Thursday, December 17, 2009

The sad state of health insurance in the US

Today a report announced that about 20% of Americans went without health insurance for some or all of last year. By contrast, in almost every other developed nation in the world, 0% went without health insurance in the same time period.
The report suggests, not surprisingly, that lack of insurance was more common amongst the unemployed. I have found myself in this situation recently, having lost a job unexpectedly and being unable to afford the premiums for a private plan once my corporate benefits ended. Most plans cost in excess of $1000 per month for a family of 4, and still have deductibles that run into the thousands. For those without regular income, this is laughable, and insurance of any kind only becomes more thinkable if one's family income is at poverty levels so you can at least get the kids signed up with Husky. Husky appears to be a comprehensive and admirable way to spend our tax dollars. Almost 40%of our children are covered with a Husky plan according to today's report with only 8% left without insurance at all. Personally, I had no idea so many children were taking advantage of government health insurance. I find it reassuring that the program is there.
For parents, life without a job is difficult. Life without health insurance, is terrifying. That's why we need health reform. Bring it on.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Eye news
Similarities between amyloid beta deposition in the lens of the eye, and the brain-clogging features of Alzheimer's Disease point to an early detection method for the brain disease using a special florescence test to identify a telltale pattern of lens cloudiness that is different from that found in normal cataracts that are an inevitable consequence of growing old. Dr Goldstein from Brigham Young Hospital in Boston uses an internal ophthalmoscope to detect early protein deposits before any cataract has formed, and then follows up with the fluorescence test to determine whether the deposits are indeed the type associated with Alzheimer's. He figures early detection could lead to better chance of treatment but...who would want to know though? That's always been my question. Since there are no known paths to prevention or cure, knowing you have the disease at a very early stage would be worrying to say the least, if not downright disabling.
In a second eye story, a new genetic eye disease has been discovered that affects the macular and causes central vision loss similar to that seen in macular degeneration. It is surprisingly infrequent that a new genetic disease is discovered. In this case, relatives of sufferers may have other eye problems such as poor alignment of the eyes rather than the macular degeneration which has made the link more difficult to pin down. This macular disease appears to occur much earlier than age-related macular degeneration but it appears to be potentially treatable with the same drugs, VEGF-inhibitors, injected directly into the eye.
It is likely that the eyes will come under more intense focus (no pun intended, oh alright maybe it was intended) as the population ages. Still, though, there is no good way to prevent age related eye diseases that we know of. The only advice we have to live by is, wear sunglasses, eat a balanced diet, watch your blood sugar if you are diabetic, and get your eyes checked regularly. Maybe genetic testing will be added to that list. Eventually.