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Monday, April 7, 2014

Jeff Bezos Does Good Thing

Posted by on Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 6:15 PM

If Jeff Bezos did more things like this, I'd write more positive articles about him.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientists striving for new cancer cures — and the patients who stand to benefit from them — got an enormous boost today when the Bezos family committed $20 million to support the development of novel cancer immunotherapies. It is the largest single contribution in Fred Hutch’s history.

You should go read the press release, which explains exactly the research that the Bezos family is funding. It looks like a smart investment.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Recreational Walking

Posted by on Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 12:13 PM

I hate exercise, but I like trying to keep my body from falling apart at the joints, so I walk a lot. The cruise from Seven Hills Park to Volunteer Park is one of my favorites—you can people-watch and feel the hum of the city along 15th Avenue, grab a cup of coffee from Victrola, and then...

KEEP READING > >

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Person with Contagious Measles Spent Time at a Lot of Well-Populated Places in Seattle and Pierce County Last Week

Posted by on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 1:48 PM

The Washington State Department of Health would like to let you know that "a person who was confirmed with measles traveled to several western Washington public locations while contagious" last week. From their news release:

The woman traveled to Seattle for a Kings of Leon concert at Key Arena on March 28, when she also was at the Best Western Loyal Inn and the Wasabi Bistro. The next day, she was at Beth’s Café, Aurora Suzuki, Starbucks at First and Pike, and the Pike Place Market. On those same dates she visited several locations in Pierce County, including Celebrity Cake Studio, LeMay Car Museum, Harmon Brewing Company, and some department stores. A complete list of the locations and the times of potential public exposure are available online.

This was also, as Slog Tipper Joe Szilagyi writes, "day 1 of Emerald City Comic Con with 80,000+ people downtown and in/near the Market, from nationwide and internationally."

The health department reminds you that most people are immune to measles because they've been vaccinated. But if you haven't been vaccinated or if you're not sure, you are instructed to contact a health care professional if you were in any of those locations at those times, especially if you start to show symptoms of measles, described as "an illness with fever or unexplained rash."

REALLY ACTUALLY DO IT, PEOPLE. As the health department points out, measles is really contagious: "If you're not vaccinated, you can get the measles just by walking into a room where someone with the disease has been in the past couple of hours."

Also: Get vaccinated, vaccinate your children, etc.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Glenn Beck Loses His Shit Because Seven Million Americans Have Access to Health Care

Posted by on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 1:45 PM

The Republican meltdown continues. Glenn Beck must hate it when large numbers of Americans have access to affordable health insurance, because he's absolutely losing his shit over it. Even so far as Beck rants, go, this one is a doozy: Beck says that if you put President Obama in a military uniform, he'll look like a dictator. He also says he's not going to pay attention to President Obama anymore. Then he starts screaming pieces of the Declaration of Independence while assuring his viewers—and presumably himself—that "my state of mind is great." Uh-huh:

Every day is the end of the world for Glenn Beck, but yesterday was even endier-of-the-worldier than usual.

Seattle Can Take a Stand on the Misuse of Antibiotics in Factory Farms, and You Can Help

Posted by on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 1:28 PM

Cheaper meat, sicker people.

John Lynch is an infectious disease doctor and medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Harborview Medical Center. Scott Weissman is an antibiotic resistance researcher and medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Tell the Seattle City Council to pass the resolution to call for an end to the abuse of antibiotics on factory farms now!

We use a lot of antibiotics in human medicine. Licensed prescribers provide 3.3 million kilograms to patients in the United States every year. That’s a pretty big pile.

Now imagine four piles of that size lined up next to it, totaling 13.5 million kilograms of antibiotics. That’s what is given to the animals that we raise for food in the United States every year. The FDA estimates that more than 80 percent of those antibiotics are given to perfectly healthy livestock, to promote their growth and to allow them to be kept in unsanitary conditions.

As a result of these and other animal husbandry practices, we certainly have cheaper meat now than we did 70 years ago, around the time antibiotics entered mass production. The problem is, in hospitals and clinics all over the planet, we are starting to see bacteria that are resistant to the same antibiotics that human medicine relies on to save lives....

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Obamacare Enrollment Hits 7,000,000 Target

Posted by on Tue, Apr 1, 2014 at 11:54 AM

President Barack Obama fist bumps Vice President Joe Biden, with Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett looking on, before a meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 16, 2010.
  • Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
  • President Barack Obama fist bumps Vice President Joe Biden, with Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett looking on, before a meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 16, 2010.

