Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Julianne Malveaux: Why Black Folks Should Fight for Healthcare Reform

By Julianne Malveaux

Congress seems to be putting the final touches on health care reform legislation, arranging to provide health care, especially, for the uninsured. Anyone who has made the summer rounds of civil rights conventions understand that African American policy makers care about this issue. Still there seems to be no passion in advocacy for heath care reform.

Our presence in this debate is much needed - we have a dog in this fight. African

Americans are more likely than others to be uninsured, so the many ways our new legislation will make insurance available is important. And even when we are insured, the way that health problems hit us are most different. According to the Centers for Disease Control, African Americans and Hispanics "bear a disproportionate burden of disease, injury, and disability." African Americans, in particular, are more likely to be killed or to die of HIV than others are.

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A Doctor’s Take on the Michael Jackson Death


The following is a statement made by Dr. Elaina George, an Otolaryngologist out of Atlanta and advocate for physicians.

‘Michael Jackson did not have a chance’ was my first thought when I read the report that just came out about what caused his untimely and tragic death. I was unprepared for the absolute disregard for the first tenant of the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath – First do no harm.

There was no way that harm would not have come to Mr. Jackson. It was beyond negligent to give him a mixture of three different kinds of sedatives, a muscle relaxant, an antidepressant in addition to Propofol, a general anesthetic that is only used in an operating room setting (because it can stop someone’s breathing). Each of these drugs by themselves can be lethal, but together it is a recipe that will almost definitely kill someone. I can think of no medical scenario that would justify mixing these kinds of drugs. Hopefully, Mr. Jackson’s death will teach us that prescription drugs, though helpful are no substitute for doctors doing everything in their power to protect the health of their patients, including just saying no when it is appropriate.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Black News: Are Doctors to Blame for the High Cost of Healthcare?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

Dr. Elaina George, a prominent family practice physician in Atlanta, has a bone to pick with President Obama. During various healthcare town hall meetings and press conferences, the president has villified doctors as the cause of the high cost of healthcare. But Dr. George doesn't agree.

As one of the few black doctors in America who is taking the time to speak out in the current healthcare debate, Dr. George says that the culprits in the high cost of healthcare are The American Medical Association, hospitals, big pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies. Here is how she breaks it down.

1) Our country has gotten away from preventing illness and is instead engaged in the high cost of managing disease. Dr. George explains in the interview below that rather than actually curing illnesses or preventing them, we simply try to manage them. Her argument, as with many others in the healthcare profession, is that this attitude is driven by the fact that pharmaceutical and insurance companies only maximize profits when people stay sick. Symptoms tend to be treated instead of the underlying cause of the illness, making problems worse in the long-term.

2) According to some physicians, the public option on healthcare may not be as great as it sounds. When it comes to the public option (which is being heavily debated right now), Dr. George argues that while the option may provide health coverage for many Americans who don't have it, it may not cause insurance companies to pay their fair share of the cost of healthcare reform. "The argument that the public option will drive down costs is disingenuous," says Dr. George. "How can a program designed to cover about 10 million people (as per the Congressional Budget Office) really exert any pressure on the health insurance industry when a company like Blue Cross and Blue Shield has over 30 million members and United Healthcare is even larger?"

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Where is the Healthcare Debate Right Now?


by Dr. Elaina George

The debate on healthcare reform is in full swing, but no one is paying attention to the long term effects.

I am for universal healthcare in theory. As a physician, I believe that it is a fundamental right. Unfortunately, the way the debate and pending legislation has been crafted, the outcome will result in unintended consequences.

As a physician in solo practice, I am in a unique position to see the outcome if we continue on the path that Congress is proposing in HR 3200.

  1. A single payer system that pays the same rate as Medicare or as the bill stipulates (5% above Medicare) will lead to LESS choice. People are overlooking the fact that most private physicians are currently NOT accepting new Medicare patients because they can’t afford to do so and stay open. There will be no reason for this to change if the reimbursement scale is adopted.

Unintended consequence: The network of private physicians would be smaller and more patients will be placed in a system of fewer physicians, less choice and longer waiting times to be seen. This would have the opposite effect – what is the point of universal healthcare if you don’t have quality physicians to provide it?

2. The proposed healthcare bill sets up a bureaucracy run by a National health insurance commissioner and sets up an insurance “self regulatory agency” – made up of national insurers, national agencies, and insurance producers. There are no physicians or patient advocates.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Healthcare Reform 101

Health care reform for dummies

Walter Gaines Jr., left, who supports health care reform, confronts a man who opposes health care reform in Alhambra, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


Dr Tyeese Gaines ReidTheGrio.com.


With the bombardment of speeches, commentaries and rowdy town forums, many Americans are struggling to decipher the current state of health care reform. Understanding the ins and outs of over 1,600 pages of proposed law is daunting. Unfortunately, there is no politician or any crystal ball that can predict either plan's success at this stage.

To date, two bills have been proposed - the 1,017-page House bill (H.R. 3200) and the 615-page Senate Health Committee bill. A third bipartisan bill is said to be in the works from the Senate Finance Committee. Until September, when Congress reconvenes, we will continue to wait and debate on the limited information we do have.

Here is a summary of those bills, commonly-raised concerns and the debate as it now stands.

1) Problem: The Uninsured
Millions are uninsured and falling ill without insurance can be financially catastrophic. Many of these are working people, or recently unemployed, who can't afford to buy insurance plans. Others are self-employed or small business owners who also can't afford insurance. Some are between the ages of 55 (retirement age) and 65 (Medicare-eligible age), and thus have no coverage. In 2008, the Kaiser Commission reported that 41 million were uninsured, while another 35.8 million people had no insurance during part of the year.

Proposed Solution: "Health care for all." Both bills have outlined strategies to include all Americans in some form of a health insurance plan - whether Medicaid, Medicare, the private or the public/community option.

2) Problem: Pre-existing conditions
People with any history of medical problems ("pre-existing conditions") can be denied coverage by certain insurance plans because their condition makes them too high-risk.

Proposed Solution: Ban the pre-existing condition clause for all health insurance companies, including those in the private option. The hope is that as more young and healthy Americans have insurance and pay their premiums, that money will offset the costs of taking care of the sicker Americans.

3) Problem: The under insured
Some people with health insurance have plans that don't cover all basic health care needs (the "under-insured").

Proposed Solution: All health insurance plans will cover hospitalizations, outpatient hospital and clinic care, physician fees, equipment, prescription drugs, rehabilitation, maternity care, child care, preventive care, mental health, and marriage and family therapy. The addition of coverage for mental health and counseling is an added benefit not often covered currently.


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Monday, August 10, 2009

Dr Elaina George - Healthcare Reform: Are We Being Cheated?

by Dr. Elaina George MD, Medical Correspondent, YourBlackWorld.com


When I read that the president had met with CEOs and other top representatives of the largest health insurance companies, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies before healthcare reform was crafted by Congress, I had my doubts about the direction of health care reform confirmed.

I already had reservations about whether we would get true reform when the very members of Congress who were tasked to lead the crafting of the bill had received hundreds of thousand of dollars from the very entities that were the major cause of the problem – the health insurance industry, big PhRMA, and for profit hospitals.

No wonder we have been seeing commercials sponsored by big PhRMA in support of the current health reform bill. It appears it is quid pro quo for the administration’s deal to cap their concessions at 80 billion dollars over 10 years. NY Times Article

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