Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving in Health Care

Thanksgiving is almost here and between shopping for yams and turkeys and waiting for the cranberries to pop in the saucepan, there is ample time for reflection. Most folks evaluate the past year and make predictions for the next somewhere around Christmas, but since little serious business is conducted after Thanksgiving, and I’d rather leave predictions to professional gamblers, this is the week where I sift through this year’s events and try very hard to elicit personal feelings of gratitude. Since this is a health care blog, here are some health care related things I am very thankful for, and since like most social media aficionados, I too have a very short attention span, most are rather recent events.
  • First and foremost I would like to thank the Supreme Court of the United States for agreeing to hear arguments from the States, the Federal Government and small businesses backed by large businesses, on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (a.k.a. Obamacare). Although having PPACA end up in front of the Supreme Court was a foregone conclusion since before the ink was dry on the President’s signature, and perhaps long before that, I am particularly grateful for the Supreme Court’s chosen timing for making a decision on this matter. The Court will hear arguments early in the spring of 2012, and if all goes according to plan it will either uphold or obliterate President Obama’s most important policy achievement just in time to inform my decision on who to vote for in the Presidential elections. It means a lot to me, and I am sure to many other conflicted voters, to have the advice of the wisest nine men and women in the land, and it is much more elegant and efficient to mentor us now instead of having to fix the issue after the elections take place.
  • Second, I would like to express my gratitude to Walmart who is finally volunteering to extend its unparalleled efficiencies in supply chain management to health care. Like most Americans, I have seen my health insurance premium go up by almost 20% recently and my deductible has too many zeros to fit in that little box on a standard check. It is reassuring to know that very soon Walmart will do for health care what it did for tee-shirts and accessories. Obviously, any organization that can put a plastic Luis Vuitton handbag in the hands of the humblest day laborer can surely be relied upon to bring PSA testing and chronic disease management to every hamlet and every housing project in the land. And even though I have no plans to start shopping at Walmart, particularly for health care, I am looking forward to the proven Walmart effect on prices of medical products and wages, which should make all health care, affordable for all of us.
  • On a more technical, and more work related note, I need to thank the FDA for unequivocally excluding Electronic Health Records (EHR) from its proposed regulation of mobile medical applications. The mobile health (mHealth) field is in its infancy and chock full of bright eyed and bushy tailed young entrepreneurs who can obviously benefit from FDA guidance just like their brethren in the perpetually sizzling bio-tech and device industry already do, with more innovation than any investor can handle percolating up all day every day. On the other hand, the frail and elderly EHR field, led by billion dollar technology and insurance companies, is in no position to withstand the rigors of FDA regulatory activities, which may inadvertently interfere with the massive life supporting cash infusion from government initiatives.
  • For a closely related effort, I am also grateful to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for its recent report supporting the FDA position on EHR regulation. While acknowledging the inherent patient safety issues posed by use of EHR devices, the IOM is proposing a tangled web of voluntary and non-regulatory boards and organizations to be created for the purpose of observing and guiding EHR product use and development. The IOM does recognize that the system it proposes may very well fail to address the issue at hand, in which case it recommends that the FDA comes in to the rescue as a last resort. Hopefully by then EHR companies will have had every chance to absorb the Federal flow of cash to the industry in its entirety.
  • A few days ago we observed Veterans Day and we all expressed our heartfelt thanks for the sacrifices made by our men and women in the armed services. I would also like to thank Congress and its Super Committees for going above and beyond gratitude, and actively trying to provide our Veterans, even those who are too old, too depressed or otherwise incapacitated, with one more chance to serve our country. As we sink deeper and deeper in debt, there is a great opportunity for millions of heroes to forgo a little bit of health care services, or pay a bit more for each, so the greatest nation on earth can save a whopping $11 billion each year. Compared to putting oneself in harm’s way, this is easy stuff and while it is true that one large corporation, like GE for example, could single handedly create those savings just by paying their taxes for the year, it is much more meaningful that the glory should go to our Veterans. It is the right thing to do and I am so proud of our honorable members of Congress.
  • Finally, I would like to thank Congress one more time for perhaps the most extraordinary achievement in its history, and that is transforming pizza into a vegetable. Granted the Supreme Court of 1893 paved the way by declaring the tomato fruit to be a vegetable, but combining white flour and globs of animal fat into the texture of this new vegetable is nothing short of miraculous. Although Congress accomplished this in the context of ensuring that our children eat healthy food in school cafeterias, I am certain that many adults and most children will incorporate more of this wonderfully healthy vegetable in their diets outside of school lunch, and I for one, will try very hard to find a creative way to add this Congressional vegetable to our Thanksgiving table this year.
Now that I thanked all I could think of, and before I return to my bubbling cranberry sauce, I would like to ask for one little thing. Bypassing the Congressional middlemen, and going straight to the top, I would like to ask Hershey and Nestlé and all other multi-national decision makers, if it would be possible to make chocolate a vegetable too. Since cocoa beans grow on trees, chocolate is practically a fruit as it is, so making it a vegetable should be trivial in view of the various precedents quoted above, and it would mean so much to me and to countless other women and children trying hard to take personal responsibility for their own health and health care.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

1 comment:

  1. Love it! The Congressional Act of putting pizza in the ever so healthy vegetable category makes me feel so much better about feeding it to my family now. ;) Great post that had me smiling. Thanks.