Posts Tagged ‘Health

07
Aug
10

Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform

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Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform
President Obama Highlights Benefits to Seniors Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Saturday, August 07, 2010

In his weekly address this week, President Obama highlighted a Medicare Trustees report noting the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing, which will help to preserve Medicare for generations to come. Additionally, America’s seniors are already seeing more benefits as a result of health reform, including a rebate to cover the cost of their prescriptions if they fall into the Medicare Part D drug coverage gap. In the coming years, as we continue to ramp up reform, we expect seniors to save in premiums and out of pocket costs. And the President will continue to make Medicare stronger to ensure our seniors have access to affordable and quality healthcare.

Forty-five years ago, we made a solemn compact as a nation that senior citizens would not go without the health care they need. This is the promise we made when Medicare was born. And it’s the responsibility of each generation to keep that promise.

That’s why a report issued this week by the Trustees who oversee Medicare was such good news. According to this report, the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing. Reform has actually added at least a dozen years to the solvency of Medicare – the single longest extension in history – while helping to preserve Medicare for generations to come.

We’ve made Medicare more solvent by going after waste, fraud, and abuse – not by changing seniors’ guaranteed benefits. In fact, seniors are starting to see that because of health reform, their benefits are getting better all the time.

Seniors who fall into the “doughnut hole” – the gap in Medicare Part D drug coverage – are eligible right now for a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescriptions. Now, I know for people facing drug costs far higher than that, they need more help. That’s why we negotiated a better deal with the pharmaceutical companies for seniors. So starting next year, if you fall in the doughnut hole, you’ll get a 50-percent discount on the brand-name medicine you need. And in the coming years, this law will close the doughnut hole completely once and for all.

Already, we have put insurance companies on notice that we have the authority to review and reject unreasonable rate increases for Medicare Advantage plans. And we’ve made it clear to the insurers that we won’t hesitate to use this authority to protect seniors.

Beginning next year, preventive care – including annual physicals, wellness exams, and tests like mammograms – will be free for seniors as well. That will make it easier for folks to stay healthy. But it will also mean that doctors can catch things earlier, so treatment may be less invasive and less expensive.

And as reform ramps up in the coming years, we expect seniors to save an average of $200 per year in premiums and more than $200 each year in out of pocket costs, too.

This is possible in part through reforms that target waste and abuse and redirect those resources to where they’re supposed to go: our seniors. We’re already on track to cut improper payments in half – including money that goes to criminals who steal taxpayer dollars by setting up insurance scams and other frauds. And we won’t stop there. Because by preventing the loss of these tax dollars, we can both address the runaway costs of Medicare and improve the quality of care seniors receive – and we can crack down on those who prey on seniors and take advantage of people.

So we are no longer accepting business as usual. We’re making tough decisions to meet the challenges of our time. And as a result, Medicare is stronger and more secure. That’s important. Because Medicare isn’t just a program. It’s a commitment to America’s seniors – that after working your whole life, you’ve earned the security of quality health care you can afford. As long as I am President, that’s a commitment this country is going to keep.
Thank you.

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• Source(s): The White House
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26
Jul
10

High-Def Body Scanner Spots Heart Problems Early

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High-Def Body Scanner Spots Heart Problems Early

HD Scanner Spots Flaws Before Heart Attacks: Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital Use GE Healthcare Device

Monday, July 26, 2010

••• A new high definition body scanner is giving U.K. doctors the clearest ever view inside the human body – helping them spot problems before people suffer heart attacks, Sky News reported Today.
The scanner generates pictures of diseased arteries in the heart that are twice as clear as older machines.

It means doctors at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital in the South West of England can identify problems at an early stage, long before patients suffer a heart attack or even develop any symptoms.


It’s brilliant. It’s a relief there is no structural problem for the chest pain, so I can get on with life now.
John Hughes, after a HD scan on his heart.

“When we started doing the heart research in 2002, we used to struggle to see the blood vessels, let alone see the narrowings within them,” Professor of radiology, Carl Roobottom, said. “Now, we have a technique that can see to within a fraction of a millimeter.”
In just five seconds, the scanner takes 220 X-rays, each of them a cross section of the heart. Computers then turn the raw snapshots into a 3D image.
Doctors can add color to distinguish between different types of tissue, strip away layers that obscure problem areas, and rotate or flip the image to get the best possible view.
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• Source(s): Sky News / BskyB / News Corporation
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20
Jul
10

“Microneedle” Skin Patch May Replace Flu Shot

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“Microneedle” Skin Patch May Replace Flu Shot

Disappearing Needles: Vaccine-Delivery Patch with Dissolving Microneedles Eliminates “Sharps” Waste and Improves Protection

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

••• Traditional flu jabs may be rendered obsolete by a hi-tech skin patch which delivers vaccine painlessly through scores of tiny needles.

The patch could revolutionize pandemic control by allowing vaccines to be self-administered, scientists in the U.S. say.

The patch can be easily used at home by someone with no medical training.

When the patch is applied to the skin, its hundred ‘microneedles’ – each measuring just over half a millimetre – deliver the vaccine and simply dissolve away.

The needle arrays are made from a plastic-like polymer that is known to be safe for use in the body. What remains is a water-soluble backing that can safely be discarded.

The head of the research team, professor Mark Prausnitz, from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta said: ‘We have shown that a dissolving microneedle patch can vaccinate against influenza at least as well, and probably better than, a traditional hypodermic needle.’

Tests on mice showed that vaccination with the microneedles caused a stronger immune response than an injection by syringe.

The patch could aid mass-immunization in poor parts of the world. It could help to avoid infections such as HIV and hepatitis B that are often spread by re-use of dirty hypodermic needles.

‘We envision people getting the patch in the mail or at a pharmacy and then self-administering it at home,’ said Dr Sean Sullivan, another member of the Georgia team.

‘Because the microneedles on the patch dissolve away into the skin, there would be no dangerous sharp needles left over.’

Other vaccines could be applied with the same technique, the scientists believe.

The cost of mass-produced patches are estimated to be about the same as conventional jabs. But the reduced need for personnel may bring the overall cost of immunization programmes down.

The patch will still have to undergo patient trials to assure its safety and effectiveness before being made generally available.
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• Source(s): Georgia Institute of Technology
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12
Jun
10

U.S. gives BP 48 hours to improve oil spill containment plans

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U.S. gives BP 48 hours to improve oil spill containment plans

Saturday, June 12, 2010

••• The U.S. Coast Guard has expressed concern that BP’s current plans to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill do not go far enough and has ordered it to improve them within 48 hours.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral James Watson told BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles in a letter that BP must do more, given new U.S. government data this week that suggests the flow is as much as double previous estimates.

