Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Saving Money and Doing Good for the Mentally Ill

The weather’s getting warmer at last, which means we’re going to see more shoppers on the sidewalks and more homeless folks seeking donations. We can argue about ideas like banning panhandling Downtown, but there’s one thing most people agree on: the root cause of homelessness is usually mental illness, and like many Americans with mental illness, homeless people tend to refuse treatment, and only get it when they do something illegal and get arrested. (For more on that, see this book.)

I was pleasantly surprised to read an article in last week’s Journal of the American Medical Association praising Allegheny County’s special program for mentally ill offenders. I didn’t even know we had one. Turns out that since 2001, we’ve had a special court system that tries to divert offenders into treatment instead of jail. It doesn’t always work, because they have to agree, but a few hundred more people are getting treatment as a result. More importantly, the county saved about $18,000 per patient (estimated at about $3.6 million by the JAMA article). That’s a big chunk of change.

We don’t often get stories around here of our local government doing the right thing and saving money, and I’m glad to have something positive to call attention to.

Don’t we get a hearing?

As you may know, our local health insurance giant (not to be confused with our local health *care* giant) would like to merge with its Eastern PA counterpart and form one giant mega-insurer that would stretch across PA. Purely non-profit, of course. They promise not to go for-profit. And they definitely wouldn’t have a major effect on health care prices in Pittsburgh.

Of course, when anything big like this happens, someone is going to hold hearings. We happen to have a high-ranking Senator on the Judiciary committee, and he held a very nice hearing in Philadelphia, where he heard from locals and statewide commentators about the impact of the merger on Philly’s health care.

I’ve met Mr. Specter on several occasions, and he strikes me as a pretty smart guy, so I’m wondering: has someone on his staff forgotten that there’s another major city that stands to lose big time if two giants merge and use near-monopoly power to raise insurance rates? It seems to me that Western Pennsylvanians deserve our chance at the microphone. Where’s *our* hearing?

(Credit due to my neighbor two floors up, who noticed the unfairness and is circulating a petition to try to get our Federal dignitaries to hold a second hearing here in Pgh. It’d be nice if some of our local citizens’ groups were doing the same…)

Give a heart (or a kidney, or liver, or lung…)

hearts.jpgPeople like to hijack months, and there aren’t enough of them to go around. So April, for example, is National Poetry Month, Jazz Appreciation Month, and National Pecan Month, just for starters. It is also Donate Life Month.

To celebrate the fun and footloose world of organ donation, UPMC is hosting a week of tissue donor awareness events. Local celebrities will sign organ donor cards for the media. There’ll be a transplant parade on Wednesday — oh, I mean transplant patient parade. In UPMC Presbytarian. So I suppose there won’t be marching bands or elephants.

There are almost 100,000 people waiting for organ transplants — serious business, far more serious than this. If you haven’t yet signed a donor card, think about doing it this month, because April is Donate Life Month, after all. While you’re at it, have a pecan.

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