Monthly Archives: March 2012

Autism on the Rise: But Why?

By Kamal Menghrajani

Profile Picture of a Boy

(Getty Images)

It was news that startled many. A new study from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention suggests that the prevalence of the disorder is much higher than previously thought. Up to 1 in 88 children is expected to develop autism or a related disorder, which is a 23 percent jump from the rate the CDC found just 2 years ago. Perhaps one million children and teens across the country are affected.

This morning on KQED’s Forum, autism experts discussed the significance of the new numbers and what progress is being made in the field of autism research.

The first question on everybody’s mind was whether the new number represents a true rise in the rate of autism – or is simply a reflection of the fact that more doctors are recognizing it.

“We’re not sure what the increase is due to. We do know that better identification, better diagnosis, and availability of services is contributing,” said Coleen Boyle, Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC. Continue reading

Just in Time for the Weekend! Background on Health Care in California

(alycat: Flickr)

(alycat: Flickr)

Admit it. The Supreme Court’s scrutiny of the health care overhaul has piqued your interest. You’ve read or heard stories about the oral arguments. But you feel guilty. You haven’t been able to keep up on how the federal health care law is playing out in the Golden State. State of Health is here to help.

We’ve rounded up four stories — filed by KQED Health Reporter Sarah Varney over the last 10 months — to help give you an overview. These stories all have to do with how California is moving forward in implementing the Affordable Care Act. Yes, the Supreme Court might overturn the ACA, but then again, it might not. Presuming the law goes forward, California is in a better position than most states to meet the 2014 full implementation.

In just under 22 minutes, you can get up to speed on where California stands. So put on your headphones and listen to the following stories: Continue reading

Politics in the High Court — Right, Left or Not at All?

(Mark Wilson: Getty Images)

(Mark Wilson: Getty Images)

Every news organization in the country is busy parsing the Supreme Court today and State of Health is no exception. But if you’re tired of arcane discussions of the Commerce Clause, the individual mandate and (heaven forbid) the 1867 Tax Anti-Injunction Act, read on.

In a “Health Law Hearings Wrap Up” this morning on KQED’s Forum, I perked up when the guests got going on how much to read into the justices’ questions. These are not the first legal experts to focus on Justice Kennedy, the perceived swing vote, who asked many tough questions of the attorney defending the government’s position on the constitutionality of the health care law.

But Vikram Amar, professor at the UC Davis School of Law urged caution in trying to analyze the questions too closely. “Justice Kennedy at some points in the past asked very tough questions of the government and ended up not striking down the law in question,” he said. Continue reading

Quick Read: Among Doctors, Fierce Reluctance to Let Go

Survey after survey shows people want a “good death,” at home, not surrounded by machines. And those same surveys show a minority of people fill out advance directives to spell out their wishes. But in this story, the patient has clearly stated wishes and a doctor committed to honoring them–until the doctor runs into harassment from one of his brethren, another doctor.

The conversation took place two years ago, but Dr. Daniel Matlock still recalls it quite vividly. You tend to remember when a physician colleague essentially brands you a Nazi. Dr. Matlock, a geriatrician who specializes in palliative care, had been called in to consult when a woman in her 70s arrived at the University of Colorado Hospital, unresponsive after a major stroke.

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Full Audio & Transcripts: Supreme Court’s Oral Arguments on the Health Law

(Jessica Marcy: KHN)

(Jessica Marcy: KHN)

The Supreme Court’s historic hearings of the Affordable Care Act have wrapped up. The Court addressed four issues over the last three days and held a total of six hours of oral arguments.

Below is complete audio and transcripts from each set of arguments.

First, the court heard arguments about whether it can even consider the case now. Under the new law, the first penalties would be assessed in 2015 for those who do not purchase health insurance. An arcane 1867 law says people can’t sue over a tax until they pay a tax. Must the court wait until 2015 to decide whether the health law is constitutional?

You can listen to the 90 minutes of oral arguments here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Or read on for the complete transcript as well as audio and transcripts from the other arguments:
Continue reading

Legal Levity: Moments of Humor During Historic Hearings

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was one of the justices making the occasional joke today. (Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court)

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was one of the justices making the occasional joke today. (Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court)

It was the hottest ticket inside the Beltway–the Supreme Court’s hearings on the federal health care law. Kaiser Health News reporter Phil Galewitz was determined to get in, but didn’t have a press pass (and no member of Congress gave him one, either). Instead–just by standing in line–he got in.

There were two sets of arguments today. For the earlier arguments, Galewitz only snagged a “three-minute pass” then parlayed it into a full six minutes. But for the second hearing about the Medicaid expansion, he got a special “gray” ticket for the full, one-hour session.

Galewitz picks up his story from there–and it turns out the Justices can be funny: Continue reading

Court Considers Whether Entire Health Care Law Should Be Struck Down

By: KQED News Staff and Wires

(Jessica Marcy: KHN)

(Jessica Marcy: Kaiser Health News)

The Supreme Court signaled Wednesday that it could throw out other key parts of the Affordable Care Act if it first finds the individual insurance requirement unconstitutional.

On the third and last day of arguments, the justices appeared to accept the administration’s argument that at least two important insurance changes are so closely tied to the insurance requirement that they could not survive without it. Those two changes are the popular provisions that both require insurers to offer insurance to applicants with pre-existing conditions and also requires insurers to charge the same rates to people who are roughly the same age, regardless of their health.

Those changes should go, the Obama Administration argued, because without the individual mandate, people might wait until they’re sick before they signed up for coverage. Not enough people would be in the health insurance pool to spread risk. Ruin could come to the insurance market.

In short the Court faces three scenarios if it strikes down the individual mandate: Continue reading

Audio/Transcripts of Supreme Court Hearings on the Fate of the Health Law

Updated 12:15pm PT

The Supreme Court heard two sets of oral arguments today in its final day of considering the health care overhaul. The second arguments were extended and wrapped up about an hour ago. In that session, the Court addressed the question:

Is the Medicaid expansion constitutional?

Remember that Medicaid is the health care plan for the poor and disabled that is run by individual states with both state and federal dollars. The Affordable Care Act expands those eligible for Medicaid to adults earning 133 percent of the federal poverty level. But in order for states to continue receiving any federal money for Medicaid, the ACA requires them to comply with this expansion. Twenty-six states have challenged this requirement saying that withholding all monies for Medicaid is coercive and therefore unconstitutional. Those states which support the expansion–including California–say that Congress can constitutionally attach such conditions under what’s known as the “Spending Clause.”

You can listen to the complete oral arguments about Medicaid expansion here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Or read on for the complete transcript … and for audio/transcripts of all the Court’s earlier sessions:
Continue reading

Quick Read: Comic Relief–Parody of the Health Overhaul

Feeling overwhelmed by the Supreme Court’s consideration of the federal health law? Here’s parody–both pro and con–that might bring you some relief. For admittedly-partisan satire, you can also watch Stephen Colbert. It’s from last October, but could have aired yesterday.

With all the Serious and Important Coverage of the Supreme Court’s hearings on the Affordable Care Act, it might be a good time for some comic relief in the form of health reform parodies and satire. Are they funny? Depends on your political orientation.

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