NPR:

Seven million was the White House's initial projection. After a rash of severe technical problems during the roll out of the healthcare.gov website, the White House brought that number in line with the Congressional Budget Office's 6 million figure. As we've reported, the month of March has been a blockbuster for the new health care exchanges. The pace of enrollments picked up drastically, as the open enrollment deadline of March 31 approached. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during his regular press briefing that about 200,000 people signed up yesterday, bringing the total number of enrollees to 7.04 million by midnight last night.

Great news!

And Republicans—who will never offer a Republican alternative health-care plan and who will never acknowledge that Obamacare used to be the Republican alternative to the kind of single-payer health care plan preferred by liberals, progressives, and sane countries everywhere (countries like Canada, Germany, France, Israel, and Vatican City)—are gnashing their teeth. But even with Obamacare's popularity rising Republicans will still win the midterm elections thanks to gerrymandering, transparently racist efforts to make it harder for people of color to vote (which Salon plans to cover once they pinch out twenty more #CancelColbert "think" pieces (#CancelColbert is to Salon as #MH730 is to CNN)), and the fact that poor people, young people, people of color, and white kids with dreadlocks tend to sit out midterm elections.

Still...

Even with millions of Americans gaining access to health care thanks to Obamacare—seven million have signed up, but 9.5 million are now covered thanks to Obamacare (Medicare expansion, kids who can stay on their parents health care plans until they're 26)—the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 30,000,000 Americans will remain uninsured in 2017 despite Obamacare. That number is not expected to budge. There were 60,000,000 uninsured Americans before the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act and halving the number of uninsured Americans is a huge achievement and a hard-won victory. But... again... still: 30,000,000 uninsured Americans. So the hardships, bankruptcies, and deaths due to lack of access to health care will continue. But instead of 45,000 Americans dying every year because they lack health coverage, after 2017 we can look forward to "only" 22,500 Americans dying annually because they lack access to health coverage. That's "just" 7.5 9/11s. Every year. Forever.

So, yeah.

Let's take a moment to celebrate the successful launch of Obamacare. (And let's protect Obamacare by VOTING in the midterms, people.) But let's not fool ourselves: our health care crisis isn't over. We still need to fight for a single-payer system that covers all American citizens.

An "Unprecedented" Ebola Outbreak

Posted by on Tue, Apr 1, 2014 at 6:00 AM

CNN:

An outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in west Africa has spread to Guinea's capital and beyond its borders in an "an unprecedented epidemic," a leading aid agency reported Monday.

A total of 122 patients are suspected of contracting Ebola and 78 have died, Doctors Without Borders said. Most victims have been in Guinea, but the World Health Organization reported Sunday that two deaths in Sierra Leone and one in Liberia are suspected to have been caused by the Ebola virus.

Climate change, as Sullivan points out, only makes events like this more likely.

Friday, March 28, 2014

My Experience With Purchasing Health Insurance on the Exchange, and Why You Should Go Sign Up Now Before it's Too Late

Posted by on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 10:48 AM

DONT FUCKING LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE: Sign up for health care by Monday!
  • miker/Shutterstock.com
  • DON'T FUCKING LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE: Sign up for health care by Monday!

As you hopefully know, Monday is the last day to enroll for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act. That's three days from now, people. If you don't do it by then, you'll likely have to wait until next year unless you experience a "life event," such as getting married, having or adopting a baby, moving to a new address, or losing other health insurance.

As a Type 1 diabetic since the age of 20, I've been a full-bore supporter of health care reform for nearly two decades. Eight years ago, when I was a lowly bartender, and when Washington state's Basic Health program was still a viable option, it was determined after a time that I had too much income to qualify for it anymore. This left me with only the considerably more expensive WSHIP option. Soon enough I couldn't afford both rent and the WSHIP premium, and my insurance lapsed. Long story short, I eventually ended up in the hospital. I was there for three days, and when I was discharged I walked from the hospital straight to my bartending shift, because, you know, rent was due.

There were options out there for me at the time—I just didn't know about them, and no one was going out of their way to fill me in. Later I learned about Country Doctor and benefited from that noble organization until I finally acquired healthcare through a full-time job.

Two months ago I paid off the last of my debt from that hospital visit, by putting it on a zero-interest credit card. The reality is, though, that most people in my situation don't pay their debts, and mostly, like I did, they wait until the problem is bad enough to necessitate an ER visit, so those debts are hefty. And then the cost is absorbed not by the insurance industry, but by taxpayers. That bill is currently estimated at $41 billion, nearly double since 2000. You can argue that taxpayers are still absorbing these costs under the ACA, and you'd be right, but you can't argue that a little preventative care is more expensive than an ER visit, or than, say, emergency surgery. So until you can trot out some numbers that demonstrate such an assertion, kindly shut the fuck up.

Continue reading »

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Monday, March 24, 2014

A Complete History of Republican Aggression Against Obamacare

Posted by on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress has assembled a comprehensive timeline of Republican attempts to kill Obamacare. When all four years of threats, futile repeals, and baseless claims are put together like this, it almost looks like Republicans have no idea what they're doing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Still Confused About the Individual Mandate?

Posted by on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Vox (mission: explain the news) has a new video for that:

It's better in your browser, where it fills the whole window with wonk.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Women's Health Care Clinic in Montana Destroyed by Anti-Choice Vandal

Posted by on Sat, Mar 15, 2014 at 11:41 AM

Susan Cahill has been offering family practice services in Kalispell, Montana since 1976. She has provided abortions as one part of her comprehensive reproductive healthcare model—and this is why she was targeted by an anti-choice extremist. The damage at All Families Healthcare has been described by Susan Cahill as "a total loss." All of the equipment was systematically destroyed, records were trashed, and personal effects, including pictures and cards, were purposefully ruined. Susan Cahill and all of the staff at All Families Healthcare need our support—emotionally and financially! Read her own inspiring words in a letter to the editor for the Daily Interlake.

There's an online campaign to raise money to rebuild All Families Healthcare. Terry and I made a donation this morning. If you have a few bucks to spare, consider kicking in.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Macklemore Posts Little Song About Basic Male Bathroom Etiquette

Posted by on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 at 2:20 PM

On Instagram, Macklemore writes:

ITS TIME THAT US MEN STARTED RESPECTING TO THE BASIN THAT OUR QUEENS SIT ON! LETS RAISE THE NEXT GENERATION TO HAVE BETTER AIM SO WOMEN DONT HAVE TO PEE & POOP ON OUR PEE!...and IM NOT TRYING TO POOP ON YOUR PEE EITHER! BASICALLY, TO ALL THE FRAT GUYS AND SHITTY DADS, QUIT FUCKING UP THE DEUCE SESH FOR THE REST OF US! BUMP THIS CUT IN ALL AIRPORT BATHROOMS AND FOOTBALL GAMES! FUCK A DRUNK DAD PISSING ON THE GROUND, AND A FRAT BRO TOO HAMMERED TO HANDLE HIS DANGLER! MAN UP AND LEARN DONG CONTROL!...IM OUT!!!

And here is the song:

I very much disagree with the all caps and the song's quality is highly questionable, but I agree with the intent behind Macklemore's message here. Clean up after yourselves, men.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Support for Obamacare Is Rising

Posted by on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 at 8:47 AM

A rise in support over time was inevitable:

Support for the country's new health care law appears to be rebounding slightly, according to a new national poll.

This, too, was inevitable...

A CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday indicates that nearly all of the increased support comes from upper-income and college-educated Americans.

But is this an indication of the limits of ACA? Or are the act's initial opponents finally abandoning all of that nonsense the media and the right pumped into their heads?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cancer Doc Promoted by Mars Hill’s Mark Driscoll Suspended by State

Posted by on Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 12:34 PM

The Seattle Times:

In an emergency action, the Washington State Board of Naturopathy has suspended the license of a popular naturopathic physician, John Catanzaro, saying he failed to adequately inform and safeguard patients while treating them for cancer with experimental individualized vaccines.

He said he was on the "cutting edge" of cancer treatment. The state board says his practices were "unsafe for patients." He said he was working with a Harvard-affiliated cancer center in Boston. They say they had one or two phone conversations with him. He said a lot of things as a frequent contributor to Mars Hill's blog. Now those posts have been expunged, and Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll aren't saying anything.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rethinking Ability

Posted by on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 3:38 PM

accessible_icon.png
  • Accessible Icon Project. Posted with permission.