‘Because those estimates have now been revised and estimate a substantially higher flow of oil from the Macado 252 well, it is clear that additional capacity is urgently needed,’ said the letter dated June 11 and released on Saturday.
‘I am concerned that your current plans do not provide for maximum mobilisation of resources to provide the needed collection capacity consistent with revised flow estimates,’ Watson said.

‘I am also concerned that your plan does not go far enough to mobilise redundant resources in the event of an equipment failure with one of the vessels or some other unforeseen problem,’ he added.

‘BP must identify in the next 48 hours additional leak containment capacity that could be operationalised and expedited to avoid the continued discharge of oil.’
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12
Jun
10

BP Woes Spill into Markets

NEWS
BP Woes Spill into Markets

Saturday, June 12, 2010

BP shares rallied on Friday on bargain-hunting after recent sharp losses.

The gains came as British Prime Minister David Cameron threw his support behind a ‘financially strong’ BP in talks with its chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, while voicing frustration over the oil spill, his office said.

At the close of trade, the company’s share price soared 7.22 percent to 391.9 pence on London’s FTSE 100 shares index, which was 0.61 percent higher.

Despite the gains, the British oil giant’s share price has plunged by as much as 49 per cent, wiping tens of billions of dollars off its market value since the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22.

The accident, following a explosion that killed 11 people two days earlier, sparked an enormous oil spill from a leaking well head on the sea bed.

The disaster has seen huge amounts of oil wash up on the U.S. Gulf coastline, threatening precious wildlife and local communities, and provoking the wrath of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has demanded BP scrap its shareholder dividend.

‘We are considering all options on the dividend. But no decision has been made,’ BP chief executive Tony Hayward said on Friday.

The group is preparing to defer the payment of its next dividend, according to the BBC and The Times newspaper.

The Times, which cited people familiar with the situation, reported that the money would be held in an escrow account, held by a third party, until its liabilities from the disaster become clear.

The BBC said it understood BP was planning to suspend the dividend, with BP directors due to meet on Monday to discuss the payments.

The meeting ‘will be about when to suspend the payments, how long to suspend the payments, and what to do with the billions of dollars that would be saved and not paid to shareholders,’ BBC business editor Robert Peston said.

A BP spokesman declined to comment on the stories, but stressed that the company was considering all its options.

The company’s share price was meanwhile boosted after U.S. bank Goldman Sachs issued an upbeat outlook for embattled BP.

‘BP shares now have as much upside potential as the rest of the European integrated oil sector,’ Goldman said in a research note.

The stock had plunged on Thursday, striking a low of 330 pence, as investors fretted about the financial impact of the oil spill and the possible loss of the group’s shareholder dividend.

CMC Markets analyst James Hughes described Friday’s gains as an ‘inevitable bounce after the moves of the last few days’ but warned that the share price has further to fall.

Cameron will discuss BP’s handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill with Obama over the weekend amid fears of an anti-British backlash in the United States.

BP chairman Svanberg has been summoned to meet Obama at the White House next week, as several US media reported the Swede was being lined up as a ‘fall guy’ for the disaster.

Cameron, who is visiting Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates, had a ‘constructive’ telephone conversation with Svanberg, a Downing Street spokesman said.

‘The prime minister explained that he was frustrated and concerned about the environmental damage caused by the leak but made clear his view that BP is an economically important company in the UK, US and other countries,’ he said.

Cameron said: ‘It is in everyone’s interests that BP continues to be a financially strong and stable company.’

Svanberg met with finance minister George Osborne and other senior officials in Downing Street on Friday.

After the talks, the Swede told ITN television: ‘I think we have done everything we can to try to fill the well, and we have said we would do everything expected from us in cleaning up the beach, taking care of all the claims and learn from this incident and make deepsea drilling an even safer place.’
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09
Jun
10

Oil spills and human health

NEWS
Oil spills and human health

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Earth

••• Seventy-one people in Louisiana have suffered health problems that officials believe are linked to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the state’s department of health and hospitals said on Wednesday.

Fifty of those who have reported symptoms including throat irritation, cough, shortness of breath, eye irritation, nausea, chest pain and headaches, worked on oil rigs or were part of the effort to clean up the spill.

Thirty of the workers said their illness came on after they were exposed to emulsified oil and dispersant, said the report, which is updated weekly.

Eight people – all of them rig or clean-up workers – have been hospitalised with spill-related illnesses, the report said.
All hospitalisations were short, generally one day, it said.

Twenty-one reports of illness came from members of the general public and were overwhelmingly related to odors from the oil spill.

Most of the members of the public who reported symptoms were at home when they fell ill, the report shows.

The most common symptom associated with the spill was headache, followed by nausea, cough and throat irritation.

The Louisiana state health authority began gathering reports of human exposures to oil from the slick or chemicals used to disperse it four weeks after the April 20 explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon that caused the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The report was compiled using data gathered from emergency departments, outpatient clinics, doctors’ offices and the Louisiana poison control centre.
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14
May
10

Surgery Tool Shows Route Map To The Brain

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Surgery Tool Shows Route Map To The Brain

Brain Surgery Advance: Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Using BrainLAB Navigation To Remove Tumours

Friday, May 14, 2010

••• A sat nav-style guidance system has given surgeons a precise route map deep inside the brain.

The technique, unveiled by Alder Hey children’s hospital in the U.K., allows doctors to remove tumours and other abnormal tissue more safely.

And for the first time in Europe, surgeons can also wheel their patient straight into an MRI scanner to double-check all diseased areas have been removed.

Patients remain anaesthetised and only have their wound closed up once the scan gives the all-clear.

Paediatric surgeon Sasha Burn told Sky News that a brain tumour can re-grow if any cells are left behind in an operation.

The new set-up gives peace of mind, she said.

‘With children’s tumours it’s very important that we take away all the tumour at the first operation. It increases the survival after the operation enormously,’ she said.

The navigation system – called BrainLAB – synchronises pre-operative brain scans with the child’s position on the operating table.

It shows surgeons the best route to the target area in the brain.

The scans can be updated during the operation, allowing the route map to be refreshed.

Millimetres matter because diseased tissue can be next to crucial parts of the brain, including those controlling speech and vision.
One of the first patients to benefit from the system is 12-year-old Bradley Martin.

He has epilepsy caused by a pea-sized cyst on his brain – and surgeons were able to remove it in a five-hour operation, which could prevent future seizures.

Before the surgery, his dad, Brett, said: ‘He loves mountain biking, but it’s a terrible worry for us that he might have an episode when he is cycling quickly.

‘To have him fit-free would be a wonderful thing.’

Afterwards Miss Burn said he had ‘an extremely good chance of being completely seizure free’.

