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Morning Read: Americans more confused than angry over health reform

Highlights of the important and the interesting from the world of healthcare: Americans more confused than angry over health reform: Despite the rancor and fist-waving that accompanied the health reform debates over the past year (including one Columbus, Ohio, reform opponent memorably berating a man suffering from Parkinson’s disease at a rally), Americans as a […]

Highlights of the important and the interesting from the world of healthcare:

Americans more confused than angry over health reform: Despite the rancor and fist-waving that accompanied the health reform debates over the past year (including one Columbus, Ohio, reform opponent memorably berating a man suffering from Parkinson’s disease at a rally), Americans as a whole aren’t all that angry about reform. Instead, they’re just confused, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The poll found that 55 percent of Americans described themselves as “confused” about reform, while just 30 percent said they were “angry.” The reason for much of the confusion may be that cable news, at 36 percent, was the most popular source of news about reform.

As polls have repeatedly shown, when you explain to people the contents of the reform law, they generally like it. Nine in 10 favored new tax credits for small business. Eight out of 10 said they favored provisions to provide free basic preventive care, financial aid to senors with high drug bills, and ending insurance companies’ practice of dropping people with pre-existing medical problems, NPR reports. All of those provisions take effect this year. The numbers suggest that Republicans banking on riding public dissatisfaction with reform into power in November may need to refocus their message. Still, there’s plenty of reason for conservative optimism come November: Since 1934, 12 first-term presidents have been in office for mid-term elections. Of those 12, only two saw their parties gain seats in Congress.

Why people hate insurance companies: Reuters has a stunning story about Wellpoint, the nation’s largest insurer, and its policy to rescind insurance from women suffering from breast cancer. It’s difficult to do justice to this lengthy, lengthy article, but it’s among the most infuriating stories about healthcare USA-style you’ll ever read. The article follows the stories of three women who had their insurance policies canceled by Wellpoint shortly after they’d been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Once the women were singled out, they say, the insurer then canceled their policies based on either erroneous or flimsy information. … Wellpoint has specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies, federal investigators told Reuters.

The toll that these policy cancellations took on these women is horrifying. And they could easily be you or one of your loved ones. Articles like this should make even the most-hardened free market conservative yearn for a healthcare system that has no profit motive.

Are IPOs back? Probably not, though yesterday marked the most-active initial public offering day since 2007. Of the seven companies that saw their shares hit the market for the first time, only one raised more than it had hoped.  Two of the newly public firms are in the health sector. Codexis Inc., which makes enzymes used in producing drugs and ethanol, came out at $13, after hoping for as much as $15 in a regulatory filing. Alimera Biosciences, which specializes in prescription eye drugs, slashed its shares to $11, after planning to price itself in the $15 to $17 range. Alimera closed flat.

Disappointing biotech IPOs have become commonplace in 2010, with Ironwood and Anthera, Aveo Pharmaceuticals all dropping their prices. It looks like biotech is fairly emblematic of the IPO market as a whole, and the market doesn’t look like anything to get excited about for now.

“It’s important in this market that we don’t confuse activity in the IPO market, in terms of number of deals, with the strength of the IPO market,” one analyst told Reuters.

The solution to U.S. healthcare problems is … Mexico? Not yet, but maybe someday. Participants at an Institutes of the Americas conference in San Diego discussed the possibility of Americans seeking care south of the border (or “Medicare in Mexico”), though they acknowledged that its likely years off as numerous regulatory hurdles would need to be surmounted. With healthcare costs in Mexico just a fraction of U.S. prices, Mexican facilities can help fill a growing demand for services including dentistry, surgery, long-term care and assisted living, advocates said. The first step would be accreditation of private Mexican hospitals, which could happen within the next year or so. With Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim planning to build a “world-class hospital and hotel” complex in Tijuana that would open in late 2012–plus a U.S. health system that’ll be further stressed by 32 million more insured patients courtesy of health reform–don’t bet against a rise in south of the border medical tourism someday.

Photo from flickr user Sarah G

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