Romney’s Evolution On Abortion; The Birth Of The HIV Epidemic

This week’s selection of intriguing weekend reading includes articles from Slate, the Los Angeles Times, American Medical News, Salon, Columbia Journalism Review, The Washington Post, BBC and Medscape.

Slate: The Conversion: How, When, And Why Mitt Romney Changed His Mind On Abortion
(GOP presidential candidate Mitt) Romney began his political career as a pro-choicer. In the story he tells, he had an epiphany, a flash of insight, and committed himself thereafter to protecting life. But that isn’t what happened. The real story of Romney’s conversion—a series of tentative, equivocal, and confused shifts, accompanied by a constant rewriting of his past—paints a more accurate picture of who he is. Romney has complex views and a talent for framing them either way, depending on his audience. He values truth, so he makes sure there’s an element of it in everything he says. He can’t stand to break his promises, so he reinterprets them (William Saletan, 2/22).

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare History: How The Patchwork Coverage Came To Be
Most of us get health insurance through our jobs, a system puzzling to the rest of the industrial world, where the government levies taxes and offers health coverage to all as a basic right of modern society. But for many Americans, their way feels alien — the heavy hand of government reaching into our business as some bureaucrat tells doctors and patients what to do. … The long-standing tension between public and private healthcare in America has produced a unique and confusing way to provide protection against the cost of ill health (Bob Rosenblatt, 2/27).

Also included in this package, are stories about the diverse ways hospital bills are paid; the backlash against a Medicare expansion in 1988; and the high cost of long-term care.

American Medical News: Insurers Think Outside The Policy
Once upon a time, U.S. insurers’ business was paying claims and putting together networks of physicians and hospitals. Today, they are selling health benefits for workers in Brazil, developing health information exchange systems and even helping big physician groups bill patients. That work was once outside the purview of the largest U.S. health insurers — or relegated to side projects. But in 2012, after U.S. health system reform and amid other changes sweeping the industry, health plans are relying on businesses that were once peripheral to drive company profits (Emily Berry, 2/27).

Salon: The Billion-Dollar Battle Over Premenstrual Disorder
For about five to seven days of every month, a woman may as feel as though she were a different person. A person she doesn’t like. … Doctors and psychiatrists at work on the newest version of the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders — the American Psychiatric Association’s bible for mental-health professionals — describe this confluence of symptoms as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). The revised version of the DSM, just the fourth new edition in 52 years, will be published next year. … Since 1987, PMDD has lingered in the ghetto of the DSM: the appendix pages where proposed diagnoses are deemed in need of “further study.” But right now, it appears as though PMDD will ascend in the ranks from a hypothetical ailment to illness to become a full-blown depressive disorder; taking a place alongside Major Depression and Bi-Polar Depression (Natasha Vargas-Cooper, 2/25).

Columbia Journalism Review: A Medicare Memo To Campaign Reporters
Hmmm, I thought. Seniors already can choose between Medicare and private plans. I asked my Arkansas host how these private plans were being sold in her county. She told me insurance agents selling private plans had teamed up with local pharmacists, who told seniors that if they didn’t sign up for a particular agent’s policy, the pharmacists whom they trusted said they wouldn’t be their pharmacists any more. Well, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know what most of the seniors did (Trudy Lieberman, 2/27).

Washington Post: Co­lo­ni­al­ism In Africa Helped Launch The HIV Epidemic A Century Ago
We now know where the epidemic began: a small patch of dense forest in southeastern Cameroon. We know when: within a couple of decades on either side of 1900. We have a good idea of how: A hunter caught an infected chimpanzee for food, allowing the virus to pass from the chimp’s blood into the hunter’s body, probably through a cut during butchering. As to the why, here is where the story gets even more fascinating, and terrible (Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin, 2/27).

BBC: Will We Ever… Grow Organs?
In June 2011, an Eritrean man entered an operating theatre with a cancer-ridden windpipe, but left with a brand new one. People had received windpipe transplants before, but Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene’s was different. His was the first organ of its kind to be completely grown in a lab using the patient’s own cells (Ed Yong, 2/24).

Medscape: Tracking Healthcare Variability: Is More Care Better Care?
Dr. [Eli] Adashi: It’s undeniable that we as a nation are going through a difficult patch with respect to a variety of aspects, not least of which is healthcare. If we were to liken for a moment the American healthcare system to a patient, what is the prognosis of this patient? Dr. [John] Wennberg: It’s certainly going to have to figure out how to go from a spurt of growth to a spurt of maturity and stability. … certainly the great difficulty is whether the adolescent can enter into a new phase in which there is cooperation and an understanding of the requirements for building systems of care, and doing things that physicians were not trained to do, work in teams, and ultimately limiting capacity (2/24).