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State website offers ability to compare local hospital costs

  • Published in Health

Wear The CostConsumers can compare hospitals’ prices for four common procedures at a new website, wearthecost.org, started Oct. 19 by the Maryland Health Care Commission.

The site, named for “Wear the Cost” T-shirts urging consumers to check on health cost comparisons, has “all-in costs” for knee and hip replacements, baby deliveries, and hysterectomies. MHCC executive director Ben Steffen told the Sentinel that the site will add costs on many other medical procedures, some hospital-based and some not, over the next several years.

“There is price variation between hospitals in Maryland,” Steffen said. “We think consumers should be aware of that.”

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Democrats hold rallies as GOP health care bill crashes and burns on the Hill

  • Published in News

CAPITOL HILL – Healthcare is the hot topic of the moment in the U.S. Senate, and last Wednesday, Democrats brought out their heavy hitters to rally opposition to the Republican plan. Several prominent senators made appearances at a rally in front of the Senate chambers held June 21, attended by several left-wing groups, including Ultraviolet and Progressive Maryland, the day before Republican leaders in the chamber unveiled their proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Although details of the bill were not known at the time, senators said the House version offered a good idea of what it would contain – and they did not like it.

“President (Donald) Trump may have actually said it best. He said that Trumpcare is ‘mean,’” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.). “President Trump may not know much about healthcare – he sort of admitted it – and he’s certainly not the person I’d go to for policy on women’s care, but let me tell you, President Trump is our country’s top expert on mean.”

The bill text, released the next day, includes and even strengthens many portions of the House bill. It cuts Medicaid beginning in 2021 and lowers taxes for corporations and higher-earning individuals. It retains the House repeal of an ACA provision that keeps costs lower for seniors and allows them to be charged up to five times more than younger patients for insurance. Mental health coverage would no longer be required under Medicaid and states could apply for a waiver from essential health benefits, the minimum coverage standards under the ACA.

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Trump's budget would force state, county to 'pick up pieces'

  • Published in State

President Trump proposed a detailed budget May 23 that kept the themes of his March budget blueprint: steep cuts to science-based agencies, many headquartered in Montgomery County, and to programs to aid lower-income people, offset by sizable increases for defense and Homeland Security.

Compared with the 80-page budget released in March, the new spending plan for Fiscal Year 2018 (October 1, 2017-September 30, 2018) is a vast, eight-volume document with details on Trump’s proposals for every agency. Other subjects newly addressed include how the deficit would be affected, the major changes from previous budgets, revenue forecasts, and economic growth assumptions.

Given the size of the new document, reactions to it this week are only preliminary, with the meanings of many provisions yet to be unearthed by congressional review over the coming months.

If the proposed major cuts are enacted to Medicaid, food stamps (called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or “SNAP”), elderly and school nutrition, “It would be up to the County or state government or both to pick up the pieces,” said Joy Nurmi, special assistant to County Executive Ike Leggett. For instance, she predicted, if SNAP cutbacks are adopted, many people would go to food pantries such as Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg. Manna is partially funded by the County and the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg.

“A budget is a moral document,” reflecting a community’s values, Nurmi asserted. She called the Trump budget “completely morally corrupt.”

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Grief and nothing but heartbreak and anger

Aluminum Winged Caduceus Silver Spring MD

There is absolutely nothing worse in life, nothing, than to lay your child to rest.
Absolutely nothing.
The hole created in one's heart can never be filled. Combine this with the fact that six beautiful young children will grow up without their devoted father and we have a catastrophe of immeasurable proportion. That is the devastating loss I and my family and the family of my son face and will face for the rest of our lives.
My son made choices that made his life and the lives of those closest to him more complicated than they ever needed to be.
But he was also the most personable and likable individual you would ever want to meet and the person with the biggest heart.
He was also the most positive individual I have ever known and the devastation of his loss cannot be captured into words. However, this is an extremely personal loss and it is not my intention to share my grief with the readers of this newspaper.
What I will share with readers and what this column is about is my experience in dealing with the Philippines, specifically a Philippine hospital.

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Muslim doctor gives back to his community

  • Published in Local

SILVER SPRING, Maryland – For the past 10 years, Dr. Ashraf Meelu has paid out-of-pocket to offer basic health care in clinics open to the public.

The 64-year-old Muslim doctor from Lothian, Maryland, along with a few volunteers, spends Friday mornings providing flu shots, measuring blood pressure and offering other health treatments at a Guatemalan consulate in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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Progressives gather to continue Bernie support

  • Published in Local

More than 150 self-described political progressives crammed into a Rockville library meeting room designed to seat less than half that number Sunday afternoon to see how they could keep fighting for the causes they believed in even while Donald Trump is president.

“I’m a huge Bernie (Sanders) supporter. I’m really concerned about seeing the momentum continued,” said Debbie Spielberg of Silver Spring. “The question is now, given everything that happened, how do we move on?”

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Plaster: focus on health care and veterans

  • Published in Local

Mark Plaster head shot 8-24-163rd Dist. Congressional candidate Mark Plaster (R)   COURTESY PHOTO

ROCKVILLE – As a Navy reservist and a medical doctor, Mark Plaster (R) is focusing his race for the third congressional district on veterans’ issues and health care.

That includes overhauling how former members of the military receive treatment at medical centers operated by the Veterans Administration.

Plaster faces fifth-term Rep. John Sarbanes (D) and Green Party nominee Nnabus Eze in the general election.

“My first pledge is to try to fix the VA and I think we need to offer our veterans health care that they can actually put their hands around and do something for them,” said Plaster. “The primary thing I'm trying to emphasize is taking care of our veterans. That's something near and dear to my heart.”

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Beating the odds while suffering from cancer takes humor and determination

  • Published in Local

Ken Lourie 2012Kenneth Lourie   COURTESY PHOTO

BETHESDA – At the convention for Cancer Survivor Day on Saturday, Burtonsville resident Kenneth Lourie occasionally slipped in a joke while telling his story of surviving stage four lung cancer.

“I guess I’m living proof, no pun intended, that if …” Kenneth said.

According to Kenneth’s oncologist Dr. Leon Hwang, Kenneth had 13 months to live. That was seven years ago.

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The Supreme Court and health care

scales of justiceIn a few weeks the Supreme Court will be rendering its decision in the King vs. Burwell case which could significantly impact health care coverage for almost 9 million Americans. The case revolves around the applicability of the tax credit that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. Obamacare, provides for individuals at certain income levels to enable them to afford the purchase of health insurance through the health insurance Exchanges established under the ACA. The question before the court is whether that tax credit is limited to Exchanges set up by the state or whether it would also apply to the Exchanges set up by the Federal government in those states that opted out of setting up the Exchanges themselves.

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