Gov. Corbett to Outline Medicaid Expansion, Work-Search Requirements

Tom Corbett has a plan to provide insurance for 500,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians as part of his proposed Medicaid changes—all you’ve got to do is get a job.

In an announcement today, Corbett will discuss his Medicaid plans, including a scheme to provide insurance for the poor uninsured by using public money for commercial insurance policies. This is the latest in a series of steps Corbett has taken to expand the state’s Medicaid coverage, all without increasing the role of Medicaid itself. The solution, naturally, is private providers.

The state, however, won’t support applicants here unless they pass a work-search requirement, which forces those applying to look for work before they can receive healthcare. That health care, by the way, bases co-pay on income and caps them at $25 a month. Pennsylvania is the only state in the country to follow that framework.

Low-income resident advocates have since taken issue with Corbett’s projected plan:

“What’s bad about it is that under the guise of reaching out to cover people with health insurance, they are going to take benefits away from an awful lot of people,” said Richard Weishaupt, senior attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. “Welfare provides a mom and a kid $316 a month, and they get Medicaid. How in the world are they going to come up with $25 for health insurance?”

Presumably from the $316 monthly welfare check, which that hypothetical mother can only then receive if she’s looking for work already. Choosing between being healthy and eating is nothing new for the lower class. Right, Tom? [Philly.com]

Sarah Murnaghan Goes Home, Takes New Lungs With Her

CBS News reports:

Sarah Murnaghan, the Pa. girl whose family sued to get her an adult lung transplant, left the The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Tuesday.

Sarah was carried into her family’s Newtown Square home shortly after she was discharged, where she was met with balloons and a big sign saying “Welcome Home, Sarah!”

Family spokeswoman Tracy Simon said Sarah’s recovery is now focused on building her muscle strength so she no longer has to use a breathing tube. She said Sarah recovered from a case of pneumonia that stemmed from the tube.

ABC News:

Sarah was able to undergo the transplants because her parents successfully fought a rule that prevented her from qualifying for adult lungs.

“I am so thankful to GOD, Sarah’s donors, and the hundreds of thousands of you who stood beside us and fought for Sarah,” Sarah’s mom, Janet Murnaghan, wrote on Facebook on Monday night. “We entered CHOP on Feb 19, more than six months ago. I never could have imagined the journey that lay in front of us. If you are struggling with something bigger than you, I can say two things for sure; God is GREAT and so is the human spirit. There are so many beautiful people in the world! Thank you!!!!”

Today.com:

As of Monday, there were 119,270 people on the waiting list for organs in the U.S., including 76,345 who are actively waiting, according to OPTN. (Some transplant candidates are temporarily classified as “inactive” by a transplant center because they are medically unsuitable for transplant or need to complete other eligibility requirements.) The overall figure includes 1,648 people waiting for lungs. Twenty-five of them are children aged 10 and younger.

Sarah’s parents, including her father, Fran Murnaghan, vowed to continue efforts to allow the sickest children to receive lung transplants first.

“We’re not letting go of this,” Janet Murnaghan told a crowd of reporters and supporters Tuesday. “Sarah’s not giving up and we aren’t.”

 

Why Are We All Taking So Many Drugs?

I despise conspiracy theorists. Paranoia is for losers. But I have to admit, something that happened during a recent visit with old friends from London gave me pause. At our first breakfast together in their rental house in Boston, the Londoners, Michael and Barbara, watched in astonishment as I and another guest, Laurie, took out our pill bottles and counted out our morning doses. Nothing exciting, just the usual medicines to treat the usual boomer ailments: high blood pressure, arthritis, stuff like that. Counting vitamins and probiotics, Laurie and I each swallowed five or six pills before our first cups of coffee.

“What is all that stuff?” Michael marveled.

Laughing, a little embarrassed—getting old is no fun—we explained what we were taking and why.

“In Britain, nobody takes that many pills,” Michael said. Read more »

Penn Cancer Center Treating Disease Through Gene Testing

First the work of Carl June and his group of dedicated researchers, and now this from Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center: Researchers are now testing patients’ tumors for genetic mutations that could change their treatment options and decisions. Within the next couple of years, all patients at Penn’s cancer treatment center will receiving similar testing, which looks for up to 47 different mutations. Unfortunately, though, identifying those mutations is currently easier than actually treating them. But while Penn’s newest gamut of tests isn’t a cure for cancer, it does, in the words of Penn’s chief of medical oncology, Lynn Schuchter, count as a “huge leap forward.” [Philly.com]

