Why doesn't the Louisiana
congressional delegation present and promote the charity hospital theory to
the rest of Congress in lieu of the new health-care bill?
Louisiana has the charity hospital system, now owned
by LSU and run by the LSUMedicalSchool
system. Anyone can get medical help there, and it is a pay-what-you-can afford system.
I believe every
state has a medical school and like Louisiana,
the staff would be made up of resident students and medical professors
overseeing the patients. Each state could have hospitals of different sizes
in different cities. It would promote the education of new physicians and
give the best medical care to all patients.
What it would cost
in providing this type of medical care vs. the catastrophic dilemma of
socialized medicine, government-run insurance and decline of
salary-controlled physicians is obvious. The enrollment in medical schools
across the nation will decline rapidly if doctors are faced with limited
reimbursement for medical services and practices that are contrary to the
Hippocratic Oath. Americans will never accept genocide of the elderly and
This would be a
much less expensive alternative to the present bill and would still allow the
people of the United
States to continue using private
insurance, private physicians and provide quality medical care for all
should consider this alternative and do what it can to stop the socialization
of this country, one bill at a time.
HOUMA — State
Senate candidate Brent Callais is contesting opponent NorbyChabert’s assertion that Callais favors closing
Houma’s state charity hospital.
“The way it was
quoted, that Brent Callais wants to close down the ChabertMedicalCenter,
is a total, far-fetching rumor,” Caillais said
Chabert made his remark Saturday night in an
interview with The Courier and Daily Comet after the two candidates emerged
as the top vote getters in the Senate District 20 primary.
State Rep. Damon Baldone of Houma
finished third. Chabert and Caillais
will now compete in an Aug. 29 runoff.
29-year-old Republican from Cut Off, who received the most votes in
Saturday’s election, said he does not want to close the LeonardJ.ChabertMedicalCenter.
“I’m 100 percent
behind building the levee around Chabert,” Callais
said. “I’m 100 percent behind expanding the services at Chabert.”
33-year-old opponent NorbyChabert,
son of the hospital’s late namesake, said Callais has shown support for plans
that would fundamentally alter the hospital’s services.
Chabert, a Little Caillou
Democrat who has portrayed himself as a protector of the hospital named after
his father, pointed to survey by The Courier and Daily Comet. In his written
response, Callais indicated he would “moderately support” privatizing the
state’s charity hospitals.
is a charity hospital,” Chabert said. “If you
you effectively close it as a charity hospital. And I will fight to my dying
breath to stop that from happening.”
Chabert said charity hospitals are a staple of the
state health-care system that has served millions of patients through the
years. He said privatazing would eliminate those
maintains he would only support privatization if it improves the hospitals’
“I want to study Chabert to ensure we can get the best bang for our
dollar,” Callais said. “I would only be in favor for [privatizing Chabert] if it would be better care for the patients.”
The Delery Playground, on the corner of Delery
and Alhambrain the lower 9th
ward, will get intensive care from nearly 300 students and faculty from the School of Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center
New Orleans on Monday, August 10, 2009. A service project of the largest
freshman (L1) class of medical students LSUHSC has ever had, the student
volunteers will refurbish the play structures and grounds from 9:00 a.m. -
4:00 p.m. to give back to a community that plays a crucial role in their
“The citizens of the 9th ward are a large
patient base that we treat,” notes Ross Gaudet, a
member of the LSUHSC Medical Class of 2012, who is an orientation coordinator
for the incoming freshman class. “Without their continued support of the InterimLSUHospital
and associated clinics, we would not have a patient base from which to
The volunteers will
sand and refinish to wooden pieces of equipment, fill holes, and beautify the
surrounding grassy area for kids to once again have a place to just be kids.
Even four years after Hurricane Katrina, many playgrounds around the New Orleans area are
still in dire need of repair.
“With the help of the New Orleans Recreation
Department, we are going to make a difference in this community still
affected by Hurricane Katrina,” says Gaudet. “We’ll
start the year off right saying thank you by helping it recover.”
Sciences Center New Orleans is known for its outreach with programs like CampTiger
“The tradition of
service to the community begins with admission to our school,” says Dr. Steve
Nelson, Dean of the LSUHSC School of Medicine. “We are very proud of our
students who have the compassion to become dedicated and caring physicians.”
