Category Archives: Health

How the Democratic Candidates Responded to a Health Care Policy Survey

July 2, 2019

When the 2020 Democrats were asked the best way to improve the health care system, a split in the field was revealed. Here are full responses from 19 candidates.  The New York Times asked all 23 Democratic presidential candidates for their views on the best ways to improve the health care system. We received responses from 19 of them.

[Read our analysis of the responses here.]

The first three questions asked whether the candidates supported three possible routes for
changing how Americans receive health insurance: by creating a “Medicare for all” system
that would eliminate private insurance; by providing a choice between a “public option”
health care plan run by the government and private insurance; or by making more modest
changes to the Affordable Care Act.
Candidates could indicate support for more than one option. But in the fourth question, we
asked which of the three options would be the best way to improve the health care system,
and that is where a split in the field was revealed.
The survey also included several other questions about health insurance and coverage, how
the candidates would finance their plans, and other matters like prescription drug prices.
Below are the responses from each of the 19 candidates. Many of the questions were posed
in a yes-or-no format but also allowed the candidates to add additional comments. Some of
the responses we received were written in the first person, while others were supplied by
campaign staff members. Aside from a few corrected typos and minor punctuation changes
for clarity, these are the full, unedited answers we received.

No.

We need to have universal coverage, lower costs, and improve quality — those are the three objectives we should be working toward. The best path to achieve those objectives is with Medicare-X, my plan to create a strong public option that provides people with the choice of buying into that option or keeping the insurance they receive through their employer or union.

In just four years, Medicare for All would take health insurance away from about 180 million Americans who receive their insurance through their employer or their union, the vast majority of whom like it. And it would take insurance away from another 20 million people who receive insurance through Medicare Advantage.

Yes.

All Americans.

The best path to covering all Americans with high-quality, affordable health insurance is with Medicare-X, my plan to create a strong public option that provides people with the choice of buying into that option or keeping their private insurance.

Medicare-X would start in rural areas where there is one or no insurer to increase competition and lower costs. It would then expand to every ZIP code, and become available as an option on the small business exchange. Medicare-X would also, for the first time, allow the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of the American people. By using the existing Medicare framework, it does all of this without adding any bureaucracy.

No.

We should build upon the Affordable Care Act, including by extending premium assistance to more middle-class Americans who are above the A.C.A. cliff of 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. My Medicare-X plan would do that, in addition to increasing support to families under the 400 percent threshold who are currently receiving tax credits to help pay for insurance.

But we shouldn’t stop there. Medicare-X would also provide everyone with the choice of purchasing a public option, and it would allow the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices. We also need to reduce the cost of health care by increasing transparency and modernizing how we care for people.

Public option.

If you went into a living room anywhere in the country and told everyone about Medicare-X, my plan to create a true public option, I believe it’s a plan they could get behind. We don’t need to blow up our current health care system to provide everyone with high-quality, affordable care. And we don’t need to take insurance away from people who receive it through their employer and like it. Medicare-X starts in rural areas where the market is failing too many people. It covers essential health benefits and uses Medicare’s network of doctors and providers. It allows the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices. And it does all of this without creating any new bureaucracy.

Yes.

All Americans should be covered by high-quality, affordable health insurance. For people who are already eligible for Medicaid and other programs, our default should be for those programs to cover them. States that have yet to take advantage of the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare should do so in the best interests of their residents. Ultimately, by offering a strong public option through Medicare-X, we can accomplish universal coverage.

My Medicare-X plan would save taxpayer dollars relative to the current health care system, even as it covers millions more people. For example, a more modest public option has previously been projected by the nonpartisan, independent Congressional Budget Office to save $158 billion for taxpayers over a decade (source: bit.ly/2MH8b1V). That’s because a public option like Medicare-X requires premiums, but also cuts health care costs relative to private health insurance. We would then take those savings and reinvest them in improving upon Obamacare, so that more middle-class Americans are able to afford health insurance.

Notably, this differs dramatically from Medicare for All, which the nonpartisan Urban Institute has suggested would cost more than $32 trillion over the next 10 years (source: urbn.is/2WEIH9H). Regardless of whether people think this is the right approach, we have to acknowledge that nobody has shown how they would specifically pay for even a significant fraction of this total cost. According to Vox, when single-payer failed in Senator Sanders’s home state of Vermont, it failed when taxpayers were confronted with the fact that it would necessitate an increase in payroll taxes of 11.5 percent and income taxes by 9 percent (source: bit.ly/2VCeMOW).

My Medicare-X plan does not require a tax increase at all, because it saves taxpayer dollars relative to private health insurance. It allows the American people to choose this high-quality, affordable option instead of taking away their current health insurance.

Yes.

Undocumented immigrants should have the option of purchasing health insurance on the exchange.

Yes.

Americans are growing older, and we need to figure out how to provide them with long-term care.

Health coverage in long-term care is fragmented, insufficient, and inefficient. Americans shouldn’t be forced to spend down their life savings in order to be covered by Medicaid for long-term care. There are a number of ways to ensure that coverage is lifelong, and we should have that discussion.

No.

The United States government should negotiate drug prices through Medicare Part D and other federal programs on behalf of the American people. Medicare-X does that.

Importation from Canada is not a sustainable solution, because the reason drugs cost less in Canada is that the Canadian government uses its leverage to negotiate prices downward. Even if Canada allowed us to import all of its drugs (which it will not), we would still not be able to supply the demand in the United States, and it would have a limited effect on overall prices. We are nine times the size of Canada, and Canada would be left with drug shortages, which it would never allow.

After writing and passing legislation to secure our supply chain, I’m also concerned about counterfeit medications sold through supposedly Canadian online pharmacies, which are often not even based in Canada.

Yes.

I support allowing the United States government to negotiate drug prices through Medicare Part D and other federal programs. That’s the only way to get drug prices under control for the American people. Medicare-X does that.

Public option.

[The Biden campaign did not complete the survey, but indicated that Mr. Biden preferred a public option and referred to his statements on the campaign trail.]

Yes.

I support Medicare for All. There are different ways we can get there. Right now, there are several bills in the United States Senate that move our country closer to Medicare for All, and I’m a sponsor of them. The most important thing is to keep the ultimate goal in mind: affordable health care for every American, because health care is a human right.

Yes.

All Americans.

I am a co-sponsor of several bills in the Senate to create a public option, a powerful tool to introduce real competition into the market and drive down costs for consumers.

Yes.

I support strengthening the A.C.A., including by extending premium assistance to more middle-class Americans and undoing the Trump administration’s sabotage around enrollment, as one part of a broader effort to improve care and lower costs.

“Medicare for all.”

I believe our country needs to work towards Medicare for All and have co-sponsored several bills to help do just that, including through a public option and lowering the Medicare eligibility age.

Yes.

It is important that every American has health insurance not only to keep individuals and families healthy, but also to help keep health costs stable.

High out-of-pocket costs for people with insurance is one of the most concerning problems in our current system. On the path to Medicare for all, I support concrete steps to increase access and lower costs — including lowering the Medicare eligibility age and introducing a public option — all of which would be financed differently. Whatever the plan, we must do more to help low- and middle-income Americans, many of whom can’t afford to go to the doctor or get even basic preventative care due to prohibitive cost-sharing.

Our country already spends trillions of dollars on health care every year. By directing existing spending into a more efficient system, reducing the outrageous cost of many prescription drugs, and leveraging Medicare’s lower cost structure system, we can achieve savings that offset many of the costs of improving affordability and access. We can also raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while ensuring that most families are paying less for better care.

Yes.

Access to quality, affordable health care is a human right. We need to make our health care system more effective and efficient, and we must pass comprehensive immigration reform that creates a pathway to citizenship for those already living in the United States.

Yes.

Long-term care is an integral part of health care, especially for people with disabilities.

Yes.

I wrote and introduced the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act along with Senators Bernie Sanders and Bob Casey to allow for the safe importation of prescription drugs.

Yes.

I am an original co-sponsor of the Affordable Medications Act, which includes a number of provisions to bring transparency and competition to pharmaceutical companies responsible for outrageous drug prices. By allowing Medicare to directly negotiate with manufacturers, we can leverage the federal government’s buying power and cut costs for taxpayers and beneficiaries.

