Posts Tagged ‘United States’

New HHS Program Seeks to Cure Alzheimer’s in 13 Years

Monday, February 13th, 2012

A national Alzheimer’s disease advisory council has set  preliminary goals and  recommendations for a national strategic plan to slow — or even bring to an end to — the expected rise in new cases as the baby boomer generation ages. The plan’s goal is to prevent and successfully treat the disease as soon as 2025. The objectives include enhancing care quality and efficiency, expanding patient and family support, enhancing public awareness and engagement, and improving data to track disease progress.

The plan is part of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act that was signed into law on recently by President Barack Obama. The law created the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services. The new law requires the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the advisory council to create and maintain a national plan to defeat Alzheimer’s.  Members of the council’s subgroups on long-term services and supports (LTSS), clinical care, and research are meeting to comment on and provide recommendations to formulate the plan’s draft framework.

The council’s members support alternatives to Medicare coverage and physician reimbursement to encourage the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and provide care planning to individuals diagnosed with the disease and their caregivers. Additionally, quality indicators for the care and treatment of individuals with Alzheimer’s need to be formulated. The group proposed medical home pilot projects specifically designed to improve medical management for Alzheimer’s patients using grants from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI).

More than five million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a brain disease that causes dementia and affects primarily elderly people.  Some experts estimate that treating the disease costs the United States more than $170 billion annually.  Australia, France and South Korea already have comprehensive Alzheimer’s plans, and worldwide experts have been urging the United States to assume a leadership role.

“We want to demonstrate that as a country we are committed to addressing this issue,” Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at HHS, said.  “We know the projected number of patients is expected to rise in the future.  We know there are far too many patients who are suffering from this devastating condition and it is affecting them and their caregivers,” Koh said.

Other experts believe that the 2025 deadline is too close and unrealistic.  “No one set a deadline for the ‘War on cancer’ or in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  We make progress and we keep fighting.  The same should be true for Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Sam Gandy, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.  “In my mind, that provides the unfortunate sense that we will have ‘failed’ if we don’t have a cure by 2025.”  The National Alzheimer’s Project Act provides no new funding for research.  Although some drug companies have compounds in clinical trials, researchers say they are just beginning to understand the complex disease, which develops without any symptoms for 15 to 20 years before any memory problems begin to show.  “This means that if we had, today, already in hand, the funding, recruitment and the perfect drug, the trial would still take 15 to 20 years,” Gandy said.

According to P.J. Skerrett, Editor of Harvard Health, “Like a powerful wave, the Alzheimer’s epidemic is expected to crest in 2050. At that time an estimated 16 million Americans will be living with this mind-robbing disease. (About 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease today.)  In an effort to head off the explosion, President Obama has signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project Act.

This ambitious project aims to attack Alzheimer’s on several fronts:

  • Improving early diagnosis.  The brain changes that lead to Alzheimer’s disease probably begin years before memory loss and other problems appear. Earlier diagnosis could help families better plan for the future, and could be especially important if better treatments become available.
  • Finding effective prevention and treatment strategies.  Today’s treatments relieve symptoms for only a short time; none prevent or stop Alzheimer’s-related mental decline. New treatments that are more durable would be a huge boon to current and future Alzheimer’s sufferers.
  • Providing more family support.  Spouses and adult children are the primary caregivers for many people with Alzheimer’s disease. The day-to-day challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be daunting. Many caregivers have no training and don’t know what resources are available to them. The project would provide better education and support for caregivers.” Skerrett said.

Global Healthcare Spending Growing Faster Than GDPs

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Blame the Great Recession for sharp increases in the ratio of healthcare spending to GDP.  Real annual per-capita health spending climbed 4.2 percent between 2000 and 2008 in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, according to a new study.  Not surprisingly, the United States led the pack of 31 nations with healthcare spending as a proportion of GDP rising by 16 percent.  Next in line were France (11.2 percent); Switzerland (10.7 percent); Austria (10.5 percent); and Germany (10.5 percent).  Healthcare spending in the United States was $7,538 person.  Compare that to $5,003 in Norway; $4,627 in Switzerland; $4,210 in Luxembourg; and $4,079 in Canada.

According to the OECD, healthcare spending is rising faster than economic growth.  The average ratio of healthcare spending to GDP rose from 7.8 percent in 2000 to nine percent in 2008.  Technological changes, an aging population and high expectations are among the factors driving up costs, a situation that is unlikely to change in the near future.  The Great Recession also led to increases in the ratio of healthcare spending to GDP in several countries.  Ireland, for example, saw an increase from 7.5 percent in 2007 to 8.7 percent in 2008, while it rose from 8.4 percent to nine percent in Spain.

Government pays for healthcare coverage in the majority of OECD nations.  As a result, government spending on healthcare rose from an average of 12 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2008.  As a result, nations currently under pressure to reduce budget deficits have some difficult decisions to make to sustain their healthcare systems.  The options are to cut the growth of public spending on healthcare, cutting other expenditures, or raising taxes.

