Entries in Health Care (57)


Obama Budget Includes $235 Million For Mental Health Care

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is asking for $235 million as part of his new budget proposal to fund mental health initiatives. Of the funds, $130 million will be used to train teachers and others to identify signs of mental illness in students and provide them with access to treatment.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a blog on her agency's website Tuesday that the funds include $205 million to help identify mental health problems, improve access to mental health services and support safer school environments. The plan would affect at least 8,000 schools, according to Sebelius. Another $30 million will go toward public health research on gun violence.

"We cannot ignore the fact that 60 percent of people with mental health conditions and nearly 90 percent of people with substance use disorders don't receive the care they need," Sebelius said in the post.

According to a January report, the Obama administration planned to spend $50 million to fund Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), which would train teachers to identify signs of mental illness or provide "Mental Health First Aid" and ensure that students have access to mental health care. According to the report, Project AWARE would reach 750,000 young people.

Another $50 million would go to training 5,000 people to become mental health experts at the master's level to help alleviate the shortage of mental health professionals. The funds would also support state-based strategies aimed at helping those between the ages of 16 and 25 get access to and navigate behavioral treatment programs.

Mental health experts say it is vital to treat mental illnesses as early as possible. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, half of all lifetime cases of mental illness can be diagnosed by age 14 and approximately three-quarters of these cases are diagnosed by age 24.

Dr. Paramjit Joshi, chair of Behavioral Health at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C., says that on average, eight years pass between a person showing signs of mental illness and being diagnosed with a disease. She says if children and teens are diagnosed early, they are less likely to drop out of school or turn to substance abuse.

"Like other illnesses, if you can catch this early, the benefits are monumental," said Joshi. "Children spend the majority of their day in the school setting. I think it will be wonderful for teachers to be better prepared and be aware what are signs and symptoms of these conditions early and refer them for appropriate services."

By centering the initiative in schools throughout the country, Joshi says it could also help make mental illness a less taboo topic.

"I think I also there's a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, if there is service provided in that school it puts a dent in that stigma," said Joshi. "It would be great if mental health is incorporated into overall health of the child."

Mel Riddile, associate director for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, says in order for these initiatives to work they need to be more than just short training sessions.

Riddile says it's important schools have relationships with parents and the local mental health care system so that teachers and school officials feel there is someone that can help them if they have concerns about a student.

"When people have nobody to talk to, they won't ask the question if they don't think they're going to get [help]," said Riddile. "It's a matter of creating a network, where when issues come up they can ask a question."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Parents of Violent Mental Disorder Patients Share Their Stories on Capitol Hill

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The father of a young man whose battle with mental illness ended in suicide told a bipartisan group of Congress members Tuesday about the sometimes nightmarish struggles he faced trying to help his son.

“I can’t tell you the horror it is to have a child, behind you, going down an interstate highway, trying to get him to the place to save him and he tells you, ‘If you stop the car, I’ll jump out and kill myself with these trucks behind us,’” Pat Milam said, recounting the trauma of care for his young adult son, who had swallowed a bottle of pills in one of several attempts to commit suicide.

That attempt was ultimately unsuccessful. But at the age of 24, Matthew Milam would take his own life, a mere eight days after being discharged from a psychiatric ward where he was treated for bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.

He used a makeshift explosive device on that final attempt. Police had previously told his father they could not charge Matthew with a crime after he had alerted them to finding materials to construct pipe bombs in his room at home.

Milam was one of three parents who appeared at a mental health and violence forum discussion Tuesday on Capitol Hill that was hosted by the oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The body called the meeting due to its bearing over the private health industry.

The event Tuesday is the latest such panel to be formed as the nation calls for investigations into the causes of a series of mass shootings in recent years.

The guests blamed what they perceived as a failed American mental health system for their family’s ordeals, and in the case of Milam, death.

Pete Earley, whose own adult son had been successfully treated for illness, said vigorous and constant outpatient service was required.

“We need to change the commitment process,” he said. “But we can’t just change that if you don’t back it up with services. Because there’s no place to go.”

According to the Child Mind Institute, 15 million Americans under the age of 24 suffer from a mental disability, but there are only approximately 7,500 certified child psychiatrists.

A national stigma surrounding mental illness, combined with costs, weak health insurance coverage, and a bureaucratic maze of state and local guidelines have resulted in the average patient requiring two years to be identified and seek treatment according to the institute.

