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Posts Tagged ‘Medicare’

I’m still amazed that a government agency is asking for our opinions – and better yet, they’re actually listening.

Check out this post for a little background. The verdict is in. The USDA is backing off on a proposal that might have inadvertently encouraged heavy drinking. They had originally proposed to ditch the daily recommendations and set weekly recommended quantities of alcohol, but the public spoke out. Since most people do their drinking only one to three nights a week, those who took the time to comment online were mostly concerned that drinkers would look at weekly guidelines and try to cram one week’s worth of drinking into one night. And that was a real possibility – most of us know how bright alcoholics are when it comes to justifying “let’s have another one!”

The USDA’s new guidelines retained a daily recommendation for alcohol consumption, and they now define heavy drinking and binge drinking as well. They admit there is evidence of health benefits of moderate drinking – apparently they’re trying extra hard not to give anyone the idea that it’s okay to drink like a fish – but they now give the stern “this is bad for your health” statement like you’ll find on a cigarette pack, listing all the health conditions that might get in your way if you drink too much.

According to Join Together, it was the online response from private citizens (both healthcare professionals and concerned consumers) that made a difference in the final policy decision. That is seriously encouraging. All government agencies should have a limited public commenting period like this every time new policies are being considered. 

Get ready to click again – someone else needs our input now. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (part of the Department for Health and Human Services) is asking what we think about Medicare covering alcohol screening and counseling in primary medical care.

This debate is about whether Medicare and Medicaid should cover alcohol abuse prevention, screening, and counseling. They already cover screening for other medical issues, but this time they’re considering doing that for something that might cross over into services that are normally performed by mental health providers.

Providing the service could mean a significant extension of prevention and early intervention services for individuals struggling with alcohol. It could also be pretty expensive, but then again so is the current drain on state and federal budgets when it comes to incarceration of drunk drivers and other alcohol-fueled criminals, child protective services, healthcare services for abused family members, emergency services for indigent people with alcohol poisoning, and anything else that relates to the public costs of excessive drinking.

A report on reducing underage drinking from the National Academy of Sciences found that government agencies, businesses, and individuals in the United States end up spending – and remember, this is just about underage drinkers – around $53 billion per year (including $29 billion due to violent crime and $19 billion from traffic crashes) because we can’t keep the alcohol away from the kids. Now that’s expensive. And that study was presented back in 2003. What are those numbers like today? And how much greater could the costs be for adults with alcohol problems?

If you want to get in on the debate, their National Coverage Analysis Tracking Sheet is open for comments until March 20, 2011. Let them know – especially if you work in healthcare – what you think about how this might work, who might coordinate the services, how often the services might be offered, or under what conditions Medicare or Medicaid might play a greater role in preventing a lot more unnecessary problems.

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This isn’t your father’s town hall meeting anymore. This is disturbing.

The coverage of the local town hall meetings across the country has been interesting, to say the least. I don’t know whether some of the townspeople are shooting themselves in the foot or having trouble extracting it from their mouth. The yelling, the rudeness, the harsh words that have nothing to do with healthcare – you’re being compared with primates, for Pete’s sake.

These town hall meetings are supposed to be a forum in which we the people can voice our concerns in person. Our elected officials are making time to listen to us, and in some cases, we’re showing appreciation by blowing up on them. We’re going backward, not forward – and by “we,” I mean the bellowing, belligerent blowhards that keep disrupting the meetings. This isn’t productive conversation. This is the Middle Ages, complete with ignorant peasants and public stonings largely due to hearsay.

If you need to yell at public officials because you’re unhappy with the current healthcare bill, you need to know that you’d get your point across better with a carefully-worded question based on mutual respect and the need to clarify what the hell is going on. You don’t have to agree with the politician at the podium, but it would be a good idea if you respect him or her as a person and realize that this person is probably not personally responsible for the bottleneck.

You’d get more done if you stay on point, too. You won’t solve anything by telling a speaker that they will go to hell for what they’re doing. The subject is Healthcare, not Religion. And by the way, your God is probably pissed at the way you’re trying to make that call for Him.

Get a grip, people, and save the yelling for your therapist. Don’t let the angry rants of others get in the way of your ability to think for yourself. Make good use of the time at those town hall meetings, because if you want your voice to be heard – if you don’t want to be dismissed as an out-of-control, crazy jerk – you might want to present your justifiably strong opinions in some sort of civilized manner.

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Found this comment yesterday from Edith Cagney.  She’s a Florida snowbird who recently also became a Medicare recipient.

“I think the main thing people mean by “fixing” the health care system is to design and implement a system that allows people of all income levels to obtain adequate health care when they need it. When I becamse 65 yrs. old and made the mandatory switch to Medicare, I gained a new perspective on this issue.

“Medicare works, and it may be at least in part because the health care employees have just one set of rules to learn for everybody. When I was insured through Purdue University’s group plan, I spent a considerable amount of time on the phone straightening out problems of one kind or another, and I think it was mostly because the medical providers couldn’t keep up with the rules for the way each insurance company paid benefits. And these rules changed every year.

“In a way, this is a separate issue from the cost of health care, and I think that one cause of skyrocketing costs is tha fact that hospitals keep buying the latest technology and then raising their fees. But if we had uniformity in the way that insurance companies paid benefits, that should also help lower the cost of health care; in addition to simplifying things for everybody.”

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