Advocates: Disabled take huge hit under GOP health reform

Advocates for the disabled say the House Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act seriously threatens some of the most vulnerable Americans.

The website DisabilityScoop reports that advocates say the bill threatens home- and community-based services and other supports that people with developmental disabilities rely upon.

Photo: Joshua Zader/Creative Commons

“The American Health Care Act shows callous and dangerous disregard for the well-being of people with disabilities and their families and erases decades of progress,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, an organization that service people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The House passed the bill 217 to 213, allowing President Donald Trump and Republicans to do a victory lap that they had finally succeeded in destroying Obamacare. The measure though was roundly criticized by doctors, hospital and senior groups. It must still pass the U.S. Senate, which gave it a lukewarm response and promised to address its more draconian measures.

While the disabled take a hit, the most wealthiest Americans are big winners with the new legislation as it delivers a big tax cut the would redistribute billions of dollars to the upper tier.

 

How does it hurt the disabled? The many groups who represent them say the bill would institute a per capita cap for Medicaid. This means the federal government would offer a fixed amount of money for each beneficiary.

“These huge cuts and caps will likely put pressure on states to cut home- and community-based waiver services, especially those that are ‘optional,’ like personal care services and therapies,” said Kim Musheno, chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a coalition of disability advocacy groups.

Schools also would be affected by the Medicaid shift because they are currently able to seek reimbursement for a variety of services provided to disabled children to a tune of $4 billion annually. That means money to reimburse schools for speech and occupational therapy, specialized playground equipment, and even wheelchairs is now in jeopardy.

Advocates for the disabled say House Republicans would allow states to no longer consider schools as eligible Medicaid providers.

To read all of the story by DisabilityScoop click here.

 

Congress deals vape industry another blow – but battle far from over

A provision to protect mom-and-pop vape shops from an industry-destroying FDA regulation died in the current budget battle between President Donald Trump and the Democrats.

The Democrats were intent on killing any of Trump’s “poison pills” in the current budget deal, and while most of the attention was on the president’s border wall — you know the one Mexico was going to pay for — the provision to protect the vape industry became collateral damage.

The Cole-Bishop Amendment would have restricted the Food & Drug”s deeming” regulations to e-cigarette products sold as of Aug. 8, 2016 that fails to grandfather in existing products, whether it be devices or liquids. To get FDA approval for each product could cost millions of dollars and put many companies out of business, the industry says.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a statement that death of Cole-Bishop “delivers critical victories for America’s kids and health over the tobacco industry by rejecting proposals to greatly weaken FDA oversight of electronic cigarettes and cigars and slash funding for the CDC’s programs to reduce tobacco use.”

But while American health officials deride electronic cigarettes, there is little evidence that they are even remotely as deadly as traditional tobacco.

In England, health officials have promoted vaping and electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, but in the U.S. there has been a concerted effort to rein in the hundreds of small businesses that have sprouted up around the industry.

The vaping industry says the reason is clear: they take away profits not only from Big Tobacco, but the pharmaceutical industry peddling cessation patches and gums, as well as the government that heavily taxes cigarettes.

Read the Palm Beach Post’s investigation into whether health officials claims on vaping are legit by clicking here. 

Greg Conley of the American Vaping Industry vows the fight to roll back FDA regulations is far from over.

Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Industry, says the fight is far from over with a separate bill, HR 1136, sponsored by Democrats that mimics Cole-Bishop.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has also introduced HR 2194, The Cigarette Smoking Reduction & Electronic Vapor Alternatives Act.

“This budget is done with, but they need to come back in October and pass the FY 2018 budget,” he said. “The appropriations committees will likely start on that again soon and we will be pushing for Cole-Bishop or similar language to again be included.”

Nick Molina, CEO of Miami-based VaporFi.

In the meantime, Conley warns politicians who carry water for Big Tobacco against the vaping industry. He said if Democrats want to motivate millennial voters to come out to vote against the party, then dare to oppose measures to protect this alternative to traditional tobacco.

Nick Molina, CEO of Miami-based VaporFi, said while last week was disappointing, there are several avenues for the industry to pursue still in Congress.

“In addition to a handful of lawsuits filed against the FDA that are working themselves through the legal system, there is the bill introduced last week by Rep. Duncan Hunter,” he said. “That bill places e-cigarettes in a new category for harm-reduction products to move people off of tobacco-containing cigarettes.”

Polls: Support for Obamacare hits all-time high

Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday that the Trump Administration will end “America’s Obamacare nightmare.”

But it appears more and more Americans don’t view the Affordable Care Act the same way as Republicans in Washington D.C.

President Trump and Republicans have promised to repeal Obamacare but have been subject to backlash when they head back home to talk to voters at town halls.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, in its latest Health Tracking Poll, found support for the insurance safety net at an all-time high. It’s survey found that 48 percent of Americans view the law favorably, compared to 42 percent — the highest level of favorability measured since the tracking started in 2010.

Voters who say they are registered independents contributed to the boost, half of whom view Obamacare favorably compared to 39 percent who don’t.

FILE - President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act as Marcelas Owens, 11, left, whose mother died lacking insurance, looks on, in Washington, March 23, 2010. The Affordable Care Act has shifted the nation's baseline expectations for how health care should work. With the law on the precipice of repeal, public opinion has suddenly tipped in its favor. (Doug Mills/ The New York Times)
President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act on, in Washington, March 23, 2010.

