Legalized physician-assisted suicide in Oregon--the first year's experience. (1/1445)

BACKGROUND AND METHODS: On October 27, 1997, Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide. We collected data on all terminally ill Oregon residents who received prescriptions for lethal medications under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and who died in 1998. The data were obtained from physicians' reports, death certificates, and interviews with physicians. We compared persons who took lethal medications prescribed under the act with those who died from similar illnesses but did not receive prescriptions for lethal medications. RESULTS: Information on 23 persons who received prescriptions for lethal medications was reported to the Oregon Health Division; 15 died after taking the lethal medications, 6 died from underlying illnesses, and 2 were alive as of January 1, 1999. The median age of the 15 patients who died after taking lethal medications was 69 years; 8 were male, and all 15 were white. Thirteen of the 15 patients had cancer. The case patients and controls were similar with regard to sex, race, urban or rural residence, level of education, health insurance coverage, and hospice enrollment. No case patients or controls expressed concern about the financial impact of their illness. One case patient and 15 controls expressed concern about inadequate control of pain (P=0.10). The case patients were more likely than the controls to have never married (P=0.04) and were more likely to be concerned about loss of autonomy due to illness (P=0.01) and loss of control of bodily functions (P=0.02). At death, 21 percent of the case patients and 84 percent of the controls were completely disabled (P<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: During the first year of legalized physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, the decision to request and use a prescription for lethal medication was associated with concern about loss of autonomy or control of bodily functions, not with fear of intractable pain or concern about financial loss. In addition, we found that the choice of physician-assisted suicide was not associated with level of education or health insurance coverage.  (+info)

Why do patients seek family physicians' services for cold symptoms? (2/1445)

OBJECTIVE: To examine the frequency of presentation to family physicians' offices for cold symptoms, the reasons for presentation, and the duration of symptoms before presentation. DESIGN: Prospective cross-sectional survey. PARTICIPANTS: One hundred consecutive patient encounters in each of 15 family practices from January 27 to February 3, 1994, involving both academic and non-academic family physicians in the London region. Data were collected prospectively using a checklist attached to each chart. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Proportion of patients presenting with cold symptoms, reasons for presentation, number of days patients had had symptoms, billing code. RESULTS: A total of 1421 checklists were analyzed, 822 from academic practices and 599 from community practices. Proportion of presentations for cold symptoms was 14.8%, but visits coded as common cold represented 5.7%. Median number of days patients waited before presentation was 7.0; older patients tended to wait longer. Many patients were worried about developing complications (51.0%) or were fed up with their symptoms (31.9%). Most patients were between the ages of 20 and 64 (44.6%), and 57.6% of all patients had developed complications requiring treatment. CONCLUSIONS: The proportion of visits coded as common cold was lower than Ontario averages. Most patients had complications rather than simple colds and had managed their symptoms on their own for a fairly long time.  (+info)

Explaining the decline in health insurance coverage, 1979-1995. (3/1445)

The decline in health insurance coverage among workers from 1979 to 1995 can be accounted for almost entirely by the fact that per capita health care spending rose much more rapidly than personal income during this time period. We simulate health insurance coverage levels for 1996-2005 under alternative assumptions concerning the rate of growth of spending. We conclude that reduction in spending growth creates measurable increases in health insurance coverage for low-income workers and that the rapid increase in health care spending over the past fifteen years has created a large pool of low-income workers for whom health insurance is unaffordable.  (+info)

Challenges in securing access to care for children. (4/1445)

Congressional approval of Title XXI of the Social Security Act, which created the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), is a significant public effort to expand health insurance to children. Experience with the Medicaid program suggests that eligibility does not guarantee children's enrollment or their access to needed services. This paper develops an analytic framework and presents potential indicators to evaluate CHIP's performance and its impact on access, defined broadly to include access to health insurance and access to health services. It also presents options for moving beyond minimal monitoring to an evaluation strategy that would help to improve program outcomes. The policy considerations associated with such a strategy are also discussed.  (+info)

Behavioral health benefits in employer-sponsored health plans, 1997. (5/1445)

Data for 1997 show that three-quarters or more of employer-sponsored health plans continue to place greater restrictions on behavioral health coverage than on general medical coverage. The nature of these restrictions varies by plan type. Some improvement in the treatment of mental health/substance abuse (MH/SA) benefits in employer plans may be occurring, however. Comparisons with data from 1996 show that the proportion of plans with benefits for "alternative" types of MH/SA services, such as nonhospital residential care, has increased. Further, the proportion with special limitations on these benefits shows a modest decrease.  (+info)

Differences in physician compensation for cardiovascular services by age, sex, and race. (6/1445)

The purpose was to determine whether physicians receive substantially less compensation from patient groups (women, older patients, and nonwhite patients) that are reported to have low rates of utilization of cardiovascular services. Over an 18-month period we collected information on payments to physicians by 3,194 consecutive patients who underwent stress testing an 833 consecutive patients who underwent percutaneous coronary angioplasty at the Yale University Cardiology Practice. Although the charges for procedures were not related to patient characteristics, there were large and significant differences in payment to physicians based on age, sex, and race. For example, physicians who performed percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty received at least $2,500 from, or on behalf of, 72% of the patients 40 to 64 years old, 22% of the patients 65 to 74 years old, and 3% of the patients 75 years and older (P < 0.001); from 49% of the men and 28% of the women (P < 0.001); and 42% of the whites and 31% of the nonwhites (P < 0.001). Similar differences were observed for stress testing. These associations were largely explained by differences in insurance status.  (+info)

The potential role of risk-equalization mechanisms in health insurance: the case of South Africa. (7/1445)

International agencies such as the World Bank have widely advocated the use of health insurance as a way of improving health sector efficiency and equity in developing countries. However, in developing countries with well-established, multiple-player health insurance markets, such as South Africa, extension of insurance coverage is now inhibited by problems of moral hazard, and associated cost escalation and fragmentation of insurer risk-pools. Virtually no research has been done on the problem of risk selection in health insurance outside developed countries. This paper provides a brief overview of the problem of risk fragmentation as it has been studied in developed countries, and attempts to apply this to middle-income country settings, particularly that of South Africa. A number of possible remedial measures are discussed, with risk-equalization funds being given the most attention. An overview is given of the risk-equalization approach, common misconceptions regarding its working and the processes that might be required to assess its suitability in different national settings. Where there is widespread public support for social risk pooling in health care, and government is willing and able to assume a regulatory role to achieve this, risk-equalization approaches may achieve significant efficiency and equity gains without destroying the positive features of private health care financing, such as revenue generation, competition and free choice of insurer.  (+info)

Diabetes management: current diagnostic criteria, drug therapies, and state legislation. (8/1445)

The policies, standards, guidelines, and criteria that each member of the healthcare team uses to assist in the delivery of comprehensive healthcare are constantly being defined and redefined. This article has discussed many of those changes as they relate to diabetes management. The entire healthcare team must have a working knowledge of these changes so that they can continue to deliver the best possible care to patients with diabetes. Improvements in quality of life, decreases in mortality and morbidity, and subsequent declines in healthcare costs will benefit both individual patients and society. The profession of pharmacy has realized the need for additional education and training in managing the patient with diabetes. Many colleges of pharmacy, as well as companies in the pharmaceutical industry, are offering diabetes certification and diabetes disease management programs to pharmacists to enhance their ability to manage these patients (Lyons T, Gourley DR, unpublished data, 1997. Similar efforts in diabetes management have been made in other health professions as well, such as nursing.  (+info)