Earley, a former Washington Post reporter, documented his son’s case in his book, Crazy. He told the panel a turning point came when the family found a dedicated case worker, who helped the young man adjust into independent living with two roommates also undergoing treatment.

“That took a tremendous job off of me,” Earley said. “I could be the parent.”

Earley’s son is now employed in the state of Virginia as a “peer-to-peer” support specialist, helping incarcerated individuals with mental illness overcome their disability.

“Most people with mental illnesses can get better. You got to give them hope. You’ve got to give them the tools to do it,” he said.

The panel was also joined by Liza Long, whose blog about her own trials with a violently mentally ill 13-year-old went viral after the December shooting deaths of 20 Connecticut first graders and six adults. “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” was named for the gunman.

Long, who said her son is currently taking a “cornucopia of drugs” to control his rage, says sometimes parents’ only safe option is to have their children charged with a crime.

“We live in fear of the future,” she said. “What will happen when my son turns 18? Will my son harm himself or others? How will I pay for all the services I need to keep my child functioning?”

The mother asked for increased funding for the school counselors, research, and consistent community resources. In addition, she asked the lawmakers to consider an expanded budget for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Representative Timothy Murphy, D-Pa., led the forum. In his closing remarks he told the assembled experts and lawmakers that while the discussion helped members, “understand the fears, the worries, the love, the frustration,” of the issue at hand, the general welfare of the country demanded a thoughtful and deliberate way forward.

“I want to make sure we don’t do some knee-jerk reactions and think because we did something, we did the right thing,” he said. “The worst thing we can do is lull ourselves into some state of sleep, and say, ‘Well, we took care of mental illness so we’re done for the next decade.’”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Ex-Con Who Wanted to Go Back to Jail for Health Care Denied

Zoonar/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- Ex-convict Frank Morrocco brazenly walked out of a supermarket Nov. 26 with $23 in stolen items, hoping his petty theft would land him back behind bars, where he could receive treatment for his leukemia.

On Monday, Morrocco turned himself in after he was informed that there was a federal warrant out for his arrest for violating the terms of his five-year supervised release, according to the Buffalo News. Morrocco was released from prison last December after serving two decades on drug charges.

On Monday, a federal judge denied him his wish to return.

Morrocco, 56, made what he saw as a life-or-death decision two weeks ago when he shoplifted from a supermarket.

When the Amherst, N.Y., man appeared before the judge on Monday, he was ordered to go to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and apply for health coverage under the New York Bridge plan, which is run by the state and caters to people with pre-existing conditions.

“I am thankful that it looks like I’m going to get health care coverage,” Morrocco told the Buffalo News on Monday.

It’s not the first time a sick person has turned to crime in order to get health care.

Last year, Richard James Verone handed a teller at RBC Bank in Gastonia, N.C., a note demanding $1 and claiming that he had a gun, according to the police report.

With a growth in his chest, two ruptured disks and no job, Verone hoped a three-year stint in prison would afford him the health care he needed.

“I’m sort of a logical person, and that was my logic, what I came up with,” Verone told reporters. “If it is called manipulation, then out of necessity because I need medical care, then I guess I am manipulating the courts to get medical care.”

Verone was released from prison last July.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Health Care System ‘Wasted’ $750 Billion in 2009, Report Finds

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. health care system wasted $750 billion on unnecessary and overpriced medical tests and treatments, administrative fees, medical fraud and missed prevention opportunities in 2009, a new report found.

The report, released Thursday by the Institute of Medicine, suggested the money squandered on services that failed to improve Americans’ health could have provided health insurance for more than 150 million workers or covered the salaries of all of the nation’s first responders for more than 12 years.  And 75,000 deaths might have been prevented if states delivered higher-quality care.

“I was surprised at how much waste there seems to be,” said report author Dr. Mark Smith, a former expert adviser to President Clinton’s Task Force on National Health Care Reform and president of the Oakland-based California HealthCare Foundation.  “We’re spending money in ways that don’t seem to improve people’s health.”

“Much of what’s in this report is beyond partisan politics,” he said.  “There may be disagreement on how to get there but there’s pretty broad agreement on where we need to go.”

Dr. Peter Pronovost, director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, said the report is a reminder that the current health care system is failing and needs to be reformed.

