Health Wonk Review: Shiny Happy (Mostly) Edition

T.S. Eliot wrote in The Waste Land, “April is the cruelest month.” April 2012 brought us tax day, the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, wacky weather nationwide, and announcements that Medicare and Social Security will go bankrupt three years earlier than predicted. If you’re feeling a bit battered by April, then a great place to begin your reading in this week’s edition of Health Wonk Review is with a post by Julia Boehm, Ph.D., a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, that appeared on the Health Care Blog. In “The Heart’s Content,” Julia discusses her recent article in the Psychological Bulletin about her findings that positive psychological well-being — such as feeling optimistic, happy, satisfied, and purposeful — is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The research was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the grant program, “Exploring the Concept of Positive Health.”

A corollary to Boehm’s findings is that laughter is indeed the best medicine. Get a chuckle courtesy of Joe Paduda at the Managed Care Matters blog, who takes Mitt Romney in task for his recent insensitivity on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in his post, “The Romney Health Plan.” 

Although Romney shows a certain amount of cluelessness in that quote, we all know that individual health insurance is a good idea. Greg Scandlen writes about the importance of the individual market for health insurance on John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog in “The Truth about the Individual Market, Part One.”

At InsureBlog, Certified Medical Office Manager Kelley Beloff schools the media on how physicians are really compensated, and why aggressive use of CPT codes is not only justified, but necessary. In her post, “When is a battle not a battle,” she takes on journalist Gregory Warner, who criticized one doc for maximizing his income by maximizing his use of billing codes. “After years of berating doctors to take coding more seriously, which results in them getting paid for what they do, it is refreshing to find out that one doctor has decided his time has worth,” Beloff writes.

A positive outlook also will help you make the most of the recommendations from Kat Haselkorn at Corporate Wellness Insights. In preparing us for National Employee Wellness Month in June, she shares “Four Ways to Promote Health in the Workplace.” We here at Wing of Zock are hoping for widespread uptake of recommendation number 3, onsite chair massage.

At Disease Management Care Blog, Dr. Jaan Sidorov turns a lemony reduction in force into lemonade with some lessons learned, thanks to having worked in a large health information technology company. Among those lessons: there is a cultural divide between the for-profits and not-for-profits and one isn’t better than the other; there’s a health care gold rush underway and the for-profits are selling lots of “shovels;” sales calls are a huge effort; and the social employer-employee contract is long gone.

The good news continues at Workers’ Comp Insider, where Julie Ferguson talks about how employers who prioritize workplace health and safety in a meaningful way by creating a safety culture can yield positive results and reduce worker injuries by as much as 32 percent.

Lawmakers in Colorado have been lauded for playing nice and working together to create health insurance exchanges. Jay Norris of Colorado Health Insurance Insider reports in “Despite IT Problems, Report Gives Colorado High Marks on Exchange Progress” that “if the ACA remains in place and the health insurance exchanges become reality across the country, it’s safe to say that Colorado will be ahead of the curve in terms of getting the bugs ironed out.”

Lest you think we have become too giddy, here’s a reality check. Marcus Escobedo writes on Health AGEnda about the findings of a recent John A. Hartford Foundation poll, which found that few older adults are receiving the medical services recommended to help them maintain their health. In addition, few older adults have taken advantage of Medicare’s new Annual Wellness benefit, and many have never even heard of it. Escobedo calls for greater education of health care professionals and older adults themselves about the Annual Wellness benefit and what constitutes quality care for older adults.

In his Healthcare Economist post, “What’s Going On in Grand Junction?” blogger Jason Shafrin discusses the phenomenon underway in Grand Junction, Colorado, recently lauded by the LA Times as a model of “low cost and high quality.” Shafrin chalks the success up to a “near monopoly by insurers and providers” and a “[willingness] to accept lower incomes;” he concludes that replication is unlikely without “structural change.”

At Health News Review, Gary Schwitzer brought much-needed calm to the hysteria surrounding Warren Buffett’s cancer diagnosis. In noting that Buffett’s prostate cancer shouldn’t lead all men in their 80s to get screened for PSA, Schwitzer wrote, “A stage one prostate cancer in a man Buffett’s age should hardly be called a ‘scare’ nor something that should lead investors to rethink their financial strategy.” Schwitzer notes that a theme around prostate cancer developed serendipitously at Health News Review last week, and directs you to his other posts for further reading: Fox News’ robotic surgeon medical news contributor; JAMA paper on IMRT vs. proton beam for localized prostate cancer; and In the BMJ: “Is spending on proton beam therapy for cancer going too far, too fast?”

With many bright and sunny but cooler days upon us, we are reminded that things are not always what they seem. Roy Poses over at Health Care Renewal is advocating for greater accountability of our health care leaders. Poses reports that a newspaper’s investigation of conflicts of interest and self-dealing at a local medical center was delayed when the medical center board chairman at the center of these activities joined a consortium to purchase the offending media outlet. This illustrates what Poses calls the “anechoic effect,” that of problems that tend to get less notice and generate less discussion than their content would seem to warrant. Buffett’s cancer diagnosis would seem to be the opposite of this.

Next, moving the focus to transparency and workers’ rights comes Michael Gavin from PRIUM’S blog, Evidence Based. The first of the two posts reviews Express Script’s drug trend report, which shows a lot of emphasis on waste ($2.1 billion worth), but doesn’t contemplate one of the most significant issues in work comp drug utilization: the lack of medical necessity. The second features an examination of new rules regarding prescription drug monitoring in Kentucky, a state with high rates of prescription narcotic abuse.

The Health Affairs Blog offers up a trifecta for your reading pleasure: a post, a response, and a reply on the fiscal impact of the Affordable Care Act. The issues debated in this exchange include whether the Medicare savings in the Affordable Care Act should be scored or counted as both reducing the deficit and extending the life of the Medicare HI trust fund, and whether some of the savings built into the ACA are likely to be rescinded in whole or in part by Congress. The discussion consists of:

Wrapping up our edition this week is a submission that highlights a surprising outcome of social media collaboration. Writing on the Health Business Blog, David Williams reports that Daniel Mruzek, Ph.D., is using “crowdfunding” via to gain support for an autism research and development project. Other researchers at academic medical centers are also using this approach to fund projects. Now we feel kind of dumb just using Twitter.

—This edition of HWR was compiled by Jennifer Salopek, managing editor of Wing of Zock (, and Sarah Sonies, associate editor ( Follow us on Twitter @wingofzock.