The operating theatre was made possible with a £3 million ($4.432 million) donation from the Barclay Foundation.
• Source(s): Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp.
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08
May
10

Weekly Address: Health Reform Starts to Kick In

NEWS
Weekly Address: Health Reform Starts to Kick In
President Obama Praises the Benefits and Successes of Health Reform Already in Effect

Saturday, May 8, 2010


In his weekly address, President Barack Obama highlighted the ways in which health reform is already holding insurance companies more accountable and giving consumers more control. Implementing everything in the new law will not happen overnight. But already, consumers are getting a break from unfair rate hikes and insurance companies will no longer drop coverage for people when the get sick. Four million small businesses have been notified that they could be eligible for a health care tax cut this year. Retirees will soon receive help if they fall into the prescription drug “donut hole.” And, young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ plan until they are 26 years old.

It has now been a little over a month since I signed health insurance reform into law. And while it will take some time to fully implement this law, reform is already delivering real benefits to millions of Americans. Already, we are seeing a health care system that holds insurance companies more accountable and gives consumers more control.

Two weeks ago, four million small business owners and organizations found a postcard in their mailbox informing them that they could be eligible for a health care tax cut this year – a tax cut potentially worth tens of thousands of dollars; a tax cut that will help millions provide coverage to their employees.

Starting in June, businesses will get even more relief for providing coverage to retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare. And a little over a month from now, on June 15th, senior citizens who fall into the prescription drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole” will start receiving a $250 rebate to help them afford their medication.

Aside from providing real, tangible benefits to the American people, the new health care law has also begun to end the worst practices of insurance companies. For too long, we have been held hostage to an insurance industry that jacks up premiums and drops coverage as they please. But those days are finally coming to an end.

After our administration demanded that Anthem Blue Cross justify a 39% premium increase on Californians, the company admitted the error and backed off its plan. And this week, our Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, wrote a letter to all states urging them to investigate other rate hikes and stop insurance companies from gaming the system. To help states achieve this goal, we’ve set up a new Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, and will provide grants to states with the best oversight programs.

In the next month, we’ll also be putting in place a new patients’ bill of rights. It will provide simple and clear information to consumers about their choices and their rights. It will set up an appeals process to enforce those rights. And it will prohibit insurance companies from limiting a patients’ access to their preferred primary care provider, ob-gyn, or emergency room care.

We’re holding insurance companies accountable in other ways, as well. As of September, the new health care law prohibits insurance companies from dropping people’s coverage when they get sick and need it most. But when we found out that an insurance company was systematically dropping the coverage of women diagnosed with breast cancer, my administration called on them to end this practice immediately. Two weeks ago, the entire insurance industry announced that it would comply with the new law early and stop the perverse practice of dropping people’s coverage when they get sick.

On Monday, we’ll also be announcing the new rule that allows young adults without insurance to stay on their parents’ plan until they’re 26 years old. Even though insurance companies have until September to comply with this rule, we’ve asked them to do so immediately to avoid coverage gaps for new college graduates and other young adults. This also makes good business sense for insurance companies, and we’re pleased that most have agreed. Now we need employers to do the same, and we’re willing to work with them to make this transition possible. These changes mean that starting this spring, when young adults graduate from college, many who do not have health care coverage will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance for a few more years. And you can check healthreform.gov to find a list of all the insurance carriers who have agreed to participate right away.

I’ve said before that implementing health insurance reform won’t happen overnight, and it will require some tweaks and changes along the way. Ultimately, we’ll have a system that provides more control for consumers, more accountability for insurance companies, and more affordable choices for uninsured Americans. But already, we are seeing how reform is improving the lives of millions of Americans. Already, we are watching small businesses learn that they will soon pay less for health care. We are seeing retirees realize they’ll be able to keep their coverage and seniors realize they’ll be able to afford their prescriptions. We’re seeing consumers get a break from unfair rate hikes, patients get the care they need when they need it, and young adults get the security of knowing they can start off life with one less cost to worry about. At long last, this is what health care reform is achieving. This is what change looks like. And this is the promise we will keep as we continue to make this law a reality in the months and years to come.

Thanks so much.

• Source(s): The White House
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07
Apr
10

FBI arrests man for threatening Pelosi

NEWS
FBI arrests man for threatening Pelosi

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Federal agents in California have arrested a man for allegedly threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Gregory Lee Giusti, 48, was arrested at his San Francisco home in the Tenderloin district shortly after noon, said Joseph Schadler, a spokesman for the FBI office in San Francisco.

Rose Riggs, Giusti’s neighbor in a public housing complex, said she saw two plainclothes and two uniformed officers take him away in cuffs. Riggs said Giusti was known for engaging in heated political debates with others in the building.

“He was not one of my favorite people. He had a real attitude problem,” she said.

The court documents are sealed and will remain so until the Giusti appears in San Francisco federal court at 9:30 Thursday morning.

“The FBI takes threats against elected officials very seriously,” Hansen said Wednesday.

Pelosi’s office issued a statement late Wednesday evening, acknowledging the arrest.

“The Speaker thanks the FBI, the Capitol Hill Police, House Sergeant at Arms, and other law enforcement officials for their professionalism in this matter,” spokesman Brendan Daly said in a statement Wednesday evening. “She will have no further comment at this time.”

Officials told The Associated Press that a man called Pelosi’s Washington and California homes, in addition to her husband’s business office, several times.

This arrest is the second such arrest in as many days: The FBI in Washington state arrested a man Tuesday for threatening Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a top Senate Democrat who also supported the legislation.

Federal officials in Philadelphia arrested a man for threatening House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) last month.

Pelosi’s office declined to comment.

Threats toward lawmakers have been especially prevalent in the weeks since Congress passed health care overhaul legislation last month. Lawmakers have had bricks thrown through their windows, threatening voicemails left and protests outside their homes.

In Cantor’s case, Norman Leboon, the man arrested, allegedly threatened the Republican and his family through YouTube videos. Cantor also got threatening e-mails. Charles Wilson, the man accused of threatening Murray, allegedly left threatening voice messages on her office line in Washington.

Threats directed at an elected official carry a different charge than harassment toward any citizen – if convicted, similar charge carries up to 10 years imprisonment and a quarter-million dollar fine. It is unclear what Pelosi’s alleged threatner might be charged with.

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28
Mar
10

SIDS: It’s not the parents’ fault

NEWS
SIDS: It’s not the parents’ fault

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Sunday, March 28, 2010

••• The dusky hours before dawn may appear to be the most serene of times. For infants, whose arousal mechanisms and reflexes are not yet fully mature, they can be a time of peril. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) strikes more babies in the early morning than at any other time.

One explanation for these mysterious and tragic deaths is that they are caused by a defect in the brain that renders the baby incapable of responding appropriately to the rising levels of carbon dioxide that result when babies breathe stale air trapped under blankets. And yet this hunch has been difficult to prove.

“By conventional histology, the brains of SIDS victims look normal,” says Hannah Kinney, Harvard Medical School associate professor of neuropathology at Children’s Hospital.

