Thursday, December 30, 2010

Immigration and the US: Happy New Year

I sit in Arizona at Christmas, finishing Dennis Lehane’s novel “The Given Day[1]. Set in 1919 in Boston and culminating in the landmark Boston police strike of that year, Lehane documents the “red scare” of that period, accompanied by the real number and strength of “reds”, the overt racism of the period along with the early days of the NAACP, the early days of the labor movement, the early days of John E. Hoover and the BI (later, of course, J. Edgar and the FBI), all set to a backdrop of the mid-career of Babe Ruth and the Red Sox (and his ultimate move to the New York Yankees). But from here, in Tucson, what seems most relevant today is that it documents the massive immigration (at that time in Boston mostly of Italians, Russians, and Jews) and anti-immigrant sentiment that accompanied it. So our current anti-immigrant furor is nothing new. It has deep roots, and is now, as it always has been, misguided.

Of course, American anti-immigrant movements go back much farther than 1919. Before the Russians, Italians, and Jews of the late 19th and early 20th century. Before even the Irish immigration, the xenophobic reaction to which was dramatically shown in the 2002 Martin Scorsese film “The Gangs of New York”. Before the Germans, back to the Alien and Sedition Acts of the John Adams administration at the end of the 18th century, and probably before that. Every group of European immigrants I have mentioned and more, Asians from China, Japan and the Philippines, and many others, have been vilified in their time. Each has been attacked by those already here, and ready to raise the drawbridge behind them. And they have made America great.

They come to America to escape grinding poverty or to maximize their opportunity. Most are poor, but some are doctors and engineers who believe they can do even better here than in, say India or Africa. (This is another issue, of brain drain, which I have touched on in earlier posts). Every time there are those “nativists” (some not here long themselves) who want to close the door, who worry that “they” will take “our” jobs. In Lehane’s book immigrants are leaders of the unions (as well as the radical revolutionary groups); immigrants have always mainly been workers. And is it different now, as the main focus of anti-immigrant wrath are those from Mexico? The wrath is centered here in Arizona (although, it should be noted, the sentiment is not uniform; although only symbolic, the Tucson City Council voted to oppose the state anti-immigrant law), and felt not only in the Southwest but all over the country. Does it make a difference that so many Mexican immigrants are “illegal”? Many of our citizens have been illegal. The major secondary characters in “The Given Day”, two older policemen who enforce “order” for the “Big Money” folks, came to the US from Ireland as teens, stowing away on a ship, and literally escaping into the streets of Boston, before later joining the force. Illegals, certainly, who believed themselves to be more "American" than the current generation of immigrants. And fictional, but representative of many real-life characters. Many “illegals” became citizens after serving in our armed forces, especially in World War II, when “we” needed “them”. Of course, America always needs “them”, to build our cities, our railroads, or industries; to be our engineers and storekeepers and cops and firemen and packing-house workers. We are “them”.

And we remain them, and they us, with only few exceptions. American Indians, whose “immigration” may have been in pre-history, and African-Americans, brought here in bondage, arguably the two most oppressed and discriminated-against ethnic groups. We can no more honorably close the door now than the descendants of English colonists who stole Indian land could for the Germans, or Irish, or Chinese, or Russian, or Polish, or Filipino, or Italian, or Jewish immigrants who succeeded them. They have always been the ones who did the work. Who pay taxes (so they are not caught) but receive no benefits, because we pass laws against “illegal” immigrants – denying them health care, denying them safety. Yet they are here; they get sick and injured, in working two and three jobs. And paying into benefit funds such as pensions and Social Security and Medicare for those of us, from earlier immigrations, to retire on, and receive our health care from. We can pass a health reform law that specifically excludes them from health coverage, not even allowing them to buy with their own money, but they will still need health care. We can even, in a gesture worthy of the persecutions of the 1920s, not pass the “Dream Act” so people who were brought up in this country can attend college with their classmates. Vigilantes can “patrol” the border, and fascist thugs like Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio can terrorize entire communities. We can pass laws that make it a crime to help save the life of a person found dying in the desert. We can talk of children born to immigrant parents as “anchor babies”, and here I need to refer people to Lalo Alcaraz’ Christmas Day cartoon in his strip “La Cucaracha”. We can, and do, do all sorts of mean, short-sighted, and selfish things to oppress people, but this does not make them wise, honorable, moral, or even sensible. We can, however, be better than that.

