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Obama Appeals For Health Reform Despite Recent Setbacks

The New York Times reports that "after spending 2009 emphasizing that a health care overhaul was his top domestic priority, Mr. Obama gave it much less prominence in his [State of the Union] address. He did not mention it until more than half an hour in - a sign of how imperiled the bill has become." "'If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know, ' Mr. Obama said. ... Hearing that invitation, the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, raised his left hand high.

Unions, Democratic Leaders And White House Reach Agreement On 'Cadillac' Health Insurance Plans

Los Angeles Times: "The White House and labor leaders agreed Thursday on a formula to tax high-cost insurance plans, removing one of the last obstacles to President Obama's healthcare overhaul, officials said." Organized labor had staunchly opposed the proposed "Cadillac" tax, but as part of the agreement, "reached after an intense round of negotiations this week, union leaders dropped their opposition ... in exchange for concessions to limit its scope." Under the compromise, the threshold for family plans subject to the tax would be increased from $23, 000 to $24, 000. The cost of dental and vision plans would be exempt. Based on the agreement, a 40% excise tax would be applied to "individual healthcare plans valued at $8, 900 or more and family plans worth $24, 000" (Hook and Levey, 1/15).

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Increased Co-payments For Doctor Visits Boost Health Care Costs For Seniors

For years many health experts believed that increasing insurance co-payments for routine doctor visits helped control costs. Patients faced with the higher price tag, they theorized, would simply cut back unnecessary visits, saving themselves and insurers money. Brown University researchers now believe that the practice of increasing co-payments for outpatient visits - at least for senior citizens - may actually make care far more expensive. They determined that patients faced with higher co-payments did cut back on their doctor visits. But those same elderly patients ultimately required expensive hospital care because their illnesses worsened.

Among Older Drinkers, Social Factors Can Both Predict And Sustain Alcohol Misuse

Social factors have consistently been implicated as a cause of vulnerability to alcohol use and abuse. The reverse is also true, in that individuals who engage in excessive drinking may alter their social context. New research on drinking among older adults has found that older adults who have more money, engage in more social activities, and whose friends approve more of drinking are more likely to engage in excessive or high-risk drinking. Results will be published in the April 2010 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View. "Ours is one of the first studies to focus longitudinally on high-risk drinking among older adults, " said Rudolf H.

Increased Cost Sharing May Hurt Seniors' Health Care

Cost sharing and increased co-pays, even if it's just a few dollars, can lead seniors to put off visits to the doctor and result in increased hospital admissions and longer hospital stays, according to a new study. The Associated Press/The Washington Post: "With health care costs skyrocketing, many public and private insurers have required patients to pay more out-of-pocket when they seek care. The new study confirms what many policymakers had feared: cost-shifting moves can backfire." The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at 900, 000 seniors in 36 Medicare managed-care plans, half of which raised co-pays for visits to doctors.

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Couples Who Say We Have A Better Shot At Resolving Conflicts

People often complain about those seemingly smug married couples who constantly refer to themselves as "we." But a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that spouses who use "we-ness" language are better able to resolve conflicts than those who don't. UC Berkeley researchers analyzed conversations between 154 middle-aged and older couples about points of disagreement in their marriages and found that those who used pronouns such as "we, " "our" and "us" behaved more positively toward one another and showed less physiological stress. In contrast, couples who emphasized their "separateness" by using pronouns such as "I, " "me" and "you" were found to be less satisfied in their marriages.

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