• Reflex: October 24, 2011

    States are limiting Medicaid coverage for  hospital visits, reports Phil Galewitz (KHN). “Arizona […] plans to limit adult Medicaid recipients to 25 days of hospital coverage a year. […] In April 2012, [Hawaii] plans to cut Medicaid coverage to 10 days a year. [… S]everal other states already restrict hospital coverage, among them Alabama (16 days), Arkansas (24 days), Florida (45 days), and Mississippi (30 days). Last year, Massachusetts started a 20-day per stay limit.” Austin’s comment: For those concerned about rationing in Medicare, this suggests you’re looking at the wrong program.

    Cuts in military health benefits being considered, reports Donna Cassata (AP). “Republicans and Democrats alike are signaling a willingness — unheard of at the height of two post-Sept. 11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — to make military retirees pay more for coverage. It’s a reflection of Washington’s newfound embrace of fiscal austerity and the Pentagon’s push to cut health care costs that have skyrocketed from $19 billion in 2001 to $53 billion.” Austin’s comment: This is a personal statement of opinion, having nothing to do with evidence: That it has come to this is terribly upsetting to me. Sometimes austerity can go too far and in the wrong direction. 

    There’s still no link between cell phones and brain tumors, reports Eleni Berger“An update of a large study from Denmark finds no link between cell phone use and brain tumors, even with use for 10 years or more… Rates of brain/central nervous system tumors, and of all cancers combined, were essentially the same among people who did and didn’t have cell phones. This held true even for people who had had cell phones for 13 years or longer. It was also true for tumors in the temporal lobe, the part of the brain exposed to the most energy from cell phones.” Aaron’s comment: There’s still no strong evidence for an association between cell phones and brain cancer. I’m fully for continuing to monitor the situation, but the media often makes this out to be bigger than it is.

    Sanjay Gupta (video) on concussion syndrome in children’s sports. This is an important and scary story about how a very fit high school football player (Nathan Stiles) died from the cumulative effects of seemingly minor concussions. Don’s comment: I am a coach for my 11 year old’s Little League football team (we finished the regular season Saturday an undefeated 6-0, thanks for asking). One positive aspect of the death of players like Nathan Stiles recounted in the video is the increase in head injury awareness. For example, our team has altered practice drills to try and minimize head injuries this season, and we watch closely for head injury signs. Information and awareness is filtering down, which is a good thing.

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    • Ref the retired military health benefits:

      I’m am a retired Army officer and the son and brother of retired Air Force officers. Requiring TRICARE for Life beneficiaries such as my father to pay an annual enrollment fee of $200 is reasonable. With TRICARE for Life, MEDICARE is the primary payer with TRICARE paying the rest of the bill.

      As for myself, Congress made a huge error when it established TRICARE of setting in law the dollar amount of the TRICARE Prime enrollment fee. I retired in 1996 as a lieutenant colonel. I paid $460 a year then and I pay the same now. My monthly retired pay was $2500 then. Someone retiring as a LTC now will receive over $4000 a month but would still only pay $460 a year for his family.

      The enrollment fees should have been fixed to the COLA (same rate as Social Security) that retirees receive. A one time correction would be excessive but I would support doing it over ten years and then having the enrollment fee increase at the same rate as retired pay each year.

      • Thank you for your service and that of your family.

        Our military retirees and veterans sacrifice so much, both physically and mentally, that I am wary asking them to even pay a dime of health care costs. I understand the enormous taxpayer expense of (more) fully funding their health care. However, I would rather we recognize the full social cost of defense and war and cut back on one or both accordingly. (Personal opinion.)