Category: Health care

A Cure for Plantar Fasciitis

The daily walk: so important!

The daily walk: so important!

I’ve walked three miles every morning for the last 25 years. Walking helps keeps me mentally balanced, reduces stress, helps ward off heart disease, depression and diabetes. It gives me time and space to clear my head, and frankly is the closest I ever come to meditating. It’s a must for my dog, too, who expects his daily constitution. To me, daily walking is an indispensable activity.

So last year when I came down with a serious case of plantar fasciitis and heel spurs, it might as well have been the end of the world. The pain was debilitating. I just couldn’t believe it was possible to wear out one’s feet by walking regularly. It didn’t make sense. I was desperate to make the pain go away, so I tried arch supports, shoe inserts, and all sorts of springy shoes that advertised they would help the problem. Nothing helped. I went to a podiatrist who diagnosed the problem with x-rays, recommended traditional physical therapy (at $75/hour) and cortisone injections into my foot, but the idea of sticking a needle into my foot just made me cringe. Plus, the doctor couldn’t give me any assurance that these treatments would cure the problem. It was all just stuff we could try.

Then one day during a chiropractic appointment, I complained to my practitioner, mostly for catharsis, about my plantar fasciitis and heel spurs and how they were keeping me from my daily walks. I didn’t expect him to do anything about it. I just wanted to vent.

To my great surprise, though, he said he could cure it and begged me to give him a chance to treat it.

No one had ever said anything to me like that before.

Court Rules Corporations Aren’t People, Can’t Exercise Religion

The United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously today (pdf) that a private, for-profit corporation is not a “person” capable of “religious exercise,” and so cannot be excused from complying with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) for religious reasons. The case centered around a lawsuit brought against the U.S. government by Autocam Corporation and Autocam Medical, LLC two for-profit, secular corporations that make products for the automotive and medical industries. The companies are owned and controlled by members of the Kennedy family, all of whom are practicing Roman Catholics. The Kennedy family complained that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employees’ health insurance cover FDA- approved contraceptives would force the family to violate the teachings of their church. The Court ruled that since a corporation cannot exercise religion, it cannot claim that its religious rights are being infringed by the Affordable Care Act. The ruling has implications for other corporations, like Hobby Lobby, that have made the same claim.

Female Politicians Fight Republican War on Women

Ohio State Senator Nina Turner has introduced a bill that would require men seeking prescription drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction to submit to a mental and physical exams to assure they have appropriate medical reasons for obtaining the drug, and they would also have to get tested for HIV. Rep. Turner says the legislature should show the same concern about men’s reproductive health as they do women’s reproductive health. The bill is part of a growing national backlash against a wave of Republican-enacted bills that restrict women’s access to reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortions. Other female legislators across the U.S. have introduced bills that focus on men’s reproductive systems, too. Oklahoma Senator Constance Johnson introduced an amendment to the state’s “Personhood” bill that would make it illegal for men to ejaculate outside of a woman’s vagina, saying such an act “shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.” Illinois House Representative Kelly Cassidy introduced an amendment to a forced ultrasound bill that would order men to watch a graphic video depicting Viagra’s side effects before they could obtain a prescription for the drug. A bill filed by Virginia State Senator Janet Howell would require men to submit to rectal exams before getting a Viagra prescription. In Georgia, a state representative introduced a bill sharply limiting men’s ability to get a vasectomy.

 

Source: Huffington Post, June 28, 2013

House Republicans Renew Attack on Womens Rights

Chart: Guttmacher Institute

Chart: Guttmacher Institute

House Republicans passed symbolic legislation aimed at further restricting women’s ability to obtain an abortion nationwide — legislation that stands no chance of surviving the Senate, and that the President has vowed to veto. This week House Republicans voted to limit women’s right to obtain an abortion until the first 20 weeks after conception. Republicans passed the measure even though they know it is illegal because it defies the Supreme Court’s 1973 Rowe vs. Wade ruling that says women can legally obtain abortions up until the time a doctor deems a fetus is viable, or can live outside the womb, generally around the 24th week of gestation. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona), who brought the bill, initially did not include any exceptions for rape or incest, saying in a committee hearing that that was because “the incidence of pregnancy from rape is very low.” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), defending the bill, in a crazy statement went even further, saying he felt abortions should be restricted to 15 weeks, because that’s the point at which male fetuses can put their hand between their legs and “feel pleasure.” And Republicans’ war on women doesn’t stop there. In Wisconsin, Republicans just passed a bill that will force women seeking abortions to obtain medically unnecessary ultrasounds first. It also requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinics in which they work, a provision that will shut down at least one Planned Parenthood clinic in the state. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says he will sign the bill. Similar bills have appeared in states throughout the union. In fact, banning abortion is almost all Republicans have been working on with any vigor in the last few years. The number of bills brought to restrict abortion in various ways has skyrocketed in the U.S. since 2010, limiting the rights of women all over the country.

