Category Archives: Health care

Your pharmacist doesn’t want to see you now

If your pharmacist doesn’t look happy to see you the next time you visit, it’s probably because she’s losing money filling your prescription.

The problems are occurring with two groups of patients. The largest are those covered by Arkansas Works, which uses Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance for 285,000 low-income Arkansans. The other problem patients are the 68,100 Arkansans who purchase their health insurance through the online Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. Like Arkansas Works, the Marketplace was created by the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

Who are the pharmacy benefit managers?

Pharmacists say that, in those plans, they aren’t being fairly reimbursed by their pharmacy benefit managers. Those PBMs act as middlemen between pharmacists and insurance companies, which in Arkansas are Blue Cross, Ambetter and QualChoice. Continue reading Your pharmacist doesn’t want to see you now

America’s health care sickness: Paid to treat, not heal

RosenthalBy Steve Brawner

Dr. Denise Faustman believes type 1 diabetes might could be cured using a tuberculosis vaccine already sold as a generic. Unfortunately, she’s had trouble obtaining funding for research. Too many people have a financial incentive to keep the status quo.

Faustman, a Harvard Medical School researcher, found that  the vaccine, long sold on the market, showed promise when tested on mice.

That would be big news, especially for the 1.25 million Americans living with type 1 diabetes. And it did cause a stir when she published the initial results – in 2001.

However, the pharmaceutical industry wasn’t interested in funding further research because it didn’t see a pathway to profits using a drug that’s already on the generic market. The big medical foundations haven’t wanted to fund her research because they’re allied with the pharmaceutical industry – in fact, often financially invested in its products. Despite the roadblocks, Faustman managed to find enough funding to publish further research in 2012. Now she’s trying to raise money through her website, www.faustmanlab.org.

Rosenthal: They’re paid to treat, not heal

Faustman’s story is one anecdote in “An American Sickness,” a book by Elisabeth Rosenthal, a medical doctor who became a New York Times reporter and is now editor in chief of Kaiser Health News. If you want to better understand why the American health care system is failing, read this 330-page book. Continue reading America’s health care sickness: Paid to treat, not heal

We can’t afford Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's
Harry Johns is national president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association.

By Steve Brawner

The first sign that Walt Klusmeier’s had Alzheimer’s was when he asked his wife, Lisa, how to send an email on his phone. He was 49 years old.

Then he needed help with expense reports on his laptop. When that happened, Lisa assumed was the result of stress caused by his responsibilities as a father of three children and as a pharmaceutical sales rep.

“I just thought he had this huge territory, had a lot of responsibility,” she said. “Our kids were growing. We were a busy family.”

But it was more than stress. He would withdraw at home. While he learned to compensate for his failing cognition, his work was subpar, which his employer interpreted as a lack of commitment. Eventually he lost his job, which meant the family lost not only his income but his insurance, and he didn’t qualify for government benefits because of his age. The money ran out. After he was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s, he became eligible for Social Security Disability payments and two years later for Medicare. He lived at home until his last month of life and died at age 58. Continue reading We can’t afford Alzheimer’s

Health care: Can Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Gracie Kimbrell show the way?

Kimbrell, Children's
Stewart O’Malley tests her balance at Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center’s new Laboratory for Active Kids and Families.

By Steve Brawner

If we’re ever going to fix health care in this country, then places like Arkansas Children’s Hospital and people like Gracie Kimbrell will have to be part of the solution.

At the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, researchers have built only the nation’s second laboratory studying the science of children and exercise. At the Laboratory for Active Kids and Families’ debut Oct. 10, kids ran on a treadmill, tested their strength, and exercised on a stationary bicycle wearing a mask to measure their lung capacity. Stewart O’Malley, 8, shifted her weight on a balancing platform connected to a screen to guide a digital ball through a maze.

By now, we know what makes a healthy human: real food, physical activity, and adequate sleep. Still, there’s always more to learn. Researchers will study children and pregnant mothers. They will be looking for the underlying factors for why some kids are fitter and more active – social, cultural, biological and others. Greg Kearns, Arkansas Children’s chief research officer, said researchers will study the link between exercise and cellular structure, understanding that the cellular doesn’t necessarily follow the lifestyle and that each person is unique. The entire program – not just the lab – is funded through a $7.3 million U.S. Department of Agriculture appropriation.

Meanwhile, in Bryant, kindergarten student Emma Kincaid is able to grasp objects with her left hand for the first time. Born without fingers on that hand, she was fitted with a prosthetic hand built by Gracie Kimbrell and other high school engineering students. As reported by The Saline Courier, Gracie and the other students researched how to make the hand online and then printed it over two days using the school’s 3D printer. It cost about $20, it’s purple, and Emma likes it. A new hand can be printed as she grows, and if a piece breaks, a replacement is easy to produce. Gracie is already working on a better model.  Continue reading Health care: Can Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Gracie Kimbrell show the way?