No.

Everyone should have access to health care — and it should be affordable to the individual and to the taxpayers. Access to health care shouldn’t depend on the size of your paycheck. It should be a right for all.

Through the A.C.A., we have been able to make great strides in ensuring coverage for more Americans, beginning to reduce the growth in health care costs, and providing better care inclusive of prevention, drug and alcohol treatment, screenings, and mental health care.

Yet even after the A.C.A., many people still can’t access care. And most of us are paying too much. More can be done.

About 156 million Americans are enrolled in employer-sponsored health insurance plans. Moving immediately to a Medicare for All system would both undermine existing employer sponsored health care, upset a significant portion of the economy, and result in significant payroll tax increases for working Americans to cover Medicare for All.

At the same time, 25 million Americans still lack coverage, and the Trump administration is only making things worse.

I believe that we can increase access and affordability by providing a public option for Americans who want to buy into government insurance which will also ensure competition in the private market; allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices and bring down the costs of prescription drugs; automatically enrolling Medicaid eligible people in Medicaid; and ending surprise billing and out of network charges.

Yes.

All Americans.

Yes.

The Affordable Care Act began to put America on a path toward significantly improved health care coverage, better health prevention and results, and reduced expenses. The Trump administration has worked aggressively to block the important changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act resulting in reduced coverage, lower quality coverage options, and increased costs to consumers.

I believe by fully implementing the Affordable Care Act, providing a public option, allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices, automatically enrolling people eligible for Medicaid, and ending surprise billing and out of network charges, we can significantly improve health care for all Americans.

Public option.

As a Governor, I am on the front lines of implementing health care solutions. I will never forget testifying in front of the U.S. Senate about implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion, and how they had meaningfully impacted health care in our states. At the same time, as we were testifying, Republicans were trying to repeal the A.C.A. and take our country backward. While some have the luxury of debating the ideal health care system, governors must implement effective systems that work for our constituents — and that’s what I have been doing in Montana.

Estimates indicate that a Medicare for All system would require between $2.5 and $3 trillion in new revenue each year. When you consider that the U.S. government is expected to bring in $3.6 trillion in 2020, an additional $2.5 to $3 trillion is a 69 percent to 83 percent tax increase.

The Affordable Care Act increased access to health care, behavioral health care, stabilized rural hospitals, improved health care in Indian country, provided preventative care, increased access to substance abuse treatment, and provided incredible improvements throughout Montana. Continuing to strengthen the Affordable Care Act while adding a public option and automatic enrollment for people eligible for Medicaid will go a long way toward full coverage, reduced costs, and improved health outcomes throughout the country.

No.

The vast majority of health insurance is provided by employers. We must make it both more affordable to employees, and for employers to offer health care. Those who are not covered by employer-based health care must be incentivized to have coverage through a public option — and we should help with the incentives. A mandate, however, is not an incentive.

The first thing we have to address is health care costs — for employers and families. Improving affordability will make it easier for everyone to access health care whether it is employer-based or publicly available.

Businesses that choose not to provide their employees with benefits, or businesses avoiding employee benefits through excessive use of contract employees, need to be examined.

No.

Comprehensive immigration reform that protects our border, helps the Dreamers who have known no other home than ours, and provides a path to citizenship for immigrants who have been part of the fabric of our country for many years is the best way to address health coverage for people who want to become American citizens.

No.

Long-term care is an increasingly important challenge for many families, and we should explore ways to make long-term care more affordable and accessible for all Americans without adding crushing costs to working families.

No.

Americans pay more for prescription drugs than nearly anyone else, yet we have nothing to show for it. Rather than focusing on importing drugs from other countries, we need to get our pharmaceutical companies to charge Americans less for vital medicines. If these efforts are unsuccessful, moving toward a safe drug reimportation program would remain an option.

Yes.

As Governor of Montana, I negotiated health care costs between our hospitals and the state employee insurance plan resulting in significant cost savings. It is long past time that the federal government did the same to lower pharmaceutical costs. With the purchasing power of the federal government and its many health care systems — Department of Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Service, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Employee Health Benefits Program — we have significant leverage in these negotiations.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

I support universal health care and believe that a Medicare-type buy in provides the best glide path to a Medicare for All environment. Even then, private insurance can play a role, but only on a supplemental basis. Medicare for All is our goal because it represents a fairer, more efficient health care system that will spend less money on profits and bureaucracy and more on patient care.

Yes.

All Americans.

The path to Medicare for All that I believe makes Americans better off along the way is one that starts with a Medicare-like plan as a public option for people who want it. It will challenge private options to become more affordable and efficient; I am skeptical that they will be able to do so, and expect that this will lead to a Medicare for All environment in the future as more Americans opt in to the Medicare-like plan.

No.

I am in favor of strengthening the Affordable Care Act while we work to implement full reform.

Public option.

Yes.

New health spending should be financed by a combination of premiums and tax-based funding to ensure it is affordable.

Federal spending that makes health insurance affordable could be offset by taxes on the wealthy and on corporate profits.

Yes.

Undocumented immigrants should be able to buy coverage through the public option.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

America needs a comprehensive, universal insurance program for long-term care. This can either be done within a universal Medicare plan, or in parallel to it, but the United States must establish such a program so that families can count on long-term care.

Yes.

Such importation must be done in a way that ensures safety and quality.

Yes.

No.

I support Medicare for all with a role for private insurance for individuals that choose it.

Yes.

All Americans.

I support universal health care with Medicare as the foundation. Americans should have options to choose either a complementary or supplementary private insurance.

No.

[This multiple choice response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

The best way to improve the health care system is to provide Medicare for all, with an option to choose either a complimentary or supplementary private insurance.

Yes.

An expanded Medicare program should be financed mostly through a restructured tax code. Premiums and co-payments may still exist, but my proposal will prioritize keeping these payments low.

I would support repealing the Trump tax plan and replace it with one that asks corporations and the wealthiest elite to contribute their fair share.

Yes.

Undocumented immigrants pay taxes and are contributing members of our communities. I believe they should be eligible for government health care support and put on a pathway to citizenship. I look forward to putting forward a health care plan that addresses the health care gap for undocumented families.

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

No.

I support the Universal Healthcare plan that I have crafted, which provides health care to every American as a right. It will allow Americans to have the option of having private insurance.

link: https://www.johndelaney.com/issues/health-care/

Yes.

All Americans.

No.

The first thing that the next President should do is fix the A.C.A. The A.C.A. was a good law and has been under attack from Republicans since the day it was signed. Our primary obligation should be to first stabilize our health care system before we begin overhauling it.

A.C.A. fixes.

Your question does not fully capture my views — I would first fix the A.C.A. and then work to create universal health care. The A.C.A. has been under attack from Republicans since the day it was signed. The best way to improve the A.C.A. is to stabilize premiums and bring down costs.

No.

Every American should have health care as a right via a federal program but have the option of purchasing health insurance.

A combination of revenues is the best path forward. Americans who are struggling financially should not have to pay co-payments that will restrict their ability to receive proper care whereas Americans with more resources would contribute. I also believe a government-only (single-payer) system would result in lower quality and more limited access.

My universal health care plan is fully paid for by eliminating the deductibility of employer-provided health care. https://www.johndelaney.com/issues/health-care/

No.

I support comprehensive immigration reform which provides a pathway to citizenship.

Yes.

Yes.

We should also tax big pharma when they charge other countries less than they charge Americans, thereby inflating the price of prescriptions drugs for Americans. https://www.johndelaney.com/issues/prescription-drugs/

Yes.

“Medicare for all.”

[The Gabbard campaign did not complete the full survey, but provided additional comments.]

I support Medicare-for-All. It is unacceptable that in our country we pay far more for health care than any other country in the world, yet we have far worse outcomes. No one in this country should be sick and in need of care and not able to get that care simply because they don’t have enough money.

We have to address the high cost of prescription drugs and hold pharmaceutical companies like Purdue accountable for deceptive sales practices. Right now, Medicare today still can’t negotiate with prescription drug companies to bring down the cost of health care. That has to change.

