Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Crazy NHS tells old lady to go to one hospital to treat her left eye and to another hospital to treat her right eye -- even though both eyes had the same problem!

No doubt that made sense to some bureaucrat

A 79-year-old grandmother revealed today how she was told she must receive sight-saving treatment for her eyes at two hospitals that are 30 miles apart. Pensioner Mavis Eldridge must travel to another city to treat Acute Macular Degeneration (AMD) in her left eye, even though her local hospital is already treating her right one.

She was given the sight-saving wonderdrug Lucentis in her right eye at University Hospital in Coventry, where she is still being treated for the disease. But she was told doctors were too busy to treat her after she developed the same condition in her left eye, even though the injection only takes a few seconds. Mavis, from Coventry, said: 'It is well known if you get macular disease in one eye you very often get it in the other too. So why can't they treat both?'

Mavis still has monthly scans at University Hospital but the disease, caused by bleeding at the back of the eye, is rapidly ruining the sight in her left eye too. Mavis has been told to make her own way to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham despite her sight-loss meaning she cannot drive. Mavis's daughter Maggie Richards drove 85 miles from Marlow, Bucks, to take her mother for her first appointment at Selly Oak on Saturday. She said: 'It seems bizarre that the clinic in Coventry can monitor and scan her left eye but not actually treat it.'

It is not the first time Mavis has hit problems getting her AMD treated. Last year, she had to pay more than £600 for a private course of the high-risk drug Avastin to stop her going blind in her right eye. The NHS had waited so long to treat her deteriorating sight that she no longer qualified for free care. Luckily the drug worked and her sight recovered enough for her to be eligible for further NHS treatment.

The Macular Disease Society said it had never heard of another patient having to be treated at separate hospitals for each eye. Chief executive Helen Jackman said the treatment Lucentis was approved by the NHS in August 2008 and the hospital and primary care trust should have had time to develop their services by now. She said: 'We understand that it is difficult for hospitals in some areas. But it is also very difficult for Mrs Eldridge and we urge the trusts to try to find a more acceptable or imaginative solution that takes into account individual needs.'

Richard Kennedy, medical director at University Hospital, said Mavis was offered the alternative choice of being treated at Selly Oak Hospital to ensure she could get NHS care as soon as possible. He said the decision was made in the patient's best interests because it was vital to treat AMD quickly. Mr Kennedy said there was huge demand for Lucentis as a new drug which was putting hospitals under great pressure.


Obama takes biggest domestic gamble to force though health reforms

Now he's going to add his healthcare bill to the budget

For more than a year President Obama hoped that he could pull off the coup of comprehensive health reform by leaving the details to Congress. Yesterday he admitted that strategy had failed by unveiling a new one: a ten-page, $950 billion “President’s Plan” that could make or break his credentials as a progressive leader in the mould of Presidents Roosevelt and Johnson.

The plan amounts to a last-ditch push for healthcare reform, which conservatives all but torpedoed last year and which Republicans condemned again yesterday as a recipe for a “massive government takeover” of an industry that accounts for more than 17 per cent of the US economy.

Mr Obama claimed that his proposals would help 31 million poorer Americans to afford private insurance, outlaw such practices as denying cover to those with pre-existing conditions, and save US taxpayers $100 billion over the next ten years.

Such arguments have failed to sway independent voters or a single congressional Republican over the past year, and they showed little sign of ending the impasse yesterday. They were posted on the White House website as an “opening bid”, aides said, three days before a crucial healthcare summit convened by Mr Obama at which he has promised to show a new spirit of bipartisanship after losing his 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.

The proposals were swiftly condemned by John Boehner, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, as a resurrection of a Bill that the American people had already rejected. “The President has crippled the credibility of this week’s summit,” Mr Boehner said.

In a Washington that has become fascinated by its own paralysis, the only glimmer of bipartisanship yesterday came from California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the husband of a powerful lifelong liberal, met privately with Mr Obama after insisting that substantial health reforms were possible if the Administration could only find a “sweet spot” of common ground with its critics.