The debate raging
over how to alleviate New Orleans'
burgeoning mental health crisis pits two very different solutions from two
strong-willed politicians against each other: Mayor C. Ray Nagin wants more beds immediately to treat patients in
hospitals, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's
administration is pressing for more outpatient treatment.
closing Sept. 1 of the New
OrleansAdolescentHospital - the city's
lone public hospital with a dedicated mental health ward - has created a
flash point. And neither side is sparing words.
The metal bars and
barbed-wire fences associated with older mental institutions like NOAH
represent "not a system [but] a failure," said Alan Levine,
secretary of Louisiana's
Department of Health and Hospitals. "It's a dinosaur, a relic of what
mental health systems looked like 20 years ago."
But opponents of
the closing say that the city already is desperately short of facilities for
its neediest patients and that plans to shift the patients to a hospital in Mandeville, La.,
will unnecessarily isolate them from friends and family.
"police are sitting in hospitals waiting for patients to be offloaded.
We are in a crisis now. We need relief," said Dr. Jullette
M. Saussy, director of the city's Emergency Medical
Services (EMS). "In the face of all this, they are closing NOAH."
Earlier in this
series, The Washington Times documented an explosion in mental health
problems after Hurricane Katrina, which swept away many residents' homes,
social networks and loved ones when it battered New Orleans in September 2005.
A study by the
World Health Organization, which surveyed residents in the same areas of
Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi both before and six months after Katrina,
found that the ratio of residents with some degree of mental illness had
risen from 15.8 percent to 31.2 percent.
At the same time,
New Orleans saw its ability to deal with mental illness sharply diminished,
with the number of inpatient beds for the mentally ill reduced from 400 at 10
hospitals four years ago to just 170 beds at seven hospitals today.
Now NOAH, the only
remaining public hospital in the area with beds for mental patients (it has
35), is to close on Sept. 1 and be integrated with Southeast Louisiana
Hospital, a mental institution 40 miles away on the other side of Lake
Mr. Levine said
the $14 million that Louisiana
will save with the move will be used to improve much-needed outpatient
prevent people from committing crimes by building more jails," he said.
"Similarly, you don't prevent people from having mental problems by
building more beds; all it is doing is cycling people in and out of beds.
What solves the problem is expanding more resources in the community."
independent psychologists contacted by The Washington Times said that even
with a smaller population that it had before Katrina - now about 300,000 -
New Orleans is going to need all the facilities it can provide, both
inpatient and outpatient.
health needs of a city having undergone the issues New
Orleans did have increased, not decreased," said Dr. Rodney
Lowman, a distinguished professor at AlliantInternationalUniversity
in San Diego.
population does not offset the very large increase in mental health needs of
a devastated city that is far from over its crisis. It is difficult to
imagine that the current number of mental health services
are sufficient," Dr. Lowman said.
health services of all kinds are needed to address the huge number of mental
health conditions - both obvious and hidden - that accompany a crisis of the
type that city experienced."
Defenders of NOAH
are pinning their hopes on a lawsuit filed July 10 on behalf of a NOAH
patient and an employee against Mr. Jindal, Mr.
Levine and other state officials. The venue for the lawsuit, which seeks to
stop the consolidation with SoutheastLouisianaHospital,
recently was moved from Orleans Parish to the state capital, Baton Rouge.
The closing of
NOAH "violates the 'enumerated rights' of the mentally ill under Louisiana law and
places thousands of family members and other innocent citizens at risk for
grave physical harm and even death," the lawsuit argues.
judicial intervention, mentally ill patients will become a real and immediate
danger to themselves and the community-at-large," it adds. "The
harm will be irreparable, but it is preventable."
the merger with SoutheastLouisianaHospital,
the lawsuit cites one incident in which a New Orleans
resident died after jumping out of an ambulance during the drive across the Lake Pontchartrain causeway to Mandeville.
Different lessons drawn
There is another
reason New Orleanians are leery of Southeast
hospital: It once housed Bernell Johnson, one of
the city's most notorious killers.
by relatives as a paranoid schizophrenic, had just been released from
Southeast when, on Jan.
28, 2008, he was approached on a New Orleans street by Nicola
Cotton, a female police officer half his size who thought Johnson fit the
description of a wanted rape suspect.
