harrisnhscfunding-300x155For anyone who believes that health care, in the wealthiest nation in the world, is a right and not a privilege, the Biden Administration provided some cause for optimism. It came in the form of an announcement by Vice President Kamala Harris that the nation will invest $1.5 billion to help reduce the shortage of doctors and nurses in underserved communities.

Working with sums provided by the spring’s American Recovery Act, the White House said it will boost financial support for medical workers participating in the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps.

They provide services to more than 23.6 million patients in this country, the White House said.

lotsapills-300x200The regular folks who make up juries may give more heed than judges and justices do to the how and why of patients’ push for justice in the civil system, as has been shown in yet another bellwether decision involving major drug store chains and claims they contributed to the nation’s worsening opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis.

CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart all contributed substantially to creating a public nuisance by failing to ask appropriate questions and flooding Lake and Trumbull, two Ohio counties, with countless numbers of prescription painkillers, 12 jurors in a Cleveland court found after a six-week trial and 5½ days of deliberation. As the New York Times reported of the lawyers for the plaintiff counties and their successful argument, the “first time the retail segment of the drug industry has been held accountable in the decades-long epidemic….”

“After hearings in the spring, the trial judge will determine how much each company should pay the counties. The verdict — the first from a jury in an opioid case — was encouraging to plaintiffs in thousands of lawsuits nationwide because they are all relying on the same legal strategy: that pharmaceutical companies contributed to a “public nuisance,” a claim that plaintiffs contend covers the public health crisis created by opioids. The public nuisance argument was rejected twice this month, by judges in California and Oklahoma in state cases against opioid manufacturers. The judges found that according to the specifics of their own states’ public nuisance laws, the companies’ activities were too removed from the overdoses and deaths and that the laws had been applied too expansively.

covidpic-300x247Americans’ Thanksgiving holiday traveling, socializing, and  shopping resumed with vigor, near pre-pandemic norms. And yet:

stjude-300x157If corporatists are correct and big, wealthy enterprises legally get rights akin to what real folks have, can it also be true that institutions, like people, sometimes just lose their way?

This argument may be evidenced by the tight-fistedness — eased under adverse publicity — of a legendary children’s charitable hospital and the profit-hungry financial schemes of a major Catholic hospital chain.

Credit is due to:

opioidtoll21wp-300x185Federal officials have confirmed that 2021 will go in the record books as a calamitous time in the battle against the opioid painkiller abuse and overdose crisis, with more than 100,000 U.S. lives lost this year alone to a long-running public health nightmare.

In case anyone might suffer “compassion fatigue” or fail to see how unacceptable this mess has become, news articles in major media offered disconcerting contextual statements, including:

  • 2021’s toll will be the highest of any single year in the crisis, which has killed more than 500,000 Americans over a decade

needles-300x152With studies showing that as many as half of patients infected with the coronavirus suffer physical and psychological problems for six months or more after they thought they first recovered, wise people may want to take every precaution they can against the disease.

They may wish to heed new federal recommendations calling for vaccine boosters, now approved for all Americans 18 and older and strongly encouraged for those older than 50.

The building data on “long Covid” is disconcerting, the Washington Post reported, noting:

baltsunjerryjackson-300x222In the spring of 2020, health workers were serenaded, cheered, and greeted as courageous heroes for their 24/7 commitment to battling the frightening, new coronavirus pandemic.

People — especially New Yorkers with their nightly eruptions — could not contain their admiration and gratitude for medicine’s marvels, with spontaneous and sustained demonstrations breaking out, as one news story reported, “from the Chinese epicenter of Wuhan to the medieval villages of Lombardy, from Milan to Madrid, onto Paris, and now London. There have been standing ovations, too, in Istanbul, Atlanta, Buenos Aires, and Tamil Nadu, India.”

Much has changed in the months since, of course, with the public’s health having become politicized and polarized, including with wild falsehoods and disinformation campaigns.

oksct-300x211Patients who say they were injured by wealthy corporations must possess great fortitude as they seek justice in the civil system, as has been reaffirmed by the courts in California and Oklahoma that rejected   separate cases involving the harms of prescription painkillers.

All the parties in the two matters agreed that Big Pharma’s opioid drugs have killed a half million Americans over a decade, addicted and debilitated vast numbers of patients, and laid waste to communities across the country.

But in strict legal terms, a trial judge in Orange County, Calif., ruled that pharmaceutical giants would prevail in a lawsuit filed against them by aggrieved California counties. They claimed that, with opioids, “drug manufacturers misled both doctors and patients by downplaying the risks of addiction, overdose, death, and other health complications while overstating the benefits for long-term health conditions,” the Associated Press reported.

kaiser21healthinsurancesurvey-300x204Most Americans get their health insurance through their jobs, and that coverage continues to increase in cost with the average annual premiums in 2021 exceeding $22,200 for families and $7,700 for individuals — a 4% rise from 2020.

The price increases affecting 155 million non-elderly people with employer-provided coverage, as detailed in the annual Kaiser Family Foundation surve, may seem modest, year over year, especially given that conventional wisdom saw all health care costs hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

But the foundation notes that overall health coverage costs, borne by employers and their workers, have not spiked due to the coronavirus, though they have risen relentlessly over a decade (see figure, above).

bowserbooster-300x225The coronavirus pandemic continues to kill an average of 1,200 Americans each day and the disease infects more than 76,000 people daily — unwavering numbers that have led public health officials — wary of what the hectic holidays will bring — to double down on their campaign for vaccinations against the virus.

This is especially true for kids, and with boosters, perhaps now for almost all.

The drug maker Pfizer, which already had presented federal regulators with data on how its vaccine wanes in effectiveness over time, has asked for approval to give all patients who have completed its two-shot regimen a third dose for increased protection.

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