bbaby-300x200A recent study of deaths among  black infants may provide another conscience jab to medical leaders who are confronted with mounting evidence of racial health care disparities in the United States.

As the Washington Post reported, researchers examined records of 1.8 million Florida hospital births between 1992 and 2015, finding in their published study these stark results:

“Although black newborns are three times as likely to die as white newborns, when black babies were cared for by black doctors after birth — primarily pediatricians, neonatologists and family practitioners — their mortality rate was cut in half. They found an association, not a cause and effect, and the researchers said more studies are needed to understand what effect, if any, a doctor’s race might have on infant mortality. ‘Strikingly, these effects appear to manifest more strongly in more complicated cases,’ the researchers wrote, ‘and when hospitals deliver more black newborns.’ They found no similar relationship between white doctors and white births. Nor did they find a difference in maternal death rates when the race of the doctor, usually an obstetrician, was the same as the mother’s.”

kneelady-300x222With so many older Americans entering their later years in better shape than earlier generations and wanting to stay active, knee and hip replacements have become some of the most common surgeries performed in pre-pandemic times. The cost of this work, however, varies greatly. And surgeons may be promoting procedural variants to not only build business but also to increase their revenue for these operations.

Consumers, policy makers, regulators, and politicians may want to keep an eye on developments with patients’ knees and hips as indicators of what may occur in health care finances, especially if hospitals’ case loads return to something of a pre-pandemic norm and because taxpayers bear burdens from so many of the Medicare-covered procedures.

New data is emerging about hospital costs as the institutions, many of them overwhelmed now by the coronavirus pandemic, comply with Trump Administration price-disclosure regulations. These called for hospitals to post online their base costs (as earlier described in the hard-to-read charge master lists) for hundreds of common procedures and medical items, as well as previously secret prices for same, as negotiated with insurers.

gofundme-300x130Modern medicine may be providing patients with significant improvements in key treatment areas, but the cost of care has become so crushing that online campaigns for charitable medical aid have become heartbreakingly common in the United States.

A team of researchers from institutions across the country reported that the well-known GoFundMe website, between May 2010 and December 2018, had provided a platform for more than 1 million aid appeals — with 281,881 of these (26.7%) created to cover individuals’ health care–related costs.

Most of the fund-raising sought to assist cancer patients, with individuals suffering trauma and injuries, or neurological disorders trailing in number of campaigns. As the authors observed in their published study of these pitches:

coronashot-300x178President Trump’s health leaders, racing toward the exits after their boss incited an end-of-term insurrection at the Capitol, acted to sow their own destructive confusion.

They left the incoming Biden Administration with new fury and frustration surrounding the efforts to get hundreds of millions vaccinated against the increasingly deadly coronavirus.

This wasn’t a juvenile prank like pulling “w” keys off White House computers. It was yet another incomprehensible bungle in what has been a shambolic federal response to the pandemic. It occurred as the nation keeps shattering records for coronavirus deaths, infections, and hospitalizations. As CNN reported:

carwrecked-300x200Motorists who didn’t make new year resolutions should sign on to some lifesaving, commonsense vows: They can pledge to slow down, focus on task more, and to halt the record road carnage that happened in 2020.

In the year just ended, Americans drove fewer miles than they had in recent years due to public health restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic and the virus-caused economic collapse. But drivers logged destructive results when they hit the road, the Wall Street Journal reported, noting:

“Historically, economic downturns have led to fewer vehicle miles traveled as well as lower rates of motor-vehicle deaths, but last year took a different turn. Nationally, vehicle miles traveled dropped an unprecedented 264.2 billion miles over the first half of 2020, a decline of 17% compared with the first half of 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the same period, the agency estimated the number of fatalities shrank 2%, falling to 16,650 from 16,988 the previous year. But the rate of fatalities grew 18%, rising to 1.25 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, up from 1.06. In other words, an inordinate number of people died given how many fewer miles they traveled. It was the highest motor-vehicle fatality rate for that span of time in a dozen years.”

The brutal data slipcovidnhomestatsdec20-300x271 in and out of the headlines. But the terrible toll of the coronavirus on the aged, injured, and sick in institutions is increasing in unceasing and unacceptable fashion.

Not long ago, HIV-AIDS activists crusaded against the public’s ignoring a lethal infection with the stark saying: Silence=Death. Is it becoming necessary to intone this about the relentless but seemingly tacitly accepted, coronavirus-related mortality, sickness, and suffering of those in long-term care?

As NPR reported:

documentsigning-300x156Wealthy investors want to enrich themselves yet more, partly by pushing doctors to oust patients from their practices unless they sign away invaluable constitutional rights. These rights can protect them if they are harmed while receiving medical services.

Patients’ safeguards, however, too often vanish when businesses compel customers to sign on to “forced arbitration,” Bloomberg Businessweek reported, noting that this consumer menace is rising in medicine as hedge funds buy up physician groups. Rich investors see lucrative profits in these practices, particularly in specialties like dermatology, gastroenterology, and obstetrics.

It seems that doctors like practicing medicine and dislike the billing, managing, paper shuffling, and other bureaucratic aspects of their profession, the story reported. Some aren’t good at it. Many are struggling, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has slashed patient demand for all kinds of medical procedures, sending doctors’ revenues plummeting. As Bloomberg reported:

covidshotlines1-300x170As the nation recoils from the deadly insurrectionist attack on Congress and the United States Capitol, a direct line also must be drawn to the huge health harms that President Trump and his administration incited with a flood of falsehoods, relentless attacks on science and expertise, and the reckless politicization of public health.

This administration will leave office with the nation hurtling toward 400,000 coronavirus deaths and 22 million infections. The disease is unchecked. New cases and hospitalizations are breaking records by the instant. The situation is likely to worsen significantly before it improves, experts warn.

The best efforts to battle Covid-19 also — due to a shambolic and too often counter-factual federal response — must combat the misinformation, mistrust, and animus sown during a needlessly destructive presidential term.

dcemptystreets-300x200Auto insurance companies and agents may have sent customers cards, fridge magnets, or calendars as part of their holiday cheer. But tens of millions of motorists may wish to demand more — both much more, and less.

Consumer advocates say the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed driving and claims for wrecks enough still that auto insurers — who are raking in big profits — need in the new year to fork over more refunds or premium reductions, the New York Times reported.

The newspaper reported that advocacy organizations like the Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Economic Justice, have investigated and “found that car crashes remained ‘well below’ 2019 levels”:

compare-202x300A lot of people in health care across the country are firing up their computers to dig into long-sought, confidential information from hospitals about their prices and deals they cut on them with an array of parties.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, the Trump Administration successfully battled with hospitals to get them to disclose previously secret pricing data, in the hopes that disclosing this key information will benefit the U.S. health care system, notably in curbing costs. Here’s why, as the newspaper reported:

“T]hose who pay for health-care premiums and medical bills — employers, workers and patients — were long in the dark about wide price differences among hospitals for the same service in the same city, according to research and efforts by large employer groups to compare prices. Hospital prices are under intense scrutiny as the sector consolidates and research points to price increases after mergers, but without the quality gains that hospitals often cite as rationale for the combinations.

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