Johnson turned violently on the 24-year-old officer. He seized her baton and
used it to beat her during a prolonged struggle, then got her handgun and
shot her with it, emptying the chamber into her lifeless body. Officer Cotton
was two-months pregnant.
shooting, Johnson remained at the scene, and gave up the gun without a
struggle when Officer Cottons fellow officers
"He stayed by
her body because his paranoia was over," said Dr. Kevin U. Stephens, the
director of health. "A normal person would not have stayed by a shot
Both sides of the
NOAH debate identify the death of Officer Cotton as the turning point for
mental health awareness in New
Orleans, but they are drawing different lessons from
Mr. Levine said he
had been in his Baton Rouge-based job for less than a week when the shooting
"I got an
e-mail from the public health director in New Orleans, who said [Officer
Cotton] was murdered by a gentleman who had just been discharged a day
before, or a couple of days before, from one of our mental health institutes.
So, welcome to Louisiana;
this is your problem," Mr. Levine said.
"It used to
be [mental health patients] were institutionalized, stabilized and released
into the same community where they came from without having any support - an
endless cycle of not solving the problem.
"This is the
landscape I walked into," Mr. Levine said.
shooting, Mr. Levine said, he spent the next two weeks in New Orleans trying "to understand the
"In New Orleans and Louisiana,
but certainly in New Orleans,
there is a heavy reliance on inpatient mental health services," he said.
"There were no community-based services for someone like the man who
killed Nicole. He was in and out of institutions."
Mr. Levine said
the tragedy shows the need for more outpatient services to make sure the
mentally ill receive regular attention, take their medication and are
reintegrated into the community.
He pointed in
particular to the development of innovative outpatient services that, he
said, will reduce the city's dependence on hospital beds.
In-home therapy -
in which counselors deal with patients along with their families in a home
environment - reportedly had an 80 percent success rate in keeping
adolescents and young adults with severe behavioral problems in school and
out of institutions.
known as Assertive Community Treatment - in which doctors and social workers
team up to provide psychiatric treatment, rehabilitation and support - has
reduced hospital days by 58 percent to 85 percent, jail days by 83 percent
and homelessness by 37 percent, Mr. Levine said.
One of the more
creative projects is the peer-to-peer program operated out of the city's
Metropolitan Human Services District.
addicts and those who suffer from mild forms of mental illness serve as
volunteers to canvas mental health clinics, offering assistance to patients
suffering from similar maladies.
Chris English, a
former crack cocaine user, is a trained peer-to-peer specialist who has gone
to unusual lengths to help the mentally ill and drug addicts find a place to
live by filling out laborious paperwork and authenticating their needs.
tells us they are sleeping on a rooftop, we have to go to the rooftop to make
sure," said Mr. English, who has his own history of rooftop living.
He was locked
inside the New Orleans city jail when Hurricane Katrina hit, trapped for two
days without food or any sight of a guard. He and 20 other men eventually
broke through the ceiling, using bed rails to bash the cinder blocks, and
made their way to the relative safety of the roof; there they awaited rescue
along with another 80 prisoners who had reached the roof by other means.
"I am someone
[the patients] can relate to," Mr. English said.
Clear need seen
leaders, however, see the Johnson case as proof of the city's need for
sufficient inpatient facilities so that potentially dangerous patients are
not released prematurely onto the streets.
This year to date,
the city's coroner has ordered 250 people placed under protective custody for
emergency psychiatric evaluation in a hospital, and the police department is
transporting, on average, 200 mental health patients per month to hospital
emergency rooms, said Mr. Nagin, who would like to
see improvements in both inpatient and outpatient care.
"There is a
clear need in our city for long-term and short-term mental health
services," Mr. Nagin told The Washington
Times. "Many people in crisis in our community will require a period of
hospitalization in facilities that best practices dictate should be
accessible to their families for support."
The mayor pointed
out that many of the city's residents with mental issues "were further
impacted by the physical destruction and emotional trauma of Hurricane
Katrina. Our focus is on the health and well-being of our citizens in crisis,
and the closure of NOAH is a negative impact on their lives."
Dr. David F. Duncan,
president of Duncan and Associates and former chairman of the Mental Health
Section of the American Public Health Association, comes down somewhere
between Mr. Nagin and Mr. Levine. Institutions are
not a thing of the past, he said, but their role will diminish as alternative
forms of outpatient care are developed.
distant from a city is a poor substitute for one in the city," Dr.
Duncan said. "If all else were equal, it would make far better sense to
close a rural hospital and expand an urban one."
The New OrleansAdolescentHospital, despite its name, accepts
adult as well as adolescent patients, but Dr. Duncan said its focus on
younger patients makes it a poor choice to serve as New Orleans' only public mental hospital.
are far less likely to need inpatient care and far more likely to be harmed
by it," he said.
That's the message
Mr. Levine wants to drive home to the people of Louisiana.