When I read this story about a group of people working to change the International Symbol of Access (ISO), I was really intrigued, and it made me think about how this guerilla art project addressed the way we often think about physical ability and disability. I reached out to the Accessibile Icon Project to find out more and discovered that one of the people who created the icon is Seattle native Brian Glenney, former Westlake skater and part of the Big Time Mob graffiti crew, so I called him to find out more.

The reimagined ISO features a person in a wheelchair with some forward movement—the body is angled forward, the lines of the wheels indicate movement, and the arm is crooked back in such a way that it implies pushing. The image is transparent, so when it's placed over the current ISO you an see both the old and new look. Glenney started this project with artist (and so much more) Sara Hendren as a way to

create a disturbance and not accepting the old, static, medicalized stick figure to symbolize access. The idea is to trigger advocacy, or at least inspect our preconceptions of people with disabilities.

I think it's really cool.

But the project has some detractors. According to Glenney, some people feel that having a wheel in the ISO limits the symbolization in a way that excludes other types of disabilities. He's open to change, though, and thinks that evolving symbology will do more to create a conversation about advocacy. (The Accessible Icon Project image went through several changes, too.)

I reached out to a few of my friends who have disabilities to get their take on this new symbol, but none have gotten back to me yet (they're busy taking over the world, sorry). What do you guys think about this? Will you be ordering stickers and tagging signs around town? Do you think this is offensive or progressive?

Monday, February 17, 2014

I Feel Like Babies Born With Parts of Their Skulls Missing Should Get More Attention

Posted by on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 12:47 PM

There's a cluster of neural tube defects happening to babies in Yakima, and no one can figure out what's going on.

Federal and state officials won’t say how many women in a three-county area near Yakima, Wash., have had babies with anencephaly, a heart-breaking condition in which they’re born missing parts of the brain or skull. And they admit they haven't interviewed any of the women in question, or told the mothers there's a potentially widespread problem.

But as of January 2013, officials with the Washington state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had counted nearly two dozen cases in three years, a rate four times the national average.

HuuuWHAT?

They examined where the women worked, what diseases they had, whether they smoked or drank alcohol, what kind of medications they took and other factors. They looked at where they lived and whether they got their water from a public source or a private well. They looked at race and whether the problem was more pronounced in the area's migrant farm workers or in other residents.

In the end, there was nothing — “no common exposures, conditions or causes,” state officials said — to explain the spike.

Friday, February 14, 2014

What Do You Think of the iWatch?

Posted by on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 1:30 PM

There are always rumors flying around about the secret projects that Apple's working on. Most of the rumors are bullshit. But there's been talk for at least a year now about a watch product that Apple's working on, and I find these rumors to be more interesting than most. Here's the latest, from Apple Insider:

Apple may turn to optoelectronic sensor technology to help users of the company's so-called "iWatch" keep track of their heart rate and blood oxygen saturation, according to a Friday report from China.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple was also considering the addition of blood glucose monitoring, but that feature is believed to have been scrapped due to the "inaccuracy" of using optoelectronics for non-invasive blood glucose testing.

Apple has certainly hired its share of biometrics experts in the last few months, which gives at least some credence to these rumors. (Although these biometrics experts could also be working on the next iPhone, for all we know.) The idea of a device that keeps close track of your health information is an interesting one. There have been a bunch of health-tracking devices on the market over the last few years, and some of them reportedly work pretty well, but Apple has always been good at perfecting a clunky idea and making it ubiquitous (the iPod wasn't the first mp3 player, but it soon became the best-selling one; the iPhone certainly wasn't the first smartphone, but it changed the industry overnight). If they can do that for health-monitoring devices, that's the sort of idea that could change the (body) shape of America.

This is going to sound obvious, but bear with me: When people have access to more information, they tend to behave in a smarter way. When calorie information is available in restaurants, people order healthier options. When cigarettes come with health warnings, fewer people smoke. If Apple makes an irresistible device that tracks your health in a fun, data-driven way, people will behave in healthier ways. It could be almost a video-game-ification of health information, where people try to get their active pulse rate down, and so on. I would absolutely be interested in a device like this. I already use a pedometer for my long weekend walks, and I track how far I go. I always try to up the distance of the walks, because I'm a human and humans are competitive. If Apple does an iWatch right—gives it lots of neat tech-functions, makes it attractive and simple, and also provides comprehensive health information automatically and in an effortless way—you will see a good chunk of America getting healthier. (By "a good chunk of America," I of course mean "the Apple-product-buying chunk of America," which, unfortunately, means poor Americans will be excluded yet again.)

