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- Archives 2007 - 

United States

Healthcare Coverage
 | Drugs/Pharmaceuticals | Healthy Living | Trade Unions and Health


Medicare/Medicaid | Private Insurance/Other


Reports | Articles 


Report: Tracking Beneficiaries’ True Out-of-Pocket Costs for the Part D Prescription Drug Benefit (December 2007)
The study reviews how Part D plans and the Coordination of Benefits Contractor ensures the accurate tracking of true out-of-pocket (TrOOP) costs and whether centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) conduct an oversight of Part D plans to help to ensure the accurate tracking. Data was collected from TrOOP costs beneficiaries, CMS staff and its contractors. The findings show that a number of requirements were “not carried out consistently” in 2006. 

Report: Medicare Hospice Care: A Comparison of Beneficiaries in Nursing Facilities and Beneficiaries in Other Settings (December 2007)

The report examines the percentage of Medicare hospice beneficiaries residing in nursing homes and defines their characteristics. The researchers then compare these characteristics to those of hospice beneficiaries who reside in other settings. The findings provide a helpful description of the current Medicare hospice care population. 

Report: Changes in the Cost of Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, 2007-2008. (November 2007).
|The Center for Economic and Public Research examines national prescriptions drug plans costs and reports that Medicare Drug Plan Premiums will rise by 20% in 2008. The report also provides an overview of the plans offered by each of the states in 2008 and an average increase in cost. Ironically, the Bush Administration pushed through the Prescription Drug Plan to save seniors’ money. As costs rise, the Plan appears more and more as a way to fuel pharmaceutical companies’ profits. 

Report: Health Insurance and the Labor Supply Decisions of Older Workers: Evidence from the US Department of Veterans Affairs
The report studies the impact of public health insurance on labor supply, focusing particularly on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system (VA). The researchers take male veterans as a target group and report that the VA coverage decreases full-time employment, increases retirement and the probability of a part-time work among the veterans. 

Report: Generic Drug Utilization in the Medicare Part D (November 2007)
In a report from the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, we learn that during the first year of the Medicare Part D program, US pharmacists substituted lower cost generic drugs 88% of the time when they filled Part D prescriptions when generic drugs were available. Generic drugs cost about 71% less than brand name drugs. However some 37% of prescriptions had no generic equivalent and required Part D to pick up the cost. Thanks to the generic drug substitutions, Part D spent $47 billion on drugs in 2006, less than the budgeted $59 billion.

Valuing the Invaluable: a New Look at State Estimates of the Economic Value of Family (November 2007)
What is the economic of caregivers' contributions unpaid in the United States? Whose labor supports long-term care? Experts say $350 billion, as recently as 2006. According to Mary Jo Gibson and Ari N. Houser from the AARP Public Policy Institute, the US government must give better support to family caregivers to maintain the health care system, long-term care system, and economy.

Report: Medicare Part D 2008 Data Spotlight: Premiums (November 2007)

Kaiser Family Foundation looked at premium prices which nearly 2,000 stand-alone Medicare Part D plans will offer to US older persons in 2008.  The average monthly premium will go up from $27.39 in 2007 to $31.99 in 2008, a 17% increase.  Nearly one in five enrolled will face an annual increase of $120 if they stay with the same plan next year. How long will US citizens put up with this organized subsidy to the pharmaceutical industry? 


Report: Medicare Part D Sponsors: Estimated Reconciliation Amounts for 2006 (October 2007)
The US Inspector General reviewed the records of profit-making companies that sponsor Medicare Part D for prescription drugs and found them in arrears, to the tune of $4.4 billion for 2006. This report shows CMS has no procedures in place to require for-profit sponsors to re-pay Medicare until at least 9 months after the 2006 plan year ended. Such procedures leave public monies available for companies to use as cash flow, investments, etc., while the public waits for reimbursement. An outrage!

1-800-Medicare: Caller Satisfaction and Experiences (September 2007)
Customer satisfaction with Medicare telephone customer service has been declining since 2004. “More callers in 2007 than in 2004 reported hanging up before receiving answers to their questions and had concerns about wait times,” and 44 percent of callers in the 2007 evaluation who remained on the line reported having difficulty accessing information. 

Medicare Private Health Plans vs. Medicare Savings Programs: Which Is the Better Way to Help People with Low Incomes Afford Health Care? (September 2007) 

Many private insurance companies claim that the extra payments they receive from Medicare Advantage Plans (a private health plan option), helps lower the out-of-pocket costs for low-income people with Medicare, especially African Americans and Latinos. According to this report, however, low income seniors with Medicare are better off signing up for a Medicare Savings Programs, which subsidize premiums, co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses, because in private Medicare health plans, they often end up paying more than their wealthier neighbors and get fewer benefits. 

Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Progress Report: Findings from a 2006 National Survey of Seniors (August 21, 2007)
Based on a random-sample survey of more than 16, 000 seniors in the US , this survey provides “the first in-depth look at experiences in the first year of the drug benefit.” The survey found that low-income seniors skip prescribed medication or stop taking it all together because their out of pocket costs are too high. Although the drug benefit program provides benefits to low-income seniors, the target group is often unaware of the subsidies or find the application too cumbersome.

United Health vs. Uninsured Kids (August 2, 2007)
If the SCHIP funding bill, recently passed by the House of Representatives, were to become law, the government would equalize payments to Medicare Advantage (MA) and traditional Medicare. The readjustment would save $50 billion in overpayments to MA plans which would then be used to fund the children’s SCHIP program. These overpayments currently contribute to the extra benefits offered by MA plans as well as the insurer's administrative costs, marketing, and profit margin. As a result, these insurers are profiting in large part because the government is subsidizing them.  This report describes how MA has become a lucrative business for the private sector and calls for a reduction in the privatization of healthcare.

Off-Base: The Exclusion of Off-Label Prescriptions from Medicare Part D Coverage (August 2007)
Many older persons rely on drugs for treatment of ailments not specifically mentioned on the prescription’s label, so-called “off-label” prescriptions. Medicare Part D, however, refuses to cover off-label prescriptions even if it already covers the drug for “on-label” purposes. Medicaid will only cover drugs specifically excluded from Part D coverage, so again these drugs are not covered. As a result, many low-income seniors are left without relief from conditions that could be treated by available and covered drugs. Should government’s narrow guidelines trump personal physicians’ recommendations on how a drug is used?

The Role of State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs in Serving Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries Following the Implementation of Medicare Part D (July 2007)
In response to gaps in Medicare Part D, state pharmaceutical assistance programs (SPAPs) are converting to secondary coverage plans. These plans often offer lower eligibility requirements and higher benefits than Medicare Part D. For instance, some states assist disabled persons under the age of 65, cover people with incomes above the Part D low-income subsidy level, or provide beneficiaries with access to drugs that Part D does not cover. 

The Commonwealth Fund/National Opinion Research Center Survey of Retiree Health Benefits, 2005: A Chartbook (July 2007)
This Commonwealth Fund report analyzes the results of a retiree health benefits survey and predicts a significant decline in the level of employer-provided health benefits in the future. In fact, the survey data indicates that a quarter of both public and private firms have increased retirees’ share of healthcare insurance premiums. The report concludes that employers will become even stingier in offering retiree health benefits as these premiums continue to skyrocket. 

Achieving Universal Coverage Through Medicare Part E(veryone) (July 2007)
The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution recently released this proposal designed to provide universal healthcare insurance by expanding traditional Medicare. The authors of this report state that a program intended to provide health coverage should be simple and understandable, and they believe that Medicare, as an existing program, will be simplest to implement. Medicare provides “sufficient coverage … without imposing excessive costs,” according to the report, and is therefore an appropriate option for achieving universal healthcare. 

Use of Health Services by Previously Uninsured Medicare Beneficiaries (July 12, 2007)

A longitudinal study examining data from 1994 to 2004 suggests that for those who had healthcare insurance coverage before obtaining Medicare at age 65, the cost and intensity of care required once covered by Medicare was lower than if they had not been insured prior to 65 years. This was especially true for those who had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or diabetes before reaching 65.

Why Has Longevity Increased More in Some States than in Others? The Role of Medical Innovation and Other Factors (July 2007)
Although the average life-expectancy of US residents has been increasing steadily over the past century, there are notable discrepancies in life-expectancies by state. Many southern states trail northeastern and west-coast states, in some instances by significant margins. Authors of this report, released by the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute, claim that this effect is attributable mostly (63%) to a State’s coverage of newer prescriptions through Medicaid and access to drug treatments through Medicare. Poor older persons appear especially vulnerable when Southern State officials decide on the kind, quality and access to Medicaid and Medicare medications. GAA must ask whether Black or poor older residents of Southern states face persistent race and class discrimination in their access to Medicaid and Medicare drug coverage.

Changes in Characteristics, Needs, and Payment for Care of Elderly Nursing Home Residents: 1999 to 2004 (June 2007)
Kaiser Foundation researchers found that the proportion of older persons over 65 living in nursing homes has actually decreased over the past twenty years, but the nursing home population itself is becoming more disabled. While seniors now have an increase in care options available to them, families of the sickest and most disabled residents still turn to nursing homes for necessary care.

Medicare: Past, Present, and Future (June 2007)
Federal spending on Medicare is projected to double within the next three decades and already the “experts” are devising ways to ration health care to older persons. Authors of this report argue in favor of rationing to slow healthcare spending growth. One “promising reform” would replace “first-dollar insurance coverage” with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) along with a high deductible policy that has catastrophic coverage. Advocates of older persons must stay alert to such pernicious policies that appear helpful but would assist the early exit of older persons, especially the poor, from this earthly life.

A Proposal to Finance Long-Term Care Services through Medicare with an Income Tax Surcharge (June 2007)
Older persons often can’t take care of themselves if they get chronic diseases or acquire disabilities. Unfortunately, they can’t access long-term benefits in either the private or public sector or find existing programs too expensive. This report proposes collecting an income tax surcharge to expand Medicare services to include home care and custodial nursing home care. The revenue generated by the surcharge would be placed in a Medicare trust fund to finance the future of long-term care. Since the rich of the US find ways to avoid income tax, would this proposal only add to the tax-load of those least able to pay it? 

Consecutive Medicare Stays Involving Inpatient and Skilled Nursing Facilities (June 2007)
According to this report released by the Department of Health and Human Services, 35% of situations in which an elderly person is consecutively placed in multiple nursing facilities are associated with quality-of-care concerns. In 2004, Medicare paid $1.4 billion for stays involving medically unnecessary admissions, unnecessary or incorrect treatment, and inappropriate care setting. The report recommends that quality insurance organizations better monitor the appropriateness of services and collaborate with healthcare providers to improve admission and treatment systems. Will it happen?  Or can we expect more health providers ignoring older patients and turning a deaf ear to monitoring agencies?

Factors Underlying the Growth in Medicare’s Spending for Physicians’ Services (June 2007)
The Congressional Budget Office has looked into Medicare’s expenditures documenting their steady growth over the years. Surprisingly, it is not due to Medicare’s payment rates for physician services. Rather “increases in the volume and intensity of services provided” explain Medicare’s high expenditures, according to a report’s authors. Between 1997 and 2005, physician payments actually declined by 14 percent. The fast-paced technological innovation combined with people living longer has had significant impact on the costs of healthcare. 

Facing the Problems of Providing Long-Term Care for the Oldest Old (June 11, 2007)
The “oldest old,” or those of age 85 and above, is currently the fastest growing segment of the US population. This report focuses on their problems, recommending education about the need for lifelong preventative care, increased research on Alzheimer’s disease, greater oversight of nursing homes, and development of an alternative to nursing homes. To help pay for the care for the oldest old, the authors encourage a Medicare-like social insurance program for long-term care and expanding tax credits available to family caregivers. 

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Influenza and Pneumococcal Immunization Rates among Medicare Beneficiaries (June 2007)
Although Medicare completely covers the costs of obtaining influenza and pneumonia vaccines, immunization rates for those above 65 are well below the target level of 90%. Racial disparities are apparent within these statistics as well. Only 45% of older African-Americans and 55% of older Hispanics reported receiving the vaccine, while 65% of white adults over 65 were vaccinated. Researchers blame low immunization rates on consumers’ lack of awareness or the fear that the vaccines will cause severe illness. The report also says that health officials may not be savvy to seniors’ worries about immunizations. Are these excuses for racial and economic bias in the US health system? 


Long-Term Care Financing: Policy Options for the Future (June 2007)

This report, produced by a group of Georgetown University researchers, proposes several options for changing the current formula for funding long-term care. The authors recommend a public long-term care insurance which will spread the costs across a broad population of those at risk for needing care. They also note that “planning for the future and caring for one’s family members will, as they should, remain critical to an effective long-term care system.”

A Blueprint for Action: Developing Livable Communities for All Ages ( June 11, 2007 )
The purpose of this Met Life guide, based on a study by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and Patterns for Livable Communities, is to provide local leaders with tools to build the collaborations needed to create livable communities for people of all ages. It includes brief descriptions of leading Innovations in communities throughout the USA and a checklist of essential features of an aging-friendly community that will help assess your community’s readiness for an aging population—and enable you to set priorities for improvements.

Private Fee-For-Service Plans in Medicare: Rapid Growth and Future Implications (May 22, 2007)
Some seniors are finding private fee-for-service (PFFS) plans, an option provided through Medicare Advantage, interesting. Of the 8.6 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in 2007, 17 percent are enrolled in a private fee-for-service plan. This report suggests that before PFFS grows further, CMS must address the system’s inherent flaws and evaluate whether or not the plan actually offers increased value to Medicare beneficiaries. One such flaw, for example, is that evidence suggests that out-of-pocket expenses increase significantly for enrollees in poor health. Furthermore, contrary to the perception that PFFS offers increased access to healthcare providers, doctors are not always more readily accessible. 

Nursing Homes: Federal Actions Needed to Improve Targeting and Evaluation of Assistance by Quality Improvement Organizations (May 2007)
This report, compiled by the Government Accountability Office, found that Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs) focus their most intensive assistance to nursing homes based not on the degree to which the care was deficient but rather on a nursing home’s willingness to participate. In fact, “low performing” nursing homes are less likely to receive the most intensive assistance from QIOs. How can the staff from the Quality Improvement Organizations improve the system if the worst nursing homes are excluded from receiving support? Should such homes be permitted to decide not to participate in improvement programs? 


Quality Concerns Identified Through Quality Improvement Organization Medical Record Reviews (May 2007)
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services contracts with quality improvement organizations (QIOs) to oversee the quality of care that Medicare finances. This report, a review of QIO activity from 2003 to 2006, found that QIOs took the two most severe actions (either to start sanctions or to refer the case to its licensing agency) in only two percent of the total cases. Since the QIO program is Medicare’s most serious tool to review how well health institutions are delivering good quality of care, the report suggests that CMS make stronger demands to end substandard care. Without enforcement and changed practices, what point is a review?


Characteristics and Health of Caregivers and Care Recipients --- North Carolina (2005)
A study in the June 5th Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that those who care for elder or disabled relatives have poorer health than non-caregivers. Caregivers were most likely to be older women assisting relatives with various chronic conditions such as stroke, diabetes, and heart conditions. Caregivers experienced poor mental health as a result of stress; some reported that they had sustained some type of injury while caring for their loved ones. Public health initiatives must be designed to promote the health and well-being of both care recipients and caregivers.

The Impact of Part D on Dual Eligibles Who Spend-Down to Medicaid (April 2007)
The report highlights the Part D implications for individuals spending down in order to qualify for Medicaid. Because many senior citizens are not Medicaid-eligible on the federal level, they have often managed to qualify for the state Medicaid program by spending down excess income. In doing so, however, senior citizens have faced many problems with the transition from Medicare Part D. As a result, they experience frequent disruptions in drug and healthcare coverage.  

Interventions that Increase the Utilization of Medicare-Funded Preventive Services for Persons Age 65 and Older (2003)
As Americans over 65 continue to increase and as life expectancy rises, many aging advocates have called for preventive health care services for elder persons. Early detection of conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and many others can prove to be somewhat preventable given the right resources. This will also prove to be cost effective. This particular report is an effort to determine the best possible strategies for early detection and/or prevention of chronic diseases. Specifically, the report looks at interventions aimed at improving influenza and pneumococcal immunization rates, mammography rates, cervical smear cytology rates, and colon cancer screening rates. 


Doctors Have It Right: Ditch Private Medicare (December 18, 2007)
Privatizing Medicare has failed as today clinics and hospitals decline Medicare Advantage plans and will only treat patients with traditional Medicare plans. Doctors and hospitals themselves are warning and discouraging enrollment in any Medicare Advantage plans and are calling for Congress to eliminate subsidies to private insurers. Experts say that the private plans drain taxpayers who also are clamoring against private plans. In the meantime, the enrollment period to sign people up will soon expire. 

Medicare Battle Stalls Reform (December 7, 2007)
Plans from Congress to pass a Medicare reform bill intended to lower monthly premiums for Medicare beneficiaries have been stalled by threats of a veto from the Bush Administration. The reform bill proposes cuts to Medicare Advantage, a government-subsidized program that provides extra services to beneficiaries through private insurers. The bill is predicated on the argument that government funding is putting too much money into the pockets of private insurers. Without a Medicare reform bill, the Medicare program is not apt to see improvements in the next year.

Hawaii Seniors Struggle with Prescription Costs (December 7, 2007)
A research study by a Hawaiian physician found that a majority of 1,100 senior citizens surveyed indicated they had difficulty paying for medications. Patients pay out-of-pocket for drugs that cost more than the amount covered by their Medicare Part D insurers. Because not all seniors are enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan, those that are not may stop taking medications when they can no longer afford them. The research advises physicians to ask their elderly patients if they can afford the medications they prescribe. Also, health plans should make physicians aware of the patients’ payment options and whether or not they can afford the medications.

Medicare Cuts Payout on 2 Cancer Drugs (December 7, 2007)
New Medicare rules cutting reimbursement for promising cancer drugs are threatening cancer patients’ access to much needed treatments. The drugs, called Bexxar and Zevalin, are used to treat non-Hodgkins lymphoma and may be the only effective therapy for patients. While Bexxar costs $30,000 for one treatment, Medicare will reimburse only $16,000 of the cost. Medicare reimbursements are based on what hospitals have reportedly paid for other drugs, Medicare reimbursing based on a scale informed by the average prices of drugs reported by drug-making companies. Because of high financial losses to hospitals, these medicines may not be as readily offered to patients who really need them.

Debate Heats Up Over Health Care for S.F. City Retirees (December 7, 2007) 
A San Francisco city supervisor is proposing to reduce health care benefits for city government retirees because a large proportion of the budget allocated to cover insurance costs is compromising funding for other city services. The city supervisor’s proposal to amend the City Charter to extend length of service before employees can become eligible for retiree benefits is expected to encounter opposition from organized labor, but is supported by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. The amendment proposes extending service as much as fifteen additional years before retirees can receive benefits. 

Medicare Drug Costs to Rise in '08 (December 7, 2007) 
For low-income Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in prescription drug plans (Medicare Part D), the federal government has been subsidizing the costs of monthly premiums. But because five plans are raising their premium costs, these plans will no longer qualify for government subsidies. Due to these changes, low-income beneficiaries of these five plans will have to pay the monthly premiums starting next year. On December 31, beneficiaries can either switch plans or be randomly placed in other plans if they cannot afford to pay the premiums. Those opting to switch are advised to check the plan’s drug formulary and choose carefully, sooner rather than later.

Senior Citizens to See High Tech Sensors in Homes, on Bodies to Monitor Health (December 6, 2007)
Park Associates installs 1,500 new digital sensors every quarter in US senior communities to monitor their health.  The sensors detect the normal activity in a home and alert authorities if the pattern changes.  The company also announced the release of reliable light-weight devices such as blood glucose, respiratory rate and activity sensors.  The experts project that by 2012 more than 3.4 million senior citizens in the US will be using digital sensors to monitor and improve their health.

Prescription Abuse Seen in US Nursing Homes (December 4, 2007)
This shocking article reports that Medicaid is buying more antipsychotic drugs for patients than any other drug. These outlays ($5.4 billion in 2005) have produced major profits for the drug companies. Some nursing homes are giving 30% of their patients the anti-psychotic drugs, including some 21% of residents who have not been diagnosed with a psychosis. Nursing home administrators excuse the situation, saying they want to quiet patients living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. 

Medicare Chief is ‘Secret Shopper’ of Insurers (November 27, 2007)
A large number of misleading and deceitful presentations of Medicare health programs by sales agents prompted the launching of an undercover program called 'The secret shopper.’ Started last year, the program seeks to identify those agents responsible for providing false information to the public. The acting chief of the Medicare program witnessed firsthand how these dishonest explanations were presented. Medicare officials under pressure from Congress and advocacy groups have made several changes requiring sales agents to pass a written exam demonstrating their understanding of Medicare policies. Also, insurers have to list sales events so that Medicare officials can attend. 

Patient Money (November 24, 2007)

The doughnut hole is the nickname for a big financial gap in each person’s Medicare prescription drug coverage. As it becomes bigger every year, some scholars analyze the consequences: many people will struggle to secure a full year’s supply of the drugs they need. But some experts see a positive consequence. Because it potentially forces a Medicare enrollee to pay more than $3,000 from his or her own pocket during the gap period, the hole is helping curb growth in the nation’s drug spending by pushing people toward low-cost generic drugs. Moreover, the popularity of generic drugs is cutting into the profit margins of branded drug companies.

AARP of Two Minds on Private Plans (November 12, 2007)
As the new enrollment period for Medicare prescription drug plans approaches in mid-November, AARP has revealed its dual nature by warning seniors against enrolling in privatized drug plans while at the same time endorsing some of the plans. AARP licenses its brand name to a vast array of products, including some of the new Medicare insurance policies. The Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) states that whether endorsed by AARP or any other group, clients must inform themselves about the plan that will be best for them. 

Insurers Target the Elderly: Making the Push into the Pre-Medicare Population (November 10, 2007)
Health insurers say that US baby boomers represent a huge market, with a remarkable increase in the coverage needed for those aged 50 to 64 years. Insurers plan to target this age group, who are not yet eligible for Medicare. As many retirees lose employer-based health care, they need coverage for medical bills. Personal bankruptcies and chronic illnesses are common within this age group that accounts for one-quarter of the US population. The older people are, the harder it seems to be to obtain coverage, thus pushing more and more US citizens to purchase health plans at an earlier stage of life. GAA suggests that a strengthened Medicare and government supported universal health insurance would help more at a lower cost. 

Some Florida Medicare Users May Be Hit with Higher Drug Costs (November 9, 2007)
Starting January 1, 2008 Medicare prescription drug plans are expected to increase in price, thus low-income recipients may have to change their prescription coverage or pay more. In Florida, low-income seniors who join drug plans with premiums under $20 a month do not have to pay the Medicare premiums and co-payments. Due to the increase in drug plan prices, some plans in Florida will not qualify for the exemption and recipients will have to pay more for coverage. It is important for Medicare recipients to be informed of their options in regard to drug plans. 

Medicare Fees Report Blasts Insurers (November 8, 2007)
A government report shows that three of the biggest Medicare drug plan providers—Humana, UnitedHealth and Wellpoint—are required to refund overpayments of $4.4 billion from last year. Medicare’s reliance on private insurance companies to provide coverage to elderly and disabled beneficiaries may need to be scaled back to prevent insurers from acquiring multibillion-dollar loans from Medicare. 

Medicare Drug Plan Bitter Pill for Some (November 7, 2007)
Starting November 15, policyholders can change their current Medicare prescription drug plans—also know as Medicare Part D—during the open enrollment period that ends on December 31. Insurers have increased plan premiums and changed prescription coverage, making it harder for seniors who must select a new plan or choose to stay with their current one. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) offer information for policyholders via a toll-free 24-hour hotline (1-800-MEDICARE) and website (www.cms.hhs.gov). 

Elderly Health Costs Growing Slowly (November 6, 2007)
Healthcare spending is increasing quickly for those under 65 years old, but slowly for those 65 and older. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) showed modest healthcare spending among the elder cohort in the US. Although the growth in medical costs is lower among the old, compared to the younger cohort, healthcare spending per older person is higher. The CMS also reports that the costs of nursing home care are rising. 

Changes to Medicare are Leaving Some Patients Stuck with the Bills (October 28, 2007)
Due to recent changes to the Medicare billing system, policy holders are being billed excessive amounts for emergency medical services (EMS) not paid by Medicare. The high rate of Medicare claims denial is placing a financial strain on seniors who cannot afford the costs. When a senior receives medical emergency treatment, the new Medicare system reimburses either the transporter or the medical provider, but not both. While states have different policies regarding emergency medical services, Medicare operates under federal standards.

Doctors Making House Calls to the Elderly (October 28, 2007)
Nearly a decade ago, increased Medicare reimbursements for medical home visits gave doctors an incentive to see elderly at home. New medical technology and diagnostic tests helped make house visits possible. Now, with more elderly and declining Medicare reimbursements, doctors do not want to make home visits. The author argues that Medicare should provide financial incentives to geriatricians to make house calls a basic part of elderly health care, as some home-bound elders and those with cognitive problems can benefit greatly from the house calls.

More Medicare Savings Possible (October 15, 2007)
In a report released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Democratic legislators said administrative costs totaling $15 million in Medicare prescription drug benefit program spending could be avoided in the future with the elimination of the private insurance plans now subsidized by the federal government. Currently, more than 18 million older beneficiaries receive coverage from 12 leading private insurance companies. Monthly premiums paid out of pocket for the drug benefit plans average about $47 billion for the past year. Taxpayers could save an estimated $3.9 billion per year if private plans received discounts similar to those for Medicaid beneficiaries. Proponents of the prescription drug program argue that private plans save beneficiaries money by ensuring that they take only the medications needed to manage their conditions. Opponents maintain that the government’s traditional Medicare program would cost about 6 times less. 

Fed Up Allies Take on Medicare (October 14, 2007)
Oncologists and drug manufacturers are teaming up to overturn a decision made by The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to restrict reimbursement for costly medications used in treating anemia in those undergoing chemotherapy. Drug manufacturers will be affected financially, while patients’ care and safety may be compromised if they cannot obtain medications that their physicians think is appropriate. According to the policy change, the government is only reimbursing physicians for anemia drugs prescribed to patients with hemoglobin levels below a specified level. Research showing the use of anemia drugs causing other serious health problems prompted the government to enact this policy change. Medicare annually spends $5.4 billion on anemia drugs used for cancer patients, kidney patients, and patients with HIV. Currently, Medicare pays for 80% of medication costs. 

After Audit, Insurers Vow to Improve Medicare Service (October 10, 2007)
After a federal Medicare audit revealed that private insurance companies committed serious compliance violations, violators are taking steps to make up for deficiencies. While some companies are retraining their staff, others are hiring more employees to answer phones and to pay claims to beneficiaries. Senator Barack Obama prompted the Government Accountability Office to undertake an investigation into violations of compliance with federal standards, which require that insurers give beneficiaries notice about denial of claims. The audit grew out of Congressional members’ concern about private contractors’ questionable marketing strategies in selling private plans to older persons. Please see Compliance Program Guidance for Medicare Fee-for-Service Contractors for details.

Medicare Audits Show Problems in Private Plans (October 7, 2007)
Audit reports of private insurance companies handling claims for elderly beneficiaries of the Medicare drug benefit program (Medicare Part D) revealed an overwhelming rate of compliance failure and lack of ethical conduct. Major compliance violations included failing to answer calls from patients and doctors, denying claims without explanation, and terminating coverage to those with H.I.V. and AIDS. Violation of ethical conduct concerned marketing practices, which were described as misleading and deceptive efforts by telemarketers and insurance agents preying on the elderly and disabled. Arguing in defense of their practices, some insurers claim a lack of clear federal guidance for program compliance. Despite opposition to the privatization of Medicare, Federal proponents of the drug benefit program argue that allowing private insurers to handle Medicare claims means more market competition and lower drug prices for consumers. However, the Auditors have examined the records and found gross failures. 

Seniors Pay a High Premium for Loyalty to Their Part D Plans (October 5, 2007)
Avalere Health, an advisory firm based in Washington, conducted an analysis of the Medicare Part D plan premiums to reveal that starting in 2008, beneficiaries of stand-alone Prescription Drug Plans (PDP) will see a 21% increase in their monthly premiums. The report issued by Avalere Health used data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to compute the rate of increase in premiums. According to the analysis, plans with larger numbers of enrollees will increase premiums by more than plans with fewer enrollees. The report suggests beneficiaries remaining loyal to their plans may have to pay more, but will be able to seek alternatively cheaper plans to be offered next year. The CMS plans to offer stand-alone PDP beneficiaries plans with premiums lower than $20-$25 per month starting in 2008.

Premiums for Medicare Drug Plans Jumping 8.7% (October 1, 2007)
Many seniors enrolled in the Medicare drug program are likely to pay more next year. Indeed, the average premium for all stand-alone drug plans will rise 8.7% to $40 a month. As a result, nationwide about 1.6 million older Americans who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare will be automatically reassigned from their health plans to new carriers. Let’s hope the beneficiaries will be placed in a plan that is right for them, but nothing is guaranteed. 

Shingles Vaccine Proves Painful (September 25, 2007)

The shingles vaccine is efficient but too expensive for older Americans since Medicare does not pay for it. While some Medicare Part D prescription drug plans cover this vaccine, some practices are charging as much as $500 per shot in order to compensate for the delicate procedure surrounding this vaccine. Indeed, the vaccine is a live virus and must be handled with great care. It must remain frozen until shortly before it is injected. For older patients, being told to pick up the vaccine at a pharmacy and bring it back to a doctor's office in half an hour or less is not an easy task. Health officials estimate that 35 to 40 million Americans are candidates for the shot, but only 1 million doses of vaccine have been sold so far. 

Health Care Spending Highest in Northeast (September 18, 2007) 

Newly released government statistics show that staying healthy in the United States is a very costly business, especially in Northeastern states: the highest per capita spending is found in the District of Columbia, $8,295, followed by Massachusetts, $6,683; Maine, $6,540; and New York, $6,535. There are some common characteristics among the states, such as high personal income, a high concentration of physicians, and the lowest rates of uninsured. Other findings showed that Florida, with the highest percentage of people over 65, had the highest Medicare spending per enrollee in the country. Maine, another state with a higher-than-average proportion of older persons, had amongst the lowest individual Medicare spending in the nation. 

U.S. Blacks in Poorer-Quality Nursing Homes: Study (September 11, 2007)
Researchers found that African-Americans in the US are more likely to live in poor-quality nursing homes than their white counterparts. Following up on a study showing that “blacks get poorer care regardless of what kind of health insurance they have,” researchers add that racial segregation also has a “significant impact on the quality of care received by nursing home residents.” In addition, the report found that "blacks were nearly twice as likely as whites to be located in a nursing home that was subsequently terminated from Medicare and Medicaid participation because of poor quality."

Audit Cites Overpaid Medicare Insurers (September 10, 2007) 
Under a federal law, the US government is obliged to audit financial records of “at least one-third” of private insurance companies participating in Medicare each year. A new Government Accountability Office report reveals that the Bush administration has not properly audited companies, resulting in tens of millions of embezzled dollars that “could have been used to reduce premiums or provide additional benefits to older Americans.” While a 2003 audit had already found “significant errors” in 41 out of 49 private insurance companies, the government took no action. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is “vigorously pursuing money that it says is owed to insurance companies by Medicare beneficiaries.” 

Two State Officials Unveil New Effort to Protect Elderly (September 6, 2007) 
The Arkansas’ Attorney General and Insurance Commissioner started informing older persons about the downside of the Medicare Advantage Plans. The Bush administration introduced the Plans as part of the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003, claiming “they help the financially stressed Medicare program provide coverage more efficiently.” However, the Attorney General describes the Plans as a “step toward privatizing Medicare and allow companies to profit while offering slim benefits to senior citizens.”

Seniors Still Face High Costs When It Comes To Medicine (August 28, 2007) 
A recent Milford community meeting of senior service organizations revealed that the high costs of prescription drugs pose the most pressing concern for seniors in the region. Seniors continue to be confused by the Medicare Part D program and often cannot afford prescriptions not covered by the Plan. Seventy-five-year-old Elizabeth McGovern says that her uncovered medication eats up her savings and that one day she will run out of money and won’t be able to afford them.

Medicare D Premiums Up for 2008, but Lower than Expected (August 27, 2007) 
Average monthly Medicare Part D premiums will rise slightly in 2008, from $22 to $25. However, despite the increase, the cost of the program lies about 40% below what federal officials originally estimated. Premiums could stay lower because of “increased generic usage, effective plan negotiation and strong competition," according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

Amgen Challenges New Medicare Policy for Anemia Drugs for Cancer (August 6, 2007)
Staff at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services continue to deny payment for anemia drugs to treat certain cancer patients. Patients and their physicians, along with companies such as pharmaceutical company Amgen, are challenging this policy. Amgen claims that denying payment for these drugs will cause the demand for blood transfusions to increase. 

Medicare Ends Coverage for Hospital Errors (August 12, 2007)
The US Congress is in the process of proposing changes to the Medicare program, and one of the proposals is termination of coverage for hospital mistakes leading to patient infections. Government regulators strongly endorse this modification because it will force hospitals to practice more cautiously. Legislators hope that hospitals will have a greater incentive to improve patient safety in hospitals and create a more trusting environment.

Pharmacists Fear Medicaid Changes (August 6, 2007)
The nation’s most vulnerable citizens, including many older persons, rely on Medicaid for drug coverage. New regulations, however, are putting an increased burden on retail pharmacies. Rural states such as Kansas are affected the most. Over the past six years, Kansas has lost 22 independent pharmacies, and many counties in the state are now serviced by one or even zero retail pharmacies. These pharmacy closings force Medicaid beneficiaries to drive 40-50 miles simply to pick up their medications.

Many Elderly Waive Part D (August 2, 2007)
Over half of older Americans eligible for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D did not enroll last year. Experts believe that many Medicare recipients compared their current drug cost with the cost of a Part D plan and decided it was not beneficial to enroll, while many other older persons were simply unaware of the new plans. Experts warn that drug costs can rise very quickly and unexpectedly, and there is also a premium penalty for every month a Medicare beneficiary waits to enroll in a Part D plan. 

Medicare Fraud Leads to Prison (August 1, 2007)
A US District Judge has sentenced an Eastern-European organized crime group to federal prison for engaging in a $20 million Medicare conspiracy to exploit elderly immigrants in California. The conspirators profited as they billed Medicare recipients’ accounts without their knowledge. Konstantin Grigoryan, the ringleader of the group, who immigrated to the US from the former Soviet Union, defrauded hundreds of immigrants, costing these older persons their dignity and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Maximizing Your Medicare (August 2007)
Medicare has become a very complicated program, and frequent rule changes make it difficult for seniors to navigate the complexities of the options available to them. Stacey L. Bradford from SmartMoney.com recommends that in order to “optimize [seniors’] health-care savings,” Medicare beneficiaries should consider taking advantage of preventative benefits or Medicaid, if they’re eligible. Bradford also warns against abandoning retiree coverage after receiving Medicare, as traditional Medicare still has coverage gaps.

Fate of Medicare Pay Raise Hinges on Contentious SCHIP Negotiations (August 2007)
The SCHIP reform bill has become an opportunity for some lawmakers to address concerns related to Medicare. The US House of Representatives and US Senate recently passed two versions of the proposed legislation, and one key difference between the two is the treatment of Medicare physician reimbursement rates. The House bill changes the 9.9% and 5% physician payment reductions over the next two years into 0.5% increases, while the Senate bill does not change payment rates. Large interest groups such as the AMA and AARP warn that low reimbursement rates could diminish access to care, as it would become less profitable for physicians to treat Medicare beneficiaries.

Medicare Fight Draws in Slew of Industry Groups, Large and Small (July 31, 2007)
Democrats continue to battle for passage of the SCHIP-Medicare bill in the US House of Representatives. The bill proposes an expansion of SCHIP, the national children’s health insurance program, through a reduction in Medicare spending and an increase in the cigarette tax. Powerful lobbyists, such as AARP, the AMA, insurance providers, the tobacco industry, and the medical equipment industry all strongly oppose changes to the existing system and have initiated campaigns to protect their interests. 

CMA Unveils Vision for Future of Medicare (July 30, 2007)
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recently proposed that the Canadian government work with private-sector firms to deliver publicly funded health-care services to reduce healthcare wait times. Critics, such as the Canadian Health Coalition, argue that this “dual practice” would permit doctors to bill the public system and then moonlight in the private sector to earn more money. In addition, critics do not think it is necessary to move toward a for-profit health insurance system, considering the gaps and failures in the US system. Focusing on increasing the supply of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals could ease the healthcare wait times more efficiently, without selling out to corporate interests.

$58 Billion Shortfall for New Jersey Retiree Care (July 25, 2007)
For over a decade, New Jersey has neglected to save enough money to pay for public workers’ health care in retirement, creating the “illusion that [the state’s] long-term obligation was zero.” New Jersey currently needs an additional $58 billion dollars to provide retirees their promised health benefits. So the state has decided to shift more of the burden of paying for healthcare to the retirees. New Jersey lawmakers hope a national health plan will takeover the state’s responsibility to provide healthcare for public workers. 

Democrats Press House to Expand Health Care Bill (July 23, 2007)
President Bush, who believes that healthcare is a luxury, not a right, plans to veto Democrats’ recent proposal to expand the public children’s healthcare program. The expansion would involve reducing Medicare subsidies to private health plans, but funding would primarily be raised through an increase in the federal cigarette tax. Democrats face strong opposition to the bill as the White House views this proposal as a “step down the path to government-run health care for every American.” 

Being Elderly and Illiterate Means a Significantly Higher Mortality Rate (July 24, 2007)
Studies indicate that older people who cannot read understandably are confused about directions on prescriptions for taking medications and other medical related information from their doctors. They are far more likely to be hospitalized and/or die. Increasing health literacy is vital to living longer, healthier lives. 

