richmondcommtyhospital-300x153Big hospitals and hospital chains that enjoy the financial and reputational benefits of nonprofit or charitable status have taken major fire for maximizing profits while piling on patients’ crushing medical debt and exploiting the poorest and most vulnerable of the injured and sick.

Medical economists, in recent times, have zeroed in on hospitals and their opaque pricing schemes and sky-high costs as important contributors to the ever-rising, nosebleed U.S. spending on health care. Americans pay more on average than any consumers on the planet, while seeing some of the worst outcomes among peers in advanced nations. And with a third of U.S. health care spending flowing into hospitals — more than $1 trillion annually — shouldn’t the suits running institutions and big chains have expected greater scrutiny of their business practices?

Kudos to the nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service and NPR for showing how hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are thriving — by saddling patients in that metropolis with some of the heaviest per capita medical debt to be found anywhere in the country.

anxietykid-150x150Americans live such nerve-wracking, glum, stressful lives that not only young people but also adults up to age 65 would benefit from regular screening during their doctor visits for anxiety and depression.

That’s the draft recommendation, newly issued and up for public comment, by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, blue-ribbon group that provides influential guidance to the federal government on medical tests and treatments.

As the New York Times and other media outlets have reported, the task force recommendations on anxiety and depression screening for most regular folks in this country were in the works before the coronavirus pandemic hit. The advisory has only taken on greater urgency as the pandemic worsened what already were grave concerns about the nation’s mental health.

ozempicpen-300x129Troubling but perhaps predictable news is traveling from a vanity trend-setting capital of this country: Hollywood stars have made the taking of a relatively new prescription drug, targeted for the treatment of diabetes, into a fad.

The injectable drug semaglutide, whose brand name is Ozempic, has become a must-have among A-listers because of one of its important outcomes among most users: dramatic weight loss. As Variety, one of the entertainment industry’s leading trade-media sources, reported about Ozempic:

“The drug is an insulin regulator for the pre-diabetic, made by the Danish pharma juggernaut Novo Nordisk, whose primary side effect is dramatic weight loss. It has saturated the industry in recent months, helping the beautiful and wealthy shed extra pounds in the never-ending Los Angeles pastime of optimizing appearances. Hollywood nutritionist Matt Mahowald tells Variety that the chief benefits of the injections are ‘moderating and pulling back insulin secretion and slowing down your stomach from emptying. It promotes satiation from food.’

syphilliscdc-150x150One of humanity’s favorite activities also has become riskier than ever in health terms, experts say, as U.S. cases of sexually transmitted diseases are increasing so much that one expert describes the situation as “out of control.”

In official terms, reported syphilis cases rose 26% last year, hitting their highest rate in three decades and their highest total number since 1948, the Associated Press reported. HIV cases spiked by 16% last year. As with syphilis, reported gonorrhea cases keep increasing.

And, of course, the nation is struggling — and perhaps containing — a coast to coast outbreak of monkeypox, with the infection once best known for its presence in less developed nations spreading mostly by men having intimate relations with multiple other men.

jJlogo-300x139Federal appeals judges have expressed skepticism about the scheming by Big Pharma and other big corporations to twist U.S. bankruptcy laws to let wealthy, powerful defendants shield themselves from major claims of harms filed by plaintiffs seeking justice in civil courts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia has been asked to rule on the “Texas two-step” that Johnson & Johnson resorted to when hit with an avalanche of lawsuits over its legendary baby powder and claims by tens of thousands of patients who assert that asbestos-tainted talc contributed to or caused their cancer, NPR reported, noting:

“An attorney for Johnson and Johnson faced probing questions … over the corporation’s use of a controversial bankruptcy maneuver that has frozen tens of thousands of lawsuits linked to Johnson’s baby powder. During the hearing, members of a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia asked whether J&J had used the legal strategy to gain ‘a litigation advantage’ over roughly 40,000 cancer patients who have sued the company.”

We’re barraged by so much health hokum that it’s a relief when common-sense reminders come along about crucial wellness concerns like exercise, diet, and sleep.

Timely information on these issues has been reported by the Washington Post (here on movement myths and here on sleep and weight), the Athletic on a soccer nutritionist’s insights on healthful eating, and the New York Times on exercise and bodily immunity.

Some of the key takeaways:

FDA-Logo-300x167Members of Congress, as usual, are racing to meet a deadline: This time, to determine the funding for the federal Food and Drug Administration, an agency with some of the most consequential responsibilities affecting Americans’ health.

In their furious political and financial machinations, though, lawmakers aren’t asking the tough, critical question about the FDA’s leading revenue source:

Is it a good idea for Big Pharma and medical device makers to pay most of the cost to run the nation’s watchdog of these giant, wealthy industries?

minnnursesstrike-150x150The coronavirus pandemic has not only caused sustained damage to the U.S. health workforce, it also apparently has accelerated a looming crisis in nursing care, as has been shown by a three-day strike by 15,000 private-sector nurses in Minnesota.

Theirs was the largest such walkout by nurses and it sought to underscore how pay inequities, staffing shortages, exhaustion, working conditions, and other management-employee issues strike at the heart of the quality, safety, and excellence of direct patient care, the Washington Post and other media outlets reported.

As Kelly Kelley Anaas, an intensive care unit nurse for 14 years at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, told USA Today of the strains confronted by some of medicine’s most crucial frontline caregivers:

cfpbchartnursinghomecost-300x226Two federal regulatory agencies have rebuked nursing homes and their debt collectors, warning them that they may be breaking the law with sketchy efforts to make loved ones and friends pay for the care of sick, injured, and debilitated residents in long-term facilities.

Bottom line: A lot of the forms that you may sign for a loved one as they are admitted to a nursing home are straight-up illegal if they purport to make you responsible for paying the facility’s bills.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has conducted hearings and issued a report as well as putting out a joint letter with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency with oversight of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

juullogo1-300x142Parents, educators, politicians, federal regulators, and advocates for Americans’ better health all should pause and consider the prime takeaways from a company’s willingness to strike a $439 million settlement with three dozen states figuratively shutting a barn door long after the nag has bolted.

Hint: Big Tobacco is relentless in its efforts to addict regular folks to products proven to destroy their health — and the financial payoff for doing so continues to be so potentially lucrative that most of us can hardly imagine.

Let’s back up just a bit for the basic facts: Juul, a San Francisco-based firm that federal officials have blamed for almost single-handedly creating the e-cigarette and vaping fad in recent years, reached a deal with 33 states and a U.S. territory to pay almost half a billion dollars over the way it marketed its products to teenagers and young adults.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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