Like many other countries in the world that have universal health care, I believe there is a role for private insurance but we have to re-evaluate what that looks like — we need to create transparency in the system, break up what is essentially an oligarchy in the pharmaceutical and health care industries and ensure Americans aren’t being gouged for services they need to live.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

Senator Gillibrand is a co-sponsor of the Senate Medicare for All bill and wrote the transition piece in the legislation. She supports the goals of that legislation and believes a single-payer system is the best way to achieve universal health care coverage, and to guarantee high quality and low-cost health care to all Americans.

Senator Gillibrand believes that a Medicare for All system will eventually displace the private insurance industry from providing health care. She believes that private insurers are welcome to compete with Medicare, but because Medicare is a nonprofit program, without shareholders or high C.E.O. pay, their prices will consistently be lower than private insurers, who will no longer have a role in health care.

Private insurers could still have a role in providing consumers additional elective medical services that they want to pay for individually, such as cosmetic plastic surgery.

Yes.

All Americans.

Senator Gillibrand’s overarching goal is to get Americans to universal coverage, and supports several pieces of legislation to that end. While she believes that Medicare for All is the ideal and best way to accomplish universal coverage, she also co-sponsors both Senator Stabenow’s Medicare at 50 Act, and Senator Schatz’s State Public Option Act.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

Senator Gillibrand would of course support modifications to improve the cost and access to health care provided through the Affordable Care Act. But her main focus is achieving universal coverage and she believes the best way to do that is through a single-payer system like Medicare for All, with a critical public option as a transition.

“Medicare for all.”

Senator Gillibrand believes that a single-payer system like Medicare for All will get America to universal coverage quickest, while also providing the most affordable and highest quality health care. She believes that a nonprofit health care system that focuses solely on its patients’ health and well-being, and that does not have to worry about shareholder value or C.E.O. pay, will deliver the best care to the American people.

Yes.

Senator Gillibrand believes that extending health care coverage to all Americans is the most efficient way to ensure low prices. Moving to a single-payer system, where everyone is covered, will provide all Americans with health insurance they can afford.

Under Senator Gillibrand’s ideal system, health care would be financed through a combination of employer-matched co-payments and taxes.

Senator Gillibrand supports a financial transaction tax, repealing the corporate tax cuts, eliminating subsidies for excessive C.E.O. pay and for companies that ship jobs overseas, and restoring the estate tax.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

As is outlined in the Senate Medicare for All bill, Senator Gillibrand supports extending health care coverage to all U.S. residents as defined by H.H.S. Residents will receive coverage provided that they are paying into the health care system, and are on a pathway to citizenship.

Yes.

Yes.

Senator Gillibrand supports the importation of generic drugs and is a co-sponsor of the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act.

Yes.

Senator Gillibrand supports giving the federal government the ability to negotiate drug prices for Medicare. Medicare for All would empower the government to negotiate all prescription drug prices. She also co-sponsors the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, which would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices in Medicare, and the Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act, which would allow Medicare to negotiate for prescription drugs.

Yes.

Medicare for All will guarantee access to health care, with no premiums or co-pays, for every single American. Private supplemental insurance for procedures not covered under the Medicare for All plan would still be allowed, but it is time to stop letting big insurance companies put profit over people’s health care.

Yes.

All Americans.

Medicare for All is my preferred plan. I am also supportive of other measures to expand insurance to more Americans, which is why I am a co-sponsor of the State Public Option Act, the Choose Medicare Act, and the Medicare-X Choice Act.

No.

Protecting the A.C.A. from repeal is one of the proudest moments I’ve had in the Senate, and I am for strengthening it and building on its success. That’s why I support Medicare for All, so that we can ensure every American has access to health care.

“Medicare for all.”

Medicare for All will extend health insurance to every single American, with no co-pays or premiums. It will cover most procedures, as well as dental, vision and hearing aids, and will allow you to choose your doctor, without worrying about who’s in-network or not. We have to change a system that allows big insurance companies to put profit over people’s health.

Yes.

Republicans’ decision to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate has destabilized our health care system, made costs go up for families, and increased the number of uninsured Americans.

I support the system set up under the Medicare for All bill I sponsor, where every American can have access to health care with no co-pays or premiums.

The U.S. spends more on health care than any country. In the next decade, we’ll spend $50 trillion on our current health care system. We simply can’t afford to do nothing. Budget estimates of Medicare for All show the system would save the system money.

Yes.

I support the process outlined in the Medicare for All bill, which ensures universal coverage.

Yes.

Too often, elderly Americans and people with disabilities are forced to leave their homes, live in poverty, or go without critical long-term care. It’s unacceptable. That’s why I’m proud to support Medicare for All, which would provide much-needed support for millions of Americans.

Yes.

I co-sponsor legislation to allow importation of prescription drugs from countries with safety standards as strong as the U.S., such as Canada. It will help lower costs for Americans who need access to medicine.

Yes.

I co-sponsor legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which would significantly reduce costs for our seniors.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

I believe that health care is a right for all Americans. As president, I am committed to achieving the goal of universal coverage. This week, I signed into law the nation’s first public health care option to create another pathway for delivering affordable coverage. I believe the public option should be a key first step toward delivering universal health care in our country. We must also lower the age of enrollment for Medicare, allow Americans to buy into or automatically enroll in Medicare, allow Medicare to import and negotiate the price of drugs, and end the Trump administration’s outrageous effort to strip millions of Americans of their health care. I am proud of my record as governor in expanding health care to 800,000 Washingtonians, passing the first public option in the country and passing the first long-term care insurance program in the country. As president I will build on this record of success to achieve universal health coverage for all Americans.

Yes.

All Americans.

Yes, and I believe the unprecedented accomplishments we have made in Washington State show that we are able to get this done. I believe that we must lower the age of enrollment for Medicare, including allowing all Americans to buy into Medicare or automatically enrolling in Medicare at birth. The Cascade Care public option plan that I have signed into law makes public health plans available to all Washingtonians, regardless of income, by 2021. It also requires establishing cost-sharing agreements that will reduce, by up to 10 percent, the cost of plans on the health care insurance exchange, which currently serves 266,000 Washingtonians.

No.

I am the only candidate in this race who has both voted for and implemented Obamacare, which now provides health insurance to over 800,000 Washingtonians. Because of Obamacare, we slashed our uninsured rate from 14 percent to 5.5 percent. I support efforts to shore up the Affordable Care Act, and when I am president, I will end the Trump administration’s persistent undermining of Obamacare that threatens the health care of millions of Americans. But we must also do more to build upon the progress we’ve made thanks to Obamacare with policies such as lowering the Medicare enrollment age, allowing Americans to buy into or automatically enroll in Medicare, and allowing Medicare to import and negotiate the price of drugs.

Public option.

Yes.

Health insurance should be financed through a combination of public subsidization for those who need assistance to obtain health insurance and premiums that are affordable. Our fundamental goal must be providing health insurance and health care to everyone in America.

[This response was left blank.]

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

Our goal must be to ensure that everyone in America has health insurance and enjoys a right to health care. To help accomplish this, we must also quickly create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and I will do so as president.

Yes.

I signed into law the nation’s first publicly funded long-term care benefit, and I believe this is a model for national policy. Washington State’s Long-Term Care Trust Act leads the nation by providing support to care for an aging loved one, or for people of any age to receive long-term care for unexpected injuries or illnesses. It will provide dignity and peace of mind for people everywhere in our state, and it’s the right thing to do.

Yes, and I voted to do so repeatedly in Congress.

Yes, and I voted to do so in Congress.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

The Senator wants to see universal health care and there are many ways to get there. She believes the smartest transition right now would be to do a public option — which could be done by expanding Medicaid or Medicare — and that this will get us there more quickly.

Yes.

All Americans.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

The Senator supports a public option and she favors modifications to the Affordable Care Act, including extending premium assistance to more Americans.

Public option.

Yes.

Combination.

[This response was left blank.]

[This response was left blank.]

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

The Senator believes that all seniors should have access to high-quality long-term care.

Yes.

The Senator leads the bipartisan bill that allows for the importation of safe, less-expensive drugs from countries like Canada.

Yes.

The Senator leads the bill on lifting the ban on Medicare negotiating prices directly with drug companies on behalf of the 43 million seniors in the Part D program.

No.

