Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Finally, this last Thursday, a group of Republican Senators met with representatives from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. This is key since women’s health care is at the center of the debate on health care. As I mentioned last week, at issue is the concept of pooling risk, and pooling money. There are the well who do not want to help subsidize the sick, the non-pregnant who do not want to help subsidize the pregnant, adults who do not want to subsidize children and the young who do not want to help subsidize the old. My religious education reminds me of many scriptural mentions of our obligations toward widows, orphans, and the sick. Do you think that all they meant was to give them the gleanings from the fields ? No. It means paying into a pool of money that will provide for the care of such people. 

Here is a summary of the plans in play : the ACA (The Affordable Care Act which is currently law), the House Bill, and the Senate Plan. This is taken from a particularly clear article from the Washington Post 

(https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/politics/obamacare-senate-bill-compare/?utm_term=.a97493829dba)

The ACA requires Americans to have health insurance. The House bill would impose a 30% surcharge on new plans for those with lapsed plans. The Senate plan would impose 6 months wait time before new coverage could be obtained. ( Wait, don’t we want people to be covered ? ) 

Both the House and Senate plans would eliminate the employer mandate to provide insurance imposed by the ACA. 

Under ACA, subsidies from the Fed help reduce insurance premiums for consumers across the board. All plans would sunset this coverage by 2020.  However under the  ACA it would be no sooner than this and it would provide for their continuance. Under the two proposed GOP plans, subsidies could be cut off much earlier than 2020. ( Does Trump really think he will still be President in 2020 ? ) 

Tax credits under the ACA and Senate bills are based on income age and geography, favoring low and moderate income people. In the House Bill, tax credits would be based only on age, and would not increase when premiums increase. 

Under the ACA, one cannot be denied coverage or have premiums increase based on preexisting conditions. Under the House bill, premiums could increase based on preexisting conditions only if a lapse occurred. Under the Senate Bill, insurance companies may not deny coverage or increase premiums. However, they would be permitted to deny coverage for certain preexisting conditions altogether. 

Under the ACA, rates for the old can be as much as three times that for the young. Under both other plans, this factor would increase to 5. 

An HSA is a health savings account that you create in which to save money for health care expenses. You are not taxed on this money. However, there is only so much money that the Fed will let go untaxed. Pretax HSAs maximum amounts under the ACA are $3400 and $6750 for individuals and families respectively. Under both other plans this number would increase.(Remember though, HSA money is YOUR money, just not taxed. If your tax rate is low, this won’t save you much. HSAs are you providing your own health care subsidies rather than the Fed, as is currently the case. This is one of the many ways the GOP plans are trying to get consumers to shoulder more of the burden of healthcare expenses themselves. 

High risk patients are well cared for under the ACA. However both the House and Senate Plans create “ high risk pools” . The House proposes $130 billion and the Senate $182 billion, earmarked for insurers who take big losses. 

Under the ACA, the  States are permitted to expand Medicaid to 138% of the poverty level. The Fed is expected to match funds. Under the House and Senate Bills, States would receive fixed amounts , i.e. “ block grants “ based on how much they are currently spending. In the House Bill, States would not be able to expand Medicaid. IN the Senate Bill, States could expand Medicaid, but the Fed would simply match less of it. 

Under the ACA, "essential health benefits" are covered, such as hospital visits and mental health care. Under the other two bills, the definition of “essential health benefits" could change. 

At the present time, under the ACA, Planned Parenthood may receive Medicaid funds. However, Federal Funds may not be used for abortions. Under the House and Senate plans, there would be a one year freeze in Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.

Finally, regarding lifetime caps on insurance benefits, the ACA has none.  This would not change for the House and Senate proposals. However, the Senate Proposal provides for States to lift the ban on lifetime caps on insurance benefits. 

Now that you know what all is being proposed, I will share with you the exact text of ACOG’s (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) response to lawmakers :

https://www.acog.org/About-ACOG/News-Room/Statements/2017/The-BCRA-Cannot-Be-Fixed

 

ACOG: The BCRA Cannot Be Fixed

July 13, 2017

Washington, DC – Haywood Brown, M.D., President of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released the following statement regarding today’s revisions proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to the U.S. Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act:

“This most recent version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act is not “better” for patients. The BCRA is deeply flawed, cannot be fixed and keeps getting worse. Its original version deliberately stripped landmark women’s health gains made by the Affordable Care Act, turning back the clock on women’s health. This new version threatens to leave patients with preexisting conditions without care. Senators drafting these proposals still aren’t listening to America’s doctors. Yesterday, ACOG joined leaders representing 560,000 frontline physicians on Capitol Hill with one unified message to Senators: the BCRA is dangerous for patients and must be rejected.

“ACOG’s bottom line is simple: No legislation should take away coverage that patients have today. There’s only one solution. The Senate should put the BCRA where it belongs, in the circular file, not on the floor for a vote. Republican and Democratic senators should work with ob-gyns and other physicians on a new approach that will preserve women’s access to contraception and maternity care and improve the health care system for everyone. We stand ready to partner with the U.S. House and Senate and the White House on practical solutions to improve our nation’s health and reduce health care costs.”

 

The day the newest proposal was release, several members of Congress stepped forward denouncing it, saying they were unwilling to vote even for putting it up for a vote. 

That’s a comprehensive view of health policy news. 

 

On to the Medicine. 

 

In distressing news, the Journal Cortex has published new research showing that, in mice, alcohol consumed in pregnancy produces adverse brain changes that can be inherited for several generations. Human studies are unlikely to be done due to the nature of the questions. ACOG has already issued a statement indicating that no amount of alcohol is safe in pregnancy. 

In unsurprising news, research out of Texas has recently shown that despite closure of abortion facilities in Texas, abortions in the State actually increased by 3 %. A wealth of data elsewhere has shown that access to basic health care including contraceptives curbs unintended and teen pregnancy, and abortion. In 2011 Texas reduced its family planning budget by 67%. As a direct result, there was a large scale closing of clinics which provided this kind of basic care, all with the goal of decreasing abortion.  

For your consideration: Katy Talento is a White House Domestic Policy Aide to President Trump. She is an avowed anti-abortion advocate. But what defies reason is her campaign against contraception, which has the power to do so many good things including curb abortion. She has, on record stated that birth control is “ breaking your uterus”  and causing miscarriages and abortions. She is probably referring to progesterone only methods which thin the lining of the uterus so that implantation is not possible. However, she is a very well educated woman, and to call this an abortion or miscarriage is disingenuous at best and deceptive at worst. She has alleged that doctors and drug companies conspire to provide birth control which causes cancer. #Alternativefacts have never been so harmful. In fact, combination oral contraceptive pills, while not for everyone, provide a set of strong health benefits from protecting bone density, preventing anemia, preventing endometrial (uterine cancer) and most dramatically, preventing ovary cancer. #stopalternativefacts. 

Recent data support longer time intervals between paps in low risk patients. This is misinterpreted in the press, by patients, and even by certain doctors as meaning that all patients should have paps or even routine checkups less frequently. This is not the case. Add to this the fact the screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea usually occur at the same time as a pap. You have now a recipe for an unintended consequence: increased rates of undetected chlamydia. Findings documenting these increased rates of chlamydia carriage are published in the Annals of Family Medicine. 

Preeclampsia is a disorder of pregnancy involving high blood pressure. In its milder forms, it is one of the commonest complications of pregnancy. However, in its more severe forms, it is one of the most  dangerous. New data published in the American Journal of Obstetrics an Gynecology indicate that preeclampsia continue to be on the rise in America. Obesity, excess weight gain in pregnancy, high blood pressure and sedentary lifestyle are all risk factors for preeclampsia. Is it any wonder the rates are increasing ? It gets worse. Many patients and even some caregivers do not realize or emphasize that having preeclampsia in pregnancy increases the chances of lifelong hypertension and its consequences in perpetuity. 

In the wish-this-were-better-understood department, prolonged breastfeeding appears to confer a protective risk against MS (multiple sclerosis) to the mother. These findings were published recently in the Journal Neurology. 

In the tantalizing department, new research indicates that plain old hydroxychloroquine (plaquinel- a common drug used for both malaria prevention and lupus) prevents the Zika virus from crossing the placenta in mice, there by protecting the fetuses from the virus. This could of course hold promise for humans. 

Also in the very good new and Zika related department, scientists prevented the vertical (mother to baby) transmission of Zika virus with the use of a vaccine in mice. This groundbreaking research was reported this week in the Journal Cell. 

That’s it for this very big week.  Again, it is critical that each and every one of you contact your elected officials and tell them what you think. Find yours here: 

 

https://www.congress.gov

 

See you next week, right here, on Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Policy news this week centered on reaction to the government handling of the proposals for healthcare perform. As before, observers from all sides have noted that proposed changes would result in over 20 million people becoming uninsured, adding to the financial and human burden that we would face. It would also result in premium increases of approximately 20% across the board according to the Congressional Budget Office, and this, well before the next election.

In a stunning turnaround Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) warned that if the GOP senators could not get 50 votes required to repay and replace the ACA (Affordable care act), then, (emphasis mine) THEY MAY HAVE TO WORK WITH DEMOCRATS to repair the existing marketplace. The current proposal will, in fact fail since only three Republican votes against it could sink it, and there are many more Republicans than that opposed to the bill.

Delaying action on the GOP plan for healthcare until after July 4 recess week had one interesting unintended consequence. Congressmen returned home for about nine days, not just 4. In that timeframe they had plenty of time to hear from the local officials at home most pointedly, from the Governors of their respective States. Governors are worried about losing billions of dollars in Medicaid funding if the Affordable Care Act repeal bill is passed. Washington will not inherit all the problems that ensue if the ACA is repealed, they will.

Plans under consideration and go all the way from the Sanders bill introduced by Democrat Bernie Sanders which provides for "Healthcare for all", to a buffet style set of plans favored by senate Republicans from Texas and Utah, where one could buy plans in conformance with the Affordable Care Act or less costly, less comprehensive plans geared for healthier people. The problem of course with this is that it short-circuits the whole beauty of broad-based health insurance which pools risk and pools money. Money for low risk people subsidizes the poor and those who are misfortunate enough to sustain expensive and long-lasting illness. It is this exact feature to which many people object, not feeling an obligation to those less fortunate than themselves. I feel people of this opinion exhibit not only a lack of compassion but a lack of fiscal common sense. Money spent on the health of the poor, on early diagnosis, on pregnant women, and money spent keeping up on the care of the chronically ill is money saved and an insurance policy for a better future.

In the Texas and Utah plans there would be a multitiered system of healthcare where some people would not get all benefits. Physicians like me know that one's health cannot always be predicted and that the unexpected does happen. Thus, patients given the option of incomplete plans may find themselves wanting for adequate coverage. Physicians like me also cringe at the notion of a double standard in in health care since it is our training and our philosophy to believe that everyone should get the best of care all the time.

At the present time, under the Affordable Care act, IRS (The Internal Revenue Service) has a role in enforcing the individual mandate. The individual mandate is the portion of the Affordable Care Act which requires that individuals must maintain health insurance at all times or be fined. GOP lawmakers are currently working on a plan to prevent the IRS from enforcing the Affordable Care Act individual mandate. I think you would be hard pressed to find a physician who does not support the individual mandate. 

In our country, one must have auto insurance in order to exercise the privilege of operating an automobile on public roads. Conventional wisdom and existing data teach us that if one does not maintain auto insurance that one poses a significant liability to others. In my opinion, not having individual health insurance is exactly the same thing. Without insurance, one is less likely to obtain contraception, less likely to obtain vaccinations, less likely to obtain mental health and substance abuse treatment, and more likely to blow into the emergency room with some health crisis or accident costing the healthcare system and taxpayers a huge amount of money.

In medical news, the number of total births has declined for two years running. Most notably the teem birthrate has decreased to nearly 10%. Unfortunately rates of preterm birth continue to rise.

In the absurd department, both the UK and United States noted increasing rates of labioplasties not only among women but particularly among teenagers. A labioplasty is the surgical modification of the labia, the flaps covering the vagina, often for cosmetic purposes. Obstetricians and Gynecologists in both British and American Societies of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as well as Pediatricians have sounded the alarm over this trend indicating that it may be a sign of a deeper disorder called body dysmorphic disorder. They have called for clinicians to screen these patients accordingly. I also have to observe that this trend highlights the power of media images in our lives, including those provided by what must be classified as porn.

A recent study of robust design has revealed that women consuming large amounts of sugary foods and drinks in the latter part of pregnancy produces children who are at higher risk for allergies and asthma. The study was published in the European Respiratory Journal. It been hailed as a strong study with a large number of participants. A call has been made for additional research to understand exactly how this works.

In the we-already-knew-this department, a recent study has confirmed that women’s cognitive performance is not affected by her menstrual period. This was documented recently from a study published on July 4 in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

In the concerning department, new research has shown that poor sleep may be associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. It is not at all clear whether the poor sleep leads to the Alzheimer's or whether the impending Alzheimer's leads to the poor sleep.The study involved sampling the spinal fluid of cognitively normal people with an average age of 63. Specific physical findings are present in the spinal fluid which can be followed to determine this relationship. This is clearly an area deserving of more research and this is a step in the right direction. The findings were published online July 5 in the journal Neurology.

In the good news department, a new study has shown that simple aspirin may reduce the risk of complications for those pregnant women who have antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. Yet another study has shown that a simple dose of aspirin at 150 mg per day significantly reduced the incidence of preterm preeclampsia (toxemia) in high-risk women. 

Also in the good news department, clinical trials for Zika virus vaccine are underway. Zika virus can potentially affect all people who contract it,. Most distressingly, it produces serious birth defects in the fetal brain if the Zika virus infection is contracted by pregnant women during her pregnancy. A working group consisting of bioethicists, OB/GYN's, vaccinologists and others have recently released a set of ethical guidelines whereby pregnant women can be included in these clinical trials.

 

 

Stay tuned for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, right here, next week, on Medical Monday. And remember... it really matters when you contact your elected officials to tell them what you think. 

Medical Monday: Breaking news from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Health and Political concerns for women have merged into one. Many of you have appreciated this for some time, but now the topic is mainstream. 

Last Wednesday leaders representing over half a million medical students and doctors gathered to lobby Senators against the so-called BCRA (Better Care Reconciliation Act).Among the leaders were the Presidents of The American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). They validated and reiterated widespread concerns that without the ACA (Affordable Care Act) or similar, people will delay or forgo care. For example, under the new proposal, older patients will have cost sharing reductions curtailed in 2 year. The leaders also voiced concern about allowing individual States to determine what constitutes essential benefits. Dr. Munger of the American Academy of Family Physicians indicated this compromising essential benefits would constitute a special threat to people with chronic, rather than acute conditions, since their essential health needs are ongoing. The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics indicated that there will be a calculable “ body count” associated with this proposed law. 

Dr. Haywood Brown, President of ACOG, stated the legislation represented an “ assault on women’s health”. He elaborated, saying BCRA could result in women and men paying differently for health care. It would end the guarantees on preventive care, i.e screening tests like paps and mammograms. Dr. Haywood also noted that fully 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. The BCRA bill would end guaranteed coverage of contraception and maternity services. These changes would worsen the already terrible trends in maternal mortality in the United states. He states he feared going back to the time when having a baby could lead to bankruptcy, and when treatments for cancer were not always within reach. Indeed, the Journal Cancer has published a study containing projections of the numbers of increased cases of late-stage breast cancer that will be diagnosed during to loss of access to screening mammograms. As if to drive home the point ,the Journal Cancer Epidemiology contains new research indicating that breast cancers appear to have been diagnosed earlier after the ACA was implemented. 

California has its own contraceptive requirement, a goal that many States are now have accomplished or are working toward. The California policy, in place since the first of the year, requires that insurers cover contraception. It also requires that they cover 12 months of it at a time. It is estimated that in California, it will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies by 15,000, the number of miscarriages by 2000, and the number of abortions by 7000. Health care costs will be reduced by 43 million dollars annually. 

Low income women are at particular risk if the BRCA goes through, since it would phase out the Medicaid expansion in a more permanent way than the ACA would. Of note, half of all births in the US are covered by Medicaid. One fifth of all American women use Medicaid. 

Many observers have noted that BCRA healthcare bill disproportionately affects women, since it targets maternity, screening, and contraception. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has come forward to say that the law should include provisions for all insurance plans to include prenatal care and for laws that require employers to grant maternity leave for both parents. Hooray for Republicans standing up for women’s health ! I did a little research and found that Senator Cassidy and his wife are physicians who feel this aligns with their Christian values. Why is this so rare ? 

Another group is at risk of losing affordable insurance: Those who obtain their health insurance through their work. The Affordable Care Act currently mandates that businesses of a certain size offer their employees health insurance. That requirement is due to go, all or in part, by the wayside. 

Modifications to the BCRA plan are under consideration. GOP senators had considered scrapping the “ wealth tax” on those families making more than $275,000, but now they are considering keeping it to help pay for extra funds to combat the opioid epidemic. Furthermore, GOP senators have conceded, at the urging of insurance officials, that the individual mandate be kept indirectly in that a penalty fee will be levied against all those who do not maintain health insurance at all times. Insurance industry representatives have asked for this to help stabilize the insurance market. Personally, I think it is an important part of any health care plan, since it requires people to prioritize their health, it enables people to comPlanned Parenthoode in for care especially screenings, and it protects patients, caregivers, hospitals and the rest of us paying insurance against direct or indirect financial loss due to health mishaps. 

Two GOP Senators, both women, have criticized the BCRA over its defunding of Planned Parenthood. 

Personally I think it would be just fine if the GOP scraps the ACA then puts it all back together piece by piece, gives it a different name, and takes full credit for it. I just hope that, being Republicans, they find a fiscally responsible and sustainable way to fund it. I favor heavy vice taxes. Why ? Because they discourage vices ( true and documented !) and they make lots of money for the public coffers. Cigarettes are heavily taxed, but they could get taxed even more. Alcohol could be further taxed. Soda taxes could be tried but have not been popular… too bad !  Finally, in my opinion, marijuana should be taxed in those States where it is legal, for all but those with legitimate cards. FaIling these, I favor increased gas taxes and increased sale taxes on luxury items. 

On to the medical news. 

Zika precautions for pregnant and potentially pregnant women are still in place. Travelers heading anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line should inquire on the CDC.gov website about regional risk. 

Opioids. These are the pain pills or IV drugs, the morphine derived compounds that are so addictive. It turns out they are not really that much help with actual pain. It turns out they work less and less well over time, and that eventually, they need to be taken just to feel “ok”.  Patients often begin them for legitimate reasons, but then end up taking them just to cope. They may not even realize they are addicted. Doctors give them for legitimate reasons, but also because they are lazy. It is hard to say no, especially when you think that saying no will cause your patient to leave your practice and medical care altogether. A new study has found that about half of opioids are given for mental health disorders rather than pain. Physicians and patients need to be educated. It is estimated that half a million people will die in the next decade due to opioid abuse, unwitting or otherwise. 

Flu vaccine may be delivered by a painless patch in the future. A new study published in The Lancet reports on this research. I wonder if this will enhance vaccination rates. 

Increased rates of air pollution are associated with shortened life spans. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that “ safe” levels may be lower than previously imagined. Indeed, there may be no “safe” level at all. 

ACOG recently held its annual meeting. New research presented there focused on media representations of female genitalia. Dr. Cheryl Iglesia noted that images of female genitalia are “highly-curated, and extensively retouched” before being presented on the internet, “ leaving men and women little idea of the real range of normal efface genitalia”. She has suggested that this distortion is associated with a sharp rise in labioplasty surgery in the last year. Ten thousand such surgeries were done in the past year, a rise of 23% compared to the previous year. ACOG has issued a Committee Opinion document “...expressing concern about the lack of data and deceptive marketing practices surrounding a number of cosmetic vaginal surgeries”.

So much news ! Stay tuned here next week … for Medical Monday. 

Meanwhile contact your elected officials at Congress.gov !! It's Independence Day ! Exercise your freedom !! 

Medical Monday: Medical Portion

Maternal mortality rates are once again in the headlines, although this time the focus is on Virginia and not Texas. Virginia has 38.2 point two deaths per 100,000 live births. The Virginia Medical Examiner's Office investigated, finding that, "Women who die pregnancy related deaths in Virginia more often die from not having health care than from hemorrhaging, cesarean section complications or other maladies linked to birth." Virginia is not isolated in this regard as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has reported that there has been a 26% increase in maternal mortality in the United States from the years 2000 to 2014.

In the good news department, we have evidence for a common sense phenomenon. Data reported this month in the Journal Birth has demonstrated that "Physical activity during and after pregnancy improves psychological well-being and may protect against postpartum depression”

A new report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that women with gestational diabetes who consume a high proportion of refined grains may give birth to children with a higher risk of obesity by age 7.

A study was performed using a federal nutrition program and an Internet-based program for weight loss. Results on 371 women indicated that this Internet-based weight loss intervention helped women shed their baby weight, i.e.their postpartum pounds. This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

More data has come in against the practice of water birth. The Arizona Department of Health has identified two cases of Legionnaire's disease which occurred in newborns following water birth.  In both these cases the babies had been born at home in hot tubs. The Department noted that tapwater is not sterile and that legionella bacteria can grow in plumbing systems. While ACOG supports water labor it does not support water birth, citing a lack of definitive evidence showing safety and benefit.

Breast-feeding has numerous benefits for the baby and some obvious ones from mom. However it is somewhat counterintuitive that breast feeding should protect a woman against heart attack and stroke. Nonetheless new study has shown that “ breast-feeding may help mothers lower the risk of heart attack and stroke even decades after giving birth".  Breast-feeding for any amount of time confers a 9% reduction in the risk of coronary artery disease and reduces risk of stroke by 8%.These findings are published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

A report produced from the Population Reference Bureau calls attention to the difficulties that young women face. The report is called "Losing ground: Young women's well-being across generations in United States". It has quantitatively documented that women in the US are”…poorer than their mothers and grandmothers when they were young, more likely to commit suicide and to be shut out of high tech jobs .” It concludes that ”social and structural barriers continue to obstruct the advancement of female members of generation X and millennials."

In-line with the last report, it's been determined that" opioid related hospitalizations among women in the United States have increased far faster than among men between 2005 and 2014." This has been determined by looking at data from the US agency for healthcare research and quality. Such hospitalizations have risen by 75% during this time interval. 

Breast cancer is in the news. It turns out that a low dose of aspirin i.e. baby aspirin taken daily may reduce the risk of breast cancer in women who have type II diabetes. This is preliminary research published in the Journal of Women's Health.

The National Institutes of Health has recently reported good news regarding breast cancer. Apparently breast cancer rates have been steadily declining since 2005 at a rate of 1.8 % per year.

ACOG has maintained their position that women should be offered mammograms beginning at age 40. Thereafter they should be given every one or two years through a joint determination by the patient and her physician.

 

Stay tuned for more breaking news from the exciting world of Obstetrics and Gynecology next week on Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

On last Thursday afternoon June 22nd the Senate unveiled their draft of the ACHA the American Health Act, which they are calling the “Better Care Reconciliation Act". House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi put it well: This is a “…tax bill disguised as a health care bill.” As readers begin thinking about it, they should consider that it does one main thing: it shifts the cost of health care away from the Federal Government. 

Most doctors understand that decent health is fundamental to all human happiness and prosperity. Indeed someone once said health is our only real wealth. Additionally, many social scientists and other bean counters have discovered that standards of living go up when the quality of a population's health rises. It has been conclusively demonstrated that particularly when the quality of the health and status of women rise, the entire society benefits, in both social and monetary terms. When there is good access to maternal and child health care, infant and childhood mortality decrease, maternal health increases, and family size shrinks. Earnings, savings, and educational status rise. These are well documented phenomena. 

So called Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act (ACA), made the health of women and children a priority. For example, the ACA included mandated insurance coverage of maternity care. Yes, this meant that the cost of giving maternity care to some was shouldered by all, since everyone contributed to a “pot” that paid out for maternity care expenses.  Implied is the notion that society as a whole has a vested interest in the welfare of pregnant women and the children that they bear. The idea is that it is our collective responsibility to ensure the well being and betterment of the next generation. 

Indeed the whole notion of insurance used to be that people could rest easy knowing that they had a way to deal with life’s unexpected or costly events. They could contribute to a pool for emergencies and other medical needs, and it would be there for them when the need arose. This was by mutual agreement between all the contributors and governed by certain pre-agree upon stipulations. Everyone knew that more people meant better benefits and more stability of the fund. 

Health insurance was viewed as a social and financial responsibility. Nonetheless, if you did not have heath insurance, you would still get emergency care, since the moral values of society and the medical profession would kick in. At the same time, people who could get health insurance but didn’t were viewed as irresponsible since they would simply take their chances or let others foot the bill if they did land up in the hospital. 

People in the US disagree about what constitutes the responsibility of government. They disagree about the role of government in health care. However, progressive and prosperous countries across the globe have examined the question from a data- based rather than political point of view. They have determined that the social and financial benefits of universal health care coverage are well worth the price. In developed countries, the government sees to the national security, and it sees to our infrastructure. These are examples of enormous and costly tasks that no one person, family, or even state could accomplish. But, a nation can. Health care is like that. A healthy prosperous nation requires massive collective input, both from a planning standpoint, and a financial standpoint. I can think of no better use for the collective monies obtained through our taxes. In this light we consider the new health bill draft. 

The new health plan draft basically proposes massive cuts in what the Fed spends on health care. Not only does the Fed currently spend on Medicaid and Medicare, under Obamacare it spends by paying private insurance companies "subsidies” so that the the insurance companies can charge more reasonable premiums to consumers. 

This great reduction in Federal expenditures toward health care would be accomplished in several ways. First it will reduce the number of enrollees.The mandate to have insurance would be eliminated. Fewer people will therefore obtain insurance. They will also curtail the number Medicaid enrollees by making requirements more stringent and by rolling back the Medicaid expansions. The assumption is that these uninsured folks will simply not cost the Fed money. However they will cost someone money over time as they end up in the Emergency Room with their unmet health care needs and emergencies. The health care system and the insured patients who pay into it will cover their bills, and health care costs will have to rise to compensate. 

Secondly, the Fed will save money by asking consumers to shoulder a higher percentage of their health insurance costs by paying higher premiums and having higher deductibles. In return the Fed plans to offer “ tax credits”. Tax credits are not money. They are a lower tax bill at the end of the year. But who can use tax credits ? Only people with appreciable taxes. Tax credits will do low income or even middle income people little to no good. These are the people who need the most help. 

Thirdly the Fed will save money by requiring States to pay more for health care. They have proposed cutting Medicaid money dispensed to states giving instead “ block grants” of lesser value. 

Fourth the Fed plans to make huge cuts to key health organizations such as the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. 

Fifth and perhaps most importantly, the Fed will save money by cutting services. First on the chopping block is the contraceptive mandate. And if some of you say the Fed will only pay through the nose for increased unintended pregnancies, fear not, there is talking of cutting maternity services as well. Emergency services and mental health services will be cut, and Planned Parenthood is to be defunded. 

The anticipation is that millions would lose health insurance altogether. The related expectation is that costs for those that remain in the market will skyrocket. Millions of tax dollars will be saved, and this will be trumpeted as a great benefit. In fact it will be a benefit only to those with a significant tax burden. Those with bigger incomes will obviously benefit the most, since they pay the most taxes. So, in the final analysis, money for the general welfare of the nation, the care of pregnant women and children, and the care of the poor will be taken out of the public coffers and placed back in the hands of the well to do who currently pay large taxes. Make no mistake, these wealthy people will still pay high taxes. They will just be slightly less high. The degree of good done by the tax cut for the wealthy will not match the harm done to the poor by the loss of their insurance. 

This plan would most likely result in millions of uninsured. There will be less health screening. Thus there will be fewer pre-cancers and early cancers caught and treated. There will be more unintended pregnancies. There will be more abortions, and more STIs. There will be more unreimbursed emergency visits at hospitals. There will be more missed work, unemployment and disability. There will be more resentment. 

The betterment of society is a collective responsibility. There are some older senators who have complained that they do not want to foot the bill for birth control or maternity care since they themselves will never need any. How would they feel if I said I did not want my insurance premiums to encompass the burden of paying for those who smoke, drink, or do not stay fit ? Perhaps I should start an insurance pool for the young, fit and beautiful. That would be great except they would not let me in. 

A firestorm of objection has been lit. Among the incensed are Senate Democrats. Also objecting for different reasons are certain Republicans: Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruse (TX), Ron Johnson WI) and Mike Lee (UT, and others, members of the so called “ Freedom Caucus".  Also expressing reluctance were other Republicans Toomey (PA) and Collins (ME). 

Top medical groups have criticized the bill, most notably and loudly, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It is worth repeating the College’s statement on the legislation: “ Despite numerous efforts to collaborate and provide input throughout this process, women’s health expertise was rejected. It is reckless for legislation that will have such an immense impact on American lives and the economy to proceed without the opportunity for public hearings or any external commentary.”. 

On Capitol Hill there were angry protesters demonstrated, many of whom were in wheelchairs. 43 were arrested. Elsewhere across the country, demonstrations have been taking place. It seems the whole country is worried and upset. 

What’s next ? The draft goes to the Congressional Budget Office. There they will attempt to assess the direct and indirect, short term and long terms costs of the proposal. From there it may make it to the Senate floor for debate. If even as few as two Republican Senators disapprove of the bill, it will not pass. 

My father in law was a conservative gentleman who practiced Obstetrics and Gynecology for over 40 years. He was a Republican and very active in medical politics, advocating for  better health care for pregnant women across the state. He passed on a couple of years ago. I am glad he has not witnessed the degeneration of the Republican party and the disregard with which health care, women, and children are being treated. 

Medical Monday, medical portion, will have to come in a subsequent post, since this is already a very long dispatch. 

Again, please accept this reminder to call your Senator and let them know what you think. 

And for something upbeat, take a look at a book I just finished. It is called The Year of Living Danishly. You will get some smiles, but also some understanding of how another very successful country runs the relationship between taxes, health care, and happiness. 

 

 

Medical Monday: Delayed Edition

After I got my diagnostics squared away, I discovered ACOG’s ( American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) news site was down. Members like me have access to their news and research paper aggregator. I use it as my starting point for creating your news digest blog post page Medical Monday. Finally, all is well and we have some catching up to do. 

GOP leaders have once again announced a deadline for a vote on their health care plan, the American Health Care Act (ACHA). The deadline is to be the end of June. However, as of this writing, there are still significant disagreements over the particulars. Moreover, the drafting of the bill has now gone behind closed doors. This has met with consternation not only from Democrats but from Republicans too, since such interested stake holders cannot have a say or even see what is going on. 

The Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS) has a nonpartisan economic unit called The Office of the Actuary. According to a recent analysis done by this office, adoption of the ACHA would cause out of pocket expenses to rise about 61%. This means premiums and deductibles would rise 61% for the consumer. While the real cost of the premiums would be somewhat lower, the government subsidies to defray them would diminish, leaving the consumer to pay the difference. The current administration wants to pay less, and wants we consumers to pay more. Remember that the government’s money is really our money, collected in the form of our tax dollars. While about 29% of the American public supports the ACHA, it is not formally supported by a single State government. This is because the Fed is trying to do to States what it is doing to us. It is trying to shift more of the financial cost of health care off of itself and onto the States. If the current administration succeeds in shifting health care costs to the consumer and the States, it will claim it is saving taxpayer money.

Many of you are already aware that Texas is facing a crisis in maternal morbidity and mortality. Concern is mounting that the crisis will only get worse if the ACHA is passed, since it will reduce already limited funds for the care of women and pregnant women. 

Business leaders are starting to register concern about the looming changes in health care. In particular, the cancellation of the contraceptive benefit is projected to have huge economic and social repercussions for American families, such as spikes in unplanned pregnancies, and ripple effects though the workplace. A statement by Allan Peace of Trillium Asset Management notes that “ institutional investors… see compelling evidence that widespread access to sexual and reproductive health care benefits” promotes  the “interrelated outcomes” of women having greater control over their lives and the facilitation of economic growth. I would add that this has been demonstrated not only domestically, but around the world. Yes, prosperity and the status of women are directly related. 

In the good news department, Maine is the next in a line of States taking matters into their own hands. They have passed legislation requiring insurers to pay for up to 12 months of birth control at a time, and have prohibited insurers from charging copays for birth control. They cited data from California indicating that the unintended pregnancy rate fell by 30% when they enacted similar measures. Twenty eight states now have some sort of contraceptive equity law, aiming to make contraception very affordable or free. Let’s hope we get 50. 

The Royal College of General Practitioners has presented research again confirming that oral contraceptive use does not confer increased long term cancer risk. 

In further good news, the City of San Francisco has spelled out clearer rights for breastfeeding women in the workplace. This includes the stipulation that employers provide a clean private space with electricity, a surface and a chair. 

In medical news, Zika is back. Zika is a virus carried by the Aedes Aegyptae mosquito found from the southern US southward. When contracted by pregnant women, it causes serious malformations in the nervous systems of developing babies. 1900 women in the US have had confirmed Zika infections. The proposed White House budget proposes an emergency fund for Zika but would also cut billions from budgets of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) where work is underway on a vaccine. The first cases of the 2017 Zika season have come in from … Texas. 

A new study confirms from JAMA Pediatrics indicates that even small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy may result in babies with slight facial abnormalities. 

Obesity (BMI of 30 or more) is a huge problem. However being overweight (BMI 25-29) takes its toll as well. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that, worldwide,10% of people are overweight. Altogether 30 % of the world are affected by weight problems. The US leads the world in obesity in children and young adults. The US also has the greatest number of obese adults. Excess weight accounts for 4 million deaths worldwide, seventy percent of which are from cardiovascular disease. 

A new and large study from Sweden indicates that the risk of major birth defects increases proportional to the severity of a mother’s obesity. These patients are also at greatly increased risk of hypertension ( high blood pressure ) and diabetes. 

That gets us up to date with the news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Medical Monday Postponed

 Gentle  readers,

I must once again ask your forbearance for a small delay in the publication of Medical Monday. I began preparing for a weekend without my family as they departed on white water trip. I have had big plans for all the things that I could get done without them here, including some exhaustive computer maintenance that is been overdue.

 I'm the sort of person who makes somewhat optimistic lists. Nonetheless, I was determined to get my computer maintenance done, as I was covetous of the increased speed it would hopefully confer.  So I did the first thing that one should do when performing computer maintenance. I backed up. Yes, I back up to the cloud; I use iCloud since everything I do is part of the Apple universe. However I thought it prudent to back up the entire hard drive to another physical hard drive as well. 

I have a habit  of filling up rather large hard drives and so I should not have been surprised when my physical back up took all night Friday and half of the day on Saturday. From there I could go on to diagnostics.

Since I gotten a new larger terabyte hard drive I realized I to had re-create what is called an Edrive as a bootable entity on the main hard drive itself.  This is because the computer cannot properly do diagnostics on itself unless it is booted off something else. So after creating the Edrive using my diagnostic software Tech Tool Pro I rebooted to the Edrive and set about doing diagnostics.  I chose the whole suite of tests, thinking it would perhaps take four hours. I began the diagnostics Saturday afternoon and now I see very late on Sunday night that they are still working away. 

 And while right now I am OK with dictating you this quick note on my iPad, I will wait to do Medical Monday since, trust me, I personally have to have three big screens open to do the homework to write Medical Monday, checking sources and whatnot. 

So let this be a lesson to all of you. Keep up on your computer maintenance. It's really not very hard, it really is not. Basically you obtain appropriate software for your operating system and version, and you follow the instructions. If you use the Macintosh operating system I can unreservedly recommend the TechTool pro software which you can buy at microtek.com.  Since I don't use Windows I'm not familiar with the best choices but I know there are several easily obtained pieces of software and many choices out there even some of which are good and free available on the Internet. However, always read their documentation and read the reviews from independent sites before buying or installing. And by all means, back up your machine before doing anything. In fact, back up two different ways,  once physically and once to the cloud. 

Let's hope my diagnostics are done by tomorrow. 

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Medical Monday: Part Two

Medical Monday: Medical News Section 

Pregnancy related death continues to rise in at a fairly steady rate in the US. As of 2013, we sit at 17.3 women per 100,000 live births with a rage of about 12 per 100,000 for whites and 40 per 100,000 for blacks. Cardiovascular diseases of various kinds accounts for about 40% if these deaths. About 9% are due to pulmonary embolism, and 7% are related to high blood pressure and preeclampsia. The rest pertain to infection, hemorrhage and rare disorders like amniotic fluid embolism. 

Teen births are statistically high risk. It turns out that high teen birth rates cluster in certain cities. Analysis of the data shows these clusterings are not random and are not related to poverty to education. Most generally, the clusters are in the southern states, but they also exist in Denver, Fresno, and Yakima. San Antonio has the distinction of being the number one urban center with a teen pregnancy cluster. These findings my begin to help shed light on what is no doubt at least partly a cultural phenomenon. 

Breastfeeding has been touted has having numerous benefits, including health benefits to the mother. It turns out that prevention of uterus (endometrial) cancer is one of those benefits. Breastfeeding EVER confers an 11% reduction of risk. The longer the breastfeeding the more the risk was reduced, until risk reduction peaked at somewhere around 6-9 months of breastfeeding. 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (See PCO section HERE) is a complex of problems which include problems with ovulation (producing an egg), as well as obesity, excess male hormone, and difficulty metabolizing carbohydrate. A given patient may have one, all, or just a selection of the features of this varied disease. Generally, doctors have assumed that obesity and carbohydrate intolerance goes together. However new research has shown that even normal weight patients with PCO have have significant insulin resistance. This points for the need to counsel normal weight patients to eat a very high quality diet rich in protein, vegetables and fruit, and healthy fats. 

The overall incidence of depression in teens in higher than once previously believed, coming in at about 14% for those between 12-17. Of note, by 17, girls had a three fold higher incidence than boys. 

In the vice department, the news is sobering. New research from the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence has shown that children born to women who smoke as few as 10 cigarettes per day have problems later in life. In particular, they have increased problems “learning and thinking”. 

The British Medical Journal has published research showing that even small amounts of alcohol produces changes in brain function which play out as poorer performance on language related tests. This data comes from research on 550 men and women over a 30 year period of time. 

Hard data is in from last year’s mosquito season in America (including Puerto Rico). Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquito, produced birth defects in about 5% of babies who’s mothers became infected in pregnancy. This number was higher for those infected early, and lower for those infected late. We should learn even more this  year, and hopefully get one season closer to a vaccine for this dreaded disease. 

For those in Zika- vulnerable states: Remember, DEET is safe in pregnancy. Zika is not. 

 

Stay tuned next week for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrircs and Gynecology

We start with encouraging policy news. Republican Kevin Brady of Texas, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has asked that Congress “ immediately provide funding for subsidies to insurance companies to keep insurance premiums affordable for subscribers in 2018. This is a provision of the current law of the land, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) . It basically means that, under the Affordable Care Act, the Federal Government pays a good chunk of the originally high insurance premiums to keep them affordable for consumers. I can appreciate Texas Representative Brady’s concerns. Health care is a huge focus in his ethnically diverse state, which is part of the so called "fat-belt", and also has the highest maternal mortality rates in the Union. Keeping his poorer constituents in health insurance costs federal tax dollars to be sure. Yet these subsidies will go to provide low priced preventive measures which will in turn prevent high priced diseases. Chairman Brady knows that beyond Texas, America, the economy and the budget cannot afford for these people to lose their health care. 

In other encouraging policy news, the board of pharmacy in New Mexico has ruled to allow pharmacists to write for oral contraceptive pills. This way, most of the time, a woman will not have to visit a physician to obtain a prescription. Physicians, especially Obstetricians and Gynecologists applaud the measure since it removes barriers to contraception, and because the safety profile of oral contraceptive pills is so good. 

Delaware has had its share of abortion restrictions, including waiting periods, parental consents, provisions that there need be maternal risk, fetal abnormalities or rape, etc, etc. However Roe vs. Wade established in the 1970s that abortion is permissible until viability, and that remains the Federal Law. Delaware recently rescinded all of of these and simply reinstated the consistency of its State Law with existing Federal law. 

Connecticut failed to pass a bill to insure, on a statewide basis, the coverage of women’s health care services through insurers operating in their state. The bill tried to ensure 21 essential benefits for women, including breast cancer screenings. The bill passed the Connecticut Senate unanimously, but died on the floor when attempts were made to amend it pursuant to abortion. Hopefully it will be edited and brought forward again, in a way that will get results. 

New York is working to safeguard coverage in their state. They have drawn up their own plan to ensure the 10 basic benefits as identical to those in the ACA, which include prescriptions, hospitalizations and maternity care. 

States handle health care for their low income populations through either the ACA or Medicaid. This was possible in part due to the Medicaid expansions that took place under the ACA. A new Kaiser Family Foundation report has shown that fully 71% of Republicans, 93% of Democrats, and 83% of Independents feel that this Medicaid expansion funding should continue. Countrywide, Medicaid covers 70 million low income children, pregnant women, disabled and elderly. I do not think, especially after seeing this data, that the American people are grudging about this expenditure of their tax dollars. They do want to know, however, that that those dollars are buying them something. There is a burden on government and the medical profession alike to demonstrate with data how Medicaid dollars spent on routine care save huge monetary and societal costs later. In the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology, this sort of research has been done. For example, it has been shown that birth control is the best value on the dollar anywhere. 

Medical Monday will conclude there for tonight, at the end of our policy section. Tomorrow I will tackle the medical news, as tonight has gotten rather short. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the Wrold of Obstetrics and Gynecology

In this week’s policy news, focus is on The Contraceptive Mandate. This is the part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which requires all insurance companies to cover birth control at no cost to the insured. The New York Times has reported that the Trump administration is working on broadening the criteria through which employers and insurers may refuse to provide contraception as a benefit within their health insurance.

Initially, one company, Hobby Lobby, went all the way to the Supreme Court to argue that based on their religious principles, they had a right to decline to provide insurance which covered contraception for their employees . They argued that contraception is against their religious principles. The Trump administration would like to expand the criteria for which companies can claim a moral or religious objection to the provision of contraception.

The President of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has spoken out in multiple ways against this trend and has added his objection to discussions pertaining to the elimination of the necessity to cover maternity care. Can you believe it? Attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union have begun to elucidate a very powerful argument that these policy trends violates the separation of church and state. Moreover they constitute discrimination based on sex.

At the present time approximately 55,000,000 women receive contraception through this no cost benefit. The scientific data supports the Democratic assertion that there is a clear and evidence-based correlation between The Contraceptive Mandate of the Affordable Care Act and the historically low unintended pregnancy rates, teen pregnancy rates, and abortion rates.

Women are not the only target in the latest round of discussions on healthcare policy. A certain group of GOP senators I'm working on a revision of the Affordable Care Act which will no longer classify employer purchased health insurance as a tax deductible expense. This appalling antibusiness and anti-healthcare piece of legislation threatens the 177 million Americans who have their health care coverage through their employers. Additionally anybody who has a pre-existing condition or who has to watch their health care expenses is at risk if any of these GOP draft revisions to the health care bill are enacted. 

On to the medical news. Did you know that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption pregnancy? People widely assumes that the rule of moderation applies to alcohol and pregnancy but this is not at all the case according to the CDC, (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the National Institute of health, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. No alcohol should be consumed in pregnancy. Not a popular message. 

An increasing number of states have legalized the use of marijuana. Accordingly pregnant women have gotten the skewed message that this sends and have been using marijuana in record numbers. No one seems to be listening to the repeated messages coming out of scientific circles such as the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology indicating that marijuana use in pregnancy is associated with brain development problems in the fetus. A whopping 14% of pregnant teenagers ages 12-17 use marijuana. Dumb and Dumber. That is my fear. Also not a popular message. 

It is Zika virus season again in North America. To date 64 babies have been born in the US with Zika related birth defects. Diagnosing infections and tracking the spread of the virus is of paramount importance, together with enacting virus prevention measures such as spraying and education. All this costs money, and funding is tighter than ever this year, pursuant to the policies of the current administration. Zika virus, when contracted by pregnant women, produces a high risk of severe brain damage in the baby. Zika virus is spread by certain species of mosquitoes which live in the southern portion of the United States and points further south, most notably Central and South America. Florida already has 43 documented cases of Zika virus infection in pregnant women. 

Finally, in the good news department, women who breast feed their children for at least six months reduce their risk of endometrial cancer by over 10%. Of course they do their babies an infinite number of goods from improving their teeth to improving their brain development, but who knew there could be such tangible and profound effects on the health of the mother. 

Stay tuned next week for more sensational news from the world Obstetrics and Gynecology, right here on Medical Mondays.

 

Belated Medical Monday

I have just heard the best news about the Republican plans to replace the ACA (Affordable Care Act). Senate Republicans would like to postpone a repeal until……drum roll please …. the year 2020, when, you guessed it… another presidential election will take place ! I think this may be the GOP’s way of saying, “Sorry, never mind. We agree with President Trump who said, “Health care is hard.”." 

Especially now that the piper has started talking about getting paid… i.e. the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has had it’s say, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have come to realize that the costs of dropping the ACA provisions may exceed the costs of keeping them. 

There is however a need for action, and Senate Republicans will likely try to take action to stabilize premium costs. They will also to endeavor to continue federal insurance subsidies which help low income American with co-pays and deductibles. 