Shortage of Doctors Affects Rural US (July 22, 2007)
Healthcare providers no longer serve rural areas adequately, primarily due to a shortage of foreign physicians. These communities often recruit doctors from abroad in exchange for permanent residency. However, current restrictions on immigration make entry into the country more difficult than in the past. Furthermore, foreign physicians are beginning to become disinterested in practicing in the US, “giving up on the American Dream.” These underserved rural regions have some of the highest rates of diabetes, lung diseases, and other serious illnesses, but the 35 million Americans living in underserved regions need an additional 16,000 physicians to provide them adequate access to care. 

Medicare Terminates Contract with HMO that Serves 12,000 on Treasure Coast (July 20, 2007)
After intense investigation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have decided to terminate the Medicare Advantage contract with America’s Health Choice for being an “immediate and serious threat to its members.” CMS is immediately transferring patients to SecureHorizons, a healthcare provider offering benefits similar to that of America’s Health Choice. While these members will not be locked into SecureHorizons’ plan, they are being moved to avoid a gap in their coverage. 

If This Is Such a Rich Country, Why Are We Getting Squeezed? (July 18, 2007)
The richest country in the world is facing an “entitlement crisis.” The wealthiest people in the US are getting richer while the government is simultaneously cutting services for the poor. Excluding the top 10% highest-earners, the average US income actually fell by 11 percent between 1973 and 2005 when adjusted for inflation. Yet programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are being downsized. Is it fair that the nation’s overall economic strength is not reflected in all its citizens’ wellbeing?

Study: Uninsured Experience Higher Health Costs Once Enrolled in Medicare (July 18, 2007)
According to a recent Commonwealth Fund report, persons who are uninsured before becoming old enough to qualify for Medicare face high medical costs once enrolled in the program. They entered Medicare in poor health and their medical treatment cost a lot. It is vital, therefore, that healthcare coverage be expanded to uninsured adults before they reach 65 years in order to avoid weighing seniors and Medicare down with health expenses just as they leave the workforce.

Trapped In the Private Medicare Maze (July 17, 2007)
Private insurers continue to engage in the unscrupulous treatment of seniors who are only seeking more affordable, higher-quality healthcare plans. The Medicare Rights Center, for example, frequently fields complaints about fraudulent insurance practices, and this article describes the some of the problems that these commission-hungry salespersons create for our elderly. Some extreme cases include a woman who needed to call 911 just to get a salesman out of her house and insurance agents enrolling deceased people into Medicare Advantage plans. 

Medicare Dilemma Needs a Long-Term Fix (July 14, 2007)
The author argues that keeping the Medicare system alive will require much more than cutting reimbursement rates to doctors. He says that lawmakers must re-order what level of coverage that should be offered to seniors. If the system continues to cover every type of treatment for each beneficiary, the author claims, Medicare will soon reach a dead-end. While making a useful analysis, the author fails to address the high profit margins in the US’ health care system as well the lack of preventive measures throughout the life cycle that can reduce old age health costs. The system needs change! 

Aging Baby Boomers Face Healthcare Shortage (July 2007)
With a growing aging population, the US is facing a geriatrician shortage. Health systems are now encouraging graduating medical school students to get extra training in geriatric medicine. The elderly often have complicated illnesses that require extra attention, an issue discouraging doctors from specializing in geriatrics. In fact, as of 2005, there was only one geriatrician for every 5,000 Americans 65 and older. 

The Medicare Privatization Scam (July 2007)
Congress is planning to reduce overpayments to Medicare Advantage insurers in hopes of improving Medicare’s Part D drug plan and expanding health coverage to some of the country’s 9 million uninsured children. These cuts will hypothetically save about $54 billion over the next four years, and journalist Trudy Lieberman is concerned that without the cutbacks, a traditional Medicare funding crisis could occur. Lieberman argues that traditional Medicare benefits will inevitably shrink as the costs of providing care rise, forcing US seniors to buy into a more privatized healthcare system. She leaves readers with this question: “If the private market doesn’t provide long-term, effective and efficient care, why does the government have $50 billion to subsidize companies while claiming not to have the same $50 billion to pay for care directly?” 

People Misled Into Choosing Medicare Part C Can Bail Out (July 11, 2007)
Congress recently instructed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to address the recent trend of healthcare fraud related to Medicare Advantage plans. Misinformed beneficiaries can now directly contact the agency at 1-800-MEDICARE to file a complaint and receive advice on how to discontinue an unwanted plan. CMS guidelines emphasize, however, that disenrollment occurs on a case-by-case basis and is permitted only to those who enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan as a result of misleading or incorrect information presented by an insurer.

U.S. Health Care Ranks Low in Studies (July 11, 2007)
Michael Moore’s latest film, Sicko, has ignited even more discontent with the US healthcare system, a system that ranked a lowly 37th in healthcare services when compared with the other 189 industrialized nations. Moore touts the French, Canadian, and British health systems, but he also overlooks their inherent limitations. Is this film providing a reliable perspective to initiate reform or is it merely exposing us to misleading information and radical socialism?

Funds to Address Long-Term Care Needs (July 10, 2007)
Many older persons living in nursing facilities in Louisiana may soon be able to move back home. As most people in an institution don’t need full-time care, this grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will allow older persons to live by themselves or with their families instead of in a nursing home. According to Kathy Kliebert from the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, the major focus of the program is to “transition people from the large facilities back into the community.”

Florida May be Hit Hard on Medicare Payments (July 9, 2007)
A recent study found that impending cuts to Medicare’s home oxygen benefit would most adversely affect older persons living in Florida. The proposed 18.8% reduction in reimbursements will likely severely affect a large number of Medicare beneficiaries with chronic lung disease. 

Health Care Terror (July 9, 2007)

In arguing for a universal healthcare system, columnist Paul Krugman asserts that health care is, above all, a moral issue, and he encourages reformers to appeal to Americans’ “sense of decency and humanity” rather than solely their self-interest. Warning against the scare tactics that insurance companies will use in an effort to prevent change, Krugman cites a scene from the new documentary “Sicko” which shows a young Ronald Reagan claiming that Medicare would lead to a totalitarian state. How can we ever trust what these companies tell us when their profit is at stake?

Leaving Medicare Harder Than Joining (July 2, 2007)
One of the largest populations targeted for healthcare insurance fraud is the elderly. This article tells the story of a woman indicted for insurance fraud who faced severe repercussions. Her cheaper health insurance turned out to be misleading because her doctor would not accept the plan and most of her medications would not be covered under her plan. Because she signed a contract with this new plan, she could not return to her other plan until the following year. Thankfully, there are advocacy groups like Medicare Rights Center which alleviate such problems. It is critical for seniors to be cognizant of medical providers and be sure to review insurer’s explanation of benefits. 

Mass. Offers Young Adults Health Plans (July 2, 2007)
Massachusetts launched its new health care law requiring mandatory health insurance for all its residents. In particular, “much of the focus [of this law] was on older residents who typically face larger insurance bills.” However, the state is realizing that a significant number of 19- to 26-year-olds are without health insurance. To reverse this trend, the government is introducing new projects and policies. 

Initiative Aims to Improve Health Care for Elderly Hispanics (July 1, 2007)
The US Department of Health and Human Services invited nine communities throughout the country with large Hispanic populations, including New York, to apply to participate in a yearlong project to determine the best way to close the gap in health care between elderly Hispanics and elderly white persons. The agency is attempting to find ways to encourage Hispanics to take advantage of Medicare benefits and also develop a method for communities to communicate about how to improve health care for their residents.

Michael Moore's Sicko(June 27, 2007)
Michael Moore’s long-awaited documentary is now out in theatres and has the public talking about the pitfalls in the American health insurance industry. In the film, Moore argues that the healthcare system has failed to provide access to everyone. He says "when you share the pie, sometimes you have to wait for your slice. Sometimes you get the first slice, sometimes you get the third slice, sometimes you get the last slice. But the important thing is that you get a slice, everybody gets a slice of this pie. That's not what happens in this country." 

AMA Doctors Tackle Medicare Payment Reform at Meeting (June 27, 2007)
The American Medical Association doctors want to pre-empt Congress’ plan to cut physician payments by 10 percent, saying that doctors will be less willing to treat Medicare patients. As a result, AMA argues that there will not be enough physicians to care for all the new Medicare patients. The government plans to use the cuts in the physician payments to subsidize (at the rate of $65 billion) private health plans administering Medicare Advantage programs that offer huge profits to the health care industry. AMA claims these budget shifts will be a disaster, arguing “the government is putting seniors’ health at risk.” 

Medicare Meet Some, Not All, Needs for Aging Americans (June 26, 2007)
Eligible US citizens can’t find the health care they desire due to the increasingly higher cost of government funded healthcare programs, such as Medicare. Also, many citizens go uninsured. Concerns about Medicare reverberate across the country. The lack of affordable long term care can jeopardize the health of aging baby boomers. 

A Shortage of Doctors is the Biggest Problem for Seniors (June 26, 2007)
(Article in Arabic)
Studies show there are currently 7000 doctors with geriatrics specialties in the United States, or about one for every 2,500 seniors. The number of patients per physician is expected to double by the year 2030, thus increasing doctor-to-patient ratios. It is expected that elder persons will face increasing difficulties when attempting to access medical care. Geriatrics is not a high-income earning field; doctors in geriatrics usually earn about half as much as those in other specialties.

Health-Care Reform, Washington Style (June 26, 2007)
Scott Armstrong, CEO of Health Group, demands “a commitment to a set of agreed principles that will lead to better care,” specifically an increased focus on preventive medicine for older persons. He claims that the government is spending more for fee-for-service plans than on Medicare Advantage plans because of “perverse incentives” to care for people after they become sick rather than helping them avoid becoming that way. If preventive care saves lives and money, writes Armstrong, then it should be available to seniors too, not just children. 

Keeping Early Retirees Afloat (June 23, 2007)
Former employees, ages 55-64, of the some the nation’s largest companies may now get some health insurance, despite their retired status. Today, only 18 percent of the large employers provide health benefits to retirees under the age of 65, a decrease from the 30 percent count in 1993. In response to recent employee layoffs, buyouts, and outsourcing, some large companies will offer more health benefits to retirees to bridge the health insurance gap for early “retirees” until they are eligible for Medicare. 

Seniors Caught in Drug Muddle (June 21, 2007)
A recent study found that many seniors with Medicare prescription plans arrive at the pharmacy only to find that their drug isn’t covered. The reason, according to researchers, is not because of insufficient coverage, but rather because different prescriptions are covered by different plans and it is difficult for physicians to determine which drugs will be covered by a patient’s plan. The authors of the study believe that this problem is one of information rather than coverage, and that technology such as the Internet could help solve the problem.

Part D Consumer Protections (June 21, 2007)
Because Part D prescription drug coverage is conducted through private companies rather than directly through Medicare, Part D plans have a strong incentive to discourage enrollment by people with high drug costs. Congress did establish some basic consumer protections, but testimony from a recent congressional hearing indicates that there are significant gaps in these protections, especially in the process for appealing drug coverage denial. The best way to help seniors, according to this article, is to allow them to buy drug coverage directly through Medicare rather than forcing them to buy coverage through private insurance companies.

US Cracks Down on Some Medicare Plan Marketing (June 18, 2007)
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently received 2,700 complaints of insurance agents using deceptive techniques to sell the increasingly popular private fee-for-service Medicare plans. According to the CMS, the agents “may have encouraged confusion and misperceptions” about the plans. A total of seven insurance companies have agreed to stop marketing and sales events for their fee-for-service Medicare plans until they can ensure that agents accurately describe and sell the plans.

Retirees Face Costly Dental Bills (June 18, 2007)
Because Medicare does not cover dental care, when older persons lose their employer-provided health plan after retirement, they are often left without dental coverage just as they begin to need it most. Only one in five seniors can afford private dental insurance, so most must pay for their care out-of-pocket. This article suggests making use of discount plans, dental colleges, and community clinics as options to reduce the cost of dental care.


Edwards Lays Out Health Care Plan (June 14, 2007)
Presidential candidate John Edwards, a Democrat, recently disclosed some details of his proposal for universal health care coverage. Among his ideas is a proposal to offer cash payments in place of patents to pharmaceutical companies that develop new drugs. He believes that this will lower prescription drug prices because the companies will no longer have a monopoly on manufacturing the drugs they develop. Edwards’ plan also calls for insurance companies to spend at least 85% of their premiums on patient care and a requirement that every person purchase health insurance.


Older People With Diabetes More Apt to Suffer Depression, UF Study Shows (June 14, 2007)
Researchers at the University of Florida believe that older persons with type-2 diabetes might be at an increased risk of developing depression. They speculate that a chemical imbalance caused by diabetes could trigger the depression. The study also illuminates the dangerous possibility of an older diabetic developing depression and therefore adhering less to the treatment, thus making the diabetes, and the depression, more severe.


The Coming Crisis for Medicare (June 9, 2007)

The rise in medical costs has outpaced economic growth for decades, leading to the gradual depletion of the funds available to finance Medicare. As evidence of the system’s diminishing resources, Medicare trust funds’ trustees released a “Medicare funding warning.” The warning will force President Bush to propose legislation to address the alert by early next February. Retired Goldman-Sachs banker Thomas Healey argues that the government must find incentives to consume less healthcare, lower the costs of treatment, or reduce the value of the Medicare entitlement. Die earlier?


As Boomers Age, Alzheimer’s Toll Will Rise (June 5, 2007)
As the baby boomers age in the next few years, Alzheimer’s, a degenerative disease common among people 60 or older, is expected to rise. Currently, 5.1 million Americans are diagnosed with the disease, and it is estimated to increase to 7.7 million in 2030, based on a study from the Alzheimer’s Association. Combined with present Medicare problems, this growth will pose further complications because costs will inevitably rise. According to the association, “Medicare spends nearly three times as much on average for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias as it does for people without dementia.” Therefore, the elderly will be hit with more out-of-pocket costs. 


State Officials Worry About Proposed Federal Cuts For Seniors (June 5, 2007)

States are concerned that the potential depletion of the Older Americans Act funds will compromise elderly programs and services, such as low-cost meals. New Hampshire, for example, currently receives roughly $5.5 million per year, but the Bush administration plans to make a 6 percent cut of all state funds. This budget cut would minimize the availability of injury prevention programs, long-term care, and other support programs for older persons. 

Doctors Say Medicare Cuts will Hurt Patients (June 4, 2007)
Congress has proposed to cut Medicare funds by 10 percent in 2008. In a survey given to around 9,000 doctors, 14 percent said they would discontinue caring for Medicare patients if the cut is made. The majority of the doctors say they would limit care or shift care to hospitals. Most agree that such a cut would put the US healthcare system for older persons into further havoc. The American Medical Association, recognizing that Medicare patients will have a difficult time accessing doctors, is currently preparing to urge opposition to such cuts. 

Obama Offers Universal Health Care Plan (May 29, 2007)
Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama submitted his universal healthcare plan, saying that it could potentially save the average American $2,500 dollars. Obama proposes that government and business would be required to support a sliding scale subsidy to insure the currently 45 million uninsured persons in the United States. Former Senator John Edwards has also said a tax increase for the richest would be needed for his health plan. While John Edwards would make health insurance mandatory, Obama would not. Senator Clinton has said her plan would include preventative health measures that’s part of Obama’s plan as well. 

US: Clinton Reenters the Health-Care Fray (May 25, 2007)
The issue of healthcare in the United States has emerged as a mounting political issue. Citizens are pressing Democrat candidates, such as Hillary Clinton, to present specific plans on how to fix the US healthcare system, in which over 4 million Americans have no insurance. Thus far, Senator John Edwards has presented his ideas on the issue, admitting that he plans to raise taxes in order to pay for a more efficient system. Clinton has slowly begun to release details of her strategy, citing a seven-step plan highlighting prevention and cutting back costs of chronic care. Senator Obama, on the other hand, is expected to announce his plan for healthcare in Iowa next week. 

Vices and Virtues of the American Health System (May 19, 2007)
(Article in French)
As part of the Cannes Festival and American director Michael Moore’s new movie, Sicko, Le Monde interviewed US and French Health Systems American expert Vicor G Rodwin. He described the limitations of the US health system and pointed out some of the positive aspects of the French system. He explained that the privatization of the US system leaves many people behind.

Defrauding Seniors (May 8, 2007)
In addition to providing Medicare "Part D" prescription drug coverage, private insurers offer a "Medicare Advantage" plan for seniors—private plans that supposedly save money. But the private insurance companies “cherry pick” the youngest and healthiest beneficiaries resulting in extreme overpayments to the private managed care plans. The additional payments to Medicare Advantage plan are causing higher premiums for all beneficiaries and speeding the depletion of the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund for Medicare.

Fewer Employers Offer Health Benefits (May 1, 2007)
An increasing number of new small employers choose not to offer health benefits to their workers. The US Government Accountability Office reports that there is an 8 percentage point drop in the share of small employers offering benefits from 2001 to 2006 and said many employers that offer health benefits now make workers pay a higher share of out-of-pocket costs.

Medicare Part D Drug Prices Are Climbing Quickly (April 2007)
Increases in Medicare Part D prices are outpacing consumer inflation and seniors’ incomes, creating a growing burden for both beneficiaries and taxpayers. The Medicare Modernization Act, which created Part D, prohibited Medicare from using its clout to bargain on behalf of its 43 million beneficiaries to obtain lower prices. In contrast, no Part D plan—even those with the largest numbers of enrollees—has been able to gain enough market share to bring down prices; instead prices for 15 of the drugs most frequently prescribed to seniors have increased. The time has come to make Medicare Part D more cost effective by eliminating the prohibition that prevents Medicare from bargaining for better prices.

Medicare’s Phony Problem: The 45 Percent Threshold (April 2007)
The 2007 Medicare Trustees’ report projects that by the year 2013 more than 45 percent of Medicare’s total funding will come from general revenues. Under the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), if the 45% threshold is crossed, then a series of specific steps to deal with the “problem” is triggered. A closer look, however, shows that this 45 percent threshold has no real significance. Moreover, correcting this nonexistent problem could do serious harm to Medicare beneficiaries and distract policymakers from honest discussions about how best to strengthen Medicare.

As Health Plan Falters, Maine Explores Changes (April 30, 2007)
Maine became the first state in years to enact a law intended to provide universal health care. By 2009, the State planned to provide coverage to approximately 130,000 uninsured residents. So far, it has not come close to that goal. As Maine tries to implement reforms, some challenges include how to better address the concerns of their largely rural, poor and elderly populations with significant health needs.

Medicare’s Troubling Prospects (April 26, 2007)
Recent reports announce that the date of insolvency of the Medicare program has been pushed back by a year — to 2019. Now politicians are trying to find financial solutions. A clause in the 2003 law that established the new Medicare drug program states that no more than 45 percent of total Medicare expenditures can come out of general revenues. Any revenue gained from repealing Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% could not be used to help finance Medicare. This New York Times editorial suggests that instead of cutting healthcare benefits or payments to health care providers, politicians should look to cut the lavish subsidies provided to private health plans that participate in Medicare.

Report: Medicare 101: What You Really Need to Know: Alliance for Health Reform (April 20, 2007)
A panel sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform and the Kaiser Family Foundation features experts explaining how Medicare is funded, who it serves, and what Parts A, B, C and D cover. This discussion is available both as a transcript and as a video webcast.

