rate is higher among American Indians and Native Alaskans. Those groups were more likely to have a preexisting illness or asthma, and the CDC believes that the higher incidence of swine flu is more related to preexisting conditions, environmental factors, and access to health care than to genetics or ethnicity.
Meg Larkin is a second year law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns.