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Healthwatch

Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner
Credit Baltimore City Health Department

Healthwatch is our monthly series of conversations with Dr. Leana Wen, the Baltimore City Health Commissioner, about current and emerging issues affecting the health and well-being of Charm City residents.

Ever since her appointment by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in January 2015, Dr. Wen has pursued a radically holistic vision of public health: she believes that people's health and well-being are at the root of every critical issue in modern city life, from crime and incarceration, to housing and homelessness, to addiction and education.  In the months ahead, we’ll ask the Health Commissioner to explore these links with us, and to keep us all up to date on how the city is meeting Baltimore’s unique public health challenges.

It’s another edition of the Midday Healthwatch, our monthly conversation with Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen.    

According to the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose  -- more than 50,000 people every year. The majority of these deaths, now surging in more than 30 states, are being caused by powerful illicit opioid drugs like heroin and fentanyl, and widely-used prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, the active opioids in Percocet and Vicodin, respectively.

Courtesy of Medscape

It’s another edition of Healthwatch, our monthly conversations with Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.  She and Tom discuss a wide range of public health issues, from the weekend’s dangerous heat to the hot drama on Capitol Hill as Senate Republicans continue their struggle to repeal Obamacare. They also talk about White House plans to cut essential public health budgets, and about new state funds for a city program promoting healthier food options in the city's corner food stores. And Dr. Wen has the latest on the continuing threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus -- remember the Zika virus?

Courtesy AP Photo

The Senate version of healthcare legislation is the topic on most people’s minds on Capitol Hill. Senate leadership wants to replace the Affordable Care Act with The Better Care Reconciliation Act.  As of this moment, passage of the Senate health care bill appears somewhat in doubt. Yesterday’s CBO score, and a chorus of critics, say the Senate bill will cause at least 15 million Americans to lose their health insurance by next year. It remains to be seen what effect passing the bill would have on patients, doctors, hospitals, insurers, and public health agencies, although there are plenty of people from each of those groups who have criticized McConnell’s “discussion draft” of the bill.

On today’s edition of Healthwatch, our monthly conversation about health and well-being in Baltimore with Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen, we’ll talk about the impact the Senate bill might have on our city’s most vulnerable populations, and the ongoing fight to quell the growing opioid epidemic. 

Yesterday, President Trump issued a budget plan that proposes dramatic cuts to Medicaid and other programs like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often referred to as food stamps. Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the president wants to reduce Medicaid spending over 10 years by as much as $1.4 trillion according to some estimates. The Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides healthcare support under Medicaid to low income children, would be cut by 20% in the first year alone. This of course comes after House Republicans passed a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this month. Some in the Senate have vowed to start over, rather than work with the House bill as they craft their own. 

What could these cuts mean for the most vulnerable folks living in our city who rely on programs like Medicaid and food stamps to survive? Tom is joined by Dr. Leana Wen, the Health Commissioner of the city of Baltimore, for the Midday Healthwatch. 

Medscape.com

In a dramatic political showdown last week on the nation’s health insurance system, the Republican-led House and a determined President Trump tried but failed to repeal and replace The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare. Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to withdraw his controversial bill, because of defections by both conservative and moderate Republicans, means the ACA remains the law of the land. But with opponents still vowing to bring the program down, are critical medical coverage and public health services still in jeopardy? 

Concerns were also raised this month by the Trump Administration’s proposed 2018 budget, which would boost defense spending and sharply reduce funding to federal agencies like Health and Human Services, whose budget would be cut by 18% next year. What would such cuts mean for the future of medical research, maternal health care and addiction treatment?

For now, Governor Larry Hogan's declaration earlier this month of a State of Emergency provides an extra 50 million dollars over the next five years to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic in Maryland, and help support the state's prevention, recovery and enforcement efforts. 

