Headlines: November 14, 2011
by Kyle Thomson
The Supreme Court announced this morning that it will rule on the constitutionality of health care reform this term. A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court said oral arguments will take place in March, with five and a half hours of time devoted. The ruling will come down by the end of the term in late June, leading into a contentious election that may be centered on the controversial law. At the heart of the legal battle is whether the individual mandate is a proper exercise of congressional power, but the Court has granted cert on essentially every major issue with healthcare reform, including Medicaid expansion, jurisdictional issues and whether the individual mandate is properly framed as a tax.
According to a federal panel, children as young as 9 should be routinely screened for high cholesterol so that steps can be taken to avoid the onset of heart disease later in life. The recommendation has been met with some controversy because heart disease is an issue that normally crops up at middle age, not childhood. Up until now, cholesterol tests were only recommended for children with a family history of early heart disease or those who were diabetic, obese, or had high blood pressure. Instead, the recommendations call for testing between 9 and 11 with follow up testing after puberty between ages 17 and 21. While the panel admits there is no evidence that such early screening will prevent heart attacks later in life, many doctors agree that waiting too long may be dangerous for children who have significant hidden risks. The panel also suggested testing for diabetes start at 9 for children who are overweight and have other risk factors such as a family history of type-2 diabetes.
The Obama administration is announcing a $1B effort to expand the healthcare workforce through large grant programs. Grants will be made to doctors, community health centers, local governments and other organizations that work with patients in federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Funding will go primarily to experimental programs designed to expand the healthcare workforce while reducing the cost of delivering care. While the healthcare workforce has been steadily growing, there is likely to be an acute need for additional workers in 2014 when insurance coverage is expected to dramatically expand because of the individual mandate.