Category: Health Care


Source: WSJ

A federal judge has ruled that — as claimed by the state of Virginia — the new health-care overhaul law violates the Constitution when it requires most adults to purchase health insurance.

However, the judge said the ruling applies only to the individual mandate and provisions that hinge on it, not the law in its entirety. Nor would he grant an injunction that would immediately suspend the law or the individual mandate.

Here’s the ruling itself. Here’s the WSJ story on the decision. And here’s how the WSJ Law Blog broke down the judge’s ruling.

In a blog post, the White House said it disagreed with the ruling and that the Department of Justice is considering its appeal options.

The individual mandate is one of the law’s most unpopular provisions. But a post-election poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that even among the 49% who want all or part of the health law repealed, a majority wants to hang onto the provision that guarantees insurance regardless of health status. Proponents of the mandate say it’s hard to figure out how to have universal coverage without a mandate that everyone be insured.

The White House has been pointing towards court victories of its own. Most were procedural, but a few were on the merits. Still, the end game for all of this is likely a hearing before the Supreme Court. The WSJ quotes an administration official as saying that “we are confident that this law is constitutional, and we are confident that the Supreme Court when, and if, it hears this case will agree that it’s constitutional.”

Continue Reading…

Source: Natural News

In yet another significant blow to the TSA’s naked body scanners, the president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA) issued a letter urging all pilots to opt out of the naked body scanners, also known as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT).

“Backscatter AIT devices now being deployed produce ionizing radiation, which could be harmful to your health,” wrote Allied Pilots Association president Dave Bates. He then went on to add:

“We are exposed to radiation every day on the job. For example, a typical Atlantic crossing during a solar flare can expose a pilot to radiation equivalent to 100 chest X-rays per hour. Requiring pilots to go through the AIT [naked body scanner] means additional radiation exposure. I share our pilots’ concerns about this additional radiation exposure and plan to recommend that our pilots refrain from going through the AIT. We already experience significantly higher radiation exposure than most other occupations, and there is mounting evidence of higher-than-average cancer rates as a consequence.”

He goes on to call for airline pilots to be exempted from security screening.

Air travelers get the same radiation

Air travelers subjecting themselves to the TSA naked body scanners are exposed to the same radiation as pilots who are scanned by those machines, of course. The ionizing radiation emitted by the body scanners is concentrated on the skin, says Dr David Brenner, head of Columbia University’s center for radiological research. And it could cause skin cancer in a small but significant number of people who may be susceptible to gene mutations (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/a…).

Although the amount of radiation emitted by these machines is considerably lower than the radiation received while flying at high altitude, this is “artificial radiation,” and by that I mean it is radiation that’s focused by a man-made machine rather than propagating as ambient background radiation. And when radiation is focused on a target subject through a man-made machine, things can go wrong. How many medical CT scanners have been found to be mis-calibrated, operating at radiation doses that were orders of magnitude higher than their safe levels? This happens every day in hospitals across the world today, and these CT scanners are operated by professionally-trained radiology experts! (http://www.naturalnews.com/028621_C…)

The APA doesn’t want its pilots going through the TSA’s naked body scanners precisely because these machines add a radiation burden to your body. And for what? For the illusion of airport security?

Do you realize what kind of intense background checks pilots have to go through in order to fly a passenger airliner? They are subjected to rigorous physical and psychological testing as well as criminal history background checks. Pilots are not a risk to air security. To treat them like terrorists at security checkpoints is a demeaning yet useless waste of taxpayer dollars.

Clearly, the whole point of subjecting pilots to these demeaning pat-downs is to remind them they all live in a police state. It has nothing whatsoever to do with actual security. (Have you ever heard of a PILOT hijacking a passenger airliner in the US?)

And of course that’s the whole point of subjecting air travelers to naked body scanners, too: All the sheeple have to be reminded from time to time that they are under the control of government agents. Hence the “you’re under arrest” position of the arms that travelers are told to assume when passing through the naked body scanners. This body position, with both hands held over your head, gets the public used to assuming the “I surrender” position when confronted with authority figures. It’s really more of a training program to get the public indoctrinated for yet more police state tactics down the road.

Fortunately, more and more people are now opting out of the naked body scans. Sure, they get felt up by TSA agents who grope their crotches, breasts and buttocks (http://www.naturalnews.com/030100_n…), but at least they don’t get subjected to yet another dose of ionizing radiation that can contribute to skin cancer.