“We have been talking about improving quality and value for over a decade,” said Pronovost, who was not involved in the report.  “Yes we need to do this. …The question is how.”

The U.S. spends more than twice as much per person on health care as all other industrialized countries despite being the only developed country that doesn’t provide basic health insurance for all its citizens, according to Dr. Timothy Johnson, ABC News senior medical contributor and author of The Truth About Getting Sick in America.

The U.S. also has the lowest life expectancy among the top five spenders on health care, Johnson wrote in his book.

Roughly $190 billion was wasted on administrative costs in 2009, according to the report.  And medical service and product prices above competitive benchmarks cost $105 billion.

Smith said the Affordable Care Act’s medical loss ratio provision limits the amount of each premium dollar insurers can use to pay indirect health care costs, which include administrative costs and profits.  The provision is designed to curb administrative costs and high prices in health care, he said.

Unnecessary and inefficiently delivered health care services cost $340 billion in 2009, according to the report.  And missed prevention opportunities cost the health care system $55 billion.

Medical fraud perpetrated by payers, clinicians and patients cost about $75 billion in 2009.

“I hope our policy makers read this report closely. It should serve as the foundation going forward for how to fix our health care system,” said Dr. Kenneth E. Thorpe, former deputy assistant secretary for health policy under President Clinton and current professor of health policy at Emory University in Atlanta. “These fixes would reduce the cost of health care and improve outcomes.”

Smith said Americans should expect better value from their health care.

“It’s not about spending more or less money.  Are you getting better value?” he said. “It’s possible and necessary.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court Curbs Health Reform Expansion of Medicaid

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- While the Supreme Court narrowly ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional, it did place some important restrictions on a Medicaid expansion that is a backbone of the law’s efforts to insure more Americans.

In addition to requiring citizens to buy health insurance, the law also expanded Medicaid and tied federal funding to that expansion of state programs. In order to provide insurance to more poor people, the law said that states who did not accept the Medicaid expansion would risk losing existing Medicaid funds.

Today the Court said that as long as states who chose not to participate in the law’s expansion of Medicaid do not lose existing funds, the Medicaid the expansion is constitutional. The vote was 5-4 with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberal bloc.

The end result could be that more states opt out of the Medicaid expansion, which won’t be enacted until 2014, and the law could end up insuring fewer currently uninsured Americans.

The bottom line from Roberts: “The Court today limits the financial pressure the Secretary may apply to induce States to accept the terms of the Medicaid expansion.As a practical matter, states may now choose to reject expansion; that is the whole point.”

But what is interesting is that liberal justices like Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer joined the five conservatives to insist that the states couldn’t be threatened with a loss of funding.

“Although many will be surprised that Chief Justice Roberts joined the Court’s progressive bloc to uphold the mandate, the far bigger surprise is that two members of that bloc-Justices Breyer and Kagan-joined the conservatives in holding that the Medicaid expansion exceeded Congress’s power,” says Stephen Vladeck, of American University Washington College of Law.” As a matter of precedent rather than politics, the Breyer and Kagan votes on Medicaid are likely to be far more significant going forward than the Roberts vote on the mandate,” he said.

Paul Clement, an attorney for the states called this part of the ruling a “significant victory." He said, “The states will have a chance to make the choice. They will no longer have the gun to their head.”

Renee M. Landers of Suffolk University Law school says the impact of today’s ruling, “could reduce the number of people who will be eligible for Medicaid because it is easier for the states to opt out.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court Health Care Ruling: What It Means For You

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court ruled five to four Thursday morning that President Obama’s health-care law, his top domestic policy achievement, is constitutional because the “individual mandate” -- the penalty individuals must pay for not buying health insurance -- can be considered a tax.

Here is what the decision means for you:

  • You have to buy health insurance or be subject to a tax.
  • If you are under 26, you can get health insurance from the plan your parents use.
  • If you’re on Medicare, you can get free mammograms.
  • If you have what’s called a pre-existing condition, you can get health insurance.
  • Insurance companies can’t deny you coverage even if you get sick and make a mistake on your health insurance application.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Twins Born to Dead Father Ineligible for Benefits

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Twins conceived in Florida from the frozen sperm of their father who died 18 months before their birth are not entitled to survivors benefits, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The twins’ mother, Karen Capato, became pregnant through in vitro fertilization after the death of her husband, Robert Capato, from cancer in 2002. The Social Security Administration rejected her claim for Social Security survivors benefits, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in a 9-0 vote.