Sounding the Alarm
Kinney and her colleagues have recently uncovered a subtle but potentially fatal flaw in the brains of some SIDS babies. The defect lies in a scatter of neurons, known as the arcuate nucleus, located on the underbelly of the brain stem.

Normally, cells in the arcuate nucleus are studded with receptors for a neurotransmitter that responds to carbon dioxide in the blood. When levels of carbon dioxide rise, the receptors signal the respiratory system to increase the rate of breathing. They may also be part of a delicate alarm system in the brain that is designed to wake the sleeping baby.

It appears that the arcuate nucleus of some SIDS babies is deficient in its binding of the neurotransmitter. As a result, the carbon-dioxide warning system of SIDS babies is less sensitive to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the blood and does not sound the alarm to other systems in the body.
The arcuate nucleus, normally located on the underside of the brain stem (dark splotches in L and center images), is absent in the brains of some SIDS babies (R image).

Not all SIDS babies have this defect, Kinney says. In fact, the decreased carbon-dioxide sensitivity is probably one of several causes of SIDS. However, the discovery does help to dispel some of the apparent capriciousness surrounding SIDS. “It is not a normal baby that dies of SIDS,” Kinney says.

Knowledge of SIDS was in its infancy when Kinney first began her research. Despite an ancient and grim history-occurrences of “crib death” are well-documented throughout history and even in the Bible-it was only in 1969 that SIDS was identified as a syndrome.

When Kinney began a residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in the mid-1970s, SIDS was still an ill- defined syndrome, with no discernible cause. Although some parents reported that their babies had some symptoms-such as coughs, gastrointestinal trouble and listlessness-in the 48 hours before death, most said their babies had been completely well. Some babies were found face down in their blankets, suggesting asphyxiation, and yet others were found on their backs.

“What I remember most about that is the tremendous sadness and suddenness of the death and the tremendous despair that the parents had,” says Kinney.

Nor did autopsies help alleviate the parents’ confusion. Typically, there were no signs of disease-pneumonia, meningitis or hemorrhages-in the brains or bodies of the babies.

The first clue to a possible brain defect came in 1977 when a pediatric pathologist reported subtle gliosis-or scarring-in the brain stems of SIDS patients. Gliosis, which is an overgrowth of glial cells, occurs when neurons die, leaving room for new growth. Yet it was not clear from the study what was causing the neurons to die in the first place. “It just told us something had gone on in these brains,” says Kinney.

Locating the Flaw
Suspecting an “invisible” flaw in the brains of SIDS patients, Kinney spent the next few years learning new high- tech methods for studying the chemistry of the brain at HMS. Richard Sidman, Bullard professor of neuropathology, had developed computer-based methods for imaging the brain in three dimensions that allowed subtle quantitative differences in the brain to be assessed. Frost White, who was also in the HMS neuropathology department at the time, had developed methods for labeling chemical receptors in three dimensions. Kinney spent time working in both men’s labs.

It was old-fashioned brainstorming with Jim Filiano, a postdoc in her lab, that led to the site of the hidden brain flaw. “Jim and I used to have long conversations about this. Where can the defect in SIDS be? What respiratory controlling mechanism could it be?” says Kinney.

By 1987, the arcuate nucleus had been identified, but its function was unknown. It was Filiano who first demonstrated that the arcuate nucleus in humans might be involved in the control of breathing.

Still, it was not clear what role the arcuate nucleus might play in SIDS. To find out, Kinney and her collaborators began analyzing a database of serially sectioned brain stems collected from autopsies of 41 SIDS babies and 27 controls. “We looked through it blinded, without knowledge of who the SIDS babies were,” Kinney says. They found two cases where the arcuate nucleus was absent. When they decoded the cases, they found that both had died of SIDS.

Yet other babies in the sample had died of SIDS, and they appeared to have an arcuate nucleus. Suspecting that the two cases might be the most severe from an anatomical point of view, and that the other babies might have had more subtle biochemical defects in this region of their brains, the researchers began investigating the neurochemical structure of the arcuate nucleus of SIDS babies.

They found that cells in the arcuate nucleus of some SIDS babies, though not all, were less able to bind acetylcholine than babies suffering from other acute diseases. Acetylcholine normally attaches to a particular receptor on the arcuate cells known as the muscarinic receptor.
A Lack of Receptivity
This finding suggests that the culprit, in at least some SIDS cases, is the muscarinic receptor. Babies with a full complement of muscarinic receptors are able to respond to distress signals.

“A normal infant meets a challenge during the night like hypercardia-increased carbon dioxide-or low oxygen-asphyxiation,” Kinney says. “This could happen from upper airway occlusion or from the face being down in the bedding.” Once stimulated, the muscarinic receptors, which are part of a more complex relay system, signal the respiratory system to increase the rate of breath. “The infant would turn its head to take in more air and presumably wake up.”

However, babies with fewer-or defective-muscarinic receptors would not respond to rising carbon dioxide levels in the blood and would fail to arouse.

Why there should be a scarcity of muscarinic receptors is not clear. Kinney speculates that the defect may lie in the failure of the nucleus to develop normally. “This is basically a clue. It doesn’t tell us why SIDS occurs,” she says.

Even normal infants do not respond to arousal signals very well in the early morning. This is especially true during the first six months of life when the baby is still making the transition from being a fetus. “There are many changes going on in the respiratory, autonomic and sleep- wake systems,” Kinney says. In fact, 90 percent of SIDS cases occur during the first six months of life; 75 percent occur between two and four months.

In addition to this critical developmental danger zone, there are two other factors contributing to SIDS, Kinney believes. One is that the baby has an underlying vulnerability, such as a defective arcuate nucleus. Second, there must be a stressor. Such stressors might include the prone sleeping position, infection, swaddling and fever, all of which can contribute to an overabundance of carbon dioxide in the blood.

An obvious way to reduce the number of SIDS deaths would be to eliminate the stressors. Campaigns to encourage parents to put babies to sleep on their backs have worked in countries like New Zealand, England and Australia. Such campaigns have decreased the incidence of SIDS by 50 percent. China, where babies have always been trained to sleep on their backs, has one of the lowest rates of SIDS in the world.

Women who safeguard their health while pregnant may also be protecting their babies from SIDS. Kinney believes that the defects in the brain that make a baby more vulnerable to SIDS could develop as a result of suboptimal intrauterine environments. “This may be due to smoking, drugs-such as cocaine-and also to lack of access to medical care and good nutrition,” Kinney says, adding that “these are things that come along with poverty.”

The United States, where access to cigarettes and drugs is relatively easy, has one of the highest rates of SIDS in the world. SIDS is currently the leading cause of death among American infants, killing 6,000 babies each year. The rate is especially high among the poor. The rate of SIDS among Native Americans is six times the national average.