Don’t you find it fascinating, by the way, that the U.S. government tells everybody to avoid tanning salons because they claim “UV radiation promotes skin cancer,” yet when it comes to airport security, they want to subject you to a far more harmful wavelength of radiation “for your safety” ? (X-Rays are far more harmful than ultraviolet light.)

I guess radiation is all okay as long as it serves the police state interests of the federal government.

Source: Live Science

The good news: Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup is at a 20-year low.

The bad news: The folks who make this insidious sweetener aim to rebrand it to boost sales.

High-fructose corn syrup is cheaper than cane sugar and acts as a food preservative, too, so the food industry loves the stuff. But it’s been added to so many foods — yogurt, cereal, bread, drinks and even condiments — that researchers have fingered it as a culprit in the obesity epidemic.

The Corn Refiners Association has in the past marketed high-fructose corn syrup as natural. Our Bad Medicine columnist Christopher Wanjek argues otherwise:

“High-fructose corn syrup could be all-natural if cornstarch happened to fall into a vat of alpha-amylase, soak there for a while, then trickle into another vat of glucoamylase, get strained to remove the Aspergillus fungus likely growing on top, and then find its way into some industrial-grade D-xylose isomerase. This funny coincidence didn’t happen in nature until the 1970s in a lab somewhere in Japan.”

Now the Corn Refiners Association plans to ask the FDA to allow high-fructose corn syrup to be called simple “corn sugar” instead, AP reports. And already the group is advertising it with that name. The adds also claims there’s no difference between corn sugar and cane sugar. Hmm.

Source: WSJ

High fructose corn syrup, the sugar alternative used to sweeten sodas, cookies, condiments and cereals, is beginning to lose some ground in the packaged-food industry.

More big-name food and beverage products—including Kraft Foods Inc.’s Wheat Thins —have begun dropping the ingredient in favor of sugar, despite a big difference in cost, saying they are responding to consumer preferences for ingredients perceived as more natural.

ConAgra Foods Inc. in May will start replacing the sweetener with sugar in its Hunt’s tomato ketchup. “That’s what consumers are looking for—simpler ingredient listings and ingredients they are familiar with,” ConAgra spokeswoman Teresa Paulsen said. ConAgra said consumers preferred the taste of the new product in tests.

In recent months, Kraft has taken high fructose corn syrup out of the recipes for its 100-calorie pack Nabisco cookies, Wheat Thins crackers and most of its namesake salad dressings. With Wheat Thins, Kraft said it saw discussions on its Web site on the subject of high fructose corn syrup and received comments directly from consumers, pushing it to remove the sweetener.

PepsiCo Inc. is in the process of replacing high fructose corn syrup in Gatorade products with sugar and other sweeteners. Pepsi said its research showed many althletes preferred the idea of Gatorade without the syrup.

Many consumers worry that HFCS is worse for them than sugar. Some critics call high fructose corn syrup an artificial sweetener, as it is heavily processed, even though many experts say there is little nutritional difference between it and sugar.

The move away from HFCS, combined with lower consumption of soft drinks, has weighed on U.S. sales of the sweetener at manufacturers such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Corn Products International Inc.

Archer Daniels Midland, which declined to comment, doesn’t break out sales of U.S. high fructose corn syrup. On a recent conference call, however, the company said U.S. volumes for the corn-sweetener industry have been lower, reflecting a drop in consumption of carbonated soft drinks. ADM said on the call that it is counting on better sales in markets such as Mexico to help offset declines in the U.S.

Corn Products International didn’t respond to calls on this subject.

Consumption of high fructose corn syrup fell 1.3% in 2009 in the U.S. from a year earlier, according to research firm Euromonitor.

The Corn Refiners Association has been running television ads that try to counter the perception that the syrup is inferior. On its Web site, http://www.sweetsurprise.com, the association says high fructose corn syrup “is simply a kind of corn sugar. It has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled similarly by the body.”

Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, said, “This is nothing more than a marketing gimmick,” referring to packaged-food companies that switch ingredients. “They’ve switched from one sugar to another,” Ms. Erickson said. She argues that eventually consumers will end up paying more.

Sales of high fructose syrup have been pressured for some years as many Americans have moved away from sodas, which are heavy users of the sweetener. But experts say that the sweetener’s prices have now also come under pressure in the U.S. amid the recent shifts by branded food and beverage makers. In the Midwest, high fructose corn syrup has been selling for 16.75 cents a pound on average, said Ron Sterk, editor of trade publication Milling and Baking News, down three cents from last year.