In the coming year, I hope the Dream Act passes. And I hope that we can define ourselves, as Americans and as human beings, by our wisdom, our foresight, and the nobler parts of our nature, rather than by our narrowness, meaness, and bigotry.

Happy New Year.

[1] Lehane, Dennis. The Given Day. Harper Collins. New York. 2008.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cardiac stents and profit-driven corruption: do anti-fraud rules address the problem?

Turns out that Baltimore may be the McAllen, Texas of cardiac stents. An article published On Monday, December 6, 2010 in the NY Times, “Doctor faces suits over cardiac stents”, by Gardiner Harris, describes the case of Dr. Mark Midei of Baltimore, who is now the target of a Senate Finance Committee investigation following a series of articles in the Baltimore Sun alleging that he put cardiac stents in many people who did not need them. Dr. Midei apparently put in as many as 30 stents per day, 1200 stents per year, in his hospital – numbers that matched hospitals 4 and 5 time as large in the northeast, and the Senate report indicates at least 585 were medically unnecessary, for which he charged Medicare $6.6M and was paid $3.8M. While the hospital, St. Joseph, is also being sued, apparently it and Dr. Midei are accusing each other of being at fault, and of trying to destroy each others’ reputations. Meanwhile, Abbott Laboratories, which manufactures the devices, is lavishing millions of dollars in favors upon Dr. Midei, a small portion of the enormous revenue he has generated for them. The report says that “The serious allegations lodged against Dr. Midei regarding the medically unnecessary implantation of cardiac stents did not appear to deter Abbott’s interest in assisting him.”

There is a lot more to say about this particular case, including a great quote: “After one particularly critical story in The Baltimore Sun, David C. Pacitti, an Abbott executive, wrote in an e-mail, ‘Someone needs to take this writer out and kick his ass.’”, but it would be a mistake to focus too much on this one; there are a lot more corrupt doctors, hospitals, and drug and device manufacturers (Abbott is both) out there.

First, the evidence. While the Times article cites “A landmark 2007 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that many patients given stents would fare just as well without them,” they don’t indicate the article they are referring to (no author or reference given; the link is not to the article), but presumably it is the Swedish study by Lagerkvist, et. al, that showed increased recurrent MI (heart attack) and death with the use of drug-eluting stents compared to bare metal stents.[1] However, there are several articles in the March 8, 2007 issue of NEJM that address the safety of drug-eluting stents (i.e., stents impregnated with a drug to keep them from getting re-clotted, which as a group do not provide a consistent picture. Spaulding, et. al., from Paris, found that there was no difference in outcomes from patients with stents with the drug sirolimus compared to bare metal[2], while Stone and colleagues from Columbia found that drug-eluting stents with both sirolimus and paclitaxel had greater rates of re-thrombosis (though not heart attack or death) than bare metal.[3] Meanwhile, Kastrati and colleagues from Germany, reviewing 14 studies of sirolimus-eluting stents, also found no increase or decrease in heart attack or death, but less need for re-intervention, although at least as much re-thrombosis (clotting) as bare metal stents.[4] There are also two editorials; Farb and Boam, the official one from FDA[5] conclude “The safety and effectiveness of drug-eluting stents as compared with those of alternative treatments deserve continued study.”, while Maisel, head of an FDA committee that reviews these devices, writes “Drug-eluting stents represent an important advance in the management of coronary artery disease and have benefited many patients.“[6]

None of these articles compared stents to no stents, and there is no question that that many, many patients with coronary artery disease benefit greatly from them, getting relief of symptoms without having their chests cut open for surgery (coronary artery bypass grafting, or CABG, pronounced “cabbage”. Cute, huh?). Drug-eluting stents now require the patient take an anti-coagulant, and so the complex decision of whether they are better than bare-metal must be made for an individual patient, based on a variety of patient, stent, and anti-coagulation-risk characteristics. It is also worth noting that either stents or CABG only bypass (or stent open) already-narrowed areas in the coronary arteries. Therefore the risk of recurrent heart attack (MI) and associated death is not only from re-stenosis but the rupture of a cholesterol-laden plaque that might not previously been causing significant obstruction. These are the “sudden” MIs, which account for a larger number of heart attacks than those that come after increasing, gradual narrowing of a coronary artery (and the associated increasing chest pain, called angina pectoris).

