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

The health care policy package proposed by the new administration must pass through several committees before actually passing to the House and the Senate. One of these is the Budget Committee. This last week House Republicans brought the American Health Care Act (ACHA)  through this committee by vote of nineteen to seventeen. However three GOP lawmakers voted against it, showing a house divided. Centrist Republicans who approved the bill did so providing the tax credit system change to better benefit the working poor. Nonetheless it is the working poor and older workers who will experience a disproportionate rise in premiums. This is because of the substitution of tax credits for subsidies. Those who have low wages have low taxes and tax credits mean little to nothing to them. As previously reported, tax credits help those with substantial tax burdens, i.e., those with higher incomes.  

Analysts believe premiums will likely rise for a number of reasons. Principally the lack of the individual mandate will keep a lot of money from entering the pool, and this needs to made up somewhere. The premiums from 24 million consumers are likely to come out of the pool,as 24 million are likely to lose insurance with the repeal of the ACA.  This alone is believed to account for what is expected to be a 15-20 % hike in premiums. Those of us who obtain health insurance coverage will make up that staggering shortfall. Moreover, when the uninsured hit the hospital, we will also pay for them in rising medical costs, since the care providers will be left holding the bag. 

Despite all this Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price still says that the ACHA is “ intended to make health insurance feasible for every single American.” He and others in the new administration insists no one will lose coverage with with transition from the ACA to the AHCA. 

The Department of Health and Human Services budget will be cut by 15 billion, 18 percent. And yet, there will be sizable block grants for the opioid crisis and a “ Federal Emergency Response Fund.” The President’s new budget will cut funding to the NIH by 5.8 billion dollars. 

President Trump wants to give the States ability to alter their own Medicaid. On the table are copays, work requirements an premiums. 

Readers will recall from last week that Representative John Shimkus cited a “War on Men” and decried the mandate that men must purchase insurance which covers prenatal care. He does not believe that men should have to contribute to a general insurance pool if it includes funds for the prenatal care of women who also purchase that insurance. He is the same man who has sponsored anti- abortion bills out of his concern for the well being of fetuses. Connect the dots much ? 

That place where the federal government buck always stops is the Congressional Budget Office or CBO. According to the CBO, defunding Planned Parenthood would increase the number of Medicaid births, decrease overall Medicaid spending, but increase unplanned pregnancies. As unplanned pregnancy rates rise, so do abortions. 

And now for the highlights in medical news. 

Gardisil, the vaccine against Human Papilloma virus, is effective. It turns out that two doses are affected as the currently recommended three, good news for everyone including those kids who failed to get their third dose. 

When I was in training there were no limitations on length of our shifts. We routinely worked 36 hours at a stretch, and in my big training center, most of the time, we have no sleep at all. Shortly after I finished residency in 1994, an 80 hour per week working standard was set. Additionally the limitation of 18 hours per shift was instituted. However now concerns about continuity of care have caused the number to swing back to 24 hour shifts. However, The 80 hour week per limit for residents at all levels remains in place.

Preterm birth remains a serious problem in this country. We've developed various methods to try to predict its likelihood including cervical length ultrasound and fetal fibronectin testing. It does have some utility, together with the clinical judgment. However, it turns out that, according to a recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they have limited utility in first-time mothers.

Over 400,000 physicians from various disciplines compose the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health. Associations who participate include the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the American Academy of Family Physicians and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The group has identified eight threats whose increase is related to climate change which will doubtless have serious effects on human health. They are, extreme heat, extreme weather, air pollution, ticks and mosquitoes, contaminated water, contaminated food, mental-health, and nutrition.

On that sobering note, I would encourage you to get more active in political, social and environmental activities which concern you. Your elected officials are truly easy to reach by phone or email. 


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