Health Wonk Review: Holiday Shopping Guide

08 Dec

At the Wal-Mart in Seekonk, Massachusetts near my home, the Christmas decorations went up before the last of the Halloween candy was sold. It was almost as if they’d forgotten about Thanksgiving altogether. Then “Black Friday” came, and it was clear that the significance of Thanksgiving was to delineate the pre-game warm-up from the official start of the holiday shopping season. People camped out in advance for the best bargains, mobbed each other before sunrise, and proudly carried home their treasure. Then, no sooner than Black Friday was over, we had “Small Business Saturday” and “Cyber Monday” on its heels, encouraging us to “buy local” and “buy online,” respectively. But, if you’re like me, you still have loads of shopping left to do, and we all know that it can be extremely difficult to find the perfect gift for that special someone on your list. In that spirit, I’ve taken it upon myself to create the Health Wonk Review Holiday Shopping Guide. With the best of the health policy blogosphere represented, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list, from your drunk uncle to your wonk-in-law.

First off, just about everyone on your list is bound to be concerned with the topic of Maggie Mahar’s post “How Health Care Reform Can Create Jobs and Cut Costs.” She explains how health care reform provides funding for nurse practitioners,community health workers, nurse mid-wives and other health care professionals who are very well-trained to do some of the things that doctors do–at a lower cost. In fact, she highlights some research suggesting that such a shift has the potential to improve quality as well. (As an aside, Maggie recently left The Century Foundation, and is no longer writing HealthBeat, though she continues to write about healthcare on other websites.)

Of course, many of you know somebody who wants nothing more than for the Affordable Care Act to be repealed by Congress or overturned by the Supreme Court. I’d recommend that you send them Joe Paduda’s article “Repealing Health Reform 20-20-20” from the Managed Care Matters blog which explains what will happen without reform. Newsflash: It ain’t good. If health reform is overturned, 20% of Americans may be without coverage in 2020, yet we’ll be spending 20% of our GDP on health care.

If reform does go forward as planned, the Colorado Health Insurance Insider’s Louise wonders if large self-insured groups will restructure their benefits to steer unhealthy employees into the health insurance exchanges. If that happens, it could lead to a death spiral that unravels the entire system. It’s hard to tell the future, but for the person on your list who enjoys reading suspenseful novels or happens to suffer from an anxiety disorder, they could have a lot of fun with this post.

President Obama’s job is pretty tough, so I’m sure he’d appreciate a little something from you this time of year. Especially after receiving the open letter “Dear Mr. President” from Dr. Kerry Willis who gives the President some suggestions on how to save money and increase the value to the system of providing medical care at the Healthcare Talent Transformation blog.

You’re going to want to impress your boss, so why not send them some research and commentary from the fine folks at Health Affairs? In “Implementing Bundled Payment: No Pain, No Gain?”, author Emma Dolan describes the progress that has been made in overcoming challenges to implementing bundled payment arrangements. Her post responds to a November Health Affairs journal article by researchers from RAND and Harvard that highlighted some of the difficulties encountered in implementing the Prometheus bundled payment initiative of the Health Care Incentives Imrprovement Institute. 

If they still want more, they might enjoy Vince Kuraitis’ take on the Leavitt ACO Report, which identified 164 ACOs in the U.S. According to Kuraitis, the report has the potential both to overestimate and underestimate ACO and accountable care-like activities. His hunch is, however, that it’s far more likely to be understating just how much accountable care activity actually is going on.

If you have family or friends in Florida (and who doesn’t?), they might like to know about supporters and opponents of Florida’s push to control its opioid problem, which Jon Coppelman of Workers’ Comp Insider talks about in the post “Opioid Abuse in Florida: Who Controls Controlled Substances?”

For the sports fan on your list, there’s Gary Schwitzer’s article at the Health News Watchdog blog. Schwitzer

explains how, while watching a college basketball game, he heard an ESPN announcer link Jimmy Valvano’s metastatic adenocarcinoma with Tubby Smith’s prostate cancer. He was shocked, and his post explains why: Not all cancers are alike and not all coaches’ cancer stories are alike. And they don’t all warrant a call for more screening. 

And what’s health care without corruption? At Health Care Renewal, Roy Poses writes about an ecological country-level analysis that showed that perceived corruption levels predict country’s levels of child (under age 5) mortality, controlled for other known mortality predictors.  Health care and other forms of corruption may kill, at least indirectly. Poses uses the study to highlight the need for true health reform to enable research on, education about, and advocacy against health care corruption, instead of dismissing it as just recent unpleasantness. If you have a beloved cynic on your list, send them to Roy’s post on how “Corruption Kills.”

Lastly, for the skeptic on your list, who–despite your sending them the “We’re #37” video repeatedly–thinks that the American health care system is the best there is, why not send them John Goodman’s latest piece “Do We Really Spend More and Get Less?” from the National Center for Policy Analysis? While I can’t say I agree, Goodman lays out an interesting argument that suggests that the U.S. isn’t really doing that bad vis-a-vis other developed nations. And, if that doesn’t do it for them, then might I suggest Avik Roy’s carefully reasoned explanation of “The Myth of Americans’ Poor Life Expectancy,” which I do tend to agree with.

Well, that’s it for now. There will only be three shopping days ’til Christmas when Gary Schwitzer hosts the next edition of Health Wonk Review over at the Health News Review Blog. Until then, best of luck finding something for everyone on your list!


Posted by on December 8, 2011 in Health Wonk Review



3 responses to “Health Wonk Review: Holiday Shopping Guide

  1. Jonena

    December 8, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Brad, Thanks for picking up Dr. Kerry's post. Wow, small healthcare world, huh? JonenaHealthcare Talent Transformation Blog

  2. Kerry A Willis MD

    December 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Thanks for the nudge to get the information out there for all to consider. FYI I did send the letter to the White House several months ago but alas I have gotten a reply.Kerry A Willis MD

  3. Joe Paduda

    December 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Brad – great edition – plenty to fill those virtual stockings! hope the big guy knows you're relo'ed to New England and finds the 'Wright" chimney!


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