Ultimately, there may be a way to predict clinically who is at risk for SIDS, although Kinney thinks that such tests will be a long time in coming. Developing a clinical test for a receptor system in the arcuate nucleus “would be extremely difficult,” she says. An alternative approach would be to look for some other factor that correlates with decreased binding to the muscarinic receptors in the arcuate nucleus.

Kinney and her colleagues are currently investigating whether the muscarinic defect is part of a more general neuronal defect. “The more we know about the causes of SIDS, the more ideas of how to test for it and prevent it may come to us.”
• Source(s): Harvard Medical School
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – Also called: Crib death, SIDS
American Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Institute
Related: SIDS Research Breakthrough GO
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27
Mar
10

Weekly Address: Two Major Reforms on Health Care & Higher Ed

NEWS
Weekly Address: Two Major Reforms on Health Care & Higher Ed

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The President looks back on a week that saw the passage of two major sets of reforms: one putting Americans in control of their own health care, and one ensuring student loans work for students and families, not as subsidies for bankers and middlemen.

This was a momentous week for America. It was a week in which together, we took bold new steps toward restoring economic security for our middle class and rebuilding a stronger foundation for our future. It was a week in which some of the change that generations have hoped for and worked for finally became reality in America.

It began with the passage of comprehensive health insurance reform that will begin to end the worst practices of the insurance industry, rein in our exploding deficits, and, over time, finally offer millions of families and small businesses quality, affordable care – and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.

And it ended with Congress casting a final vote on another piece of legislation that accomplished what we’ve been talking about for decades – legislation that will reform our student loan system and help us educate all Americans to compete and win in the 21st century.

Year after year, we’ve seen billions of taxpayer dollars handed out as subsidies to the bankers and middlemen who handle federal student loans, when that money should have gone to advancing the dreams of our students and working families. And yet attempts to fix this problem and reform this program were thwarted by special interests that fought tooth and nail to preserve their exclusive giveaway.

But this time, we said, would be different. We said we’d stand up to the special interests, and stand up for the interests of students and families. That’s what happened this week. And I commend all the Senators and Representatives who did the right thing.

This reform of the federal student loan programs will save taxpayers $68 billion over the next decade. And with this legislation, we’re putting that money to use achieving a goal I set for America: by the end of this decade, we will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

To make college more affordable for millions of middle-class Americans for whom the cost of higher education has become an unbearable burden, we’re expanding federal Pell Grants for students: increasing them to keep pace with inflation in the coming years and putting the program on a stronger financial footing. In total, we’re doubling funding for the federal Pell Grant program to help the students who depend on it.

To make sure our students don’t go broke just because they chose to go to college, we’re making it easier for graduates to afford their student loan payments. Today, about 2 in 3 graduates take out loans to pay for college. The average student ends up with more than $23,000 in debt. So when this change takes effect in 2014, we’ll cap a graduate’s annual student loan repayments at 10 percent of his or her income.

To help an additional 5 million Americans earn degrees and certificates over the next decade, we’re revitalizing programming at our community colleges – the career pathways for millions of dislocated workers and working families across this country. These schools are centers of learning; where students young and old can get the skills and technical training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow. They’re centers of opportunity; where we can forge partnerships between students and businesses so that every community can gain the workforce it needs. And they are vital to our economic future.

And to ensure that all our students have every chance to live up to their full potential, this legislation also increases support for our Minority Serving Institutions, including our Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to keep them as strong as ever in this new century.

Education. Health care. Two of the most important pillars of a strong America grew stronger this week. These achievements don’t represent the end of our challenges; nor do they signify the end of the work that faces our country. But what they do represent is real and major reform. What they show is that we’re a nation still capable of doing big things. What they prove is what’s possible when we can come together to overcome the politics of the moment; push back on the special interests; and look beyond the next election to do what’s right for the next generation.

That’s the spirit in which we continue the work of tackling our greatest common tasks – an economy rebuilt; job creation revitalized; an American Dream renewed – for all our people.

Thank you.

▪ President Obama said that his student loan bill – which he is expected to sign into law Tuesday – would save taxpayers $68 billion while generating more student lending in order to give the United States the highest proportion of college graduates worldwide within 10 years. ‘To make sure our students don’t go broke just because they chose to go to college, we’re making it easier for graduates to afford their student loan payments,’ he added.

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26
Mar
10

Doctors remove boy’s extra fingers, toes

NEWS
Doctors remove boy’s extra fingers, toes

Friday, March 26, 2010

••• Li Jinpeng, a 6-year-old boy born with 15 fingers and 16 toes, is happy he will soon be able to wear a normal pair of shoes.

Doctors at the Shengjing Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang, Liaoning province, successfully removed Li’s additional fingers and toes in a surgical operation that lasted more than five hours on Tuesday.

Before the surgery, Li, the son of migrant workers from Heilongjiang province, was believed to be the world record holder for having the maximum number of fingers and toes.

He is not the least bit sad at losing the record to two Indians, Pranamya Menaria and Devendra Harne, who each have 12 fingers and 13 toes.

Li was happier to hear doctors tell him he would be able to eat with chopsticks in a few months’ time.

Tian Lijie, director of microsurgery at the Shengjing Hospital, who led the surgical team, said the operation, which started at 10 am and ended at 3:20 pm, went well and Li now has 10 fingers and 10 toes.

“The functions (of the boy’s fingers) will not be affected and he will be able to live a normal life,” Tian told China Daily on Wednesday.

Explaining the surgical procedure, Tian said: “It just took a few hours to trim the neurovascular bundles and the surgery was completed with microvessel clamps.”

The doctor said Li had survived the critical stage and is now in a stable condition.

“His dressing will be changed in three days and he will be able to go back home in a week,” Tian said, adding, “His rehabilitation training will begin in a month, when he will be able to do basic hand movements like pinch and grip.”

According to Tian, the cause of Li’s deformity could be several factors like “genetic, genetic mutation, or problems during pregnancy”, but doctors do not know for sure.

However, Li’s parents, who work in Yingkou, Liaoning province, said no one from their families had ever had such a problem.

“We were obviously stunned when Li was born with all those fingers and toes. I was crying the whole day after the delivery,” Li’s mother, Liu Lichun told local media.

Liu added she was embarrassed to take her son outdoors, because so many people would look at him strangely or make comments about his deformity.

Liu said she and her husband took Li, who had seven fingers on his left hand, eight on his right and eight toes on each foot, to several doctors, all of whom advised them to wait until he grew a little older before having surgery.

The couple now cannot wait to enroll Li in school.

“We didn’t let him go to school before out of pity,” said Li’s father.

Prior to the surgery, Li told reporters: “I want to wear a pair of normal shoes, too, but they pinch my toes.”

He said he had always worn slippers to give his extra-broad feet some space to breathe.

