The State of Greek Healthcare: Pecuniary or Moral?

To Vima, one of the most popular newspapers in Greece reported that the country’s largest government health insurance provider would no longer be paying for special footwear worn by diabetes patients.

The Reason?

According to the Benefits Division – the state insurance provider, amputation is cheaper.

In a letter to the Pan-Hellenic Federation of People with Diabetes, the strange new policy was announced.

The Federation engaged in a heated discussion about the science behind the decision of the Benefits Division. They argued that the decision is diverging from the facts written in the international scientific literature.

Greece’s National Healthcare System was fashioned in the early 1980s – that was during the tenure of Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. An academic, Papandreou won election under a slogan that is the Greek word for Change.

Food Industry to Change Fast With New Health America

fast foodOne aspect of the health care bill taking immediate effect is that chain restaurants will now be required to display nutrition information. What we are witnessing could well make a seismic shift in the changing of the food landscape of America.

The Associated Press Reports:

More than 200,000 fast food and other chain restaurants will have to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards and even drive-throughs.

The new law, which applies to any restaurant with 20 or more locations, directs the Food and Drug Administration to create a new national standard for menu labeling, superseding a growing number of state and city laws. President Barack Obama signed the health care legislation Tuesday.

The idea is to make sure that customers process the calorie information as they are ordering. Many restaurants currently post nutritional information in a hallway, on a hamburger wrapper or on their Web site. The new law will make calories immediately available for most items.

This rule will also apply to vending machines carrying convenience foods.

So how will this change be manifested to the American food system?

Americans’ appetite for cheap and processed foods and factory-farmed meat impacts everything from carbon emissions to water quality to pesticide and farms’ use of antibiotics.

The Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.” had a huge effect on informing people about the problems in the industrial food system. Oprah brought author and food expert Michael Pollan on her show to discuss the documentary, which she called “thought-provoking” and “eye-opening”. Michael Pollan also made appearances on The Daily Show and told Jon Stewart in January that he thought the passage of health care reform would have a large impact on changing the way people eat, because health insurers would have a financial motive to keep people away from eating unhealthy foods that will cause long-term health problems.

Michelle Obama has also become a public spokeswoman of increasing access to real food, gardening and fighting childhood obesity with her Let’s Move campaign. Last week she spoke to the Grocery Manufacturers Association about completely reassessing the ‘junk’ food which they sell:

“We need you not to just tweak around the edges but entirely rethink the products you are offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children.”

The Aspirin Question

Once they told you to take a daily aspirin for your heart, today you may want to reconsider.

Americans bought more than 44 million packages of low-dose aspirin marketed for heart protection in the year ending in September. The sales were up about 12% from 2005.

Well now, public-health officials are scaling back official recommendations for the painkiller to target patients at risk of a heart attack or stroke. The concern is that aspirin’s side effects, which may include bleeding ulcers, could outweigh the potential benefits when taken by healthy or old people.

Doctors generally agree that most patients who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke, the type caused by a clot or obstruction blocking an artery to the brain, should take regular low-dose aspirin. But for people without heart disease, the latest guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force spell out much more clearly than before when exactly aspirin should be administered.

The guidelines, announced last year, suggest aspirin for certain men 45 to 79 years old with elevated heart-disease risk because of things like cholesterol levels and smoking. For women, the guidelines don’t focus on heart risk. The task force recommends certain women should take aspirin regularly if they are 55 to 79 and in danger of having an ischemic stroke, for reasons that could include high blood pressure and diabetes.

The panel wants doctors to factor in conditions that could increase a patient’s risk of bleeding from aspirin, which tends to rise with age. The group did not designate a dose, but suggested that an appropriate amount might be 75 milligrams a day, which is close to the 81mg contained in low-dose, or “baby,” aspirin. The task force however did not take a position on aspirin for people who are 80 and older because of a lack of data in this age group.

Aspirin acts as a blood thinner, believed to account for much of its benefit of protecting against heart attacks and strokes. But this action, along with a tendency to deplete the stomach’s protective lining, can lead to a danger of gastrointestinal bleeding and possibly bleeding in the brain.

Not all patients used to taking aspirin though, will want to stop. Maxine Fischer, 55 years old, recently figured out that under the new U.S. guidelines, she would not be encouraged to continue on with the drug. Using an online calculator, which factored such data as her age, blood pressure and medical history, she learned she had a 1% likelihood of a stroke in the coming 10 years. Under these guidelines, only women in her age group with at least a 3% or higher stroke risk should be taking aspirin.

