Category Archives: Health

More Guns, Less Medicine: Trump’s Military Spending Binge Would Swamp Savings From Health Care Repeal

THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE (CBO) released its analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Monday, finding that the Trump-backed House Republican bill that seeks to repeal and replace Obamacare would save the federal government $337 billion over 10 years — at the cost of throwing 24 million people off of health insurance coverage by 2026.

But those theoretical savings would be more than wiped out by an also theoretical increase in military spending that President Trump wants Congress to pass.

Shortly after the release of the CBO report, House Speaker Paul Ryan put out a statement embracing its findings, claiming among other things that it found that the AHCA would “dramatically reduce the deficit.”

Yet Ryan has offered no objections to Trump’s request for an additional $54 billion in annual military spending in this coming year. The increase alone amounts to 80 percent of Russia’s current military spending; it would make the United States responsible for almost 40 percent of global military expenditures.

Assuming that the Trump administration set the new amount as a baseline going forward, over 10 years it would amount to $540 billion in additional spending. This eclipses the $337 billion that would ostensibly be saved were the AHCA to pass in its current form and remain in place.

And the CBO also finds that the vast majority of savings from the law will come after 2020, when the Medicaid expansion is rolled back. In fact, it wold add $56 billion to the deficit in its first three years:


Congressional Budget Office

The reason the AHCA doesn’t save more is because it also includes a $600 billion tax cut, most of it aimed at benefiting wealthier taxpayers, by paring back taxes used to support the Affordable Care Act.

AHCA’s impact on the federal budget deficit is hardly the whole picture, of course. The CBO estimates that 14 million people would lose health insurance coverage in its first year. The cost of health insurance premiums would go up for many. The CBO notes, for example, that someone 64 years old earning $26,500 a year would see their net premiums increase from $1,700 annually to $14,600:


Congressional Budget Office

President Trump can offer any number of justifications for hiking military spending while embracing a health care bill that would throw tens of millions off of health insurance. But he just can’t claim to care about the deficit.

By Zaid Jilani/TheIntercept

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Cancer burger? Fast food wrappers contain carcinogenic chemicals, study says

The next time you get a craving for a greasy burger from the drive-thru, you may want to reconsider. A new study has found that fast food packaging contains cancer-causing chemicals – showing that the risk of quick meals goes beyond trans fats and calories.
It’s no secret that fast food contains a huge amount of oils, but in an effort to repel those oils, the packaging is actually posing a huge risk to consumers, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

In an effort to determine whether the wrappers contained harmful chemicals, the researchers gathered 400 take-out packaging samples from fast food restaurants across the US.

They then analyzed them for fluorinated chemicals, a family of chemicals which has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems, changes in hormone functioning in adults, and adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children.

Forty-six percent of food contact papers and 20 percent of paperboard were found to contain the harmful chemicals.

But the problem wasn’t just contained to the wrappers. The chemicals were found to migrate from the packaging to the food itself.

“Food contact material is a direct route of exposure to these chemicals for us, it’s as if you were drinking them in your drinking water,” Tom Brunton of the Green Science Policy Institute, which was involved in the study, told CBS Bay Area.

Study co-author Graham Peaslee, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame, said he was “very surprised to find these chemicals in food contact materials from so many of the samples we tested,” according to a Green Science Policy Institute press release.

He went on to note that the chemicals are “persistent and some bioaccumulate in the body,” and stressed that “safer non-fluorinated alternatives” are available.

Co-author Dr. Arlene Blum of UC Berkeley and the Green Science Policy Institute also stressed that “we can stop using fluorinated chemicals where they are not necessary, such as in food packaging, and all be healthier.”

And although fluorinated chemicals are also found in everyday products including water-repellent outdoor gear, stain-resistant clothing and furniture, and non-stick pans, Brunton was quick to point out that they are likely the most harmful in the fast food context.

“You’re likely not going to get the same exposure from those products…you’re not eating your rain jacket…,” Brunton said.

The Green Science Policy Institute noted, however, that many major retailers have eliminated high-fluorinated chemicals from their products, and encouraged the fast food industry to do the same.