Or I could be full of shit. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

CVS to Stop Selling Tobacco at Its 7,600 US Stores

Posted by on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 8:42 AM

NE59414-INFO.jpeg

The nation's second largest drugstore chain has announced that it will stop selling tobacco products:

WOONSOCKET, R.I., Feb. 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS) announced today that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores across the U.S. by October 1, 2014, making CVS/pharmacy the first national pharmacy chain to take this step in support of the health and well-being of its patients and customers.

"Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health," said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Caremark. "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose."

This is really pretty big news. On the one hand, smoking is still the single largest cause of premature death and illness in the US, killing about 480,000 Americans annually. On the other hand, CVS says that its tobacco sales accounted for about $2 billion in revenue annually. That's not nothing.

So while I don't doubt that CVS executives are proud of themselves for doing the right thing—and they should be—they run a business, so this decision must also say something about the changing economics of tobacco. CVS is in the process of recasting itself as a health service provider, and its tobacco sales simply didn't fit that image. So they have chosen to jettison tobacco sales in pursuit of what they must view to be a more lucrative longterm business.

And that's a hopeful sign that the prevalence of smoking will continue to fade away.

When Work Force Shrinkage Is Good News

Posted by on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 6:00 AM

A report says the U.S. work force could shrink by 2 million as a result of Obamacare. Horrible! Right? Wrong:

The nonpartisan budget office’s analysis, part of a regular update to its budget projections, was far more complicated than the Republican attack lines it generated. Congressional Republican leaders called the findings “devastating,” “terrible” and proof that the health care law was a job killer.

The report did say that the law would reduce hours worked and full-time employment, but not because of a crippling impact on private-sector job creation. With the expansion of insurance coverage, the budget office predicted, more people will choose not to work, and others will choose to work fewer hours than they might have otherwise to obtain employer-provided insurance. The cumulative reduction of hours is large: the equivalent of 2.5 million fewer full-time positions by 2024, the budget office said.

The report “rightfully says that people shouldn’t have job lock,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader. “We live in a country where we should be free agents. People can do what they want.”

Americans already work more hours with less vacation than people in other wealthy countries, often just to keep the health insurance that comes with a full time job. Maybe this will help give more Americans more of that precious thing Republicans sometimes claim to be all about: family time.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Washington Wins the Super Bowl of Obamacare!

Posted by on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 4:22 PM

We're number one (after Vermont, but they're too small to count)!

The Seahawks certainly have something big to celebrate when they return to Seattle — that they get to go home to what might arguably be the best-functioning health insurance exchange in the nation, of course.

Yes, there is the Super Bowl victory, as well. But you have enough things to read about that — and not nearly as much coverage of the Washington Health Plan Finder, which is arguably having one of the best open enrollment seasons in the country.

Washington, alongside Vermont, leads the nation in percentage of eligible population enrolled in its exchange. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 33.1 percent of Washingtonians eligible to sign up for coverage through the exchange have gone ahead and done so (in Vermont, it's around 33.4 percent).

As the Washington Post points out, it's not like WAHealthPlanFinder.org didn't have its share of early season woes. But it has consistently upgraded both its website and its call centers to the point where it may be the most successful state insurance exchanges in the nation. I'm not saying that winning the Super Bowl isn't big, but it's nice to also have a somewhat less frivolous victory to cheer about.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is Everyone Sick All the Time This Winter, Or Is It Just Me?

Posted by on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 2:31 PM

I got sick a couple days before New Year's Day. It was a fever, but it was noteworthy in that I was so uncomfortable that I couldn't even read. I was just flat on my back in bed all day, re-watching Breaking Bad episodes. When the fever went away, the cold started in full force, with coughs and sneezes and all the usual symptoms. And then the cold lingered. And lingered. And lingered. I got a flu shot back in November and everything, but this cold/flu/crud knocked me for a loop. I was obviously improving a little bit every day, so it wasn't quite a bad enough situation for me to go to the doctor, but it was still annoying. Even now, I still cough a bit—walking home in the rain last night inspired a little coughing fit—and it seems that I'm not alone. Almost half of my coworkers are home sick right now. The people who aren't actively sick seem to be nursing symptoms from ailments that hit them a couple weeks ago—the office is a symphony of sneezing and coughing.

In short: This is the toughest cold season I can remember. Am I just getting old, or is this a typical experience for Seattle in 2014?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Roe v. Wade!

Posted by on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Today is the day I celebrate another year of being less punished than I could have been for the circumstance of having been born with a uterus. Hooray! (Next up: tampon subsidies and period leave.) In honor of the day, I'd like to remind everyone of a few basic statistics about abortion from the Guttmacher Institute:

• More than half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion.

• At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45.

• 37% of women obtaining abortions identify as Protestant and 28% as Catholic.

• About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.

• 54% of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant.

The Obama White House released a statement this morning, saying "We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom."

And our own Washington senator Patty Murray, who we fucking love for a million reasons, released her own statement this morning as well, reminding everyone that this right is under attack more than ever. Last year, she points out, was "yet another record-breaking year of state legislatures passing restrictive legislation barring women’s access to abortion services." She continued: "In fact, in the past three years, the United States has enacted more of these restrictions than in the previous ten years combined." You can read her entire statement below the jump.

Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, right-to-life activists are marching on the Supreme Court in frigid temperatures that have forced them to shorten or cancel some of their planned activities. And as we all know, terrible weather is God's way of saying He doesn't approve of what you're doing. Listen to His divine will, anti-choicers! Turn away from your evil ways!

Continue reading »

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Out of the Hospital and Off the Books: Should Harborview’s Primary Care Clinics Be Closed?

Posted by on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 1:01 PM

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  • Erik Stuhaug/Seattle Municipal Archives

This op-ed guest post is by Scott Barnhart, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine and Global Health at the University of Washington, who has worked continuously at Harborview for 35 years. He was Harborview’s Medical Director from 1999 to 2008.

Harborview Medical Center officials acknowledged last month they were considering moving or closing the hospital’s primary care clinics.

This would be a very bad idea.

Harborview is a critically important medical care resource for many thousands of people in King County, the state of Washington, and even surrounding states. One of the reasons it works so well is that while Harborview has a regional mission, it is grounded in the immediate communities it serves, which include those patients who often have no other options to access health care. These clinics go far beyond the traditional bounds of primary care, providing essential coordinated, complicated, and unduplicated outpatient care to our community’s most vulnerable patients. Labeling these clinics simply as “Primary Care” is incorrect and doesn’t reflect the mix of services required for good outcomes. The likelihood that equivalent robust services can be provided cost-effectively and sustainably is low. Furthermore, these patients will now be geographically and administratively further from the complex array of specialty services at Harborview upon which they greatly depend. Harborview officials have tried to clarify “misunderstandings” about the closure process by saying they are merely entering a planning process and commitments are firm. Planning is a slippery slope, however. While administrators say they are trying to serve patients closer to “where they live,” scattered and isolated clinics cannot serve the function these clinics are required to fill. For patients and staff, the news of closure was devastating. Any consideration of changes should be prefaced with clear commitments to the patients and the community of providing equal or better care backed up with a sustainable financial plan. This has not been done, and to do less opens a door to subtle intentional or unintentional diminishments of care quality and loss of confidence by patients. This will not serve these complex and often very ill patients well and can lead to clinic failures and de facto divestiture of the responsibility for these priority patients.

Harborview is the epitome of a successful partnership between King County and the University of Washington, and with all successful partnerships, there is a need to be very clear on the respective missions and responsibilities of each party. As health systems aggregate, identities and missions can get lost. This risk exists with Harborview’s tight linkage with UW Medicine. Many people may have lost sight of the critical fact of who owns Harborview. It is a public institution, paid for by levies, owned by the people of King County, and is operated under a long term management contract with the UW. The Council appoints a 13-member board who are stewards of the mission and oversee the relationship with the UW. This arrangement has successfully weathered many challenges dating back to the 1960s, when the hospital was at risk for closure had not the partnership been forged.

Harborview’s mission speaks very specifically to providing priority care for patients who are in serious medical trouble or who live at society’s margin—the incarcerated, the mentally ill, substance users, people with sexually transmitted diseases, indigents, non-English speaking poor, victims of violence, and those who have suffered burns or trauma. Speaking frankly, these are patients who other providers have consciously chosen to not serve and thus have no other options. Decisions to close these clinics will have adverse consequences for these patients as they lack alternatives...

Continue reading »

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

WA Health Exchange Passes 450,000 Enrollment Mark, Teams Up with Live Nation to Reach Out to "Young Invincibles"

Posted by on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 4:45 PM

Washington Healthplanfinder, our state's Obamacare insurance exchange, has announced that it has facilitated the enrollment of 454,009 Washingtonians since the website went live on October 1. Of that total, 73,098 have completed enrollment in private insurance plans, 134,700 are newly eligible adults who have enrolled in Medicaid, and 63,070 were previously eligible for Medicaid, but not already enrolled. Another 183,141 were previously covered Medicaid recipients who have renewed their coverage through the exchange; Medicaid recipients are required to re-qualify every year. The exchange also reports that there are another 76,058 Washingtonians who have completed applications for private health insurance, but have yet to make their first payment.

That's not bad for a program that Republicans like to dismiss as a total fucking disaster.

Washington Healthplanfinder also announced today that 77,000 18-to-34-year-olds had signed up for health insurance through December 31—14,572 of these in private health plans. That's about 20 percent of total enrollments. Which is a good start, but not nearly good enough: It is estimated that about half of the uninsured in Washington state are young adults.

One of the keys to making Obamacare work is signing up these "young invincibles" for coverage. Expanding coverage is not just about doing the right thing, it's about spreading the risk. We need people to pay into the insurance system when they are young—and least likely to get sick—in order to keep down premiums on everybody.

To that end Washington Healthplanfinder will be teaming up with Live Nation, the producer of Sasquatch and other music festivals and tours, in an outreach effort aimed at young adults. The outreach program will include an interactive presence at Live Nation concerts throughout the state, plus a sponsorship of Sasquatch.

“Live Nation is excited to work with Washington Healthplanfinder to provide a platform to educate our music fans about the new way to find quality, affordable health coverage,” Live Nation Northwest Music president Jeff Trisler said via a press release. “Our audience matches so well with those Washington Healthplanfinder is trying to reach and this program provides a wealth of information for uninsured and underinsured music fans.”

The partnership kicks off with a Facebook sweepstakes offering free Sasquatch tickets.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Worst Obamacare Web Site in the Nation?

Posted by on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Oregon:

Several states and the federal government have struggled with exchange technology, but none as much as Oregon. Cover Oregon’s online enrollment system still doesn’t work more than three months after it was supposed to launch, and the state has hired or reassigned hundreds of workers to manually process applications. Officials say they hope the online system will be operational by March.

What went wrong down there? Don't worry, the state is spending $228,000 for an independent review of all the errors. "Which," the AP reports, "is expected to begin later this month and take about six weeks."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's Not All Bad News

Posted by on Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 3:33 PM

AlterNet reports:

The risk of dying from cancer in the United States has declined 20 percent over the past two decades, according to the American Cancer Society's annual report out Tuesday.

However, cancer, a complex disease that has largely eluded attempts at a cure, will remain a top killer in 2014, taking some 1,600 US lives per day, it warned.

It's not a victory, but it's at least an incremental step toward the good. Go read the whole post.

H1N1 Is Back

Posted by on Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 9:45 AM

Welcome back, panic. We've missed you since 2009, when H1N1 was declared a "national emergency," turning legions of us into the kinds of people who wash our hands raw and open bathroom doors with paper towels.

Six have died of H1N1 in Washington state in the past two weeks and an infectious disease specialist at North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital in New York would like to remind you that H1N1 can be fatal to "young adults who would not be otherwise vulnerable."

People have been killed by and hospitalized for H1N1 in Michigan, California, Texas, Oregon, Utah, and North Carolina.

If you're looking for a flu shot near you, try this vaccine finder by ZIP code. (The link is to a King County Public Health site, but the ZIP code search function connects to a national database.)

Fun fact—when it comes to swine flu, we're more dangerous to the pigs than the pigs are to us:

"Although in the early stages of the swine flu pandemic there were worries that humans would catch the virus from pigs, this has so far not been documented and pigs and other animals have not been involved in the current spread of A/H1N1 influenza in humans," said Dr Vahlenkamp, "However, with the increasing numbers of human infections, a spill over of this human virus to pigs is becoming more likely. The prevention of human-to-pig transmissions should have a high priority in order to avoid involvement of pigs in the epidemiology of this pandemic".