As they try to hold onto market share, companies shifting to sugar from HFCS say they aren’t raising prices for consumers despite their higher costs for raw materials.

Early this year, the price of sugar in the U.S averaged over $1,000 a ton compared to about $695 a ton for one variety of high fructose corn syrup, LMC International economist Nick Fereday said. He puts annual consumption of sugar at nine million tons in the U.S. and corn syrup at seven million.

In 2009, use of sugar in canned, bottled and frozen foods was flat from a year ago at 427,000 tons in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Years ago, high fructose corn syrup got some bad press. One piece of research in 2004 from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University and University of North Carolina raised questions about whether the syrup was playing a role in the national obesity epidemic.

One of the authors of that study, University of North Carolina profes

sor Barry Popkin, said that since then he and other researchers have concluded that regular sugar and high fructose corn syrup “have the same exact effect on obesity and diabetes and on heart disease. It’s not that one is better.”

More consumers are paying attention to sweeteners. Laurie Ledgard, a stay-at-home mother in Suffield, Conn., said she does look at the sugar contents and tries to avoid the syrup.

“If I have to have sugar, I’d rather have the natural sugar than high fructose corn syrup,” she said. Still, she acknowledges that “there is a devil in sugar as well, and you don’t want a lot of that either.”

Source: AP

Over and over in the health care debate, President Barack Obama said people who like their current coverage would be able to keep it.

But an early draft of an administration regulation estimates that many employers will be forced to make changes to their health plans under the new law. In just three years, a majority of workers — 51 percent — will be in plans subject to new federal requirements, according to midrange projections in the draft.

Republicans said Obama broke his promise. Employer groups were divided.

It’s more evidence that the law will raise costs, said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But the Business Roundtable — representing CEOs of major firms — saw encouraging signs of flexibility, though it’s withholding final judgment. Some experts believe increased regulation will lead to improved benefits for consumers.

“On the face of it, having consumer protections apply to all insurance plans could be a good thing for employees,” said Alex Vachon, an independent health policy consultant. “Technically, it’s actually improved coverage.”

The types of changes that employers could have to make include offering preventive care without copayments and instituting an appeals process for disputed claims that follows new federal guidelines. The law already requires all health plans to extend coverage to young adult children until they turn 26. Such incremental changes can nudge costs up.

The Obama administration said the draft regulation is an early version undergoing revision. Nonetheless, the leaked document was getting widespread interest Friday in lobbying firms that represent employers and insurance companies and on Capitol Hill.

“What we are getting here is a clear indication that most plans will have to change,” said James Gelfand, health policy director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “From an employer’s point of view that’s a bad thing. These changes, whether or not they’re good for consumers, are most certainly accompanied by a cost.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said it showed that Obama’s assurance that Americans would be able to keep the plans they currently have was “a myth” all along.

“Since its passage, Republican arguments against the bill have been repeatedly vindicated, even as the administration’s many promises about the bill have been called into question again and again,” McConnell said. “So Democrats may have passed this bill, but the debate is far from over.”

An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the rules are still being written, said the final version will uphold Obama’s promise, accommodating employers’ desire for flexibility while protecting consumers from runaway costs.

Employer provided coverage is the mainstay of the nation’s health insurance system and is expected to remain so even after the new health care law is fully phased in.

The main issue in the 83-page regulation is how to deal with what the government calls “grandfathered” health plans.

Those are plans that predated the health care law and are exempt from many, but not all, of its consumer protections. Lawmakers created the special category to deliver on Obama’s promise that people can keep the coverage they have if they like it.

But health plans change frequently. Premiums and copayments keep rising. Coverage is expanded for some services and restricted for others. Lawmakers asked regulators to spell out how much an employer can change a plan and still claim it to be grandfathered, exempting it from closer federal regulation.

Gelfand, the Chamber of Commerce expert, said the draft rules are too inflexible. Generally plans can lose their protected status by increasing copayments and deductibles above certain limits, and Gelfand said they’re too narrow.

But Maria Ghazal, health policy director for the Business Roundtable, said she saw signs that the administration is trying to be responsive to employers. For example, plans that only cover retirees would be exempt from the new regulatory requirements — an important clarification. “We think there is some recognition of the challenges ahead for employers,” she said.