In other policy news, the Mexico City policy is back in place. This is the policy of withdrawing US aid funds from international organizations which provide reproductive services which include abortion. This is policy is meant to show the current administration's condemnation of abortion, and to curtail the incidence of abortion. However, Kenyan health care researchers have cited clear evidence from the past about what happens when the Mexico City Policy is in place. In fact, if these US funds are withdrawn from these types of health clinics, then many women go without health care and contraception and many more unintended pregnancies occur. Not surprisingly, under these circumstances, MORE abortions are actually performed. It seems impossible that the administration cannot be unaware of this. If this is true then it would seem they are really more interested in political posturing than abortion prevention or the health care of women. I'm going to speculate this this exact sort of thing will happen in that other part of the third world called Texas, where women's health care services have been severely restricted.

The Mexico City rule is also called the “ global gag rule” since all US funds can be withheld even if the clinic staff even speak of abortion.

Did you know that the current administration proposes not only to cut coverage of health care but also to health care research ? In his 2018 budget request titled “ A New Foundation for American Greatness”, cuts are proposed for the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration), the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), and the National Institute of Health (NIH) including the National Cancer Institute. How do you feel about this ? Tell your elected officials. 

Many on the red (Republican) side of the aisle continue to favor covering those with pre-existing conditions. Many of you may know of Jimmy Kimmel, the late night host and comedian. He has entered the health care debate in a most poignant way. His wife recently gave birth to a son with a congenital health defect. This defect required immediate very expensive and live saving surgery, which with insurance under the current Affordable Care Act, will be covered entirely. This baby's care coverage will not be subject to penalties for preexisting conditions, and there are currently no caps on insurance payouts under the ACA. Cases like this do become very costly, and in an environment where there are caps on what an insurance will pay, the Kimmel child might not get all the care he needs to live. So, legislators have spoken of health care plans which “pass the Jimmy Kimmel test". To pass the test, an insurance plan must cover all the care that such a baby would require. Many Republicans are coming out to favor plans which pass the Jimmy Kimmel test. See Jimmy’s moving monologue HERE:

http://ux.azcentral.com/story/life/tv/2017/05/02/emotional-jimmy-kimmel-discusses-baby-sons-heart-surgery/101189324/

In medical news, ACOG is trying to get the word out on normal anatomy. There is a disturbing rise in cosmetic surgery for the female genitalia, even in young women.  ACOG (American College of Gynecologists) is trying to educate patients and clinicians about the considerable variation in normal anatomy. They are also cautioning against so-called vaginal rejuvenation surgeries and other procedures which can have serious complications. One has only to look at the high costs of such surgery and the lack of insurance coverage of it to know that it is simply a moneymaking ploy used by unscrupulous gynecologists. 

In the “ we already knew this” department, a new study has come out reiterating that domestic violence is more common in pregnancy. Everyone needs to be aware of this. 

In the "you have some control” department, new research indicates that even one 10 ounce alcoholic drink may increase your risk of breast cancer- by nearly 10 % in post menopausal women ! The same study also shows that vigorous exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer. Worried ? Stop drinking and start exercising. 

It has now been well established that the HPV vaccine works to prevent genital warts and reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. The new revelation is that for kids under 15, only two rather than three doses are needed. 

Do you snore ? If you do, go get evaluated, regardless of your age. It is clear that sleep apnea increases risk of cardiovascular disease. New research also indicates that it complicates pregnancy, increasing risks of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. 

Bed sharing with newborns increases risk of SIDS ( Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). A new program which includes face to face education and distribution of baby box kits has been shown to be effective in reducing the incidence of bed sharing. Baby boxes provide a separate space for baby with a flat mattress and a firmly fitted sheet. These boxes, as opposed to a bed or crib with lots of blankets, toys and fluff, are much safer places for baby to sleep. 

 

Stay tuned for next week’s Medical Monday and thank you for your patience ! 

Medical Monday Delayed

Dear readers, 

Welcome back to the week. The weekend was grand. We had company from out of state and celebrated our granddaughter's second birthday. It was far too busy for me to include a timely blog post, and still eat and sleep. As you know eating and sleeping are big priorities.... We will catch up very soon. There is no shortage of news. 

 

Medical Mondays: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Forty prominent groups concerned with women’s health have written a letter of complaint to the new administration. The recipients include President Trump, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Tom Price, White House aide Ivanka Trump. The letter has criticized each of the major changes that the present administration has either enacted or proposed, for example replacing Obamacare, cutting funds to Medicaid, reducing access to women's healthcare by shutting down Planned Parenthood as well as the "global gag rule”, also known as the “ Mexico City policy”  which prevents international organizations who offer abortion as part of their services from receiving any US funds. The letter further alleges that women's healthcare needs have been traded for political benefit. The letter went out during Women's Health Week to call attention to the issues. In order to begin addressing these concerns, Ivanka Trump has begun meeting with various groups concerned with women’s health, including female Democratic leaders. 

Imposition of the global gag rule may cut off millions in funding to combat other conditions like HIV/AIDS and malaria, leading to a global health crisis. 

In a move long opposed by Republicans, the Trump administration’s budget proposal will include 6 weeks of paid family leave for both mothers and fathers. 

Texas is still trying deal with having shot itself in the foot. Texas took a stand against abortion and removed Planned Parenthood from their Federal Funding recipients. By doing so under the Obama administration, they lost their Federal funding for the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program. Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate of all the States, and a very high percentage of uninsured people. They want their Federal funds back. 

Health insurance is not just about a single subscriber, or even a single family. It is a funding pool that we agree to make together, that lets us all have predictable manageable health expenses, even if something really bad and expensive should happen. It also is a way for everyone in society to help safeguard the future, by contributing to the care of the next generation. This is done by contributing to a pool that pays for the care of women and children. This elementary and beneficial concept behind health insurance seems to have escaped Republican Rod Blum from Iowa who believes men do not need to contribute to an insurance pool which covers pregnancy. He was jeered off the stage in a town hall meeting. 

And now for a piece of news that cinches the connection between policy and health care. Research presented at the annual meeting of ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) has shown that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) under Obama led many pregnant women to get prenatal care earlier and that led to better perinatal outcomes. Of course this is in jeopardy now. 

Researchers with the American Cancer Society have presenting new findings indicating that increased access to care under the ACA led to early detection of some cancers. These included breast, colon and lung cancers. Early diagnosis leads to more cures and longer survival. The biggest changes occurred in states with significant Medicaid expansions. These gains too are in jeopardy. 

A recent study has shown that women under fifty doubled their survival time in recent years. I suspect mammograms played a role in this. There is controversy on when mammograms should start: 40 versus 50. ACOG recommends 40. So do breast cancer survivors under 50. Cancer patients over 50 also saw increased survivals, but not quite so dramatic. 

The World Heath Organization has presented the shocking news that pregnancy complications are the leading cause of death for teenage girls worldwide. The biggest causes were hemorrhage, complications  from abortion, and obstructed labor. 

Lancet, one of the world’s premier medical journals produced research on “ Amenable Mortality”. “Amenable Mortality means deaths that could’ve been avoided through timely or effective medical care. American scores 80 on the heal care quality index (HAQ) and that is at the bottom on the second decile, on a par with Estonia and Montenegro. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

This week, the health care sector spent most of its time digesting the health care policy news from the end of last week. Reactions are coming in regarding Theresa Manning, Trump’s head of Title X family planning program. Here is a woman who criticizes the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) on its endorsement of Plan B, the morning after pill, and who openly claims that contraception doesn’t work. 

Did you know that 22% of pregnant Texans under 18 have had multiple children ? Texas, the State recently enacting several curtailments to women’s reproductive services, is now grappling with it’s varied distinctions such as having sky high maternal mortality rates, and the highest repeat teen pregnancy rates in the Union. In a near comical about face, Texas is now considering a bill to provide free contraception to minors without parental consent. They have just now figured out this will reduce maternal morbidity, mortality, abortion rates and Medicaid costs. WOW. 

Reactions at a town hall meeting on New Jersey were quite clear, as participants boo’d their elected Senate Representative Tom MacArthur as he explained that rape victims could potentially be excluded from coverage. Talk about adding insult to injury. 

Pregnancy stands to be much more expensive under the ACHA. Those with prior Obstetrical complications such as C sections may fall under preexisting conditions and be charged exorbitant premiums. 

Senate Conservatives plan to drop millions of adults from Medicaid, which they say will reduce health care spending. They had originally said that tax credits instead would help people pay for health care, but now they wish to limit those on the fear that some may use their tax credit cash to pay for abortions. Paranoid much ? Moderate Republican Senators wish to keep the Medicaid expansion, citing it’s many benefits to their States. 

The Congressional Budget Office still appears to have teeth. They are the nation’s bean counters and they have yet to weigh in with REAL FACTS not #alternativefacts on how much the current administration’s ACHA (American Health Care Act) health care proposal will cost. This will include not only the cost of the insurance, but the uncovered health care costs incurred by those who lose their insurance. Polls show support of the ACHA is waning, and is down to around a third of Americans. 

A new study has shown that the credit card debt jumps for women but not men after a year of major medical expenses. Combine this with the fact that women have, on average, 20 % less income and spending power compared to men. Still ? 

As the weather gets warmer, Zika is back in the news. The CDC is now recommending all women at risk for Zika get a baseline Zika blood test. Once pregnant, they are to be retested every trimester. The CDC anticipates that this proactive schedule of testing will unearth many more cases of Zika this year. 

Hepatitis C has tripled its incidence between 2010 and 2015. Federal officials feel that the heroin epidemic is driving this. Among pregnant women, the infection rate has doubled. 