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lock Up Your Uterus, The Government is Coming!

Posted by on Sat, Jan 4, 2014 at 2:27 PM

The Guttmacher Institute released some end-of-the-year statistics about the horrifying state of abortion rights. Well, horrifying if you own a uterus or know someone that does, or you care at all about autonomy and personal rights.

If you can get past the staggering revelation that there were "more abortion restrictions enacted in 2011-2013 than in the entire previous decade," there are more nuggets of information that will make your eyes scab over and your heart slam shut! State support of abortion rights are decreasing, restrictive licensing requirements are popping up left and right, private health plans fuck with the right to have an abortion unless you are dying, bans on abortion access for county and municipal employees are real things that exist, and a smorgasbord of restrictions like increased waiting periods, clinic shutdowns, forced ultrasounds, mandatory parental consent, and flat-out denying emergency contraception have been put into effect. USA! USA! USA!

Washington State falls in the supportive of abortion rights category, and as of 2010 has 287 publicly and Title X-funded clinics serving over 400,000 people (they say women, but not everyone with a uterus identifies as a woman). Maybe we can let the rest of the country know that The Handmaid's Tale is not an instruction manual.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cavity Search: Holiday Candy is on Sale Right Now

Posted by on Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Top Secret
  • Top Secret
You know those Cadbury Mini-Eggs with the crunchy shell that are the only reason people acknowledge Easter? They secretly make them for Christmas, too! Only instead of pastel eggs, they’re red, green, white, round, and called... um... Solid Milk Chocolates with a Crisp Candy Shell. Something about the packaging makes it seem like mint is going to be involved, but really, they’re just Mini-Eggs in disguise. Rejoice!

Speaking of mint, which can be really gross let’s FACE IT already, how do you feel about peppermint bark? I am pro, mostly because I’ve developed a late-20s white-chocolate urge that surely indicates I’m turning into my mother. The more white chocolate the better these days. But what exactly IS it? The Wall Street Journal explained, in a poky li'l article titled 'White Chocolate, a Blank Slate for Flavor, Wins Converts,' that: “White chocolate is made from the cocoa butter separated out when cocoa beans are roasted.” So it really is a distant relative of real chocolate, and apparently there are standards, which is nice—Wikipedia tells us, “Regulations govern what may be marketed as ‘white chocolate’: In the United States, since 2004, white chocolate must be (by weight) at least 20% cocoa butter...Before this date, U.S. firms required temporary marketing permits to sell white chocolate.” What I would give for a framed white-chocolate permit.

Back to peppermint bark. It’s hard to blow it with this candy (Williams-Sonoma has a nice fancy one, and Trader Joe’s standard bark always does the trick), but right now I'm pretty into Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses, which consist of white chocolate, red stripes, and little dots of crunchy candy cane—just enough mint to be safely outside the sweet-toothpaste danger zone. They're less intense than classic bark—you can eat them without candy-cane shrapnel flying everywhere and they don't involve the dark chocolate bottom layer, which I can usually live without. (For you mint lovers out there, they also offer a dark chocolate mint truffle Kiss, which is a green mint-paste blob wearing a dark-chocolate smug jacket.)

Two other holiday treats I found in my grocery- and drug-store travels:

Red Velvet Santa: From Russel Stover (the Wet N Wild of confectioners)—a lump of pinkish red-velvet-flavored clay-like substance covered in chocolate. For the record, it’s not shaped like a Santa at all, more like a damaged triangle; red-velvet cake mix is listed as an ingredient, which is why, I assume, the lump is gritty. But really, it was kind of good. Dominic Holden described it best: “This is deliciously disgusting.”

Gingerbread-Flavored Men: These Peeps marshmallow buddies are light brown and shaped like little gingerbros. I wasn’t expecting it, but they actually taste like gingerbread—right down to the ginger/mollasses-y spice kick. Paul Constant didn’t hate them: “Better than a Starbucks gingerbread latte, which is as good as you’re going to get from me.”

Hot tip!
  • Hot tip!
(In other Peeps news, Safeway currently has a gift set containing two boxes of Peeps and a STUFFED PEEP CHICK WEARING A SANTA HAT on mega sale right now. I just bought three, so they only have a couple left at the Central District location.)

Now then, does anyone know of any good New Year's candies?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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Against Multivitamins

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Warming Up with Icy Hot

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