He also could not hold a pencil normally. He used to hold it between the second and third finger of his right hand.

“My friends treat me differently at kindergarten. They call me a monster. They beat me and scratch me,” Li said before his surgery.

Now things are different. And Li knows it.
• Source(s): Xinhua News Agency (China)
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25
Mar
10

‘Go For It,’ Obama Tells Republicans On Health Care Repeal

NEWS
‘Go For It,’ Obama Tells Republicans On Health Care Repeal

Thursday, March 25, 2010

President Barack Obama mocked Republicans’ campaign to repeal his new health care law, saying they should “Go for it” and see how well they fare with voters.

“Be my guest,” Obama said Thursday in Iowa City, Iowa, in the first of many appearances around the country to sell the overhaul to voters before the fall congressional elections. “If they want to have that fight, we can have it. Because I don’t believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver’s seat.”

With emotions raw around the nation over the party-line vote to approve the nearly $1 trillion, 10-year law, Obama took the opposition to task for “plenty of fear-mongering, plenty of overheated rhetoric.”

“If you turn on the news, you’ll see that those same folks are still shouting about how it’s going to be the end of the world because this bill passed,” said Obama, appearing before thousands in this college town where, as a presidential candidate three years ago, he first unveiled his health care proposals.
No Republican lawmakers voted for the overhaul, a sweeping package that will shape how almost every American will receive and pay for medical treatment. Many in the GOP are predicting it will prove devastating in November for the Democrats who voted for it.

But the president stressed the notion of a promise kept, saying the legislation he signed into law on Tuesday is evidence he will do as he said. As the crowd broke into a chant of “Yes we can!” Obama corrected them: “Yes we did!”

The White House suggests it has the upper hand against Republicans politically, arguing the GOP risks a voter backlash because a repeal would take away from small businesses and individuals the benefits provided to them immediately under the new law.

“We’re not going back,” Obama said.

Obama spoke as Democrats in Washington raced to complete the overhaul with a separate package of fixes to the main bill.

Senate leaders finished work Thursday on the fix-it legislation, already approved in the House. But Republican attempts to derail the process resulted in minor changes to the bill, which meant the House would have to vote on it again before it can go to Obama for his signature. The House vote was expected by evening.

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25
Mar
10

Senate OKs changes to healthcare bill

NEWS
Senate OKs changes to healthcare bill

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Senate Democrats voted to pass the reconciliation package of repairs to President Obama’s health care overhaul Thursday afternoon after nearly round-the-clock votes to reject dozens of Republican amendments.

The bill passed 56–43 but has to go back to the House for another vote after Republicans were able to get two lines of the legislation deleted because they violated Senate rules. The House is expected to approve the changes to the bill – one a technicality, the other a limit on the maximum Pell grant allowed in the federal student loan program – and send the package to Mr. Obama late Thursday evening. A reform of the nation’s student loan system was included in the reconciliation bill for health reform.

The reconciliation bill contains a series of corrections to the underlying health care overhaul plan, which Mr. Obama signed into law this week.

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25
Mar
10

Senate Will Have to Return Health Bill to House

NEWS
Senate Will Have to Return Health Bill to House

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Washington, DC Spokesman for Nevada Senator Harry Reid, Jim Manley, released the following statement today after Republicans forced shut down of several Senate committees for the second consecutive day:

“For a second straight day, Republicans are using tricks to shut down several key Senate committees. So let me get this straight: in retaliation for our efforts to have an up-or-down vote to improve health care reform, Republicans are blocking an Armed Services committee hearing to discuss critical national security issues among other committee meetings? These political games and obstruction have to stop – the American people expect and deserve better.”

The reconciliation bill will have to go back to the House for another vote after Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin ruled early this morning that two minor provisions violated the chamber’s rules and could not be included in the final bill, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley.

Both provisions made technical changes to the bill’s Pell Grant regulations. All told, 16 lines of text will be removed from the 153-page bill, Manley told reporters as business on the Senate floor wrapped early Thursday morning.

A spokeswoman for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) reiterated that the changes are “minor” and won’t create problems when the altered bill goes back to the House for approval. The reconciliation bill is designed to make changes to the newly minted health care reform law.

“The parliamentarian struck two minor provisions tonight form the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, but this bill’s passage in the Senate is still a big win for the American people. These changes do not impact the reforms to the student loan programs and the important investments in education. We are confident the House will quickly pass the bill with these minor changes,” Harkin spokeswoman Kate Cyrul wrote.

The all-night session came as Republicans offered 29 amendments in a final attempt to scuttle the bill, or at least force Democrats into taking politically difficult votes that could be used against them in November. Democrats steadily rejected each amendment, arguing that any changes would send the bill back to the House for another vote, an outcome Senate Democrats worked mightily to avoid before the parliamentarian’s ruling early Thursday.

Reid finally adjourned the marathon session at about 2:45 a.m. after striking a deal with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to return at 9:45 a.m. today and hold a final vote on the bill around 2 p.m. – news that was greeted with audible sighs of relief from tired senators.

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25
Mar
10

Health care ‘fix-it’ bill up for Senate debate

NEWS
Health care ‘fix-it’ bill up for Senate debate

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Democratic senators ripped their Republican counterparts for forcing cancellations of hearings throughout the Senate on Wednesday, claiming that the GOP is needlessly blocking essential national security business.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill both complained that Republicans kept them from holding their hearings on budget requests for the military’s Pacific and strategic and police training contracts in Afghanistan.

Either party in the Senate is allowed to object to holding hearings, as Senate rules require a unanimous consent request for hearings to be held after 2 p.m. Most of these unanimous consent requests aren’t even noticed on any given day, but Republicans have been objecting to these requests, essentially shutting down committee work.

“It is astounding to me that the Republicans have decided to take this course of action. There’s no point to it. It does not accomplish their goals of stopping health care reform. All it can do is stop us from carrying out our duties to provide for the security of our country,” Levin said.

Generals from U.S. Pacific Command, Strategic Command and U.S. Forces Korea posted overseas flew to Washington for their annual update to the Armed Services committee, and Levin said his staff is working to reschedule a hearing for Friday but that it is unclear whether the generals will be able to stay that long.

Levin said he approached Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) Tuesday night at a meeting with senators and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alerting him of the importance of the hearing and asking for assistance in ensuring the committee could meet. “He told me he’d look into it,” Levin said.

McCaskill, who chairs the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, stepped up the criticism of the McConnell, saying that although he might not be the senator blocking the committee hearings, it’s well within his purview to stop it.

“If he’s a strong enough leader to keep all of his members in the corral on some of the things he’s kept them in the corral on in the past few months–surely, he’s a strong enough leader to say we’re not going to stop hearings on police training contracts in Afghanistan and commanders who travel halfway across the world to testify on behalf our United States military,” McCaskill said of McConnell.