 Report: Forthcoming Medicare Trustees’ Report May Contain Dubious “Medicare Funding Warning” (April 20, 2007)
Anticipating the release of the annual report of the Social Security and Medicare trustees, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities declares that it may contain a dubious “Medicare Funding Warning” that is based on a deeply misleading measure of the program’s health. The 45-percent threshold represents an ideologically driven approach to Medicare’s financing woes that protects the nation’s most affluent residents at the expense of Medicare beneficiaries and working families of more modest means. Also, focusing on this dubious “warning” is not only devoid of analytic merit but will impede efforts to address Medicare’s problems.

Senate Bars Medicare Talks for Lower Drug Prices (April 19, 2007)
The US Senate blocked a proposal to let Medicare negotiate lower drug prices for millions of older Americans, a practice now forbidden by law. Democrats could not muster the 60 votes needed to take up the measure in the face of staunch opposition from Republicans. The opponents said private insurers and their agents, known as pharmacy benefit managers, were already negotiating large discounts for Medicare beneficiaries. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a freshman Democrat from Minnesota, said the vote showed that “the power of big pharma,” the pharmaceutical industry, “is still a presence in the halls of Congress.”

AARP Says It Will Become Major Medicare Insurer While Remaining a Consumer Lobby (April 17, 2007)
AARP, the former American Association for Retired Persons, announced that it would become a major participant in the nation’s health insurance market, offering an HMO plan to Medicare recipients and several other products to people 50 to 64 years old. People ages 50 to 64 often find that health insurance is unavailable or unaffordable when they try to buy it on their own. AARP said its underwriting practices would be less stringent than those of many commercial insurers, but it reserved the right to deny coverage to some sick people ages 50 to 64.

Report: Rhetoric versus Reality: Comparing Medicare Part D Prices to VA Prices (April 2007)
This report compares the lowest prices for drugs offered by Medicare Part D. Since the inception of the Part D benefit, evidence shows that private plans have not reduced drug prices for seniors. Rather, prices have climbed. Over the past year, Part D drug prices have increased several times faster than the inflation rate. Families USA analyzed the prices for certain drugs most frequently prescribed to seniors and found that Part D insurers charged prices that were substantially higher than those obtained by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Report: Waste and Inefficiency in the Bush Medicare Prescription Drug Plan: Allowing Medicare to Negotiate Lower Prices Could Save $30 Billion a Year (April 2007)
If the Senate follows the House in passing legislation that will allow Medicare to negotiate for cheaper prescription drugs, the result will be around $30 billion in savings for seniors, for the Medicare Part D program, and for the health care system as a whole. These kinds of policy changes offer significant savings for the government that, in this era of pay-as-you-go budgeting, could be used to fund other vital programs or to help fill in the Part D coverage gap known as the doughnut hole. The proposed changes in the Medicare Part D law would undo the legislative provisions that were only inserted into law only because of special interest lobbying.

Report: The Effect of Different Public Health Interventions on Longevity, Morbidity, and Years of Healthy Life (April 2007)
What is the goal of public health for older persons? Public health doctors and their staff must consider what results their actions will produce. In a highly statistical study that has ethical implications, the researchers looked at interventions that would help different sets of persons. For example, interventions aimed at keeping persons healthy increased longevity and years of healthy life, while decreasing morbidity and medical expenditures. Interventions that focused on preventing mortality had a greater effect on longevity, but had higher future morbidity and medical expenditures. Finally, the researchers found that if public health doctors did more comprehensive screening and treatment of new Medicare enrollees, they likely would improve enrollees’ health and longevity without increasing future medical expenditures.

Report: Medicaid and Long-Term Care: How will Rising Costs Affect Services for an Aging Population? (April 2007)
This brief from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College explores trends in Medicaid spending on long-term care and the implications of its rapid growth for taxpayers and for the needs of an ag¬ing population. The first section defines long-term care. The second section describes Medicaid’s role in financing it. The third section describes the impact of Medicaid on state budgets. The final section assesses efforts to rein in Medicaid spending.

Report: Medicaid Long-Term Care: Few Transferred Assets before Applying for Nursing Home Coverage; Impact of Deficit Reduction Act on Eligibility Is Uncertain (March 2007)
The Medicaid program paid for nearly one-half of the nation’s total long-term care expenditures in 2004. The GAO (Government Accountability Office) recently released a report that examines the demographic and financial characteristics of a sample of Medicaid nursing home applicants. Researchers examined the extent to which these applicants transferred assets for less than Fair Market Value and the potential effects of the Deficit Reduction Act provisions on Medicaid eligibility for long-term care.

Govs and Hospitals Try to Block Medicaid Cuts (March 22, 2007)
A coalition of governors and hospital groups says it has the support of nearly two-thirds of the members of Congress to block a Bush administration plan to cut $5 billion in Medicaid funding. Governors, state Medicaid directors and public hospitals are urging Congress to pre-empt a new rule proposed to take effect in September that would limit federal reimbursements to government-run hospitals. Budget considerations could potentially hamper efforts to block the administration’s rules. It’s unclear whether the Democratic leadership in Congress would require cuts elsewhere to offset the $5 billion in savings the administration was counting on when it drafted its budget. 

Insuring Children May Squeeze Seniors (March 26, 2007)
The Democratic Party leadership of Congress is moving to provide healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured children this year, but there's a catch: senior citizens enrolled in a popular Medicare program may have to help pay the bill. Lawmakers want to provide coverage to as many as 6 million of an estimated 9 million uninsured children, by increasing federal spending as much as $60 billion over the next five years. But budget rules designed to curb the deficit require new expenditures to be offset by tax increases or cuts in programs. To help meet the cost, Congress is considering trimming payments to Medicare managed-care plans. The privately run alternatives to traditional programs serve about 8 million senior citizens, including those in health maintenance organizations. If funding is reduced, the plans may cut dental, vision and other benefits. 

Report: Long-Term Care Preferences: A Survey of Alabama Residents Age 35+ (March 2007)
A recent AARP study shows that Alabama residents prefer receiving long-term care services in the home. Two-thirds of respondents support spending more state funding on home and community-based care. The Alabama State Legislature is currently evaluating a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) supported program called Money Follows the Person Program. Through this program, persons eligible for Medicaid long term care services would be able to decide the setting in which they receive services and funds would be allocated to support their choices. 

Report: Medicare: A Primer (March 2007)
This Kaiser Family Foundation guide examines Medicare, a program established in 1967 which provides health coverage to nearly 44 million people—including about 37 million people age 65 and older and another 7 million younger adults with permanent disabilities. The primer looks at the characteristics of the Medicare population, what benefits are covered, how much people with Medicare pay for their benefits and the program’s overall costs and future financing challenges. Particularly interesting is the table showing the number of Medicare beneficiaries in each state, broken out by age and income level.

Medicare Providers Face Tighter Scrutiny (March 20, 2007)
A congressional probe into tax fraud by physicians, suppliers and other Medicare providers may lead to changes in how the program pays contractors and could expand into a wider inquiry into whether other individuals and institutions doing business with Medicare also abused the tax system.

To do Health Care Right, Rich Must be Taxed (March 14, 2007)
New York Governor Spitzer’s commitment to clear away the bureaucratic obstacles that keep hundreds of thousands of eligible New Yorkers off Medicaid is a major step forward. Unfortunately, while Spitzer is extending health coverage with one hand, he is yanking away a lifeline from the state's hospitals and nursing homes with the other. One solution to help with the Medicare budget is to place a tax on earnings consisting of one day’s pay for every $500,000 earned annually.

Report: Health Care Spending and the Aging of the Population (March 13, 2007)
This report, prepared for Congress by the Congressional Research Service, focuses on health care spending which has been growing as a percentage of national income, federal spending, and many consumers’ income. Growth in spending for health care is of particular concern to policymakers because Medicare and Medicaid already account for about 21% of federal spending. Over the next several decades, both national and federal spending on health care are expected to grow rapidly due to changing demographics (growing percentage of older people) and rising health care costs for all age groups. This has implications regarding public spending priorities and economic growth.

Reject Bush's Health Care Plan (March 12, 2007)
Bush’s health plan throws the responsibility of healthcare on the individual rather than making care a shared risk that the state helps shoulder. This plan inevitably forces people to be more frugal with their healthcare spending, resulting in fewer people taking preventive measures with their health. When treatable illnesses go undetected for years, they grow into expensive serious illnesses. Many new plans with a shared risk approach have surfaced since the Democrats gained control of the Senate. One such plan, written by Jacob Hacker from Yale University and published as part of the Economic Policy Institute’s Agenda for Shared Prosperity, draws on the strengths of the employer-provided health insurance system and the advantages of public insurance. Hacker’s plan would permit people without Medicare or employer-based health care to buy into the Health Care for America insurance pool, modeled largely on Medicare, but tailored for the non-elderly population.

Most Support U.S. Guarantee of Health Care (March 2, 2007)
According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, a majority of US citizens willing to pay higher taxes to have universal health insurance. More than three-quarters are not happy with Bush’s handling of the healthcare issue. The majority believe that the Democrats are more likely to improve the healthcare system. More than 46 million uninsured Americans would greatly benefit from a universal healthcare system.

Medicaid Cuts Would Cost Public Hospitals, Other Facilities (March 1, 2007)The Bush Administration plans to cut nearly $4 billion in aid for public hospitals and other healthcare facilities for uninsured patients.  Medicaid, the federal-state program, serves more than 55 million low income people, including the working poor, elderly nursing home residents with few financial resources and many children of low income parents.  The administration is attempting to move forward with these proposed changes without any input from Congress or governors.  However, 43 senators and 226 House members are trying to pass legislation to block the cuts from going into effect.

Profit for Some or Care for All (February 27, 2007)

Current health coverage in the US is costly and inefficient. A publicly administered policy with an affordable premium that allows a choice of doctors and hospitals with reliable benefits would force private insurance companies to be more efficient in order to compete. 

Universal Care: Watch Your Language (February 27, 2007)
A study group was put together by Lake Research Partners to decode arguments claiming that the current US health system is the most effective one. The study found that the main point needing emphasis is quality affordable health care--a system that covers everyone but does not drive up costs for everyone else or decrease quality of care.

Report: Is Medicaid Sustainable? Spending Projections for the Program’s Second Forty Years (February 23, 2007)
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation lays out the national concern about baby boomers’ LTC (long term care) costs and the pressures placed on Medicaid by the expected decline in employer-sponsored insurance. The report claims that the growth in government revenues will be large enough to sustain Medicaid spending increases. Researchers make clear that there is no need to rush headlong into changes in Medicaid for fear that Medicaid is unsustainable or will bankrupt state and federal taxpayers. A measured, careful approach makes much more sense.

Saving Private Insurance (February 22, 2007)
Proposals for healthcare reform all revolve around private insurance companies, while the problem with the healthcare system in the US is the conflict of interest of private insurance companies. Public coverage has been proven in other industrialized countries to reduce costs and increase efficiency and coverage to all citizens. By examining the history of insurance in the US and understanding the shortcomings of the current system, this article shows how public coverage is the most logical solution to the healthcare crisis in the US.

Bush Goes on Road to Push Health Plan (February 21, 2007)
President Bush’s plan to expand health coverage by revamping the tax code to cut taxes for the poor so they can afford private health insurance has been pronounced dead by leading Democrats on Capitol Hill. The plan, however, has invited mixed reactions from Democrats. While all feel that the plan needs to be largely altered, some appreciate that universal healthcare has been brought to the headlines.

Caring for an Aging America (February 15, 2007)
In an invited testimony before the US House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations as part of the Hearing on Health Care Access and the Aging of America, Mary Jane Koren, assistant vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, explained the changing health concerns of an aging America. Since the elderly will constitute a significantly larger part of the population by 2020 and one fifth of the population by 2050, the healthcare system requires reform to meet the needs of an aging society. Koren suggests that our long-term health system should not try to extend the lives of older persons using very painful and costly methods. Rather, she believes funding should support care that helps them maintain their independence and quality of life. 

US: Report: Medicaid In Depth: A Special Research Series (February 2007)
Governor Spitzer’s 2007-08 Executive Budget calls for a series of Medicaid cost-containment measures, including a freeze on hospital and nursing-home reimbursement rates. New York’s high Medicaid spending— more than double the per-capita norm for all states—stems from deeply rooted patterns of health-care spending, regulation and use that have failed to produce better care. In keeping with Governor Spitzer’s “patients first” perspective, this special research series uses the latest federal data to highlight Medicaid spending on major demographic groups: the elderly, children, non-elderly adults, and the disabled.

US: Report: The Rising Burden of Health Spending on Seniors (February 2007)
Increasing life expectancies, rising spending per retiree and a growing retired population are fueling higher health care expenditures on the older US population. Experts say that retirees’ health care cost are projected to rise substantially, even under current-law projections. If the cost sharing shifts and seniors are asked to pay more of their own health care costs, health care will crowd out other spending options for future retirees. Current workers must anticipate these changes. They will have to consider staying in the workforce longer, saving more or consuming less health care as the relative price of health care increases. The report does not address changing the fundamental structure of US health care as a way to reduce retirees’ costs. 

Report: State by State Formulary Variability in Medicare Prescription Drug Plans for Auto-Assigned Long Term Care Residents (February 2007)
The Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance published a recent study that documents how most low income nursing home residents have a poor chance of being enrolled in the Medicare Part D plan that best covers their medications.

$3 Trillion Bush Budget to Trim Domestic Programs (February 2, 2007)
US President Bush recently submitted a budget proposal to Congress to increase spending on more military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan . The Defense Department also seeks $481.4 billion to run the department for 2008. All the while, Bush plans to continue to decrease domestic program spending on Medicare, Medicaid for the poor and disabled, farm programs and college grants for low income students.

Georgetown University Long-Term Care Financing Project Fact Sheets: Medicare and Long-term Care (February 2007) 
Medicare has contributed to the wellbeing of the nation’s elderly and people with disabilities. Over the past four decades, Medicare has helped to improve the health of its beneficiaries. But Medicare also has significant gaps. This report examines how Medicare could be modified to play a larger role in financing long-term care. Options include federalizing long-term care costs for dual eligibles and adding a personal care benefit to Medicare.

Bringing Health Care to Katrina’s Uninsured (January 29, 2007)

More than a year after Hurricane Katrina, eastern New Orleans remains without a stable medical or health-care infrastructure. Hundreds of people, young and old, are still without health insurance in areas hit hard by the storm.  A week-long health fair event recently began to serve those citizens who no longer have insurance, are unemployed or otherwise cannot afford regular health care. By the end of the week, 10,000 patients are expected to be seen.  People began arriving as early as 2 a.m. in need of health services. 

Qualifying for Medicaid after Making Cash Gifts (January 27, 2007)
Since the implementation of the Deficit Reduction Act in February 2006, stricter rules have made qualifying for Medicaid much more difficult.  Oftentimes, seniors turn to Medicaid for help in paying long-term care bills.   Individuals typically become eligible for Medicaid after using up all but about $2,000 of their cash and investments with certain exceptions. One way of reaching that threshold without spending the money is to give it to someone else, often their children.  But the parents, if they enter a nursing home, could be left in a bind.

Bush’s Focus on Health Care Draws Criticism, New Hope (January 23, 2007)

The Administration’s proposals for shrinking the number of health-uninsured citizens in the country face much criticism. Critics state that President Bush's tax break for health insurance proposal would do little to reduce the ranks of the uninsured. "Since most uninsured citizens pay low or no taxes, they would receive little help from this plan," said the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Additionally, this approach could undermine the employer-based insurance system by shifting many citizens from stable employer-based insurance, where the risk is spread over an entire work force, into the unstable individual insurance market.

Group Offer Health Plan for Coverage of Uninsured (January 19, 2007)
Business and consumer groups, doctors, hospitals and drug companies recently laid out a major proposal to provide health coverage to more than half of the nation’s 47 million uninsured. The plan proposes to address the nation’s health care crisis by expanding federal benefit programs and offering new tax credits to individuals and families.  Critics feel tax credits may not guarantee access to comprehensive coverage and could leave consumers with high out-of-pocket costs. Nevertheless, more action has taken place to address this crisis. Dr. Reed V. Tuckson, senior vice president of UnitedHealth Group states, “Day after day, people die. We are sick and tired of the debate. We are focusing on what is achievable."

Fed Chief Sends Warning on Budget (January 18, 2007)

Once again the US Administration is floating privatization of Social Security.  Leaders fail to take responsibility for the enormous tax cuts given to the richest in the US and now cry “poverty” for social programs.

Hooked on Drug Money: Will Congress Take a Stand on Medicare?
(January 10, 2007)

One of the key issues that Democrats plan to tackle is changing the Medicare drug benefit by negotiating lower prices with the pharmaceutical industry. Critics of the Medicare drug benefit plan believe it was designed to enrich the pharmaceutical and insurance industries at the expense of taxpayers and beneficiaries. The industry has made many claims to maintain its profit levels.  Taxpayers and beneficiaries have opposed these  assertions since some $300-$400 billion dollars could be saved over the next decade by negotiating prices. However, the industry gives enormous campaign contributions to members of Congress and presidential candidates to support their case.

Study Finds Major Variation in Medicare Rx Drug Costs (January 10, 2007)
University of Michigan researchers found that there is tremendous variation in what Medicare enrollees in different states pay for the same medications, even with the lowest-cost Part D plans. Thus, two people taking the same drugs but living in different states could face costs that differed by thousands of dollars, even if each had chosen the lowest-cost plan available to them. The discrepancy in plan costs appears to have little to do with the cost of living in different states. In fact, some of the states with the lowest cost-of-living-adjusted average incomes had some of the highest drug plan costs. The results, published in the January Journal of General Internal Medicine, may help inform the Congressional effort to reform the Medicare drug benefit. For the full research report, click here.   

Schwarzenegger Proposes Universal Health Coverage (January 9, 2007)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) recently proposed a system of universal health insurance for all Californians. "Prices for health care and insurance are rising twice as fast as inflation, twice as fast as wages. That is a terrible drain on everyone, and it is a drain on our economy," states Schwarzenegger. His plan would require everyone living in California to have health insurance regardless of immigration status.  If the proposal is approved, California would be the third state in the nation to adopt legislation that guarantees medical coverage for all its residents. Analysts say this proposal signifies the revival of political interest in expanding health coverage to the uninsured and provides evidence that the states are beginning to take matters into their own hands. Census figures show that a record 46.6 million Americans, including 8.3 million children, had no health insurance in 2005, up from 45.3 million in 2004.

Power Shift in Congress Revives Health Debate (January 2, 2007)

Power will shift in Congress this month as the alignment changes between Republicans and Democrats.  Legislators will examine the nation’s health care system. Expect a battle over the current law that prevents the government from negotiating lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.   Some policy makers believe that competition in the private sector keeps drug prices down.  However, others argue that Medicare should offer a government-run drug plan as well to secure lower drug prices for all elderly. When Congress begins later this week, debates will begin that affect more than 22.5 million beneficiaries. Let your Congressional Representative know what you think.