"I want to
get to a place where we are not institutionalizing children. The best place for
them is the home and community-based settings," Mr. Levine said.
"The point is you treat them in their setting. You can put a child in an
institution and then send them back where they came from, having not solved
Sen. Mary L.
Landrieu opened a hearing Tuesday on disaster recovery by praising a series
of reports in The Washington Times this week that exposed the mental health
crisis gripping post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.
Mrs. Landrieu, a
Louisiana Democrat and chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on
disaster recovery, said the "particularly insightful articles" shed
light on the silent epidemic of mental illness left in the wake of Hurricane
three-part series that began Monday examined the extent of the mental health
crisis, the toll it has taken on the city's overwhelmed health care system
and the search for solutions.
The senator, who
for years has been at the forefront of the fight for federal aid for the
hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and for better planning for future disasters,
said it was fortuitous that the expose coincided with Tuesday's subcommittee
hearing entitled "Focusing on Children in Disasters: Evacuation Planning
and Mental Health Recovery."
The hearing explored
the needs of children before, during and after a disaster. The panel examined
the level of planning and support that exists to move children out of harm's
way and to help them recover from the trauma of a disaster.
children are disproportionately affected by such incidents and suffer a
higher rate of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in their
aftermath, according to the subcommittee.
Prior to the
hearing, Mrs. Landrieu said in an e-mail that she has labored since the
devastating August 2005 hurricane to "combat the stress-induced
hardships" that plague New Orleans and communities across the Gulf Coast
-- many of which were explored in The Times' series.
include working to expand the Federal Emergency Management Agency's
crisis-counseling program and addressing work force shortages in Louisiana's health
our state have seen their homes destroyed, whole neighborhoods demolished and
places of worship lost. Four years later, while physical recovery is well
under way, deep scars remain," she said.
Noting that a
recent Government Accountability Office report was prepared at her request,
Mrs. Landrieu detailed persistent barriers to mental health services for
children in communities struck by disaster.
survivors of catastrophic disasters the help they need is going to take
better strategies, coordination and commitment from a variety of federal,
state and local agencies," she said.
I am a senior
citizen who is not buying the scare tactics used to stop the health care
The truth is, in
that bill the government will pay if a senior or anyone else wants to discuss
options for end-of-life decisions. It will not be mandatory, and will be
between the patient and doctor, or a qualified health professional of choice.
Most seniors would
be glad to see their end-of-life decisions carried out according to their
wishes. Seniors in that position need all the help and information available
to them. This has been around for a long time. It is called a "living
will," and my husband and I both have one. We are both on Medicare,
which is of course a government program.
ago these same scare tactics were used by Republicans to try to stop
Medicare. Thankfully, they were not successful. I don't know of any Medicare
recipient who would want a different plan. Before it was passed, 40 percent
of seniors had no health insurance at all.
As for the
government deciding treatment: The insurance bureaucrats do that right now.
Ask any one who has had their claims denied or insurance suddenly canceled.
I recently took
the time to download a copy of the Declaration of Independence, with the
intention of studying the document, not just reading it.
It is abundantly
clear that the author and those who attached their signatures to that
document were adamant about the grievances they had with their former
government, enough so as to risk their lives and fortunes in order to secure
their desired outcome.
I am not
advocating secession. But, in the context of the circumstances the American
colonies faced more than 200 years ago, these men felt compelled to state
their position in no uncertain terms. I do here as well.
health-care legislation being considered by Congress is, in my view, a direct
assault on the liberties of the citizens of this nation, the very liberties
that are emphatically mentioned in the Declaration of Independence — namely,
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
What should be
obvious is the fact that, from the start, our government was never intended
to have a say in such private matters of the citizenry anyway! We do not need
additional governmental intrusion and infringement on our liberties. Too much
damage to what was secured for us by our Founders has been inflicted already.
This Congress and
this administration are steering our nation further into socialism at a
frightening pace and in the process have shown a total disregard for fiscal
responsibility with the passage of recent legislation. They should all
strongly reconsider from where they derive their powers and responsibilities.
And above all,
never forget the account each of them will someday give, before Almighty God,
for their actions and intentions, their stewardship of the public trust.
Patricia DeMichele, chair
of the Louisiana Alzheimer’s Disease Task Force, gets feedback from
participants in the group’s first public forum, held recently in Baton Rouge.