McCaskill went on to say that the rule that allows members to block committee proceedings is “dumb” and “antiquated” and that although the “buck stops with the Republican leader… at a minimum, they owe the American people an answer as to who is responsible.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is pushing to strike so-called “sweetheart deals” such as an extra $300 million in Medicaid funds for the state of Louisiana. Critics have labeled the deal the “Louisiana Purchase.”

Democrats have dismissed the GOP proposals as little more than politically motivated obstructionism meant to derail the deal.

Republicans are “not serious about helping this bill,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said Wednesday. They are concerned only with “throwing roadblocks in front of anything we do.”

Reid said Senate Democrats “feel very comfortable and confident” that the package of changes as currently drafted will pass.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said Tuesday he didn’t think the Senate would change the bill, but if it did, the House would be prepared to vote on the revised bill and send it to Obama.

After a White House meeting Monday night with Senate Democratic leaders and Obama, a senior Democratic source said they believe some portions of the fixes bill may be ruled out of order because they violate the complicated legislative rules governing the process. The source would not specify the potential problems identified at the meeting.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said one or two potential problems were identified, but he said they were minor.

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23
Mar
10

Obama signs sweeping healthcare overhaul into law

NEWS
Obama signs sweeping healthcare overhaul into law

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Celebrating “a new season in America” Obama made the massive bill law with an East Room signing ceremony.

A broadly smiling President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed a historic $938 billion health care overhaul that guarantees coverage for 32 million uninsured Americans and will touch nearly every citizen’s life, presiding over the biggest shift in US domestic policy since the 1960s and capping a divisive, yearlong debate that could define the November elections.

Celebrating “a new season in America” the biggest accomplishment of his White House and one denied to a line of presidents before him Obama made the massive bill law with an East Room signing ceremony. He was joined by jubilant House and Senate Democrats as well as lesser-known people whose health care struggles have touched the president. Obama scheduled back-to-back events to mark the moment, with much of his White House audience, as well as hundreds of others, heading to the Interior Department immediately after the signing.

“Today after almost a century of trial, today after over a year of debate, today after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America. Today,” Obama said, interrupted by applause after nearly every sentence. “All of the overheated rhetoric over reform will finally confront the reality of reform.”
▪ When President Obama signed the health reform Bill, many may have been surprised that he inscribed his name using 22 ceremonial pens.
▪ It is part of a tradition that dates back many decades by which U.S. presidents have often used multiple pens to sign important legislation so that they can give them as tokens of gratitude to people who worked for the Bill’s passage. With only 18 letters in Barack Hussein Obama and 22 pens, however, the President had to be creative with his pen strokes.

▪ Why do presidents use so many pens to sign legislation? White House Staff Secretary Lisa Brown explains.

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22
Mar
10

Health Reform Now

NEWS
Health Reform Now
• This is What Change Looks Like

Monday, March 22, 2010

After a historic vote in the House to send health reform to the President, he speaks to all Americans on the change they will finally see as they are given back control over their own health care:

Good evening, everybody. Tonight, after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying, and a year of sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared that America’s workers and America’s families and America’s small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here, in this country, neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.

Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn’t give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges. We proved that this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people.

I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality. And I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote. I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn for their commitment to getting the job done. I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, and my wonderful Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, for their fantastic work on this issue. I want to thank the many staffers in Congress, and my own incredible staff in the White House, who have worked tirelessly over the past year with Americans of all walks of life to forge a reform package finally worthy of the people we were sent here to serve.

Today’s vote answers the dreams of so many who have fought for this reform. To every unsung American who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an e-mail hoping your voice would be heard — it has been heard tonight. To the untold numbers who knocked on doors and made phone calls, who organized and mobilized out of a firm conviction that change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up — let me reaffirm that conviction: This moment is possible because of you.

Most importantly, today’s vote answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a health care system that works for insurance companies, but not for ordinary people. For most Americans, this debate has never been about abstractions, the fight between right and left, Republican and Democrat — it’s always been about something far more personal. It’s about every American who knows the shock of opening an envelope to see that their premiums just shot up again when times are already tough enough. It’s about every parent who knows the desperation of trying to cover a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again and again. It’s about every small business owner forced to choose between insuring employees and staying open for business. They are why we committed ourselves to this cause.

Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party — it’s a victory for them. It’s a victory for the American people. And it’s a victory for common sense.

Now, it probably goes without saying that tonight’s vote will give rise to a frenzy of instant analysis. There will be tallies of Washington winners and losers, predictions about what it means for Democrats and Republicans, for my poll numbers, for my administration. But long after the debate fades away and the prognostication fades away and the dust settles, what will remain standing is not the government-run system some feared, or the status quo that serves the interests of the insurance industry, but a health care system that incorporates ideas from both parties — a system that works better for the American people.

If you have health insurance, this reform just gave you more control by reining in the worst excesses and abuses of the insurance industry with some of the toughest consumer protections this country has ever known — so that you are actually getting what you pay for.

If you don’t have insurance, this reform gives you a chance to be a part of a big purchasing pool that will give you choice and competition and cheaper prices for insurance. And it includes the largest health care tax cut for working families and small businesses in history — so that if you lose your job and you change jobs, start that new business, you’ll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable care and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.

This reform is the right thing to do for our seniors. It makes Medicare stronger and more solvent, extending its life by almost a decade. And it’s the right thing to do for our future. It will reduce our deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade, and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that.

So this isn’t radical reform. But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.

Now as momentous as this day is, it’s not the end of this journey. On Tuesday, the Senate will take up revisions to this legislation that the House has embraced, and these are revisions that have strengthened this law and removed provisions that had no place in it. Some have predicted another siege of parliamentary maneuvering in order to delay adoption of these improvements. I hope that’s not the case. It’s time to bring this debate to a close and begin the hard work of implementing this reform properly on behalf of the American people. This year, and in years to come, we have a solemn responsibility to do it right.

Nor does this day represent the end of the work that faces our country. The work of revitalizing our economy goes on. The work of promoting private sector job creation goes on. The work of putting American families’ dreams back within reach goes on. And we march on, with renewed confidence, energized by this victory on their behalf.

In the end, what this day represents is another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American Dream. Tonight, we answered the call of history as so many generations of Americans have before us. When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge — we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility — we embraced it. We did not fear our future — we shaped it.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

• Source(s): The White House
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22
Mar
10

Triumph: The Man Who Dared to Dream

NEWS
Triumph: The Man Who Dared to Dream

Monday, March 22, 2010

Barack Obama has hailed a historic vote on healthcare reform in the US Congress, saying the $940 billion revamp represented ”another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American dream”.

The President, triumphant after hard-fought weeks promoting the changes, said they ensured for American families and workers that ”neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve”.