Probably even more important are the complex interplay of financial rewards and government regulation that impact on the use of these and other devices, as well as all kinds of other treatments and interventions. There can be no justification for the obviously excessive stent placement by Dr. Midei, or the encouragement of it by Abbott and probably the hospital; as the Times article notes ”… far from questioning cardiologists who perform an unusually high number of stent procedures, many hospital executives celebrate these doctors because of the revenue they bring, which can be more than $10,000 per procedure.” In this context, the reported statement of Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, that “Hospital patients expect their care to be based on medical need, not profits…Even more disconcerting is that this could be a sign of a larger national trend of wasteful medical device use,” sounds heroic, but is it?

The hospitals have a point too, in their criticism of government regulation. Not all of the investigations by HHS, Medicare, and other government agencies are really meant to uncover such gross overuse or fraud, although this is how they are portrayed. Many of them are just about getting money for the Federal government as aggressively as possible, and if it can be called “fraud” as opposed to a “mistake” they can get huge penalties as well as refunds of Medicare money spent. A major Medicare initiative is Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs), essentially bounty hunters given a license to investigate certain hospitals for fraud. Great, except most of their work seems to be on finding whether patients were (and this is going to seem like a technical subtlety) officially “admitted” to the hospital, when the severity of their illness could have allowed them to be placed in the hospital for a day or more on “observation” status, where they are officially outpatients and reimbursed at a lower rate. If a hospital or doctor were systematically admitting people who should obviously be “observed”, this might be real fraud, what are probably honest minor errors (or differences of opinion) in the assessment of patient condition are blown up so that the RAC (and Medicare) can recover big penalties. Far from trying to systematically defraud Medicare, my hospital, the University of Kansas Hospital (which is very happy with its high cardiac-care rating by US News and is truly one of those hospitals that enjoy the large amounts of money interventional cardiology procedures provide) is spending a bunch of money to have each admission audited by an outside firm to ensure that they don’t violate these criteria and make themselves vulnerable to RAC recoveries.

So who is the “white hat”? Certainly not the drug and device makers, who are really “only in it for the money”, often not the hospitals, and sadly not always (although, honestly, most of the time) the doctors. But also not the government, seeking money to fund its wars in a down economy. Senator Baucus, famous for taking huge amounts from drug companies himself, may not be the one whom we should be trusting, but his statement that “Hospital patients [and, I would add, all patients!] expect their care to be based on medical need, not profits” is certainly a sentiment that I would endorse. Of course, the making of these profits is why the drug companies paid him. Some suspect that this might be partly why his committee, and the Congress overall, and the administration, did not pass a health reform bill that would achieve that result. Fraud is bad, and uncovering fraud is good, but RACs are not an answer to a flawed, profit-driven, health system.

[1] Lagerqvist B, James SK, Stenestrand U, Lindb├Ąck J, Nilsson T, Wallentin L; SCAAR Study Group., Long-term outcomes with drug-eluting stents versus bare-metal stents in Sweden., N Engl J Med. 2007 Mar 8;356(10):1009-19. Epub 2007 Feb 12.
[2]Spaulding C, Daemen J, Boersma E, Cutlip DE, Serruys PW., A pooled analysis of data comparing sirolimus-eluting stents with bare-metal stents., N Engl J Med. 2007 Mar 8;356(10):989-97. Epub 2007 Feb 12.
[3] Stone GW, et al., Safety and efficacy of sirolimus- and paclitaxel-eluting coronary stents, N Engl J Med. 2007 Mar 8;356(10):998-1008. Epub 2007 Feb 12.
[4] Kastrati A, et. al., Analysis of 14 trials comparing sirolimus-eluting stents with bare-metal stents, N Engl J Med. 2007 Mar 8;356(10):1030-9. Epub 2007 Feb 12.
[5] Farb A, Boam AB., Stent thrombosis redux--the FDA perspective.,N Engl J Med. 2007 Mar 8;356(10):984-7. Epub 2007 Feb 12.
[6] Maisel WH., Unanswered questions--drug-eluting stents and the risk of late thrombosis, N Engl J Med. 2007 Mar 8;356(10):981-4. Epub 2007 Feb 12.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