How employers react to the coming changes will be critical. If many companies start dropping health care benefits, opting instead to pay the government a penalty, Democrats would face a political backlash. Whether there’s a tipping point ahead is still unclear.

Source: AP

More than 12,000 nurses walked off the job Thursday for a one-day strike at 14 Minnesota hospitals, a show of force being watched by many across the country as a test of how fiercely a new national nurses’ union can flex its muscle.

Nurses say they are being asked to care for too many patients at a time, and strict ratios are necessary to protect patient safety. The hospitals, all in the Minneapolis area, counter patients are safe and that the walkout is a headline-grabbing stunt to build membership and clout for the fledgling union.

About the same number of nurses had wanted a simultaneous strike in California over the same issues, but were blocked temporarily earlier this week by a San Francisco judge.

Labor experts say unlike other unions that might shy away from striking during a recession, nurses have certain job security because they are in demand and can’t be outsourced.

“Auto plants can be moved overseas, but it’s a lot harder to move health care treatment overseas,” said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute.

Vanderbilt University nursing professor Peter Buerhaus also noted a looming nurse shortage caused by aging baby boomers, increasing demand when about a third of today’s nurses are expected to retire in the next 10 years.

“Where are we going to get all these nurses?” he said. “We’re running out.”

The Minnesota nurses walked off the job at 7 a.m. and onto picket lines at several sites. At Abbott Northwestern Hospital near downtown Minneapolis, one nurse serenaded several hundred others by playing “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. Passing motorists honked horns, and red T-shirted nurses waved signs that read, “We care. For you” and “RNs protecting patients.”

Sue Stamness, a cardiology nurse at Abbott for 24 years, said patient safety was the nurses’ top concern.

“Nobody is listening to what we are saying,” Stamness said.

Though called the largest nurses’ strike in U.S. history by both the union and the hospitals, the effects were minimal. But they came at a cost: Hospitals hired 2,800 replacement nurses, called in extra non-unionized staff, reduced patient levels and some hospitals rescheduled elective surgeries.

Web advertisements from two large staffing agencies — Healthsource Global Staffing and U.S Nursing — said they were offering replacement nurses between $1,600 and $2,224 for one day of work and one day of orientation.

Dr. Penny Wheeler, chief clinical officer at Allina Hospitals and Clinics, said there were no reports of problems at any of the 14 hospitals. Wheeler said those hospitals would begin recalling their regular nurses Friday.

The Minnesota and California negotiations are the largest since the National Nurses United union formed in December. The union quickly adopted an aggressive slate of national negotiating principles, with a top goal of getting strict staffing ratios in each member local’s contract.

It’s an approach the California Nurses Association successfully lobbied into California law, beginning in 2004. The CNA, one of the founding members of the NNU, claims the number of licensed nurses in the state increased by 40 percent since it passed.

In just six months, the union’s simple message that more nurses means better patient care has found favor with stressed-out nurses frustrated with local representation or not previously unionized.

Bob Stalley, a nurse at the University of Chicago Medical Center, was among 1,130 nurses who voted last month to leave the Illinois Nurses Association for the NNU. He said nurses liked the NNU’s insistence of limits on the number of patients assigned to a single nurse — and its willingness to strike. The NNU has said it may try to reopen a labor contract signed in April.

The NNU cites research showing more nurses have meant fewer medical errors in California hospitals — and thus lowered medical costs. The Twin Cities hospitals dispute those claims and point to other research indicating strict ratios aren’t as successful. And they say the ratios wouldn’t give them the flexibility they need and would add unsustainable annual costs.

Several NNU leaders were in Minneapolis on Thursday touring picket lines.

NNU Co-President Jean Ross, a veteran Minnesota nurse, said nurses nationwide are facing the same issues as hospitals try to cut costs. She said they are being asked to work faster on sicker patients with less help.

She said if hospitals around the country don’t increase staffing, nurse strikes could become more common. “It is not that this is a tactic that nurses want to employ, it’s what the employers are forcing us into,” she said.

But neither Ross nor other NNU officials could say whether other job actions were imminent outside California and Minnesota.

Representatives of hospital groups in both states claim the national union is bent on provoking a high-profile strike to grow its membership.

“There is a wall being put up by the national nurses union that’s keeping us from settling these contracts,” said Maureen Schriner, spokeswoman for the 14 Minnesota hospitals. NNU Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro said the claim that the Minnesota nurses weren’t in charge of their own strike was “just an insult.”