Mexico Overtakes U.S. as Leading Country for Obesity

Just when you think you’ve got a handle on something, it slips away. The United States, known above all else as the land of fleshy freedom, has lost its title as the number-one country for obesity. None other than Mexico has overtaken ‘Merica as the fattest country, with nearly 33 percent of all Mexicans clocking in at obese, along with a whopping 70 percent of the population officially overweight. But with the U.S. obesity rate hovering at 32 percent, we’re not that far off — we’ve just got to keep eating. [Daily Beast]

UPDATED: Teresa Heinz Kerry Hospitalized Following Symptoms of Seizure

Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and widow of former Sen. John Heinz, was hospitalized in critical but stable condition today after showing what an anonymous person close to the family called symptoms of a seizure on Sunday. Heinz Kerry, 74, was initially hospitalized in critical condition at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, but doctors were able to stabilize her before the transfer to Massachusetts General Hospital, where physicians are set to evaluate her this morning. Prior to Heinz Kerry’s hospitalization, John Kerry had been working on economic talks with senior Chinese officials, but according to the State Department, his schedule may be altered depending on his wife’s condition. [AP]

UPDATE: Early this afternoon, Heinz Kerry’s condition was upgraded from critical but stable to fair. [AP]

My Electric Kool-Aid Adderall Test

One of the best parts of being a writer is that the job lets you be nosy professionally. If I’m curious what all those new buildings are going up in West Philly, I can call the president of Penn or Drexel and say: “Hi, this is Sandy Hingston from Philly Mag. Um — what are all those new buildings you’re putting up?” If I’m wondering what Marjorie Margolies, the Penn prof who’s running for the U.S. Senate, is like, I can ring her up and get an interview. If I want to know why so many American kids are taking ADHD drugs, I can call a Penn neuroscientist, like Anjan Chatterjee, and say: “What exactly is the deal with ADHD drugs?”

But sometimes, hearing somebody else explain something isn’t enough.

Read more »

New Study: Raising Cigarette Taxes Reduces Smoking Significantly [Updated]

Michael Nutter is trying to impose a cigarette tax in Philadelphia to help pay for a school budget shortfall. (The bill has passed; he’s waiting for approval from Harrisburg.) So does Obama, to help pay for pre-K education. Parsing Obama’s plan, which would raise prices by $1 per pack, the left-leaning Center onBudget and Policy Priorities has determined that even a 10% increase in cigarette pack prices is a significant deterrent for consumers.

Nutter’s plan would impose a $2/pack levy, resulting in a per-pack price increase of more than 30%. (The administration says the average price in Philly is $5.85.) Given the data above, you can do the math, and extrapolate the potential smoking decrease in Philly. Nutter has touted both the public health benefits and the fiscal benefits of the tax, but it seems that with such a substantial price increase, you can’t have it both ways: If you deter enough people from smoking, well, you won’t collect the revenue you set out to.

h/t Wonkblog

Update: A spokesperson for the mayor has pointed out that the Mayor’s proposal takes reduced revenues into account, precisely because of the deterrent nature of the tax. Over the course of the city’s five-year projection, it expects to reduce the city’s adult smoking population–currently at 280,000–by 41,000. So while it projects it can collect an additional $87 million in Fiscal Year 2015, that number would decrease to $77 million in FY 2018. Based on the amount of the increase, that five percent rate seems to jive with the CBPP projections above.

Side note: From a public health standpoint, this tax seems great. Even if it doesn’t accomplish its fiscal goals, the city is helping combat a deadly disease. What’s impossible to know, of course, is whether smokers will simply drive out of the city and buy in bulk instead of quitting or cutting back. Or whether they’ll tap into the fearsome black market Wawa is so worried about.

Maybe Sarah Murnaghan Shouldn’t Get a Lung Transplant

I don’t have a critically ill child, and I don’t usually read articles about people who do. It’s not that I’m heartless. It’s just that nothing points up the unbearable unfairness of life like a sick child. I’m sure that Sarah Murnaghan, the 10-year-old with cystic fibrosis who’s been in the news of late because the arcane rules of transplant lists made her ineligible for a transplant of more readily available (though still mighty scarce) grown-up lungs, is a great kid. Just about all kids are great kids. And it sucks, it really sucks, that kids get sick and sometimes die. Read more »

Here’s My Problem With Angelina Jolie’s Scare Tactics

Saint Angelina is getting on my nerves. I’ve used this space before to vent my feelings about the emaciated, leg-jutting, holier-than-thou Angelina Jolie, and the latest developments haven’t changed my opinion. “How can you not appreciate her brave decision?” friends ask. “How can you not admire her selfless revelation to the world that she has undergone prophylactic surgery?”

Angelina Jolie had genetic testing that indicated a high likelihood that she would develop cancer. The BRCA 1 gene mutation that she carries increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer to 80 percent and ovarian cancer to 55 percent. It also increases the likelihood of developing fallopian tube and prostate cancers at smaller percentages. Read more »

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