ACA, ACOs, and Meaningful Competition

Criticisms of the new health law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), have come from all sides. While many of them are justified, they also miss many of the law’s positives. It doesn’t assure the reliable, cost-controlled security of a real universal health insurance program, but it will lead to coverage of tens of millions of more Americans, and will eliminate the ability of insurance companies to engage in health risk underwriting, the practice that allows them to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. These are points that the President made in his recent interview on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. "Individual mandates", i.e., forcing everyone to buy insurance, while it is a touchstone for the right and is the issue found unconstitutional by a Virginia federal judge (and which will probably go to the Supreme Court), was the price that insurance companies demanded for assuring coverage for everyone. As I have often written, you have to have all the healthy people in if you are going to cover the sick; there are many more healthy, but all of us can become sick.

Apparently, a lot of people understand this. A recent poll by Marist College and McClatchy newspapers shows a majority (51%, but still a majority) of Americans want to continue (16%) or increase (35%) the benefits of ACA, with 44% going the other direction. “Among groups with pluralities who want to expand it: women, minorities, people younger than 45, Democrats, liberals, Northeasterners and those making less than $50,000 a year. Lining up against the law, 11 percent want to amend it to rein it in; 33 percent want to repeal it. Among groups with pluralities favoring repeal: men, whites, those older than 45, those making more than $50,000 annually, conservatives, Republicans and tea party supporters.” OK, these are the “usual suspects”, except that it amazing and saddening to me that older people who are receiving Medicare can be opposed to expanding benefits to others. Maybe they are just ignorant of Medicare and the current law (as reflected in “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!”); this is also sad, but would explain what would otherwise be an enormously, almost immoral, selfishness. Yes, more educated Medicare recipients are concerned that the benefits for that program will be scaled back (and there are unquestionably threats to do so!) but this does not justify opposition to extending those benefits to the rest of the country.

A new set of problems is described by Robert Pear in the New York Times, on Sunday, November 21, 2010, “As health law spurs mergers, risks are seen”. The focus of his article is the planned “accountable care organization” (ACO), a relationship between one or more hospitals (or “health systems”), doctors, nursing homes, and home health care agencies. The idea behind creating ACOs is that, by coordination of care and sharing of information, people’s health can be improved and money can be saved. There is a lot of sense to this approach. If a patient is discharged from a hospital to home, or to a nursing home, and there is more sharing of information with the home health agency, or nursing home, or the primary care doctor who will be responsible for care when they leave the hospital, there is greater likelihood that there will not be lapses in the patient’s care. Similarly, if the person’s health deteriorates to the point of needing to be re-admitted, it would be best if 1) all that could have been done in the non-hospital setting to possibly prevent that from happening was done, and 2) all the information about what was done was transmitted to the hospital.

The organizations most cited by health reformers as having been successful in controlling costs and improving quality are those that are already “integrated”, where the system that owns the hospital(s) also employs the physicians and controls the nursing homes and home health care agencies, or else has very close and dependent financial relationships with them, such as Intermountain Health Care, Geisinger Health System, and Kaiser-Permanente. Information – and money, including money saved by having fewer expensive readmissions, is shared among the various participants. So ACA creates financial incentives for others to create such relationships, the ACOs. The issue raised in Pear’s article are that many forms that these ACOs might take run the risk of violating existing laws that are in place to prevent kickbacks, monopolistic practice, and other forms of corruption. For example, it is illegal for a health system for offering contingency payments a physician who is not an employee – such as for admitting patients to the hospital, keeping stays shorter, etc. This makes sense too.

So we have two conflicting things that “make sense”: greater collaboration and aligned incentives can create greater efficiency and save money, but they can also lead to oligopoly and corrupt relationships. Monopoly is more efficient, but creates the opportunity for exploitation. Modern business practices, based on the work of people such as W. Edwards Deming[1], emphasize the importance of long-term relationships with suppliers so that they can learn and better meet your needs over time, something there would be no incentive to do if doing so cost them money, and you were likely to pull your business the next year because someone else bid lower. Governments usually have policies requiring contracts given to the lowest bidder, but there is a danger that the work will be of lower quality.