From Russia Today

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Speaker Ryan dispatched a security team to block delivery of a massive PP petition

In their first week back on the job, House Speaker Paul Ryan and his non-uterus-having Republican congressmen have announced an extremist effort to defund Planned Parenthood, a healthcare provider used by 1 in 5 American women in their lifetime:

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced last week that Republicans will move to strip all federal funding for Planned Parenthood as part of the process they are using early this year to dismantle Obamacare.
Image: Planned Parenthood via Twitter

Planned Parenthood volunteers lined up  at Speaker Ryan’s office to deliver the signatures of 87,000 men and women who stand with Planned Parenthood. Instead of accepting the petition delivery and moving on with his day, Paul Ryan instead dispatched a team of security. Although he had been greeting other constituents, his office was suddenly closed for business.

More from Daily Kos

Posted by Libergirl

Junk food ads target black kids 50 percent more than whites – study

African-American and Latino children are more likely to be exposed to junk food ads than their white counterparts, a new study finds. New calls are being made for advertisers and networks to “do more” to prevent bad dining choices.
In the US alone, companies spend around $1.8 billion marketing junk food directly to kids and roughly nine out of every 10 youth-targeted food ads are for sugary drinks, cereals, sweets, snacks and fast food, according to the Obesity Action Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity conducted a study that found African-Americans are subjected to 50 percent more of these junk food related ads and are more than twice as likely to see an ad for junk food than their white peers.

The study analyzed Nielsen data from 2008 to 2012, comparing the rate at which junk food and fast food ads were being viewed by children in different racial categories.

Many critics are using this study as proof that junk food companies have been purposefully directing their marketing at young African-Americans rather than whites. Jennifer Harris, a lead researcher in the study, concluded that “black and Latino kids have higher rates of obesity and other diet-related diseases.”

In an interview with the Washington Post, Frances Fleming Milici, a research associate for the study, says, “ads are placed to reach a certain demographic.” Fleming Milici knows this, because she used the same data sets for her study that the marketing departments at major junk food and fast food companies use to find the best audience for their products.

The study shows a wide gap between the average black preschooler up to five years of age, who sees 16.9 unhealthy food ads per week, compared to white preschoolers who see 10.3.

The study then shows how this gap gets even wider as the kids grow up, with older black children, six to 11 years old, seeing 17.4 of the advertisements, compared with 11.7 for the white group. The disparity grew further among those aged 12 to 17, with blacks seeing 24.2 junk food ads compared to 14.8 for whites.

Companies dealing in unhealthy food were also found to target television channels more likely to be popular with African-American children, like Fuse, BET, Vh1 and Nick-at-Nite.

“Understanding the relative contribution of factors leading to greater TV [and billboard] food advertising exposure for adolescents and Black youths is necessary to identify effective solutions to counter its harmful effects,” the study states.

The study also notes that 20 percent of black children are now considered obese, compared to 14.7 percent of whites. These issues do not stop in childhood, as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly half of all African-American adults are considered obese, compared to just 34.5 percent of whites.

“Food advertisers and networks, especially those targeting adolescents and black youth, must do more to reduce advertising that negatively impacts young people’s health,” the study concluded. “Furthermore, reducing commercial-television viewing by black youth may help reduce health disparities affecting their communities.”

“[The kids] are really influenced by what’s ‘cool,’” Cara Shipley, who coordinates an obesity-intervention program for kids of color in Baltimore, said. “We’re trying to reverse that – but the social pressure is huge.”


Posted by The NON-Conformist


Oklahoma Court Tosses Abortion Law On Hospital Privileges

Image: CBS DallasFW

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out a law requiring abortion clinics to have doctors with admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, saying efforts to portray the measure as protecting women’s health are a “guise.”

The law would require a doctor with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles be present for any abortion. The court found it violates both the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitutions. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year struck down a similar provision in Texas.

“Under the guise of the protection of women’s health,” Oklahoma Justice Joseph Watt wrote, “(the law) creates an undue burden on a woman’s access to abortion, violating protected rights under our federal Constitution,” referring specifically to the Texas case.

More from CBS DallasFW

Posted by Libergirl

The Republican Attack on the American Dream

The GOP speaker of the House says social mobility for the poor is a core American value. His plans to cut Medicaid would almost certainly achieve the opposite.

In an age of political polarization, one of the few values with near-universal bipartisan support is upward mobility—the idea that poor young Americans should have a chance to escape poverty and become middle-class or even rich adults. Most people simply call it the American Dream. But to understand how Donald Trump’s presidency might help or hurt people’s chances of achieving that dream, the best place to look might not be inside the White House, but rather inside that other large, white, marble building a few blocks away.

In Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan has put upward mobility front and center in his new conservative reform plan. Ryan’s thesis sounds simple, moral, and intelligent: Work is the surest path out of poverty, and government programs should encourage low-income workers to find jobs, develop skills, and work their way off government support.

But unlike many liberal reformers, Ryan pushes a kind of minimalist-design-aesthetic approach to social policy—to add, one must first take away. With a deep belief that government support for the poor often hurts them in the long run, Ryan has repeatedly proposed to cut welfare programs by trillions of dollars in the next decade. More than two-thirds of the cuts in Ryan’s last budget came to programs for low-income people, like Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps.

There are two problems with Ryan’s approach. First, to build support for his anti-welfare agenda, he exaggerates the failures of America’s fight against poverty. “Americans are no better off today than they were before the War on Poverty began in 1964” is the first line of Ryan’s latest reform plan. This claim is the keystone to his thesis that anti-poverty efforts are actually pro-poverty traps. But Ryan’s statement relies on a nonsense measure of poverty that doesn’t account for tax credits or adjust for the spending habits of a modern family. By more reasonable measures, which account for the growth of tax credits and the falling cost of food, the poverty rate has fallen significantly since the 1960s, particularly among the elderly, thanks to many of the very government programs that Ryan has insisted on reforming, like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

But there is a second, more consequential downside of Ryan’s approach: It will undermine his larger stated goal to help poor children achieve upward mobility.

Take, for example, his goal to cut Medicaid, which provides insurance to the poor and long-term care for the old and sick. The most recent Republican budget would cut $2.1 trillion from Medicaid in the next ten years, including the repeal of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. As a result, more than 20 million people would lose health insurance, and in ten years, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would be cut by about one-third.

What effect might these cuts have on the upward mobility of poor children? Academic researchers already have an answer. Since Medicaid expansions occur state by state, rather than among all states at once, this provides an ideal dataset for comparing outcomes of similar children with different Medicaid eligibility from several states. Their conclusions suggest that Medicaid cuts could have a devastating cost on the future health, education achievement, and future income of today’s poor children.

In a 2015 paper “The Long-Term Effects of Early Life Medicaid Coverage,” the economists Sarah Miller and Laura R. Wherry found that poor children whose mothers had access to prenatal coverage under Medicaid later had lower obesity rates, higher high-school graduation rates, and higher incomes in adulthood. The authors even found that children of new mothers on Medicaid showed “less reliance on public assistance” as adults. Another 2015 paper by the economists David W. Brown, Amanda E. Kowalski, and Ithai Z. Lurie found that children who benefitted from Medicaid expansions earned higher wages as adults and collected less welfare from the government.

In other words, Medicaid and CHIP don’t seem to trap families in poverty, as conservatives often suggest. To the contrary, they help poor children escape poverty, so that as adults they are less reliant on government support.

Conservatives’ “less-is-more” approach to upward mobility is alluring to some for its unsentimental logic: If poverty is extremely uncomfortable, the poor will have no choice but to work their way out of it. But the research on Medicaid’s benefits for poor children suggests that Ryan and his acolytes have things perfectly backward. In fact, more government support for poor working families might be the most cost-effective way to fight poverty, not only because it makes poverty slightly easier to escape, but also because early investments in poor young children pay dividends later in their lives.

Among other things, Trump’s victory was about the American Dream and its perceived evaporation for many middle-class families. Counties with less upward mobility were more likely to support Trump, according to a widely circulated Gallup study. But as Republicans are poised to enact an undiluted conservative agenda, they should consider another intuitive frame for fighting poverty at a discount: Early money is like yeast. Investments in poor young children’s lives improve their adulthood outcomes, thus reducing government anti-poverty spending in the future. Slashing these investments to make room for large tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is a strategy to help rich families hoard opportunity for their own children, while poorer kids merely inherit their parents’ poverty.

Derek Thompson/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Simply Repealing Obamacare Will Hurt the White Working Class

Donald Trump’s pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act threatens to harm the voters who put him into office.

On January 20—quibbling over the Electoral College notwithstanding—Donald Trump will become president. For the first time in the seven years since its passage, Republicans will have what they need to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Trump has made some remarks indicating a full repeal of Obamacare might not be in the cards. But his own repeated campaign promises, the Republican Party platform, and dozens of congressional votes make it fair to expect that most of the law will be repealed or rolled back over the coming months. The three biggest provisions of the ACA—Medicaid expansion to all low-income people, the individual mandate to buy insurance, and the creation of a subsidy-backed private-insurance marketplace—are the most obvious candidates for the axe. Unfortunately for many of the millions of voters who elected a Republican president and Congress, cutting those provisions could place their lives in disarray.

The full-throated Republican rebellion against Obamacare since its passage was both a rejection of Obama’s policies and a reaction to a dysfunctional health-care system that proved unaffordable to many. Trump has been widely credited for tapping the economic anxiety of many white working-class voters, promising to help them make ends meet and make their lives better.

But white people who make less than $50,000 annually have derived particular benefit from Obamacare’s provisions, especially in the Rust Belt and in rural, white Republican strongholds. It’s been widely reported that rates of uninsurance dropped more for people of color than for white people in the years since Obamacare was passed, but that’s largely because people of color are generally more likely to fall into lower income brackets, where the Medicaid expansion and tax subsidies had the greatest effect on increasing coverage.

When stratified by income, however, it appears that among those whose incomes are less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level—just around $49,000 for a family of four this year—whites actually gained insurance at relatively high rates. Data from the 2016 and 2014 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement shows that the proportion of uninsured low-income white people dropped by 8.6 percentage points from 2013 to 2015, a reduction that was roughly similar to the decrease among Hispanic people, but which outpaced the national average of 8.1 percentage points, and dwarfed the decrease among black people in the same income groups. Members of the white working class, in other words, were particularly likely to gain coverage from Obamacare.

A closer look at some of the states that Trump captured reveals a much more nuanced picture of Obamacare’s role in the lives of low-income white people than his campaign-trail rhetoric might suggest. In the “coal-miner country” of Appalachia, the Affordable Care Act has been vital in shoring up collapsing rural-health systems that have become overburdened with the mounting health problems of their constituents.
West Virginia, which has been wracked by public-health problems, pollution, and has the most per-capita drug deaths in the country, has had to embrace Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and subsidies in order to provide affordable healthcare for all those coal miners, other low-income workers, and their extraordinary rates of disease and disability. While premiums for exchange plans have increased by double digits across the state, that largely reflects the cost of covering such a sick pool of rural enrollees, and most people in the state will never see those increases because of subsidies.

Just across the Big Sandy River, Kentucky’s corner of Appalachia is dealing with the same issues for similar populations of rural, low-income white people with similar health problems. Kentucky also expanded Medicaid to all low-income people, and over 60 percent of all the state’s residents approve of that expansion. Even more support maintaining the expansion in the future. Notably, the support for all of the Obamacare provisions in the state is lower when referred to by that name then when referred to by Kentucky’s own branded name for its exchange program—Kynect.

