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Daily Rounds: Rationing Care; Dense Breasts; Problematic Payers; Healthier Truckers

Rationing health care more fairly (The New York Times) - "Both campaigns claim they are out to protect future health care. Yet the sniping hides the real issue. Protecting federal health programs over the long term, as the population ages and medical costs keep rising faster than economic growth, will require curbing the programs’ spending. And we haven’t quite figured out how to do that...A vast majority of economists agree that restoring a sustainable budget will mean either cuts in Medicare and Medicaid or a tax increase on the middle class. Decisions will have to be made about what services are not worth the cost. Yet so far, our political leaders have failed to acknowledge this to voters, offering instead an illusion that we can resolve the matter without any pain."

Related: Patients would pay more if Romney restores Medicare savings, analysts say (The New York Times)

Dealing with dense breasts and other abnormal mammogram findings (The Boston Globe) - "Women going in for mammograms may be told they have dense breasts — a double whammy that makes it tough to detect breast tumors (which are also dense) and makes it more likely they’ll develop breast cancer. But a reassuring new study finds that breast cancer patients who have dense breast tissue aren’t any more like to die of their cancer than those who don’t."

Hospitals gripe about health insurers, too (NPR-Shots/Kaiser Health News) - "Each year ReviveHealth, a hospital PR firm in Santa Barbara, Calif., asks hospitals to name the most problematic payers. This year's loser: WellPoint, which "managed to have some pretty intense negative opinion" in the regions where it does business, said Revive President Brandon Edwards. "That vaults them above — or I should say below — all the other health plans, even those that operate in all 50" states. Insurers called the report unscientific and biased, pointing to the agency's interest in cultivating hospital clients."

More truckers focus on getting healthier (USA Today) - "He started walking 20-30 miles a week and dropped 54 pounds over the next year. "I have an increase in energy," Ash says. "I sleep better. I don't have as many body aches from sitting in the truck all day long." He feels it in the wallet, too: Ash, an independent owner-operator, says his insurance premium dropped nearly $100 a month. Now, he's trying to get the word out to his fellow drivers. The nation's 3.5 million commercial truck drivers are in pretty poor health. A recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found transportation workers to have the highest obesity rate — 37.8% — of any U.S. industry."

This program aired on August 22, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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