Category Archives: healthcare

Science Friday — Genetically Targeted Cancer Treatments

Being a two-time cancer survivor I am always interested in the next big thing scientists are finding to help in the treatment for cancer. New York Times wrote a 3 part article about Dr. Lukas Wartman of Washington University, a doctor who specializes in leukemia who was diagnosed with leukemia.

After his diagnosis, his colleagues at the university’s genome institute decided to see if they could find the cancer gene that was causing the cancer instead of the cells or organs. Last fall his colleagues were successful in sequencing his cancer genome and what they found led to a treatment plan targeting his specific genetic makeup. This experimental treatment has so far been a success. 

Dr. Ley’s team tried a type of analysis that they had never done before. They fully sequenced the genes of both his cancer cells and healthy cells for comparison, and at the same time analyzed his RNA, a close chemical cousin to DNA, for clues to what his genes were doing. 

The researchers on the project put other work aside for weeks, running one of the university’s 26 sequencing machines and supercomputer around the clock. And they found a culprit — a normal gene that was in overdrive, churning out huge amounts of a protein that appeared to be spurring the cancer’s growth. 

Even better, there was a promising new drug that might shut down the malfunctioning gene — a drug that had been tested and approved only for advanced kidney cancer. Dr. Wartman became the first person ever to take it for leukemia.  And now, against all odds, his cancer is in remission and has been since last fall. 

While no one can say that Dr. Wartman is cured, after facing certain death last fall, he is alive and doing well. Dr. Wartman is a pioneer in a new approach to stopping cancer. What is important, medical researchers say, is the genes that drive a cancer, not the tissue or organ — liver or brain, bone marrow, blood or colon — where the cancer originates. 

One woman’s breast cancer may have different genetic drivers from another woman’s and, in fact, may have more in common with prostate cancer in a man or another patient’s lung cancer. 

Read the full article: “In Treatment for Leukemia, Glimpses of the Future.” 

Part two in the series: “A New Treatment’s Tantalizing Promise Brings Heartbreaking Ups and Downs” 

And part three: “A Game Changer in Revealing a Cancer’s Prognosis.” 

One more thing.  I found this great site (here) that actually tracks in real-time conversations about breast cancer on twitter.

NAACP Booed Mitt Romney For Calling On Repeal of Obamacare

I wonder if Romney realized who his audience was when speaking at the NAACP convention. Did he think he was at the Koch brothers fundraiser in the Hampton’s, one of the three he attended over the weekend? Because it is hard to image why he would call for a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act to an audience whose majority of constituents would benefit from it.  

He also told the audience that he would “support traditional marriage” I assume forgetting that the NAACP came out in support of same-sex marriage a few months back. 

Yet again, more examples of just how out of touch this man is. I think it is safe to say he failed at making any headway in gaining support from the people attending. Nice try though, Willard!

GOP Enough! Women Will Fight Back

I’m beyond anger! 

Since this debate about birth control began a few weeks back, I have felt like I stepped back in time….like I took a “worm hole” in a Stargate episode that shot me back to the 50s. Now I realize the reason for this whole debate — the GOP are going to their playbook and going to the good ol’ reliable social issues in an effort to galvanize their base. In normal years it has worked to their benefit almost 100% of the time, but this time I think (I hope) they will fail.  

Since their big wins in 2010, they have been attacking women’s access to healthcare in unprecedented ways both at state and federal levels. I think the cherry on top of their fudge sunday was the now infamous Congressional hearing by Rep. Issa with the all-male panel of “experts” to discuss women’s healthcare.  

This week it has taken an ugly, sharp turn thanks to the likes of Rush Limbaugh (an utter cocksucker…sorry…can’t stand him). He has been waging an attack on Sandra Fluke all week referring to her as a slut, demanding to see sex tapes of women who get birth control, etc, etc. Keep in mind, the only thing Ms. Fluke did to warrant this vitriol is to testify before Congress. Her testimony didn’t have anything to do with pregnancy prevention but the use of birth control for medical reasons. I want to add that I am one of those women who have had to use birth control for medical reasons after I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I was fortunate enough to have my prescription covered unlike her friend for whom she was testifying about.    

