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Can health care reform recover?

Posted in: Health care
Tags: Health care Supreme Court NTSB




Think of health care reform as a really sick patient in need of intervention. Better yet, think of it as a plane crash. In fact, think of it as 20 Boeing 747s crashing each and every week.

That's what an eclectic mix of actor Dennis Quaid, Hudson River aviation hero Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III and several leading research physicians think and they say establishing the medical equivalent of the National Transportation Safety Board would fix the ailing system in all regards.

The group, led by renowned medical researcher Dr. Charles Denham, has issued a report including personal stories outlining an approach to reforming the delivery of services, access to health care, and payment reform. The main focus is on errors and waste in the system, which they say exaggerates the risk of serious injury and costs everyone.

“Interestingly, when we compute how many deaths we have due to healthcare harm – including 100,000 deaths due to hospital-acquired infections – the loss is equal to 20 Boeing 747 airliners going down each week,” the report states.

Patient advocate Paul Levy takes the proposal one step further, outlining how regional rail authorities regulate the trains in a safe and efficient manner that could be adapted in the medical arena. Levy cites the Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee as one example of a non-government organization that sets rules and training for signals and safety to maintain uniform standards.

“In my hospital CEO days, I had often seen what happens to residents as their training program caused them to move from hospital to hospital,” Levy, the former CEO of Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, writes on his Not Running a Hospital blog. “The difference in approach to quality and safety matters was dramatic, and these young doctors often found themselves middled by changes in rules and expectations.”

As the weeks dwindle down to days which dwindle down to hours before the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, you can expect more and more offerings as to how to fix the system, which, after the economy, is the biggest issue in this election year.

Which brings up some other interesting notes of late. There’s a growing chorus that President Obama’s administration has let the narrative be controlled by opponents, as if the justices could be swayed by the court of public opinion. The New York Times did an analysis of pro and con advertising on the law and found that opponents outspent proponents, $235 million to $69 million, and nearly all of the supporting advertising has been government.

In the Boston Globe, Joan Vennocchi says if the court tosses out the law, the Obama team has only itself to blame. She says their efforts have been too little and too late.

While many on both sides expect the court to void at least part of the law, if not gut it in its entirety, the one common agreement is that something has to be done and government has a role.

“We cannot afford to make patient safety a partisan political football,” the Denham group wrote. “We must become partisan for patients and use effective political and government tools to serve them.”

                                                                                                                           --JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

The Berkshire Eagle argues that Amazon, the online retailer, should start paying sales tax, especially since it now has a physical presence in Cambridge.

Former House speaker Sal DiMasi alleges in a court filing that federal prison officials delayed for at least four months providing him medical care while cancer he developed on his tongue spread. DiMasi now faces a grueling regimen of radiation and chemotherapy.  

The House passes a bill subjecting the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy to the state’s Open Meeting Law. Open meeting and public records provisions had previously been enforced as conditions to the Conservancy’s annual funding from the state.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Fall River Fire Department will be able to keep the 79 firefighters hired in 2010 through a federal grant after the city received another $14.4 million grant to continue funding the positions.

The Gloucester City Council signs off on the municipal budget, including hefty raises for top administrators, the Gloucester Times reports.

Officials in Boise, Idaho, let some of their parks go to seed to see if anyone noticed, the Idaho Statesman reports.

Business owners in downtown New Bedford met with city officials to find a solution to what they say are overzealous meter maids. The city’s parking ticket revenue doubled in the last year.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has ordered the town of West Bridgewater to pay damages to a former female police officer after finding she was the victim of gender discrimination by the police chief.

CASINOS

Members of three Indian tribes disputed the connections of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to the Taunton area, the key component to the Mashpee getting a casino built there, during a public hearing by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. There were also a multitude of concerns aired over the planned casino’s impact on traffic, water, public safety, archeology, and a nearby elementary school. The Cape Cod Times report on that meeting is here.

Two brothers offer up separate, competing casinos proposals for Springfield.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A House committee votes to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to turn over documents related to a botched Mexican gun smuggling operation.

The Atlantic delves deep into the love affair between Chris Christie and Bruce Springsteen.

ELECTION 2012

All the polls showing the daily ebb and flow of the presidential race are put in context by a new Rasmussen poll that shows only 37 percent of voters are following the election closely with five months to go. Via U.S. News & World Report.

Shhhh! Job growth is bad for us: The Romney campaign apparently doesn’t want Florida crowing about job growth. Romney closes his campaign cash deficit with President Obama, after Obama spent more in May than he took in. Karl Rove, who has pledged to spend $300 million this election cycle, talks campaign finance in his Wall Street Journal column.

Dan Kennedy joins the growing chorus of pundits who are puzzled by Sen. Scott Brown’s rationale for declining the debate from the Kennedy Institute.

Elizabeth Warren gets a warm reception at a Juneteenth celebration in Roxbury.

Federal funding of presidential campaigns, a post-Watergate reform, is all but dead, the Globe’s Brian Mooney writes, as candidates awash in private donations opt out of the system and its campaign spending limits.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A Devens movie studio appears to be inching toward reality, the Lowell Sun reports. But remember Plymouth Rock Studios? The man behind that curtain, David Kirkpatrick, and his partners were found guilty of securities fraud.

Foreclosures in Massachusetts continue their upward swing.

Fewer than half of all Americans will have enough money to retire on by age 65, says a new report from the Boston College Center for Retirement Research.

EDUCATION

The American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts says it won’t fight a compromise struck between the Mass. Teachers Association and the advocacy group Stand for Children to lessen the role of seniority in staffing decisions. The AFT had previously vowed to fight legislation the two sides agreed to in order to avoid a divisive ballot campaign this fall.

Brockton school officials approved a budget that saves the jobs of 100 staffers who received layoff notices but cuts funding for new textbooks, classroom equipment, and cleaning.

Another day, another college president bites the dust. This time, the Globe reports, it’s Robert Gee of the Falmouth-based National Graduate School of Quality Management (we hadn’t heard of it, either), whose lavish spending practices are now under investigation by Attorney General Martha Coakley.

HEALTH CARE

Doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital announced a landmark artificial heart transplant doctors performed on a South Shore teacher.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Bring it on: Power suppliers say that they are ready for the East Coast heat wave.

The Herald obtains a large cache of Patrick administration emails dating from Cape Wind’s critical final approvals.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Peabody residents spot Level 3 sex offenders picking up bottles and cans in a park, sparking a push for an ordinance banning them from places where children congregate, the Salem News reports.

A Taunton high school teacher is accused of statutory rape with a student, NECN reports.

MEDIA

You won’t be hearing as much of all that jazz on WGBH radio.

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