Got (breast)milk?

I was surprised recently when I read the following article on Kaiser Health News: Nursing moms get free breast pumps from health law.

Really?

So I went to Healthcare.gov, the official website of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and found the expanded list of essential benefits/preventive services for women that went into effect on August 1, 2012. Breast pumps, listed under “Breastfeeding Support, Supplies and Counseling,” are indeed considered “preventive” and must be covered without cost sharing (co-pays or deductibles).

According to the factsheet: “Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive measures mothers can take to protect Continue reading

Will coverage for pre-existing conditions really be affordable?

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) was created by the health reform law and enacted in 2010 to provide coverage for low and moderate-income people who could not buy health insurance because of a pre-existing condition—the “uninsurables”.

The plan was to be funded through 2013 until the law’s signature provision—that insurers could no longer exclude those with pre-existing conditions—kicked in on January 1, 2014.

Sadly, the plan has already run out of money and enrollment was suspended February 16th, leaving many thousands without access to health coverage until at least 2014.

Related story from Kaiser Health News: Feds increase Continue reading

To drink or not to drink

Few things make me crazier about health care in the media than reading back-to-back, conflicting stories.

For example, last week I read the article A drink a day linked to healthy aging. A few days later I read Even a drink a day boosts cancer death risk, alcohol study finds.

Like many Americans, I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and the occasional beer or cocktail when I’m out with friends. What’s a girl to do?

First, take a closer look at the studies.

These studies are “observational”. That is, participants fill out questionnaires over an extended … Continue reading

Pucker up

Did you ever stop to wonder how the skin of your lips differs from the skin on the rest of your face?

The skin over your lips is very thin and highly vascular, hence their typical “vermilion” or red color. Your lips also have more nerve endings, making them very tactile and sensitive.

These anatomical differences make our lips attractive and nice for kissing, but they also make our lips vulnerable to dryness, sunburn and chemical sensitivities.

Painful and unattractive, chapped lips are especially common in the winter because of the dry, cold air outside, the dry, warm air inside, … Continue reading

“The Drugs I Need”

Several years ago, Consumers Union (the publishers of Consumer Reports) released a hilarious animated music video—The Drugs I Need—satirizing both the pharmaceutical industry and the unending American quest for the perfect “cure all” drug.

I recently watched the video again on YouTube and found the song’s humorous message just as fitting as it was almost 10 years ago. Be sure to check out the fine print “disclaimer” at the bottom of the screen.  😆

FN

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Good health – No miracle required

nomiracleI laughed the other day when I read a post on the blog Science-Based Medicine. The author denounced the all powerful Dr. Mehmet Oz for his frequent promotion of “miracle” products on his eponymous show, and commented that:

This constant drive for miracles must keep the producers in a perpetual panic. They need at least five miracles per week.

Which episode incited the author’s scorn? “Dr. Oz’s 13 Miracles for 2013.” Wow, that’s a lot of miracles.

Related post from Science-Based Medicine: Dr. Mehmet Oz completes his journey to the Dark Side

Like snake oil salesmen of old, the … Continue reading

Premiums, mandates and penalties

I posted a couple weeks ago that health insurance companies wanted to increase the penalty I mean tax on people who ignored the individual coverage mandate. The companies fear the penalty tax, only $95 the first year, is not stiff enough.

Well, according to recently released information from the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services (overseers of the health law), the insurance companies have cause for worry. Not because so many people will ignore the mandate, but because so many people will be exempt.

Related reading from National Review Online: Obamacare’s pressure points

Who will be exempt? … Continue reading

Disneyland – The happiest last place on earth

palliative and hospice careDisneyland, here I come!

I have a plan. If I get cancer (or when, because according to news reports just about everything causes cancer eventually) and my doctors have nothing left to offer but last-ditch, statistically-improbable treatments that cost a fortune, I’m saving my money and booking a suite at the Disneyland Hotel.

Last summer I read a blog post titled “How Doctors Die.” The author, a physician, made the simple statement that “Doctors don’t die like the rest of us.” Why? Because “they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits.”

He shares his and other health professionals’ … Continue reading

Avoidable risk?

Last fall saw a frightening outbreak of fungal meningitis that resulted in the severe illness of almost 700 people and, tragically, the deaths of 45 others. Contaminated steroid injections were found to be the cause.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices now reports that 13% of pharmacists found contamination in their supposedly sterile, compounded (made in the pharmacy) drugs last year, and almost 75% fear that such a horrific outbreak could happen again.

Several agencies are swaming the compounding pharmacies in a belated attempt to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But will their efforts be enough?

Maybe, but there … Continue reading

Taxes, income and subsidies

Yesterday, the IRS finally began processing 2012 tax returns.

In 2014, if and when you apply for individual health insurance through one of the state-run exchanges, it will be important to know your 2012 income. Why? Because that figure will determine whether or not you will be eligible for a federal tax credit to help cover the cost of premiums.

In a previous post, I explained how the federal subsidies will work. In short, individuals and families earning up to 400% of federal poverty level (FPL) will be eligible, and the savings could be substantial—over $10,000 a year in some … Continue reading

The eyes have it

Do you suffer from chronically dry, red, itchy eyes? The eye drops you use might actually be making your eyes look and feel worse.

Like so many over-the-counter (OTC) products, there are dozens of eye drops from which to choose. How do you know which is best?

As always, ignore the front of the package and read the ingredients.

Oxymetazoline HCl and naphazoline HCl are decongestants. Drops that advertise “decreased redness”, such as Visine, contain a decongestant that constricts the small blood vessels in the eye. It works temporarily, but has a “rebound” effect; that is, the redness gets worse … Continue reading

At risk: Unbiased medical research

On March 1, if Congress and the president do not reach some kind of fiscal accord, mandatory cuts to federal programs—sequestration—will take effect.

One of the many victims of such massive spending cuts will be the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the medical research arm of the Department of Health and Human Services. According to its director, Francis Collins, MD, the NIH, in a “profound and devastating blow,” will lose 6.4% of its budget.

Their loss, however, could be the drug industry’s gain.

Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine

In his book Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine, John Abramson, MD, … Continue reading

The CPAP machine – An American success story?

Have you ever heard of a company called ResMed? If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and have been prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, you probably have.

Or, if you follow the stock market, you might recognize ResMed as one of its rising stars. Rising because, according to its website, ResMed ‘s revenues and profits have grown every quarter since it was formed in 1989. In 2012, ResMed reported revenues of approximately $1.4 billion.

What is the secret to ResMed’s amazing success? Our country’s poor health.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the common condition in which … Continue reading

Obamacare’s Y2K: Coverage for pre-existing conditions

Starting in 2014, one of the signature features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be implemented: No adult with a pre-existing condition can be denied health insurance.

But it seems from recent news reports that both the administration and the nation’s health insurance carriers are getting a little nervous about exactly how much that will cost and whether sufficient funds will be available.

In theory, the individual mandate ensures that enough healthy young people buy insurance to keep premiums affordable and provide enough money to cover the care of the already sick. But no one knows with any certainty … Continue reading

Tincture of time

Flu season hit hard this year, and the normal, if unwelcome, after effect of many viral upper respiratory infections is a lingering cough.

A recent review of the medical literature found that, on average, a cough will last 17.8 days! Fortunately, most coughs are self limiting; that is, they will get better without special treatment, such as antibiotics.

If you have a question about when to seek medical attention for a cough, visit FamilyDoctor.org ‘Check Your Symptoms’. 

For home treatment, however, the drugstore shelves are filled with a dizzying array of cough products. Which one, if any, is best?

Before … Continue reading