Headlines: January 25, 2010
by Meg Larkin
Now that the Democrats have lost their 60 seat majority in the Senate, their health reform agenda is going back to the drawing board. Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008 has publicly urged President Obama to meet with Republicans from the beginning when trying to reshape health reform. Moderate Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine have also expressed a desire to work with Democrats to pass those portions of the health reform bill that have the potential to attract bipartisan support. Republicans object to some of the provisions in the current reform legislation that would cut spending on Medicare, and that gave sweetheart deals to states where Senators were on the fence.
UnitedHealthcare, which insures 25 million Americans is locked in a dispute with several New York area hospitals. UnitedHealthcare would like hospitals to notify the insurer within 24 hours of a patient’s admission, and if hospitals don’t comply with the new requirement, the insurer is prepared to cut their payment to the hospital for the patient’s care in half. The insurer claims the measure is designed to cut health care costs and improve patient outcomes by getting insurance case managers involved in the process earlier. However, the hospitals see the measure as a punitive way to decrease spending that comes in between doctors and their patients.
The United States and Europe took very different approaches to new data on an obesity drug. When evidence emerged that the drug could increase the incidence of heart problems in patients who already had certain health conditions, the EU banned its use, while the FDA allowed it to stay on the market for patients without heart trouble. The diet drug is designed to combat obesity and some of the health problems that stem from being over weight. Doctors in the United States have said that they will continue to prescribe the drug for patients that could benefit from it and have a lower risk of heart complications.
A study on the cluster of scleroderma cases in South Boston has found that it may be linked more to genetics than to environmental contaminants. While the study suffered from a small sample size, it was unable to find a definitive link between the pollution problems in South Boston and the high incidence of scleroderma, a rare autoimmune disease, in a number of middle aged women who grew up in the area. According to the Boston Globe, “The study found that people with a family history of specific autoimmune-rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud’s disease, lupus, and thyroid disease, were more likely to develop scleroderma.”
Finally, a judge rejected a suggested sentence of 20 years for the guilty plea of a Denver health care worker charged with infecting several patients with Hepatitis C. According to the New York Times, “Ms. Parker, 27, admitted to the police on videotape that while working at Rose Medical Center in Denver in 2008 and 2009, she stole pain-medication syringes from operating room trays, replacing them at times with needles she had already used to inject herself with heroin.” So far 17 cases of Hepatitis C have been linked to Ms. Parker.
Meg Larkin is a second year student at Boston University School of Law. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns.