Posts Tagged ‘Medicare

07
Aug
10

Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform

NEWS
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.

• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
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26
Jul
10

High-Def Body Scanner Spots Heart Problems Early

NEWS
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.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): Sky News / BskyB / News Corporation
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20
Jul
10

“Microneedle” Skin Patch May Replace Flu Shot

NEWS
“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.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): Georgia Institute of Technology
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12
Jun
10

Weekly Address: Fair Pay for Doctors

NEWS
Weekly Address: Fair Pay for Doctors
President Obama Calls on Senate Republicans to Allow a Vote to Protect Medicare Reimbursements

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama called on Senate Republicans to stop blocking a vote to prevent a 21 percent pay cut for doctors who see Medicare patients – a pay cut that will hurt America’s seniors and their doctors. Since 2003, Congress, under Republican and Democratic leadership, has deferred these cuts in Medicare reimbursements from going into effect. The President is committed to finding a responsible, long term solution to this problem, but it is not acceptable to punish America’s seniors or the physicians who treat them. If Congress does not act, then doctors will start receiving lower Medicare reimbursements next week, which could lead to seniors losing their doctors.

More than a decade ago, Congress set up a formula that governs how doctors get paid by the Medicare program. The intent was to slow the growth of Medicare costs, but the result was a formula that has proposed cutting payments for America’s doctors year after year after year. These are cuts that would not only jeopardize our physicians’ pay, but our seniors’ health care.

Since 2003, Congress has acted to prevent these pay cuts from going into effect. These votes were largely bipartisan, and they succeeded when Democrats ran Congress and when Republicans ran Congress – which was most of the time.

This year, a majority of Congress is willing to prevent a pay cut of 21% – a pay cut that would undoubtedly force some doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients altogether. But this time, some Senate Republicans may even block a vote on this issue. After years of voting to defer these cuts, the other party is now willing to walk away from the needs of our doctors and our seniors.

Now, I realize that simply kicking these cuts down the road another year is not a long-term solution to this problem. For years, I have said that a system where doctors are left to wonder if they’ll get fairly reimbursed makes absolutely no sense. And I am committed to permanently reforming this Medicare formula in a way that balances fiscal responsibility with the responsibility we have to doctors and seniors. In addition, we’re already taking significant steps to slow the growth of Medicare costs through health insurance reform – not by targeting doctors and seniors, but by eliminating 50% of the waste, fraud, and abuse in the system by 2012. This not only strengthens Medicare, it saves taxpayer dollars.

I’m absolutely willing to take the difficult steps necessary to lower the cost of Medicare and put our budget on a more fiscally sustainable path. But I’m not willing to do that by punishing hard-working physicians or the millions of Americans who count on Medicare. That’s just wrong. And that’s why in the short-term, Congress must act to prevent this pay cut to doctors.

If they don’t act, doctors will see a 21% cut in their Medicare payments this week. This week, doctors will start receiving these lower reimbursements from the Medicare program. That could lead them to stop participating in the Medicare program. And that could lead seniors to lose their doctors.

We cannot allow this to happen. We have to fix this problem so that our doctors can get paid for the life-saving services they provide and keep their doors open. We have to fix this problem to keep the promise of Medicare for our seniors so that they get the health care they deserve. So I urge Republicans in the Senate to at least allow a majority of Senators and Congressmen to stop this pay cut. I urge them to stand with America’s seniors and America’s doctors.

Thanks.

• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
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14
May
10

Surgery Tool Shows Route Map To The Brain

NEWS
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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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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