To screen or not to screen….

May 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Lots of older Americans are undergoing colon cancer tests they don’t need, putting themselves at risk and costing Medicare money it shouldn’t be spending. But when your doctor refers you for screening, don’t you go?

And what happens when screening recommendations change but medical practice doesn’t?

Read more…

Categories: Health care, Media fail

No surprise…Simpson’s been clueless for a long time

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Thanks to tireless Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler, we are reminded that ex-Sen. Alan Simpson has been parading his unfamiliarity with the facts about Social Security for a long time.

Somerby links to a Huffington Post item from June 2010 transcribing a back-and-forth between Simpson and pro-Social Security activist Alex Lawson.  Says Somerby,

[R]ead the transcript of Simpson’s interview with Lawson. If we take Simpson’s statements at face value, that interview showed that Simpson knows almost nothing about the Social Security system. But people! So what? Who cared?

Did anyone in the mainstream press corps react to Simpson’s gong-show last year? If they did, they did so quietly. Indeed, we’ve seen many liberals slam Simpson for this week’s ridiculous session with Grim. But we have seen no one recall last year’s disaster, an interview which was widely ignored by various mainstream elites.

The Lawson conversation featured Simpson making factually inaccurate statements about life expectancy and retirement age that he repeated in his recent interview with Ryan Grim (see previous post, “Simpson is a know-nothing blowhard.”)

Bill Sez: Take it away, Bob Somerby:

[T]here is no expectation of competence for our major elites. There is no sanction—none at all—for complete, astonishing ignorance. (Beyond that, there is no expectation of even modestly honest behavior.) Elites like Simpson are allowed to blunder ahead, even after they’ve made it clear that they (apparently) have no idea what they’re actually doing.

Surprise! Alan Simpson is a know-nothing blowhard

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

He may have co-chaired a Presidential commission on deficit reduction, but former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson is largely unfamiliar with actual facts about the Social Security program and about key demographic trends in the U.S.

Like many members of the Pain (for others) Caucus, Simpson “knows” what he knows and refuses to accept corrections of his false perceptions and assumptions. After all, his lifestyle or well-being will never be diminished by his recommendations to cut benefits or increase the retirement age. He’s a perfect representative of the species Beltway Blowhard.

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If crops fail in the field, will anyone notice?

May 10, 2011 Leave a comment

If global warming is reducing yields of important food crops in other parts of the world, but not in North America, does that help explain climate-change denialism in the U.S.?

According to a new study, the U.S., Canada and Mexico have largely escaped the negative effects global warming seems to be having on world wheat and corn production.

Outside of North America, however, most major producing countries were found to have experienced some decline in wheat and corn (or maize) yields related to rising global temperatures.

Read more…

Money makes the (medical) world go ’round

May 7, 2011 Leave a comment

“Nearly half of the $16 million collected by a professional society for heart specialists in 2010 came from makers of drugs, catheters and defibrillators used to control abnormal heart rhythms, according to data on The Heart Rhythm Society’s website, ProPublica and USA Today report.

That’s not all.  “Twelve of 18 directors are paid speakers or consultants for the companies, one holds stock, and the outgoing president disclosed research ties,” the report added.  Of course, the docs and the society leadership deny this is significant. (H/t The Incidental Economist)

Read more…

Bring me the world’s smallest violin

May 6, 2011 Leave a comment

American CEO’s have to be some of the world’s biggest crybabies. According to the Rochester Business Journal, the latest boo-hoo-hoo fest shows business execs ranking New York as the second-worst state in which to do business, based on a survey reported by CEO Magazine.

So why the violins? Because according to the AP, “CEOs at the nation’s largest companies were paid better last year than they were in 2007, when the economy was booming, the stock market set a record high and unemployment was roughly half what it is today.” Recession, what recession?

Let’s dig into the survey first. Here are the 5 lowest-ranked states: California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan. And here are the 5 states the CEOs love: Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia. Does anyone notice a pattern? They really dislike heavily populated states that are struggling due to the ongoing Great Recession — a near-collapse triggered by Big Finance malfeasance, you may recall.

Explaining the stuffed-shirt cry-athon, Chief Executive CEO Marshall Cooper said, “Today’s soak the rich mentality hits business leaders especially hard. CEOs and entrepreneurs vote with their feet, and also pack up jobs and investment with them when they leave.”

Times are so tough for these jokers. The median pay package for the CEO of a company in the S&P 500 rose to $9 million, a full 24% higher than the year before. AP’s Rachel Beck reports:

Executives were showered with more pay of all types — salaries, bonuses, stock, options and perks. The biggest gains came in cash bonuses: Two-thirds of executives got a bigger one than they had in 2009, some more than three times as big.

Are these guys taking The Donald as their role model? Non-stop blowhard antics, cries and moans about Democratic presidents and governors, barely-veiled threats to move their business to some low-tax haven…they seem to be drinking a little too much Ayn Rand koolaid.

Bill Sez: Remember, Xerox moved its corporate HQ from Rochester to Connecticut years ago so top execs could avoid paying state income taxes. This greed mania has infected C-suites forever. But let’s not confuse it with principle.

Shifting Medicare payments from quantity to quality

May 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Medicare is preparing to begin paying hospitals for the quality — not the quantity — of the care they provide. Not surprisingly, hospitals are less than delighted.

According to the rules published last week, in 2012 Medicare will start setting aside 1% of total hospital payments to create a pool from which it would pay bonuses to hospitals that have the best scores — or that show the most improvement — on various measures of quality care. In 2016, the bonus pool would increase to 2% of total hospital payments. (I’m linking to the Kaiser Health News story for its comprehensiveness and overall fairness.)

Ashish Jha, a Harvard School of Public Health professor, told KHN:

“In many ways, it’s a watershed moment for the health care system. It’s a modest amount of money and not something that’s going to radically change the way we pay for hospital care in America. But it’s a really important step toward paying for better care and not just for more care.”

70% of the bonuses will be focused on 12 measures of how well hospitals apply clinical guidelines to patient care: giving anti-clotting drugs to heart attack patients, or giving antibiotics to patients about to undergo surgery. The hospitals seem untroubled by this part of the program; they should be able to manage the treatment process.

But the remaining 30% of the bonus pool will be distributed based on patients’ satisfaction with the care they received: how clean were the rooms, how well did doctors and nurses communicate, how effectively pain was controlled. Hospitals don’t like this part.

Hospital groups had unsuccessfully pushed federal officials to reduce the influence that patient views would have on their payments, arguing that the surveys didn’t always reflect reality and would penalize hospitals in some regions where patients are less forthcoming with praise.

Eventually, Medicare will also use measures that track patient outcomes, not just hospital processes. After all, treatments should achieve positive results, shouldn’t they?

Bill Sez: As a retired health-care worker, I understand…and sympathize with…the discomfort about tying payments to patient satisfaction. It can be really, really difficult to improve satisfaction scores, because you have to get patients to rate you “4” instead of “3” or “5” instead of “4.” Still, there is a substantial knowledge base about health-care quality improvement, so it’s not impossible.

Categories: Health care