News You Can Use

December 30, 2009
7:58 am

I’m not in the habit of plugging individual media outlets, but I can’t help but be impressed with the relatively new Kaiser Health News (KHN), a creation of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

I’ve placed KHN on my daily must-read list because of the quality of its personnel, journalists who established stellar reputations at the nation’s top publications.  KHN’s executive editor is Laurie McGinley, who was one of the country’s premier health policy journalists during her tenure at the Wall Street Journal.  Reporters include Julie Appleby and Mary Agnes Carey, who broke important healthcare stories for years at USA Today and Congressional Quarterly, respectively.

I bring up KHN today because, if you’re looking for a nice summary of the differences between the Senate and House health reform bills that have to be reconciled in conference committee, the news service’s story, The House, Senate and You, does a very nice job.

Medical Innovation Providing a Second Chance at Life

December 22, 2009
4:08 pm

In November, NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital celebrated the 25th anniversary of pediatric heart transplantation.  In 1984, the Hospital’s surgeons performed the world’s first successful heart transplant to a 4-year-old boy.  Since then more than 350 children have received new hearts at the Hospital.

Twenty-three years ago, one of those fortunate children was 12 year old Christy Farley.  In a CNN article today, Farley of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey said “Not a day or minute goes by where I don’t think about how lucky I am just to be here, I thank God every day when I wake up that I woke up.”

With her new heart, Farley has been able to have the life experiences of graduating from college to become a nurse and she recently gave birth to her daughter, Analise.  Farley said that “As a child I learned that having a transplant would make me better, and my job was to get better.  So that’s what I focused on.  Of course, there’s always fear.  If I get sick, if I get the flu, a million things go through my mind.  Now, I look at more positive things and how successful I am.”

This news story reminds us of what medical innovation means to society’s happiness and future.  Doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital have given Christy Farley and many others a second chance at life.


What’s Inside the Senate’s Hastily Wrapped Christmas Package?

December 20, 2009
1:14 pm

Later this week, the U.S. Senate will vote on massive, multi-trilion dollar health reform legislation that was just revealed to members yesterday (Saturday).  For commentary on this measure and the headlong rush to pass it, I turn to Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).  No one can accuse Senator Snowe of being an opponent of health reform.  She was the only Republican to vote for the reform bill that emerged from the Senate Finance Committee and she has been in nonstop negotiations with the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

She’s made it clear, though, that she can’t support this Christmas surprise.  On CBS’s Face the Nation this morning, she explained why.  Below are some excerpts:

“So here we are today with a bill that’s dramatically different, more expansive than the Finance Committee. In fact it’s 1,200 pages more than the Finance Committee legislation. It was placed on the floor just short of three weeks ago. Four hundred amendments and two dozen have been considered voted upon. Read more

A First Look At The “Compromise”

December 10, 2009
4:17 pm

The 10 Democratic senators working to find an acceptable middle ground to resolve the controversy over the government plan option have said publicly they haven’t reached an agreement yet.  They’ve simply developed some concepts they’ve sent to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring.

That hasn’t stopped the media, though, from declaring that Senate Democrats have decided to drop the government option and replace it with a compromise approach that includes an expansion of Medicare, allowing 55 to 64 year olds to buy into the program.

It doesn’t appear clear, though, that everyone has gotten the memo that this is supposed to be a compromise that is more appealing to centrists. Read more

Don’t Let the Facts Get In the Way of a Good Issue

December 09, 2009
4:05 pm

When he was a United States Senator, Barack Obama cosponsored legislation to allow the importation of prescription drugs into this country.  White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was a champion of importation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

It’s very telling then that the Obama Administration yesterday threw a bucket of cold water on efforts in the Senate to attach a drug importation amendment onto health reform legislation.  Dr. Margaret Hamburg, head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sent a letter to Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), saying that it would be “logistically challenging” to try to guarantee the safety of any prescription medications entering our borders from other countries.  Dr. Hamburg notes, accurately, that the FDA can’t oversee the safety of foreign supply chains. Read more