Much of the criticism of ACA from the “right” has been about lack of “choice”, but as we look at implementation of the health care law, we need to be careful that ideology does not trump actual health outcomes. Two recent studies show the risks of the “law of unintended consequences” of policies that encourage consumer choice and a market approach to health coverage. In “Health care use and decision making among lower income families in high-deductible health plans”[2], Kullgren and colleagues demonstrate that, in fact, as might be anticipated, poor people who choose to spend less out-of-pocket money by enrolling in such high-deductible plans pay the price later in not accessing health care and having poorer outcomes. Millet, et al, in “Unhealthy competition: consequences of health plan choice in California Medicaid”[3], show that, perhaps less intuitively, Medicaid (Medi-Cal) patients in California counties where they have a choice of plans are less likely to be enrolled all year than where they do not have such choice, and “Potential benefits of health plan choice may be undermined by transaction costs of delayed enrollment, which may increase the probability of hospitalization for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions.”

Ideally, a single-payer, Medicare-for-all, system eliminates the risks that people will not enroll or have gaps in enrollment, that there will be people left out, that people will, for understandable and reasonable short-term financial reasons, make choices that can have long-term adverse effects on their health, and that there will be different standards for quality of care for people with different insurance. But even that does not address the system of provision of care. The ACA law seeks to encourage communication and efficiency, but critics see danger in merger and oligopoly, which could limit options for consumers and in itself create risks to health care access and quality.

What could the solution be? One might be to have cooperative relationships with open-source access to information. Thus, your health information would not be in the control of a given hospital, health care system, or doctor, but rather be controlled by you, and made available to whichever provider – hospital, doctor, nursing home, etc. -- that you chose to provide your care. The information would not be in proprietary electronic medical record format, but rather in an interoperable format that could be utilized by any provider. Incentives could exist globally, not simply within a single organization, to produce the highest quality care rather than the highest profit margin. This would be an excellent example of real competition.

[1] See Mary Walton, The Deming Management Method, Berkeley Publishing Group, New York (originally published Dodd Mead, NY, 1986).
[2] Kullgren JT et al., “Health care use and decision making among lower income families in high-deductible health plans”, Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010;170(21):1918-25. (Hyperlink is to abstract as full text not available free on line.)
[3] Millet C, Chattopadhyay A, Bindman AB, “Unhealthy competition: consequences of health plan choice in California Medicaid”, American Journal of Public Health Nov2010;100(11):2235-40. (Hyperlink is to abstract as full text not available free on line.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tax Breaks for the "Masters of the Universe" or for the rest of us?

In an Associated Press story from November 28, 2010, “Tax break for employer health plans a target again” (it was widely picked up; here I’ve given the link to the Pensacola News-Journal), Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar writes about the resurgence of interest in eliminating the employer tax break for contributions to employee health plans. This proposal, put forward from time to time, has been given new prominence by the recommendations of Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the. not dumb and dumber but right-and-righter co-chairs of the President’s task force on deficit reduction, which they have morphed into a task force on cutting taxes. For Bowles and Simpson, it is one of only a number of proposals they make that would take away middle-class tax benefits, and not even the least popular: that honor would almost certainly go to the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction.

The employer’s ability to deduct contributions to their employees’ health insurance goes back to the post-World War II era, when there was tremendous competition for workers (imagine that!) and wage and price controls made it impossible for businesses to compete on the basis of pay, so fringe benefits – specifically health insurance – became a real perk. The unions liked it because they could bargain for this benefit for their members. The losers, of course, were all of us, who did not get a national health insurance program. And for many years this benefit has been a real advantage to being employed by a company with a collective bargaining agreement, and clearly unions will strongly oppose any effort to make it more difficult for them to achieve this benefit.