Canadian Ad Likens “Social Smoking” to Social Farting

A new TV ad campaign by the Ontario Ministry of Health is aimed at convincing cigarette smokers who say they are just “social smokers” that they are really full-fledged smokers who need to get over their denial and quit smoking. The ad shows a nice-looking young lady sitting on her bed, chatting confidentially with an unidentified female whose back is to the camera. The young lady denies she is a farter. “It’s true that I fart,” she says demurely to the companion, “but I wouldn’t call myself a ‘farter.’ I’m a ‘social farter,’” she says.  She is then shown at a party, dancing with friends and farting. She approaches a guy at the party and flirtatiously asks him if he’d like to “go outside for a fart.” He enthusiastically agrees to go. The two go to the porch and take turns farting together in the evening air. Toward the end of the ad, on-screen text says “Social smoking is as ridiculous and social farting,” and directs viewers to the website QuitTheDenial.ca, which leads to a Facebook page that says, “…social farting? It is as ridiculous as social smoking. If you smoke, you smoke. Period. If that’s not OK with you, we’ve got the tools to help you quit.” A different ad in the same vein, “Social Nibbler,” shows a guy grabbing food off other people’s plates and denying he’s a nibbler. “I’m a social nibbler,” he insists.

Source:  Social Farter (YouTube) – Canadian Ministry of Health, published March 11, 2013

 

American Heart Association Helps Walgreens Profit from Cigarettes

WalgreensMarlboro1

Cigarettes and toys displayed together in a “trusted” Walgreens Store.

This month, Walgreens’ webpage cheerfully chirps “Celebrate Heart Health Month” as it promotes its long-standing fundraising partnership with the American Heart Association. Until February 28, Walgreens says, customers can “purchase a paper heart at any of our 7,000 Walgreens stores nationwide” to support the American Heart Association’s mission of “building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” It all sounds happy and wonderful, but don’t be fooled. Walgreens’ promotion has a dark underbelly that it would rather you not see.

In Wrongful Death Suit, Colorado Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses are Not Viable Persons

hypocrisy-meterOn New Year’s Day in 2006, 31 year old Lori Stodghill went to the emergency room at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado, short of breath, vomiting, and seven months pregnant with twins. As they wheeled her into the examining room, she passed out. The ER staff tried to resuscitate her, but a blockage in the main artery going to Lori’s lungs caused her to have a massive heart attack, killing her and her twins less than an hour after she arrived at the ER.  Her obstetrician, who was supposed to be on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. Stodghill’s husband subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the hospital, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) based in Englewood, Colorado. Catholic hospitals do not offer abortion services or even contraception based on their belief that legal personhood starts at contraception, not at birth, and that fetuses are viable people. CHI even has an advocacy website that implores visitors to help them oppose the provision in Obamacare that requires employers to pay for contraceptives, because “Our mission and our ethical standards in health care are rooted in the Catholic Church’s teachings about the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.” But to get its client out of this wrongful death suit, CHI’s lawyers are arguing the opposite — that Lori’s fetuses weren’t really viable persons. In a brief the defense filed with the court, CHI’s lawyers say the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define a ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on the two unborn fetuses.” 

Source: Colorado Independent, January 23, 2013

Updated Jan. 26, 2013

Hobby Lobby’s Misguided Religious Activism

Hobby Lobby founder David Green, and his wife.

Hobby Lobby founder David Green, and his wife.

Op-Ed

A U.S. District Court court ruled in November that Hobby Lobby, a private, for-profit, national arts-and-crafts supply store chain owned by a Christian family, cannot be exempted from a government requirement that its employees’ health insurance plan cover 100% of the cost for emergency contraceptives. Hobby Lobby’s owners, who are conservative Christians, challenged a provision of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that requires businesses provide employees with no-cost birth control through their health insurance plans. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton of the Western District Court in Oklahoma ruled November 19 that privately-owned companies are secular, for-profit enterprises, and as such are not entitled to the the same religious rights as the individual members of the family that owns them. The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, have vowed to defy the Court’s ruling, and to continue to block their employees’ access to free contraception through their health insurance plans.

In his religious zeal, David Green, the owner of Hobby Lobby, is missing the point. The law entitles him and his family to their own beliefs, but Hobby Lobby’s claim that the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirements infringe on his own personal religious liberty makes no sense.

