Get Free Testing and Treatment for Syphilis!

Earlier this week, a friend at the Philadelphia Department of Health sent me a disturbing set of stats: the number of documented venereal diseases in Philadelphia broken down by zip code: (warning, pdf).

Sadly, some of the highest rates are in southwest Philadelphia (19143) a neighborhood that's been heavily impacted by poverty and crime.

my friend is on a project dealing specifically with syphilis, a venereal disease that can hide out in your body before hitting you with devastating health problems, ranging from hair loss and unsightly rashes to organ failure, brain damage and ultimately death. More here:

Because syphilis can hide out in your body, it's really important to get tested if you've had unprotected sex recently, including oral sex. It's a communicable disease, and easily spread to your partner.

How Does Your Garden Grow? Plan your vegetable garden now.

Just a quick reminder that these short winter days and long winter nights are a good time to think about planning and planting your own vegetable garden.

By growing your own, you'll save money, have less concern about chemical use and health issues, likely improve your landscape, and reduce energy consumption shipping food stuffs to you.

You'll save the most money if you start plants from seed, which means getting going in February and March, so you can plant outside in April and May.

I've been happy with Vermont based company Gardeners Supply ( for many years for supplies, equipment and advice.

As for seeds (and more advice), local company Burpee ( has been in the business for well over a century, and some friends recently introduced us to Seed Savers Exchange ( which specializes in collecting and propagating unique heirloom vegetables, herbs and plants (more than 13,000 different varieties!).

Your Input Needed for a Change in Healthcare Forum

On behalf of the
President-elect Barack Obama's health transition team and Senator Tom Daschle,
The Philadelphia Congress
of the
National Congress of Black Women

The Blues Merger

Jane Von Bergen has a really strong Inquirer piece this morning about health insurance competition in our state and how it plays out for some of the larger purchasers of insurance, What can happen if Blues compete. The part that will hit home the most for some of us is the story about the car dealership owner who plays the two off against each other for a better rate. That said, some of the stories about how the market opened up and how that played out for some of the region's big institutions also has a lot of food for thought in it.

Some advocates here are already organizing around opportunities presented by this merger. The "non-profit" Blues in the state are sitting on such an unbelievable amount of money in "reserves" that a massive earthquake could ravage the whole state and they'd probably still be able to cover the doctor bills. Then, of course, there is the question of who will keep The Big Blue honest if it controls the overwhelming majority of the insurance market.

Anyway, Philadelphians have a chance to weigh in on the proposed merger at the Philadelphia Sheraton on July 15th.

Insure-animals, from

Insur-Animals #1

This is kind of awesome. Pass Prescription for Pennsylvania (and Access to Basic Care). Health Insurance companies are evil.

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Make insurers insure people again

A coalition of Democrats and Republicans who really support small businesses is forming to make certain that you can get health insurance at every phase of your life. They should soon send a bill to the Senate that will make our health insurance market make sense.

Can you think of an industry that makes its money by avoiding customers? Doesn't that seem like a really weird concept? Well, there is one: the health insurance industry. Private insurers, like Aetna, carefully screen their customers to keep the ones most likely to have health problems out, a.k.a., "cherry picking." They look for small companies filled with healthy, young workers and offer them great plans. Then, they just rake in premiums, because even at reasonable rates they are making money because the young turks don't get sick.

They can do this because Pennsylvania permits insurers to set rates based for an employer based on the health status of its employees. So, Blue Cross & Blue Shield have to insure everyone. All the middle-aged and older workers end up with the Blues, while Aetna and others steal the healthier workers. By "steal," I mean they rob these larger pools of the healthy workers who bring costs down. That's the same trade-off we've always had with insurance. I pay in now while I'm healthy so that, in exchange, I won't have to pay in so much when I'm older.

That's not how it works anymore. Click "Read More" to find out what legislators are trying to do about it.

Rx4PA: House Bill 2098 would do for Pennsylvania what Medicare has done for everyone

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is pressing legislators to pass HB 2098, a bill submitted on December 6th and sitting before the House Insurance Committee (authored by its chair, Rep. DeLuca). We were all a little disappointed earlier this year when the legislative process failed to make good on Governor Rendell's plan to allow our insurers to quit paying for infections and mistakes made by Hospitals. Then, the next thing we knew, Medicare (by far the biggest spender in Healthcare) came along and said it wasn't going to pay for those mistakes or infections starting late in 2008, anyway. Which could have nearly the same effect, so HB 2098 seeks to give our Pennsylvania insurers that same right: to refuse to pay bills for procedures correcting conditions that hospitals should have prevented.

"But wait! I thought we already solved this problem?" you ask. Sure you do. We did something about it, but we sure didn't solve it. In fact, in one very important way, we took a step backward. A big step. Click Read More to see what I mean!

Happy Birthday Smoking Ban 101!!!!!

Has it been a year already? If it is HAPPY BIRTHDAY SMOKING BAN!!!!!!

Time flies when your not smoking in public places anymore. I doesn't even seem like a year now since City Council ,headed by then Councilman Mike Nutter at the time, passed the bill that people thought would kill every establishment in the area. God forbid we can't smoke at our tavern anymore? Off with Nutter's head! People were saying that last year, just before he announced that he was running for Mayor. I thought this would be his down fall , first your taking our cigarettes , then you wanted to stop and frisk? But it seems that the ban and Nutter survived with flying colors. Who would have thought that the calm would be so nice after the smoke storm.

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