And the Kaiser poll doesn’t seem to be an outlier. The Pew Research Center found 54 percent of Americans approve of the ACA — which is also the highest level record by Pew.

To read more on the Obamacare polls read CNN’s by clicking here. 

Florida bill eliminates considering community need for hospital expansion

 

When it comes to highly specialized hospital programs, practice makes perfect.

The intricate ballet of say operating on an infant’s heart means hospitals with such programs need the patient pool limited so they can be proficient.  As a result, few have such a program.

This is why when competitors say they want to establish a specialized unit they must obtain a certificate of need. It may sound bureaucratic but the certificate of need tests whether a community actually needs a hospital to expand.

St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 5, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 5, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Gov. Rick Scott and some legislators once again want to blow up the law that would make it necessary for hospitals to prove there is a need in the community for a service or another hospital. The result could be a free-for-all in a hospital competition that is already cut-throat in Florida.

Governor Rick Scott holds a brief press conference at Palm Beach International Airport announcing his order for Florida National Guard recruiters to work from nearby armories after attacks in Tennessee on July 18, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Governor Rick Scott wants to eliminate the need for hospitals to prove a community needs them to expand.

The News Service of Florida reports that lining up with the governor are House leaders, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. They filed a proposal last week that would eliminate the state’s “certificate of need” regulatory process.

The News Service story reported that the certificate of need process determines whether hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities are built.

But SB 676 also says that the regulation the restriction be removed for hospitals looking to improve or expand a public facility.

Under the process, the state Agency for Health Administration reviews projects and determining whether they should be allowed to move forward.

Scott and House Republican leaders have failed to get this measure passed the Senate previously.

“By eliminating the state’s restrictive CON process we’ll increase competition and drive down the cost of health care for Floridians,” Bradley said in a prepared statement.

“For years, this cumbersome process has been used to block the expansion of facilities and restrict competition. So, in addition to driving costs, we should also see a significant economic impact in terms of the creation of new jobs by removing this barrier.”

 

Health care refugees: Couple flees Florida after Medicaid nightmare

A Boynton Beach couple said they left Florida – a state they loved – because they could not get adequate health care for their ailing 5-year-old daughter through Medicaid.
CNN’s series on health care refugees started this week with Kim and Richard Muszynski. The couple in September packed their bags and took their ailing 5-year-old daughter, Abby, to Colorado.
Abby was born with a missing a piece of her brain and is subject to violent seizures.
Like Abby, nearly early half of all children in Florida get their health care through the state-run health insurance Medicaid. Abby ended up on Medicaid when Kim Muszynski left her job – and lost the health insurance that came with it – to care for her daughter full-time.
Abby ended up on Medicaid when Kim Muszynski left her job – and lost the health insurance that came with it — to care for her daughter full-time.
Florida Medicaid refused to pay for lifesaving medicines and initially denied payment for a wheelchair. CNN reported. Sometimes Medicaid took so long to pay some of her health care providers that they refused to treat Abby, CNN reported.
Sometimes Medicaid took so long to pay some of her health care providers that they refused to treat Abby, according to the cable news network.
The Agency for Health Care Administration, which runs Medicaid for Florida, disagreed with the CNN report. “The state has done everything in its power to support this family,” said Mallory McManus,  spokeswoman for the agency.
A federal judge ruled in a civil suit that 2015 that Florida had violated the law by underpaying doctors. The state later reached a settlement.
“Florida’s Medicaid program is currently operating at the highest level of quality in its history,” McManus said.
abruzzo
State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo
AHCA and CNN also have clashed in the past.
AHCA criticized the cable news network for its story on the pediatric heart surgery program at St. Mary’s Medical Center.
AHCA characterized the June 2015 story as “sensationalized reporting.”
St. Mary’s program closed down shortly after the story ran.
The network is currently being sued for defamation by the surgeon who established the program.
Now CNN is back in South Florida reporting on the Muszynskis.
In February, the family got word she was being kicked off Medicaid by the state of Florida until state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo interceded, CNN reported.
The couple was told by the state Abby was dropped because of a computer glitch but still the family had trouble getting coverage for her. So, they decided it was time to leave Florida.
To read the whole CNN story on the Muszynskis click here.

Study: Medical mistakes third leading cause of death

When you think of leading causes of death, cancer, heart disease, maybe car accidents come to mind.

But a new study shows the cure may be more deadly than whatever ails you.

A new study finds – and not for the first time – that medical mistakes could be the third leasing cause of death, according to this CNN report on the findings in the latest edition of BMJ.

The study suggests that medical errors may kill more people than lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and bronchitis do. That would place medical errors right behind heart disease and cancer.

635482780474400503-Scissors-in-chest-photo-2-
A new study finds that medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

The doctors estimate there are at least 251,454 deaths due to medical errors annually in the United States. And that’s not counting home and nursing home deaths.

The number is also greater than the one cited in a 1999 study from the Institute of Medicine that put the number in the 44,000 to 98,000 range.

“We have to make an improvement in patient safety a real priority,” said Dr. Martin Makary, a professor of surgery and health policy and management at Johns Hopkins.

To read the whole CNN story click here.