In his search for such a sweet spot, Mr Obama has taken as his blueprint a healthcare Bill that the Senate passed on Christmas Eve and has set out to appease its critics with carefully targeted adjustments. Under his proposals, a tax on the most expensive insurance policies would not take effect until 2018 and then only above a raised threshold. He has abandoned any hope of a so-called public option, scrapped a hugely controversial subsidy for the state of Nebraska and wooed liberals by eliminating an amendment that would have barred abortion payments for anyone with subsidised insurance.

Share prices for the country’s biggest health insurers were broadly buoyant yesterday, suggesting that Wall Street had either factored the President’s widely leaked plans into its calculations in advance, or that it does not believe they will amount to much. The markets may yet be in for a surprise, but only if Mr Obama can persuade moderate Democrats worried about their re-election prospects later this year to back him. He was helped last Friday by sudden increases of up to 39 per cent in the cost of some Californian health insurance premiums.

A new Newsweek poll suggests that more Americans support the proposals when they read them in detail than when asked to consider them as a whole. Congress is less easily persuaded. Since Scott Brown’s capture of Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat for the Republicans, the Administration’s hopes of passing health reforms with a full 60-seat majority have vanished.

The White House will almost certainly have to add the entire Bill to the budget instead, where it will need only 51 Senate votes to pass. The process will enrage Republicans but it could just lift Mr Obama into the pantheon of great Democratic reformers. “The President expects an up or down vote on health reform,” one of his spokesmen said, “and he believes the American people deserve one.”


Prospects for health care summit in doubt

The prospect of this week's White House summit on health care sorting out thorny policy decisions and resuscitating the overhaul without wholesale changes are slim. But Democrats and health care advocates believe the televised summit, planned for Thursday, could provide momentum and political cover to President Obama and lawmakers eager to restart the stalled effort.

"I'm not optimistic that this summit will change what appears to be opposition to anything that President Barack Obama supports," National Coalition on Health Care's Ralph Neas said of Republicans. "That doesn't mean that it could not be successful on other levels. The ultimate goal is to get consensus on substantive health care reform."

President Obama announced the bipartisan health summit earlier this month in an attempt to mollify two of the chief criticisms of the health plan - that Democrats didn't listen to Republican ideas and that the negotiating sessions were not televised, a violation of a campaign pledge he made. The top Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill and the relevant committees were invited.

Republicans are skeptical that the summit is a real attempt at negotiation and have not said whether they will offer an alternative proposal. But with the White House expected to release a plan it hopes Democrats can support and Republicans firmly opposed to any of the Democrats' proposals, few health policy experts or lawmakers expect the summit to lead to policy compromises.

"Apparently, we're going to be there most of the day and have an opportunity to have a lot of discussion," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on "Fox News Sunday." "But if they're going to lay out the plan they want to pass four days in advance, then why are - what are we discussing on Thursday?"

If they show up empty-handed, "that will lead the public to believe that the only views Republicans have on health reform is 'no,'" said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal health care advocacy group that supports the Democrats' plans. "I believe this will galvanize Democrats on Capitol Hill to move forward."

Republicans have steadfastly opposed a large comprehensive bill and prefer a step-by-step approach that includes proposals such as tort reform and allowing insurers to sell across state lines. They have several small-scale bills.

"For those families and small businesses looking for a sign that Washington is ready to wake up and find common sense on this issue, next week's White House health care summit may not be it," Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican and ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in this weekend's Republican address. "If the starting point for this summit is more of the same backroom deals and partisan bills, then this meeting will likely be a charade."

Democrats, meanwhile, appear to be pursuing a plan that could be passed through reconciliation, a complicated procedural tool that allows lawmakers to circumvent the chance for a Republican filibuster. The bill would only have to pass with 51 votes, but could not include many of the policy initiatives that don't have to do with the budget.

The White House is expected to release a plan based on negotiations that took place between the House and Senate up until the election of Sen. Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, in a special election last month that shook up Capitol Hill.

But Mr. Obama, in his weekly address, asked lawmakers from both sides to come to the meeting with open minds.

"I don't want to see this meeting turn into political theater, with each side simply reciting talking points and trying to score political points," he said. "Instead, I ask members of both parties to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that's been with us for generations."

