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Suit Over ‘100% Natural’ Label On Nature Valley Granola Bars Settled

CommonHealth (WBUR) - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 1:01pm

(AP Photo: Matt Rourke)

The non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest has made me a hopeless cynic about the glowing verbiage on food packaging. Among the center’s other work, it acts as a sort of truth squad for food claims, outing many “good for you” labels and ads for the shameless distortions that they are.

“I guess I knew that was too good to be true,” is my usual reaction when I find out that yet another hyper-palatable “healthy” snack or entree is actually packed with sugar or fat or salt.

Now, the center reports the settlement of a suit it brought against General Mills for calling Nature Valley granola bars and other products “100% Natural” even though they contained highly processed sweeteners. (Wait, you mean “high-fructose corn syrup” doesn’t just count as corn?) From it’s press release:

WASHINGTON—A settlement agreement announced today prevents General Mills from claiming that its Nature Valley granola bars, crispy squares, and trail mix bars are “100% Natural” if those products contain high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose corn syrup, dextrose monohydrate, maltodextrin, soy protein isolate, or several other artificially produced ingredients. The agreement, which is effective immediately and applies to labeling and marketing for 30 Nature Valley products, settles a 2012 lawsuit brought on behalf of consumers by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and two law firms.

CSPI privately raised its concern with General Mills over its “100% Natural” claims as early as 2005. The company began phasing out its use of high-fructose corn syrup in some products, but at the time of CSPI’s lawsuit was still using high-maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin. While those ingredients are derived from corn, they are produced by treating corn starch with acids, enzymes, or both before being refined into a substance that does not occur in nature.

The center notes that a bill introduced in Congress in 2013 “would prohibit the use of the word ‘natural’ on a food that includes any synthesized ingredient, or any ingredient that has undergone chemical changes such as corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose corn syrup, maltodextrin, chemically modified food starch, or alkalized cocoa.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that some Nature Valley packaging had apparently already been changed. It says a “spokeswoman for General Mills said the changes were made in 2012 and preceded the lawsuits, which she said the company fought because the suits sought damages. She said General Mills agreed to the settlement to avoid further litigation, and has no plans to change its current labels.”

The Journal also reports that lawsuits over “natural” labeling have been proliferating of late, with more than 100 filed in recent years.

Consumers have targeted PepsiCo Inc., Campbell Soup Co. , Ben & Jerry’s, Kashi, Skinnygirl and dozens of other food and drink brands.

Several companies have quietly removed “natural” claims from the juice, ice cream, potato chips and other foods they make. Campbell eliminated the claim from Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and Pepsi got rid of the phrasing on its Naked juice bottle.

Wait, you mean even those maximally virtuous-seeming “Naked” juices are not natural? Sigh. A commenter on The Wall Street Journal story writes:

The sad truth is that if you are buying something in a wrapper, box, can or any sealed container, it almost certainly is adulterated with either sugar, hydrogenated oil, preservatives, or all of these, not to mention excess salt, and “additives.”

Go to your friendly neighborhood chain food market and take a magnifying glass. Read the labels on “breakfast cereal”. Of the fifty brands there, chances are that all fifty contain added sugar/corn syrup, or concentrated fruit juice for sweetening. Do the same with “juices” and discover there MAY be ONE or TWO actual juices there, everything else is adulterated and soaked in corn syrup. Basically if it’s in a container, it’s semi junk or junk food.

Categories: Health Care

Magna Carta’s Legal Legacy: Law Librarian of Congress Speaks with Two Chief Justices

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 9:00am

The Library of Congress is commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with an exhibition – Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, a symposium, and a series of talks starting this year.  From November 6 through January 19, 2015, the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of four remaining originals from 1215 will be on display along with other rare materials from the Library’s rich collections to tell the story of 800 years of its influence on the history of political liberty.  This post is adapted from an article in the Gazette, the Library’s internal publication, originally written by Mark Hartsell.

David Mao, Law Librarian of the Library of Congress hosts a conversation with John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States and The Rt. Hon. The Lord Judge on the Legal Legacy of Magna Carta, in conjunction with the Magna Carta exhibition at the Library of Congress, Wednesday, November 5, 2014. [Photo by Amanda Reynolds]

We were fortunate to have a sitting chief justice of the United States, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and a recently-retired lord chief justice of England and Wales, The Right Honourable The Lord Judge, in town during the Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor opening celebrations.  The day before the exhibition opened, we were honored to bring the judicial leaders together in a relaxed conversation, with the Law Librarian David S. Mao as moderator, about the legal legacy of Magna Carta. [Note: Lord Judge's given surname is "Judge."]