Perhaps in response to all the anti-contraceptive politics or perhaps for a variety of other reasons, the use of LARCs (Long acting reversible contraceptives such as IUDs) has increased seven fold between the years of 2008 and 2013. These are considered very good but still  underutilized methods. 

A new study presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology states that marijuana smoked by pregnant women could damage the retinas of unborn children. The study utilized an animal model which showed this effect. 

Research presented at ACOG’s recent annual meeting indicated that patient information presented on Society Websites is too advanced for patients. These education materials do not meet the so-called health literacy standards, which are meant to ensure that information reaches it’s target. This is of particular concern to me as medical writer whose aim it is to convey information to a lay public and to my patients. 

What do you think ? Would you rather information be a little too simple or a little too complex ? It is quite hard to get it just right. 

Stay tuned for more breaking news next week on Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obsteterics and Gynecology

Most of you know by now that the House narrowly approved the American Health Care Act (ACHA) by a vote of 217-213. No Democrats voted for the bill and 20 Republicans broke rank and voted against the bill. The bill's future is less certain in the Senate where it will almost certainly be modified. While this represents a legislative victory for the Trump administration it is by no means an indication that the bill is sure to pass.

A true estimate of what this bill would cost is lacking. On first glance there are some savings, but a lifecycle accounting by the Congressional Budget Office has yet to be done. For example, those that lose their insurance under this new bill will cost the government less for their insurance but perhaps more in the long run due to the uncovered care that they receive in emergency rooms.

What is this likely to mean to you? Certain people who have employer sponsored insurance could have lifetime limits on their coverage. Plans may be able to be purchased which exclude mental health or maternity care. The American Healthcare Act will cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood delivers reproductive health care and other services to 2.5 million people annually. Pre-existing conditions may come back into play. Rape and domestic violence are considered preexisting conditions and thus care for those problems may not be covered under the ACHA.

Aside from the ACHA, a new executive order allows organizations to avoid the contraceptive mandate currently in place through Obamacare. 

The legislative chair of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Dr. Leah Kaufman has written that this new AHCA is a particular disaster for women, citing astronomical costs for insurance that would cover women’s concerns such as pregnancy or breast cancer. 

Trump has named Theresa Manning as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs for the Department of Health and Human services. Ms. Manning is a former anti-abortion lobbyist for the National Right to Life committee and opposed both abortion and birth control. She will be responsible for supervising the Title X program which administers contraception, paps and preventive health services for low income women. Manning is infamous for her statements that abortion causes breast cancer, and that contraception doesn’t work. 

In the medical news department, research presented at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) indicated that babies exposed to opioids in the womb are more likely to be in need special education services. 

In the good news department, yoga appears to relieve menstrual cramps and PMS. A review analysis of 15 different studies reveals that a regular yoga practice is associated with reduced pain and PMS with periods. 

Unfortunately, troubling policy news dominated this week. But Science marches on. Stay tuned for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology. And by all means, contact your elected officials with your views. 

 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

The GOP has confirmed that they still do not have the votes to pass a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act. More particularly, Congress could not compromise their efforts to prevent a government shutdown by complicating matters with healthcare. Thus, the government has stayed open at least for another week.

The lack of ability to bring a proposal to the floor demonstrates yet again the deep divisions within the GOP on the issue of health care. It is interesting to note that the only subgroup within the GOP to endorse the current proposal is the far right House freedom Caucus.

Physician leader organizations have again jointly written to Congress this last week criticizing the latest iteration of the American Health Care Act. The primary concerns addressed in this letter were two. First they criticize allowing states to scale back “Essential Health Benefits". Secondly, they voiced concerns about the possibility that those with pre-existing conditions will again be discriminated against.

Meanwhile Democrats continue to characterize the Trump administration's efforts in healthcare as those which sabotage women's healthcare across the board: not only reproductive rights including contraception, but also access to general health care including cancer screening like mammograms and Pap smears. It has also been noted across both sides of the aisle that the Trump administration seems to be disproportionately withdrawing health care support for the  the poor.  There is also concern that the GOP healthcare plan will weaken Medicare. Is this for these reasons that centrist Republican Governors and Representatives balk at supporting his proposals since they know they will shift a bigger financial burden onto their states. This would be true since states would pick up the tab for the care of these populations. This would even be true if they do not pick up the tab, since without regular care, the uninsured will simply come in on an emergent basis, which is especially costly. Then these unpaid medical bills are indirectly covered by the rest of us, those who self pay or have private insurance. Thank you, federal government.

We pay for the underserved populations via our taxes through federal programs like the Affordable Care Act. Or, we pay if the States do not or cannot pitch in for their medical care. I would rather pay for a program which allows people to get preventive care, early diagnosis and treatment, simply because it is right, and also because it prevents human suffering, and because it is far cheaper in the final analysis. 

Case in point is the recent situation in Florida. The Florida House passed legislation last Wednesday requiring able bodied low income Medicaid recipients to meet new work requirements to keep their healthcare. This excludes people with disabilities, the elderly and children as well as those who have documented medical reasons to be off work. This sounds like a great idea, right? The purpose of the bill was to save the state of Florida money, and perhaps to engender responsibility. However, opponents of the bill expect that these requirements will actually result in a partial exodus from the rolls of Medicaid since not all current Medicaid recipients will comply with the new requirements. Opponents of the bill believe that as people come off the Medicaid rolls, the actual healthcare costs for this population will increase since they will once again utilize hospital emergency rooms for their emergent and non-emergent needs.

As a reminder, in our country, uninsured people are never turned away from the emergency room for the inability to pay or for the absence of any form of insurance. The care the uninsured receive is in every way standard and is in effect paid for by those with medical insurance and those who pay their own bills.

In a good policy news department, a forward thinking Republican senator from Omaha Nebraska, Joni Craighead, has sponsored a Nebraska bill which would require doctors to notify women if their mammogram reveals dense breast tissue. This is because dense tissue signifies higher risk of developing breast cancer. It is also the because dense breast tissue requires more and sometimes different imaging to diagnosis abnormalities.

In how-can-you-not-realize-this department, the Journal Birth has published new research on the risks of home birth. Researchers reviewed data for more than 47,000 home births overseen by midwives. Expectant mothers whose babies were breech or those who were attempting vaginal birth after cesarean section “may fare worse trying to deliver outside a hospital". In particular the study revealed that “risk of fetal death is 8 to 10 times higher for a home delivery with these risk factors”. This is death we're talking about here. 

A new survey by the College Health Association has revealed that college women tend to choose less effective forms of birth control such as condoms or pills, rather than IUDS. Cost and access to these better methods are thought to be the explanation. 

In the incredibly creepy department, a new form of reproductive violence against women has come to light. A new study in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law has discussed “stealthing”. Stealthing involves a man removing his condom during sex without the knowledge or consent of his partner.  Women are then at risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. What do men possibly get out of this ? A survey of online forums show that it relates to a a belief about a male’s “natural” right to dominance and authority, to “spread his seed”. Although victims are commonly confused by how to describe what has happened to them, it is a form of sexual assault, i.e. rape. Switzerland has already established a legal precedent for convicting this as rape. 

In the “ finally” department, the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) has finally spoken out against unproven cancer treatments being hawked on the internet. They have called out 65 bogus products that not only have no proof, but also that may cause harm. They also mention that patients often believe these are substitutes for traditional therapies. 

Studies of general medical conditions are now known to greatly underrepresent women and minorities. This has important implications, since the results of those studies on topics as important as heart disease, cancer and diabetes may not be as relevant to women and minorities. 

One more tool has been added to the global toolbox used to fight post partum hemorrhage. It is called Tranexamic Acid. It reduces death from bleeding about 20 percent and is less than a dollar a dose. It is meant to be added to the other usual methods of preventing and treating hemorrhage, such as massage, draining the bladder, pitocin, cytotec, and methergine. The clinical trial to producing this information involved 20,000 women in 21 countries. It was funded by Wellcome Trust, Pfizer, Britain’s health department, and the Gates foundation. Tranexamic acid’s brand name is Lysteda, and interestingly, it is produced by a separate drug company, Ferring Pharmaceuticals. If you have a little time for extra reading, take a detour and read about the American British Pharmacist Sir Henry Wellcome HERE

Stay tuned for more drama from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology next week, on Medical Mondays. 

Medical Monday:Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Historically a new President is evaluated at the 100th day in office. This day comes next week, and for this reason there is a special emphasis on trying to get a Republican health bill pushed through next week. The various key features of the new proposal must please not only moderate Republicans but hard line conservatives. 

Anxiety remains over whether or not the Trump administration will continue to pay health care subsidies to insurance companies. These government subsidies to insurance companies is what allows them to offer coverage to their ACA clients at such low rates. This last week, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners indicating that these are “ ...essential for keeping insurance markets stable next year”. Last Tuesday health insurance representatives met with Trump administration officials but received little assurance that the subsidies would continue. House speaker Paul Ryan indicted he would consider continuing the payments until the end of the year to avoid “…disruption”. 

In the common sense department, a new study has confirmed that paid medical leave is associated with higher breastfeeding rates. The ACA stipulation that businesses of a certain size provide time and space for breastfeeding has also been associated with increased breastfeeding rates. 