The hospitals’ last proposal offers pay increases over the three-year contract of zero percent, 1 percent and 2 percent, with other increases for seniority. The union wants increases of 3.5 percent to 4 percent a year. The hospitals also want to cut pension benefits, which the union resists.

Full-time Minnesota nurses are paid an average $79,000 a year, or about $10,000 more than the national average. However, when figuring in that most nurses work part-time, the average Minnesota nurse makes about $62,000 a year, or $38 an hour.

Source: AP

A new analysis of U.S. health data links children’s attention-deficit disorder with exposure to common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables.

While the study couldn’t prove that pesticides used in agriculture contribute to childhood learning problems, experts said the research is persuasive.

“I would take it quite seriously,” said Virginia Rauh of Columbia University, who has studied prenatal exposure to pesticides and wasn’t involved in the new study.

More research will be needed to confirm the tie, she said.

Children may be especially prone to the health risks of pesticides because they’re still growing and they may consume more pesticide residue than adults relative to their body weight.

In the body, pesticides break down into compounds that can be measured in urine. Almost universally, the study found detectable levels: The compounds turned up in the urine of 94 percent of the children.

The kids with higher levels had increased chances of having ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a common problem that causes students to have trouble in school. The findings were published Monday in Pediatrics.

The children may have eaten food treated with pesticides, breathed it in the air or swallowed it in their drinking water. The study didn’t determine how they were exposed. Experts said it’s likely children who don’t live near farms are exposed through what they eat.

“Exposure is practically ubiquitous. We’re all exposed,” said lead author Maryse Bouchard of the University of Montreal.

She said people can limit their exposure by eating organic produce. Frozen blueberries, strawberries and celery had more pesticide residue than other foods in one government report.

A 2008 Emory University study found that in children who switched to organically grown fruits and vegetables, urine levels of pesticide compounds dropped to undetectable or close to undetectable levels.

Because of known dangers of pesticides in humans, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits how much residue can stay on food. But the new study shows it’s possible even tiny, allowable amounts of pesticide may affect brain chemistry, Rauh said.

The exact causes behind the children’s reported ADHD though are unclear. Any number of factors could have caused the symptoms and the link with pesticides could be by chance.

The new findings are based on one-time urine samples in 1,139 children and interviews with their parents to determine which children had ADHD. The children, ages 8 to 15, took part in a government health survey in 2000-2004.

As reported by their parents, about 150 children in the study either showed the severe inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity characteristic of ADHD, or were taking drugs to treat it.

The study dealt with one common type of pesticide called organophosphates. Levels of six pesticide compounds were measured. For the most frequent compound detected, 20 percent of the children with above-average levels had ADHD. In children with no detectable amount in their urine, 10 percent had ADHD.

“This is a well conducted study,” said Dr. Lynn Goldman of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former EPA administrator.

Relying on one urine sample for each child, instead of multiple samples over time, wasn’t ideal, Goldman said.

The study provides more evidence that the government should encourage farmers to switch to organic methods, said Margaret Reeves, senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network, an advocacy group that’s been working to end the use of many pesticides.

“It’s unpardonable to allow this exposure to continue,” Reeves said

Source: Alliance for Natural Health USA

The American public is becoming fed up with “sneak” provisions tacked onto largely unrelated bills that are likely to pass. A glaring recent example was tacking onto the Healthcare bill a complete change to student loans. Often the “sneak” provision is so buried that hardly anyone is aware of it.

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 4173), recently passed in the House of Representatives, includes language going far beyond finance inserted by Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA). This language could be used for an end run around the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), the legislation that governs dietary supplement regulation by the FDA.

The Senate is expected to vote on its finance “reform” bill as early as this weekend. We need your help to ensure that it is not amended to include a similar provision going far beyond finance that could be used against supplements. Please take action now. TAKE ACTION

Congressman Waxman is well known as an opponent of the dietary supplement industry. This is somewhat ironic: his district includes Hollywood and presumably many of his closest supporters are health store shoppers and supplement users. Most of these people simply don’t know what Waxman is doing in this area.

This powerful Congressman, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which includes health as a subcommittee), would appear to want supplements regulated like drugs, a step that would effectively eliminate them. He is determined and has stated: “One enduring truth about Washington is that no issue is ever settled for good.”

ANH-USA has been on alert to see how Waxman would use his committee chairmanship to strike at DSHEA. He is very clever and we knew a covert attack was a possibility.

