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Nearly two-thirds of Americans still want health reform: MedCity Morning Read, Feb. 11, 2010

A Washington Post-ABC News poll revealed a somewhat surprising number: 63 percent of Americans say lawmakers in Washington should keep trying to pass “a comprehensive health-reform plan.” So much for the idea that Scott Brown’s election was a sign that the public rejected reform.

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Highlights of the important and the interesting from the world of health care:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans still want health reform: A Washington Post-ABC News poll revealed a somewhat surprising number: 63 percent of Americans say lawmakers in Washington should keep trying to pass “a comprehensive health-reform plan.” So much for the idea that Scott Brown’s election was a sign that the public rejected reform. Even more surprisingly, 42 percent of Republicans felt that way, and 44 percent of Republicans say that their party’s own leadership isn’t doing enough to strike deals with President Obama on reform. Maybe that’s enough to give even the most hardened political observer a sliver of hope for Obama’s “health summit” with the GOP–or maybe not. (Or perhaps Obama should just “go gangsta” on Republicans, as one astute commentator suggests.)

Nonetheless, if the poll numbers show anything, it’s at least encouraging that much of the American public realizes the U.S. health care system is a big problem for the country’s future financial viability–and, hopefully they realize it’s a threat to their own, too.

Medicare pay cut for doctors on hold again: Congress appears to be ready to kick the Medicare “doctor’s fee” problem a few steps down the road again. Good news–kind of–for doctors, though they’d no doubt prefer a permanent measure that’d hike Medicare’s fees. If it seems like this happens every year, it’s because it does. Follow the links for further background, but the Wall Street Journal sums up the situation nicely:

There’s widespread political support for blocking scheduled pay cuts to doctors. But doing so is expensive. So rather than get rid of the formula that keeps calling for the cuts — which would require Congress to acknowledge that the country is going to be on the hook for billions of dollars in additional Medicare costs — Congress keeps passing these short-term patches.

Problems at long-term care hospitals: The New York Times paints a troubling picture of long-term care hospitals, lighlty regulated for-profit facilities that care for the chronically ill and have a perverse financial incentive to keep patients longer than other hospitals. They’re yet another example of the problems of for-profit health care; companies that are concerned with providing returns to shareholders simply have too much incentive to cut costs at the expense of good patient care. One operator of 89 long-term hospitals, Select Medical Corp., seems a particularly egregious follower of the profits-before-patients principle, but they’re surely not alone. The lengthy article is well worth a read, especially if you’ve ever pondered checking a loved one into a for-profit long-term care facility.

Bored to death: Here’s more motivation–as if paying the mortgage or rent wasn’t enough–to stay busy at work. A British study showed that people who said they were bored at work were 2.5 times more likely to die of heart problems than those who weren’t bored. Of course, it’s also quite possible that those who were bored didn’t eat well, didn’t exercise or have a healthy lifestyle, but still … something to consider.

A second British study showed that low I.Q. is a stronger predictor of heart disease than other, more traditionally cited factors like physical activity, income, obesity or high blood pressure. Low I.Q., according to the study, trailed only smoking as a predictor among the factors the researchers examined. One of the researchers explained the findings rather grimly:

“I.Q. is a marker of lifetime insults, physiological insults. We know kids with poor diets, kids who have repeated infections, have a lower I.Q., so it could be an I.Q. is capturing something about lifelong misery.’’

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