Pic of the day


Click to enlargeReuters/Gene Blevins

Lightning bolts light up night skies during a time exposure of the Daggett airport during a monsoon storm passing over the high desert early Wednesday, north of Barstow, California July 1, 2015.

Wow!

Myths and reality about Medicare and Medicaid

A pair of recent studies use evidence to challenge two widely held beliefs, namely that undocumented immigrants are draining the Medicare trust fund and Medicaid provides poor quality medical care.

In the first instance, a study conducted by investigators from Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York and published online in mid-June by the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that undocumented immigrants pay more into the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund than they take out.

The second study, released June 25 and conducted by researchers at The Commonwealth Fund, found that in 2014, 95% of Medicaid patients who were covered all year had a regular doctor, and 55% said they received excellent or very good care.

“I think this underscores the need for evidence-based policymaking,” Sara Collins, PhD…a co-author of the organization’s study told MedPage Today. “It’s important that everyone look at the data that’s available.”

Between 2000 and 2011, unauthorized immigrants generated a substantial surplus for the Medicare Trust Fund — $35 billion, according to the Harvard study. That ranges to between $2.2 billion and $3.8 billion per year, or $316 per capita for that population, compared with $106 per capita for the rest of the American population…

On the Medicaid side of the equation, according to the Commonwealth Fund report…Medicaid patients ages 19-64 had similar experiences to people with private insurance and were in far better circumstances than those who lacked insurance altogether. Among the uninsured, the survey found, 77% of people reported having a regular doctor, with only 40% saying they received good care.

“There’s some conventional wisdom that Medicaid is not very good coverage, but this shows how well Medicaid does in enabling people to protect themselves,” Collins said. “It may be a surprise to many, but these figures do demonstrate that it’s certainly better to have Medicaid than to have no coverage at all.”…

Perhaps most telling, 19% of Medicaid beneficiaries reported having some kind of issue related to paying medical bills. About one-third of people with private insurance – and 47% of uninsured – reported the similar struggles.

Given the still-controversial Medicaid expansion called for by the Affordable Care Act, and the beating Medicaid coverage has taken in some quarters as a result, the survey findings call for a fresh look at what Medicaid really delivers, Collins said…

I hope you’re not surprised that evidence and data-driven analysis reveals a more positive outlook than conventional wisdom or conservative ideology. Now, let’s make it even better!

Expansion of Medicare to all citizens within a single-payer system reduces costs by cutting out the insurance industry slice of the pie. Congress isn’t likely to have the courage for that. But, the experience of Social Security – with operating costs about 80% cheaper than anything the insurance industry offers – proves the possibility.

The same holds true for Medicaid. And I may as well throw in my favorite criticism of the provisions as designed by Congress. There is no legitimate reason preventing taxpayers in general from enjoying the same fixed, government-negotiated rates for prescription drugs that are offered members of the armed services.

Scientist faked HIV breakthrough — sentenced to prison

A former Iowa State University scientist who altered blood samples to make it appear he had achieved a breakthrough toward a potential vaccine against HIV was sentenced on Wednesday to more than four and a half years in prison for making false statements in research reports.

Dong-Pyou Han, 58, also must pay $7.2m to a federal government agency that funded the research. He entered a plea agreement in February admitting guilt to two counts of making false statements.

Government prosecutors said Han’s misconduct dates to 2008 when he worked at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland under Professor Michael Cho, who was leading a team testing an experimental HIV vaccine on rabbits. Cho’s team began receiving NIH funding, and he soon reported the vaccine was causing rabbits to develop antibodies to HIV, which was considered a major breakthrough. Han said he initially accidentally mixed human blood with rabbit blood, making the potential vaccine appear to increase an immune defense against HIV, the virus that can cause Aids. Han continued to spike the results to avoid disappointing Cho, his mentor, after the scientific community became excited that the team could be on the verge of a vaccine.

Iowa State recruited Cho in 2009, and his team – including Han – continued the research with NIH funding. A group of researchers at Harvard University found in January 2013 the promising results had been achieved with rabbit blood spiked with human antibodies…

Government prosecutors sought prison time to serve as a deterrent to Han and others who might consider research fraud.

Is this a positive sign – or window dressing? I’d like to believe it’s the former.

There are new science review publications rolled out by hustlers just to give the appearance of peer-review – for a fee. There is no shortage of quacks ripping off the current generation of Luddites every week with junk science to reinforce – and profit from – fears of modern medicine.

London gets their first zero-emission double-decker bus this year


Click to enlarge

London’s public transport network is about to get a lot greener, with Mayor Boris Johnson announcing that the world’s first purpose-built pure electric double-decker bus will hit the city’s streets later this year. The announcement was made at the Clean Bus Summit, where 24 cities around the world committed to putting ultra-low emission buses on the road.

Public transport in the UK’s biggest city has been inching toward a greener future for years now, announcing its first hybrid buses back in 2009. There are now more than 1,300 of those on the streets of the capital, and it’s time for the next big step.

The new all-electric buses were produced in conjunction with BYD, which worked on the tricky problem of fitting enough batteries into the zero emissions vehicles to provide enough power.

There’s no mention of exactly how many all-electric buses are heading for London, but the first is due to arrive in October, which will enter service on route 16 in October, running between Victoria Station and Cricklewood.

It’s not just London that’s revising its public transport infrastructure for the better. The move forms part of a wider effort, with 24 cities around the world planning to put 40,000 ultra-low emission buses on the road by 2020.

I wonder if time’s right for nudging Santa Fe towards EV buses? The city was first in the United States to have NatGas-powered buses.

BYD is making a global push with their buses. More competition coming, no doubt.