The Law Librarian posed five questions to the chief justices that explored the influence of Magna Carta down through the centuries, the charter’s meaning in modern law and its importance as a symbol for the future.

Roberts called the historic charter a “critical symbol” of fundamental rights and the rule of law.

“I like to think of it as a cornerstone,” Roberts told an audience in the Jefferson Building’s Members Room. “We celebrate the 800th birthday as we would celebrate the laying of a cornerstone of a building. What we’ve built on that cornerstone is something we call the rule of law.”

The conversation touched on the historical connection between Magna Carta and the Library.  The centerpiece of “Muse and Mentor” is the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of only four remaining original copies of the document to which King John affixed his seal at Runnymede in 1215.

In 1939, the British sent that copy to the Library for safekeeping during World War II – a transfer Roberts called an “extraordinarily powerful symbol.”

“The British did not give it over lightly, and I think they did so in a very calculated way,” Roberts said. “They wanted to remind us that this is what they were fighting for and convey the strong message that ‘you should be, too.’ ”

[from left to right] James H. Billington, The Librarian of Congress; The Right Honourable The Lord Igor Judge; Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr.; Law Librarian of Congress David S. Mao [Photo by Amanda Reynolds]

With Magna Carta, rebellious English barons coerced King John into granting them certain rights and liberties – a “fantastically important moment” in history, Judge said.

In the Middle Ages, he said, kings believed they ruled by divine right and were accountable only to God. With Magna Carta, that began to change.

“Suddenly,” Judge said, “the king is answerable on earth, not just in heaven. … That, I think, leads us to this really important point, which is easy in a democracy to overlook but which in any dictatorship would be no trouble at all: No king is above the law, no president is above the law, no executive is above the law. Everyone is answerable for his actions in court.”

Magna Carta served as one of the earliest statements of limited government and of individual rights, influencing the legal systems of many democratic nations.

But 800 years after its creation, Mao asked, what is the argumentative force, if any, of citing Magna Carta in a brief to the court or in a judicial decision?

“If you’re citing Magna Carta in a brief before the Supreme Court of the United States or in an argument, you’re in pretty bad shape,” Roberts joked. “We like our authorities a little more current and a little more directly on point.”

But, Judge said, “It remains a useful reminder to all of us, including the judges, that there are some very basic principles that govern our judicial lives that we should be alert to.”

Roberts recalled arguing before the Supreme Court as a lawyer and connected that experience to the historical influence of Magna Carta.

All you had to do, he said, was convince five other lawyers that you are correct and the United States government, the most powerful force on Earth, would recede from its position.

“That’s what we mean by rule of law,” he said. “What happens in the Supreme Court building across the street is a restraint of power and might – exactly what the barons were doing at Runnymede when they coerced the king into granting the charter.”

See the full recording of the event in the video below from our YouTube playlist.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Adopting Accountable Care: An Implementation Guide for Physician Practices

Brookings Institute -- Medicare - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 12:00am

Our nation’s health care system continues to undergo significant transformation to address the quality and high cost of care. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) have become a substantial part of these efforts by realigning our current payment system to reward organizations that achieve high-value care. While the ACO concept continues to evolve, it can broadly be defined as: “a group of health care providers who accept shared accountability for the cost and quality of care delivered to a population of patients.” Physician-led provider organizations are quickly becoming one of the biggest drivers of accountable care activity. Typically, these groups are not hospital affiliated and instead include one or more independent primary care physician groups or practice associations that have a large combined patient population. The physician members of these ACOs lean heavily toward primary care, but are increasingly including specialists. Unlike hospital-led ACOs which may offer primary care, specialty care, and acute care to their patients, many physician-led ACOs are limited to providing primary care, yet maintain responsibility for the total cost of each patient’s care.

These physician-led ACOs can play an integral role in improving primary care and delivering high quality care coordination. Together these efforts have been effective in improving patient outcomes, reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency room visits, and lowering costs. Successful population health management in these ACOs typically results in the provision of more primary care services (low cost care) and less acute care services (high cost care) in hospitals and other settings.

Because physician-led ACOs are often smaller organizations, they tend to be more flexible and nimble when it comes to adopting new practices and clinical transformation. However, these ACOs may have less advanced health IT systems, fewer resources and capital to invest in clinical and organizational transformation, and less experience with risk-based contracts.

