Health Updates 31 October 2011

  • Medicare Part B premiums are lower than expected in 2012: “The new Part B premium for outpatient care will be $99.90 a month for 2012, about $7 less than projected as recently as May….Some younger retirees who enrolled recently will actually see their rates go down.  They have been paying as much as $115.40 a month.  Instead, they’ll also pay $99.90 next year.  The main reason for the lower-than-expected premiums has to do with the interaction between Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and Medicare.” (LA Times)
  • Sports medicine said to overuse MRI’s: Dr. James Andrews, a widely known sports medicine orthopedist in Gulf Breeze, Fla., wanted to test his suspicion that MRI’s, the scans given to almost every injured athlete or casual exerciser, might be a bit misleading.  So he scanned the shoulders of 31 perfectly healthy professional pitchers.  The pitchers were not injured and had no pain.  But the MRI’s found abnormal shoulder cartilage in 90 percent of them and abnormal rotator cuff tendons in 87 percent.  ‘If you want an excuse to operate on a pitcher’s throwing shoulder, just get an MRI,’ Dr. Andrews says.  He and other eminent sports medicine specialists are taking a stand against what they see as the vast overuse of magnetic resonance imaging in their specialty.  MRI’s can be invaluable in certain situations….They can also make money for doctors who own their own machines.  And they can please sports medicine patients, who often expect a scan.” (Gina Kolata, NY Times)
  • Really? The claim: holidays can affect when expectant mothers deliver.  “Researchers have long suspected that holidays and culturally meaningful events can play a role in medical outcomes.  Some believe that terminally ill patients, for example, can hang on to life for religious events, birthdays and symbolically important occasions, though decades of study of the question have yielded mixed results.  It has been unclear whether a similar holiday-postponement effect could be seen in pregnant women.”  A study published this month suggests that yes, indeed, a mother’s mental state may play a role in when she goes into labor. “…the researchers studied 1.7 million births that occurred within a week of Valentine’s Day over the same 11 years.  They found a 3.6 percent spike in spontaneous births on Valentine’s and a 12.1 percent rise in Caesareans….The Bottom Line:  New research suggests that women may be able to control the timing of spontaneous births around certain holidays.  (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)
  • Crisis in long-term care with demise of Class Act: “Polls show that many people believe that Medicare, the federal health programs for those 65 and older, pays for such care.  Actually, Medicare stops paying nursing homes bills after 100 days.  More than 10 million people in the United States already have long-term care needs….The repeal legislation created a commission to examine the issue of long-term care, but it ended the appetite of many in Congress to resolve the issue.  The Clinton health plan made another attempt at improving long-term care, but the bill failed.  And now the demise of the Class Act is repeating history.” (Caring and Coping, NY Times)

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