Policy has marched on, despite my delay. Last week, the Graham Cassidy Bill to replace the Medicaid Expansion with State Block grants fell with a thud without even being brought to a vote. This is because it did not even have enough Republican support.
Early in the week, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services resigned amidst constroversy. He was criticized for his extensive use of taxpayer funded charter flights. He was, by those in the medical community, not considered to be a friend of health care. He was viewed as a political appointee there to tow the party line.
Most recently, Senator Bernie Sanders has revealed that this administration has been giving consideration to cutting Medicare as well as Medicaid. Medicare is the Federal Health Insurance Program for the elderly and the disabled, which Medicaid is the health insurance program for the poorest sector. Democrats allege these cuts in health care for vulnerable populations would be used to finance tax cuts “for the rich”.
Premium prices for those purchasing health insurance through the ACA will most assuredly increase. Some increases will be more than 50%. This increase in cost of insurance premiums is NOT based on any definite information of federal subsidies reductions. Instead it is based on the THREAT of reduced or eliminated subsidy payments. Uncertainty and instability from the Federal government is causing insurers to raise prices, and is causing in insurance commissioners to allow them to do so. All premiums for all insurance plans are likely to rise.
Prescription drug prices are likely to rise. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottleib, has declared that these high prices are a public health concern. In response, he has indicated a commitment to “more efficient generic drug development, review and approval”.
Such uncertainty means hospitals and insurers will be unable to predict their income. This is causing them to take conservative positions across the board. This has also resulted in the closure of many rural hospitals, and the closure of maternity units within otherwise operational hospitals. More than half of all rural counties to not have a a prenatal clinic or Ob care facility.
As discussed previously, several states have taken matters into their own hands. A red state, Utah, is fielding a proposal to expand access to birth control for low income women. Utah State Representative Ward has cited patient autonomy and cost savings as the driving benefits behind the bill.
The morning after pill, widely considered in medical circles to be utterly safe, is now being dispensed from vending machines on certain college campuses.
Massachusetts is considering a bill ensuring the provision of free birth control. This bill required the input of the third party payers, the insurance companies, as well as reproductive health advocates. It is expected to pass.
In medical news, I am happy to announce the official eradication of infant and maternal tetanus. This infection once killed 10,000 newborns per year in the Western hemisphere. This has been at least in part due to the successful vaccination program using DPT in the past, and TDAP more recently.
TDAP stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a bad nuisance for healthy adults. However, it can be fatal in infants. All pregnant women are encouraged to get a TDAP booster in the third trimester. This turns out to confer 90% pertussis protection to the newborn. However, only half of all pregnant women got the vaccine.
Confirmed: hormone containing IUDs do not adversely impact breastfeeding. A new study confirms what we would already expect. We expect this because hormone containing IUDs do not send hormone into the greater circulation; only to the lining of the uterus itself. This is also the reason why they do not confer systemic side effects.
In the bad news department, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) report that sexually transmitted diseases are at record highs, for a second year in a row. This includes Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. This is attributed to budget cuts impacting screening and treatment clinics but also to better testing methods. Chladmydia is soaring in women, while syphilis is most prominently increasing in gay and bisexual men.
Much needed increased attention is being paid to post partum depression. I attended a conference today where it was highlighted that depression in this case is really a misnomer. The most common presentation of postpartum depression is anger or anxiety. A new study highlights that post partum depression is 27-47 times more likely to recur in a patient who has had it once. Postpartum depression has good treatments. More awareness and aggressive screening in the early post partum period is our best defense.
Now we are up to date ! Stay tuned for more exciting news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology , here, next week, on Medical Monday.