Every American deserves excellent, affordable care. But as the only candidate in the race who receives single-payer health care today (through the V.A.), I’ve experienced such a system firsthand — and there are serious problems with it.

There are 150 million Americans who currently receive private health care, and they should be able to choose public health care if they want it — but they shouldn’t be forced onto a plan if they don’t. That’s why the right answer is a public option, exactly what President Obama had in the original plans for the Affordable Care Act, not Medicare-for-All.

Yes.

All Americans.

A public option would force public and private insurers to compete against each other for our business, which would give Americans the benefits they deserve: better coverage, cheaper prescriptions, lower costs, and health care that isn’t tied to a job.

Imagine having Congress and the next President force UPS and FedEx out of business, making everyone use the U.S. Postal Service whether they wanted to or not. Does anyone honestly believe that lack of competition would improve the U.S.P.S.? Just as we have choices for delivering packages, we should have choices for delivering health care. It’s a better, healthier, more efficient, and fundamentally more American system.

Yes.

I would be happy to sign premium assistance into law. It would extend benefits to the middle class, making health care more affordable for millions of Americans.

But we also need to go further; premium assistance is a great step forward, but it won’t drive costs down far enough, or for enough Americans. We need a public option to truly fix our system.

Public option.

I had private insurance growing up but now get my health care from the V.A. — one of the closest things we have to Medicare-for-All today — so I’ve seen the ups and downs of both systems firsthand. Neither one is good enough on its own.

The right answer is an aggressive public option, where all Americans can buy into a Medicare-like program if they want and keep their current insurance if they don’t. Competition between the private sector and a public option will drive improvements to both.

Yes.

For health care to be affordable, both healthy and sick folks need to be covered on our plans. Everyone does. That’s because if only sick or injured people received health care, the cost of health care would spiral out of control. And any of us can get sick or injured at any moment, so everyone needs coverage to drive down costs and keep everyone healthy. Having everyone enrolled in health care is also critical for preventative care, which saves lives and keeps down costs.

A combination of taxes, co-payments and premiums.

Our system is currently funded through a combination of taxes, co-payments, and premiums, all of which totaled 18 percent of G.D.P. in 2017. That’s twice as much as nearly every other wealthy country in the world. A well-designed system, including an aggressive public option, will address that problem and reduce the overall taxes needed to fund the system. For plans to compete, they will need to bring down the astronomically high bureaucratic costs in our current health care system.

Yes.

They would be allowed to buy into my public option. Under current law, hospitals in the U.S. cannot refuse to treat patients who need care. Therefore, our system already pays for health care for undocumented immigrants — usually through emergency rooms, which are the most expensive form of care.

By allowing everyone to buy into a public option, more folks will be covered, the risk pool will be younger and healthier, and fewer hospital bills will go unpaid. Everyone deserves good health care, and it makes the system stronger and more efficient overall.

No.

We should fund long-term care through government programs, as most other nations do. We should also invest more in home care and senior-adapted home technology to increase the quality and quantity of housing for seniors.

No.

Importing cheaper prescriptions from other countries is not the solution to our high drug costs. Prescriptions are cheaper in other nations because they negotiate drug prices. We should import their system, not their drugs. Importing their drugs has the potential to undermine safety, and more than that, it would risk exporting our drug prices to other nations — thus spreading the problem instead of solving it.

Yes.

Negotiating drug prices will make prescriptions more affordable for all Americans.

I made a commitment to continue receiving my health care through the V.A. even as a Member of Congress. Because the V.A. negotiates drug prices, any prescription I get is 40 percent less expensive than the same medications on private insurance. We should be doing that in all of our health systems to keep costs down for all Americans.

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Beto supports universal, guaranteed, high-quality health care. He believes the surest, quickest way to get there is a proposal like the Medicare for America bill, which says that everyone who does not have insurance today is enrolled in Medicare and that everyone who has insurance they cannot afford, premiums they cannot pay, a deductible they cannot bridge, is free to choose Medicare while letting Americans have the choice of keeping the employer-sponsored and private insurance plans that work for their family’s needs.

Yes.

All Americans.

No.

The Affordable Care Act allowed millions of people to get insurance, see a doctor, afford their medications, receive lifesaving procedures that allow them to live up to their full potential. Beto believes that we need to build on that success by getting to a place where there is guaranteed, universal, high-quality health care. He believes the surest and quickest way of getting there is through a plan like Medicare for America.

Public option.

Beto supports universal, guaranteed, high-quality health care. He believes the surest, quickest way to get there is a proposal like the Medicare for America bill.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

Beto supports a system like the one proposed under Medicare for America which would automatically enroll every uninsured individual and provide universal coverage. Those insured through their employer could choose to stay on that plan or enroll in the Medicare for America system.

Under the current system, the costs of health care are increasingly being shifted onto consumers. Beto is committed to reducing out of pocket costs. Beto supports a plan like Medicare for America which eliminates out of pocket costs for lower-income families, eliminates deductibles for all families, and limits out of pocket costs for middle income and upper income families to levels far below costs under the ACA or the current Medicare program. Such a plan would also set premiums based on a sliding scale as a percentage of income — with free care or subsidies for low- and middle-income Americans. Overall, we will reduce what America will pay on health care costs.

At a time when corporations and the wealthiest among us received a $2 trillion tax cut, we know we have the means to achieve universal, guaranteed, high-quality health care. By using existing allocations more wisely, controlling costs, and letting working families take the money they pay to private insurers and instead let them pay into a public option at a lower cost, we can ensure that every person can see a doctor, afford a prescription, and be well enough to live up to their full potential.

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This issue is one of many reasons Beto believes that comprehensive immigration reform must be a top priority. Because our laws rightly require hospitals to provide care to everyone, the cost of care for uninsured individuals is currently shifted onto other consumers. Therefore, it is in everyone’s interest to provide a pathway for obtaining insurance.

Yes.

Beto supports a plan like Medicare for America, which covers long-term care, including nursing homes as well as home and community-based services. By providing an option to every business and individual to buy into this system at an affordable cost, we ensure people can get the coverage they need.

Yes.

Beto has supported legislation that facilitates the import of safe, low-cost medicine from Canada and Europe where the same medications are available for cheaper.

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

All Americans.

Yes.

“Medicare for all.”

We need to think big when it comes to making health care more accessible and affordable, which is why I am a long time supporter of Medicare for All. But as we move towards that ultimate goal, we need to be realistic on how we get there. That is why I also support making modifications to the Affordable Care Act and adding public option that would allow Americans to buy into Medicare without eliminating private health insurance options until we as a country can implement Medicare for All in a way that will move our country forward.

Yes.

A combination of taxes, co-payments and premiums.

A surcharge on very wealthy people. But we also need to reform these broken system so we are not throwing money at things that aren’t working. We need more revenue, but we also need to maximize what we have through deep reforms to how our government works.

No.

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Bernie is running for president because the time is long overdue for the United States to join every other major country on Earth and guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare-for-all program. Health care is not a commodity. It is a human right. The goal of a sane health care system should be to keep people well, not to make stockholders rich. That is why we need Medicare for All. Bernie’s Medicare for All program would provide comprehensive health coverage to all with no premiums, deductibles, co-payments, or surprise bills.

No.

The question we face is whether we will guarantee health care as a human right. The only way to do that is to pass Bernie’s Medicare for All plan. The current system is completely dysfunctional, and in the current profit-driven health care system, we are at the mercy of the private insurance and pharmaceutical companies, whose greed dictates the cost of health care. The U.S. federal government has failed to rein in health care costs, which many of our peer nations have successfully done.

A public option or other buy-in plans fail to address the underlying problem in the U.S. health care system: corporate greed and profiteering off of the sick. The other proposals do not address skyrocketing prescription drug prices. They fail to simplify the current confusing and dysfunctional administrative system that makes up 17 percent of health care expenditures. Under Bernie’s Medicare for All plan, we slash administrative costs by relying on one payment and billing entity — the federal government — instead of hundreds.

Buy-in and other option plans still leave millions of Americans at the whim of their employers. 30% of employers change plans every year. On top of that, 66 million people separated from their job sometime last year, and by age 50, the average worker has held 12 different jobs. Medicare for All provides stability. After a four-year transition period, every man, woman, and child in the United States will have health care coverage from birth, with no changes or confusing “open enrollment,” no networks, and no surprise bills.

