An aging population isn’t just a challenge for providers and policymakers in the U.S. – it’s an issue most nations contend with. Experts participating in last week’s webinar from The Commonwealth Fund, Health and Health Care Among Older Adults in 11 Countries, confirm that finding the right balance between clinical and social services, cost-effectiveness and promoting aging in place is tricky, no matter what health system is in place.
The webinar featured key findings from The Commonwealth Fund’s latest International Health Policy Survey, which examined consumer opinions of health systems and care delivery. Experts from France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. provided perspective on the issues. This previous blog post summarizes survey results. Continue reading
Compared with other industrialized nations, patients age 65 or older in the U.S. are generally in poorer overall health and have more challenges paying out-of-pocket expenses than their counterparts in other industrialized nations, according to a new study in the November 2014 issue of Health Affairs. (Remember, AHCJ members get free access to Health Affairs.)
Older adults in 11 nations – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States – were asked by telephone about their health and health care delivery. Among the 15,617 adults, age 65 or older, who participated in the 2014 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults, 20 percent of respondents in every country except France reported problems with care coordination. Access to primary care was most challenging in Canada, the U.S., and Sweden. Continue reading
A new study out of the United Kingdom reinforces the influence that culture and societal attitudes can have on the health status of older adults. Psychologists from the University of Kent used data from the European Social Survey to ask respondents, all age 70 or older, to self-rate their health.
In countries where old age is thought of as signifying low status, participants who identified themselves as ‘old’ felt worse about their own health. The opposite was true in places where older people have a perception of higher social status. The researchers concluded that elevating perceived social status of older people would reduce negative connotations associated with old age and the negative impact on how healthy people felt.
The value different societies place on the elderly has a lot to with how they are cared for later in life, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond explained in a recent TED talk. These effects in turn, influence public policy for global long-term services and supports. The International Federation of Social Workers recently noted, “Although older adults serve as essential resources to their communities, they face a great risk of marginalization.” Continue reading
Recently, Dr. Ben Goldacre (@bengoldacre), a prominent critic of drug studies, wanted to find out how often side effects reported by users of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins were genuinely caused by the medications.
The study he co-authored concluded that most reported side effects of statins aren’t often due to the drugs themselves, but to other causes. The study generated front-page headlines in the U.K., with an article in The Telegraph declaring, “Statins have virtually no side effects, study finds.”
Outcry ensued. Patients who experienced side effects on statins begged to differ, and Goldacre’s fans wondered if he had suddenly gone soft on pharmaceutical companies.
In response, Goldacre penned a nuanced explanation of the study findings, explaining* that its conclusions were flawed because it was based on incomplete data.
The statin study controversy aside, his blog post makes some key points about how side effects are reported in medical journals that are helpful for health reporters to keep in mind when covering the downsides of new drugs. I’ve boiled some important points down and included them in this tip sheet for AHCJ members.
*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post used the word “admitting.”
Last week, Stacey Singer, of The Palm Beach Post, and I led a workshop on “Ten Local Health Stories” (actually we sort of went quite a bit over the “10” limit) for the Excellence in Journalism (EIJ12) conference, sponsored by SPJ and RTNDA in Fort Lauderdale. We’ve posted my overview, Stacey’s very hands-on and helpful local take, and a resource list (adapted from, but not identical too, the resources we’ve been assembling for more than a year on the AHCJ Health Reform core topic pages).
We also wanted to thank the Alliance for Health Reform for shipping to Florida a box of its very handy resource guide . (Disclosure: I wrote one of the overview chapters, although wasn’t involved with the more recent updates to it.)
The session went on for more than an hour, so I’m not going to try to describe it all, but wanted to just share a few points we made: Continue reading
One of the questions that I got from colleagues after AHCJ’s post-Supreme Court webcast was about the cutoff for expanded Medicaid (in states that opt in to Medicaid expansion). The health law says it’s open to people or families with income up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Yet some experts and advocates talk about 138 percent. Which is right?
Both, sort of.
The Affordable Care Act certainly states 133 and that’s the number you will commonly see, in the media and in the policy world.
But there is some small print. The law specifies that people qualify with “modified adjusted gross income” (MAGI) at or below 133 percent FPL. But there is a provision in the law that, in effect, adjusts the level to a de facto 138 percent. If you are a state official, budgeting and planning and figuring out who is eligible and who isn’t, this is important. If you are a journalist writing about it, you can probably stick with 133. (I do.) Continue reading