What’s New?

Amazon.com reached an agreement with the State of California legislature, so the Silver Buzz Cafe Store is back. :-)


“Green” Blogging


We believe in protecting our environment, so the Silver Buzz Cafe web site is hosted on a server in a "green", energy conserving data center. 100% of the power for the datacenter is bought from suppliers that use renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectric, windmill and solar plants.


Our Government Run Health Services – Part 6 – Military Health System

The Military Health System (MHS) is responsible for the health care of active and retired military personnel and their dependents. The MHS is an organization within the US Department of Defense. The MHS currently has a $42 billion budget and employs approximately 137,000 people at slightly over 900 facilities around the world, including active combat zones. In late 1993 the DoD announced plans for implementing a nationwide managed care program for the MHS. Under this program, known as TRICARE, which came into operation in 1997, the United States was divided into 12 health care regions. In this article we’ll look at the background, organization, strengths and weaknesses of MHS, focusing primarily on TRICARE. [...]

GOP Drops Seniors From Their New Health Care Plans

On September 7 we wrote an article called “The Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights – What’s In It For Us?” We looked at the Republican Party’s “Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights” and concluded that “Notably, there is not one thing in the RNC Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights that will help the uninsured, add badly needed consumer protections for seniors and others, improve the effectiveness of treatment that seniors receive, or unsettle the powerful health sector lobby.” Rep. Boehner sent out an email exhorting recipients to go to the GOP healthcare website “and you can see all of our proposals.” yesterday. The website outlines the “Republican Plan” for “common-sense health care reforms”. Unfortunately, the new GOP plans don’t address the needs of seniors anywhere. [...]

Our Government Run Health Services – Part 5 – FEHBP

The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) allows insurance companies and employee associations, such as labor unions to develop health, dental, and allied plans and market them to governmental employees. The employee health benefits are provided to full-time, permanent, civilian government employees and qualified retirees of the United States Government, including members of Congress. The US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) oversees the program. The FEHBP is different from most of the other government run health services we’ve discussed so far in that it is much closer to the idea of an open exchange than the other programs, where the government guarantees certain benefits and makes sure that they are provided effectively. As such, it is close to the proposed public or co-operative exchanges that have appeared in some drafts of the proposed health care reform bill. In this article we’ll look at the background to FEHBP and its strengths and weaknesses. [...]

Our Government Run Health Services - Part 4 - Medicare

Medicare is a single-payer health care system operated by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under the auspices of the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Medicare provides health insurance coverage to people who are aged 65 and over, or who meet other special criteria. It also funds residency training programs for almost all physicians in the United States. The federal budget for Medicare for 2009 was $420 billion. We looked at Medicare funding in a four part series – “Medicare Money Mania” recently. In this article we’ll look at the background to Medicare, its strengths and weaknesses. We looked at Medicaid, the means tested government health program for eligible people with low incomes and resources, yesterday, so we’ll also compare and contrast Medicare and Medicaid eligibility and services. [...]

Our Government Run Health Services - Part 3 - Medicaid

Medicaid is a means tested government health program for eligible people with low incomes and resources. Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal and state governments. It goes by a different name in some states, such as Medi-Cal in California. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), monitors the state-run programs. It establishes requirements for eligibility and oversees funding, service delivery and quality. In this article we’ll look at its background, strengths and weaknesses. [...]

Our Government Run Health Services - Part 2 - CHIP

This is the second article in a series in which we’ll look at the strengths and weaknesses of the current government run health services. Yesterday we looked at the Indian Health Service. Today we’ll look at the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The US Department of Health and Human Services administers SCHIP and provides matching funds to states to allow them to cover families with children. The program was designed to cover uninsured children in families with modest incomes but that are too high to qualify for Medicaid. [...]

Our Government Run Health Services - Part 1 - The IHS

This is the first article in a series of articles in which we’ll look at the strengths and weaknesses of the current government run health services. We’ll pay particular attention to them to see if the proposed health care reform bill will leverage good ideas and attempt to redress problems. We’ll look at: the Veteran Affairs (VA) program and the Military Health System; Medicare and Medicaid; the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP); and the Indian Health Service (IHS). We’ll start with the IHS, because that’s the one we knew least about, before working back through the others to the VA program. [...]

Slow Day Hodge Podge

It’s a slow news day, so we’re simply rounding up a “hodge podge” of news articles that have caught our attention over the past week. They range from studies of the possible effects of high protein diets to the discovery of an enzyme that seems to be behind both dysentery (“Montezuma’s Revenge”) and malaria. We’ll be back tomorrow with the first article in a new series that looks at the strengths and shortcomings of current government run health services. [...]