With Healthcare Reform Passage, Rush Limbaugh Will Head to Costa Rica for Medical Treatment

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Conservative Rush Limbaugh will go to socialized medicine paradise Costa Rica when healthcare reform becomes law.  Now that Congress has passed healthcare reform legislation, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh might start heading to Costa Rica for medical treatment.  The irony is that the Central American nation for years has had a socialized healthcare system.  All citizens of Costa Rica – even foreign residents – must pay into the government-run healthcare system, whether or not they use it.

Limbaugh’s choice reflects the fact that Costa Rica is an excellent destination for medical tourism, with a life expectancy that exceeds that of the United States.  The World Health Organization ranks Costa Rica at # 36 in terms of the quality of healthcare provided, while the United States ranks # 37 – despite the fact that Costa Ricans spend 87 percent less per capita on healthcare.  The free coverage applies to 86.8 percent of the population.  Cheaper labor costs and fewer lawsuits for malpractice help to control prices.

“People travel to Costa Rica (and) receive the same quality of medical services for a fraction of the cost,” said Jorge Cortes, president of the Council for International Promotion of Costa Rica Medicine and medical director of Hospital Biblica, a private and internationally accredited hospital.  “When people see they can get the same surgery for three or four times less, they decide to get medical care abroad.”  The price differences are stunning.  A knee replacement that might cost $45,000 in the United States would cost $11,000 in Costa Rica.

Rural Family Practice Physician Chosen as Surgeon General

Friday, July 24th, 2009

President Obama has chosen a little-known family practice physician who runs a small clinic in a rural community on Alabama’s Gulf Coast as his Surgeon General of the United States.  She is Dr. Regina Benjamin,  who has spent her career tending to the healthcare needs of the poor.  According to Obama, “When people couldn’t pay, she didn’t charge them.  When the clinic wasn’t making money, she didn’t take a salary for herself.”artbenjaminnominationgi

Dr. Benjamin has committed herself to fighting the preventable illnesses that prematurely took the lives of both her parents, as well as her brother and sole sibling.  According to Dr. Benjamin, “I cannot change my family’s past, but I can be a voice to improve our nation’s healthcare for the future.”

Dr. Benjamin’s medical education was paid for by the National Health Service Corps, a federal program where students agree to pay back by working in areas that lack physicians for a specified time.  To honor that obligation, she founded the not-for-profit Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in 1990 in the fishing village of Bayou La Batre, AL.  She remains the practice’s CEO.

The clinic, which was heavily damaged by Hurricanes Georges and Katrina, burned to the ground several years ago.  Every time, Dr. Benjamin rebuilt, even if it meant mortgaging her house or maxing out her credit cards.  Despite the setbacks, Dr. Benjamin remains dedicated to providing quality healthcare to the village’s 2,500 residents.

Benjamin is a stark contrast to Obama’s first nominee for Surgeon General – Sanjay Gupta, a glamorous TV personality and globe-trotting neurosurgeon who raised the hackles of Senators and withdrew his nomination.

The Surgeon General post, which is used primarily as a bully pulpit on healthcare initiatives, requires Senate confirmation.

House Proposes $1.5 Trillion Healthcare Reform Package

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

The House of Representatives has proposed a $1.5 trillion package that would make healthcare coverage a right and a responsibility for all citizens.  If passed, medical providers, employers and the wealthy would pick up the tab.  The United States is the only developed nation that lacks healthcare coverage for all citizens, and approximately 50 Health Care Reformmillion people do not have access to insurance.

“We cannot allow this issue to be delayed.  We cannot put it off again,” says Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee.  “We quite frankly cannot go home for a recess unless the House and the Senate both pass bills to reform and restructure our healthcare system.”

President Obama is promoting healthcare reform every chance he gets.  In a Michigan speech about spending for community colleges, he said, “There’s going to be a major debate over the next three weeks.  And don’t be fooled by folks trying to scare you saying we can’t change the healthcare system.  We have no choice but to change the healthcare system because right now it’s broken for many Americans.”

Organizing for America – Obama’s campaign organization – is launching a series of 30-second television ads on healthcare reform that will air in Washington D.C., on cable networks nationally and on local stations in eight states.  The ads depict ordinary citizens telling their stories about problems with the current healthcare system.

Senate Advances on Reshaping Healthcare Coverage

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

A crucial Senate committee has approved legislation to reform the nation’s healthcare system.  This is significant because it marks the first time the committee has acted on legislation to fulfill President Obama’s goal of reshaping how healthcare is paid for in the United States.s-obamated-large

Specifically, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 13 – 10 — along strict party lines — to endorse a $600 billion measure to expand coverage to virtually all Americans by requiring individuals to get insurance with their employers contributing to the cost.  If enacted into law, the legislation would provide federal aid to families and individuals who make less than four times the poverty level – approximately $88,000 for a family of four.

The committee’s chairman, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, missed the vote because of his ongoing treatment for brain cancer.  Even though Senator Kennedy is acting behind the scenes in the push to pass this legislation, he remains one of the prime movers for enacting healthcare reform.

