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News Bits from MichUHCAN November 1999 Newsletter

Why Prescriptions are Pricey

Drug companies have long claimed that high prescription prices are based on the companies' high costs for research. But a recent report by AIDS Action, a Washington DC-based advocacy group, found that the 15 largest drug companies were spending nearly three times as much for advertising ($68 billion per year) as for research ($24 billion). AIDS Action got the information from corporate annual reports; industry reps say the group unfairly included administrative costs in the advertising figures.

Uninsured Numbers Still Climbing

The band-aids aren't working: this fall the Census Bureau released new figures showing the number of uninsured grew by nearly one million in 1998, to 44.3 million. This means that at least one out of six Americans is without helath insurance. The problem is much worse among people of color. About 22% of African Americans lack insurance as do about 35% of Hispanics. Lack of insurance among children has increased in spite of federal and state programs aimed at covering kids. The increases in the uninsured are due to cuts in Medicaid rolls, said Physicians for a National Health Program.

Henry Ford Continues Job Cuts

The Henry Ford hospital and clinic system announced it will cut another 1,000 jobs by January 15. Henry Ford managers hope to make the cuts through an early retirement offer rather than layoffs. About 300 layoffs were included among the 1,000 jobs already cut this year. Managers also say they're not cutting the number of direct patient care positions. However, unionized nurses at Henry Ford clinics, members of UAW Local 600, say they're concerned that nurses' positions are being replaced by unlicensed aides.

Safe Staffing Levels Set by Law

The California Nurses Association won a new legal tool for protecting patient care in that state: a new law that will set safe staffing requirements for hospitals. The law requires the state to adopt regulations for minimum, specific, and numerical licensed nurse-to-patient ratios for all hospital units. It also prohibits hospitals from requiring unlicensed, minimally trained personnel to perform nursing functions such as invasive procedures, patient assessment, patient education, or administration of medication. CNA officials say thousands of nurses helped get the bill passed, and "now we will begin to mobilize again" to make sure the new staffing ratios are sound.