Health Policy Happenings, 10.22.21

Health Policy Happenings, 10.22.21

It’s Friday and we made it through another week! I’m currently finishing up an elective in the trauma intensive care unit and very much looking forward to this weekend off. On the health policy front, the reconciliation bill is still being discussed and altered and is taking it’s sweet time getting through Congress. It remains to be seen not only what will be included in the bill, but how much the package will end up costing. The longer something takes to get through Congress, the less it usually ends up spending (lots of infuriating nips and tucks happening). So let’s take a gander at what else is going on:

There has already been some good analysis of who remains unvaccinated and why, but this piece is a good reminder that a big barrier for many folks is a lack of a primary care provider due to a lack of insurance and a general lack of trust in the medical system.

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Is a Post Bacc Program Right for You?

Is a Post Bacc Program Right for You?

So you’ve decided to go to medical school but you don’t have all the required classes or the grades. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Every year, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) distributes a survey to matriculating first year medical students and ask about everything from demographics to premedical experiences. Here are some interesting findings from the 2020 survey as it relates to students who do not enter medical school directly from undergrad:

  • 16.2% of first year students were over the age of 26
  • 7.9% reported deciding to study medicine after completion of a bachelor’s degree and 1.7% after an advanced degree
  • 7.4% of students participated in a non-degree post bacc program to strengthen academic skills
  • 7.7% of students participated in a non-degree post bacc program to complete the premedical required courses
  • 8.3% were five or more years out from undergrad

I check 4 of those 5 boxes: I started medical school at 29, decided to pursue medical school while I was completing my Master of Public Health, went to a post bacc program to complete my pre-reqs, and graduated from undergrad 7 years before my first year of medical school.

If you’re ready to start “the journey” to medical school, the next step is figuring out how to complete all of the requirements or boost that science GPA. There are different types of post bacc programs and each fulfill a different need for applicants. The AAMC actually has a database of all the programs that you can sort and filter for various needs. In this post, I’ll go into detail on three of the most common routes to medical school after college: career changer programs, academic record enhancer programs, and a DIY option. Keep reading for some good questions to ask post bacc programs to figure out which one(s) are right for you!

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What Caught My Eye, Vol. 1

What Caught My Eye, Vol. 1

We’re halfway through the week and my web browser has been getting a serious workout. I love a list so I’m coming at you today with a whole bunch of links to articles spanning everything from reality dating shows to the real Only Murders in the Building, what I’ve been watching after getting home from the hospital, and what I’ve been listening to that has *nothing* to do with health policy or medicine. Consider this a brain dump from me to you!

To Read

The Murders Down the Hall

Sophie Kinsella Still Believes in Happy Endings 

The Shadow Penal System for Struggling Kids

Slackers of the World Unite!

Continue reading “What Caught My Eye, Vol. 1”

How to be Ten Percent Happier

How to be Ten Percent Happier

I recently discovered the Ten Percent Happier podcast and I can’t believe I’ve never listened to it before! It’s hosted by Dan Harris, a journalist and former anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America. In 2004, he had a panic attack while on air and it sparked a search for ways to increase the happiness in his life. He found it through meditation and subsequently founded Ten Percent Happier, a mindfulness and meditation company.

I toyed with trying meditation a few times over the last year and a half but never really got around to it. But what I have continued to remain into during the pandemic is podcasts – and this one has been just a great addition to the rotation. I’ve been taking a break from a few of my favorites because they are so current event and politics heavy that I’ve just needed something a little lighter. And boy did TPH deliver! Thought I’d share some episodes I’ve enjoyed recently!

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New Beautycounter Fall Arrivals!

New Beautycounter Fall Arrivals!

Every October, Beautycounter releases limited-time sets in anticipation of the holiday season. The sets are usually a mix of best sellers and completely new products – and this year did not disappoint! I am always a big fan of the skincare sets, which always include more than one product and are perfect for travel, trying something new, or gifting. There are SO many ways to use and love these sets!

As a Beautycounter consultant, I had the opportunity to get my hands on these new sets early (and I’m only *mildly* obsessed with them) but they’re now available for everyone! I’m sharing my favorites below but you can check out the full collection of new sets here. Keep reading to find my shopping tips and how to save!

Skincare Sets

Mini Must Haves

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Health Policy Happenings, 10.15.21

Health Policy Happenings, 10.15.21

Popping in to say happy Friday and share a bit about what’s happening in the health policy world. Congress is still in a holding pattern when it comes to the reconciliation bill and there’s a lot of bickering about what health priorities will ultimately be included. I’m grateful to the reporters following the back and forth, there’s a few articles this week on the negotiations. Here’s what I’ve been reading this week!

COVAX is a global initiative set up to give all countries equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines – but it’s faced significant challenges, like vaccines never arriving, and big goals that have yet to be realized.

Lawrence Gostin îs a public health expert (he literally wrote one of my text books in grad school) and wrote an excellent article on the historical context of vaccine mandates and their legality.

There’s a push in Congress to expand Medicare benefits to include coverage for vision and dental services but there are many reasons why it might not happen.