A friend of mine, for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome and has to take prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries. […] After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn’t afford her medication anymore and had to stop taking it. […] Without taking the birth control, a massive cyst had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary. […] 

Since last year’s surgery, she’s been experiencing night sweats, weight gain, and other symptoms of early menopause as a result of the removal of her ovary. She’s 32 years old. As she put it: “If my body is indeed in early menopause, no fertility specialist in the world will be able to help me have my own children.” 

As a woman, I am absolutely infuriated by the range of attacks by Republicans on women’s health. These attacks have ranged from transvaginal ultrasounds (I don’t care how you look at it, it is government-mandated rape when women are forcibly penetrated by a device) to personhood amendments to attacking Planned Parenthood.   

Women are fighting back though. This week in Wilmington, Delaware, the City Council passed a personhood amendment for men.  

The Wilmington City Council has a message for men — sperm are people, too. 

The council for Delaware’s largest city passed a resolution by an 8-4 vote Thursday calling on the Delaware legislature, other state legislatures and the U.S. Congress to pass laws granting “personhood” rights to eggs and sperm. The resolution was authored by councilwoman Loretta Walsh as a protest in the current battle over women’s health care access. 

“[E]ach ‘egg person’ and each ‘sperm person’ should be deemed equal in the eyes of the government and be subject to the same laws and regulations as any other dependent minor and be protected against abuse, neglect or abandonment by the parent or guardian,” says the resolution. “[L]aws should be enacted by all legislative bodies in the United States to promote equal representation, and should potentially include laws in defense of ‘personhood,’ forbidding every man from destroying his semen.” 

The vote came the same day that the U.S. Senate voted down an amendment that would have given employers the right to refuse any health care service to employees for moral reasons. 

Walsh isn’t the first lawmaker to introduce such a measure. Sen. Constance Johnson, a Democratic state senator from Oklahoma, introduced and later withdrew an amendment to a “personhood” bill that would have given zygotes the same rights as adults. “However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child,” reads the amendment.  

I think the best way we can fight these attacks on women is to elect women. We presently have a very small voice in our government compared to men and we need women representing us. We are after all 51% of the population!

Republicans and Catholics Not Satisfied

President Obama came out yesterday with a compromise to the requirement that nonprofit institutions provide contraception coverage. Now employees of religiously affiliated colleges, universities, and hospitals who do not wish to provide birth control can receive contraception coverage at no additional cost directly from the insurer. This seems to be a win for both sides. Catholic run nonprofits get their way and will not have to go against their beliefs and the women who are employed will have access to affordable contraception. 

Not so fast. Republicans and some conservative Catholic groups are not satisfied with this. They are now continuing to use their claim of “religious persecution” to deny women access to preventive health services by proposing an amendment that would permit ANY employer or insurance plan to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it. Next week Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is expected to offer the following amendment:     

“(A) FOR HEALTH PLANS. — A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) (or preventive health services described in section 2713 of the Public Health Services Act), to fail to be a qualified health plan, or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because — 

“(i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or 

“(ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage

This would allow an insurer or an employer to claim a moral or religious objection to covering HIV/AIDS screenings, Type 2 Diabetes treatments, cancer tests or anything else they deem inappropriate or the result of an unhealthy or immoral lifestyle. Similarly, a health plan could refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that the plan believes that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer. 

Today I read an op-ed by Art Caplan where he creates a scenerio which shows just how dangerous it is to let any organization deny health coverage based on their faith or morality. It demonstrates the dangerous game Catholics are playing with a person’s access to healthcare. 

Imagine that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is based in Brooklyn, NY, creates a printing company that happily employs people from many faiths and cultural backgrounds. The company’s sole task is to print all the Witness literature that its followers distribute door-to-door all over the world. That literature clearly states the Jehovah’s Witnesses adamant opposition to blood transfusion. Then the federal government then issues a national set of minimal standards which all companies operating as public entities must provide as part of the health insurance coverage they offer. 

The Governing Body is outraged because on that list are blood transfusions. They issue a statement accusing the President of trying to crush religious liberty by forcing their printing company, which employs many non-Jehovah’s witnesses, to cover transfusions.  

