Health Buzz: Bill Aims to Help States Pay Medicaid Costs and Other Health News

7 reasons the PSA test still matters; why health reform would endanger passive patients

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Reform Bill Aims to Help States Pay Medicaid Costs

The House's health reform bill has the federal government paying $23.5 billion to help cover states' Medicaid costs, extending relief that was part of the federal economic stimulus package, the Washington Post reports. The legislation would require the federal government to continue paying a higher share—an average of 66 percent—of Medicaid costs. The additional funding is intended to provide states with a six-month cushion beyond the federal stimulus money that will run out next year, according to the Post. The extra aid may prevent states from having to cut back Medicaid programs, the paper says.

[See America's Best Health Insurance Plans: The Honor Roll and How to Choose a Health Plan: 12 Helpful Tips.]

The PSA Test: 7 Reasons It Still Matters

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force asked doctors last year to stop checking prostate-specific antigen levels in elderly men—the very men who are most likely to have prostate cancer. If the patients are 75 or older, the officials reasoned, doctors are more likely to keep tinkering with them until they die of treatment side effects or something other than prostate cancer, U.S. News contributor and physician Ford Vox writes.

This spring, the New England Journal of Medicine published two long-term studies that questioned whether knowing a man's PSA level actually helps men survive. Healthcare commentators say that PSA tests set off a cascade of overtreatment, endangering patients and tolerating wasteful medicine, and that patients should be wary.

Based on the latest research, Vox offers 7 reasons why you should still consider getting a PSA test, even if you have to pay out of pocket. One reason is that PSA numbers reveal your prognosis and are critical in follow-up , Vox writes. If you do develop a serious form of prostate cancer that requires aggressive treatment, your PSA levels prior to treatment will help your medical team determine the risk of recurrence. It's one factor among many others, such as how the tumor looked under the microscope after surgery, but the latest studies show it's of real value. Read more.

[Read Getting Closer to the Origins of Prostate Cancer and Robotic Prostate Surgery May Mean Big Trade-Off.]

Why Health Reform Will Be a Danger to Passive Patients

It seems that a sea change is coming in the way Americans experience and pay for healthcare—one that will require us to develop a whole new set of muscles, U.S. News columnist and physician Bernadine Healy writes. The soothing promise of healthcare reform is that all will be covered and that insurance can never be canceled and won't run out. But that promise is by no means a signal to relax, Healy writes. Getting the best care in a system steered by black-and-white medical guidelines ultimately set and enforced by faceless governmental bodies will not be easy, especially for the passive patient unwilling to engage or question the system.

Healy cites the ways you'll be called upon to manage your healthcare in medicine's new era. For one, you'll need to be an educated patient. Today, with any medical issue a few intelligent Google clicks away, patients are empowered to freely pursue the latest therapies. That freedom is almost sure to be curtailed; by relying on comparative-effectiveness studies to determine what should be standard care, a more centralized medical culture will focus on what's best for most people, Healy writes. Read more.

[Read To Cut Healthcare Costs, Let's Start With the Secret Prices and Abortion Coverage Severely Restricted in House Health Reform Bill.]

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