Kennedy passes the healthcare reform baton to Dodd
Sen. Ted Kennedy, ill and unable to attend the ongoing Senate health reform battles, appeared in a campaign video this week for his old friend, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). Kennedy basically said Dodd is going to be key in the push for health reform that has been, according to Kennedy “the cause of my life.” (Aside from running for president, perhaps?):
“Today more than ever, we have a real opportunity to bring health care reform to Connecticut and all across America. And I believe that, with Chris Dodd’s leadership, our families will finally have accessible, affordable health care.”
A New York Times article on the ad described Kennedy this way: “His accent is unmistakable, but his voice sounds frail, less robust, and his face looks drawn.”
Kennedy was doing more than naming a successor. He was trying to help out his old friend, who — after five terms in the Senate — is facing a tough re-election battle.
So what’s Dodd up to?
Dodd spend most of Wednesday working on a mark-up of the health reform bill — and streaming the hearing live on his web page.
By the end of the day, he was telling Roll Call, Capitol Hill’s newspaper, that it may take a bit longer to produce a bill:
“Despite expressing hope a day earlier that the markup of a health care reform bill could be completed by week’s end, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) confirmed Wednesday that the legislation is unlikely to emerge from the panel until after the July Fourth recess.
“Dodd, pinch-hitting for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), said progress continues on the committee’s bill. Dodd said he hopes the scheduled merger of the HELP bill with separate legislation being drafted in the Senate Finance Committee can begin even before Finance begins to mark up its bill. Finance is not set to begin its markup until after July 4.”
See the Washington Post or Kaiser Health News for the best coverage of the fast-moving debate.
Mass. plan takes more of a beating
It wasn’t a great week to point to Massachusetts as a model for reform. From The Boston Globe:
“Overseers of Massachusetts’ trailblazing healthcare program made their first cuts yesterday, trimming $115 million, or 12 percent, from Commonwealth Care, which subsidizes premiums for needy residents and is the centerpiece of the 2006 law.”
WBUR’s CommonHealth also reports:
“The economy is hitting the state’s free and subsidized health insurance program, Commonwealth Care, from two angles. First, more state residents affected by the shrinking job market are signing up. Second, the state has less money to spend on this … and hundreds of other programs.”
For more on the way the state casts the plan, see the Commonwealth Connector website.
Also, the libertarian Cato Institute put out a paper entitled “Massachusetts Miserable: What the Failure of the ‘Massachusetts Model’ Tells Us about Health Care Reform.” But, as the Healthcare Economist points out, the problem may be the economy, not the plan.
Gawande in the Post
The Washington Post has a new interview with Atul Gawande, the Harvard doc whose New Yorker piece put the concept of practice pattern variation into the conversation (and into the Oval Office). Here he is on the wealth gap and healthcare:
“I think the really interesting thing is that even beyond the baseline amount of poorer health associated with lower incomes, there’s this whole body of powerful literature showing that levels of inequality are even more highly correlated with poor health. So a place like Texas has poverty, yes, but also huge inequity of income. States with similar poverty but less inequity of income have much better health profiles. I’ve actually had this on my list to write about.
Do as they say, not as they do? Mass General cited for overworking residents
From the Massachusetts General Hospital website:
“The hallmark of education in the MGH Department of Medicine is residency and fellowship training. In addition to our 13 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited residency and fellowship programs, our department offers considerable opportunities for educational and professional enrichment.”
The Globe this week reported on the ACGME’s recent finding that:
“Junior surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital have been working too many hours, in violation of patient safety rules, according to a national accrediting organization that is threatening to put the hospital’s surgery training program on probation.”
The American Medical Student Assn., a national association for physicians-in-training, recently acknowledged the hours issue in response to a December 2008 Institute of Medicine report, “Resident Duty Hours: Enhancing Sleep, Supervision, and Safety:”
“‘Evidence continues to build that physicians working extended hours are putting themselves as well as their patients at risk,’ says Dr. Brian Hurley, AMSA national president. ‘Physicians are being forced to work more consecutive hours than deemed safe — sometimes more than twice the workweek of another profession. It’s time to demand an improved working environment that ensures patient and physician safety without compromising medical education.'”
Health and the City
The city of Boston just released its 2009 “Health Report.” Lots of interesting factoids:
“The city has become more racially and ethnically diverse over the past several decades. In 2007, approximately 28% of Boston residents were foreign born, originating from a wide array of countries such as Haiti, China and Colombia. … The percentage of Latino residents in Boston has continued to increase from 1980 (6.4%) to 2007 (16.9%). Understanding the diversity within our city is essential to combating racial/ethnic disparities that persist in medical care for a number of health conditions and services.”
The commissioners themselves blog on WBUR’s CommonHealth site. Here’s the full report.
There’s more by Tinker Ready over at Boston Health News.