Longer reads: Hospice drains Medicare; false Obamacare 'horror stories;' growing up without vaccines

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The Washington Post: Hospice Firms Draining Billions From Medicare
Hospice patients are expected to die: The treatment focuses on providing comfort to the terminally ill, not finding a cure. To enroll a patient, two doctors certify a life expectancy of six months or less. But over the past decade, the number of "hospice survivors" in the United States has risen dramatically, in part because hospice companies earn more by recruiting patients who aren't actually dying, a Washington Post investigation has found. Healthier patients are more profitable because they require fewer visits and stay enrolled longer (Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating, 12/26).

Earlier, related KHN coverage: Growing Hospice Care Costs Bring Concerns About Misuse (Rau, 6/27/11).

The Weekly Standard: The Genealogy Of Obamacare
Despite its clunky rollout, Obamacare continues to move forward. ... [but] there are more problems to come, symptoms of a deeper malady inherent in the law: It is ill-suited to our Madisonian system. Obamacare seeks to micromanage a vast sector of the American economy, when our government was designed purposely to prevent that sort of control. When central planners during the New Deal ignored the limitations placed on our pluralistic government, the results were disappointing and often perverse. ... In exchange for cooperation in administering subsidies and providing the uninsured with government-approved health insurance, Obamacare essentially guarantees the stakeholders a permanent place in the nation's health care architecture. To bring this promise to fruition, Obamacare must then regulate the minutest details (Jay Cost, 1/8).

Health Insurance: Anatomy Of An Obamacare 'Horror Story'
For months, health reform's opponents have been feasting on tales of Obamacare's innocent victims -- Americans who lost their insurance because it doesn't comply with the ACA's regulations, and now have to shell out more than they can afford – or go without coverage. Trouble is, many of those stories just aren't true. Yesterday I posted about a Fort Worth Star Telegram article that leads with the tale of Whitney Johnson, a 26-year-old new mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS). Her insurer just cancelled her policy, and according to Johnson, new insurance would cost her over $1,000 a month. ... Under the ACA, no 26-year-old could be charged $1,000 monthly – even if she has MS. Obamacare prohibits insurers from charging more because a customer suffers from a pre-existing condition. This rule applies to all new policies, ... At that point, I knew that something was wrong (Maggie Mahar, 1/3).

Cincinnati Magazine: Last Words
Spurred on by the suicide of her 21-year-old son, Brian Case, in 1999, [Jean] Baker, who lives in Houston, became a teacher for special needs children. She has also written a book-;Schizophrenia: Evolving from My Son's Suicide to the Classroom-;and works as an outspoken advocate for kids with mental illness. Still, she's always looking for more ways to translate her son's tormented life and death into something of permanence. "There had not been any accounting of his passing," she says. "They didn't even put it in the newspaper in the town where he died." Last spring, she found another way to make Brian's death count for something. Tuning in to Talk of the Nation on National Public Radio, she caught an interview with John Pestian, a clinical scientist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center who is leading a project that is attempting to use computer technology to identify people who are suicidal (Linda Vaccariello, 1/2).

Slate: Growing Up Unvaccinated
I am the '70s child of a health nut. I wasn't vaccinated. I was brought up on an incredibly healthy diet: no sugar till I was 1, breastfed for over a year, organic homegrown vegetables, raw milk, no MSG, no additives, no aspartame. My mother used homeopathy, aromatherapy, osteopathy; we took daily supplements of vitamin C, echinacea, cod liver oil. … As healthy as my lifestyle seemed, I contracted measles, mumps, rubella, a type of viral meningitis, scarlatina, whooping cough, yearly tonsillitis, and chickenpox. In my 20s I got precancerous HPV and spent six months of my life wondering how I was going to tell my two children under the age of 7 that Mummy might have cancer before it was safely removed. So the anti-vaccine advocates' fears of having the "natural immunity sterilized out of us" just doesn't cut it for me (Amy Parker, 1/6).

The New York Times: Why Everyone Seems To Have Cancer
Every New Year when the government publishes its Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, it is followed by a familiar lament. We are losing the war against cancer. Half a century ago, the story goes, a person was far more likely to die from heart disease. Now cancer is on the verge of overtaking it as the No. 1 cause of death. Troubling as this sounds, the comparison is unfair. Cancer is, by far, the harder problem -; a condition deeply ingrained in the nature of evolution and multicellular life. ... The rhetoric about the war on cancer implies that with enough money and determination, science might reduce cancer mortality as dramatically as it has with other leading killers -; one more notch in medicine's belt. But what, then, would we die from? (George Johnson, 1/4).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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