Families USA Report: No Bargain: Medicare Drug Plans Deliver High Prices (January 2007)

Families USA , The Voice for Healthcare Consumers’ recent report on Medicare Part D found that these plans fail to deliver on the promise that competition would bring prices down. The use of “market power,” lauded by Medicare officials and the Administration, has not resulted in drug prices that are comparable to the low prices negotiated by the VA. Studies found that for all of the top 20 drugs prescribed to seniors, VA prices are substantially lower than the lowest prices charged by the largest Part D insurers. For example,  half of the 20 drugs the lowest price charged by the largest Part D insurers was at least 58 percent higher. 

Analysis Compares Health Care Spending In US and OECD Nations 
(January 2007)

Compared to other developed nations, the US spends more on health care per capita and devotes a greater share of its GDP to health. Despite this relatively high level of spending, the US does not provide substantially greater health resources to its citizens, or achieve substantially better health benchmarks, compared to other rich countries. This growing gap between health spending in the US and that of other rich countries may encourage policymakers to look more closely at what people in the US are getting for their far higher and faster growing spending on health care. The Kaiser Family Foundation report, based on information from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, is part of the Foundation's Snapshots: Health Care Costs series.

Private Insurance/Other

John McCain, Mike Huckabee Promise Seniors They’ll Slow Rising Health Care Costs (October 26, 2007)
At an AARP forum in Iowa this past week, Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Mike Huckabee promised seniors that they will curb rising healthcare costs without setting government mandates or implementing government programs. Both candidates oppose a universal health care system as a solution to the US healthcare crisis and propose tax incentives to make it easier for people to buy health insurance. Healthcare has been cited as one of the major issues in the 2008 US presidential campaigns. 

Long-term Care Insurance Offers Little Assurance to Policyholders (October 18, 2007)
While individuals prepare for their long-term healthcare needs, they may be faced with challenges that make it more difficult to benefit from their insurance coverage. Rising costs of long-term care (LTC) premiums, high rates of claim denials by private insurers, and frequent unavailability of quality care when beneficiaries most need it are the most commonly reported problems. A report by the Journal of Financial Planning showed that individuals with incomes between $60,000 and $100,000 can afford annual premiums from $1,000 to $2,000 while those making $40,000 or less seldom can afford to pay for LTC insurance premiums. The article advises consumers to look to their state for help, as states have the authority to regulate insurers. Also, a problem corresponding to the rise in the number of elderly is the shortage of caregivers, for which the article offers recommendations for mitigating the caregiver burden, including providing more funding to nursing schools to train individuals in geriatric nursing. 

Scrutiny for Insurers of the Aged (October 3, 2007)
At the beginning of October, the Senate Finance Committee followed up with reports issued by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners showing a 92% increase in complaints against private long-term care insurance companies between 2001 and 2006. The New York Times previously reported that long-term care insurers have procedures of claims denial making it more difficult for claims to be approved. The Committee acted by asking insurers of long-term care to explain their procedures for handling claims. These insurance companies have been under scrutiny due to the price hike in their premiums and class action lawsuits brought on by policyholders. The reports come at a time when private equity firms are buying up nursing homes and cutting costs by reducing staff and supplies, thus possibly endangering the lives of elderly residents. 

Report: Myths of the High Medical Cost of Old Age and Dying (September 20, 2007)
An International Longevity Center (ILC) report debunks common myths surrounding medical costs in old age and for end of life care in the US. With a steadily growing elderly population, people generally attribute high medical costs to those in old age and dying. However, various studies and census data show that the increase in costs is in fact due to overall population growth, wide use of medical technology, and medical care price inflation. For the specific facts, read this helpful study.

A Model Health Care System (August 13, 2007)
In 2001, the World Health Organization ranked the French health care system the best in the world. This opinion piece recommends that those advocating for a universal health care system in the US take a closer look at the French system’s machinery: its strengths and weaknesses. 

Bridging the Gap (July 23, 2007)
Members of Hispanic, African-American, and Asian communities in the United States differ in their responses to evidence of dementia in their aging loved ones. Some are superstitious in their response, while others deny or hide their symptoms out of shame. Due to a lack of information, some communities view signs of dementia as normal memory loss and refuse to seek care. Increasingly, people like Maritza Ciliberto, whose family is from Puerto Rico, are reaching out to minority communities to help break down language and education barriers that prevent older persons from receiving care.

Doctor Shortage Hurts a Coverage-for-All Plan (July 25, 2007)
The new Massachusetts program designed to expand healthcare insurance coverage has succeeded in enrolling more residents, but a shortage in primary-care physicians has prevented many of the newly-insured from receiving care. Fewer medical school graduates are entering primary care because these doctors work longer hours and get paid less than specialists. Healthcare access should not be limited to insurance, because, in the words of Governor Deval Patrick, “health-care coverage without access is meaningless.”

Too Few Geriatric Psychiatrists When They’re Needed Most (July 20, 2007)

Researchers expect that twenty-percent of aging baby boomers will have some form of mental illness, and this generation is also more receptive to seeking professional care than previous generations. As a result, the demand for geriatric psychiatrists, a subspecialty that is seeing only limited growth, is projected to increase greatly in the coming years. General psychiatrists and other physicians, however, are increasingly able to provide older persons with access to treatment due to advances in the field.

Few Minorities Use End-of-Life Hospice Care (July 15, 2007)
Some terminally ill patients, such as 97-year-old Marie Madison, are being offered hospice care as a way to help make their final days more comfortable. A disproportionately low number of minorities request the services of a hospice, however, seemingly because they feel that doctors who suggest hospice care are merely trying to avoid providing full treatment. Hospices are now attempting to reach out to minorities by educating community leaders about the benefits of hospice care and by employing more minorities. 

Broadband Access Critical to Health Care (June 27, 2007)
As a state with a rapidly aging population and expansive rural areas, New Hampshire serves as an excellent candidate for telemedicine. This article claims that telemedicine can improve health delivery by allowing patients and their physicians to transfer medical data such as images, sound, video, and patient records to one another. Telemedicine therefore has the potential to provide access to health care for older persons who live in rural areas and have difficulty traveling to medical centers in the central and southern areas of the state. 

Some Firms Offer Help as More Employees Juggle Work, Care for Aging Parent (June 26, 2007)
As the US population ages, the population of older persons who do not need the constant care of a nursing home but prefer not to live alone is growing. These elderly persons often move in with family members who must balance their career and raising their own children with caring for their aging relative. Companies are increasingly recognizing that this arrangement can become an excessive burden and decrease worker productivity if the company does not make an effort to accommodate the worker’s needs. Therefore, some organizations have begun to offer elder care referral services, emergency elder health services, or consultations with specialists on aging.

Rural Work Ethic, Sturdy Values may Delay Elderly Heart Patients from Seeking Care (June 20, 2007)
Rural Albertans are not inclined to seek help for their heart failures or other illnesses, thanks to their strong work ethic and steadfast nature. They take pride in their ability to bear up to an illness, but evading care can be quite dangerous. “Because the patients often associated the causes of their heart conditions with a lifetime of hard labor and stressful work conditions—usually farm and manual labor--they felt they had little control over the progression of their illness.” Improving rural access to healthcare and being sensitive to cultures is vital in society today. 

Bills Would Boost Rural Health Care (June 15, 2007)
A group of US Senators have introduced a bill to improve Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement to physicians who treat older persons in rural areas. New Mexico, for example, could see a fifteen percent increase in Medicare revenues if the bill is passed. The Senators hope that the increased funding will help small towns attract and retain physicians and health care workers.

Justices Upheld Regulation That Home Care Employees Not Entitled to Overtime (June 11, 2007)
The Fair Labor Standards Act  does not protect  home care workers who treat many of the nation’s elderly and disabled, according to a recent Supreme Court ruling. The Court ruled out any entitlement to overtime pay, compensation which, if offered, would cost the industry billions of dollars. One home care company, Long Island Care at Home Ltd., claims that such a burden would be “unsustainable”. Seventy-three-year-old retiree Evelyn Coke, who claimed that she was never paid overtime during her twenty-year career as a home care worker filed the suit.  What justice is this for low wage workers who care for elders?  

Traveling Nurse Helps Provide Free Health Care to those in Need (June 9, 2007)
Deborah Craven, a licensed nurse with Lunenburg Health Service Inc., a local non-profit agency, travels around the country to provide free healthcare to low-income people. Even with soaring costs, clients receive health services free of charge. This agency operates on a low budget, and the board of directors and staff all live frugal lifestyles to maintain their free services to the community. Low-income residents heavily rely on these services, and “for many elderly patients, Deborah is their only daily contact with the outside world.”

Report: Meeting the Long-Term Care Needs of the Baby Boomers: How Changing Families Will Affect Paid Helpers and Institutions (May 2007)

This report, released by the Urban Institute’s Retirement Project, estimates that by 2040, the population of disabled older Americans will more than double from levels reported in 2000. The disabled elderly population will grow much more rapidly than the younger population that supports it, increasing the economic burden of long-term care. The report also predicts that the average number of paid hours of help per disabled elder will increase 36% by 2040. The report concludes that providing seniors with adequate and affordable care must be a high policy priority.

Mass. has yet to Collect Fees from Firms for Healthcare: Totals Expected to Fall Far Short of Predictions (May 10, 2007)
Universal healthcare in Massachusetts is under-funded because payroll taxes will not be collected for this fiscal year. Even next year with payroll tax collections, the expected revenue now is significantly less than the original estimated revenues due to former Massachusetts Governor Romney’s restructuring of the legislation to decrease the number of firms required to pay the fees.

Universal Coverage For The Not-Poor (May 9, 2007)
Business leaders jumped into the universal health care pool this week, as 36 companies formed the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform and called for a system where all individuals are required to carry health insurance. The crucial debate now is over what role the US government should play to secure affordable, quality coverage for all. The coalition, which includes some insurance and pharmaceutical companies, appears to favor continued restrictions on the US government's ability to keep insurance companies honest and serve all the public.

US Companies Launch New Group to Lobby Health Care (May 7, 2007)
Aetna Inc., Safeway Inc. and 35 other U.S. companies facing soaring health-care costs released a plan on Monday to lobby Congress for a market-based approach for providing universal health-care coverage. The group, called the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform, also wants tax breaks to be given to individuals who pay for their own health-care costs, as businesses do now. They encourage a preventive health approach rather than the reactive system in place today. President George W. Bush has suggested a version of this approach. At present, 46 million Americans have no health insurance.

As Health Plan Falters, Maine Explores Changes (April 30, 2007)
After Maine became the first state in years to attempt to achieve universal healthcare in 2003 through a plan called Dirigo, it has yet to meet its goals. Amendments are being passed to the state legislation to attempt to fix the program’s shortcomings. However, Maine’s demographics of mostly small businesses and seasonal workers, plus limited resources, make universal healthcare difficult to achieve.

Insurers Fight to Defend Lucrative Medicare Business: As Democrats Push Cuts, Trade Group Targets Minority Lawmakers (April 30, 2007)
Insurance companies currently supplying Medicare Advantage are lobbying strongly against a future Democrat-driven attempt to cut the Medicare Advantage budget in order to finance a universal children’s healthcare insurance. Medicare Advantage is costing the government significantly more than traditional Medicare. Some Democrats argue that it would be cheaper to provide the extra benefits provided by Medicare Advantage directly than going through private companies. Also, Medicare Advantage is not a universal plan with a variety of plans differing by company and region. 

Health Care That Works (April 17, 2007)
The big debate in universal health care is over the role of the private health insurance industry. Since Democratic candidates have all essentially taken vows to guarantee universal health care coverage by the end of their first or second term, the power of advocating a realistic universal plan lies in the hands of the voters. The candidates are currently listening to the needs of the people who are making it very clear that they are fed up with the status quo. Thus, it is our responsibility to get answers to questions like what is the role of the private health insurance industry in a universal coverage plan.

Aged, Frail and Denied Care by Their Insurers (March 29, 2007)
Long-term care insurance companies, particularly Conseco, Bankers Life and Penn Treaty, have a systematic approach to avoid payments to their policyholders. Thousands of policyholders say they have received only excuses about why insurers will not pay. Interviews by The New York Times and confidential depositions indicate that some long-term-care insurers have developed procedures that make it difficult — if not impossible — for policyholders to get paid. In California alone, nearly one in every four long-term-care claims was denied in 2005, according to the state.

Private Medicare Plans Too Costly-US. Lawmaker (March 21, 2007)
About 8.3 million of Medicare's roughly 43 million beneficiaries, or 19 percent, have private plans, according the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Overall, CMS pays 12 percent more for the private plans compared to traditional coverage and 19 percent more for private fee-for-service. According to the CBO (Congressional Budget Office), paying private insurers at the same rate as the government plan could save $65 billion between 2008 and 2012. Savings from more equal payments should instead "be redirected to provide low- and middle-income people with Medicare (with) protection against unaffordable out-of-pocket expenses," Medicare Rights Center President Robert Hayes said in a statement. 

Demand for Health-Care Workers Still Rising/Nursing Positions Top List, But Pharmacists, Other Jobs Also Needed in Area Hospitals (March 11, 2007)
The need for more health-care professionals will continue to grow as baby boomers retire and new technologies emerge. Part of the demand stems from the fact that the health-care work force is aging. More people are retiring than there are people coming into the field. Demand for professionals is increasing. Even those who want to get into health care are finding it difficult due to a lack of medical instructors.

Bargaining Down That CT Scan Is Suddenly Possible (February 27, 2007)
Receiving a bill from a hospital or a doctor’s office can often be a taunting/nightmarish experience—with ridiculously high charges for everything from surgery to a box of tissue. The bad news is that doctor’s offices and hospitals usually refuse to tell their pricing until after the service/procedure. This leaves patients feeling stuck in a helpless situation where they have to fork over hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars after the services. With cuts in Medicare funding forcing elderly persons to pay more out of their pockets, elderly persons as a group are also victims of this scheme. However, a growing number of companies will research the billed prices to determine what the prices should be. The article describes the hospital/doctor office billing culture and the way claims adjusters can help save hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars in medical expenses.

Health Care for America : A Proposal for Guaranteed, Affordable Health Care for All (January 11, 2007)

Over the last generation, citizens have grown more economically insecure even as the nation's economy has expanded. The US spends much more as a share of its economy on health care than any other nation.  Yet all this spending has failed to buy citizens the one thing that health insurance is supposed to provide: health security. John Hacker’s proposal, Health Care for America, may be a guide for health security that is now sorely lacking, guaranteeing affordable, and giving quality health care to all. Without upending our system, the proposal outlines how everyone would be covered, where risk is spread broadly and costs would be controlled and quality improved.

Arnold-Care is a Bad Deal  (January 16, 2007)

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposal for a universal health plan places the pursuit of private profits ahead of increased access, affordable care and enhanced quality of health care for Californians.  His plan will reinforce and expand the private market in health care, giving hundreds of millions of dollars to insurance companies.  While the proposal requires all California residents to purchase insurance coverage, the plan does not limit premium costs, set standards or assure that plans have comprehensive or uniform benefits.

Health Insurance Coverage of the Near Elderly, 1994-2005 (January 2007)
The issues of health insurance coverage for baby boomers will become increasingly important as employers continue to cutback or eliminate retiree health benefits. According to findings from EBRI (Employee Benefit Research Institute), the average individual savings needed by retirees to cover health insurance premiums during the 10-year period before becoming eligible for Medicare have been estimated to range between $51,000 and $193,000. The erosion of retiree health insurance and amendments to the Medicare system may ultimately change retirement patterns.  Employees nearing retirement age may more likely postpone their decision to retire and keep working to maintain some form of health insurance coverage and affordable health care services that are not covered by insurance.

Why Some Patients Get No Help After Brain Injury (January 8, 2007)

Strokes, traumatic brain injury and brain hemorrhages disable approximately nine million people in the US every year. Over half suffer damage to their memory, mental processing or behavior. However many of these individuals do not receive cognitive therapy, a medical treatment that tries to re-teach injured parts of the brain how to perform basic functions, like organizing the day or tuning out distractions.  Currently, many insurance companies do not pay for this kind of rehabilitation leaving many patients at low-functioning capacity.  In addition, doctors may often discharge these patients to nursing homes and therefore reduce their chance of recovery.  

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GAA Report

Global Action on Aging Research Bibliography: Psychotropic Drug Use in Nursing Homes
An estimated 80% of elderly nursing home residents suffer from mental disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, depression, and anxiety and psychotic disorders. While psychotropic medications can be effective in treating mental disorders, there are concerns that overmedication of these vulnerable people can occur. Global Action on Aging is actively involved in researching and documenting the many aspects of overmedication in nursing homes. We have created a page providing links to information and studies on psychotropic drugs use in nursing homes, both in the United States and internationally.


Forecasting the Global Burden of Alzheimer's Disease (2007)
As the world’s population ages, Alzheimer’s looms as a potential future epidemic. This report examines the projected impact of treatments that could be used to combat the disease. According to author Ron Brookmeyer’s findings, “if interventions could delay both disease onset and progression by a modest 1 year, there would be nearly 9.2 million fewer cases of disease in 2050 with nearly all the decline attributable to decreases in persons needing a high level of care.” 

Main Morbidities Recorded in the Women's International Study of Long Duration Oestrogen after Menopause (July 2007)
Researchers recently concluded that hormone replacement therapy can increase cardiovascular and thromboembolic risks for women many years after menopause. Moreover, the study also demonstrated that, overall, hormone therapy does not help prevent the onset of chronic diseases. Women should take these and other related findings into account and discuss all the treatment options with a physician when considering hormone replacement therapy. 

Low Dose Aspirin and Cognitive Function in the Women's Health Study Cognitive Cohort (May 2007)
A nine + year study found that a low aspirin dose does not aid woman over 65 with their memory.  Results showed no significant differences in cognitive performance between those who had taken aspirin and those who had taken the placebo.


The Graying of Shock Therapy (December 4, 2007)
When Ida Galvanoni, 93, suffered from a major depression, her doctor ordered electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to help her. After only three sessions, she felt much better. At present patients over 65 years account for nearly 40% of ECT treatments conducted in Texas and California. (These two states require reporting of ECT sessions.) The evidence show that ECT seems to reduce some forms of depression showing delusions or paranoia as symptoms. However, patients face a serious downside with memory loss and other undesirable consequences. 

This Business of Aging Takes up a Lot of Time (October 27, 2007)
The business of medicine or pseudo-health products for older people is flourishing. The desire to stay forever young pushes people to consume even more medications, even those that are not prescribed. It is a serous danger to elderly people who often are already victims of scams and injustice. In this article, Karen Mulvaney tells her personal story as an example of what can happen to people in their fifties, always under pressure to stay young.

Zen and the Art of Coping With Alzheimer's (September 12, 2007)
Experts predict that the number of US Alzheimer’s patients will climb from 4.5 million to 16 million by 2050. The care-industry and pharmaceutical companies are the winners in a situation where families “are so desperate that they will buy any drug that offers even a shred of hope, and many will keep using the drug even if the symptoms don’t get better, because they can easily be convinced that the patient would be even worse off without it.” 

More Generics Slow Rise in Drug Prices (August 8, 2007)
As patents expire on many widely-used drugs, generic formulations have started to reduce the cost of filling prescriptions. Experts estimate that generic drugs will hold drug price inflation in the single digits for the next several years. Insurance companies are trying to fight the perception that generic drugs are less effective than brand name drugs. Medicare, for example, is using incentives to encourage the use of generics in its Part D drug plan. Affordable drug prices are essential to US seniors, who often must fill multiple prescriptions regularly to maintain their health. 