At their recent,
first public forum, members of the Louisiana Alzheimer’s Disease Task Force
asked the people there what kind of information or help they needed in caring
for a loved one with dementia.
vacation,” was the first response.
The woman who
called out the reply wasn’t being flippant.
“Most people wind
up in a nursing home because their caregiver gets sicker,” said Patricia DeMichele, chairwoman of the task force that was created
by the state Legislature in 2008.
Another person in
the audience asked what to do when the person with dementia gets angry at
frustrating,” the woman said. “You know they’re ill, but they don’t look
The meeting held
July 29 at the PenningtonBiomedicalResearchCenter was the first of six meetings
that will be held in different Louisiana
cities through August. The purpose of the public forums is “to find out from
the citizens here in the state their major needs … how (dementia) impacts
your life and what you see is the biggest priority,” said Jeffrey Keller, the
director of Pennington’s Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention and a
member of the task force.
The task force
will make a report of its findings and recommendations to the Senate and
House Committees on Health and Welfare and to the governor in October.
“I want to be able
to go to the Legislature after all the hearings and say ‘This is what the
boots on the ground want,’” DeMichele said.
“Between 2000 and
2010, Louisiana will have experienced a 14
per centum growth rate of people with this devastating disease, and Louisiana will soon
have 83,000 citizens diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” reads the original
legislative resolution creating the task force.
The 25 members of
the task force include representatives of state agencies, service providers,
and those in the medical and research fields.
It also includes
advocates, as well as a caregiver and a person who is suffering from early
onset dementia, DeMichele said.
The group meets
monthly at the Department of Health and Hospitals in Baton Rouge.
relies on the assistance of community partners throughout the state.
For the public
forum held in Baton Rouge,
its partners were the Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention, and
Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area.
The task force
will be looking at such things as trends in the state Alzheimer’s population
and needs; the type, cost and availability of dementia services; and the
availability of home- and community-based resources for persons with
Alzheimer’s disease and for respite care for families, according to the
Barbara Auten, executive director of Alzheimer’s Services of the
Capital Area, said the stereotypical image of a person with Alzheimer’s is “a
blank, staring person sitting in a wheelchair.”
reality” particularly in the beginning stages of the disease, when there are
“still a lot of cognitive and social” skills remaining, she said.
While the disease
is fatal, a patient’s quality of life, particularly in the early stages, can
still be improved,Auten said.
The task force has
already compiled a list of challenges that residents in Louisiana face.
virtually no programs and services for the population that experiences early
onset of dementia, for instance, DeMichele said.
There’s no single
point of entry, either, into dementia-related services, she said.
And, there’s an
over-reliance on institutional long-term care and a lack of public funding
for community-based services, she said.
“In Louisiana, we
completely over-rely on nursing homes,” DeMichele
are the general lack of support for caregivers, she said, and that would
include a “lack of employer policies to address on-the-job issues for
include training about dementia in health-care fields; data collection on the
disease; and research, DeMichele said.
One of the forum
attendees was Loretto “Lorie” Pancoast,
who is caring for her husband, Paul, who is suffering from dementia and is
under medical care for the condition.
“I’m very curious
to find out everything I can, in order to better help him,” Pancoast said.
“He always could
reason things out so easily. Now I’m finding” it’s more difficult for him,
She said her
husband, a retired engineer, is keeping a good attitude about his memory
lapses and other difficulties.
his attitude,” she said. “He makes little jokes up.”
“He did say one
time, ‘I don’t mind getting old, but I don’t like losing my mind,’” Pancoast said.
At the forum,
organizers had taped up about 10 large pieces of paper on the wall, each
headlined by a particular word or phrase, like “Caregiver Services,”
“Programs and Services” and “Research.”
Before the forum,
attendees had been provided with three paper stickers.
At the end of the
hour-long program, audience members were invited to put their stickers on the
sheets of paper that named their highest concerns.
Pancoast put her markers on “Research,” “Caregiver
Support” and “Healthcare and Related Services.”
She said she’ll
continue to seek out meetings and support services for those dealing with
“I think each one
gives me something that adds to my knowledge,” Pancoast
Alzheimer’s Disease Task Force forums
Alzheimer’s Disease Task Force will hold public forums throughout the state
to gather input on the needs of persons with dementia and those who care for
them. Attendees are invited to bring a brown bag lunch to the noontime
forums. For information on the events, call Dana Territo,
director of services, at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, at (800)
548-1211. The forums are as follows:
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; ChristusSchumpertAdultDayHealthCenter,
1700 Buckner Square, Suite 150.
Monday, Aug. 10
to 1 p.m.; Kingsley Place Assisted Living, 2420 Country Club Road.