Don't Forget Your Flu and H1N1 (Swine) Flu Shots

Drug stores started making flu shots available early this year. They are available for free at many sites. The second flu shot, designed to protect against the H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) strain is becoming available this week, but it is being given to groups that are most at need first. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have identified those groups as: children and young adults age 6 months to 24 years; pregnant women; people who live with or care for babies younger than 6 months; people age 25 to 64 who have health factors that place them at above-average risk of developing the potentially deadly flu; and people employed in health care or emergency medicine. [...]

The Best Ways to Save Money On Prescription Medicine

Earlier this year we described how a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan might save you money. Today we’re going to look at some tried and true ways of reducing the amount you pay for prescription drugs. We found hundreds of Internet sites listing foreign drug stores, most of them of doubtful trustworthiness, and dozens of “Top 10″ lists, most of them listing the same ideas. We’ve consolidated the ideas down into a short list. We’ll describe each idea and then provide you with a checklist of the five most important things you can do to save money without taking risks. [...]

Health Care Reform and Medicare Advantage

One of the proposed ways of reducing Medicare costs that is being considered for inclusion in the health reform bill is to eliminate the subsidies paid to private insurance companies who sell Medicare Advantage plans. The savings will amount to $177 billion over the first ten years. The insurance companies have mounted a huge campaign to scare people, especially seniors, into believing that this will result in drastic cuts in benefits and increased premiums. Remember that independent assessments of the Medicare Advantage program say that it costs the government (i.e. the taxpayer) about 14% more to provide health care service through that plan rather than through basic Medicare and other channels. That extra government money goes into the health insurers’ coffers, not to seniors. We’ll look at how Medicare Advantage came about, how it works, the benefits offered, the potential effect of cuts and what the government and seniors can do to counteract the potential effects of cuts in subsidies. We’ll also look at how you can decide whether or not to enroll in a Medicare Advantage program and how to avoid the many scams that use them to defraud seniors. [...]

Taste Receptor for Carbonation Discovered

Hot on the heels of the discovery of a receptor dedicated to tasting glutamate (umami, or savory) comes the discovery of another one that detects carbonation. The same labs have recently identified the sensors for sweet, bitter and savory tastes. There are also signs that taste buds might detect other qualities, such as fat and metallic tastes. We wrote a series of articles about the effect of aging on our senses, including taste, back in July. Besides the five main taste sensation (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory), the tongue can also detect fizzy sensations. The latter is due to the release of carbon dioxide trapped under pressure in fizzy drinks, either because of natural occurrence, in some springs or from fermentation, or artificial pressurization. [...]

Medicare Money Mania - Part 4 - Could Reform Work?

In the past couple of days we’ve looked at how Medicare receives and spends its money and some of the many proposals for changes to the system. Today we’re going to summarize the ideas that are currently on the table and their potential effect. Remember that the annual Medicare budget will start showing at a loss in 2010 and is projected to result in a $72 billion deficit in 2016. The Medicare trust funds won’t be depleted until around 2019 or 2020, but we need to act now to avoid a meltdown. [...]

Medicare Money Mania - Part 3 - Potential Savings

Yesterday we looked at how Medicare is funded, their current and projected budgets and their assets. If no savings are found, Medicare will run at a loss from 2010 onwards and the trust funds will be depleted in 2019 or 2020. In today’s article we’ll first look at the cuts that President Bush and presidential candidate John McCain proposed and then look at the ideas being debated for inclusion in the health reform bill. In a previous article – “Scams That Target Seniors – Part 2 – Health Care Related Scams” we noted that ” Scams centered on health care cost the nation around $250 billion in 2008, with about $50 billion of it directly increasing the cost of our health care.” If most of that $50 billion and a substantial amount of the overspending can be saved we’ll have covered a substantial amount of the projected $72 billion shortfall in 2016. In 2008 Medicare paid the private insurance companies $177 billion in subsidies to support the Medicare Advantage program. All of that could be saved. [...]

Medicare Money Mania - Part 2 - How Medicare Works

Now is a perfect time to look at how Medicare finances work. As the health care reform bill moves to its next phase the industry is closing in on the decision makers. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) has just launched a highly misleading, multi-state, million-dollar advertisement campaign that claims that seniors will see their Medicare benefits cut under Democrat-crafted legislation. Did you know that we subsidize the health insurance cartel to the tune of $17 Billion a year and get nothing in return? We’ll come back to that later. First, let’s look at how Medicare is funded and where its money is spent. [...]

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