A direct attack on supplements would take the form of an amendment to DSHEA, since that legislation governs FDA regulation of supplements. In this case, Waxman has left DSHEA alone, and has instead inserted language in the Wall St. “reform” bill that gives the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) important new powers that could be used to circumvent key supplement protections in DSHEA. TAKE ACTION

To see how this would work, let’s see how the FTC operates today. Its chief mission is to combat commercial fraud. It has full authority to pursue companies making fraudulent claims. But the FTC can’t go beyond that, can’t set other regulatory requirements, without advance approval of Congress. The FTC once had this regulatory “rule-making” authority. It lost it in the 1980’s because Congress thought the Agency was abusing it.

At the present time, if the FTC moves against a dietary supplement company for false or misleading advertising, the FTC typically requires the company, as part of a consent decree agreed to by both parties, to back up its claims by undertaking at least two random controlled human trials. This is done on a case-by-case basis and is legal because the targeted company has agreed to it.

If the FTC had general rulemaking authority, which Waxman’s language reinstates, the Agency would be expected to create a new legal requirement for all supplement companies. Such companies would have to perform at least two of these human studies before making any claims for their products.

Why should we care whether supplement companies are required to perform two random controlled human trials for each product? Because such trials take a long time and would be beyond the financial means of most supplement companies. Even if the companies could find the money, the FTC could require more and more costly versions of these studies, or more of these studies. At each stage, fewer supplements would be available, and those available would cost more and more, until they became as costly as drugs.TAKE ACTION

Supplements are not drugs. In most cases, drugs are non-natural and therefore patentable substances. Why patentable? Because no company will spend a billion dollars on studies and FDA approval trials without the monopoly provided by the patent. To insist that supplements be treated like drugs is really to sound the death knell for the supplement industry, something that drug companies would be delighted to see, because they know that supplements are their chief potential competition, are often more effective than drugs, are often less toxic, and are always much less expensive.

Supplements are already regulated by the FDA under DSHEA. If the Waxman provision is included in the final Wall St “reform” bill, the FTC will gain the power to override the limited protections for supplements that already exist under DSHEA. The FDA would still have to respect DSHEA, but the FTC would not be so constrained.

Five unelected FTC commissioners would issue binding regulations in a wide range of areas, including the regulation of dietary supplements. And companies that did not comply with the new FTC rules could effectively be put out of business.

According to renowned constitutional attorney Jonathan Emord, “The provision removing the ban on FTC rulemaking without Congressional preapproval contained in H.R. 4173 invites the very same irresponsible over-regulation of the commercial marketplace that led Congress to enact the ban in the 1980s. FTC has no shortage of power to regulate deceptive advertising; this bill gives it far more discretionary power than it needs, inviting greater abuse and mischief from an agency that suffers virtually no check on its discretion.”

The bottom line is that FTC would be given power to regulate areas they don’t understand, and their first order of business would likely be to regulate supplements, an area far outside their area of expertise.

The Senate Wall St “reform” bill, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (S. 3217), doesn’t contain the Waxman provision yet. But we know that Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) may offer an amendment including Waxman’s language. Please help us stop this. Please take action now to help us maintain access to low cost, high quality supplements. Tell your senators not to support any amendments that give FTC unchecked power to over-regulate areas they don’t understand, including dietary supplements.

Source: AP

WASHINGTON – What’s it going to cost me?

That’s the single biggest unanswered question about President Barack Obama’s new health care overhaul law — and its weak spot.

Many experts believe the law falls short on taming costs, and that will force Congress to revisit health care in a few years.

While it seems hard to believe now, Republicans might want to participate in a debate over costs, perhaps opening the way for limits on malpractice lawsuits and other ideas they’ve advocated.

“Now that the baseline question of coverage has been answered, it would be irresponsible if we didn’t come back and try to do more on costs,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who voted for the bill and led efforts to squeeze more savings.

“I think there is going to be a debate in the Republican Party on whether they should waste all their energy on repeal or make an effort to do something on cost containment,” Warner said.

For now, the political parties are too polarized — and lawmakers too exhausted — to contemplate health care 2.0. Conservatives are planning court challenges, and some Republican leaders hold out the promise of repeal. But economic reality probably will bring lawmakers back to the table.