The measures, which are expected to extend health insurance to an extra 32 million people and for the first time oblige Americans to take out some cover, are the biggest makeover for the US healthcare system since the introduction in the mid-1960s of government-funded Medicare for those aged over 65.

Mr Obama saluted the House of Representatives after an exhaustive 12-hour special Sunday sitting which toiled through rancorous debate and points of order before approving the bill by 219 votes to 212. In the end, 34 Democrats voted against the bill. There were suggestions that some of them, representing conservative constituencies, had been given the OK to vote no by Democrat heavyweights confident of a majority and with one eye on November’s midterm elections.

It will now go to Mr Obama to be signed into law.

The house also passed by 220 to 211 a package of amendments in a so-called ”reconciliation” bill that will go directly to the Senate for approval.

”At a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics,” Mr Obama, side-by-side with the Vice-President, Joe Biden, said in a televised address from the White House just before midnight. ”We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn’t give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges.

”We proved that this government – a government of the people and by the people – still works for the people.”

“This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform.”

”This is what change looks like,” he said in reference to his campaign slogan. It could also have been a rebuff to Republicans, including Sarah Palin, who goaded Democrats last month by asking, ”How’s all that hopey, changey stuff workin’ for ya?”.

Victory in the year-long push for healthcare reform was delivered finally by a bloc of about half-a-dozen anti-abortion Democrats who agreed to support the bill on receiving assurances from Mr Obama that a ban on taxpayer funds being used for abortion would stay.

The first bill – essentially, the Senate’s version of healthcare reform passed on Christmas Eve – may have allowed the channelling of some federal subsidies into abortion services. But the Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, speaking on behalf of the bloc, said the President’s promise of an executive order reaffirming the existing ban on federal funds supporting abortions, had clinched the deal.

Republicans argued that an executive order did not carry the force of law and could be overturned. They later goaded Mr Stupak, some shouting ”baby killer” across the chamber, after he rejected eleventh-hour efforts to reopen debate on the bill.

The victory would immediately enhance Mr Obama’s presidency, commentators argued, after months of near-constant criticism that he was aloof and too cerebral for Americans, and probably overburdened by pressing issues, not least the sluggish economic recovery.

In recent weeks, however, the President has found renewed voice in his push to win backing for healthcare reform, a key plank of his election platform that promised change.

Other measures among the reforms, which preliminary analysis suggests could slice more than $143 billion off the budget deficit over 10 years, include the creation of a consumer exchange where individuals and small businesses can shop for insurance policies. It also provides for penalties if people do not buy some cover or if a business evades its responsibilities to its workers.

Introduction of the measures will be gradual, taking three to four years. Some tax imposts on wealthy Americans are not scheduled to kick in until 2018.

The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, marked the historic moment in Congress by describing the reform as ”an American proposal that honours the traditions of our country”.

She cited the late Edward Kennedy, as a longtime driving force, for his role in the triumph.

Shortly before his death last August, Senator Kennedy had written to Mr Obama saying that ”access to healthcare was the great unfinished business of [American] society”.

”Until today,” Mrs Pelosi added.

Lamenting what he said was a compromised bill and the fact that polls revealed a deeply divided nation over healthcare reform, the Republican leader, John Boehner, said the chamber had ”failed to listen to America, and we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents”.

”Shame on each and every one of you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen,” the House Minority Leader said.

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22
Mar
10

Barack Obama wins healthcare battle in tight vote

NEWS
Barack Obama wins healthcare battle in tight vote

Monday, March 22, 2010

The US House of Representatives has narrowly voted to pass a landmark healthcare reform bill at the heart of President Barack Obama’s agenda.

The bill was passed by 219 votes to 212, with no Republican backing, after hours of fierce argument and debate.

It extends coverage to 32 million more Americans, and marks the biggest change to the US healthcare system in decades.

“We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things,” Mr Obama said in remarks after the vote.

“This legislation will not fix everything that ails our healthcare system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction,” he said.

Mr Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law shortly.

But a new challenge is expected in the Senate, where Democrats hope amendments to the bill will be enacted by a simple majority. Republicans say the move is unconstitutional and plan to stop it.

We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, healthcare for all Americans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Historic vote
He has been tough and tenacious – some might say stubborn – in pushing this legislation after so much opposition and so many setbacks, our correspondent says.
This is the most significant victory for the president since he took office 14 months ago.
When the vote count hit the magic number of 216 – the minimum needed to pass the bill – Democrats hugged and cheered in celebration and chanted: “Yes we can!”

Under the legislation, health insurance will be extended to nearly all Americans, new taxes imposed on the wealthy, and restrictive insurance practices such as refusing to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions will be outlawed.

However, our correspondent says it has become a rallying point for Republicans, who are convinced the American people do not want the changes and that it will be a vote winner for them come the mid-term elections in November.

They say the measures are unaffordable and represent a government takeover of the health industry.

“We have failed to listen to America,” said Republican party leader John Boehner.

Speaking moments before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the health care reform honoured the nation’s traditions.

“We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, healthcare for all Americans,” she said, referring to the government’s pension program and health insurance for the elderly established nearly 50 years ago.

Although Democrats pushed the measure through with three votes to spare, 34 members joined Republicans in voting against the bill, worried about paying a political price in November.

In a last-minute move designed to win the support of a bloc of anti-abortion lawmakers, Mr Obama earlier on Sunday announced plans to issue an executive order assuring that healthcare reform will not change the restrictions barring federal money for abortion.
Next steps
The bill’s final approval represented a stunning turnaround from January, when it was considered dead after Democrats lost their 60-seaty majority in the Senate, which is required to defeat a filibuster.

To avoid a second Senate vote, the House also approved on Sunday evening a package of reconciliation “fixes” – agreed beforehand between House and Senate Democrats and the White House – amending the bill that senators adopted in December.

The president is expected to sign the House-passed Senate bill as early as Tuesday, after which it will be officially enacted into law. However, it will contain some very unpopular measures that Democratic senators have agreed to amend.

The Senate will be able to make the required changes in a separate bill using a procedure known as reconciliation, which allows budget provisions to be approved with 51 votes – rather than the 60 needed to overcome blocking tactics.

The Republicans say they will seek to repeal the measure, challenge its constitutionality and co-ordinate efforts in state legislatures to block its implementation.

But the president has signalled he will fight back.

The White House plans to launch a campaign this week to persuade sceptical Americans that the reforms offer immediate benefits to them and represent the most significant effort to reduce the federal deficit since the 1990s.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the healthcare bill will cut the federal deficit by $138bn over 10 years.

The non-partisan body said last week that the legislation would cost about $940bn over the same period.

The reforms will increase insurance coverage through tax credits for the middle class and an expansion of Medicaid for the poor.

They represent the biggest change in the US healthcare system since the creation in the 1960s of Medicare, the government-run scheme for those aged 65 or over.

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