Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

Looking Back on the Year in Health Care: There Were Some Bright SpotsLooking Back on the Year in Health Care: There Were Some Bright Spots

I don’t know about you, but I personally hate end-of-year columns. I had to write far too many when I was a newspaper reporter (back in the day when you got ink on your hands while reading a newspaper).

So why am I writing one, you ask?

Sigh. Blame it on the young lady who handles my social media. She’s making me.

So here goes.

2016 Highlights in Health Care

There’s a lot of moaning on social media about 2016 and what a terrible year it was. And yes, it did suck for many reasons, none of which I’m going to go into here. Instead, I’m going to talk about a few positives on the health care side for which I’m thankful.

Fewer Uninsured Americans

  • Twenty million previously uninsured Americans now have health insurance. Put another way, the uninsured rate in this country has never been lower.

Gains Under the Affordable Care Act

  • Many aspects of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) designed to improve quality and outcomes are actually working. A study published last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine found significant reductions in readmissions as the result of the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program, which was part of the ACA. For instance, the readmission rates for pneumonia, heart failure, and heart attacks for the worst-performing hospitals fell from 26.5% in 2010 to 23.3% in 2013, a relative decrease of nearly one sixth over just 3 years.

Bipartisan Support of the 21st Century Cures Act

  • A bipartisan Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which became law this month. The Act introduces sweeping changes to the way drugs are approved, funds the Cancer Moonshot initiative designed to speed cancer research, and calls for $1 billion over the next two years to battle the opioid addiction epidemic. It’s got some serious flaws, with critics warning the changes to the FDA approval process could put patients at risk, but it also has great potential. I promise to track this over the next year.

Increased Access to Medical Marijuana

  • Twenty-three states now allow medicinal use of marijuana. As the laws around marijuana use have eased, researchers have stepped in and are now publishing the results of some interesting studies about the risks and benefits of the drug.

New Vaccines

  • It looks like we might have a vaccine against Ebola.

People I Care About Received Quality Care

  • My assistant’s surgery to remove her nonmalignant brain tumor was successful.
  • My cousin, who has lived with malignant breast cancer for more than a decade, is still traveling like crazy and drinking Veuve Cliquot and martinis.

More good news? I think I’ll have more than enough to write about in 2017.

Do you have anything to add to this list? What would you like me to write about in 2017? Leave a comment or contact me directly.

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