When I was a graduate student, abandoned houses were a real problem in my community. These eyesores blighted the neighborhood. In many cases, the city needed to quickly condemn these properties to address public safety concerns. Aldermen loudly complained about the cumbersome administrative process which produced a long waiting list of abandoned properties.
"Some politicians act like they love our constituents more than we do."
So says Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. But it's hard to imagine "love for his constituents" being the first phrase that comes to mind when people think of Barbour, whose arguments in support of charging Medicaid recipients pharmaceutical co-payments included the nugget: "We have people pulling up at the pharmacy window in a BMW and say that they can't afford their co-payment." For anyone old enough to remember Ronald Reagan, Barbour's folksy account of Medicaid queens speaks for itself.
Scientist John Sulston announcing the completion of the mapping of the human genome in 2001. (AP Photo/Adam Butler)
When my children were born in the mid-1990s, new parents could already see that prenatal genetic testing was altering the terrain of pregnancy and childbirth. Growing numbers of educated women were having children at older ages, with resulting difficulties and risks. More and more parents faced challenging, deeply personal decisions about whether to engage in genetic testing and what to do if they received unfavorable results.
Several million Americans without insurance face the challenges of cancer, heart failure, or other serious illnesses. As of 2014, they'll receive coverage through a new and inclusive system of health-insurance exchanges, affordability credits, and other measures, but what happens to them in the interim?
The Affordable Care Act includes a number of measures that go into effect in the short term -- some of them this year, such as a regulation prohibiting insurers from denying coverage of children's pre-existing conditions. That provision, along with the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program, should help many families with sick or disabled children who would otherwise be uninsured.
Stimulus spending couldn't have hit the ground fast enough to avert the current swine flu crisis. But moderate senators -- including new Democrat Arlen Specter -- still have a lot to answer for in terms of their lack of support for local public-health funding.
Tuesday morning, I walked into our university hospital for a meeting. I was stopped at the door by a police officer. He didn't check my ID, he pointed to a bottle of hand sanitizer. As I scrubbed, he gave me a card telling me what to do if I had a fever or other symptoms. That's good. Chicago has had some likely cases of H1N1 flu. We aren't panicking, but we are paying attention.