Medicare for All completely eliminates premiums, deductibles and co-payments for services. Under Medicare for All, health care is free at the point of service for all people in the U.S. regardless of income.

No.

Making only minor tweaks to the status quo is not enough. More than 30 million people do not have insurance. 41 million people are underinsured, meaning they have insurance but cannot afford to use it because the deductibles and other cost-sharing is too high. Keep in mind that 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency, yet deductibles routinely run into the thousands of dollars. Making small tweaks to the system may help a few of those tens of millions Americans, but small tweaks are not enough to solve the fundamental problems underlying our health care system.

[This response was left blank, but it was not applicable, since Mr. Sanders indicated support only for “Medicare for all.”]

Yes.

Bernie will guarantee health care as a human right, not a privilege or commodity. The United States must join the rest of the major countries in the world to guarantee health care to every person regardless of income. The only way to do that is to pass Bernie’s Medicare for All plan. Under Medicare for All, every American would be guaranteed care as a right and automatically enrolled in this new system.

Completely by taxes.

Let’s be clear, study after study shows that Medicare for All will save workers and average families thousands of dollars every year on health care, all while making sure corporations like Amazon and the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share.

Health care costs are a crushing tax for middle class families right now. If you count health care premiums as taxes, the United States is the second-highest taxed nation in the world. We can guarantee health coverage to all Americans while bringing down costs, just like every other developed country.

For decades, the American people have been told a lie: that we cannot afford to do what every other major country already does, and guarantee health care to all our people as a right, not a privilege. What the insurance industry’s lies fail to mention is that we already spend more per capita on health care than any other major country, with worse health outcomes, and that moving to a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system would actually end up saving the American people trillions of dollars.

By cutting unnecessary administrative costs, bringing down the outrageous prices of prescription medication, and ensuring large corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes, we can afford to bring the United States, the richest country in the world, in line with every single other industrialized nation and guarantee quality health care coverage to all Americans.

Yes.

Medicare for All means just that: all. Bernie’s plan would provide coverage to all U.S. residents, regardless of immigration status.

Yes.

Bernie believes that as a nation, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that all Americans have the supports and services they need. Under Medicare for All, health care will be guaranteed as a right and home and community based services and supports will be fully covered.

Yes.

We pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. It does not have to be that way. Bernie introduced the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, which would allow the importation from Canada and other major countries.

Yes.

If the pharmaceutical industry will not end its greed, which is literally killing Americans, then we will end it for them. Bernie’s Medicare for All plan will allow drug prices to be negotiated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services under Medicare Part D. Bernie also introduced the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, which will index the price of prescription drugs in the U.S. to the median price of the same drug in five other major countries.

No.

I support coverage for all, i.e., Medicare for all who want it. This would serve as a public option for any American, operating alongside and competing with private insurance plans, in order to drive prices down for everyone. If you’re sick you should be seen, and if you’re seen you shouldn’t go broke.

But we also should do what we do best as Americans: Find the unfindable, solve the unsolvable, and cure the incurable. We must invest in and commit to finding cures and more effective treatments in our lifetime, an initiative to publicly invest in genomics, targeted therapies, and data sharing. We’ll drive down the cost of care, increase our quality of life, and put a new generation of scientists to work while we’re at it.

Yes.

All Americans.

Americans should have a choice between coverage provided by private companies and that provided by the government. While I do not want to bring an end to private insurance, I support coverage for all, which would be a public option that would drive down the pressure on the private insurers and ultimately lead to more affordable plans for all Americans.

No.

It’s not the only solution, but we can and must protect, restore, and improve the protections that the Affordable Care Act gives all Americans regarding coverage for pre-existing conditions, coverage for maternity care, allowing people to remain on their parents’ plans through age 26, and so on.

Public option.

Public option, while restoring/protecting A.C.A. rules for private insurers.

Yes.

Requiring all Americans to have insurance, either public or private, means our health care system no longer has to bear the cost of treating uninsured patients.

A combination.

[This response was left blank.]

Yes.

It is in society’s interest to have everyone be as healthy as possible, and that’s achieved through access to affordable health care for everyone.

Yes.

We have the opportunity to expand a care economy in which we invest in retraining mid- and end-of-career workers, including those displaced by technology, to work in providing long-term care — jobs for those who need them, care for those who need it.

Yes.

I support importing drugs if they meet safety standards and the manufacturers can be held liable.

Yes.

I will do anything that is safe for patients — from negotiating prices to better enforcement of antitrust laws — to make prescription drugs more affordable, because prices are simply too high now for too many Americans. When my son, Nelson, got sick recently, we took him to the doctor and then I went to a chain-store pharmacy to have a prescription filled. The pharmacist told me I was lucky to have insurance because what cost me $5 would cost an uninsured person $250. Later, I talked with one of my district’s few remaining independent pharmacists; he said the prescription’s actual wholesale cost is about $80, so he would have charged an uninsured person about $100. This is a broken system.

There are a variety of additional steps the government could take, such as increasing access to generic drugs and improving access and opportunity for clinical trials, to help lower costs. Whatever is done should reduce prices, maintain incentives for innovation, and ensure drugs continue to be safe and effective.

And our public investment in finding cures, and making those available and affordable, would bring costs down too.

Yes.

I support Medicare-for-All so that everyone is covered, no one goes broke because of a medical bill, and we start treating health care like the basic human right that it is.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

Every proposal on the table right now would layer coverage expansions that add up over time, but there’s no excuse for stopping at half-measures. The aim has to be very clear: make sure every single person in this country has guaranteed health care coverage.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

I have a bill to crack down on shady behavior by insurance companies and improve the quality and affordability of health insurance purchased on the A.C.A. exchanges or provided through employer coverage. We have to protect the A.C.A., but we can’t stop there.

“Medicare for all.”

Our aim should be to cover the most people at the lowest cost, and for me that means Medicare for All. Health care is a basic human right and no one should go broke to pay a medical bill.

Yes.

Massachusetts was a leader in health care reform, including by adopting a requirement that everyone have coverage. This requirement is one of several features that has made health care coverage in Massachusetts some of the very best in the nation.

Studies show that health care costs will decrease under Medicare for All. Families are going broke today from medical bills, and Medicare for All will ensure that co-pays, deductibles, emergency room visits, and prescription drugs don’t drown families with sky-high medical expenses.

Yes.

Health care is a basic human right.

[This yes-or-no response was left blank, but the campaign left additional comments.]

Medicare for All would guarantee long-term care coverage for everyone in this country. I also believe we must fight against Republican attacks on Medicaid, which is the backbone of our long-term care system for millions of Americans.

Yes.

Yes.

No.

I want to make Medicare available to everyone as an option, but not eliminate private insurance.

Yes.

All Americans.

Yes.

We should keep and strengthen the A.C.A.

Public option.

Medicare provides good quality care at affordable rates, and should be available to those who want it. But millions of people like their private insurance and should be able to keep it. So the best is including Medicare as an option on the health exchanges, a public choice along with the private choices.

Yes.

Through a combination of taxes, co-payments and premiums.

Repeal the 2017 tax breaks for big corporations and very wealthy, retain for middle class.

Yes.

No.

Yes.

Often the same drug is less expensive in other countries. However we need strict monitoring to ensure good quality.

Yes.

Medicare could negotiate lower drug prices for consumers.

Yes.

We pay more than any other major industrialized country for our health care to worse results. When Americans get sick, they’re focused more on how to pay for their care than how to get well. Our current system is dysfunctional and we need to move towards a Medicare for All system that provides coverage for all Americans from birth. I wouldn’t eliminate private health insurance, but I don’t imagine it being an economically viable business outside of supplemental plans since it’s competing against a no-cost alternative.

Yes.

All Americans.

A public option for all would be a major step in the right direction and can serve as a good option for people during the transition from our current system to Medicare For All.

No.

Our health care system today is fundamentally broken and we need to make bigger moves to fix it — not just incremental modifications.

“Medicare for all.”

While all these policies would move us in a better direction than our current system, I believe the best path forward is Medicare for All. This system will ensure coverage for all Americans while allowing us to keep costs under control.