Ms. Fischer, a manager for seniors’ lobby AARP in San Diego, has taken aspirin daily for two years after reading it could reduce the risk of stroke. For the moment, she says she’ll continue, partly because she’s more worried about strokes than ulcers. Strokes are

“the big scary thing.”

Time For Revolution

7:00 AM…Christmas Eve…Capitol Hill…Washington D.C….The Obama-era Health Care Reform stands its final test.
The 92-year-old Senator Robert Byrd, squinted his eyes and straightened his tie. “Mr. President,” he said, pointing his raises right hand at the dome ceiling, “This is for my friend Ted Kennedy. Aye!”

And so the $871 billion bill passed brilliantly through Senate on a 60-39 landslide margin.

The new bill will be merged in conference committee negotiations with the more extreme version which already slid through the House of Representatives on a taut 220-215 margin. The cross-Capitol negotiations will not involve the Republican Party.
The bill provides billions in subsidies for low and middle class Americans to purchase private insurance. All Americans would be required to be insured unless they can demonstrate that they cannot afford to do so.

Also, the bill will phase in over the next several years, insurance industry regulations. Under these new guidelines, beginning in 2014, insurers will not be allowed to deny customers due to preexisting conditions and will not be allowed to cap annual or lifetime benefits.

Insurers succeeded in stripping a public insurance option from the Senate bill that would have competed with private insurance. In the absence of a public option, state insurance commissioners will be charged with keeping insurers in line.

We here at are happy to hear this news and are cautiously hopeful that it is a new start that the Health Care in America continues to move in this positive direction.

Merry Christmas everybody…

The Democrats and Pushing the Health Plan

Well the question remains will the Democrats be able to push their new health plan and while the fat lady has still not sang, the signs are making it look very unlikely. The estimated amount of Americans under the age of 65 who would sign up for the public option plan rather than a private insurance carrier is 2%.

Given this statistic, perhaps insurance companies have less to worry about than was once expected. Drew Altman, the president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation last week:

“The public option is a significant issue, but its place in the debate is completely out of proportion to its actual importance to consumers. It has sucked all the oxygen out of the room and diverted attention from bread-and-butter consumer issues, such as affordable coverage and comprehensive benefits.”

In order to prevent the government-run option from piling more onto the federal deficit, most uninsured people will have to wait until 2013 for federal help. And even then, some will have to pay a significant share of their own health care costs.

The Congressional Budget Office the nonpartisan economic analyst for lawmakers, said that the scaled back government plan in the House bill would not actually overtake private health insurance, even conceptually. And in fact it might even help insurance companies.

The 2% of Americans under 65 who would actually sign up for the government option makes up 6 million out of 282 million Americans in the wide age group.

The fact is that the majority of the population would remain in private health insurance plans sponsored by employers; and low-income people, would be covered through an expanded Medicaid program.

Actually most people would not have access to the new public plan. Under the House bill, it the government option would be open only to those who buy coverage on their own or work for small companies. Still, even within that pool of 30 million people, only 1-in-5 would take the public option.

Economist Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, said;

“The concern was that the public option would destabilize the bulk of private insurance, but in fact what Congress has fashioned is very targeted. It’s not going to be taking away the insurance industry’s core business.”

Will The Reform Happen?

US health care Last week House Democrats passed a 1,990 page legislation measure which will extend health care to millions who cannot afford coverage. It imposes large restrictions on private insurance companies and presents a government-run option, for those in need, or who opt for such.

Later this week the full House will vote on the bill, whose full cost still goes undisclosed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Proudly declared on the steps of the Capitol, that the bill “covers 96% of all Americans and it puts affordable coverage in reach for millions of uninsured and under insured families, lowering health care costs for all of us.”

As predicted, Republicans were quick with their negative reactions. Republican House Representative John Boehner of Ohio said, “It will raise the cost of Americans’ health insurance premiums; it will kill jobs with tax hikes and new mandates, and it will cut seniors’ Medicare benefits.”
The question remains, will the Republicans be able to block the bill’s approval in a House which is made up of 256 Democratic seats, where 218 makes a majority?

The bill will provide an expansion of Medicaid, which is a state/federal run health program for the poor. Individuals making up to $16,245 and a family of four making up to $33,075 would be covered. This would add 15 million to Medicaid.

As far as private insurers, one of the bill’s features is a new national insurance market. Therein private companies may sell policies that meet federally mandated benefit levels. The government would offer competing coverage and therefore individuals may shop around for their best option.