Concerns over Anti-Psychotics in Elderly (July 29, 2007)
Federal law has regulated anti-psychotic use in nursing facilities for two decades, but the guidelines have not prevented institutions from using such drugs heavily. Staff persons are not supposed to use anti-psychotics for problems that are “simply inconvenient for caregivers,” but only for psychotic behavior that is distressing or dangerous to others. The August issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter claims that the drugs may cause tremors, drowsiness, and weight gain as well as increase the risk for high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart arrhythmias.

Prescription Mining Raises Millions for Doctors' Group (July 25, 2007)
Drug companies use physicians’ prescribing data, which is sold by the American Medical Association (AMA), to market more expensive brand name drugs. Drug sales representatives use hand-held computers that can access detailed profiles of physicians’ prescribing histories in order to tailor their sales pitch to a specific doctor. The AMA profits greatly from this “prescription drug mining” operation. In 2005, revenues from prescription history sales comprised 16 percent of the AMA’s total budget. Physicians oppose this practice, claiming that it is opportunistic, affects patient care, and raises healthcare costs. States are beginning to take action on this issue: Vermont and New Hampshire have passed legislation banning the sale of drug information to drug companies. Shouldn’t the wellbeing of patients shape the AMA’s ethical standards, not the lure of greater profits? 

Wall Street, Cancer, and the FDA: A Cautionary Tale (July 12, 2007)
The US public has lost confidence in the pharmaceutical industry. Many worry that the Food and Drug Administration fails to determine if drugs are safe. The FDA recently approved Dendreon’s drug Provenge, a vaccine developed to treat prostate cancer. But two dissenting review panel members convinced the FDA that the scientific evidence of Provenge’s safety was inadequate and the drug was recalled from the market. The author of this article, Maggie Mahar, a research fellow at The Century Foundation, discovered that although Provenge had failed its clinical trials, the company Dendreon proceeded to market it as if the drug were safe and effective. Mahar also analyzed the review panel’s drug-evaluation transcript and found that the panel initially leaned toward rejecting the drug. She says that greedy investors try to “pump” the stock to yield maximal profits regardless of the drug’s safety, often pressuring and threatening reviewers not to speak out against FDA decisions. “Evidence-based medicine” is becoming “profit-based medicine.” Vulnerable older persons, the disabled and anyone who takes medications can suffer the sometimes life-threatening consequences.

Medication Errors Are the 4th Leading Cause of Death (July 12, 2007)
Medication errors have become the fourth-leading cause of death in North Americans, claiming thousands of seniors’ lives every year. One reason for these mistakes, physician Neil MacKinnon proposes, is the numerous points of transfer of medication information. “There could be 15 or more different handoffs between when the medication order is written by the physician and the time the patient actually puts the first pill in his or her mouth.” Other sources of medication-related deaths include drug costs, access, and personal error. Shouldn’t medicine be saving our seniors’ lives, not killing them?

Bus to Cheaper Meds Makes Last Stop (June 30, 2007)
Since 1995, older Americans have been traveling through a free bus service to Canada to buy medications. However, now with the ability to purchase drugs online, bus trips up north are becoming impractical. Therefore, these bus services have now stopped. Also, drug companies warn that Canadian pharmacies and websites because they could be selling fake drugs. 

Seniors Have Hard Time Telling If Drug Is Covered Under Medicare (June 27, 2007)
With over 1,800 private health plans participating in the new Medicare Part D, beneficiaries feel bombarded and cannot distinguish which plans offer the best medication coverage. The new part D plan appears to be ineffective because patients don’t know which drugs their plan covers. The author suggests streamlining the information to make it more accessible to both the seniors and physicians so doctor visits are not consumed with this tedious task. 

Antipsychotic Drugs Raise Death Rates in Elderly (June 5, 2007)
Doctors increasingly prescribe antipsychotic drugs for the elderly to reduce and prevent their behavioral problems, such as dementia. However, older persons are often vulnerable and experience harmful side-effects of such drugs, raising their risk of death. The causes of death come typically from pneumonia and heart problems, according to a new study. "Patients and their families need to talk to their doctors about the potential risks and benefits, and this study would suggest only using these drugs when other less risky approaches have been exhausted."

Doctors, Legislators Resist Drugmakers' Prying Eyes (May 22 2007)
ncreasingly, pharmaceutical companies track how doctors prescribe drugs to their patients. The companies target these doctors with a sale pitch, oftentimes offering them free meals or gifts. This practice, however, is now coming under fire. Some doctors have said that releasing information regarding prescriptions to pharmaceutical companies invades their privacy and drug companies simply want them to prescribe more expensive drugs. Pharmaceutical firms, on the other hand, insist they are simply educating physicians and other health officials about new drugs. Although the American Medical Association continues to assist pharmaceutical companies in gathering data on prescription habits of doctors around the country, some doctors oppose it. Legislators in various states are also looking for ways to ban such practices. Thus far, no legislation has been passed regarding the issue.

Senate Blocks Bid to Allow Drug Imports (May 7, 2007)
In a triumph for the pharmaceutical industry, the Senate on Monday killed a drive to allow consumers to buy prescription drugs from abroad at a significant savings over domestic prices. On a 49-40 vote, the Senate required the administration to certify the safety and effectiveness of imported drugs before they can be imported, a requirement that officials have said they cannot meet. "Well, once again the big drug companies have proved that they are the most powerful and best financed lobby in Washington," said Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican.

Doctors' Ties to Drug Companies Called Commonplace (April 25, 2007)
Most physicians (94 percent) reported some type of relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. Most of these relationships involved receiving food in the workplace (83 percent) or receiving drug samples (78 percent). "We know that these relationships have benefits and risks, and we know that they benefit the companies that are involved, and we know from our data that they benefit doctors," said study author Eric G. Campbell, an assistant professor of health care policy at the Institute for Health Policy at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "The real question is to what extent do these relationships benefit patients, and the answer is, we don't know.”

Fighting The Pharma Goliath (April 5, 2007)
Following the House’s approval of a bill empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, large pharmaceutical companies have flooded TV stations with ads claiming that people will lose money if Medicare negotiates lower drug prices because they are inefficient. They also have flooded Washington with over 1,000 lobbyists and $155 million dollars in campaigning against the bill, on which the Senate votes later this month. 

Report: AARP 2006 Prescription Drug Study with Hispanics and African Americans (April 2007)
AARP’s telephone survey examined the experiences of 2,000 Hispanics and African Americans in paying for prescription drugs and their interest in legislation addressing pharmaceutical issues. This report highlights the impact of employer-provided insurance, government-funded coverage or no insurance coverage. Among all respondents, 61 percent of Hispanics and 68 percent of African Americans expressed concern about their ability to pay for prescription medications over the next two years. 

FDA Would Limit Input of Doctors Paid by Drug Firms: $50,000 is Set as Cutoff (March 22, 2007)
Amid disclosures that the pharmaceutical industry has funneled millions of dollars to leading physicians, the Food and Drug Administration yesterday moved to bar scientists from serving as advisers to the agency if they have financial ties to drug and medical-device companies exceeding $50,000. Congressional critics and consumer advocates have long sought to eliminate or diminish the role of scientists who receive funding from drug companies and medical-device makers from decisions that directly affect those firms' products. The policy changes will take effect later this year.

Wyeth Says Alzheimer Program a Justified Long-Shot (March 20, 2007)
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million people in the US have this disease, up about 10 percent from the group's previous estimate in 2000. As the disease continues to affect millions of patients and families, there appears to be no treatment in sight. Certain drug makers such as Wyeth believe that they “will probably fail” in its goal to develop treatments but the risk is justified by the potentially big payoffs to society and to the company. 

Brand Name Drug Prices Soar for US Seniors – AARP (March 6, 2007)
According to a recent AARP report, prices for the most popular drugs used by senior citizens rose about 6.2 percent, nearly twice the 3.2 percent rate of inflation for 2006. These findings further support the case that the federal government should negotiate drug prices. "We need to send a loud and clear message to the pharmaceutical industry that Americans cannot afford to continue to pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world," said David Sloane, senior managing director for government relations. For full report, click here: http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/health/dd154_drugprices.pdf

F.D.A. Widens Safety Reviews of New Drugs (January 31, 2007)
After much criticism, the F.D.A.(Food and Drug Administration) recently announced a series of initial steps toward improving the safety of the drug supply in the US. Still, the plan does little to address a problem that nearly all agree underlies many of its woes: a chronic shortage of government money. The agency gets about $400 million of its $1.9 billion budget from fees assessed on drug makers. Under a formula negotiated with the drug industry, the FDA is restricted from using this money to track the safety of approved drugs. Whether those fees are enough, whether there should be any strings attached to them and whether that money should come from drug makers at all has become the subject of fierce debate.

An Old Cholesterol Remedy is New Again (January 23, 2007)
Last month, Pfizer officials stopped drug trials on their most promising experimental drug, torecetrapid, after investigators discovered that it actually increased heart problems and death rates.   This blockbuster drug was supposed to help those with heart disease by increasing HDL, or good cholesterol.  However, many should know that an effective HDL booster already exists. It is niacin, the ordinary B vitamin. Despite its effectiveness, few scientists have explored this treatment until now. “Here you have a drug that was about as effective as the early statins, and it just never caught on,” said Dr. B. Greg Brown from the University of Washington in Seattle . “It’s a mystery to me. But if you’re a drug company, I guess you can’t make money on a vitamin."

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Under Attack, Drug Maker Turned to Giuliani for Help (December 28, 2007)
This investigative news article suggests that Rudolph W. Giuliani mislead the public in claiming that the Oxy Contin painkiller was less prone to abuse than competing narcotics. Authors state that Giuliani was hired by the drug manufacturing company of Oxy Contin to convince public officials the drug was safe, using his standing as a famous lawyer and a politician. Meanwhile, the drug is believed to have caused hundreds of deaths involving its abuse. 

Fluoride in Tap Water May Help Older Teeth Too (December 14, 2007)
Older citizens can gain as much or even more than others by drinking fluoridated water, according to a Journal of Public Health Dentistry Report. Research suggests that when reviewing member dental plans by age, the young not only benefited from the consumption of fluoridated water but the elderly as well, by reducing the number of dental fillings. Certainly, more attention should go toward the potential benefits among adults. 


High Testosterone May Impair Memory: Study (December 13, 2007)
A University of Illinois at Chicago study has found evidence that indicates too much testosterone in elderly men can impair short-term verbal memory. Some studies have reported beneficial effects of testosterone treatment, but overall, the findings have been mixed. As prolonged treatment of testosterone can be harmful in the elderly population, other tests and regimes should not be ruled out. 


More Seniors Are Aging Actively (December 12, 2007)
South Florida’s senior citizens keep active well beyond age 65. The national trend also shows that the disability rate among the aged is going down. The number of active citizens may even grow in the very near future, partly due to an increasing number of sport facilities that accommodate senior citizens’ needs. Experts say that seniors can easily deal with most common diseases through proper diet and exercise.

Emergency Room Visits by Seniors Rising: Study (December 6, 2007)
A recently published study describes an alarming rise in seniors’ emergency room visits. Why? Some elders may live with chronic diseases and find primary care difficult to locate. Also, racial discrimination may account for greater prevalence of diabetes and hypertension among African-Americans who also may have compromised health in old age due to a lifetime without health insurance. 


Assisted Living Care in State is a Mixed Bag (December 2, 2007)
The standard of care in US assisted living facilities is not consistent across the board. While some facilities have a clean record, others are plagued with complaints and citations. In Wisconsin, uneven quality of care derives from vague standards for caregivers, requirements for staff, and insufficient inspectors. As the US older population faces unprecedented growth with a corresponding increase in assisted living facility admissions, States must establish and fund standards to improve quality of care. 


Eating Fish May Reduce ‘Senior Moments’ (November 21, 2007)
According to research conducted in Norway, elderly men and women who frequently consumed fish scored better on memory, visual conception, spatial motor skills, attention, orientation, and verbal fluency tests. Studies show that those who reported eating more fatty or lean fish as their main meal performed significantly better on cognitive tests, compared with those who did not eat fatty or lean fish. 


Zinc Plays a Key Role in Better Aging: It Helps Maintain the Health of Older People, Can Work as an Antioxidant and Lowers Mortality (November 19, 2007)
Scientists at Tufts University and Boston University carried out two studies addressing the role of zinc in maintaining health in older people. The findings showed that elderly zinc takers had higher zinc levels in the bloodstream and had suffered significantly fewer infections. Dietary intake of zinc in the elderly may be marginal because some older people may find these foods too expensive or difficult to chew, but it is still possible to get adequate zinc through dairy products, beans and nuts and some fortified, ready-to-eat cereals. Multiple vitamin and mineral supplements can also help meet daily intake requirements. 


Report: Quantitative Approaches to Aging and Exceptional Longevity (November 19, 2007)
What secrets do persons hold who live to age 100 or over? This study explores whether people living to 100 and beyond were any different from their peers at their middle age (30 years). Researchers looked at a random representative sample of 240 men born in 1887 who survived to age 100. Obesity reduced chances of long life but farming and having large number of children (4+) at age 30 significantly increased the chances of exceptional longevity by 100-200%. Read for more details.


Dementia Relief, with a Huge Side Effect: The Off-label Use of Some Drugs Is Helping Elderly Patients, But May Be Killing Thousands (November 18, 2007)
A couple of years ago, elderly dementia patients were warned about the hazardous effects of drugs like Seroquel, Risperdal and Zyprexa. Today, one in four nursing home residents still take these antipsychotic drugs, used to mitigate the anxiety caused by dementia, even though the FDA has stated that these drugs kill thousands of nursing home residents each year. Sadly, some people may believe that the lives of elderly people are worthless and ignore the fatal side effects of such drugs. Is it moral to allow someone to suffer when these drugs can ease their pain? Is it humane to sedate a person with the possibility of so many lethal side effects? 


University of Utah Helps Develop a Scan to Distinguish Dementias (November 17, 2007)
A new scan called FDG-PET has been developed to study activity levels in the brain. Different types of dementia are often hard to differentiate, but they attack different parts of the brain, which makes the FDG-PET useful. An NIA funded-study showed that the scan was a slight improvement over using clinical diagnostic methods alone. The scan has been deemed an innovative tool for early treatment of dementia. One downside to PET scan use, however, is that not all insurance companies will cover the procedure. 


National Institute of Aging Gives Brown (University) 10 Million Dollars to Study Long-Term Care (November 16, 2007)
Brown University has been awarded a five-year ten million dollar National Institute of Aging (NIA) grant to support the creation of a comprehensive database on long-term health care in the United States. Brown’s Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research will use the funds to collect information on insurance reimbursement claims, hospitalizations and the health of long-term care facility residents in all 50 US states. The comprehensive data will purportedly be the first of its kind and grant recipients hope to improve health care services for the elderly.


Caregivers, Elderly Programs Receive $775,000 (November 6, 2007)
The governor of Hawaii has funded programs to aid family caregivers and older persons. An allocation of $300,000 will be used to provide caregivers with counseling, referral and assessment services. This portion of the funds will also go toward staff training and community outreach to promote these programs. The larger remainder of the funds ($475,000) will be used to assist vulnerable and frail older persons who are not eligible for state and federal programs. 


Aging: Flip Side to Education Is Seen in Dementia (November 6, 2007)
Individuals with more years of formal education experience the onset of dementia at older ages. However, such individuals will experience a quicker progression of the disease once it develops, due to the accumulation of cognitive reserves. Researchers say a delay of two or more months of memory loss onset can be experienced with each additional year of schooling. However, many years of education can also mask early signs of dementia, hence the rapid progression once it does come. 


Elderly with High Blood Pressure Less Likely to get Lifestyle Modification Advice from Doctors (November 2, 2007)
According to research studies at the University of North Carolina, “People older than 60 with high blood pressure are less likely than other groups of patients to receive advice from their doctors about lifestyle modifications that can help lower their blood pressure.” It is possible that health care providers may put aside or even abandon the notion of giving such advice to older patients, perhaps feeling that some health problems require medication. Even for individuals on medication, however, lifestyle modification should remain an important part of hypertension management, reducing the need for higher doses of medication. 


Are Americans Talking with Their Parents About Independent Living: A 2007 Study Among Boomer Women (November 2007)
As people age, they and their children become more concerned with how they will receive long-term care and maintain their independence as long as possible. This study asked American women age 45 and older whether they had conversations with their parents about living independently in their old age or if they planned on receiving assistance. About two-thirds of respondents (69%) reported having this type of conversations yet only 40% said they had actively planned how to care for their parents. Of those who had discussed the matter, the most popular options were having their parents move in (43%) and providing home-care assistance (33%.) Interestingly, only 17% had considered a nursing home. It is quite possible that many women would like to plan their parent’s care, yet lack proper guidance.


Report: Prevalence of Dementia in the United States: The Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study [ADAMS] (November 2007) 
This study estimates “the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias in the USA using a nationally representative sample,” and implementing the ADAMS approach. As the older US population grows, the number of individuals with dementia will also increase, “making planning for the long-term needs of these individuals increasingly important.” The ADAMS methodology can provide a marker of how well the country is doing with respect to the control and treatment of AD and other dementias. 


The Elderly Always Sleep Worse, and Other Myths of Aging (October 23, 2007)
Based on the misconception that sleep worsens with age, it is commonly believed that older persons complain more than any other age groups about sleep problems. Recent research findings demonstrate that elders in the study had lighter sleep disrupted by brief wakeful moments, caused by urinary problems, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome, all common disorders among the elderly. Researchers say that sleep does not change significantly past the age of 60, but it is the illnesses and effects of medications that disrupt sleep. More health problems have been associated with more sleep problems. A study on pain and sleep found pain causes less sleep and less sleep results in greater sensitivity to pain. Elders tend to suffer from multiple chronic illnesses simultaneously, thus may be at greater risk for increased pain severity. 

‘Happy and Healthy’ at Home (October 18, 2007)

For a number of obvious reasons--immobility, financial, a sense of hopelessness--the elderly have difficulty traveling to doctors’ offices or other medical institutions where they can receive the medical treatment they need. Part of the Senior Adult Medical Program of Arlington, Virginia is a homebound program for seniors with mental health issues where a geriatric psychiatrist and a psychotherapist visit patients needing these services.  The elderly who participate in this program have described a new zest for living as they become more active and energetic in their daily routines. 

Doctors Discuss Theories on Aging Brains (October 16, 2007)

Now that older people are living longer, it is critical that cognitive decline in normal aging be delayed without the use of medications that produce harmful side-effects. While Alzheimer’s disease is advanced cognitive decline signified by the death of neurons, age-related memory deficits are due to diminishing neuron connections. Scientists want to understand the neurological mechanisms responsible for the brain’s natural ability to compensate for declining memory in old age. Studies show it is important for older persons to develop strong connections between cells that communicate with each other through continuous active stimulation. Brain experts recommend physical exercise as the leading weapon against cognitive decline, followed by active social engagement, higher education, challenging jobs, and “brain-training” activities such as crossword puzzles. 


