Friday News Dump: Wonkbites

by Karan Chhabra

We couldn’t keep up this silent protest of the government shutdown forever. So we’re back online with Wonkbites, this time protesting by ignoring all news shutdown-related:

  1. Who wants Obamacare? If only we knew. Amid the fanfare over the October 1 “launch” of Obamacare, many have been wondering how many people actually signed up for insurance through those exchanges. We know there were glitches and we know there were a ton of pageviews, but neither of those tells us how many people are actually being helped. In this article, Dan Diamond steps back from the scrum and tells us all there is to know at this point.
  2. Obamacare means no copays for preventive services. Or so we thought. But some doctors are still charging copays for preventive services, and it sounds fishy. The article doesn’t quantify how many, or if it’s because of misunderstanding rather than outright deception. It also mentions that some patients are getting hit with copays because their insurance plans are grandfathered-in, or because they got “curative” services in a visit that was meant to be preventive. But again, without knowing the magnitude of the problem, it’s hard to know whether to sound the alarms.
  3. Medicaid policy or USPS bailout?  The blogosphere is full of debates on Arkansas’ plan to move Medicaid to the private insurance exchanges (we’re no exception). It seems like the patients couldn’t care less about the controversy. When the state sent short letters to 132,000 eligible households, they got a whopping 55,400 responses back in the mail. Though I’m mostly impressed that many people still use the mail, it’s also refreshing to see patients put their own care before political debates. (Is the same thing happening on the Obamacare exchanges?)
  4. Poopin’ pills: For better or for worse, we’re on a bit of a streak covering progress in fecal transplantation. So we’ll keep it up with this story on poop pills, with promising results against the nasty intestinal infections increasingly treated with fecal transplants. I don’t want to be a buzzkill by pointing out that these pills actually make you eat the poop, whereas regular transplants go up the other way… but it’s food for thought (no pun intended).
  5. We’re not snobs, we’re just more socially perceptive than youA new, well-designed study in Science forced people to read different types of writing, and then tested subjects’ empathy and social skills using well-validated measures. It found that heavy, “literary” fiction improved empathy scores, even more than “pop” literature and nonfiction. So if English majors seem like pretentious oafs it’s not their fault—they’re just more socially skilled, obviously.


Karan is a student at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Duke graduate who previously worked in strategic research for hospital executives.

Follow him on Twitter @KRChhabra or subscribe to the blog.


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