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Falling for Vermont

Falling for Vermont

It’s October in Florida, which means…absolutely nothing. It’s still 80 degrees outside with punishing humidity at 7 a.m., which means I’m sweating on my less than 5 minute walk to the train. Cue the incessant scrolling of pictures from my recent trip to Vermont for REAL FALL. It’s been more than a few years since I’ve lived somewhere with four true seasons, so the leaf colors, apple picking, and crisp air were a delight. It was so hard to leave, especially knowing I was coming back to the heat and humidity, but mostly because I had a great week visiting a good friend.

I landed in Burlington in the early afternoon on the most clear day and my friend took me on a walking tour of town. Burlington is home to the University of Vermont and is situated right on Lake Champlain (you can wave hello to New York!). The downtown has blocks of stores and restaurants on a pedestrian only street and so many cute shops! I obviously had to pop into the bookstore, but somehow refrained from grabbing anything. After some window shopping, we went on a walk that included a stop for apple cider gelato (!!) at Shy Guy Gelato. I’ve only been thinking about it once a day since I got home…

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What’s in My Bag For Medical School Rotations

What’s in My Bag For Medical School Rotations

There’s nothing I like more than being prepared and as such, I carry all sorts of things in my bag every day. But there’s a difference between going to an office and going to work at the hospital, especially as a trainee who is new to everything! Before I started my clinical rotations in medical school, I did more than a few Google searches to figure out what I needed to bring to the hospital or clinic and what could I leave at home. I didn’t find a great answer, so now that I’m just about done with rotations, I thought it would be helpful for anyone just starting out or trying to lessen their load to share what I actually used, what never came out of my bag, and what I wished I had thrown in.

What I Actually Used:

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Health Policy Happenings, 9.10.21

Health Policy Happenings, 9.10.21

After taking last week off while out of town, we’re back again for another roundup of what’s going on in the health policy world! You can check out past HPH here.

Congress is currently considering proposals in the reconciliation bill to reign in the cost of prescription drug costs, including allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and a plan put forward by the Biden Administration. The $3.5T bill aims to significantly address health care and other social determinants of health.

This article was very helpful in outlining why drugs cost so much and the various stakeholders in the current conversation.

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Health Policy Happenings, 8.27.21

Health Policy Happenings, 8.27.21

Every time I see an interesting article related to health policy or public health, I store it in a (now very long) note to remember to share it later. Pandemic notwithstanding, there is a lot going on in the policy world that we should be following. Let’s get to it.

In the U.S., our public health and health care delivery systems are separate, but in Costa Rica they merged starting in the 1970s with serious evidence of improvement in many health metrics. You don’t want to miss this piece by Atul Guwande.

There are more than 4 million direct care givers and nearly 42 million family members who provide informal support to someone 50 or older. How we support paid and family member caregivers for the challenging work they do is disgraceful.

New research quantifies how we spend differently in health care by race and ethnicity. It found that White individuals used more ambulatory care and pharmaceuticals while Black individuals used more inpatient and emergency department services, indicating the possibility of delayed health care-seeking, potentially due to lack of access

Medicare enrollment continues to rise as our population ages, as does Medicare spending. Medicare Advantage programs were created with the intent to lower the cost of providing Medicare services, but that isn’t the reality on the ground – spending for MA enrollees was actually $321 higher than spending for enrollees in traditional Medicare in 2019.

More consumers have been shopping at dollar stores during the pandemic in an attempt to make a limited income meet all their needs. This trend has further highlighted the growing problem of neighborhoods lacking affordable or accessible grocery stores, often called “food deserts,” although that is somewhat of a misnomer.

Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the transgender justice initiative at the Human Rights Campaign, is the first Black transgender woman selected to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

I knew that the cost of services varied wildly between hospitals but I had no idea how much your insurance plan could impact what a service costs within the same hospital. We really need hospitals to comply with price transparency regulations and then we need to find a way to make it accessible and useful for consumers.

There are serious health impacts from heat, which are often felt disproportionately by Black and Hispanic communities as a result of decades of disinvestment.

Medicare bears some blame for why drug prices keep increasing, especially in the case of the new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm which is priced at $56,000 annually.

Estimates have shown that the cost of COVID-19 hospitalizations among the unvaccinated in June and July 2021 (the majority of which would have been preventable hospitalizations with vaccination) was over $2 billion.

There has been an infusion of funds over the course of the pandemic to help health care providers offset the financial impact of delayed and cancelled care. This brief lays out where the money came from and where it went.

The House has taken a significant step in two funding bills to remove restrictions that limit access to abortion care. This is the result of decades of advocacy from members of Congress and advocates, but it faces a less than welcoming future in the Senate.

Health insurers alone cannot fix health disparities but they do have a role to play.

Even though there have been job losses during the pandemic, leading to loss of employer sponsored health insurance, there has not been an overall increase in the number of uninsured due to improved access to public coverage options like Medicaid and Marketplace plans.

Yet another consequence of underinvestment in public health – states have heavily relied on consultants during the pandemic with little evidence of their performance.

Some say FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine was too slow, other say too fast. But what if it was just right?

In the 1990s, Oregon expanded access to health care for the working poor through managed care and focused on primary and preventive care to keep costs low. While this approach minimized expensive hospitalizations, it did not prepare the state to handle an influx of patients during a crisis that requires intensive, inpatient care.

The lack of centralized oversight of VA nursing homes contributed to devastating outcomes from COVID-19 among residents.

See you next Friday for more happenings!