December 30, 2011 in Opinion

Editorial: Brain injury bill offers crucial parts of solution

 

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Traumatic brain injuries hospitalize 80,000 young Americans each year, and kill 11,000. No disease exacts so harsh a toll.

But diagnosis and treatment of injuries that can be overlooked or downplayed – concussions, for example – has been inconsistent, even among the nation’s leading medical centers. Now, legislation that would identify and disseminate information on best practices for use by health care professionals and parents has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Fostered by Patrick Donohoe, father of a 6-year-old victim of shaken-baby syndrome, H.R. 2600 has the potential to do much more than bring uniformity to head trauma prevention and therapy.

For starters, consider the bill’s list of more than 100 co-sponsors. It could be the answer to a riddle: What do budget slasher Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and ultra-liberal Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., have in common? The list includes representatives from across the political spectrum, among them Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Donohoe says the breadth of support for the National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Plan Act should hasten its passage once it emerges from committee hearings later this winter. A companion bill is nearly ready in the Senate, where he hopes it could pass by acclamation. The bill could be ready for a presidential signature this summer.

“There’s this hunger for doing something in a bipartisan fashion,” he says.

A nice thought, supported by another of the bill’s facets: It would incorporate injuries sustained on the battlefield by men and women in the armed forces, many of whom are below the bill’s threshold age of 25.

Secondly, the objective is a compilation over seven years of effective diagnostic and treatment practices. Each state would have a center collecting the information and sharing its analysis with other state centers. Seven regional centers would focus on analyzing one of seven facets: prevention, acute care, re-integration into the community, transition to adult care, minor injuries like concussion, rural telehealth care, and creation of a database accessible to providers and parents.

If the United States is going to get health care costs under control, providers and patients need to know what works, and go from there. Donohoe says the bill’s broad sponsorship is due in part to the fact it does not mandate a particular course of care.

Thirdly, the program’s seven-year, $2.7 billion budget would be carved out of discretionary money held by the secretary of Health and Human Services. It would not add to the budget deficit. The funding is also structured in a way that gradually transfers more responsibility to the states, which should be able to offset the bill with savings from more effective injury treatment.

The U.S. badly needs to find ways to deliver the most effective health care at lower cost. H.R. 2600 could be a piece of the solution.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.


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