Today, it’s another edition of the Midday Healthwatch, our monthly visit with Dr. Leana Wen, the Health Commissioner of the City of Baltimore. She joins Tom in the studio to talk about the ACA going forward, the state's continuing battle against the opioid epidemic, and other issues on the front lines of public health.

US News and World Report

Last week, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, released an outline of how House Republicans hope to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama Care. The legislative blueprint, which offers no precise cost estimates, includes significant changes to Medicaid, grants to states, health savings accounts, and tax credits. Similar repeal-and-replace drafts are circulating as well among Republicans in the Senate, and will have to be reconciled with the House proposal.

On Wednesday, the US Conference of Mayors called for a National Day of Action to talk about the potential consequences of repealing Obama Care.  The Mayors point to  impacts on the health and safety of low income residents of their cities, and the financial strain changes may put on local hospitals.

Today on the Midday Healthwatch, Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore's  health commissioner (and first-time expectant mom!), joins Tom to talk about what the effects of an ACA repeal might be on Charm City.  We’ll take your calls, your questions and comments. 

National Press Foundation

Mirroring the nationwide epidemic, the number of opioid addiction and abuse victims in Baltimore continues to rise, and overdose cases crowd the city’s emergency rooms.  Last week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan appointed a Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, and proposed new legislation for the General Assembly that would put strict limits on opioid prescriptions and impose tough new penalties for traffickers.  On this month's edition of  HealthwatchBaltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen joins Tom Hall  to discuss the city’s continuing response to the opioid epidemic. 

Dr. Wen answers our questions for the hour,  and takes your calls, emails and tweets about your public health concerns.

Photo courtesy Washington City Paper

Today, another edition of Healthwatch, our monthly series of conversations with Dr. Leana Wen, the Health Commissioner of Baltimore City.

This year, more than 300 people have been victims of homicides in Baltimore, but nearly that number died of opioid overdoses in just the first six months of 2016.  Congress has passed the 21st Century Cures Act, directing one billion dollars to target the national epidemic of opioid addiction and support new mental health research and treatment programs.  How will that affect local efforts to help people caught in the grips of drug dependency?  Dr. Wen -- the co-chair of a local group assembled to devise a comprehensive strategy, and a national leader in addressing this national dilemma -- discusses the outlook for curbing the opioid addiction epidemic.

Dr. Wen takes listener calls, tweets and emails during the conversation.

The segment concludes with Tom Hall's appreciation of some prominent Baltimoreans who passed on during 2016, whose contributions to the life of the city will be sorely missed. 

It’s the Midday Healthwatch with Dr. Leana Wen, the Health Commissioner of Baltimore City.  There’s good news for babies in Baltimore: the infant mortality rate fell to record low levels in 2015.  And there is an effort afoot to help those healthy babies grow into healthy teenagers.  We’ll look at the ways the city is implementing its new Youth Health and Wellness Strategy.  Plus, the future of Obamacare:  If President Elect Trump makes good on his promise to repeal and replace the ACA, what will that mean for local health departments struggling to address the needs of the uninsured, and the under-insured?  Even though rates for some plans are rising, is the ACA still a good deal for some people?

Dr. Leana Wen joins Tom in the studio for an hour of conversation about important public health issues affecting the people of Baltimore, and she takes your calls, emails and tweets.

On Wednesday, September 28th, Congress finally approved long-delayed funding to fight the Zika epidemic.  What will that one-point-one billion dollar measure mean for the battle against  the mosquito borne disease in MD?  Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen joins Tom Hall  for our monthly Healthwatch segment.  She’ll have an update on the status of local control efforts.

Other topics today include how the city plans to use a new 5-million dollar federal grant to help West Baltimore communities traumatized by the violence of the 2015 uprising.   And Dr. Wen notes the second HealthyBaltimore 2020 conversation planned for Thursday evening, from 6-8pm, at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. These townhall meetings are an opportunity for city residents to learn more about the city's new strategy for bringing more equitable health and wellness services to Baltimorians before the end of the decade. Check out the event site www.hb2020.com for details

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