Health Care News: December 2006 Archives

Medicare's Prescription Drug Plan Enrollment Deadline Looms

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medicare cardHealthDay News  -- The deadline for enrolling in or changing your Medicare prescription drug plan is fast approaching, and experts agree that you need to choose carefully because premiums have increased and drug coverage has changed in many plans.

"In terms of premium increases, 77 percent of drug plan enrollees are in plans where premiums will be increasing," said Larry Levitt, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. The deadline for picking a plan for 2007 is Dec. 31, and that decision can't be changed again until next November.

However, if a recent survey holds true, many seniors will simply stick with what they've got.

New Congress to tackle prescriptions, other healthcare issues

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senateBy CHRISTOPHER LEE, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - Healthcare is to return to the national political stage in 2007, setting up partisan clashes in Congress that could end with rare vetoes from President Bush and help define the 2008 presidential campaigns.

Here is a look at parts of the healthcare agenda in the new Congress:

Medicare prescription drug price negotiations. Proponents, mainly Democrats, say repealing a provision in the 2003 Medicare drug benefit law and forcing the Bush administration to negotiate with drug companies over prices could save billions of dollars a year.

Most happy with Medicare Part D

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politics over drugsWASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. congressional leaders want to push for major changes in Medicare Part D, but most voters favor the new prescription-drug program, a survey finds.

Concern about prescription drugs ranked well down the list of "most important" issues listed by voters in exit polls on Election Day, there are overwhelming majorities of seniors happy with the program, and many say they were likely to support officials who voted to create it, according to Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen of Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates.

Only 2 percent of voters polled for each survey said it was the most important factor in their voting decision.

Group Plans To Re-introduce Drug Bill

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politics over drugsA bipartisan congressional group plans to re-introduce a bill that would allow U.S. residents to import drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Senators Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Representatives Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., and Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., say passage of the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act would cut the cost of prescription drugs.

"It is unbelievable that Americans are forced to pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs," Dorgan said. "It's time we took some action to put downward pressure on these prescription drug prices, and I think we have a bipartisan group that is going to stand up and move this issue forward."

© 2006 UPI

Freeing the Drug Market

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FDABy David Gratzer

With health-care costs rising year after year — and drug costs rising faster than any other aspect of health spending — Americans wonder how to make drugs cheaper and more accessible. Politicians are listening: During the campaign, for example, Democrats promised seniors a better deal on drugs. But rather than embracing measures that could undermine the innovation of the industry, Congress can quickly and easily reduce the cost of drugs: Return the FDA back to its original mandate.

How much will that medicine cost? It’s a question patients ask me every single day. We love prescription drugs, but bemoan the price of pharmaceuticals. It’s no wonder that Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi promises that Washington will “negotiate” drug prices for Medicare, and that she has flirted with reimportation. Not long ago, I might have favored these ideas too — it’s tempting, after all, to think Congress can offer American pharmaceuticals at, say, Canadian prices. But Congressional meddling in the price of drugs would end up destroying the innovation and capital needed to develop new pharmaceuticals, leaving us with Canadian prices and Canadian innovation (or the lack thereof).

Healthy Americans Act: health insurance for every citizen

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senator Ron WydenOregon Senator Ron Wyden is introducing a new proposal to provide affordable, high quality, private health coverage for everyone regardless of where they work or live with the Healthy Americans Act.

"The Healthy Americans Act provides a guarantee -- health coverage for every American that is at least as good as Members of Congress receive and can never be taken away," Wyden explained. "The Act provides universal coverage for no more money than our country spends today. Better care, financial health and security, no increase in costs."

Future of nationwide children's study is hazy

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US senateby Lois M. Collins

Plans for the nation's first large-scale, long-term study of children are proceeding along two paths: The first involves getting ready to hit the pavement and start enrolling families by at least 2008; the other would fold up shop.

The future of the highly publicized National Children's Study, created by Congress in 2000, is at a crossroads. The president's 2007 budget proposal not only didn't fund the study but actually directed it to be closed down. Congress responded with strong language from both the House and Senate indicating avid support for the study. But Congress hasn't actually committed a penny yet in future funding.

"They've implied provision (for the study) but didn't say what that will be," said NCS director Dr. Peter Scheidt. "So we've responded by preparing to do both."

Americans Say They're in Good Health

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surveyMost U.S. adults are in good or excellent health. Or, at least, that's what they say, according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll, conducted by telephone from Nov. 9-12, included 1,004 adults. They were asked to rate their physical and mental health.

Of those polled, 79% rated their physical health as "excellent" or "good," while 21% said it was "only fair" or "poor."

Axa upgrades PMI to cover all cancer drugs

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healthcareAxa PPP has re-launched its Premier Plus medical insurance plan to cover any drugs used to treat cancer, regardless of whether they are licensed.

Premier Plus now pays for any cancer drug which a patient’s oncologist may wish to use, regardless of whether they are licensed, for as long as the oncologist wishes to give them.

In addition, the plan provides a health check every two years, up to £1,000 for one hearing aid every two years, up to £150 a year for chiropody and up to £15 for an annual eye test and up to £250 for prescription glasses or contact lenses every two years.

Clients can use any hospital in the UK and they can opt for a no claims discount and/or excesses of £100, £200 or £500 to reduce costs if they wish.

source - Ifaonline 

Agonizing dilemma over costly cancer drugs

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healthHow much is one month of life worth?

It's a question that has split governments, bankrupted patients and left hospitals with an agonizing moral dilemma.

Health Canada has approved drugs that prolong the life of cancer patients.

They're expensive. They're not a cure. And usually they only give the patient months more to live.

Patients think they're worth every penny.

Governments can't agree. Some provinces pay. Others say they're not worth the small benefit to a few.

TennCare focuses on preventative measures

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tenncareTennCare officials say they want to spend $6.2 million on preventive measures that will help enrollees take better care of themselves and avoid serious illnesses.

The request is part of $99.3 million needed from the state to make improvements to the expanded Medicaid program, officials told Gov. Phil Bredesen during state budget hearings today.

"Some of our enrollees need extra help in how they should take care of themselves," said Dr. Wendy Long, TennCare's chief medical officer.

Elderly perplexed over Medicare choices

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medicare CHICAGO (Reuters) - When it comes to finding the best deal on prescriptions under the Medicare health insurance program, 68-year-old Carol Paremske of Miami says she knows all the tricks.

The Internet-savvy senior knows about step therapy, which requires a patient to try a less expensive drug favored by the insurer before using the one prescribed by a doctor. She knows about the so-called doughnut hole, where coverage is limited after spending tops about $2,300. She's called the private companies that run the plans and the government help lines.

Still, a week before the Medicare agency suggests seniors decide which Medicare prescription drug plan to choose for 2007, she is perplexed.

"The thing is so complicated and convoluted. You don't really know if you are saving money or if it is just going to the drug companies," Paremske said.

UHSSEIU, the nation's largest health care union, issued a report today entitled "Failure to Care: A National Report on Universal Health Services' Behavioral Health Operations." The report alleges poor case management and understaffing at behavioral health facilities owned by the corporate health care giant, Universal Health Services (UHS).

The report documents cases of understaffed facilities and poor case management leading to sexual abuse, runaway patients, physical assaults on patients, violations of patients' rights, and patient dumping in several states. The report documents incidents from 13 different facilities in six states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Texas, and Nevada.