What’s the latest in health care, July 27



world_stetLet’s start the week with latest updates on health care.

What’s bad?

More Americans Become Bankrupt Due To Medical Bills
Another sad fact of a health care system gone wrong. According to a recent study conducted by the Harvard Medical School, more than 60% of personal bankruptcies in the US are brought about by high medical bills. This is even more evident during the current financial crisis, with bankruptcies due to medical debt increasing from 46% in 2001 to 62.1% in 2007. What is even surprising is the fact that the majority of medical-based bankruptcies were filed by “middle-class, well-educated homeowners” and 75% had health insurance. According to principal author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler of the Harvard Medical School, of the study

“Unless you are a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, you are one illness away from financial ruin in this country. If an illness is long enough and expensive enough, private insurance offers very little protection against medical bankruptcy, and that is the major finding in our study.”

The health conditions that brought about the high medical expenses are as follows (ranked from higest to least):

  • Neurological
  • Diabetes
  • Injuries
  • Stroke
  • Mental condition
  • Heart problems

What’s good?

Top Obama Administration Officials Hold Rural Health Community Forum
Four US cabinet secretaries are on a “Rural Tour” visiting rural communities all over the US. The most recent stop was last Monday, July 20, 2009 St. John Parish, La. The 90-minute rural health forum aimed “to share information about the federal government’s efforts to rebuild and revitalize rural America.” At the same time, the local residents could also express their perspectives and address their questions to the following four senior cabinet members:

  • Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Tom Vilsack, Secreatry of Agriculture
  • Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor
  • Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veteran Affairs.

What’s mysterious?

Mystery of HIV vaccine failure deepens
What went wrong with the once very promising vaccine against HIV? Remember the STEP trial which was prematurely halted in 2007 because it seemed to actual increase rather than reduce the risk of HIV infection? Researchers are continuing to unravel the riddle that made the vaccine fail by following up the patients who receive the vaccine. The major hypothesis at that time was more sensitivity of some patients to adenovirus %, a modified cold virus from which the HIV vaccine was made from. However, recent results seem to rule out the cold virus vulnerability theory. According to STEP trial investigator Larry Corey

“The role that [adenovirus 5] immunity plays has taken a back seat to the role that lack of circumcision has played, and also, to some extent, to the role that genital herpes plays,” Corey said. “The issues are getting increasingly more complex as time goes on.”

What’s new?

Web Site and Toll-free Line Will Help Unemployed Workers Appeal Denials of COBRA Premium Assistance Under Recovery Act
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a new website last week “where certain unemployed workers may request expedited review of a denial by their former employers of eligibility for COBRA premium assistance under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).” Most Americans are health-insured through their employers and involuntary termination leaves them without coverage. The website (www.ContinuationCoverage.net) plus a toll-free helpline (1-866-400-6689) will “help displaced workers maintain health care coverage for themselves and their families.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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