blair horner

For too many Americans, the end of the Thanksgiving meal was followed by a “food coma.”  During the holidays, many of us know that we eat too much.

It turns out that, on average, Americans eat too much during the rest of the year too.

Unfortunately, eating too much can have devastating consequences.  Three quarters of all healthcare costs are attributed to chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. The major drivers of those costly chronic conditions are tobacco use and obesity which are both preventable and treatable.

Blair Horner: The Great American Smokeout

Nov 19, 2012

The nation just celebrated its 37th annual “Great American Smokeout.”  The Great American Smokeout has been offered as an opportunity for smokers to think about quitting and as an opportunity to reflect on society’s gains against the tobacco menace.

And big changes have occurred over the decades.  Nationally, the smoking rate peaked at 42 percent when the U.S. Surgeon General’s report was issued and proved the link between smoking and cancer.  Today the nation’s smoking rate is 19 percent, and here in New York that rate is even lower.

Blair Horner: Fact checking the health care debate

Oct 23, 2012

As we all know, the fate of the federal health care reform law is to be decided by voters this November.  There are those running against the law that argue that they want to “repeal and replace” the law. 

However, there has been no alternative offered by opponents – just vague promises, partial pledges and grotesque distortions of the federal law itself.

In the heat of the political season, it’s important to take a closer look at opponents’ promises.

Blair Horner: Help to discover new cancer treatments

Oct 15, 2012

For many of us, our civic participation begins and ends with voting.  Though voting is crucial to the health of our democracy, few of us have the opportunity to take part in something that can really change the lives of people all around the world.

One of those rare opportunities has just come our way.

New York State’s efforts to reduce smoking have had a tremendous impact.  Between 2003 and 2010, the adult smoking rate in New York fell by 28 percent.  During that time, the nation’s smoking rate slipped only 11 percent.  New York high school students’ smoking rate dropped an incredible 38 percent, more than twice the nation’s decline.

The White House today released a report on the impact of mandated budget cuts scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2013.  The cuts are mandated under the Budget Control Act of 2011, which arose for the debate over the debt ceiling last year. 

The Budget Control Act required an automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts if the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (also known as the “Super Committee”) failed to agree on budget cuts on its own – which it failed to do.

Labor Day, the symbolic end of summer, has come and gone.  Schools have opened and children are off to new classes and teachers.

But this September is an important month for another reason: this is the month when New York, as well as all other states, must choose the “essential health benefits” that will be offered to those who lack health insurance.

A federal appeals court ruled last week that tobacco companies are not required to comply with the implementation of new graphic warning labels on cigarette packs, arguing that the law violated corporate free speech rights.  These warnings are required by the federal government and are supposed to go into effect next month.

Last week, New York’s law on indoor tanning went into effect.  The law prohibits all those 16 years old and younger from using indoor tanning beds or booths.  The logic of the ban has become more compelling.

The prestigious British Medical Journal published the latest research on the impact of indoor tanning.  It concluded that indoor tanning is “associated with a significant increase in risk of melanoma. This risk increases with number of sunbed sessions and with initial usage at a young age” (those under the age of 35 years).  The report also found:

New York receives a decent, but mixed, review for its legislative work to combat cancer, according to a new report,  How Do You Measure up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality (www.acscan.org) issued by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

A new report from the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contains good news and bad news about smoking in America.    First the good news, according to the CDC, total cigarette consumption continued an 11-year downward trend with a 2.5 percent decline from 2010 to 2011.  

Many Americans have health-related problems that are defined as pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is a health problem that existed before you apply for a health insurance policy or enroll in a new health plan.

A pre-existing condition can be something as common and as serious as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and asthma – chronic health problems that affect a large portion of the population.  Even if you have a relatively minor condition such as hay fever or a previous accidental injury, a health plan can deny coverage.

Cancer takes a staggering toll on New Yorkers.  More than 107,000 New Yorkers were diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and more than 34,000 died from the disease.  A different perspective is that roughly 2,000 New Yorkers are diagnosed with cancer and 660 individuals die from cancer each week.

Today’s health system often falls short in addressing the pain, physical symptoms, emotional concerns, and other chronic care needs that patients face. These needs are increasingly the norm for cancer patients and their caregivers.  As medical care advances, illnesses that were death sentences a few decades ago have now become chronic illnesses that need to be managed.    As a result, quality of life care needs now span over many years or even decades.