Report of Which Workers Most Depressed (October 15, 2007)
A National Survey on Drug Use and Health looked at depression among workers in 21 major occupational categories and found that among the overall rate of depressed full-time workers, workers providing personal care to the elderly showed the highest rate of depression. Women were at higher risk than men. In all categories, depression among workers can cost employers $30 million to $44 million annually in lost productivity, suggesting a need to provide mental health services. The report included a broad range of personal care and service providers, including child-care workers. 

Progress Cited in Alzheimer’s Diagnosis (October 15, 2007)

On October 14, scientists mainly based at Stanford University revealed progress in the development of a blood test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in persons with mild memory loss. The test achieved 90% accuracy in distinguishing between the blood samples of those with and without the disease and 80% accuracy in determining among those with mild memory deficits which individuals would develop Alzheimer’s disease within two to six years of the testing. Although the findings have significant implications for a definitive diagnostic procedure for Alzheimer’s disease, these early research findings need to be supported by much larger studies. 

REM: Older African-American Men with HIV Often Have Sex without Condoms (October 15, 2007)

A study of 40 – 65 year old African-American men found that out of 130 participants, more than 38% engaged in risky sexual activities by not wearing condoms during oral sex, vaginal sex, or practicing unsafe anal sex. The study, published by the Journal of Advanced Nursing, also found that single African-American men were more likely to engage in unsafe sex practices. Figures from the US Center for Disease Control suggest African-American men are 8 times more likely to develop HIV than their white counterparts and the prevalence of AIDS in older persons is on the rise. In 2006, 27% of individuals 50 years or older were found to have AIDS. These findings, although not representative of all middle-age and older African-American men, have serious implications for public health interventions to provide safe sex education to this population. Note: Full study article is not yet available online. 

Aging Under a High-Tech Eye (October 11, 2007)

As the number of older persons in the US continues to grow swiftly, technology innovators are discovering a market for smart house gadgets designed to help elders age in place independently. Sensor systems ranging from the very simple to the very sophisticated are now in use to monitor footstep patterns to detect falls. Information from the sensor systems is then transmitted through a computer to reach the caregiver living far away. Users are installing webcams for video conferencing and other technological inventions to mitigate the burden on both the older adult and caregiving relatives. However, such monitoring can invade the privacy of seniors and offer a false sense of security. 

Senior Play: The Graying of Sports Medicine (October 9, 2007)

Taking part in serious sports activity can benefit older persons significantly.  Now many older persons want to continue to compete in athletics at a high level. Responding to this new development, the University of Pittsburgh recently opened a wellness center, called ‘The Performance and Research Initiative for Master Athletes. This wellness center offers competitors over 40 years old specific training, nutritional counseling, and physical therapy. Today, sports medicine appears to be a good business in a growing market.


Goal-driven Achievers Less Prone to Alzheimer’s (October 1, 2007)
Researchers in Illinois used personality tests and medical exams of Catholic priests, nuns, and brothers to determine whether conscientiousness was associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. They found that those who practiced self-discipline and displayed good organizational skills had an 89 percent lower risk of developing the disease. This study corroborates findings from other studies suggesting that lifestyle, work style, and behavior may have implications for onset of Alzheimer’s. 


Report: Promoting Older Women’s Health and Well-Being through Social Leisure Environments: What We Have Learned from the Red Hat Society (September 2007)
This Red Hat Society study concludes that women who participate in leisure environments or organizations are in better health and experience, in general, a greater feeling of well-being than those who do not. “Main themes encapsulating these health benefits were creating happy moments, responding to transitions and negative events, and enhancing the self. These findings are related to research on positive psychology, social support and coping, transformative leisure processes, and social identity formation.” These results suggest how interdisciplinary research on aging might be shaped in the future. 


Report: Patterns of Pain and Well-Being in Older Women: A 10-Year Longitudinal Study (September 2007)
As expected, this study concludes that older women living in the US experience increasing pain with age, which grows over time. What is surprising, however, is that the profiles of the psychological well being of women whose pain increased over time were similar to those of women with no increases in pain. Additional research is needed to “identify protective factors that may mediate the relationship between pain and psychological well-being.” 

Report: Personality Changes in Alzheimer’s Disease (September 1, 2007)

This study confirms that personality alterations are an important and consistent aspect of the phenomenology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), “in particular in getting worse with disability progression, the severity of cognitive decline and in the presence of relevant behavioral symptoms.” The results are comparable to other findings emphasizing personality changes in the following areas: irritability, unhappiness, energy, enthusiasm, maturity, kindness, being reasonable and stable, among others. 

Need For Senior Center Clearer Than Site (September 26, 2007)

Raleigh, North Carolina, citizens will vote by mid-October, 2007, approve or reject a decision to build a new 25,000-square-foot senior center with a projected cost of $7.7 million. For now, the site location is not decided. 

Report: Alzheimer’s Disease in New Mexico, 1995-2004 (April 6, 2007)

The US government estimates the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at approximately 4.5 million persons in the year 2000 (including over 31,000 New Mexicans). It expects the numbers to increase to over 13 million by the year 2050. New Mexico will share this burden, with an estimated 41-70% increase in those affected by AD between 2000 and 2025. Given there is no cure for AD and limited medical interventions to alleviate symptoms of AD, this report suggests that prevention and delaying onset are the best forms of addressing the burden level.

Sex Survey Indicates Older Adults Have Active Sex Lives (August 27, 2007)
A group of researchers from University of Chicago surveyed more than 3000 Americans between ages 57 and 85 on sexual attitudes, behaviors and problems. The study found that Americans continue having sex at age 80 and older. The data shows that the frequency of sexual activity mostly declines due to poor health conditions or loss of a partner and not necessarily because of the absence of interest. "Despite the aging of the population, little has been known about sexuality among older adults, how sexual activities change with age and how sexual activities and problems are associated with health. These are the first comprehensive, nationally representative data on sexual activity, behaviors and problems in relation to health status among older Americans," said Georgeanne Patmios of the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

Seniors Head South to Mexican Nursing Homes (August 16, 2007)
The rising costs of long-term care have driven many seniors over the border. An estimated 40,000 to 80,000 American retirees currently live in Mexico, and that number is projected to rise in the coming years. Mexico, “where the sun is bright and the living is cheap,” still has problems with lack of government oversight and poor quality in smaller facilities, however, and Medicare will not pay for care outside of the country.

Mental Abilities: Caffeine Helps Women, but Not Men, Stay Sharp (August 14, 2007)
Studies show that older women who regularly consume high levels of caffeine conserve their mental acuity more than those who do not. There is no analogous effect in men. The National Institute for Health and Medical Research hypothesizes that this gender difference is due to different metabolic processes in the two sexes or a certain hormonal interaction. These preliminary results, however, are not a sufficient reason to begin consuming large amounts of coffee. 

Aging: Hip Protectors Don’t Help Prevent Fractures in Falls (August 7, 2007)
Researchers recently concluded that the padded hip protectors which older persons often wear to help prevent fractures from a fall are of little use. In the comparative study, he authors observed no difference in outcomes after a fall between persons who wore hip protectors and those who did not. Older persons very often suffer hip fractures. Developing more effective protection should be a high priority.

World’s Best Medical Care? (August 12, 2007)
The notion that the US has the world’s best health care system needs to be reevaluated. It might be true that the US ranks first in providing the “right care” to patients and that on average, Americans receive “prompter attention” as compared to those in other industrialized countries, but millions of Americans are without health insurance and cannot access that care at all. There are coverage gaps among the insured and a distinct disparity in the quality of care among citizens. These problems have led to, for example, an obesity epidemic and a high infant mortality rate. As a result, less than half of US citizens are satisfied with the current health care system. How much longer will Americans continue to wait for healthcare reform before seeking treatment abroad?

People in 41 Nations are Living Longer than Americans (August 12, 2007)
For one the richest countries in the world, the US has unusually poor health statistics. These statistics seem to indicate that people in the US have been adopted unhealthy habits and that the nation’s health system is operating inefficiently. In fact, forty-one other countries have higher life-expectancies than the US. Andorra has the world’s highest life-expectancy at 83.5 years, which is 5.6 years longer than the US expectancy of 77.9 years. Researchers believe that tackling the problem of the uninsured is not enough. They suggest that policymakers also focus on problems such as reducing cancer, eliminating tobacco use, lowering cholesterol, controlling blood pressure, and regulating blood sugar.

Aging Adults Have Choices When Confronting Perceived Mental Declines (August 2, 2007)
Elizabeth Stine-Morrow, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois, believes that people who make a conscious decision to pursue more challenging mental tasks retain more cognitive function as they age. She attributes this effect in part to “preconceived ideas about what happens with aging,” suggesting that people sometimes assume that they have no control over decline in “cognitive vitality.” Stine-Morrow claims that those who are willing to make adjustments in order to embrace mental challenges can compensate for some subtle age-related changes.

Report: Cross-Country Variation in Obesity Patterns among Older Americans and Europeans (May 2007)
(PDF format, 35 p)
With data from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), researcher Pierre-Carl Michaud analyzes the prevalence of obesity in the 50-and-over population both in the US and in selected European countries. The findings suggest that a high dependency on food and a relative lack of interest in cooking at home causes obesity among people in the US. On the other hand, a lack of physical activity seems to cause obesity in Europeans. Policymakers should be wary of automatically applying lessons learned from one country to health initiatives in another.

Report: Affordable Clustered Housing Care: A Viable Alternative for Long-Term Care in a Residential Setting? (2007)
(PDF format, 4 p)
Demographers predict that the size of the 65-and-over age group is expected to double by 2030 to 71.5 million. These people will very likely require some form of long-term care during their lifetimes. This report suggests a mixed approach to providing such care: a combination of senior housing and long-term care called clustered housing-care. The researchers argue that clustered housing-care is more efficient and less expensive than current attempts at long-term care and can also offer a wider array of services to older persons.

Report: 2005-2006 Progress Report on Alzheimer’s Disease: Journey to Discovery (July 2007)
(PDF format, 68 p)
This National Institute on Aging report summarizes the latest advances made in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects about 4.5 million people in the US. As a looming national crisis, the report encourages efforts to educate people with Alzheimer’s, their families, their caregivers, and the public about the disease. The report also outlines possible scientific approaches to reduce the impact of the disease. Preparations for the increased number of Alzheimer’s patients, an estimated 13.2 million in 2050, should also include providing for caregivers.

The New Face of Fitness is Getting Older (August 1, 2007)
Who says being physically active is only for the young? Surveys indicate that about 37 percent of health club members are over the age of 55. Exercise has proven effective in delaying the onset of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and muscle pains in older people. As a result, personal trainers are noticing an increase in older clients. “In the fitness industry, there’s the old saying ‘use it or lose it,’” Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging, says. “But even if you've lost it, you can still find it again, no matter how old you are.”

US Cat ‘Predicts Patient Deaths’ (July 26, 2007)

Oscar, a cat who lives in a Providence nursing home, appears to be capable of predicting the impending death of a patient. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that the cat has accurately predicted the demise of 25 patients so far. Thomas Graves, a feline expert, explains that “cats often can sense when their owners are sick,” and thus can identify residents who are particularly close to death. Families seem to be generally grateful for the advance warning Oscar provides.

New York Gives Away Condoms, Offers AIDS Education to Senior Citizens (July 25, 2007)
New York City has the highest number of HIV cases of any US city and it has tried to educate older persons about the dangers of unprotected sex. Many people, including physicians, assume that older persons are no longer sexually active and fail to warn them. The New York City Department of Aging, however, is raising awareness in the older population, giving away free condoms and providing AIDS education and testing to seniors.

More Older People Consult Medical Specialist and Physiotherapist (July 12, 2007)
Older persons are beginning to directly consult medical specialists and physiotherapists rather than get a referral from general practitioners. Possible reasons for this pattern include that seniors are taking more preventive measures against aging illnesses. Or, they are increasingly aware of the symptoms associated with certain diseases and know which specialists to contact directly.

Have Lots of Moles? It May Mean Slower Aging (July 16, 2007)
Findings from a recent British study indicate that people who have over a hundred moles on their skin might not be as prone to age-related diseases such as heart disease and osteoporosis as individuals with fewer than 25 moles. A multitude of moles, however, can also increase the risk of melanoma. 

What Makes People Happy? Try Aging (July 16, 2007)
According to research in the growing field of “positive psychology,” as we age, we become “less neurotic, more able to control fear, and more emotionally stable.” Researchers believe that older persons are able to maintain more control over negative emotions as well as better express positive emotions because they focus more on their quality of life. According to Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, “one of the reasons why we are happier with age is that we simplify our lives. We focus on what's really important to us, while discarding things that are less personally meaningful.”

Good News for 65+: Elders Can Snack (July 15, 2007)
As older persons age, they begin to eat slower and therefore become full sooner, causing them to eat less and often under-eat. Snacking occasionally throughout the course of a day, according to a study from Auburn University, allows seniors to intake more overall calories. This is important because when the body does not obtain sufficient nutrients, it will begin to break down muscle, bones, and organs.

Why Breakfast IS One of the Three Most Important Meals of the Day (July 11, 2007)
In an article written by Paula Butler, the young trainer at Baltimore County's Bykota Senior Center Fitness Center in Maryland, she emphasizes why breakfast is one of the three most important meals of the day. The body needs to be refueled several times a day, starting with a healthy breakfast. Studies have shown that people who eat a regular breakfast are less likely to be obese and hence become risk factors for heart disease. Her bottom line is that beginning the day with breakfast is the best way to get off to a good start, and that you should aim for foods that keep you full and energized until lunchtime.

Blueberries Boost Brain Health (July 10, 2007)
Scientists in Boston, Baltimore, and Baton Rouge have discovered yet another health benefit to consuming blueberries: they slow brain deterioration. Their study suggests that the rich supply of anti-oxidants in blueberries has great potential to reduce the effects of aging illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.

Aging: Some Antidepressants Tied to Bone Loss, Findings Show (July 10, 2007)
Antidepressants called SSRIs are associated with “an increased rate of bone density loss in older people,” according to two new studies. The studies do not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, as depression itself is linked to bone loss, and doctors do not recommend stopping treatment based on these findings. 

Small House-Style Nursing Homes Get High Marks (July 4, 2007)

Residents of smaller nursing homes are better satisfied than residents of traditional nursing homes, according to recent research. The quality of care in these smaller nursing homes is at least as good as that in larger homes, but residents have a lower rate of decline in activities of daily living and report a better quality of life in the small homes. That satisfaction spreads to the aides taking care of the residents in smaller homes as well, leading them to remain in their job longer and giving them the confidence to help their residents more effectively.

Poor Sense of Smell May be Alzheimer’s (July 3, 2007)
Smell loss could be linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study from Rush University Medical Center. This phenomenon is possibly related to the fact that the microscopic brain lesions indicative of Alzheimer’s first appear in a region of the brain that is involved in smell. Researchers caution that a diminishing sense of smell is not a reason to panic, but physicians still recommend that older persons report trouble smelling to their doctors.

Report: Are Life Satisfaction and Optimism Protective of Health Among Older Adults? (2007)

This working paper examines the relationship between psychological well-being and physical health in older Taiwanese. The results of this longitudinal study reveal that life satisfaction and optimism were associated with the development of fewer mobility restrictions in the survey participants. Psychological well-being, in turn, helped prevent depression and physical decline in the elderly. Future research is needed to discover if scientists can generalize about the link between positive emotions and health.

New Haven Health Department Fights West Nile (June 27, 2007)
New Haven, Connecticut wants its citizens to take preventive measures against the West Nile virus. The elderly are very susceptible to the infection. "The elderly are at high risk," said Bill Quinn, Director of Health,. "Last year we had an elderly woman in New Haven, an avid gardener, who died (of) for the disease so we are making sure that doesn't happen again." The city’s health department strongly recommends seniors to use bug spray because the mosquito born viral infection can be fatal. 

More Vitamin D Can Put More Pep in Seniors’ Steps (June 26, 2007) 
A new study indicates that a vitamin D deficiency can have severe implications on aging. Specifically, the lack of this vitamin makes the elderly prone to bone and muscle deterioration and fractures, and reduces their capacity to be physically active.

Attention Training May Help Older Adults Improve Concentration (June 25, 2007) 
Concentration of some older adults begins to waver with age as they have trouble with distractions and multi-tasking. Wake Forest University associate professor Dr. Paul Laurienti, a researcher on “attention training,” argues that such training can help enhance the memory and attention span. The eight week training entails a series of audio-visual tests. Dr. Laurienti says that simply being mentally active will not stimulate the mind, but attention training is a necessary to build memory sustainability. 

Girls Invent Exercise Machine for Elderly (June 18, 2007)
Some innovative seventh graders from New Jersey invented an exercise machine called Tred-Med for senior citizens. Co-inventor Melissa Phalen was compelled to help her grandmother “gain mobility” again, so she co-created the machine. This invention was entered in the Columbus National Awards Science Competition. The exercise machine is mainly targeted towards the dormant elderly; and there are high hopes that this exercise equipment can reverse inactivity among the elderly. 

Reaching Out to Mentally Ill Seniors (June 18, 2007)
Senior citizens, one of the most underserved populations, who have undiagnosed mental illnesses and high suicide rates carry serious consequences for their communities. Older adults are less inclined to spend money on mental health care than physical health care. Highlighting an elderly couple who met as outpatients at a mental health clinic, the author traces the wife’s diagnosis with paranoid schizophrenia and the husband’s attempt to care for her. He was patient despite having three illnesses of his own. Eventually he asked for help from the local free mental health treatment program whose staff regularly visited the couple.

Cornell Medical School to Get $400 Million for Research Centers (June 13, 2007) 
Honoring his mother, a victim of Alzheimer’s, Sanford Weill and his wife have donated $250 million to The Cornell Medical School. Others will give another $150 million to reach the goal of $400 million. The funds will be used to build research centers to carry out research on diabetes, cancer, and the diseases of aging, specifically Alzheimer’s. In remembrance of his mother, Mr. Weill is designating part of the donations to Alzheimer research. 

Lack of Sun Does Not Explain Low Vitamin D in Elderly Who Are Overweight (June 11, 2007)

Vitamin D is produced by the body when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun. Elderly people who are overweight, however, have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood regardless of their relative exposure to sunlight, according to a recent Tufts University study. Insufficient blood levels of vitamin D, which helps in bone maintenance, can result in an increased risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. Researchers believe that the fat tissue could be absorbing vitamin D, rendering it unusable to the rest of the body.  

Prescription Drug Addiction Statistics- Drug Abuse Hits Home (May 28, 2007)
By Judy Wellsworth

The US Department of Health and Human Services revealed statistics showing that drug abuse of prescription drugs among the elderly is the highest of any age group. “What this may point to is an overwhelmed medical system, which limits doctors in the amount of time they can spend with each patient, and medical insurance companies who find it cheaper to pay for prescription pain medication than to pay for the therapies or surgeries which would eliminate the sources of the pain.” Surprisingly, the young are also at risk of becoming addicted to pain medication.


Keep your Brain Nimble as You Age: Older People can Protect their Minds by Breaking a Mental Sweat (May 13, 2007)
Studies show that older adults who want to keep their minds in “top” shape should perform mental workouts to reduce mental decline. Computer programs and lifestyle changes are considered to be preventative approaches to maintaining a healthy mind. However, a genetic predisposition to dementia, for instance, cannot be reversed through computer programs. Various computer program companies are directly marketing programs to retirement communities to stimulate residents' intellect. 