Yes.

By ensuring everyone has coverage, we can promote preventative care and keep costs under control, while also making administrative costs lower for both the federal government and individual providers. And, most importantly, we can make sure that all Americans are taken care of when they’re ill or injured.

A combination of taxes and co-payments, not premiums.

Employer-sponsored health care already represents a huge percent of our spending in this area, and that money can be used to largely fund Medicare for All through a payroll tax. The Medicare for All system will be cheaper because of lowered administrative and other costs, a lack of profit motive, and a focus on preventative care.

Yes.

I believe in a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants. Anyone who applied for that pathway would be eligible to buy into the Medicare for All system.

Yes.

Long-term care, especially end-of-life care, is an important part of anyone’s lifetime health care needs, and as such should be a part of a Medicare for All plan.

Yes.

Many Americans are paying as much as 8-10 times the prices as Canadians for the very same prescription drugs. While we should start by trying to control prices in the domestic market through mechanisms such as international reference pricing, forced licensing, and public manufacturing of generics, if these efforts don’t work, then we should allow for the importation of prescription drugs.

Yes.

It’s ridiculous that this isn’t allowed already.

 

 

Researchers test vaccine they hope could stem Alzheimer’s

July 1, 2019

courtesy of NAELA eBulletin:

See video at Researchers work on anti-Alzheimer’s vaccine

Albuquerque, N.M. — Researchers at University of New Mexico researchers are working on a vaccine they hope could prevent Alzheimer’s disease, reports CBS Albuquerque affiliate KRQE-TV. UNM’s Health and Sciences Department Associate Professor Kiran Bhaskar, who’s been passionate about studying the disease for the last decade, says the work started with an idea in 2013.

“I would say it took about five years or so to get from where the idea generated and get the fully functioning working vaccine,” he said.

Bhaskar and his team started to test the vaccine on mice. It has not yet been shown if it works in people.

“We used a group of mice that have Alzheimer’s disease, and we injected them over a series of injections,” said PhD student Nicole Maphis. She said the vaccine targets a specific protein known as tau that’s commonly found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

“These antibodies seem to have cleared (out) pathological tau. Pathological tau is one of the components of these tangles that we find in the brains of patients with Alzheimers disease,” she explained. The response lasted for months, according to UNM.

Those long tangles “disrupt the ability of neurons to communicate with one another,” the school points out, adding that tau is “normally a stabilizing structure inside of neurons.”

The mice were then given a series of maze-like tests. The mice that received the vaccine performed a lot better than those that hadn’t.

However, drugs that seem to work in mice do not always have the same effect in humans. A clinical trial involving people will be required to see if the drug helps in real life, and that’s a difficult and expensive undertaking — with no guarantee of success.

“We have to make sure that we have a clinical version of the vaccine so that we can test in people,” Bhaskar said.

Testing just a small group would cost the UNM Health Sciences Department $2 million. Right now, Maphis and Bhaskar are looking for partnerships to help them toward a clinical-grade vaccine.

Alzheimer’s affects almost a third of senior citizens and “is on the rise, currently affecting 43 million people worldwide,” UNM notes.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that the vaccine has not yet been shown to work in humans.

 

Cannabis use among older adults rising rapidly

July 1, 2019

courtesy of NAELA eBulletin:

Study is first state-wide investigation of cannabis use among older Americans and the outcomes they experience

UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO ANSCHUTZ MEDICAL CAMPUS

AURORA, Colo. (May 30, 2019) – Cannabis use among older adults is growing faster than any other age group but many report barriers to getting medical marijuana, a lack of communication with their doctors and a lingering stigma attached to the drug, according to researchers.

The study, the first to look at how older Americans use cannabis and the outcomes they experience, was published this month in the journal Drugs & Aging.

“Older Americans are using cannabis for a lot of different reasons,” said study co-author Hillary Lum, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Some use it to manage pain while others use it for depression or anxiety.”

The 2016 National Survey of Drug Use and Health showed a ten-fold increase in cannabis use among adults over age 65.

The researchers set out to understand how older people perceived cannabis, how they used it and the positive and negative outcomes associated with it.

They conducted 17 focus groups in in senior centers, health clinics and cannabis dispensaries in 13 Colorado counties that included more than 136 people over the age of 60. Some were cannabis users, others were not.

“We identified five major themes,” Lum said.

These included: A lack of research and education about cannabis; A lack of provider communication about cannabis; A lack of access to medical cannabis; A lack of outcome information about cannabis use; A reluctance to discuss cannabis use.

Researchers found a general reluctance among some to ask their doctors for a red card to obtain medical marijuana. Instead, they chose to pay more for recreational cannabis.

Lum said this could be driven by feeling self-conscious about asking a doctor for cannabis. That, she said, points to a failure of communication between health care providers and their patients.

“I think [doctors can] be a lot more open to learning about it and discussing it with their patients,” said one focus group respondent. “Because at this point I have told my primary care I was using it on my shoulder. And that was the end of the conversation. He didn’t want to know why, he didn’t want to know about effects, didn’t want to know about side effects, didn’t want to know anything.”

Some said their doctors were unable or unwilling to provide a certificate, the document needed to obtain medical marijuana. They also said physicians need to educate themselves on the latest cannabis research.

Some older users reported positive outcomes when using cannabis for pain as opposed to taking highly addictive prescription opioids. They often differentiated between using cannabis for medical reasons and using it recreationally.

“Although study participants discussed recreational cannabis more negatively than medical cannabis, they felt it was more comparable to drinking alcohol, often asserting a preference for recreational cannabis over the negative effects of alcohol,” the study said.

The researchers also found that despite the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and other states, some older people still felt a stigma attached to it.

“Some participants, for example, referred to the movie `Reefer Madness’ (1936) and other anti-marijuana propaganda adverts that negatively framed cannabis as immoral and illegal,” the researchers said.

The study adds to the growing literature on the diversity of marijuana use patterns in older adults, said co-author Sara Honn Qualls, PhD, ABPP, professor of psychology and director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

“Older adults who use marijuana are ingesting it in a variety of ways for multiple purposes,” she said. “This and other papers from the same project show growing acceptance of marijuana use for medical purposes by older adults, and a clear desire to have their primary health providers involved in educating them about options and risks.

Lum agreed.

She said Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, provides a unique laboratory to gauge public attitudes toward cannabis.

“From a physician’s standpoint this study shows the need to talk to patients in a non-judgmental way about cannabis,” she said. “Doctors should also educate themselves about the risks and benefits of cannabis and be able to communicate that effectively to patients.”

The study co-authors include: Julie Bobitt; Melissa Schuchman; Robert Wickersham; Kanika Arora; Gary Milavetz and Brian Kaskie.

What’s a Health Care Proxy and Why Do I Need One?

June 4, 2019

If you become incapacitated, who will make your medical decisions? A health care proxy allows you to appoint someone else to act as your agent for medical decisions. It will ensure that your medical treatment instructions are carried out, and it is especially important to have a health care proxy if you and your family may disagree about treatment. Without a health care proxy, your doctor may be required to provide you with medical treatment that you would have refused if you were able to do so.

In general, a health care proxy takes effect only when you require medical treatment and a physician determines that you are unable to communicate your wishes concerning treatment. How this works exactly can depend on the laws of the particular state and the terms of the health care proxy itself. If you later become able to express your own wishes, you will be listened to and the health care proxy will have no effect.

If you are interested in drawing up a health care proxy document, contact your attorney.

Hearing loss tied to increased risk for depression

May 1, 2019

NAELA News:

(Reuters Health) – Older adults with hearing loss may be more likely than peers without hearing difficulty to develop symptoms of depression, a research review suggests.

Globally, more than 1.3 billion people currently live with some form of hearing loss, and their ranks are expected to rise with the aging population, the study team notes in The Gerontologist. About 13 percent of adults 40 to 49 years old have hearing loss, as do 45 percent of people 60 to 69 years old and 90 percent of adults 80 and older, the authors write.

To assess the connection between hearing loss and depression, researchers analyzed data from 35 previous studies with a total of 147,148 participants who were at least 60 years old.

Compared to people without hearing loss, older adults with some form of hearing loss were 47 percent more likely to have symptoms of depression, the study found.

