Lab Notes: On the Future of Medicare, the Baseball Diet, and the Fountain of Youth

A short stack of musings from recent news in healthcare:

What’s the prognosis for Medicare?
At the ballpark, what’s the best alternative to peanuts and Cracker Jacks?
What’s the contemporary version of the fountain of youth?

Medicare returns to the news once again, via the budget proposed by the White House. The prognosis? A 10% cut to Medicare over 10 years: so, it’s a cut of somewhere between $600BN and $845BN via trims in wasteful spending, reductions in payments to doctors and hospitals (a.k.a. “providers”), and lower prescription drug costs. The particulars are complicated, but even more so in this case, as bipartisan legislation for the funding of 3,000 more medical resident slots moves presently through the House and Senate. The legislation includes incentives to “direct some of the 3,000 new residency positions to specialties with shortages, to VA Medical Centers, to rural hospitals, and to community or outpatient health centers” (details here). With a shortage of 121,000 physicians looming by 2030, the legislation looks necessary, but hardly sufficient.

Baseball is back! When dining al fresco this spring, summer, and fall, you can throw caution to the wind of a Giancarlo Stanton swing-and-a-miss or nibble like a finesse pitcher, according to dietician Lindsay Malone of the Cleveland Clinic.

“Before you go, you want to make sure that you’ve had something to eat, so you’re not starving when you get there … You want to have something with protein; fiber, probably some sort of produce to help fill you up.”

blooperIf you’re heading over to SunTrust Park to see the Braves play, it’s much safer to oogle the $26 Blooper Burger (pictured right)–with its “four cheeseburger patties, a footlong dog, chicken tenders, jalapenos, and cheese sauce on Texas toast”–than digest it. See new menu items at stadia across the country here.

 

In-the-shell peanuts, actually, are a good way to go, since the act of shelling the peanuts keeps your chomping cadence modest. For those of you chowing down in the nosebleed seats: opt for the stairs, rather than the escalators.

Aging baseball fans often live vicariously through their contemporary heroes–and this youth-crazed country of ours remains smitten with the prospect of a turn-back-time elixir. In today’s variation on the fountain of youth, we find great reporting via the Verve of a weird cocktail of good science, bad interpretation, and–you guessed it–the irrational exuberance of capitalism producing “the young blood injection craze.” In brief: UC Berkeley scientists study parabiosis on lab rats, and entrepreneurs charge $8,000 to willing victims for a boost of adolescent plasma. The FDA’s not pleased:

Simply put, we’re concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies. Such treatments have no proven clinical benefits for the uses for which these clinics are advertising them and are potentially harmful. There are reports of bad actors charging thousands of dollars for infusions that are unproven and not guided by evidence from adequate and well-controlled trials. The promotion of plasma for these unproven purposes could also discourage patients suffering from serious or intractable illnesses from receiving safe and effective treatments that may be available to them.

FDA press release, February 19, 2019

It’s not good science, but–depending upon the donor class–perhaps it’s a partial solution to the impending student debt crisis. (No: of course it’s not.)

Thanks for reading. Let’s go Tribe!