Insurance premiums are likely to keep going up over the next few years. Experts predict that the law’s early benefits — such as expanded coverage for children and young adults — could nudge rates a little higher than would otherwise have been the case. Also, insurers and medical providers could try to raise their prices ahead of big shifts set for 2014.

Under the 10-year, $1 trillion plan, 2014 is when competitive insurance markets for individuals and small businesses are expected to open, and tax credits start flowing to help millions of middle-class households now uninsured. Medicaid will expand and pick up millions of low-income people. Most Americans would be required to carry health insurance, except in cases of financial hardship. Insurers no longer could turn away those in poor health.

More than 30 million previously uninsured people would gain coverage quickly — and they’ll start going to the doctor for care previously postponed. Increased demand will push up health care spending, putting more pressure on premiums.

The cost controls in the bill are unlikely to provide much of a counterweight. Democrats scrambling to line up votes for the final bill weakened a provision that would have enforced austerity through a hefty tax on high-cost employer coverage.

Other savings in the law — mainly Medicare cuts — may prove politically unsustainable, according to the government’s own experts.

The problem isn’t that the 2,700-page law is devoid of ideas for curbing costs. Many mainstream proposals are incorporated in some form. But what will work?

While the law creates a commission to keep pursuing deeper Medicare savings, there’s no overall cost control strategy and no single official to coordinate many experiments seeking greater efficiency.

“This bill takes a sort of spaghetti approach to cost control,” said MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who supports the broad goals of the overhaul. “You throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what will stick. Health care, Round Two, is when we will make a serious effort at cutting costs down, based on what this law has shown us.”

If the law gets a B plus for expanding coverage to 95 percent of eligible Americans, it probably deserves a C minus or D for cost control. The U.S. spends $2.5 trillion a year on health care, with some results worse than what other developed countries get by spending far less.

“Most people who have problems with health care costs now are not going to see much change in the next few years,” said Mark McClellan, who ran Medicare under former Republican President George W. Bush. “Hopefully some of these ideas will work, but it’s not automatic. I do hope we can revisit this in a more bipartisan manner.”

A look at some of the law’s main cost control provisions:

_INSURANCE MARKET

Starting in 2014, the overhaul sets up new state-level insurance supermarkets called exchanges, intended to enable small businesses and individuals buying their own coverage to pool purchasing power. In theory, that would inject competition into markets now dominated by one or two major insurers in most states.

It also would reduce insurers’ overhead by giving them access to many customers in one place. The companies would be heavily regulated by state and federal authorities, and proposed premium increases would get a close look.

“Individuals and small businesses will, over time, have something much more predictable to look at,” said Christine Ferguson, former Massachusetts public health commissioner under Republican Gov. Mitt Romney. “We will have much more predictable rates of growth in health care costs.”

Romney, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2012, signed a similar law in Massachusetts, but is now calling for repeal of the federal version.

_PAYMENT REFORMS

Using Medicare as the lab, the law includes experiments designed to change the way medical providers are paid. It encourages them to keep patients healthier by avoiding foreseeable complications.

Doctors and hospitals could band together to better coordinate care. Instead of paying piecemeal for visits and tests, providers would get a lump sum for managing patients with certain health conditions. Primary care providers would be encouraged to create “medical homes” for their patients, serving as wellness coaches and medical gatekeepers.

Successful experiments would be adopted as national policy.

_MEDICARE BOARD

The law sets up a board to hunt for Medicare savings. Congress could reject the proposals, but it wouldn’t be able to tinker with them.

_INSURANCE TAX

Employer-sponsored health insurance is part of total compensation, but traditionally it’s been tax-free.

The law imposes a 40 percent tax on health insurance plans worth more than $27,500 for a family plan, $10,200 for individual coverage. (Family coverage now averages $13,375.)

That could have been a firm nudge to get people into more frugal coverage. But facing stiff opposition from labor unions, Obama and congressional Democrats punted, postponing the effective date until 2018. That’s after the president leaves office, assuming he’s re-elected.

Source: AP

WASHINGTON – What’s it going to cost me?

That’s the single biggest unanswered question about President Barack Obama’s new health care overhaul law — and its weak spot.

Many experts believe the law falls short on taming costs, and that will force Congress to revisit health care in a few years.

While it seems hard to believe now, Republicans might want to participate in a debate over costs, perhaps opening the way for limits on malpractice lawsuits and other ideas they’ve advocated.

“Now that the baseline question of coverage has been answered, it would be irresponsible if we didn’t come back and try to do more on costs,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who voted for the bill and led efforts to squeeze more savings.