No sooner had the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in support of the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law, than a new attack was launched on health coverage for the poor.

One provision of the Affordable Care Act dramatically expanded the Medicaid program – which provides health insurance for the poor.  The ACA requires that states have to expand coverage to those who make just above poverty level.  If a state refused the expansion, the federal government would withdraw its funding of that state’s program.

 

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health care reform law which is critical to improving access to quality, affordable health care for people with cancer and their families.

The ruling is a victory for cancer patients and survivors nationwide, who for decades have been denied health coverage, charged far more than they can afford for lifesaving care, and forced to spend their life savings on necessary treatment, simply because they have a pre-existing condition.

It’s summertime. 

That means kids swimming in the pool, going to camp and – of course - smoking their first cigar.

Shocked?  Every year, more than 1,000,000 kids try their first cigar.  And, if the cigar companies have their way, you won’t be able to do much about it.

After intensive lobbying by cigar companies, Congress is about to vote on an amendment that would exempt many cigars from any regulation at all. 

 

You see the advertisements everywhere: electronic cigarettes – which don’t use tobacco – are exempt from public smoking restrictions and help those who wish to quit.  But are the claims true?

While it is true that these devices don’t use tobacco, there is little scientific evidence that e-cigarettes can help smokers to quit.  In addition, since there is no regulation of these devices, the quality and safety of these products cannot be assured.

 

It has been an article of faith among those opposed to the federal health care reform law that it must be repealed.  You see it all the time: “repeal Obamacare.”  But what does that mean?  Do they really mean repeal everything?  It turns out that the answer is “yes.”

The law is extensive.  It covers lots of issues.

Last week, new data was released from the American Cancer Society.  It showed a staggering increase in melanoma cases in New York State.  Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.  According to the analysis, over the past ten years the number of melanoma cases has increased by 72 percent. 

 

The nation has made tremendous progress in reducing the number of cancer deaths.  But a new trend is developing – cancers caused by the American lifestyle.

The debate over how to provide health insurance to 50 million Americans – nearly 3 million of them New Yorkers – was center stage last week.  The US Supreme Court quizzed lawyers supportive of and opposed to the federal health care reform law.  In Albany, the debate over Governor Cuomo’s plan to create a health exchange – the entity that would provide health insurance to the states’ uninsured – was a key obstacle to conclusion of the state budget.

Blair Horner: Questions About Health Care Reform

Mar 26, 2012

This week the US Supreme Court will take up the question of the constitutionality of federal health care reform, the Affordable Care Act.  The Court has scheduled three days for debate, each day focusing on a different challenge to the law.

Blair Horner: What's Next in Albany?

Mar 19, 2012

Governor Cuomo and the legislative leaders had a busy week -- redistricting changes, creating a new pension tier, broader DNA collection for criminal activities, and a first step toward legalized gambling.  Despite all of that activity one big issue remains:  they have to wrap up the state budget.

Both houses of the legislature advanced their separate budget plans this week.   As part of its plan, the New York State Assembly included the governor’s proposal to create a health exchange.  The health exchange is the mechanism through which New Yorkers lacking health insurance, as well as small businesses, could obtain coverage.  According to the US Census, nearly 3 million New Yorkers lack health insurance.

Blair Horner: Colon Cancer Awareness

Mar 5, 2012

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in New York.  In 2011, nearly 10,000 new cases of colon cancer were diagnosed in New York State, and about 2,900 died of the disease. 

It doesn’t need to be.  The earlier colon cancer is found the better the chances of survival.  The good news is that more people in New York are taking advantage of screening tools available; but a large percentage are still finding their colon cancers at a later stage.  In New York, many colon cancers are still being detected at later stages when survival rates are lower.

Blair Horner: A New, Growing Cancer Epidemic

Feb 27, 2012

A generation ago, smoking was the number one cancer menace in America.  From the 1930s through the early 1960s, smoking was portrayed as glamorous.  Advertisements even suggested that smoking was healthy.  And those advertisements were everywhere.  For those of you old enough to remember, cigarette companies even sponsored some of the most popular TV shows.

According to government statistics, that advertising blitz worked with nearly half of all adult Americans smoking by the mid-1960s.

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