In the vaunted blue-collar pieces of the Rustbelt, where Trump broke through Hillary Clinton’s “blue wall” in his near-sweep of Midwestern battlegrounds, Obamacare also holds sway in the lives of lower-income working white people. In Ohio—whose Republican Governor John Kasich accepted the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion—the law helped cut uninsurance to 6 percent. The lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, prompted an emergency expansion of Medicaid to care for mothers and children affected by lead poisoning. And although Flint is a majority-black city, its lead crisis is a harbinger for other lead-related infrastructure crises in Rustbelt towns, which mostly skew rural and white. For citizens in those towns—quite literally in Middle America—maintaining robust federal public insurance could be a matter of life and death, and of the future of their children.

But insurance coverage is only a means to an end, and that end is health. While it is undeniable that several million Americans face rising or unaffordable premiums and prescription drugs, it is also true that millions of the worst-off Americans gained coverage at low cost or at no cost, and that it allowed many of them to visit physicians or go for check-ups without fear of bankruptcy for the first time in their lives. Most of those first-timers are white people working low-paying jobs, and for them that security couldn’t have come at a better time. Especially in the rural, whitest pockets of America, the opioid crisis and a staggering number of other morbidities have actually reversed the declining trend in mortality rates among white Americans that has often been taken as a birthright. For much of this group of people, their generation is the first to give birth to children who will not live longer than them.

For all the angst about Obamacare’s overreach, rural white America has long been dependent on public insurance. For one, these residents tend to be older than urban counterparts and thus rely more on Medicare. But even among the non-elderly, a quarter of all rural residents rely on Medicaid or other public insurance for their basic health-care needs. Many of these residents rallied around Trump’s vague plans to ease their economic issues, including the erosion of stable union-protected jobs. But one of the benefits that these people have lost the most and that has contributed to family economic woes the most is employer-sponsored health care. Public insurance—now bolstered by Obamacare—has taken up much of the slack.

Extending health-insurance coverage is not, of course, a guarantee of affordable or useful healthcare. But the ACA actually does fund several direct public-health initiatives that attempt to address rural America’s deepening health issues. The president-elect has largely neglected these in his scathing analysis, but the law authorizes funding for hundreds of new community-health centers and for sending physicians to long-neglected communities outside of urban centers. While so far, the law’s implementation has been a severe strain on rural hospitals, clinics, and the healthcare workforce that caters to many low-income white patients, that strain has come because millions of people with lifetimes of unmet medical need now have a way to finally get into the system. If the goal is to help these people, that might be a case for expanding the ACA’s coverage and capacity-building measures, not abandoning the attempt.

All but one of the plans currently in consideration by the congressional Republican leadership, however, would not only diminish Obamacare’s subsidies, but also restrict Medicaid in historically novel ways. The sudden removal of billions of dollars of Medicaid and subsidized private payments to rural health centers, reducing support below even 2012 levels, could be the final blow for many places that are the last lines of defense for America’s whitest communities.

Although tax reductions and lower premiums would likely benefit many of the healthiest and youngest adult residents of white America, they would distinctly harm exactly the kinds of vulnerable people that Republicans have placed at the center of their narrative.

According to an analysis from The Economist, the health of a county was the strongest predictor aside from race and education of the likelihood of its voters to switch from voting for President Obama in 2012 to voting for Trump in 2016. There might not be causality there, since on a county level, poor health outcomes are strongly associated with rurality, which is itself associated with whiteness, low-incomes, and less education. But the places that suffer the most and have flipped for Trump by the highest margins stand out as Rustbelt counties that have been hit hard by a number of other issues. While Obamacare has not been enough to solve their problems, the plans so far advanced by Republicans restrict federal funding for health crises and public health, as opposed to extending new avenues of coverage, care, and access.

The people who desperately need better health-insurance coverage and a more robust healthcare infrastructure among the stereotypical Republican base are black-lunged ex-coal miners in West Virginia who’ve lost pensions and union protections; children with opioid-addicted parents; hard-scrabble farmers who work 100-hour weeks just to rise above the poverty level; and abandoned auto- and steel-industry employees in polluted towns who now need public benefits just to feed their families. If anything, the years of experimentation with Obamacare have indicated that more investment is necessary to protect them. But it appears America will be going the other way.

By Vann R. Newark II

Posted by The NON-Conformist