Tuesday, Aug. 11
11:30 a.m. to
12:30 p.m.; Glenwood Medical Mall, 102
Thomas Road, Suite 408.
Wednesday, Aug. 12
to 1 p.m.; Tioga Manor Nursing Home, 5201 Shreveport Highway.
Wednesday, Aug. 12
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.;
Alzheimer’s Association, 2605
U.S. Sen. David Vitter meets with constituents at the
Quality Hotel in Houma
HOUMA — Government-controlled health care and
union-friendly legislation were the chief topics of discussion Monday for
local residents who met with U.S. Sen. David Vitter at an open house.
coffee and pastry event at the Quality Hotel in Houma drew roughly 80 people. They included
state Rep. Gordon Dove, R-Houma, Parish President Michel Claudet
and state senate candidate Brent Callais, a Republican from Cut Off.
they’re concerned about getting less coverage and more delays in a
health-care system they say would be run by bureaucrats.
industry leaders said they’re concerned about a policy under the Employee
Free Choice Act they say would mandate binding labor agreements for contracts
with a business’ labor force.
Councilman Joey Cehan, a Democrat, was among
attendees who complained the meeting was longer on partisan politics than it
was on issues.
This is the second
time Vitter has visited Houma
in more than a month. Vitter, expected to run for re-election next year, said
the trip is not a campaign stop but part of his routine and his job as an
“The very first
commitment I made when I ran for the Senate was to hold an in-person
town-hall meeting in every parish of the state every Congress,” Vitter said.
Asked how he plans
to address the inevitable comments during his re-election bid about his
alleged connection to a high-end prostitution operation in Washington, D.C.,
Vitter said he’ll approach it as always.
“By very sincerely
saying it was a serious sin in my past, 10 years ago, and asking for
forgiveness beginning with the folks who where hurt the most by it,” Vitter
said. “So I think I’ve done that in a real straightforward way.”
his stance on health care to that of his likely future opponent, U.S. Rep.
Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville.
Melancon voted against certain amendments in the
health-care bill that Vitter plans to support, such as a provision requiring
all members of Congress to enroll in the proposed government-run program,
But Melancon then voted against the entire package, something
Vitter said he would be likely to do with a senate version.
encouraged residents to take this month, in which Congress is in recess, to
contact local representatives and voice their opinions on specific bills and
amendments and ask the lawmakers how they plan to vote.
Most people who
attended expressed opposition to the health-care reform proposed by Pres.
Though it is
billed as but one option among the existing choices of private health-care
providers, local residents said they fear it becoming the only option.
Government would then be in charge, they said, of deciding levels of care
they will receive.
Mike Orgeron of Houma
said the country’s uninsured include illegal immigrants, a “problem” that
Vitter said should be solved through enforcement of immigration laws.
About a quarter of
the country’s 45 million uninsured residents are illegal immigrants and
another quarter are young people who opt out of
enrolling in health insurance because they believe they don’t need it, Vitter
But the big
problem in health care is coverage, Vitter said.
Instead of fixing
Medicare and Medicaid, which are already going bankrupt, the Obama
administration wants to take billions from it to pay for the new health-care
system, only expanding the cost problems, he said.
Jane Arnette, executive director for the South Central
Industrial Association, said her main concern is the Employee Free Choice Act
and its requirement for a binding arbitration if deadlines are not met in a
certain time-frame on contract negotiations with labor unions.
“So rather than
have a negotiation, a bureaucrat from big brother government would step in,”
The act also gives
workers the option of using either a secret-ballot election or a majority
sign-up process when forming their union.
his opposition to the Obama administration’s proposal to put caps on energy
companies’ production of greenhouse-gas emissions, which many believe
contribute to deterioration of Earth’s atmosphere.
Though it passed
in the House committee Friday, the bill’s fate is less clear in the Senate,
said Vitter, who’s staunchly against it.
devastate an energy-dependent economy like Louisiana,” Vitter said, estimating the
state’s unemployment would increase five percentage points in a short period
of time. “We’ve seen an explosion of government power taking over.”
Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, (R-New Orleans), the first
Vietnamese-American congressman and a Catholic,announced this past weekend that, because
of the “stealth mandate” for abortion still present in the Health Care bill,
he prefers to “save his soul” rather thanvote in favor of it.
