This year, Americans are leaving 460 million vacation days on the table - and based on the volume of submissions to this week's Health Wonk Review, I am estimating that health policy wonks make up about 10 percent of that total since they are obviously hard at work. Either that, or our contributors have just gotten very, very good at beach blogging. Let's hope that's the case, because too much work and too little vacation can be very deleterious to one's overall health and well-being, and if there's one thing we don't need, it's a lot of unhealthy wonkers putting more pressure on our already overtaxed health care system.
This week, we have a quite an extensive range of topics and posts for your perusal. In the interests of maximizing my own beach time, I present them to you without further ado.
What are Obama and McCain saying about health care? Jason Shafrin of Healthcare Economist offers a rundown on the candidates' policy positions with a handy side-by-side comparison on various issues.
And while we're talking politics, few of our regular contributors have posted about the return of the infamous Harry and Louise duo. And as blogger Louise of Colorado Health Insurance Insider (no relation!) notes, their return just happens to coincide with next week's convention in Denver. In What A Difference Fifteen Years Makes, she observes that where they once talked about the evils of rationed health care in a government run system and how "having choices we don't like is no choice at all," now they're talking about people without health insurance "falling through the cracks."
Brian Klepper has also noted the chastened and more sober return of Harry and Louise. He identifies the five prominent sponsors of the ad series and discusses their various motivations beyond their common goal of getting the next President and Congress to focus on meaningful health care solutions. He notes that unless the nation's most influential power brokers mobilize to make changes in policy, it's not likely to happen.
David Williams of Health Business Blog has been keeping a wary eye on his favorite newspaper, The Wall Street Journal watching for any sign of deterioration in the Rupert Murdoch era. Instead, he finds much to praise in the state of its journalism as evidenced by the WSJ's recent analysis of Boston Scientific's Liberte stent study.
The recent Black Hat conference revealed significant Internet security holes opening questions about issues related to electronic health records (EHRs) and patient health records (PHRs). HealthBlawger David Harlow looks at some of the cost-benefit ratios and concludes that EHRs and PHRs ought to be used to provide better health care and the security issues can be tolerated.
Bob Laszewski of Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review takes a look at a recent ruling by the British National Health Service's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which found that four expensive cancer drugs aren't effective enough to pay for. Bob thinks that the next time any of us suggest that making better cost/quality decisions is an obvious next step to take, we should remember this example of a real cost/quality decision.
Roy Poses of Health Care Renewal gives us the scoop on a recent medical school tobacco funding controversy that resulted in the early retirement of the president of Virginia Commonwealth University. It seems there was a little matter of secret research contracts with tobacco company Philip Morris, which afforded PM control over the results. Roy suggests that the change might prompt VCU leadership's to reconsider its close relationship with a company whose products are the antithesis of the universities' health mission.
Could a slightly deranged researcher kill five people and terrorize the nation single-handedly? And if so, doesn't this raise important public policy questions regarding the entire multi-billion-dollar biodefense effort? Merril Goozner of GoozNews recently spoke with Dr. Richard Ebright of Rutgers University about the government's "lone madman" theory and the real bioterror threat.
Len Nichols of New America Blogs hopes that the media will play a substantive role in ensuring that the candidates' health policy positions don't get consumed by day-to-day campaign politics. He suggests that journalists should focus more effort on furthering the employer tax exclusion debate.
In his post Privacy, please, Neil Versel of Healthcare IT Blog provides highlights of the recent HIPAA Summit, with particular attention to debates on privacy issues and enforcement/lack of enforcement by the Office of Civil Rights. Interesting to learn that not a single civil monetary penalty has been assessed in the five years the rules have been in effect.
It does not necessarily follow that facilitating access to health care will substantially improve population health. Daniel Goldberg of Medical Humanities Blog cites the abject failure of HIV policy in the U.S. as an example: AIDS has already killed more Americans than the combined total of combat deaths in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
And what's a post on naked kids doing in the family-friendly HWR? InsureBlog's Bob Vineyard explains how trying to cover uninsured children has some unexpected, and unwelcome, consequences.
Brian Schwartz of Patient Power suggests that the best defense of Health Savings Accounts is not that they promote wise spending and bring costs down but that they are a step toward a more ethical tax policy.
We tend to be U.S.-centric here at HWR, so we welcome news from our northern neighbor. Sam Solomon of Canadian Medicine conducts an interview with Dr. Brian Day, Canadian Medical Association's outgoing president who advocated a greater role for private insurance in healthcare in Canada, on what he was able to accomplish in his tenure.
Jaan Sidorov of Disease Management Care Blog notes the recent good news about the Physician Group Practice Demo, and wonders if participants weren't really using programs similar to disease management? This question and others inspired Jaan to pen some alternate lyrics for a popular Led Zepplin song. He invites readers to take a break from all this wonky seriousness and sing along.
At Health Access Weblog, Anthony Wright posts about a recent study on increased ER overcrowding which finds an increase in ER use by the *insured,* and points to a solution: ensuring health plans offer adequate networks and timely access to care.
Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters looks at the reasons why people are uninsured and considers at what price people will buy health insurance.
The folks posting at The Health Care Blog have web 2.0 on their minds. In Gaming for health, James Cooley explores the ways that modern interactive video and gaming content might fit in with some of the new health information and fitness promotion tools being pondered as part of Health 2.0. And Greg Pawelski offers an example of how Web 2.0 is playing out in a transparent cancer clinical trial where patients are treated in real time.
Shahid Shah, The Healthcare IT Guy has updated his review of the PhreesiaPad, one of the first consumer devices created specifically to check in patients, and likes it even more today than when we first saw it back in late 2005.
Here at Workers Comp Insider, we took a look at the issue of suicide and compensability under workers comp in the light of a recent Nevada Supreme Court ruling.