The Loyal Opposition

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

The Republican National Committee’s (RNC) response to the Obama Administration’s and Congressional Democrats’ efforts to pass healthcare reform legislation was to sponsor a “Hillarycare revisited” fund raising effort.

The RNC warned against “Obamacare” and pointed out that the government “already run2008-08-23-dnc-081s car companies, banks and mortgage companies.  Republicans believe that the last thing the American people want is government telling them when and where – or even whether – they can get medical treatment for their families.”  “Hillarycare” refers to former President Bill Clinton’s failed attempt at reforming healthcare during the 1990s, an effort led by his wife, Hillary Clinton.

Republicans like John Boehner (R-OH) have raised the specter of a “bureaucrat standing between you and your doctor.”  Perhaps it’s worth considering that we currently have an insurance company bureaucrat performing the same role.  Also, government administered health options are almost uniformly popular.  The World Health Organization ranks France’s healthcare system as the world’s finest, contrasted to the United States, which scored 37th.  The United Kingdom’s combination of publicly and privately funded healthcare ranked 18th in the World Health Organization’s survey.

America Losing War on Obesity

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

A new report — “F” as in Fat:  How Obesity Policies are Failing in America 2009 gives America a failing grade on its efforts to control obesity among children and adults.

The report, released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that obeseobesity rates rose in 23 states during 2008, with no states showing decreases.  The number of overweight children is at or above 30 percent in 30 states.

Mississippi came in dead last for the fifth year in a row, with an adult obesity rate of 32.5 percent.  Three states were close runners up:  West Virginia reported a 31.2 percent obesity rate; Alabama had 31.1 percent; and Tennessee had 30.2 percent.  On the opposite side, the states reporting the lowest obesity rates were Colorado with 18.9 percent; Massachusetts with 21.2 percent; Connecticut with 21.3 percent; Rhode Island with 21.7 percent and Hawaii with 21.9 percent.

“Our healthcare costs have grown along with our waistlines,” according to Jeff Levi, PhD, TFAH’s executive director.  “The obesity epidemic is a big contributor to the skyrocketing healthcare costs in the United States.  How are we going to compete with the rest of the world if our economy and workforce are weighed down by bad health?”

Fully two thirds of American adults are now overweight or obese.  Adult obesity rates are higher than 25 percent in 31 states, and above 20 percent in 49 states and Washington, D.C.  Compare this with 1991, when no state reported an obesity rate higher than 20 percent.

Eco City is Florida’s Destiny

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

A developer with more than 41,300 acres in Osceola County in Central Florida (just south of Orlando) is envisioning the first eco-sustainable city in the United States  and will be called Destiny, FL.destiny-sustainable-city-florida-bg

Destiny has been recognized by The Clinton Climate Initiative as one of 16 large-scale urban projects demonstrating that cities can grow while reducing carbon emissions to near zero.

Destiny’s developers are currently considering a solar plant that would produce power at about 40 cents per kilowatt.  Intuitively, it would also need to incorporate green technology, eco-friendly companies, a gray water irrigation system, environmental research groups, and “green collar” jobs.  It is slated to break ground in 2011 and will eventually include approximately 100,000 residential units and 30 million SF of non-commercial space to support a population of 200,000 to 250,000 residents.  This is in step with President Obama’s focus on alternate energy.  The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) includes  $20 billion in tax cuts for alternative energy including a multiyear extension of the production tax credit for wind, geothermal, hydro power and bio-energy.  Additionally, President Obama has pledged to invest $150 billion over 10 years to develop alternative energy, which he says will create 5 million jobs.

Wellness Is a Proactive Approach to Healthcare

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Now is the time for healthcare providers to take a proactive approach to the well-being of their respective communities and target markets.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), signed into law by President Obama on February 17, contains $1 billion for the new Prevention and Wellness Fund.  This Fund will make available resources for funding immunization programs; infection prevention programs; and the prevention of mpj040515400001chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.  Based on statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70 million people in the United States (approximately 25 percent of our total population) live with cardiovascular disease.  Wellness programs have a direct impact on the prevention of these diseases and will be an important components of any preventative program.

Healthcare providers have historically been hesitant to invest in wellness and fitness centers due to the capital resource requirement and uncertain return on investment.  With careful planning and strategic development, these facilities can bring a substantial new revenue stream into the organization.  Skeptics may point to the Medical Fitness Association, which reports that in 2008 there were approximately 950 medically based wellness and fitness centers in the United States, with one-third reporting operating losses.

While such risks do exist, investing in wellness facilities and programs that directly address the prevention of chronic disease have the potential for more than satisfactory financial results.  If managed with a clear direction, thought and competence, these facilities can provide a financial return far more attractive than the equities market has offered in the recent past.  The resources allocated to fight chronic disease will come back tenfold in cost reductions over the long term.

Now is the time to invest in the well-being of our future.  We should not wait for another opportunity like the one Congress and President Obama have provided.  We need to take advantage of this now.