Amid all the debate about how to spend the federal budget surplus, researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse have been hard at work getting monkeys stoned at taxpayer expense.
A team of scientists concluded that marijuana may be just as addictive as other illegal drugs after observing four squirrel monkeys self-administer injections of THC, the psychoactive ingredient that gives pot its potency. "This study is simple and its findings are clear. Animals will work to get THC," says Alan Leshner, director of the NIDA.
And did they ever work for it. The test subjects repeatedly pressed levers to inject themselves with THC an average of 30 times each during one-hour test sessions. That's about as often as a control group of lab monkeys shot themselves up with cocaine in a related study.
"The drug-seeking behavior in these animals was comparable in intensity to that maintained by cocaine under identical conditions and was obtained from a range of doses comparable to those self-administered by humans smoking a single marijuana cigarette," says Steven Goldberg, who supplied the goods at NIDA's Intramural Research Program. "This finding suggests that marijuana has as much potential for abuse as other drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and heroin."
Such a deal. Here's a bargain that could be too good to pass up. Farmers Insurance Group is offering California physicians a 15% discount on their auto insurance.
"Our research indicates that physicians and surgeons are generally safe drivers and their behavior should be rewarded with better rates," says Jerry Cranahan, Farmers' California state executive. "We think you should pay premiums based on your behavior--not your neighbor's."
Physicians must be a licensed member of the California Medical Association to qualify.
With the rising cost of liability insurance and the decline in reimbursements, physicians might take the chance to save wherever they can.
I'm not dead yet! And you thought government bureaucrats didn't have hearts.
HCFA officials are taking pains to reassure physicians that the agency won't punish them if their patients need hospice care for longer than six months.
Physicians won't find themselves being audited or without payment if their patients don't have the courtesy to die before the government deadline.
The government allows Medicare beneficiaries to have Medicare and other palliative care measures if their physicians state they have a terminal illness and likely will die within six months. Several Medicare audits of hospices and the government's crackdown on Medicare fraud have left many physicians believing they face consequences if their patient dares live longer than six months.
Before leaving her job as HCFA administrator, Nancy-Ann Min DeParle said Medicare beneficiaries could continue to receive hospice care as long as the physician "conscientiously recertifies" that the patient has a terminal illness.
Conscientiously recertifies? Ask yourself what the chances are that a terminal disease will have a cure before a hospice patient dies.
Heard of HIPAA? During a recent campaign stop, Vice President Al Gore announced to an enthusiastic crowd that he wanted to make it "illegal to release medical information," medical records and anything else private related to people's healthcare.
The proposal, as you'd imagine, got a resounding round of applause.
Gore continued, promising to prosecute those who release the information, saying that it wasn't right and people deserve their privacy.
Again, the crowd erupted in cheers.
Perhaps the vice president was too busy inventing the Internet to realize such actions already are illegal.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provides penalties of up to 10 years in prison when anyone releases identifiable information about patients to anyone who doesn't need to know it. Once HHS finalizes the rules, government can start enforcing the law and its penalties.
Just don't count on a Gore-Lieberman administration to do it. The presidential candidate doesn't seem to know the law exists.