Also, doctors, hospitals and other private providers would be able to negotiate rates with the Department of Health and Human Services (for services provided under the government insurance option).

AIDS Vaccine in the Works!

It’s official. An experiment run out of Thailand has come out with a moderately successful HIV vaccine that prevented infection in 31 percent of patients. It was the world’s largest AIDS vaccine trial that included more than 16,000 Thai volunteers. My question is, did they also volunteer to be infected? How did this work exactly?

The study actually tested the vaccine in HIV-negative Thai men and women 18 to 30 at average risk of becoming infected. Half received the vaccine, the others dummy shots. Then the “humans were released” out into the HIV (computer model shown here) rampant country I guess. (I still don’t know why, if you’re careful and logical, you should get infected at all. Just don’t sleep around. That’s it. Get married to someone HIV negative, settle down, stay faithful, and raise a family. But anyway…)

HIV Virus“It’s the first evidence that we could have a safe and effective preventive vaccine,” said Colonel Jerome Kim, who helped lead the study for the U.S. Army. However, the director of the institute cosponsoring the study, Dr. Anthony Fauci, cautioned that this is “not the end of the road.”

Now that they’ve got something to work with – a 31% success rate – they can continue to work on improving its effectiveness by doing a bit of some biological tweaking. This is what they’re excited about, because this they can do. Before now, it was just stabs in the dark. Now with a stepping stone, it may only be a matter of time before AIDS goes the way of Polio. I speak optimistically, so don’t take my word for it. It’s just a hope.

But even if they can improve it only slightly, a marginally helpful vaccine could still have a huge impact. 2 million died of AIDS in 2007, with a similar number passing in 2008, it is estimated. 31% of 2 million is 620,000. Don’t forget.
“Today marks an historic milestone,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition.

The Thailand Ministry of Public Health conducted the study, and this is how they did it: They tested a two-vaccine combo in a what is called a “prime-boost” approach. The first vaccine primes the immune system to recognize and attack HIV, and the second boosts the immune system to continue fighting.

The vaccine uses an altered bird virus called canarypox that can’t infect humans, and pumps it with three HIV genes so the body can recognize HIV before it hits. The other part of the vaccine then introduces a protein present in the wall of HIV to get the body to attack that as well. Since the vaccine is not HIV itself, it comes with no risk of causing it.
Neither of the vaccines worked at all when used on their own, but together seems to have produced something. “I really didn’t have high hopes at all that we would see a positive result,” Fauci said of the human trials.

The results, though, were as follows: New infections occurred in 51 of the 8,197 given vaccine and in 74 of the 8,198 who received dummy shots. That worked out to a 31 percent lower risk of infection for ones who got the vaccine.
Could it be a fluke? We won’t know until other studies are conducted.

Doctors’ cell phones carry dangerous bacteria strains

Ever wonder why diseases often spread in hospitals, even in supposedly sterile environments like new-born baby wards? A recent study carried in Turkey’s top medical university, Ondokuz Mayis, have concluded that call phones carried by doctors and other health care workers often have as many as three or more strains of bacteria on them, and even though they wash their hands thoroughly, the cell phones they carry are not disinfected. The findings said that the phones “act as a reservoir for transmitting bacteria from patient to patient”.

The study was carried out on 200 health professionals, and found that even though they observed requirements for washing hands and wearing clean uniforms, at least 95% of their cellular phones tested positive for at least one bacteria strain, with
12.5% of the phones testing positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria strains.

The MRSA bacteria is an antibiotic resistant of the common S. aureus bacteria that is responsible for staph infections. If the bacteria gets into the body and reaches sensitive organs, such as the lungs, the result can be serious complications, and even death. MRSA staph infections in hospitals have risen more than 63% between 1974 and 2004, and result in 94,000 MRSA infections and 19,000 deaths per year. Patients in hospitals are especially at risks, as they are often in a more vulnerable state of health.

The mobile phones, being close to the body, and in constant use by both physicians, nurses and other health care professionals are at risks for transmitting diseases, including to the phone owner’s own family. “The mobile phones are carried all day long and not cleaned properly” the study determined.

The study found that only one in ten health care workers cleaned their phones properly.

Although the banning of cell phones might prove to be too impracticable, as they act as paging devices while the workers are on duty, it was recommended that the phones be cleaned frequently with an alcohol or antimicrobial disinfectant.

Obama’s Healthcare plan

This is the culprit of Obama’s Healthcare plan. If he gets elected — will he fulfill these high promises?

Learn his plan, because publicly-known promises are promises one has to hold up to!