Early results from the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) suggest that physician-led ACOs may actually have a leg up in terms of accountable care success. Out of the 49 MSSP participants that qualified for shared savings in their first performance year, a higher rate of physician-led ACOs got shared savings compared to non-physician-led ACOs. While results are still being analyzed, these findings suggest that physician-led ACOs are highly effective in driving health care reform.

The purpose of this toolkit is to focus on the unique challenges and opportunities for physician-led ACOs.  This work builds on the original ACO Toolkit developed by the ACO Learning Network in 2011 to help ACOs address technical, operational, and legal issues in ACO development and implementation. Likewise, the goal of this toolkit is to provide emerging physician-led ACOs with the knowledge and tools necessary to effectively address four critical issues in accountable care development and implementation: (1) identifying and managing high-risk patients; (2) developing high-value referral networks, (3) using event notifications, and (4) engaging patients.

This toolkit is a result of a collaborative effort by members of the ACO Learning Network. Members participated in twice-monthly conference calls and shared innovative ideas, technical challenges and lessons with each other. We also invited a number of guest experts to contribute their thoughts and ideas to inform the development of this resource. The toolkit includes examples and case studies to illustrate how various ACOs are approaching the implementation challenges they face in delivering high-value care. This executive summary provides key takeaways and recommendations from each chapter of the toolkit. While all lessons may not apply to all physician-led ACOs, they should serve as a guide or checklist of competencies that can prepare these organizations for success.

Downloads Authors         
Categories: Elder

Long-in-the-Tooth Dental Advice

Medicare -- New York Times - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 12:00am
Many people over age 65 lack dental insurance, a benefit that isn’t covered by traditional Medicare, and those eligible for Medicaid have limited coverage, depending on where they live.
Categories: Elder, Medicare

AG Hasn’t Ruled Out Legal Action To Prevent Closure Of Quincy Medical Center

CommonHealth (WBUR) - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 5:17pm

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office hasn’t ruled out court action to prevent Quincy Medical Center from shutting down.

Steward Health Care, the hospital’s parent company, announced this month that it would close the 124-year-old facility at the end of the year. The hospital has since moved the closing back to Feb. 4.

Bob Ross, head of the attorney general’s business and labor bureau, said Tuesday in a letter to a Steward lawyer that the closing could violate an agreement the company signed when it purchased the hospital in 2011 to keep it open for at least 10 years.

Ross said officials were willing to discuss Steward’s claim that the agreement should be altered.

Steward has said the hospital, with nearly 700 employees, is losing $20 million a year in the face of increased regional competition.

Categories: Health Care

Ebola Response Is Appropriate Use of Emergency Funding Under Budget Control Act

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 1:57pm
The Administration has requested $6.2 billion in supplemental appropriations to continue and expand measures to respond to the Ebola epidemic and has asked that these amounts be provided on an emergency basis, meaning they would not count toward the Budget Control Act’s (BCA) appropriations caps. The BCA recognizes that situations arise from time to time that require a rapid and substantial federal response, beyond what regular ongoing appropriations can support, and it …
Categories: Benefits, Poverty

Non-Defense Discretionary Programs Have Seen Large Cuts and Face More Cuts in 2015

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 1:56pm
Fiscal year 2015 will almost inevitably be another year of shrinking real resources for non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs, which encompass all non-defense spending other than interest payments and entitlement programs. In Congress’ negotiations over 2015 funding levels during the lame-duck session, the Budget Control Act (BCA) caps, as further reduced by sequestration, will continue to squeeze available funding. Non-defense spending will once again fall in …
Categories: Benefits, Poverty

Senate Approach to 2015 Appropriations Better Protects Domestic Priorities

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 1:54pm
Although both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees formulated their appropriations bills for fiscal year 2015 to comply with the 2011 Budget Control Act’s (BCA) caps, the two committees have allocated the available funding in different ways. (See appendix.) For at least three key domestic bills — Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Financial Services & General Government — the …
Categories: Benefits, Poverty

Congress Should Finish 2015 Appropriations Before Adjourning

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 1:48pm
With the government operating under a short-term continuing resolution (CR) through December 11, it is important that Congress adopt full-year appropriations for fiscal year 2015 before adjourning. If appropriations are delayed until the new Congress takes office, final resolution likely won’t come until roughly halfway through the fiscal year, which began October 1. Postponing decisions for that long would damage government operations, hampering planning and cramming …
Categories: Benefits, Poverty

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