“We know that older adults with hearing loss often withdraw from social occasions, like family events because they have trouble understanding others in noisy situations, which can lead to emotional and social loneliness,” said lead study author Blake Lawrence of the Ear Science Institute Australia, in Subiaco, and the University of Western Australia in Crawley.

“We also know that older adults with hearing loss are more likely to experience mild cognitive decline and difficulty completing daily activities, which can have an additional negative impact on their quality of life and increase the risk of developing depression,” Lawrence said by email.

“It is therefore possible that changes during older age that are often described as a ‘normal part of aging’ may actually be contributing to the development of depressive symptoms in older adults with hearing loss,” Lawrence said.

The connection between hearing loss and depression didn’t appear to be influenced by whether people used hearing aids, the study also found.

One limitation of the analysis is that it included studies with a wide variety of methods for assessing hearing loss and symptoms of depression.

Still, the results of the analysis do add to evidence suggesting that there is a link between hearing loss and depression, said Dr. Nicholas Reed of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

First, hearing loss impairs communication and influences balance, which can lead to social isolation and decreased physical activity that, in turn, result in depression, Reed said.

Hearing loss may also cause tinnitus, or perceived ringing or buzzing in the ear, that can be especially debilitating in some cases and contribute to depression, Reed, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

In addition, hearing loss may trigger changes in the brain that contribute to depression.

“When we experience hearing loss, it also means that we’re sending a weaker auditory signal to our brains for processing,” Reed said. “This weak signal may mean our brains have to go into overdrive to understand sound (i.e. speech) which may come at the expense of another neural process (i.e., working memory). Also, the weak signal may cause certain neural areas and pathways to reorganize, which could change how our brain, including aspects that regulate depression, function.”

While the study doesn’t examine whether treating hearing loss can prevent depression or other health problems, people should still seek help for hearing difficulties, said David Loughrey, a researcher at the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity College Dublin who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Hearing loss has been linked to difficulties in daily life including difficulty with socializing and fatigue due to the increased mental effort required to understand speech, especially in noisy environments,” Loughrey said by email. “If someone is experiencing difficulties due to hearing loss or if they have any concerns about their mental wellbeing, they should consult a medical professional who can assist them.”

The Cost Of Seniors’ Health Care May Be Moderating But The Need For Long-Term Care May Be Growing

March 28, 2019

The pace of medical spending for older adults is slowing, and one highly-respected health economist gives much of the credit to the increased use of medications that reduce the risk of heart disease. That is good news, but it largely ignores the growing costs of long-term care and the increasing burden on family caregivers, whose assistance is not included in this analysis.

To put it simply: The increased use of drugs such as statins is improving heart health. Not only will that slow the growth of medical costs for seniors, it may help them live longer. However, it will not keep them healthy forever. They will, in effect, live long enough to suffer from frailty of old age. And that means they will need more personal care that most often is delivered by family members.

To oversimplify: Instead of dying of heart attacks at 60, more of us will live to 85, when we will get dementia. That’s why we need to shift resources from medical care to long-term supports and services.

Less heart disease

In the study published in the February edition of the journal Health Affairs, Harvard University health economist David Cutler and his co-authors calculated that the per beneficiary growth rate of Medicare spending slowed substantially from 1992-2012. Until 2004, program spending per enrollee rose by 3.8 percent annually. From 2005-2012, it grew by only 1.1 percent.

Overall Medicare spending grew much faster, largely because so many more people turned 65 and enrolled in the program. But spending for each beneficiary grew far more slowly than many predicted. By 2012, actual Medicare spending was about $3,000 less than forecast.

Cutler and his colleges dug into the data (and made some important adjustments to the available numbers) to try to understand why. This is what they found:

Half of the lower-the-expected spending was due to fewer acute cardiovascular-related medical events, such as strokes, heart attacks, or acute episodes of congestive heart failure. And they attributed half of that savings to greater use of medications that prevent or control conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.

More use of drugs

Few new drug therapies were developed for these diseases during this period. But consumers used existing drugs more frequently, in part to lower prices and creation of the Medicare Part D drug benefit.

Better heart health means less hospital care, fewer heart surgeries, and less need for post-acute care. Hospital admissions for heart disease are off by 56 percent since 1999, and admissions for strokes declined by 41 percent, the study reports.

And, the authors’ add, there is more opportunity to improve heart health and save money. Only 55-60 percent of American are controlling their risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

While the news on the health cost side is positive, there is another side to the story. Cutler and colleagues looked at a broad definition of medical spending that mimics the government’s National Health Expenditure Accounts. But personal health spending generally excludes long-term care services and supports. And it entirely ignores personal care provided by family members.

And that’s where matters get interesting. Widespread use of medications to prevent heart attacks or strokes keeps us healthier for longer. But it doesn’t make us immortal or immune from the frailty of old age.

A growing challenge

We will live longer in old age, and indeed life expectancy among older adults in the US continues to increase (though it has reversed a bit in the past few years for those under 65). Longer lives, however, make more of us susceptible to chronic conditions of very old age such as Alzheimer’s disease and some other dementias, pulmonary disease, and severe arthritis. It even is true with heart failure. Medications can reduce repeated hospitalizations for the disease but they won’t prevent it from slowly and inexorably sapping a senior’s strength.

We are left then, with a growing challenge. Medical costs for those with chronic conditions and functional or cognitive limitations are two- to three-times higher than for those with chronic conditions alone. Cutler and colleagues attempt to adjust their data for demographic changes but because they looked backward to 2012, they did not capture the coming explosion in the population of those 80 and older—when those limitations are most common.

We are left with a classic good news/bad news story. For example, some dementias, such as stroke-related or vascular dementia, may also become less common as medications prevent the underlying conditions. But Alzheimer’s may become more common as more of us live to a very old age.

While Cutler and his colleagues didn’t put it this way, their research strengthens the argument that the US needs to shift resources from medical care to long-term supports and services.

by Howard Gleckman

Scans Show Female Brains Remain Youthful As Male Brains Wind Down

February 26, 2019

Women tend to have more youthful brains than their male counterparts — at least when it comes to metabolism.

While age reduces the metabolism of all brains, women retain a higher rate throughout the lifespan, researchers reported Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Females had a younger brain age relative to males,” says Dr. Manu Goyal, an assistant professor of radiology and neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. And that may mean women are better equipped to learn and be creative in later life, he says.

The finding is “great news for many women,” says Roberta Diaz Brinton, who wasn’t connected with the study and directs the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. But she cautions that even though women’s brain metabolism is higher overall, some women’s brains experience a dramatic metabolic decline around menopause, leaving them vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.

The study came after Goyal and a team of researchers studied the brain scans of 205 people whose ages ranged from 20 to 82. Positron emission tomography scans of these people assessed metabolism by measuring how much oxygen and glucose was being used at many different locations in the brain.

The team initially hoped to use the metabolic information to predict a person’s age. So they had a computer study how metabolism changed in both men and women.

Then they reversed the process and had the computer estimate a person’s age based on brain metabolism data.
The approach worked. “It was highly predictive of age,” Goyal says.

Even so, for some people there was a big difference between their brain age and their chronological age. And Goyal says the team wondered whether this difference was more pronounced in men or women.

So they checked.

“When we looked at males vs. females, we did find an effect,” Goyal says. “We found in fact that females had a younger brain age relative to males.”

Women’s brains appeared about four years younger, on average. But it’s still not clear why.

“It makes us wonder, are hormones involved in brain metabolism and how it ages?” Goyal says. Or is it something else, like genetics?

Whatever the cause, higher metabolism may give female brains an edge when it comes to learning and creativity in later life, Goyal says.

“But it might also set up the brain for certain vulnerabilities,” he says, including a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Brinton sees it differently. She thinks women’s higher brain metabolism protects them from Alzheimer’s when they are young.

But menopause, she says, causes an “energy transition in the brain,” one that affects the brain metabolism of some women far more than others.

Brinton’s research suggests that the women most likely to experience a dramatic drop are those who carry a gene variant called APOE4, which increases a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s, or those who have risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

“It’s those women who will begin to develop the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease earlier,” she says.