Report:  Falls, Disability and Food Insecurity Present Challenges to Healthy Aging (May 2007)
This report highlights how California seniors are prone to falls, disabilities, and food insecurity and how these challenges often threaten their capacity to live independently. The data suggests that each becomes more common with lower incomes, diabetes, among some racial and ethnic minorities, and is more common among older persons in larger families. Finally, the report offers recommendations that can address these challenges to healthy aging.

Add Bone, Drop Pounds (May 20, 2007)
Women know that calcium protects against osteoporosis. But in a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that calcium and vitamin D helps to avoid weight gain. Calcium appears to increase fat metabolism and bind to small amounts of dietary fat in the intestine, preventing its absorption and vitamin D helps with weight maintenance. Taking calcium and vitamin D are good weight controls for postmenopausal women, who usually gain weight as they age.

Report: Women, Health and Aging: Building a Statewide Movement (May 2007)

A  growing number of older Californians live in poverty: seniors of color are three times more likely to be poor than their white counterparts and three out of four low-income seniors are women. This three part report looks at the demographic, cultural, financial, policy, and systemic issues that collectively impact access to care and economic security for this population.

Gene Linked to Aging Is Studied (May 2, 2007)
Researchers say they have found a key gene that helps to regulate the process by which extremely low-calorie diets can extend life spans. The finding is an early step in the quest to understand the genetic mechanisms that lead to aging. Scientists hope that understanding these processes will yield new drugs that delay the onset of age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's and cancer.

The Way We Age Now (April 30, 2007)
As the health system in the US cuts health care spending, long-term care and geriatricians are the first to go. The problem of shortage of geriatricians is in part due to budget cuts and insurers refusing to cover geriatric care, but also because it is considered an unappealing profession. Most of medicine is about curing diseases and illnesses and helping people live and concentrate on youthfulness, whereas geriatricians have the unpleasant job of dealing with death and the failings of our bodies. They treat the elderly by helping them live independently and comfortably for as long as they can. The expected life span does not necessarily increase, but the focus on disabilities and other illnesses helps improve the twilight years. In an aging society that still idolizes youth, we have to learn to accept the limitations of our aging if we are to lead comfortable lives.

Reversing Alzheimer's Memory Loss May Be Possible (April 29, 2007)
People who might be affected by Alzheimer’s were advised of ways to stimulate their brain, for example, by reading or playing a musical instrument. A team of neuroscientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that some patients could recover lost long-term memories to a certain extent. Besides a drug treatment to encourage growth of brain nerve cells, mental stimulation would help to regain seemingly lost memories. According to the researchers, “the memories probably remained in storage but could not be accessed or retrieved due to the brain damage.”

Trends in Health Status and Health Care Use Among Older Women (2007)
Older women face distinctly different challenges to maintain their health compared with older men. Older women live longer, develop different chronic conditions, and face more functional limitations than do older men. Governments must take older women’s health care needs into account in shaping policies. They must make provision for financing and providing for older women’s health care, specifically long-term care, a critical issue for older women. Since fewer women have a spouse upon whom they can rely for caregiving, they depend on other informal caregivers, have a stronger need for community-based services and must often get formal care services

The Backlash to Botox (April 6, 2007)
For the first time, Hollywood's addiction to cosmetic surgery is affecting how television gets made: that’s the “TV's Botox crisis.” TV channel producers recently started to hold auditions in foreign countries like England and Canada where Botox is less common. Star Melanie Griffith has even been said to be "uncastable" due to her extra-plump lips and rigid-looking upper face. Paradoxically, Botox interferes on how actors can act; playing; their face and expressions become completely frozen. This must explain the success of TV shows like “The New Adventures of Old Christine: “an aging divorcee who struggles to grow older with dignity.”

Memory-Related Diseases Increase—There Are More People with Alzheimer’s (March 28, 2007)
(Article in Spanish)
More than 5 million Americans are victims of Alzheimer’s disease, an increase of more than 10% in the last 5 years. Age is the biggest factor in this increase; Baby Boomers are getting older and they are a big sector in the overall American population. If there is not enough research done to stop or control this disease, the number of persons with Alzheimer’s will increase to at least 16 million by 2050.

Boomers Can't Kick Drug Abuse Habits (April 5, 2007)

As the baby boomers hit their senior years, they are taking with them their old habits such as drug abuse. According to Scripps Howard, boomers made up half of all people nationwide who died of drug-related causes in 2003, mostly from overdoses.


HIV Hits 100,000 Older Adults—and Climbing (March-April 2007)

From 2001 to 2004, the number of US adults over fifty with HIV/AIDS rose by 59%, and many of these adults were infected while middle-aged or older. It appears that older persons don't know how HIV is transmitted, as many still consider AIDS to be a disease that affects only homosexual men and IV drug users. Biological changes and decreased condom use after their reproductive years also might increase an older adult’s risk of becoming infected with HIV.  

Report: The State of Aging and Health in America (March 2007)
As the population continues to age rapidly, preserving the health of older adults is a growing concern. This report highlights the 15 most important health indicators of older adults and provides possible model intervention programs along with recommendations for healthcare providers. While providers are usually adept at increasing longevity, do they also prioritize in making those extra years healthier and more dignified?

The Secret to Longevity: Aspirins Prolongs Women’s Lifespan (March 27, 2007)
(Article in Spanish)
A study reveals that women who take 1 to 14 aspirins every week reduce their risk of dying from cardiovascular-related diseases by 25%. However, some doctors say more studies need to be done before encouraging all women to take aspirin on a regular basis. Doctors also say that aspirin will not reduce the chance of developing other diseases, like cancer. Nevertheless, cardiovascular-related diseases are rather common and damaging, so aspirin can be a good preventative measure for elderly women.

Report: Cross-National Research on Aging (March 2007)
In nearly all regions of the world, the population ages 65 and older is growing faster than the total population. Growth in the elderly population relative to other age groups challenges existing health services, family relationships, social security, and pension programs. To help address these challenges, the Behavioral and Social Research Program of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) sponsors a wide range of data collection efforts and research related to population aging. This Research Brief highlights cross-national datasets partially or fully funded by NIA, how these data are used to address key research questions, and where people can go for more information.

Report: Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures (2007)
Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures is a comprehensive statistical abstract of US data on Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. The report contains statistical information about Alzheimer’s disease, including the overall number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, and estimates by specific age groups and for each state; projections of the future growth of Alzheimer’s; the number of deaths due to the disease; costs to federal and state government, businesses and individuals and their families; the use of services in the home, hospitals, nursing homes and other care settings; the impact on Medicare and Medicaid; the number of family caregivers; the hours of care provided; the economic value of unpaid care for the United States and each state; and the personal impact of caregiving on caregivers.

Over 5M Living with Alzheimer's (March 20, 2007)
More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, a 10 percent increase since the last Alzheimer's Association estimate five years ago—and a count that supports the long-forecast dementia epidemic as the population grays. Age is the biggest risk factor, and the nation is on track for skyrocketing Alzheimer's once baby boomers start turning 65 in 2011. Already, one in eight people 65 and older have the illness, and nearly one in two people over 85.

Boomer Health Debated (March 19, 2007)
People in their early to mid-50s are reporting more health problems than people that age had described previously. Significantly, fewer such middle-aged people in 2004 than in 1992 rated their health highly. More identified pain as a regular problem. And a higher percentage had trouble climbing stairs or walking a few blocks. The findings for the 51-56 age group ran counter to assumptions about the nation's health, especially that disability among the elderly was declining. It’s not clear whether there's an actual health decline among boomers born between 1948 and 1953 or just a decline in perceptions. The federal data are not correlated with any actual health evaluations. 

Nine Trends in Global Aging Present Challenges, Says US Study 
(March 16, 2007)
While the world has successfully learned to live longer, this longevity presents many new challenges that will require cooperative planning by the world's nations, says a new report, Why Population Aging Matters: A Global Perspective, which was presented on March 15, at the Summit on Global Aging, hosted by the U.S. State Department in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging. The report describes nine global trends associated with global aging: an aging population, an increasing life expectancy, a rising number of the oldest old, a growing burden of chronic and non-communicable diseases, aging and population decline, a changing family structure, shifting patterns of work and retirement, evolving social insurance systems, and emerging economic challenges.

Report: ICAN 2: Investigating Caregivers’ Attitudes and Needs (February 2007)
What are the needs and attitudes of caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients?  This telephone survey study, underwritten by Forest Pharmaceuticals, examines obstacles to diagnosis, Alzheimer’s disease attitudes, caregiver needs, access to support and advocacy groups, personal support system of caregivers, living situation and nursing home possibility, treatment history, and caregiver and patient profiles.  It also looks at respondents’ familiarity with a broad range of medications prescribed for Alzheimer’s patients.

Report: Trends in Health Status and Health Care Use among Older Women (March 2007)
When studying health trends among elderly persons, it is important to understand that older women face very different health-related challenges than older men. Older women have a longer life expectancy; develop different kinds of health complications, and face social issues that affect health care for them. The US Department of Health and Human Services did intensive research on elderly women’s health situation. Dr. Kristen Robinson reports their findings, covering everything from marital status, osteoporosis, long-term care, and racial minorities, among other topics.

Growing Older, and Adjusting to the Dark (March 13, 2007)

The typical 50-year-old driver needs twice as much light to see as well after dark as a 30-year-old. Traffic deaths are three times greater at night than during the day, though only 20 percent of driving is done after dark. Fatigue and alcohol are two important causes, but experts say the biggest variable is darkness. Ninety percent of a driver’s reaction depends on vision. Apparently, human engineering does not permit us to see very well in the dark. Nightlights at home help prevent tripping and serious falls.

At the End of Life, a Racial Divide (March 12, 2007)
Studies reveal that African Americans and other minorities are more likely than whites to want, and get, more aggressive care as death nears and are less likely to use hospice and palliative-care services to ease their suffering. As a result, they are more likely to experience more medicalized deaths, dying more frequently in the hospital, in pain, on ventilators and with feeding tubes. Some experts believe that social and economic circumstances, along with religion, determine why terminally ill patients choose more aggressive treatment. 

Report: The State of Aging and Health in America 2007 Report (March 2007)
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recently released a report presenting the most current national data available on 15 key health indicators for older adults related to health status, health behaviors, preventive care and screening, and injuries. The “State-by-State Report Card” provides similar information for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and enables states to see where they are on each indicator as well as in relation to other states. The report includes model intervention programs and recommendations for policymakers, health care providers, and older adults to ensure not just longer, but healthier, lives.

Report: Will People be Healthy Enough to Work Longer? (March 2007)
The median retirement age for men today is 63. Given the scheduled drop in Social Security replacement rates, increased longevity, and the relatively low balances in 401(k) accounts, this Center for Retirement Research report suggests that the average retirement age be moved back to 66 (where it was in the mid-60’s) or even older, that is, if the health of workers allows. The answer is yes: the health of older workers seems to be as good as it was forty years ago; moreover, jobs are much less physically demanding than they were in the past. Two important issues not addressed in this brief are whether the jobs will be there for older workers and the challenge presented by the 15 to 20 percent of the older population for whom work will be impossible.

Parkinson’s Disease: Worries about an Increase by 2030 (February 11, 2007)
(Article in Spanish) 
Research at the Medical Center of the University of Rochester predicts that in 2030 the number of people who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease will increase. In some countries, the incidence of the disease will double. Why? Because human life expectancy is getting longer. Researchers are worried because in some countries, such as Bolivia, people who suffer from Parkinson never visit a doctor. 

The Greatest Generation Learns About Great Safe Sex (February 14, 2007)
Sex education goes beyond junior high school classrooms these days. Sex educators can now be found talking in retirement facilities and nursing homes around the country. Research studies have shown an increase in the number of older men and women engaging in sexual activities as well as having in sex with more partners, in homosexual relations and in getting the HIV infection. Sex education can help older persons learn how to maintain healthy sexual lifestyles and how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.

Report: Investigating Caregivers' Attitudes and Needs (February 9, 2007)
Although Alzheimer’s Disease affects millions of people, it is still a disease that is hard to discover, a challenge to deal with as a victim and as a caregiver, and an incurable disease that degenerates its host over time. Harris Interactive, Inc. conducted an intensive research on caregivers’ attitudes and feelings towards care giving including access to support groups, knowledge and education. This report covers four main topics: 

1. Obstacles that may have delayed getting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease
2. Attitudes towards and knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease
3. Access to support and advocacy groups
4. Impact of care giving responsibilities on the caregiver’s own family and life

It also includes a survey for caregivers to complete. The survey can yield a better picture of how Alzheimer’s Disease, from diagnosis to the person’s death, impacts on caregivers and how to help them assist those with Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Loneliness Link with Alzheimer's (February 6, 2007)

A US research study shows a link between loneliness and Alzheimer’s. Those who felt lonely were twice as likely to be prone to Alzheimer’s as those who did not feel lonely. However, autopsies conducted as part of the research on those who had passed away showed no physical signs that loneliness had exacerbated the condition of Alzheimer’s in the patients. More research is needed to see exactly how loneliness increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. 

Report: Is It Time to Redesign Hospice? End-of-Life Care at the User Interface (January 2007)
Can hospice programs be made more usable? Or do they need to be redesigned? Hospice provides support and services that includes controlling symptoms, relieving pain, and working through the grieving process of patients and families coping with terminal illness. David J. Casarett illustrates how to make hospice more accessible and approachable and how to increase hospice use for those who would benefit from it. 

Surviving the Cold, or Even the Not So Cold (January 9, 2007)
Hypothermia, a very serious condition for people of all ages, impacts children and elderly persons most. This article explains the danger of hypothermia, its symptoms, how to treat it, and how to prevent it from happening. The National Institute of Health (NIH) wrote an article on hypothermia among elderly people. This important article can be found here: 
Hypothermia: A Cold Weather Hazard

Yet Another Worry for Those Who Believe the Glass Is Half-Empty 
(January 9, 2007)
“Think positive!” is a somewhat overused statement. However that phrase could save your life. New studies indicate that people who are pessimists are more likely to die of heart disease—a lot more likely—than those who are optimists. Dr. Friedman talks about the possible factors that increase a pessimist’s chance of dying of a heart disease in this article. Read the article and be positive!

Is It Time to Redesign Hospice? End-of-Life Care at the User Interface
(January 2007)

Can hospice programs be made more usable?  Or do they need to be redesigned? Hospice provides support and services that includes controlling symptoms, relieving pain, and working through the grieving process to patients and families coping with terminal illness.  David J. Casarett illustrates how to make hospice more accessible and approachable and how to increase hospice use for those who would benefit from it.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What People 50 and Older Are Using and Discussing with Their Physicians (January 2007) 
Do adults age 50 and older discuss the use of complementary and alternative medicine ( CAM ) with their physicians? AARP and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health partnered to measure complementary and alternative medicine use among this population and understand the communication practices between patients and their physicians to help answer this question. CAM includes such products and practices as herbal supplements, meditation, chiropractic care, and acupuncture.

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GM Retirees Wary of Health Care Trust Funds (July 23, 2007)
General Motors is trying to shift healthcare costs to a trust fund, called a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA), in order to remove billions of dollars in liabilities from the company’s portfolio. GM claims that the VEBA will improve the company’s financial standing and also protect retirees from losing healthcare benefits should the company declare bankruptcy. Retirees are skeptical whether the VEBA will be sufficiently funded and wonder what will happen if healthcare costs grow faster than the VEBA’s growth. 


Unions, Consumers Unite to Fight Medicare Privatization (June 12, 2007)

Under the current Medicare system, private insurance companies receive subsidies to administer Medicare benefits, costing taxpayers an average of 12 percent more than the benefits provided by Medicare itself. Late last week, a coalition of labor unions, consumers, and advocacy organizations commenced a campaign to stop this ongoing privatization of “the one big American health insurance success story.”

Health Care Battle Rages On As Unions Protest Over Cuts (March 15, 2007)
Thousands marched Thursday in Manhattan to protest Governor Eliot Spitzer’s proposed billion-dollar health care spending cuts. Protesters marched from 26th Street and Third Avenue to the governor’s Manhattan office at 40th Street spreading their disapproval of his budget cuts. The governor is proposing to cut $1.2 billion in health care costs from the state budget. He says special interests have taken advantage of government funding and wants money to go to community-based health care centers.

Federal Aid Does Little for Free Trade's Losers (March 1, 2007)
A federal health-insurance subsidy, partly created for laid off workers in industries hurt by imports, is getting limited use. More than four years after The Tax Health Coverage Credit program began, just 11% of those potentially eligible for the subsidy are taking it.  The majority of these workers and their families no longer have healthcare coverage since they cannot afford the high premium costs. However, laid-off maintenance mechanic Larry Kenny, 61, had to take the tax credit largely because his wife has lupus.  Kenny is now left with only $200 in savings.  His difficulties illustrate the short-comings of compensation programs and the debate over free trade and the globalization of business. 

Wal-Mart and a Union Unite, at Least on Health Policy (February 7, 2007)

An unlikely meeting between H. Lee Scott Jr., the chief executive of Wal-Mart, and Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), about health care demonstrates the mounting concern over coverage and costs. Both Stern and Scott want to provide affordable health insurance in the US Wal-Mart, which insures fewer than half its workers, sees that failure to provide its workforce with adequate health care smears its image and business. SEIU, one of the country’s biggest unions, has called affordable health insurance the No. 1 priority for its members. 

Managing Now Someone Else Has to Tell Retirees 'No' (January 29, 2007)

The United Steelworkers Union and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. recently agreed to a proposal that the company would make a one-time payment for retiree health benefits that would be put into a trust. A committee consisting of members that the Steelworkers designate as well as independent members jointly selected by Goodyear and the union would govern the committee.  It would become responsible for managing the trust's assets and maintaining the benefit programs.  More companies are considering this approach. However, concerns remain.  Will such trusts be sufficiently funded to cover estimated future retiree medical costs? 

UAW May Run Some Retiree Benefits (January 23, 2007)
The United Auto Workers may decide to take on managing health coverage for GM and Ford Motor Co. workers. General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have proposed to transfer their health-care liability to a union-managed fund in order to reorganize the US auto industry without resorting to bankruptcy-court protection, as many other unionized steelmakers and airlines have done. Such a deal would implement a union-controlled retiree fund, filled with cash, stock and other assets and would remain solvent through the reorganization. GM and Ford would be following Goodyear’s example that has already transferred health care liabilities to its union. But the plan with UAW remains unclear, especially whether the union would receive sufficient funds to support union workers’ health benefits throughout their retirement.

Unlikely Allies Advocate Healthcare Overhaul (January 16, 2007)
Since more State Governors are considering proposals for universal health coverage, powerful businesses and union groups are coming together to advocate for extending insurance coverage. Additionally, some private health insurance companies are joining doctors' organizations and health-activist groups to create universal coverage plans. Major questions remain about how a healthcare overhaul program would work, including how it would be financed and who would participate. However, there appears to be a real surge toward health reform and a broad agreement among businesses, unions and others to push a universal health plan through Congress.

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