Health Wonk Review: the Letters to Santa edition

December 19th, 2013 by Julie Ferguson
Portrait of Santa Claus answering Christmas letters

Portrait of Santa Claus answering Christmas letters

Hello Santa! — You’re surely a busy guy this season — it’s no small task sorting out the naughty from the nice all over the globe! Good thing you’re such a wise soul because there are a lot of folks who could really try your patience. Just take the rogues gallery down in Washington DC, for example — everybody has a long wish list and they don’t see eye to eye at all. In fact, for all the talk about keeping the real spirit of Christmas in the holiday, it seems like everyone’s forgetting about the “peace on earth” and “goodwill to man” parts of the deal. Some people are even getting hung up on whether you are black or white, can you believe it? Here’s hoping you can sort it all out!
We’ve collected some healthcare thoughts & wishes from the wonky blogosphere hoping that it will make your job a little easier. These are some devilishly smart and very nice people, so a little special consideration would be appreciated!
Dear Santa – Are some holiday revelers drinking too much egg nog and getting cloudy thinking? Joe Paduda seems to think so. At Managed Care Matters, he finds that some of the “repeal and replace” crowd are getting loud and fighty but not making a lot of sense. He dissects the various ideas advanced by those looking to repeal Obamacare to determine the viability. You be the judge: Repeal and replace Obamacare – making the case.
Dear Santa – When you’re sorting people into the naughty or nice rosters, can you be sure that Professor Tim Jost gets put in the “nice” list? At the Health Affairs Blog, he’s done a detailed and extensive analysis of the health exchange enrollments to date. He looks beyond November’s dramatic enrollment increase to other interesting trends that the metrics hold. Check out his analysis of November’s Exchange Enrollment Report and see if you don’t agree that he deserves some special consideration.
Dear Santa – As we near the holiday, it appears that some folks have been rushing around at the eleventh hour to try to look good after a disappointing year. Billy Wynne, one of our newer and very welcome health wonkers, has been observing the year-end flurry of legislative activity in DC and offers a breakdown of some of the most significant developments and what they might portend for the future, noting that if this week is any indicator, we’re in for more fun in the new year. Check out The Doc Fix is Real – And Other Lessons Learned Last Week posted at the Healthcare Lighthouse blog.
Dear Santa – Before you decide whether the DC legislators deserve coal or candy on the issue of the pending Doc fix – the one that has been bumped into the new year – you might check in with Brad Flansbaum‘s post at The Hospital Leader. In The Problem That Won’t Go Away, he looks at how the rubber meets the road in terms of the impact on hospitalists. (And in a noteworthy post unrelated to the political goings on, Brad looks at the issue of whether the use of hospital readmissions as a lone metric for post-discharge health care quality is incomplete without considering the role of the ED. Check out his take on the matter.)
Dear Santa – Did you catch wind of the widely circulated AP story saying that people with insurance coverage are angry at ObamaCare? At Health Business Blog, David Williams digs through the news narratives and finds some skewed polls and faulty reporting. He notes that despite a botched Obamacare rollout, the public still trusts Democrats on health care by a wide margin. Could it be that people are not as unhappy as the media would have us think? Sounds like you may need to stock up on coal for lots of reporters’ stockings!
Dear Santa – In further considering the matter of naughty reporters, we may have a solution. Insurance industry insider Wendell Potter has developed an excellent checklist for reporters, which he thinks would help them in avoiding the pitfalls of being duped while covering Obamacare “horror stories.” Can you make some room in that big sack of presents? If you could drop the checklist off at newsrooms while you are on your pre-Christmas publicity tour, it would likely make him happy. You can check out his 5 question reporter checklist at’s blog.
Dear Santa – When you’re checking your list this year, please check it twice to be sure that you notice the issue Dr. Roy Poses raises. He has put in a request for some teeth. Oh, not the dental kind – it seems he is hoping that healthcare reform will deliver real accountability when it comes to patient protection — something with real bite that will take organizations to task for bad behavior. Could you put this on the fast track because he has apparently been waiting for some time. Over at Health Care Renewal, he posts about yet another Johnson and Johnson settlement — it would appear that some enforcement is sorely lacking.
Dear Santa – As long as we’re on the topic of teeth, could you be sure to leave a special present under the tree for Louise Norris? At Colorado Health Insurance Insider, she has done some hard work and heavy lifting in sorting out how pediatric dental coverage will be impacted by ACA and HHS regulations.
Dear Santa – Can you settle the matter of whether health insurance improves health? Healthcare Economist Jason Shafrin notes that in most cases, the answer is likely ‘yes’ — but a study in Burkina Faso found that the answer was ‘no’. In considering this question, Peggy Salvatore wonders if we are all asking the wrong question and focusing on the wrong things: she asks the fundamental question of whether we are trying to provide health insurance or health care for all?
Dear Santa – Not everyone is feeling all that jolly this year. Some folks are looking to the future and seeing an ominous ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Check out John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog – he’s sounding an alert about a severe doctor shortage that’s looming and he explains why he sees this in the cards. And at InsureBlog, Patrick Paule sees a future with a lot of disappointment for a lot of people. He thinks that even those folks who find an insurance plan they like in 2014 shouldn’t count on it — he thinks they are likely to find a blue Christmas in years to come.
Dear Santa –Dr. Jaan Sidorov sees another looming peril and would like your thoughts on the matter. At the Disease Care Management Blog, he asks if the bureaucrats responsible for implementing Obamacare are falling victim to the dreaded condition of “credibility trap,” where government begins to doubt itself. He identifies various symptoms of this condition. Is he over-reaching? You be the judge.
Dear Santa – Some are troubled by other matters than the ACA: it appears that medical education is no longer the unique purview of academic health centers. That’s an issue that Dr. James E. Lewis raises at Wing Of Zock in noting the opening of the Medtronic Surgical Technologies training facility in Florida, which aims to train 750 surgeons and health care professionals annually. Are income streams becoming inextricably intertwined in academic medicine?
Dear Santa – Here at Workers Comp Insider, we’re really not asking for anything for ourselves, but we’d like you to please look after the health and safety of the workers. Lately, we’ve been particularly concerned about the health and wellbeing of the healthcare workers. It’s not bad enough that they face all the stress of a changing healthcare environment, their jobs are downright dangerous, too. And now it would appear that many of the perils they face are not from patients but are are self-inflicted. Can you help?