Meanwhile, some Medicare recipients, concerned about maintaining one of the few benefits the elderly still have, have come out against much of the health reform bill. Many of the most vocal opponents are the wealthy elderly, but unfortunately many middle- and working-class seniors are in this group. This is the subject of James Surowiecki’s piece “Greedy Geezers?” in the New Yorker, Nov 22, 2010, as noted by Tallgrass Activist David Kingsley. While the title might be offensive, many of his points are well taken: “There’s a colossal irony here: the very people who currently enjoy the benefits of a subsidized, government-run insurance system are intent on keeping others from getting the same treatment.” One example of what seniors can see as real cutbacks to their benefits are the cuts to the Medicare Advantage program. Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part “C”) is a program that basically takes your Medicare payment, and an additional payment from you, and enrolls you in an HMO that provides you benefits beyond that which traditional Medicare offers (such as glasses, hearing aids, a better drug benefit, especially before Part “D” was enacted). It was created by the Reagan administration as a way to, at least in part, privatize Medicare, and was accompanied by higher payments from the federal government to these insurers than was spent on traditional Medicare beneficiaries. This was a corrupt program that ACA was right to eliminate, but because those seniors enrolled in it were getting a benefit, they receive a cut. Of course, the cut (appropriately) is much greater to the insurance company, which was getting most of the benefit (the extra benefits received by the enrollees were worth much less than the insurance companies were being paid).

What a great example of divide and conquer! Bowles-and-Simpson’s (now they are one, ostensible bipartisanship aside) proposals, while they were supposed to be about deficit reduction, are all about decreasing taxes. And especially decreasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, a strategy that has been demonstrated by the last decade to be extraordinarily beneficial to – the wealthiest Americans and corporations. Trickle down economics, decried by George HW Bush as “voodoo economics” during the 1980 election, are no less so now, although to call them that insults voodoo. Interviewed on NPR’s “All Things Considered”, Bowles-and-Simpson are asked about the criticism of their proposals by economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman, who says it is about redistributing wealth upward. While Simpson says Krugman has “lost his marbles”, he doesn’t address Krugman’s criticisms.

The fact is that the wealthiest are doing great and everyone else is being penalized. This cannot be justified by any reasonable economics, voodoo, trickle-down, Friedmanesque or anything else. The elite have a Congress that they have bought and paid for, as discussed in his November 28, 2010 column, Still the Best Congress Money Can Buy, by the NY Times’ Frank Rich. He refers us to recent Times articles documenting the recent enormous corporate profits (“Corporate Profits were the highest on record last quarter” by Catherine Rampell, November 23, 2010) and profligate spending by the Wall St. “masters of the universe”[1] (With a Swagger, Wallets Out, Wall Street Dares to Celebrate, November 23, 2010, by Suzanne Craig and Kevin Roose), while the Times’ editorial page reminds us that while they grow wealthier regular people, who still can’t get jobs, also can’t even get their unemployment benefits extended (The Unemployed Held Hostage, Again, November 28, 2010).

Our health system has long been terrible, in lack of equitable access for many while there have been enormous profits for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, in excessive interventions and procedures for the well-insured masquerading as the “best health care system in the world”, quantity masquerading as quality even for those who have had health coverage. As developing countries such as India seek to develop their own health systems, the US is notable as a model for what should not be done (see the interview with Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz in the Times of India 'The US model of private health insurers is inefficient, expensive' (thanks to Don McCanne in his wonderful Quote of the Day). The ACA was a first step to fixing it, but scarcely a final one. It is time to stop talking about how to inflict more economic pain on the bulk of Americans, unemployed and working, until we stop giving the store away to the elite.

Surowiecki notes that “seniors think of Medicare as an “entitlement”—something that they have a right to because they paid for it”. Why not? Even though he notes that today they “get far more out of Medicare than they ever put in,” he adds, appropriately, that “There’s nothing wrong with this: the U.S. is rich enough so that the elderly shouldn’t have to worry about having health insurance; before Medicare, roughly half of them didn’t have it”. He’s right on that. And we all should have it – Medicare for all, coverage for all of us. After 45 years of it working for seniors, it is time for it to be an entitlement for everyone. Something, finally, for the 99% who are not the “masters of the universe”. Sounds good to me.

[1] A phrase coined by Tom Wolfe to refer to Wall St titans in his 1987 book The Bonfire of the Vanities, Farrar Straus and Giroux.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Medicine and Social Justice Index, Year 2

Continuing a "tradition" I started a year ago, here is a topically-organized list of the postings on Medicine and Social Justice for its second year, December 2009-November 2010.

