In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 27, 2011 / 25 Sivan, 5771

Good intentions, bad health policy

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | SHOULD HEALTH INSURERS be compelled to cover colorectal cancer screenings? The American Cancer Society has good reasons to say yes. There are better ones to say no.

Colorectal cancer kills nearly 50,000 Americans each year, making it the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Yet when diagnosed early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable; it generally turns life-threatening only when it has time to metastasize to other organs. That means that colorectal cancer screening, which can detect the disease in its earliest stages, is one of the best ways known to reduce cancer mortality -- and reduce as well the enormous costs involved in treating patients with late-stage cancer.

So it isn't surprising that in recent years more than half the states (plus the District of Columbia) have passed laws making screening tests for colorectal cancer a mandatory health-insurance benefit. Nor does it come as a surprise that the American Cancer Society would lobby to get such mandates enacted in states like Massachusetts that haven't yet done so.

Accordingly, when Bay State lawmakers took up the issue at a hearing last week, the society's spokesman made a seemingly straightforward argument: More Americans would get these potentially life- and cost-saving tests if their health insurance policies covered them, so the law should require such coverage. He buttressed his case with data suggesting that colorectal screening rates have risen faster in states that adopt screening mandates. And he cited a study concluding that the price tag of such a mandate in Massachusetts would be about $8.50 per health-plan member per year -- far less than the $300,000 and up it can cost to treat a patient with late-stage colorectal cancer.

Case closed, then? Not so fast.

"From a distance, cancer screening seems to be the exact sort of thing that we should mandate," observes David Gratzer, a Canada-trained physician and an expert on health-care policy at the Manhattan Institute. "It's important; it saves lives; it seems right." Question the wisdom of making it a compulsory insurance benefit, he says, and people demand to know: "Why don't you believe in cancer screening?"

But no one disputes the importance of screening for colorectal cancer, least of all insurers. Even without a statutory mandate, commercial health insurance companies in Massachusetts have for years been covering the cost of screening for colon and rectal cancer. That undoubtedly helps explain why screening rates in the state have been among the nation's highest.

In 2008, among Massachusetts women age 50 and older, 69 percent had been screened for colorectal cancer -- more than in 43 other states. When the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy analyzed the proposed new mandate in a report last December, it found that the screening rate of virtually all health plans that would be covered by the bill already "ranges between 72 and 78 percent." If the American Cancer Society's goal is to make such screening widespread and routine, it can rest easy: Massachusetts has largely met that goal. And it didn't need a law to do so.

The bill would change one thing: In addition to colorectal screening procedures like colonoscopies or fecal occult blood testing, for which there is near-unanimous support in the medical profession, it would require insurers to pay for two on which expert opinion is still unsettled: the fecal DNA test, which is not recommended by American College of Gastroenterologists, and CT colonography (or "virtual colonoscopy"), the effectiveness of which is still being studied. The National Cancer Institute, for example, notes that "whether virtual colonoscopy can reduce the number of deaths from colorectal cancer is not yet known."

Were health insurers flatly refusing to cover any colorectal cancer screening, a legislative mandate might be easier to justify. But insurance companies readily pay for screening tests that are widely supported, while waiting for the medical efficacy of others to be clarified. That strikes a reasonable balance -- more reasonable, surely, than inviting lawmakers to mandate by law screening techniques that researchers and clinicians are still assessing.

Most insurance mandates may spring from good intentions. But good intentions don't equal good policy, and their ultimate effect is often to make a serious problem -- like the cost of health care -- even worse.

As it is, mandated benefits in Massachusetts -- 47 of them, according to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance -- cost the state an estimated $1.3 billion a year. With insurance premiums sky-high, the last thing lawmakers should be considering are mandates that will drive them higher still. Colorectal cancer screening is important. So is insurance that consumers can afford.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2010, Boston Globe