We have a new study on marijuana in pregnancy. According to a new large survey based study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda Maryland, US teen girls are more than twice as likely to smoke marijuana if they are pregnant. The rates are at 14% versus 6% in those aged 12-17. The ratio is reversed if all ages of pregnant women are considered. In that case, 4% of pregnant women smoke, versus 8% of non pregnant women. Researchers speculated that pregnant teens use marijuana medicinally to treat nausea. However, others have opined that risky behaviors such as marijuana use and teen pregnancy run together. 

Currently no specific pattern of malformation (anatomic or structural) has been uniquely associated with marijuana use. However, sustained use of marijuana has been associated with a trend toward decreased birth weight. Additionally, reported childhood effects of marijuana use in pregnancy include lower scoring on verbal and memory testing, and difficulty analyzing and integrating specific cognitive processes.

Some authorities believe that the use of pot by any kind of teen is more dangerous than use for adults. This is because there are more consequential impacts on the teen's still developing brain. According to Dr. Seth Ammerman at Stanford University and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital,  just telling teens about the risk of pot may be enough to get them to quit. 

The Trump administration has announced they will follow through with the $485 million dollar grant approved last year to fight the opioid epidemic. 

The Trump administration has also extended the “Veteran’s Choice Program” which enables some veterans to receive care from local doctors and hospital rather than travel to VA hospitals for their care. 

Breast implant linked lymphoma is again in the news. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has identified 359 women with a rare cancer called ALCL or anaplastic large cell lymphoma. It seems to occur with women who have had textured rather than smooth implants. Though over 350 cases have been identified, the incidence is very low at about 1/30000 women with textured breast implants. Those with implants should seek regular annual exams and mammograms making sure that their caregiver knows about their implants. 

A recent review in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed a problem. This is a problem that could be 100% solved, and that could help patients with any disease that they are treating. The problem is medication non-compliance. Studies show that 20-30% of medications are never filled, and that of the ones that are, 50% are not taken or not taken as prescribed. It goes a long way to explaining why some patients don’t get better or relapse. The reasons are many from cost, to wanting to “be natural”. Patients may believe need for medication reflects weakness. They may avoid it since they don’t want to be reminded of their disease. Solving the medication compliance problem would save over a hundred thousand deaths and hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

By now most of you know that Serena Williams is pregnant. Perhaps you don’t know she won the Australian Open while being so. A recent editorial in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology highlights the fact that healthy pregnant women need not curtail their exercise. This is in line with the ACOG Committee opinion document on physical activity and exercise in pregnancy. Recommendations are that pregnant women engage in aerobic exercise for 35-90 minutes 3-4 times each week. Those with any high risk factors should consult their doctors first. By the way, Serena wasn’t the only one to compete at this level; eighteen pregnant women have competed in the Olympics. 

Earth Day and March for Science have recently taken place. In an unprecedented move, 25 medical organizations including ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) issued a joint statement for March for Science. They stated that they are issuing a “….nonpartisan call for the appreciation of scientific evidence, education and investment”. 

Stay tuned next week for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, here on Medical Monday. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

First, the policy news. 

Trump has tied tax reform to health care reform. He has stated that there cannot be tax reform unless there is health care reform. Those that stalled the last proposal, the “ Freedom Caucus", an ultraconservative branch of the GOP, are reportedly in negotiations to prevent a stalemate as before. 

Negotiating with Democrats is another matter. Trump has once again threatened to withhold health care subsidies that fund the ACA (Affordable Care Act) to get Dems to the table. This would entirely destabilize the health care insurance markets. At the same time, the new administration moved to finalize rules to stabilize the ACA marketplaces as they now currently exist. These rules were drawn up by CMS, (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) who oversees these and other Federal Health care programs. The intent of these rules is to ease the what insurance companies say is an undue burden placed on them by the ACA. It will shift some of the cost of care back to the consumer, ostensibly making insurers more likely to stay in the market, i.e offer health insurance at all. For example, these rule would allow higher deductibles, larger out of pockets, and increased prices for insurance. It is hard to conceive of health insurance companies needing a “break “more than the common consumer. However, they need to stay solvent in order to make sure there are enough such companies in the market to make it competitive. 

Trump has signed a law withholding Federal Funds from clinics that provide abortion. This of course will also take down those providers from providing the general medicare care, birth control visits and cancer screenings that they would normally provide on a regular basis. 

In good policy news, a bill has been introduced in Connecticut which would make pregnancy a “qualifying event”, meaning it would enable pregnant women to enroll in the ACA anytime, instead of just during the specified enrollment periods. 

Aren’t you grateful when your medication can be purchased as a generic ? I am since it saves lots of money. Drug companies trying to recoup their losses try to keep generics out of the market as long as possible. Regulators such as the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) intervene when the need for the drug is great or the company is believed to have recouped their expenses, or the cost of the drugs is simply too high. A bipartisan effort is underway to ensure timely access to generics. This could save the public billions of dollars. 

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is on the rise in the US. Those who have been vaccinated are not part of this rise. Surprise ! 

A new study indicates that many primary care doctors and Ob/Gyns are continuing to recommend mammograms after 40 rather than begin them after 50 as the USPSTF (US preventive Services Task Force)  recommends. That is because the USPSTF gauges effectiveness by death rates, rather than years of life. Death rates from cancer or non-cancer are low for women in both the  40s and 50s, and comparisons to not yield adequate numerical differences. Furthermore their metrics do not incorporate the value of early detection on the reduction of MORBIDITY (complications short of death)  or the enhancement of quality of life. The USPSTF is comprised of epidemiologists and not clinicians. ACOG ( American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends that screening mammograms begin at 40. 

According to the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) Texas has the highest repeat teen pregnancy rate in the country. Numerous voices in the State are calling for a state based no-cost provision of birth control. Why does this not make sense to everyone ? 

On that front, it is not widely appreciate that long acting birth control such as IUDs can be places right after the baby is born. This is especially useful for patients who might not show up to their postpartum appointments. 

In perhaps the most most important opinion piece of the week, the Catholic Democrats President Steven Krueger has described a problem in the Democratic party. He has noted Democrats seem reluctant to talk about ways to reduce abortion since it may imply they do not believe access to it is a fundamental right. He believes Democrats should come to the table with proposals to reduce abortion, thereby gaining ground on issues like birth control and provision of health care in general. 

Stay tuned for more breaking news from the fascinating world of Obstetrics and Gynecology next week, here on Medical Monday. 

 

Belated Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

In policy news, things are moving at a slower, more measured pace. Moreover, the policy pendulum is swinging back to a more moderate place. In a move striking many as too little too late, the House GOP has proposed adding $15 billion to their now failed ACHA (American Health Care Act) making it more palatable to centrist republicans. This money would be pad to reimbursing health insurance companies for high cost patients. The intention is that this would help states reduce health insurance premiums for clients starting in 2018. The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that health insurance premiums will go up for the average ACA (Affordable Care Act) client by 19% if federal subsidies are withdrawn. Even with this 15 billion dollar amendment, the GOP did not have enough votes to pass their bill, and now Congress has adjourned for spring break recess. 

According to the Gallup poll, the majority of Americans now support the ACA. This is now the case for the first time since the ACA became law seven years ago. Though 55% of Americans now support it, many feel it could be improved. Centrist Democrats, calling themselves the “ New democrats”  and moderate Republicans,  “the Tuesday group”, are beginning to work with one another on small feasible improvements to the ACA which could benefit everyone.

Senator Bernie Sanders has promised to propose a bill for a single payor system, the so-called “ public option”, also known as “Medicare for all”  in 2018. 

Sixteen State’s Attorneys General have filed an Amicus brief against a new Ohio law which prevents health care providers who offer abortions from receiving any federal funds for any services. A US District Judge in Missouri has reversed a similar law in Missouri. 

In other abortion news, the 2013 Texas House Bill 2 required doctors to have admitting privileges in order to provide abortions. It also required them to do so in ambulatory surgical centers. Finally, it decreased the limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. The first two requirements put many midlevel providers in office settings out of business. About half of all abortion providers were put out of business. 

A new study in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the changes in practice since this law has taken effect. It turns out there were 20 % fewer abortions performed in that time frame. It also turns out that the abortions performed were done at a later gestational age. The researchers also calculated that an increased umber of abortions were performed illicitly. 

In medical news, the WHO (World Health Organization) has data indicating that fully 10% of all deaths worldwide are due to smoking. The number is believed to be underestimated since the effects of second hand smoke have not been accounted for. 

Death rates from the main types of cancer for all types of people have declined between 2010 and 2014. The decrease washout 2 %. 

In other good news, TDAP vaccine given in pregnancy is associated with lower rates of pertussis in babies later. (surprise ! ) 

Looking back at Zika, new data has shown us that 10% of women with Zika infection in pregnancy had a baby with a serious birth defect. The number may be higher since not all babies born to mothers with Zika have been given neuroimaging. Also in Zika news, a vaccine under development is progressing to phase two testing.  

In other vaccine news, according to the CDC, as of 2014, about 42% of all people carry the virus. A large new Scottish study of 20,000 women has shown that the HPV vaccine has been associated with a 90% fall in the prevalence of the virus.

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Stay tuned for more breaking news from the exciting world of Ob/Gyn here, next week on Medical Monday. 

Thanks for your patience with my delay during Passover ! 

Here is may first ever angel food cake, made gluten free from scratch. It is served with a dairy free chocolate ganache, lemon curd, and cherry berry sauce.