Poor and Uninsured in Texas? Tough Luck, Says Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Governor Rick Perry

Texas is number one in the country for people without health insurance. Fully one quarter of Texans have no health insurance at all. Another 26% are on Medicaid, Medicare or other public assistance programs that provide help to get health care, according to the Texas Medical Association. The poverty rate in Texas is also high. Twenty-one percent of adults, 17% of the elderly and 34% of  Texas’ children live in poverty.  Despite these dire circumstances, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is refusing an offer from the federal government to expand Medicaid, even though the feds will pick up 100% of the cost for the first three years. The reimbursement rate will drop to 90 percent after that. The offer is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” a slate of changes to health insurance enacted in the U.S. that Gov. Perry and some other Republican governors dislike. Last July, Perry wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last July (pdf) in which he called the offer to expand Medicaid a “gun to the head” of his state. He called the Affordable Care Act a “power grab,” and reiterated that statement in a November 18 blog post on his  personal website. By refusing to accept the federal assistance to expand Medicaid, Gov. Perry is turning down $164 billion that would go to help insure the poorest Texas citizens. The assistance would also stimulate Texas’ economy.  An analysis by the Center for Public Priorities, a think tank based in Austin, found that every federal dollar the state would spend on Medicaid assistance would return $1.29 in “dynamic state government revenue” over the first ten years of expansion, since Medicaid expenditures generate economic activity while creating a healthier, more productive population.

PBS Documentary Explores the Growing Need for Easy, Painless Death

As America’s population ages, tens of millions of people find they can’t afford health insurance, medical care is getting more expensive and is difficult for many people to get. Our culture focuses on prolonging life at virtually any cost. At the same time, as fewer people want to take the option of prolonging their life at any cost, the reality that death as a natural part of life is little acknowledged or discussed. This difficult situation is leaving more people seeking gentle, accessible and painless ways to die. A new PBS Frontline documentary, “The Suicide Plan,” dares to explore the difficult subject of the growing need for people to find easy and painless ways to die. Filmmakers Miri Navasky and Karen O’Connor explore the realities of people who are actively seeking ways to die without violence or suffering. While researching and filming the program, the filmmakers say they were astounded by the number of people yearning for information on how to control the timing and manner of their own death. The filmmakers were also “completely surprised,” they say, to discover the extent of the underground organizations growing up around meeting this growing, unmet need. Navaski says, “Here — in the underground world — doctors are reluctant to prescribe lethal doses of medication, so people who want help dying are relying of imperfect, cobbled-together methods.” The documentary explores organizations like the Final Exit Network and Compassion and Choices, whose missions are to help people find ways to achieve a peaceful death. The Suicide Plan aired on Tuesday, November 13. The documentary can be viewed here.

Source: PBS.org, November 13, 2012

Under Mitt Romney, Bain Made Millions on Tobacco

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney’s former company, Bain Capital, may refuse to make public the clients it has served, but now previously-secret tobacco industry documents reveal Bain & Company worked closely with cigarette makers British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Gallaher, to help them expand their markets and become more profitable at the expense of global public health.  Bain helped British American Tobacco (BAT) crack open the cigarette market in Russia and transform it into a lucrative business at a time when American tobacco companies were under pressure at home and smoking rates in the U.S. were decreasing. By 1993, during the time when Bain worked with cigarette makers, the dangers of smoking were well established. The 1964 Surgeon General’s report had announced that cigarettes caused cancer.  In 1988 the U.S. government warned that nicotine was addictive in a similar manner as heroin and cocaine. In 1989 the Surgeon General announced that most people begin smoking as children and one in every six Americans was dying from smoking. In 1993 the EPA rated secondhand tobacco smoke a Group A Human Carcinogen — the same rating the agency gives to asbestos, radon gas and vinyl chloride. Romney took over Bain in 1990 and stayed until 1995, when this crucial public health information about smoking was public. When Romney took over Bain, the company was in financial distress and seeking new clients. One of the first new clients Bain signed during that time was Philip Morris (PM). Little more than a month after Romney took over, Bain signed a six month contract with Philip Morris estimated to be worth $1 million.

This is Going to Hurt: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Say Can Cost You

Insurance companies are hot targets in the national discussion of skyrocketing medical costs and health care reform. But there is another, little-noticed factor could also be sucking untold health care dollars out of our pockets. It’s one we are also loathe to address: the part that doctors play in pushing up the costs of  medical care. This is an area that is begs for closer scrutiny, and in which patients need more help.

An Examination Day Surprise

My interest in this topic was piqued by a personal experience that brought home the problem of runaway medical costs in a truly shocking way.