“Tragic circumstances gave rise to this case,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote.

But the Social Security Act Congress passed in 1935, she wrote, calls for resolution of Karen Capato’s application for child’s insurance benefits to come under state law. “We cannot replace that reference by creating a uniform federal rule the statute’s text scarcely supports.”

Under Florida law, a child may inherit property from a deceased parent only if the child was conceived during the parent’s lifetime.

Ginsburg’s ruling interprets the Social Security Act, signed 77 years ago, for an era in which sperm and eggs can be frozen and stored indefinitely.

“The technology that made the twins’ conception and birth possible, it is safe to say, was not contemplated by Congress,” she wrote.

The first “test tube baby,” Louise Brown, was born in 1978.

Ginsburg said other states may take a different approach, adding that posthumously conceived children can inherit property in California “if the child is in utero within two years of a parent’s death.”

A bill in the Maryland legislature would allow children born within two years of a biological parent’s death to receive inheritance, as long as the parent consented in writing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gingrich Blasts Obama’s Birth Control Policy

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- Newt Gingrich upped his attacks against President Obama Sunday over his administration’s requirement that some religious hospitals offer co-pay-free birth control under the new health care law.

Gingrich’s comments come after a week of outrage from the Catholic Church and his fellow GOP presidential candidates over the policy.

“This is a tremendous infringement of religious liberty,” Newt Gingrich said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Every time you turn around the secular government is shrinking the rights of religious institutions in America.”

While the policy was proposed in August, the issue resurfaced last week after Catholic churches across America read letters from the church’s leadership last Sunday condemning the administration’s policy.

The letters came in response to a Jan. 20 announcement that Catholic hospitals where the majority of employees are not Catholic will be required under the new law to provide free contraception.

“The fact is what you’re saying is there cannot be a genuine Catholic hospital,” said Gingrich, who converted to Catholicism in 2009. “It will have to be subordinated to a secular government.”

Gingrich, also appearing Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation, added that the policy proved that the Obama administration was at “war” with the Catholic church and launching “the most outrageous assault on religious freedom in American history.”

The former House speaker said policies such as this prove that Obama is “so unacceptable” that he will support his rival Mitt Romney in the general election if the former Massachusetts governor is the Republican nominee.

“I believe President Obama is such a direct threat to the future of this country that I will support the Republican nominee because I believe that President Obama is a disaster,” Gingrich said.

But with the primary season still raging on, Gingrich vowed that his campaign was nowhere near over.

The former speaker was is projected to finish a distant second behind Romney Saturday in the Nevada caucuses, but said Sunday on Meet the Press that he will be in “much more favorable territory” by Super Tuesday, when his home state of Georgia goes to the polls.

Gingrich vowed that “by the time Texas is over, we’ll be very, very competitive in delegate count.”

Texas’s primary is currently set for April 3, but a Supreme Court legal battle over the Lone Star state’s redistricting maps threatens to delay the primary until later in the year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Budget Crisis Could Mean $123 Billion in Medicare Cuts Over 10 Years

Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The partisan divide that doomed the congressional “supercommittee” threatens to trigger automatic spending cuts that would weigh heavily on public education, housing and other programs that Americans rely on daily.

Unless members of Congress come up with a budget solution, an automatic cut known as “sequester” will kick in for the fiscal year 2013, cutting about $1.2 trillion from the budget in 10 years. The sequester would reduce annual spending by $109 billion, starting Jan. 2, 2013. The cuts are divided equally between the Defense Department and social programs.

Two sectors where Americans are likely to see a direct negative impact are public education and public housing. The sequester would cut more than $3 billion cut from the Department of Education, and mean a more than $3.5 billion decline in funding for housing and urban development programs.

Less money would trickle down to states because of cuts, affecting people who have children in public schools and those who live in public housing. Much of the drop in the housing sector is in community development block grants, according to an analysis by the Federal Funds Information for States.