I must wonder if the above scenario did come to pass would lawmakers come out en masse decrying the overreach of government. How did the imposition of an insurance mandate on companies operating in the public sphere become an act of religious intolerance? Do those who work in Catholic run companies, hospitals, nursing homes or hospices but do not follow the teachings of the Catholic Church have rights? 

With the above amendment being proposed, the type of insurance coverage that would be available to us would be subject to our employers moral and religious beliefs. In essence, our employers would get to decide what healthcare they deem morally appropriate to provide.

Why Republican’s Stance On Birth Control Will Backfire

Congressional Republicans are pledging to fight the new requirement that health insurance plans cover birth control. I am going to make a prediction — their hardline stance on this issue will backfire . As it turns out birth control is wildly popular with both men and women and even among Catholics who tend to be the most vocal in their opposition. There is poll after poll showing strong support for contraception being available to all women.  

According to a Public Religion Research Institute survey released Tuesday, 58% of Catholics supported this new requirement, 58% of Americans agreed that “employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.” There was only 40% of people polled that disagreed. 

Doctors For America conducted a study that showed 11.2 million women ages 15 to 44 use contraceptives. The study also showed that 58% of women use contraception for other conditions unrelated to pregnancy prevention including the treatment endometriosis, acne, regulation of menstrual cycles, and menstrual pain just to name a few.  

Regardless of these facts the Republicans are now condemning the new requirement that all women have access to contraception. They are trying to make the argument that it is a First Amendment issue and about religious freedom.  

Speaker Boehner called it an “unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country” and vowed to repeal the regulation

Senate Minority Leader McConnell said “make no mistake: the Obama administration’s decision to force religious hospitals, charities, and schools to comply with a mandate that violates their religious views is abhorrent to the foundational principles of our nation.”  

Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said “It violates our First Amendment to the constitution. This is not a women’s rights issue. This is a religious liberty issue.” 

Rick Santorum has even come out being completely against birth control. In a recent interview he said “many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” I am guessing he thinks sex is for procreating…that’s it. 

This doesn’t have anything to do with religious freedom. Republicans are hoping they have found a social issue that is going to energize their base. In every election they try to find some social issue to demonize and use against Democrats like gay marriage or abortion. Now it is contraception. However, they are going way to the right in their opposition, and unlike gay marriage or abortion, contraception is widely used and viewed positively by women and men across party lines. 

The public is becoming more socially liberal and stoking this culture wars will ultimately be a bad move for the party.

Republicans — A Party of Ebenezer Scrooges

In Bill Maher’s latest list of rules he compares the Republicans to Ebenezer Scrooge. In my opinion, it is not much of a stretch. If you have been keeping track of the political debates and stump speeches by the GOP presidential candidates, their views and ideas are so radical they are almost laughable. 

Here are some of their ideas for privatizing Social Security and Medicare….I guess they think we have forgotten all about that whole Wall-Street-created financial collapse thing in 2008. 

MITT ROMNEY: He pushed for the creation of Social Security personal accounts three separate times. In his 2010 book No Apology, he stated “individual retirement accounts would encourage more Americans to invest in the private sector that powers our economy.” Great idea…..we would be bankrupt after the 2008 financial crisis.

MICHELE BACHMANN: : Last year Bachmann said young workers “need to have some options in their life, so that going forward they can have ownership for their own Social Security, their own retirement, something they can pass on to the beneficiary of their choice.”

RON PAUL: During one of the presidential debates, he stated, “What I would like to do is to allow all the young people to get out of Social Security and go on their own!”

RICK SANTORUM: He launched his 2012 presidential campaign by declaring that he supports the President George W. Bush’s style of privatization accounts.

HERMAN CAIN: During the Tea Party debate, he stated “I support a personal retirement system option in order to phase [out] the current system. We know that this works.”

NEWT GINGRICH: He supported the House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to create personal accounts.  

If that isn’t enough to scare you, the candidates have called for ending student loans, turning Medicare into a voucher program, repealing the “burdensome” regulations passed for Wall Street and the oil and gas industry, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and completely doing away with government entities such as the Department of Education and the EPA.

It should be noted that all of these proposals have received HUGE applause from the crowds. After listening to these guys, it makes you wonder are there any rational Republicans out there.

