Tag Archives: health care

Employee Wellness Programs, Do They Work?

We all know what we should do to take better care of ourselves — eat healthier, exercise more, reduce stress (good luck on that last one). Employee wellness programs aim to get workers practicing better self care, but are they actually effective? And in the long run will they save companies, agencies or government entities money on health care benefits and reduced sick days?

If one goal of health care reform is to promote wellness, when and how will implementation of such programs be mandated?

The Kitsap Sun is doing an article on the effectiveness of employee wellness programs. We hope you’ll take part in our online survey. Click here to take survey.

Also, let us know if your company has some innovative ideas on promoting employee wellness.

If you have any questions about the story or about how your responses will be used, or if you’d like to comment on your company/agency’s employee wellness program, call reporter Chris Henry at (360) 792-9219, or e-mail chenry@kitsapsun.com.

Thanks for your help. Chris Henry, reporter

Examining McKenna’s Motives

Two local writers dive into the motives of state Attorney General Rob McKenna in suing the federal government over the health care bill just passed. I think they both do a pretty good job, with the caveat that each is assuming there is something beyond a legitimate belief that the health care reform just passed is unconstitutional. If McKenna believes the reform law is unconstitutional, you could rightly ask what choice he had but to challenge it.

The writers, though, are probably right in making that assumption. We can never assume that meeting constitutional muster is the only issue at play in constitutional issues. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes said:

“We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is . . . “

He was also quoted by fellow justice William O. Douglas as saying 90 percent of the decisions made at the Supreme Court are based on emotions, that justices find ways in the document to back up their beliefs.

McKenna, though, seems at first blush to be the one AG in this fight with the most to lose by sticking his neck out. He’s a Republican who hasn’t been demonized by the left and is seen as a legitimate contender for the governor’s office. And yet the state is more left than right, and I think it’s not a bad bet to assume that most Washingtonians favor health care reform generally.

Let’s do assume again, as most of us have, that McKenna wants to be Washington’s governor. David Brewster at Crosscut.com offers this possibility:

Judging by the over-the-top reaction by local Democrats — talking about defunding his suit, slicing away A-G authority, even a recall — maybe McKenna was engaging in some “performance art.” That form of political craftiness consists of doing something so that your opponents fall right into the trap of extreme behavior, making you look sensible.

Then Peter Callaghan at the (Tacoma) News Tribune reminds us that to win in a November 2012 governor election, he’d first have to make it to that election, qualifying as one of the top-two vote getters in the primary. A move like this at least sets him apart from other Republicans. And if he hadn’t done it:

Had McKenna not joined the litigation he would have been savaged by Republicans and become a target of conservative talk radio. In the short term, it doesn’t hurt him much to instead be savaged by Democrats. They take their own risks by using budget maneuvers to block Mc-Kenna’s participation in the suit.

And then of course, Callaghan reveals the ultimate truth in all of this:

Anyone who claims to know how it will play in 2012 is making it up.

Health Care History Footnote

If you have a library card it gives you access to the New York Times archives. In doing some research for a personal project, I found a story from Oct. 14, 1931 that included this paragraph:

Dr. William H. Walsh, hospital consultant from Chicago, said that it has become the practice to overcharge the pay patients in order to meet the cost of the charity cases. “Nevertheless,” he said, “neither the average individual nor the average family can afford to pay the prices now charged for adequate medical and hospital care, and on the other hand, neither the average physician nor the average nurse appears to earn an income from his or her professional services above that earned by others in related professions requiring the same scholastic prepration.” He recommended that patients should pay only the fair cost and that the funds to carry the cost of part-time and charity patients should be made up from endowments or by the local government.

Health Care War Continues in Washington

On Tuesday the president signed the health care reform bill, which to some is a BFD, and I’m not talking about fire departments. Locals were talking about it. Also on Tuesday some state attorneys general, including ours, joined in a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of some of the bill’s provisions.

In response the Legislature might write into the budget a provision limiting the AG’s ability to offer such a lawsuit.

It all made for interesting radio on KIRO Tuesday. State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Gov. Chris Gregoire and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, were all on the Dave Ross show. McKenna made a repeat appearance on the Dori Monson show.

If you’ve got a few minutes, and if you’re here you clearly do, listen to the conversations. They’re available after the jump.

McKenna is clearly in the position that elements of the bill are unconstitutional, and he goes to some length to argue why. Gregoire and Inslee both say his interpretation is wrong, but spend more time talking about what impact it would have if McKenna’s case is ultimately upheld in the courts. If you’re a fan of the bill, that should worry you.

The U.S. Justice Department plans to defend the bill, so it isn’t as if no one thinks the bill passes muster. The problem comes, though, because the attorneys general could win. McKenna argues that they’re only going after particular elements of the bill, but Inslee and others argue that the elements they’re going after are pins that hold the whole thing up. Kill the mandate and you’ve essentially killed the bill.

The next question, then, is do Republicans really want to win this fight? If they do, will it give Democrats the opening to put forward something closer to a single-payer system? Dave Ross argues that if you turn this whole thing into a tax, rather than a forced entry into the market, you probably don’t get the same constitutional debate. At least those kind of cases have been argued and settled in the past.

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A War Within Washington on Health Care Reform

The argument between Gov. Chris Gregoire and Attorney General Rob McKenna is something we probably could have predicted in January.

McKenna was in Kitsap County and stopped by our offices. We asked him about health care reform and he very pointedly brought up the very issue that on Monday became part of the national conversation. He’s joining other states in suing the federal government, arguing that it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate that someone buy something.

Since his announcement the governor, a former attorney general, State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidleer and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, have all come out critical of McKenna’s decision.

The Seattlepi.com was among the first to argue that this fight will prevent McKenna from being governor in 2012, saying he was difficult to criticize up to this point.

“Democrats will now try to tar him with the same brush they’ve used to dispatch every GOP gubernatorial candidate for the past 25 years. And it looks like McKenna has just given them at least some of the paint they’ll need.”

The official statements follow the jump. There will probably be many more.
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Replay of Monday’s Town Hall with Rep. Norm Dicks

If you missed Monday evening’s town hall in Bremerton with Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, we recorded our live broadcast and life blog. You can watch it here (it’s a large file so it may take a moment to load).

Just as a note, I’d love to hear from anyone who watched both town hall broadcasts as they happened and hear how you thought they compared. E-mail me at adice@kitsapsun.com

– Angela Dice

(Don’t) Stop Smoking – Others’ Health Depends on It

South Kitsap Reporter Chris Henry here:

I noticed a nicotine connection between two pieces of legislation, one proposed, one signed into law today.

President Barack Obama signed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization, calling it a “down-payment” on health care reform. The program, which provides health care to millions of low income children, was set to expire March 31. The new $32.8 billion package expands the program to include 4.1 million more children over four and a half years.

According to the press release we received, “Funding will come from an increase in the federal tobacco tax, which is expected to generate $31.3 billion in the next four years.”

On a related note, 160 volunteers with the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, along with cancer survivors and family members visited Olympia today to advocate for Senate Bill 5626, which would increase the state cigarette tax by $1 a pack.

Among the group was Tessie Goheen of Bremerton. “We need to find ways to cut smoking and help prevent costly incurable disease without harming every day taxpayers,” said Tessie, a 20-year old who is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “All of us are feeling the pinch of the bad economy, and this is all the more reason why we need to get creative about solving problems.”

Tessie, whose family has a rare genetic predisposition to cancer, has worked to start a cancer center in Kitsap County. She and other supporters of the bill hope to see the state avoid impending cuts to smoking prevention and cessation programs through the relatively “steady revenue stream” that would be provided by the tax.

I understand the concept of a “sin tax” is at once to discourage a detrimental behavior and to see some good come out of the inability or unwillingness of many to let it go. It’s the “stick” half of the carrot-and- combined with the lemonade out of lemons thing.

As for the effectiveness of the stick, I’m sure it’s been suggested elsewhere that, when it comes to addiction, price points don’t hold a lot of sway. I’m thinking if you want to apply the stick where it counts, let’s tax the tobacco companies for the privilege of adding chemicals to cigarettes that increase the addictiveness of their products.

I think everyone can agree that health care for children, smoking prevention and smoking cessation are noble goals. But does anyone else find it just a little ironic that the funding, as proposed in both pieces of legislation, absolutely relies on a certain percentage of the population continuing to smoke?

If you’re a smoker, how much would a pack of cigarettes have to cost to get you to quit?