General Medical

Tuesday, November 23, 2010: Lung Cancer Screening: Benefits, Costs, and Opportunity Costs for the Public Health
Thursday, November 11, 2010: Hospital Readmissions: Who pays, who decides, and for whom?
Saturday, October 30, 2010: Breast cancer screening: conflicting evidence? what are the important questions for health?
Monday, August 2, 2010: Calcium, Heart Attack and Osteoporosis
Friday, July 16, 2010: Rosiglitazone and the "Holy Grail"
Tuesday, July 6, 2010: Statins and scientific integrity
Friday, April 16, 2010: VISA and colchicine: maybe the banks and Pharma really ARE in it for the money! (Guest post by Stephen Griffith, MD)
Saturday, January 16, 2010: Cancer Care and Hospital Advertising

Health and Public Health, General

Monday, November 29, 2010: Compromised public health ethics across the pond: Britain too!
Sunday, October 24, 2010: Health and income: "what's new?" or a good resource
Wednesday, October 13, 2010: "Top Doctors": Who are they -- and who are they not necessarily?
Friday, September 24, 2010: Capability: understanding why people may not adopt healthful behaviors
Saturday, September 18, 2010: Shared Medical Decision Making: Between Autonomy and Authoritarianism
Sunday, September 12, 2010: Social Determinants, Personal Responsibility, and Health System Outcomes
Tuesday, September 7, 2010: Drugs, Tobacco, Doctors and the Health of the Public
Friday, August 20, 2010: The AAFP, Coca-Cola, and Ethics: Serving the public interest?
Saturday, May 15, 2010: Public Health and Changing People's Minds
Sunday, May 9, 2010: Health Outcomes: The interaction of class and health behaviors
Saturday, March 27, 2010: Comparative effectiveness research
Sunday, March 21, 2010: Doctors, morality and behavior: where is the moral compass?
Saturday, February 6, 2010: The Public’s Health: Smoking and Salt
Wednesday, January 27, 2010: Health is more than Medical Care

Health reform, Health Policy and Workforce

Wednesday, November 17, 2010: Disparities in physician income are related to disparities in health
Friday, November 5, 2010: Training rural family doctors
Monday, October 18, 2010: Lower Costs in Grand Junction: More Primary Care, Less High Tech
Thursday, October 7, 2010: Primary Care Grants from HRSA: not enough, not wisely done
Wednesday, July 28, 2010: The political campaign and the future of health reform
Thursday, July 22, 2010: Improving quality and access still requires coverage for all
Saturday, June 26, 2010: Mirror on the Wall: Commonwealth Fund report continues to show US has poor outcomes at high cost
Thursday, May 27, 2010: Universal Coverage and Primary Care: The US needs both
Thursday, April 22, 2010; PPACA, The New Health Reform Law: How will it affect the public's health and primary care?
Sunday, April 11, 2010: Doctors and Health Reform: How should a physician's politics affect their patient care?
Wednesday, March 17, 2010: The Sharp End of Ideology (Guest post by Robert Ferrer, MD MPH)
Monday, March 8, 2010: Why we need health reform (announcement of a guest post by me on Health Strong, " )
Friday, March 5, 2010: Top Ten Reasons for Future Subspecialist Physicians To Be Concerned (Guest post by Robert Bowman, MD)
Saturday, February 27, 2010: Democrats have a bad plan; Republicans have no plan
Thursday, February 18, 2010: Poverty, Primary Care and the Cost of Medical Care
Saturday, February 13, 2010: Insurance company greed: To know them is to not trust them
Monday, February 1, 2010: Haiti and Health Reform: We need real leadership
Thursday, January 21, 2010: Harvard Medical School limits outside income: a good start
Wednesday, December 23, 2009: Health Reform: The good, the bad, and the bigoted
Monday, December 14, 2009: Tommy Douglas and the Canadian Health System