“I think there is going to be a debate in the Republican Party on whether they should waste all their energy on repeal or make an effort to do something on cost containment,” Warner said.

For now, the political parties are too polarized — and lawmakers too exhausted — to contemplate health care 2.0. Conservatives are planning court challenges, and some Republican leaders hold out the promise of repeal. But economic reality probably will bring lawmakers back to the table.

Insurance premiums are likely to keep going up over the next few years. Experts predict that the law’s early benefits — such as expanded coverage for children and young adults — could nudge rates a little higher than would otherwise have been the case. Also, insurers and medical providers could try to raise their prices ahead of big shifts set for 2014.

Under the 10-year, $1 trillion plan, 2014 is when competitive insurance markets for individuals and small businesses are expected to open, and tax credits start flowing to help millions of middle-class households now uninsured. Medicaid will expand and pick up millions of low-income people. Most Americans would be required to carry health insurance, except in cases of financial hardship. Insurers no longer could turn away those in poor health.

More than 30 million previously uninsured people would gain coverage quickly — and they’ll start going to the doctor for care previously postponed. Increased demand will push up health care spending, putting more pressure on premiums.

The cost controls in the bill are unlikely to provide much of a counterweight. Democrats scrambling to line up votes for the final bill weakened a provision that would have enforced austerity through a hefty tax on high-cost employer coverage.

Other savings in the law — mainly Medicare cuts — may prove politically unsustainable, according to the government’s own experts.

The problem isn’t that the 2,700-page law is devoid of ideas for curbing costs. Many mainstream proposals are incorporated in some form. But what will work?

While the law creates a commission to keep pursuing deeper Medicare savings, there’s no overall cost control strategy and no single official to coordinate many experiments seeking greater efficiency.

“This bill takes a sort of spaghetti approach to cost control,” said MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who supports the broad goals of the overhaul. “You throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what will stick. Health care, Round Two, is when we will make a serious effort at cutting costs down, based on what this law has shown us.”

If the law gets a B plus for expanding coverage to 95 percent of eligible Americans, it probably deserves a C minus or D for cost control. The U.S. spends $2.5 trillion a year on health care, with some results worse than what other developed countries get by spending far less.

“Most people who have problems with health care costs now are not going to see much change in the next few years,” said Mark McClellan, who ran Medicare under former Republican President George W. Bush. “Hopefully some of these ideas will work, but it’s not automatic. I do hope we can revisit this in a more bipartisan manner.”

A look at some of the law’s main cost control provisions:

_INSURANCE MARKET

Starting in 2014, the overhaul sets up new state-level insurance supermarkets called exchanges, intended to enable small businesses and individuals buying their own coverage to pool purchasing power. In theory, that would inject competition into markets now dominated by one or two major insurers in most states.

It also would reduce insurers’ overhead by giving them access to many customers in one place. The companies would be heavily regulated by state and federal authorities, and proposed premium increases would get a close look.

“Individuals and small businesses will, over time, have something much more predictable to look at,” said Christine Ferguson, former Massachusetts public health commissioner under Republican Gov. Mitt Romney. “We will have much more predictable rates of growth in health care costs.”

Romney, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2012, signed a similar law in Massachusetts, but is now calling for repeal of the federal version.

_PAYMENT REFORMS

Using Medicare as the lab, the law includes experiments designed to change the way medical providers are paid. It encourages them to keep patients healthier by avoiding foreseeable complications.

Doctors and hospitals could band together to better coordinate care. Instead of paying piecemeal for visits and tests, providers would get a lump sum for managing patients with certain health conditions. Primary care providers would be encouraged to create “medical homes” for their patients, serving as wellness coaches and medical gatekeepers.

Successful experiments would be adopted as national policy.

_MEDICARE BOARD

The law sets up a board to hunt for Medicare savings. Congress could reject the proposals, but it wouldn’t be able to tinker with them.

_INSURANCE TAX

Employer-sponsored health insurance is part of total compensation, but traditionally it’s been tax-free.

The law imposes a 40 percent tax on health insurance plans worth more than $27,500 for a family plan, $10,200 for individual coverage. (Family coverage now averages $13,375.)

That could have been a firm nudge to get people into more frugal coverage. But facing stiff opposition from labor unions, Obama and congressional Democrats punted, postponing the effective date until 2018. That’s after the president leaves office, assuming he’s re-elected.

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