Cao, the only
member of the Louisiana House delegation who had not weighed in on where he
stands on the health reform bill, told the Times-Picayune on Saturday that he
cannot support any bill that permits public money to be spent on abortion.
“At the end of the
day if the health care reform bill does not have strong language prohibiting
the use of federal funding for abortion, then the bill is really a no-go for
me,” said Cao, who spent time in formation to be a Jesuit priest.
“Being a Jesuit, I
very much adhere to the notion of social justice,” Cao said. “I do fully
understand the need of providing everyone with access to health care, but to
me personally, I cannot be privy to a law that will allow the potential of
destroying thousands of innocent lives,” he explained to the Louisiana newspaper.
Congressional Campaign Committee announced that Cao will be one of seven
Republican members of Congress targeted with radio ads that will play on
radio stations with largely African-American audiences, urging him to support
Obama's health reform efforts.
“I know that
voting against the health care bill will probably be the death of my
political career,” Cao said, “but I have to live with myself, and I always
reflect on the phrase of the New Testament, ‘How does it profit a man's life
to gain the world but to lose his soul.’”
Cao is the first
native of Vietnam
to serve in Congress and the first Republican to serve in his district since
1890. He won in a district that usually votes overwhelmingly Democratic.
The poorest member
delegation, and a devout Roman Catholic, Cao served as a board member for
Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church's Community Development Corporation
which assists Vietnamese-Americans with hurricane relief, and is a member of
the National Advisory Council of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Cao also told the
Times-Picayune that he is still undecided about the merits of including a
public option in any health reform redesign. He believes that it may
ultimately lead to the destruction of the private insurance market and a
"government takeover" of health insurance.
WASHINGTON (AP) —
Federal regulators on Tuesday added stronger warnings to a group of
best-selling drugs used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory diseases,
saying they can increase the risk of cancer in children and adolescents.
After more than a
year of review, Food and Drug Administration scientists said the drugs
appeared to increase the risk of cancer after they were used for more than
two and a half years.
The agency studied
several dozen reports of cancer, some fatal, in children taking the drugs.
Half of the cases were lymphomas, a cancer that attacks the immune system.
The drugs are
known as tumor necrosis factor blockers and work by neutralizing a protein
that, when overproduced, causes inflammation and damage to bones, cartilage
and other tissue. The drugs are prescribed to children with rheumatoid
arthritis, inflammatory bowel disorder and Crohn’s
The drug agency
will bolster the “black box” warning on the five drugs sold in the United States,
including Abbott Laboratories’ Humira, Johnson
& Johnson’s Remicade and Simponi,
and Enbrel, which is marketed by Amgen and Wyeth.
All the products are multibillion-dollar sellers. Enbrel
was the biggest moneymaker of the group, with sales in the United States of $3.4 billion
The action also
affects Cimzia, which was introduced in May by the
Belgian drug maker UCB.
updating the drugs’ labels, the F.D.A. is requiring companies to add
information about cancer risks to the medication guides given to patients.
The agency said it was also working with the manufacturers to further define
the scope of the cancer risk.
Johnson said in a statement that it would “coordinate closely with the F.D.A.
to ensure that health care providers, patients and caregivers are properly
Amgen and Wyeth
said they would continue working with regulators to evaluate “the potential
risks and benefits” of their drug.
court documents show that ghostwriters paid by a pharmaceutical company
played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers backing the use of
hormone replacement therapy in women, suggesting that the level of hidden
industry influence on medical literature is broader than previously known.
published in medical journals between 1998 and 2005, emphasized the benefits
and de-emphasized the risks of taking hormones to protect against maladies
like aging skin, heart disease and dementia. That supposed medical consensus
benefited Wyeth, the pharmaceutical company that paid a medical
communications firm to draft the papers, as sales of its hormone drugs,
called Premarin and Prempro,
soared to nearly $2 billion in 2001.
But the seeming
consensus fell apart in 2002 when a huge federal study on hormone therapy was
stopped after researchers found that menopausal women who took certain
hormones had an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and
stroke. A later study found that hormones increased the risk of dementia in
papers were typically review articles, in which an author weighs a large body
of medical research and offers a bottom-line judgment about how to treat a
particular ailment. The articles appeared in 18 medical journals, including
The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The International
Journal of Cardiology.
The articles did
not disclose Wyeth’s role in initiating and paying for the work. Elsevier,
the publisher of some of the journals, said it was disturbed by the
allegations of ghostwriting and would investigate.