Primary Care

Friday, October 1, 2010: The Challenge of Global Health and Primary Care
Wednesday, September 1, 2010: Advice for building a new primary care based health system for Armenia: How "knowing the future" can inform our actions now (Guest post by Heidi Chumley, MD)
Saturday, August 14, 2010: Primary Care, IMGs, and the Health of the People
Monday, July 12, 2010: Primary care specialty choice: student characteristics
Tuesday, June 8, 2010: Reinventing Primary Care: Themes and Challenges
Thursday, May 27, 2010: Universal Coverage and Primary Care: The US needs both
Friday, May 21, 2010: Primary Care: What takes so much time? And how are we paying for it?
Wednesday, April 28, 2010: Primary Care and Rural Areas
Thursday, April 22, 2010; PPACA, The New Health Reform Law: How will it affect the public's health and primary care?
Monday, April 5, 2010: Primary Care and the Medical Home, Today and Tomorrow
Thursday, February 18, 2010: Poverty, Primary Care and the Cost of Medical Care
Thursday, January 7, 2010: Primary Care and Residency Expansion
Thursday, December 10, 2009: Free clinics should open our eyes to the real problems
Sunday, December 6, 2009: Health Care Needs Should Guide Health Reform

International Health and Medicine

Monday, November 29, 2010: Compromised public health ethics across the pond: Britain too!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010: Advice for building a new primary care based health system for Armenia: How "knowing the future" can inform our actions now (Guest post by Heidi Chumley, MD)
Friday, October 1, 2010: The Challenge of Global Health and Primary Care
Wednesday, June 2, 2010: Who will care for the underserved? The role of off-shore medical schools
Monday, February 1, 2010: Haiti and Health Reform: We need real leadership
Monday, January 11, 2010: Health Workers and the Afghanistan-Pakistan War (Guest blog by Seiji Yamada, MD)
Monday, December 14, 2009: Tommy Douglas and the Canadian Health System

Medical Education

Thursday, August 26, 2010: Medicine, science, and humanities: what is their role in medical education?
Saturday, August 14, 2010: Primary Care, IMGs, and the Health of the People
Sunday, August 8, 2010: The White Coat Ceremony: New medical students and hope for the future
Monday, July 12, 2010: Primary care specialty choice: student characteristics
Sunday, June 20, 2010: A New Way of Ranking Medical Schools: Social Mission
Wednesday, June 2, 2010: Who will care for the underserved? The role of off-shore medical schools
Thursday, January 7, 2010: Primary Care and Residency Expansion
Thursday, December 10, 2009: Free clinics should open our eyes to the real problems

Social Justice

Thursday, July 1, 2010: Arrested at the G20: David Wachsmuth
Monday, June 14, 2010: Oil Slicks and Abortion: Who do we regulate?
Saturday, May 15, 2010: Public Health and Changing People's Minds
Sunday, May 9, 2010: Health Outcomes: The interaction of class and health behaviors
Tuesday, May 4, 2010: Big Finance & Big Oil -- Teabaggers and Racism
Wednesday, March 31, 2010: Obama and the Seder: Freedom and Multiculturalism
Wednesday, March 17, 2010: The Sharp End of Ideology (Guest post by Robert Ferrer, MD MPH)
Saturday, March 13, 2010: Who owns US policy: let’s not forget who the bad guys are
Sunday, January 3, 2010: The business of America...or is America a business?
Tuesday, December 29, 2009: Quotes for the New Year
Friday, December 18, 2009: The trauma of joblessness: who is evil?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009: Food stamp use increases: who should the government be working for?


Friday, December 3, 2010

Matthew Freeman Memorial Lecture, Dec 6, 2010

This event is free and open to the public. For more information and to RSVP, contact Nancy Michaels at

Matthew Freeman LECTURE & SOCIAL JUSTICE Award


Monday, December 6 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL
430 S. Michigan Ave. Sullivan Room - 2nd Floor

Matthew Freeman was a Roosevelt student committed to working for a world with true justice, equality and fairness. Matthew died days before he would have received his degree. Through the support of his parents, his legacy continues with this annual lecture and award presentation. This year’s Matthew Freeman Social Justice Awards will be presented to Roosevelt students Oneka Ijeoma and Renee Farwell for their commitment to bettering our world through activism.

The Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation and the Department of Political Science and Public Administration present the annual Matthew Freeman Lecture and Social Justice Award Ceremony.

This year’s distinguished lecturer is Anne Enke, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, History and LGBT Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Professor Enke is the author of Finding the Movement: Sexuality, Contested Space and Feminist Activism (Duke University Press, 2007).

Total Pageviews