Understanding the Implications of a Possible Supreme Court Ruling Against the Affordable Care Act

This summer, the Supreme Court will hand down a decision that could have profound ramifications for the future of the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare. If the Supreme Court decides to rules against the Obama Administration, defenders of the President’s plan worry that the results could be catastrophic for adults and children alike.

According to a recent Washington Post blog, possible implications of a ruling against the Obama Administration in this case include:

• A loss of insurance coverage for millions of Americans.
• A loss of coverage for 730,000 children whose parents would no longer receive subsidies from the federal government.
• A loss of coverage for 1.1 million children if Congress fails to provide more money to Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
• A loss of coverage for up to 2 million children if lawmakers also allow states to tighten income guidelines on Medicaid programs.

The picture painted above represents the worst case scenario for the outcome of this case. For example, even if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare, Congress could still decide to continue to provide increased funding for CHIP programs, which would decrease the number of uninsured children significantly. Nonetheless, the results of the Supreme Court’s ruling will undoubtedly have an effect on Congress’ decision-making process.

Since nobody can accurately predict what will happen with Obamacare in the coming year, it is important to make the most out of your insurance coverage. If you or a member of your family is suffering from an injury or illness, be sure to:

  • Take advantage of preventative care by scheduling your appointments as soon as possible.
  • See your doctor now if you have a low deductible and you need medical care for an injury or illness.
  • Schedule any necessary testing or treatment at your earliest convenience.

When choosing medical providers, remember to choose reputable doctors with solid histories of providing quality care.

National Nutrition Month is Overshadowed by Uncertain, Controversial Guidelines

March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign managed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The goal of this campaign is to highlight the important of making smart, informed nutritional decisions in order to promote a healthier lifestyle. However, making the right choices can be difficult when the information available to the public is contradictory or uncertain.

According to a recent op-ed by Nina Teicholz of the New York Times, new studies have debunked established nutrition guidelines a number of times in recent history. For example, Americans have been avoiding fat and cholesterol for years based on information indicating that consuming too much of either of these compounds would be dangerous to their health. However, the government has now repealed both of these guidelines after reports showed their original assumptions to be false.

Even the guidelines that remain in place have faced challenges. The government’s current recommendations maintain that saturated fats are linked to heart disease, in spite of several recent contradictions. Likewise, an influential Institute of Medicine study has also contradicted the government’s call to reduce salt intake.
To establish healthy eating habits in the face of contradictory advice:

  • Take governmental nutrition recommendations in context, work with your doctor, and do your own research. Scrutinize the research studies that led to recommendations before accepting them as valid.
  • Consider adopting the same nutritional principles that worked for previous generations: significant amounts of real, whole foods (including natural fat and protein and vegetables) with limited sugar and refined grains.

March Is Brain Injury Awareness Month

Every year, the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) devotes one month to raising awareness about the latest treatment opinions and efforts to improve the lives of those suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Did you know?

  • 2.5 million Americans will experience a brain injury this year alone.
  • Falls are the leading cause of TBI (35.2 percent), followed by motor vehicle accidents (17.3 percent).
  • Incidences of TBI have increased across all age groups.
  • The annual cost of TBI in the United States is estimated at $48.3 billion.

Since brain injuries involve so many different body systems, they are difficult to treat, and doctors struggle to predict the long-term prognosis. Living with TBI can be a difficult and frustrating experience as cognitive and memory functions come and go, making progress hard to chart. It can be a lonely experience as well.

That’s why the theme for the 2015-17 BIAA campaign is “Not Alone” (#NotAloneinBrainInjury). The organization’s goal is to remove the stigma associated with brain injury through a combination of community outreach and education.

Unapproved Knee Replacement Device: OtisKnee Used Before FDA Approval

Currently, the most common elective surgery in the country is for knee replacements, approximately 700,000 per year. With an aging population driving demand, more companies are creating opportunities to get into the market. OtisMed Corporation marketed OtisKnee before FDA clearance, resulting in numerous knee surgeries that ultimately failed.

According to a recent NY Times article, the OtisMed Corporation did not obtain FDA approval for their device before selling and shipping them. When OtisMed did apply, the FDA rejected it, indicating that the company did not show that their product was safe and effective. According to the Justice Department, before the rejection, between 2006 and 2009, OtisMed sold and distributed 18,000 OtisKnee devices. As a result, in December, 2014, the former CEO of OtisMed pleaded guilty to criminal charges as part of an $80 million settlement. Sentencing is scheduled for March 18, 2015. “Americans must be able to trust that they are treated with medical devices that have been shown to be safe and effective,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Olin for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will not tolerate companies and individuals that cut corners when it comes to the public’s health.”

A principal reason why the OtisKnee was an appealing option for the surgeons who installed it was how fast the device could be installed, allowing them to perform as many as twelve knee replacements in one day. OtisMed marketed the OtisKnee directly to providers as an option to simplify surgery and bring in extra income. However, problems with the alignment of the device in turn caused the procedures to frequently not go as planned. Eventually, it was determined that the cutting guide materials had been changed and may have warped during the sterilizing procedure.

It is not known how many patients were harmed by the unapproved OtisKnee. Are knee replacement patients being used as guinea pigs for unapproved devices? Are medical device companies pre-marketing or mis-classifying devices so that they can bypass F.D.A. regulations? Until more mistakes are discovered, the answers to these questions remain unknown. But what is known is that consumer safety should always be placed ahead of corporate profit.

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