Medicare has moved to the center of this year’s presidential campaign for a single overriding reason: shrinking the nation’s long-term government deficit demands dealing with health care costs. No one – left, center or right – disagrees with that analysis. What they also agree on is that limiting health care’s inexorable growth will require cutting future payments to those who deliver care – the doctors and hospitals, the nursing homes and ...

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The Supreme Court’s imminent decision on the Affordable Care Act will trigger a political firestorm whether they accept the legislation in its entirety, throw out every page of the 906-page bill or do something in between, which is the most likely outcome. If the high court follows the polls, it probably will rule the requirement that individuals purchase insurance – the mandate – is unconstitutional but leave the rest of “Obamacare” ...

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Julie Gralow, an oncologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, recently prescribed an exciting new therapy for a 60-year-old woman with metastatic breast cancer. Three-and-a-half years into her battle against the disease, the patient had already exhausted three different anti-estrogen therapies, each of which only put a temporary check on the spreading tumors. The newly prescribed drug, Novartis’ Afinitor, is one of the recently approved targeted therapies that have ...

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The inspector general of HHS recently reported that nearly half of the anti-psychotic drugs fed to the demented elderly in nursing homes are inappropriately prescribed. That’s about one in fourteen nursing home residents. Forget about cost, which is over a quarter billion dollars a year.  “Government, taxpayers, nursing home residents as well as their families and caregivers should be outraged and seek solutions,” wrote Daniel R. Levinson, the HHS I.G. wrote ...

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Anyone who thinks America has the best health care system in the world ought to take a look at its miserable record on caring for end stage renal disease patients on dialysis. About one of every five people who go on dialysis dies in the first year here, compared to less than one in seven in Europe and one in sixteen in Japan. Even after adjusting for age, gender, race ...

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Here are a few facts to enliven the next public discussion about death panels. An analysis of Medicare claims by researchers at Dartmouth University found that nationwide nearly one in three cancer patients died in hospitals or in intensive care, the most expensive form of end-of-life care and contrary to most patients’ wishes. Nearly half are not ...

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ProPublica.org did some interesting frontrunning on the physician payment national database that will become operable sometime around 2013 as part of health care reform. In the first of a series of stories that has been picked up by several mainstream media outlets, the New York-based investigative journalism non-profit culled all the physician payments that have been publicly posted by seven drug companies to date. It aggregated the dollars to ...

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The Dartmouth Atlas of Health is once again throwing a harsh spotlight on McAllen, Texas. This time the Mexican border town has the highest rate of leg amputations in the nation, a new report released recently showed. McAllen's rate was ten times the rate of Provo, Utah, which had the lowest rate of leg amputations among the Medicare eligible population. The national average was one-third of McAllen's rate. McAllen became notorious earlier ...

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The National Press Foundation is sponsoring a four-day, all expenses paid trip to Washington for 15 reporters to learn how to improve their coverage of cancer issues. Pfizer is funding the seminar. Former University of Minnesota journalism professor Gary Schwitzer writes:

Even if National Press Foundation staff choose the speakers and set the agenda, even if the Pfizer "guy never even showed up" last year, even if one reporter doesn't recall Pfizer ...

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"Why golf," my friends often ask. They, like too many Americans, assume it is a sport for the country club set, and have a hard time fathoming why someone like me -- liberal, somewhat intellectual, decidedly anti-elitist -- would passionately embrace the game. My answer is always brief and direct. When I was 35, I tore my right knee's anterior cruciate ligament during one of my twice-weekly pick-up basketball games in ...

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