- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No easy answers

Rep. Michael C. Burgess, Texas Republican, said Monday that it’s going to be hard for Democrats or Republicans to come up with a detailed health care reform bill that won’t immediately be picked apart by the other party.

“No one has really identified the specifics yet because then it becomes very easy to pick things apart,” said Mr. Burgess, who practiced medicine for more than two decades before being elected to Congress in 2002.

“We on the Republican side get a lot of criticism that we don’t have a bill out there yet. But I would submit to you that President Obama talked about some very specific things during the campaign but they don’t have a bill,” he added. “Senate Finance [Committee] doesn’t have a bill. [Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman] Henry Waxman doesn’t have a bill. There is no bill out there.”

Mr. Burgess said during a roundtable discussion with health care experts that he would like to see legislation without firm mandates, such as limits as to the number of times patients can be hospitalized or see a doctor.

Sick times

In yet another negative result of the bad economy, a new national survey shows that Americans are cutting back on healthy activities such as eating fresh foods and exercising regularly.

The American Heart Association (AHA) report showed that 57 percent of the respondents said the economy has affected their ability to take care of their health, while 32 percent said they have made health care cutbacks in the past six months to save money, such as delaying preventive care appointments, not taking medications or skipping a dentist visit.

The survey also showed that 25 percent of Americans with gym memberships have canceled in the previous six months, and 42 percent plan to make changes in the next six months that may impact their health, such as buying fewer fruits and vegetables.

Results of the study, which surveyed 1,000 people in March, spell trouble for Americans’ overall well-being and heart health in particular, said AHA President Dr. Timothy Gardner.

“We’ve made dramatic gains in recent years in our fight against heart disease and stroke, but trends like these threaten to reverse these gains,” he said.”

To view the report go to americanheart.mediaroom.com.

HHS news

The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) last week released a report showcasing deficiencies in how the nation’s health care system treats women, showing that 21 million women and girls are without health care insurance.

The report, “Roadblocks to Health Care: Why the Current Health Care System Does Not Work For Women,” also shows that women often are charged higher premiums than men are during their reproductive years. A 22-year-old woman may be charged one-and-a-half times the premium of a 22-year-old man.

The report also details a recent national survey that shows that more than 52 percent of all women reported delaying or avoiding needed care because of cost, compared with 39 percent of men.

The full report can be viewed at healthreform.gov/reports/women.

HHS last week also announced the release of $1.79 billion to help people with HIV/AIDS have access to life-saving health care and medications. The grants are funded through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which annually provides funding for health services for more than 500,000 people who lack adequate health care or money to cope with the HIV disease.

More than $1.16 billion will be sent to states and territories under Part B of the Ryan White program, with $780 million of that earmarked for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). In addition, $41 million in ADAP funds was distributed through competitive supplemental grants.

In other HHS news, agency Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed the World Health Assembly Plenary Session in Geneva on Monday, discussing the United States’ response to the H1N1 influenza virus, or “swine flu,” among other topics.

Sean Lengell and Jennifer Haberkorn can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]

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