The video is below…enjoy!!

Grandma and Grandpa Bust a Rhyme to Protect Social Security

The GOP has gone on the record time and time again against about Social Security and its supposed under funding. The fact is that is not the case. Social Security is currently running a surplus of $2.6 trillion (assets grew from about $47 billion at the end of December 1986 to about $2,609 billion ($2.6 trillion) by the end of December 2010), and is funded through 2037 according to Wikipedia.   

Operations in quarter
ending December 31, 2010
[In billions] 

Income $202.9
Outgo 179.3
Difference 23.6

Operations in 2010  [In billions] 

Income $781.1
Outgo 712.5
Difference 68.6

By 2037, it is expected to be officially exhausted, so there is no doubt that some reforms need to take place and there are ramifications if no reforms are implemented: 

  • Payroll taxes will only cover 78% of the scheduled payout amounts after 2037. This declines to 75% by 2084. Without changes to the law, Social Security would have no legal authority to draw other government funds to cover the shortfall and payments would decline without a large tax/revenue increase or increase in eligibility age. 
  • Between 2015 and 2037, redemption of the trust fund balance to pay retirees will draw approximately $4 trillion in government funds from sources other than payroll taxes. This is a funding challenge for the government overall, not just Social Security.  

The funding could be fixed by getting rid of a cap that currently exists. Currently everyone paying into Social Security only pays taxes on the first $106,800 of their income and nothing on any income above that meaning that wealthier citizens pay no Social Security taxes on most of their income. Eliminating this cap would make the program solvent for a much longer time period. 

The Economic Opportunity Institute and Social Security Works has come up with an absolutely awesome way to promote eliminating this cap. They released a video this week that features two senior citizens rapping “Scrap the Cap,” and anyone who supports “Scrapping the Cap,” can take action on the web site related to the video

The video below is well worth watching….the couple is sooo cute, however, if you don’t have time, the lyrics are listed below the video, but trust me, watching the video, which is about 3 minutes, is well worth your time. 

Go grandma and grandpa!!! 

The real old school in the house 
Give it up for the geezers 

Had our golden years all planned out 
Small pension, golf cart and a Florida house 
But congress put a hit on Social Security 
Mugged us of our dignity despite our maturity 

Tax we paid with every check we earned 
Time to collect we the ones gettin burned 
There’s nothing we can do if we can’t get paid 
‘cept eat cat food, and drink haterade 

Listen up cuz while we drop some knowledge 
We raised our little boy, put him through college 
Only safety net is our next of kin 
Look out son, cause we’re movin in (what!?) 

We’re movin in (what!?) 
We’re movin in (what!?) 
Pull out the couch cause we’re movin in (what!?) 
No arguin (what!?) 
No arguin (what!?) 
Pull out the couch cause we’re movin in 

Name’s Spinal Twist, check my orthopedic kicks 
‘cause I stoop farther south than the St. Lunatics. 
I’m still getting play and it’s all thanks to Pfizer, 
Keepin me stiffer than my Yankees cap visor 

My station wagon windows are dark with tint 
I subscribe to vibe and I get the large print 
They call me Martini got substance abuse 
‘cause I’m always playin gin and sippin on juice 

Our son wants to know if we can pay the rent, 
But without benefits we ain’t got 50 cent, 
We don’t pack a nine, we’re just strapped for funds 
But we’re still game killers for our bachelor son 

Social Security payments are far from erratic 
“it’s broke and failin” don’t believe that static 
This crisis is a fiction there would be no debate 
If we all pitched in at the same tax rate 

There’s a cap on how much millionaires pay 
Even though we all work like every single day 
These are the facts but they’re provin’ thin 
So pull out the couch ‘cause we’re movin in 

We’re movin in (what!?) 
We’re movin in (what!?) 
Pull out the couch cause we’re movin in (what!?) 
No arguin (what!?) 
No arguin (what!?) 
Pull out the couch ‘cause we’re movin in 

Alright now younginz, you’re our last resort 
‘cause sooner or later, we’ll be needin support 
If you don’t want roommates just learn this rap 
It’s only one line, shout SCRAP THE CAP