Medicare, community and migrant health centers, and health services for American Indians would be trimmed by 2 percent. That amounts to $123 billion in a 10-year time period for Medicare alone. Most of the cuts would come from reducing the amount of reimbursements the federal government gives to health care providers, not directly from Medicare recipients. But it would make it more challenging for the elderly to find doctors, some experts say.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children would see a $600 million reduction. At a time when poverty and hunger are at a record high, many advocates say, the cuts are likely to be detrimental to thousands of families reliant on federal aid.

The sequester would also hamper the government’s ability to implement the Affordable Care Act by reducing the amount of money that’s needed to enact some programs.

Some of the most important parts of the health care law are set to go into effect after 2014, including expanded coverage for Medicaid, mandatory employer coverage and insurance exchanges, a marketplace in which people could shop for and compare insurance plans.

Entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Social Security, however, would remain sheltered, as would funding for veterans programs, income tax credits and food stamps. Funding for these safety net programs is considered mandatory and would not be affected by the sequester.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Growing Number of Mothers Making Money on Clinical Trials

Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(SAN ANTONIO) -- Yvette Santana, a 37-year-old mother of four who was diagnosed with diabetes, is one of a growing number of mothers who participate in clinical trials to make extra money.

Before she started participating in studies five years ago, despite working two jobs, Santana could not always afford to buy an $80-box of glucose test strips to monitor her diabetes. She would sacrifice her health to pay bills and buy groceries for her family.

"It gets very hard. You have to see what's more important, your kids and their needs or your own. And as a mother, it's always your kids," said Santana.

But participating in clinical trials provide her with insulin, health check-ups, and free strips. Santana says now she's stable and healthier than she's ever been.

Jennifer Martinez, a 33-year-old mother of four, is not struggling as much to make ends meet. She lives in a two-story brick home in an upscale community. Both she and her husband participate in studies to make extra money, which they use to go to Hawaii once a year.

Martinez started participating in studies when she was 23 so she wouldn't have to put her children in day care.

"It was really just to be able to stay at home with my kids," Martinez said. "I did one study and thought, 'Okay, that's like a lot of money in a short amount of time.' So I started to kind of pick it up and do a little bit more."

Martinez surfs the Web several times a day to find study announcements. She looks for "not crazy studies" -- taking medications that don't affect her heart or her brain and have only minor "over-the-counter symptoms" like nausea. She says she's never had a side effect.

Martinez makes an average of $7,000 a year participating in studies, but has made up to $13,000 in one year. She does about three studies a year, but if she has a big bill to pay or Christmas is coming up, she'll do an extra one.

Her advice to other moms? It's tough to get accepted for studies. You have to be diligent and respond to announcements quickly.

One company Martinez works for is Clinical Trials Texas. Kay Scroggins, the president and CEO of CTT, founded the company out of her home in 2001 with one study.

The company pays all volunteers a $40-to-$100 stipend per visit for their travel and time. The stipend depends on what kind of procedure the study entails.

Scroggins says these studies have "changed a lot" over the last 10-15 years.

"The qualification criteria to be in the study are much more complex and so in the industry we talk about the squeezing the funnel so to speak because you start with a large population and as you go through the criteria one after the other you start eliminating people. And so you come down with a very small group of people that would actually qualify for this study."

About 10 percent of the patients involved in the studies are healthy, according to Scroggins, and all others have pre-existing conditions.

When doing preliminary testing on volunteers, the company has found several cases of breast cancer, hepatitis and HIV.

"They would not have found that if they would not have been in a study," said Scroggins. "A lot of our patients will come in and be very depressed and be put on a medication that they may not have been able to have access to otherwise and seen a big improvement where they're back working. They can interact with their families again."

Dr. Arthur Caplan, the director of the Penn Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, says that clinical trials are usually safe, but there are some risks you should be aware of.

"There are risks that something could go wrong, but it depends on what you're doing and what degree of research is involved. The more they're paying you, the more your radar should go up. They're paying you more because there's more risk or more pain involved."

Caplan also warns that if something goes wrong, your insurance company often will not cover it.

"You have to read the fine print. The company may say that those costs will be covered by your insurance company. I'm here to tell you they won't. Your insurance company will not pay for any injuries you get serving as a subject in a trial you signed up for."

Caplan says he can see why participating in studies is attractive, especially to people who don't have medical insurance, but he says you can't kid yourself. "Don't think that being seen by clinical trial technicians is a substitute for health care. At the end of the day, these companies are trying to deliver data to the pharmaceutical companies. They are not your doctors."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio