health care


Vermont Gov. Won’t Pursue Single Payer Health Care This Year

Gov. Peter Shumlin earlier this year (Wilson Ring/AP)

Gov. Peter Shumlin earlier this year (Wilson Ring/AP)

Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont announced on Wednesday that his state would not pursue single payer health care in this coming legislative session.

Shumlin blamed a sluggish economy for his decision. The taxes required for single payer would prove too burdensome for Vermont, a state that has downgraded its revenues twice this year.

The taxes required to implement single payer would include an 11.5 percent increase in payroll taxes and up to a 9.5 percent increase in income taxes for every Vermonter.

Shumlin added: “Making fundamental changes in our health care system — nearly 20 percent of our economy — is a huge undertaking, and one that must be done with care.”

You can read Shumlin’s prepared remarks here.


Five Lessons For Health Care From The Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Paula Johnson — Chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Executive Director for the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology — spoke today of the need for a new grassroots movement — a civil-rights-like activist uprising — to promote equal, high-quality health care for all. Her remarks were part of an event honoring the noted psychiatrist, activist, author, consultant, and Harvard professor, Dr. Alvin Pouissant, who provided medical care to civil rights protestors and worked towards desegregating medical facilities in the Deep South in the 1960’s.

Dr. Johnson (who, full disclosure, has treated a close member of my family) is herself a pioneer, serving as the first African American chief medical resident in the history of the Brigham, and a physician on the forefront of women’s health and cardiology.

Here she describes what health care can learn from civil rights:

What I would like to do now is to share 5 lessons from the Civil Rights Movement that I believe can apply to health.

The first lesson is that:
Change takes time and we must take every opportunity to accelerate change.
It took from 1870 to 1965 for blacks to gain the true right to vote! But there were clear moments in time when change was accelerated, as with the marches in Selma. Today, in Health, we need to accelerate change.

This leads us to the second lesson:
It is a compelling Vision and inspiring leadership that motivate and sustain us as we work toward our goals.
Today, we need a grander, a more ambitious vision for health. And we need leaders willing to step up and help us realize this vision.

The third lesson is:
True change rarely comes from the halls of Congress alone—laws are essential but insufficient to make true change. Continue reading

Top 10 Health Care Stories Of The Year: You Decide

CommonHealth is brainstorming about our first annual list of the Top 10 Most Important/Mind-Boggling/Eye-Popping health care stories of the year. We want your input. What should make the cut?

–The Passage of National Health Care Reform?

–Paul Levy’s Relationship Missteps?

— Don Berwick Goes To Washington?

–The AG’s Report On Partners’ Medical Market Cache?

–Caps On Health Insurers?

Let us know and we’ll post the list later this month. And, for any suggestions that make the Top Ten, we’ll offer a free memento from WBUR.

Health Leads: A New Name, But An Unchanged Mission To Care For Low-Income Families

Rebecca Onie, founder of Health Leads, formerly Project HEALTH

Rebecca Onie came up with the name Project HEALTH in 1996, as a Harvard undergrad, while she was riding the #1 bus from what was then Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) back to Cambridge.

Since then, Onie, 33, has built a phenomenally successful non-profit that helps low-income families get a broad range of services (food, heat, transportation, etc) during their doctor visits, giving them a greater chance of actually improving their health. (Onie will often say: What good is prescribing an antibiotic for a child if there’s no food in the fridge?) In clinics where the program operates, physicians can “prescribe” food, housing, health insurance, job training, fuel assistance, or other resources for their patients as routinely as they do medication. Located in waiting rooms and staffed by college volunteers, the volunteers “fill” these prescriptions by connecting patients with the basic resources they need.

Clearly, the world has noticed. Onie won a MacArthur genius grant last year and was featured on “O” Magazine’s 2010 Power List for “changing the world for the better.” At TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People Gala last year, First Lady Michelle Obama said of Project HEALTH: “This is exactly the kind of social innovation and entrepreneurship we should be encouraging all across this country.”

In 2010 alone, the organization trained and mobilized 660 college volunteers, who connected nearly 6,000 low-income patients and their families to the resources they needed to get healthy – 44% more patients than in the prior year. They now staff health clinics in Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington D.C, Providence and Chicago.

In a letter sent out this week announcing Project HEALTH’s new name: Health Leads, Onie writes: Continue reading

Health Care Vs. Healthcare

Since we’re just launching the new CommonHealth site, I want to make one thing clear at the outset: It’s Health Care, not Healthcare.

Here’s a great argument about why, posted on The Health Care Blog (see!) with a little bit of history and God thrown in. Channelling his inner William Safire, Micheal Millenson, the author of “Demanding Medical Excellence: Doctors and Accountability in the Information Age,” points out that while the single word “healthcare” feels hipper and more modern than the formal “health care,” nobody talks about “medicalcare driving up costs in acutecare hospitals and nursinghomes. They write about “medical care,” “acute care” and “nursing homes,” separating the adjectives from the nouns they modify.”

Millenson theorizes on the genesis of the fusion:

I think a tipping point for fusing “health” and “care” was reached with the federal legislation setting up the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at the end of 1999. AHRQ was a renamed and refocused version of the old Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, created in 1989. AHCPR, in turn, had almost been named the Agency for Health Care Research and Policy until an alert Senate staffer realized that the abbreviation would be pronounced, “ah, crap.”

If you can persuade us that “health care” should be one word, we’re willing to listen.

In the meantime, we’re sticking to the WBUR Style Book.