The documents on
ghostwriting were uncovered by lawyers suing Wyeth and were made public after
a request in court from PLoS Medicine, a medical
journal from the Public Library of Science, and The New York Times.
A spokesman for
Wyeth said that the articles were scientifically accurate and that
pharmaceutical companies routinely hired medical writing companies to assist
authors in drafting manuscripts.
documents provide a detailed paper trail showing how Wyeth contracted with a
medical communications company to outline articles, draft them and then
solicit top physicians to sign their names, even though many of the doctors
contributed little or no writing. The documents suggest the practice went
well beyond the case of Wyeth and hormone therapy, involving numerous drugs
from other pharmaceutical companies.
“It’s almost like
steroids and baseball,” said Dr. Joseph S. Ross, an assistant professor of
geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who has conducted research on
ghostwriting. “You don’t know who was using and who wasn’t; you don’t know
which articles are tainted and which aren’t.”
rely on medical literature, the concern about ghostwriting is that doctors
might change their prescribing habits after reading certain articles, unaware
they were commissioned by a drug company.
“The filter is
missing when the reader does not know that the germ of an article came from
the manufacturer,” said James Szaller, a lawyer in Cleveland who has spent
four years going through the ghostwriting documents on behalf of hormone
Wyeth faces about
8,400 lawsuits from women who claim that the company’s hormone drugs caused
them to develop illnesses. Twenty-three of the 31 cases that had been set for
trial were resolved in Wyeth’s favor; the company has also settled with five
plaintiffs. Others cases are on appeal.
Doug Petkus, a spokesman for Wyeth, said the articles on
hormone therapy were scientifically sound and subjected to rigorous review by
outside experts on behalf of the medical journals that published them.
continues to work with medical writing firms, the company adopted a policy in
2006 mandating that authors become involved early in the publication process
and that any financial assistance by Wyeth or contributions by medical
writers be acknowledged in the published text, said Stephen Urbanczyk, a lawyer representing Wyeth.
Doctors have long
debated the merits and risks of hormone therapy to treat the symptoms of
menopause. Although studies have shown that hormones have benefits like
reducing the incidence of hip fractures, they have also shown that the drugs
can increase the risk of various cancers.
At one time, the Premarin family of drugs, which dominated the market for
hormone therapy, was among Wyeth’s best-selling brands. And the company
worked with several ghostwriting companies to maintain that dominance.
In 1997, for
example, DesignWrite, a medical communications company
in Princeton, N.J., proposed to Wyeth a two-year plan
that would include the preparation of about 30 articles for publication in
The development of
an article on the treatment of menopausal hot flashes and night sweats
illustrates DesignWrite’s methodology.
Sometime in 2003,
a DesignWrite employee wrote a 14-page outline of
the article; the author was listed as “TBD” — to be decided. In July 2003, DesignWrite sent the outline to Dr. Gloria Bachmann, a
professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the RobertWoodJohnsonMedicalSchool
in New Brunswick, N.J.
responded in an e-mail message to DesignWrite:
“Outline is excellent as written.” In September 2003, DesignWrite
e-mailed Dr. Bachmann the first draft of the article. She also pronounced
that “excellent” and added, “I only had one correction which I highlighted in
The article, a
nearly verbatim copy of the DesignWrite draft,
appeared in 2005 in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine, with Dr. Bachmann
listed as the primary author. It described hormone drugs as the “gold
standard” for treating hot flashes and was less enthusiastic about other
acknowledgments thanked several medical writers for their “editorial
assistance,” not disclosing that those writers worked for DesignWrite,
which charged Wyeth $25,000 to generate the article.
Dr. Bachmann, who
has 30 years of research and clinical experience in menopause, said she
played a major role in the publication by lending her expertise. Her e-mail
messages do not reflect contributions she may have made during phone calls
and in-person meetings, she said.
“There was a need
for a review article and I said ‘Yes, I will review the draft and make sure
it is accurate,’ ” Dr. Bachmann said in an interview Tuesday. “This is my
work, this is what I believe, this is reflective of
In response to a
query from a reporter, Michael Platt, the president of DesignWrite,
wrote that the company “has not, and will not, participate in the publication
of any material in which it does not have complete confidence in the
scientific validity of the content, based upon the best available data.”
journals learn more about ghostwriting through documents released in lawsuits
and in Congress, some editors have started asking authors harder questions. A
few leading journals, like The Journal of the American Medical Association,
have instituted authorship forms that require contributors to detail their
role in an article and to disclose conflicts of interest.