As brain metabolism decreases in these women, Brinton says, there’s an increase in the sticky proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s.

“This is a process that starts very early in the aging process for some women,” Brinton says. “And we can intervene.”

How? The steps are a lot like those intended to prevent diabetes, Brinton says. They include diet, exercise and drugs that help the brain and body metabolize sugar.

Jason Frank Presses Maryland Senate for “Aging in Place”

January 28, 2019

by Federico Salas, J.D.

On January 17, 2019, the Maryland Senate Finance Committee held a briefing that, among other topics, addressed the Home and Community Based Options Waiver (HCBOW). Jason A. Frank, Esq. specifically discussed the problems with the HCBOW that he expects will be fixed by current proposed legislation that:

  • Ensures that those people who lose Community First Choice services because of aging into Medicare can access the HCBOW and continue to receive services in the community; and
  • Eliminates the 22,000-person HCBOW Registry (waiting list) and serves eligible people who want services directly in the community without first entering a nursing home.

Resources from the Briefing

View the recording of the Senate Finance Committee briefing (presentations on the HCBOW begin at 1:23:00).

Download Mr. Frank’s presentation on Aging in Place (PDF, 24 pages).

Senate Bill 699

This is a summary of SB 699 regarding Maryland’s Community First Choice program:

The Problem

Marylanders who have community Medicaid, including Medicaid Expansion, and get long-term care services through the Community First Choice (CFC) program for as little help as having someone to assist in bathing and dressing at home, will lose all access to services if both: (1) they get Medicare and (2) they have too much income or assets. For individuals in 2019, CFC-Medicaid Expansion enrollees who have a monthly income between $791–$1,396 per month or assets greater than $2,000 are at risk of losing services. The Home & Community Based Options Waiver (HCBOW) program can provide the needed services to Marylanders with disabilities at home, but it has an 8-year, 22,000-person waiting list (“the Registry”).

Currently, there is no way for Marylanders living at home to bypass the 8-year, 22,000-person waiting list and stay at home, except by unnecessarily entering a nursing home. This means that the people who lose CFC when they get Medicare must choose between having to enter a nursing home or go without help for 8 years in order to continue getting the help that they need.

The Solution

Permit certain individuals who are affected, or will be affected, by “the CFC problem” to bypass the 8-year, 22,000-person waiting list in order maintain CFC services WITHOUT having to wait out the 8-year Registry or go through unnecessary and extremely costly nursing home admission just to transfer back out into the community.

Senate Bill 700

This is a summary of SB 700 regarding Maryland’s HCBOW:

The Problem

Most Marylanders who need as little help as having someone to assist them in bathing and dressing—but lack the money to pay for it—must choose between entering a nursing home or going without help for 8 years. The Maryland Medicaid Home & Community Based Services Options Waiver (HCBOW) program can provide the needed services to Marylanders with disabilities at home, but it has an 8-year, 22,000-person waiting list (“the Registry”). The HCBOW has an 8-year-long waiting list because the HCBOW is not required to meet the demand for services.

This year, the HCBOW can serve 5,659 individuals. When the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) readjusts HCBOW program availability every few years, it does not count eligible people on the 8-year, 22,000-person waiting list. In 2016, the MDH actually reduced program availability DESPITE the size of the 8-year, 22,000-person waiting list.

There is no way for Marylanders living at home to bypass the 8-year, 22,000-person waiting list and stay at home, except by unnecessarily entering a nursing home. While on the Registry, registrants are also in the dark for 8 years regarding where they are on the waiting list.

The Solution

  • Require registrants to come off the Registry at a rate that would eliminate the 8-year waiting list within 12 months;
  • Require the HCBOW to meet the projected “demand” for services;
  • Require services to HCBOW-eligible individuals within 30 days; and
  • Provide information for registrants about their exact place on the Registry or when they might expect to receive services.

Handbook for Helping People Living Alone with Dementia Who Have No Known Support

January 2, 2019

2018 NADRC:
Handbook for Helping People Living Alone with Dementia Who Have No Known Support

The Handbook for Helping People Living Alone with Dementia Who Have No Known Support provides practical guidance as well as tools for helping a person living alone who does not have informal supports, including people with dementia who have a caregiver that cannot provide support. The handbook includes practical strategies for identifying people who are living alone without support, assessing risk, building trust, identifying family and friends willing to help, determining decision-making capacity, options for helping the person maintain their independence, and the basics of guardianship or conservatorship.

Also: Living Alone: living alone with dementia, live alone, single, widowhood, unmarried, no support, no family, autonomy, capacity, care planning, competency, ethics, financial capacity, informed consentFile: 

File

2018 NADRC: Handbook for Helping People Living Alone with Dementia Who Have No Known Support

Doctors’ Office Dementia Tests Are Often Wrong: Study

December 24, 2018

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 28, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Fast tests designed to help primary care doctors rapidly spot dementia in their elderly patients often get it wrong, a new British report contends.

The finding concerns three widely used quick dementia tests: the “Mini-Mental State Examination” (intended to assess mental orientation and verbal memory); the “Memory Impairment Screen” (which tests verbal memory); and “Animal Naming” (which gives patients one minute to quickly name as many animals as they can).

The result: more than one-third of the patients were misclassified — as either having or not having dementia — by at least one of the rapid tests in question.

“Dementia can be difficult to accurately detect, particularly in a primary care setting,” said study lead author Janice Ranson. But the rapid tests “are important screening tools to help clinicians decide who is likely to benefit from further testing for dementia,” she acknowledged.

“Our results suggest that some of the misclassification is due to test biases, such as a patient’s age, ethnicity or education level,” she added.

Ranson is a doctoral researcher in clinical epidemiology at the University of Exeter Medical School in England.

She and her colleagues reported their findings in the Nov. 28 online issue of the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice.

Ranson said quick tests are “routinely used” by primary care doctors as an initial screening. And if signs of dementia are found, a “full dementia investigation” typically ensues.

The study included just over 800 patients in the United States who underwent the tests. The participants ranged in age from 70 to 110, with an average age of 82.

The patients initially underwent comprehensive three- to four-hour dementia assessments. These involved a neurological exam, blood pressure readings, a medication review, DNA sampling, depression screening and lifestyle/family history interviews.

These comprehensive assessments revealed that about one-third of the patients had dementia.

All of the participants subsequently underwent each of the three quick dementia tests.

But when the research team compared the quick test results with the in-depth results, they found that 36 percent of the patients were mistakenly diagnosed by at least one of the quick tests.

Interestingly, the researchers found that individually, each quick test actually had a misdiagnosis rate of 14 to 21 percent, and only 2 percent of the patients were misdiagnosed by all three tests.

Why? Each test appeared to have a different problematic bias, the study authors said. For example, while one test appeared to underdiagnose dementia in highly educated patients, others appeared to miss the mark based on patient age, race or nursing home status.

“Each test is biased in different ways,” said Ranson, “and so some tests are more accurate than others for certain patient groups. While these results are at first concerning, knowing the specific limitations for each test will help clinicians decide which is the most appropriate for their patient.”

Still, she said there’s definitely room for improvement.

“We desperately need more accurate and less biased ways of detecting dementia swiftly in clinic,” said Ranson. “We are therefore developing new technology, using data science and artificial intelligence, to help clinicians get the best outcome for their patients. We are working hard to improve these tests with a more personalized approach to cognitive testing.”

Keith Fargo is director of scientific programs and outreach with the Alzheimer’s Association, in Chicago. “Diagnosing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is an incredibly complex process, and not something that can be done on the quick,” he said.

“Simple cognitive tests can be a helpful first step toward diagnosis, but as the study points out, are imperfect,” Fargo explained.

“The Alzheimer’s Association supports efforts to better understand and account for potential biases in short assessments for cognitive impairment,” Fargo added. “Ensuring a timely and accurate diagnosis is critical, and this study identifies important biases that need to be considered when using these preliminary assessments.”

More information

To learn more about dementia and dementia diagnosis, visit the Alzheimer’s Association.

SOURCES: Janice Ranson, M.Sc., doctoral researcher, clinical epidemiology, University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, England; Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director of scientific programs and outreach, Alzheimer’s Association, Chicago; Nov. 28, 2018, Neurology: Clinical Practice, online