While reconciliation is a controversial tool, advocates of the idea point to it being used to pass welfare reform, the State Children's Health Insurance Program and President Bush's tax cuts.

Under the reconciliation plan, the House would pass the Senate's health bill as it is, and then both chambers would pass another bill to "fix" things lawmakers don't like in the Senate legislation.

The Senate would have to pass its bill through reconciliation because Mr. Brown's surprise win last month stripped Democrats of their 60-vote supermajority needed to block a filibuster.


The Final Straw? Unions counting the cost of health care reform

Turns out that labor leaders have been doing a little cost-benefit analysis behind our backs. Labor leaders balked when they discovered that many unionized employees were eligible for increased taxes in the Senate’s health care bill. At the time, a deal was reached that would make collectively bargained jobs exempt from the tax until 2017; and threshold for family insurance raised from $23,000 to $24,000.

Unions agreed to the whole thing when they thought that the benefits of a comprehensive bill outweighed the potential cost of the excise tax. [Mind you, the labor unions collective "cost" was offset by sweetheart deals, $10 billion to assist unfunded pension liabilities, and exemptions from the excise tax.]

But with a comprehensive bill pretty much off the table, unions see the excise tax in a whole new light–and they are backing off their support. According to The Hill.
“But labor leaders have grown wary that the Obama administration and Congress are scaling back their ambitions for healthcare reform despite the president’s insistence that he has not. Losing union support for the healthcare effort would be a damaging blow. Organized labor has been one of the staunchest proponents of finishing the job on healthcare reform.

“”It appears that the administration and Congress will be taking a much more modest approach to healthcare reform. The cost and value of such reform would not justify using an excise tax,” Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, told The New York Times. The communications union has been among the most vocal labor organization in its opposition to the tax.

The story ran in The New York Times, citing union leaders faulting Massachusetts as their canary in a coalmine on the excise tax:
“But as a practical matter, labor leaders said, the excise tax was killed by the election in Massachusetts, where the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, won the Senate seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy. [...] Michael A. Podhorzer, deputy political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said Massachusetts should be a warning to Democrats, like “a canary in a coal mine.”

“Fully 42 percent of voters believed the health care bill would tax employer health benefits, and these voters supported Brown by two to one,” Mr. Podhorzer said.

With comprehensive health care reform–or reform of any type–unlikely, unions have more to gain complaining to Democrats than not. It’s just one more failed thing that labor leaders can torture Democrats with in November, hopefully leveraging their sympathy (and need for campaign money) to push the labor movement’s policy priorities.


Obama to propose federal price controls on insurance

Price controls are the ultimate Leftist idiocy. They just lead to rationing and shortages

President Barack Obama will propose giving federal authorities the power to limit rate hikes by health insurance companies — part of a new health care overhaul plan he will unveil Monday in a last-ditch bid to salvage his signature issue.

The proposal would give the federal Health and Human Services Department — in conjunction with state authorities — the power to deny egregious premium increases, roll them back, or demand rebates for consumers, said a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity because details have not yet been officially released.

Recent premium hikes of as much as 39 percent sought by Anthem Blue Cross in California have given Obama a new argument for his sweeping health care remake, stalled in Congress since Democrats lost their 60th Senate seat in a special election last month in Massachusetts.

The proposal for tighter oversight of insurers, modeled on legislation proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will be part of a sweeping overhaul plan which the White House plans to post on its Web site at 10 a.m. Monday, ahead of a health care summit with congressional leaders of both parties on Thursday.

The broader plan, likely to be opposed by the GOP, is expected to require most Americans to carry health insurance coverage, with federal subsidies to help many afford the premiums. Hewing close to a stalled Senate bill, it would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people with medical problems or charging them more. The expected price tag is around $1 trillion over 10 years.

The summit at Blair House, the White House guest residence, will be televised live on C-SPAN and perhaps on cable news networks. It represents a risky and unusual gamble by the administration that Obama can save his embattled overhaul through persuasion — on live TV.

It was forced on the administration by the Senate special election victory of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown in January. He captured the seat long held by Democrat Edward M. Kennedy, who died last year. Brown's victory reduced the Democrats' majority in the Senate to 59 votes, one shy of the number needed to knock down Republican delaying tactics.


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