Articles Posted in Accessibility of Healthcare

cancerdeathrates2018-271x300Cancer hasn’t gotten knocked out of its spot as Americans’ No. 2 killer, but health officials have delivered some good news about the disease that once was considered irreversible in its lethal course: Cancer deaths rates have fallen now for a quarter of a century.

The American Cancer Society, pointing to 1991 as a peak year, says that death rates from the disease declined by 27 percent, “meaning more than 2.6 million deaths [were] avoided between 1991 and 2016.”

Still, 1.7 million Americans likely will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and the disease will kill more than 600,000 patients — meaning 1,666 people per day in this country will die of cancer.

drugoverdosewomen2019-272x300A new kind of gender equality can only be seen as tragic and sad: Drug overdoses are soaring among women older than 30, with a giant spike in these deaths due to opioids.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that since 1999, drug overdose death rates “increased by approximately 200 percent among women aged 35–39 and 45–49 years, 350 percent among those aged 30–34 and 50–54 years, and nearly 500 percent among those aged 55–64 years.” Overall for women aged 30-64, the CDC says, the rate of opioid overdose fatalities increased by a whopping 492 percent from 1999 to 2017.

The new data show the malignancy of the opioid crisis, which claimed more than 70,000 American lives in just the last year — more men than women. The overdose death rate itself rose in one year alone by 10 percent, and federal authorities say such incidents, intentional or accidental and too often now involving the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, have become a leading killer of Americans 50 and younger.

fees-300x254Ever noticed how tourists strolling our cities’ streets not only pause and peer into the windows of restaurants but they also invariably make a beeline for the menu posted out front? That’s smart consumerism, right, and so common sense that, hey, why doesn’t such price-checking work in medical care, too?

Well, think again: The nation’s in the midst of yet another experiment to try to make clearer and more transparent the soaring prices of medicine. With the dawn of 2019, Uncle Sam decided that hospitals needed to make available online their “chargemasters,” the giant list of their supposed prices for facilities, services, and prescription drugs.

Good luck, though, to consumers to find this important document, as required now by law, on hospital websites. Good luck, too, for patients in determining just what the sizable Excel spreadsheets mean for their finances and budgets.

jeanne_lenzerbrownlee-150x150Medical devices race onto the market with little or no effective testing or regulatory safeguards, and a proposed “reform” of the oversight system of products that are implanted in tens of millions of Americans is a sham, safety advocates say.

That’s because there are gaping flaws in the proposal to alter the so-called 510(k) procedure under which the federal Food and Drug Administration clears medical devices for sale, say medical journalist Jeanne Lenzer (right) and health care activist Shannon Brownlee (left).

Their Op-Ed in the Washington Post is the latest salvo against FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s claims of “transformative” changes in medical device regulation by his agency. News organizations around the world in recent weeks have published investigations of how poorly such products are tested, reviewed, and then released on markets, killing and injuring patients as a result.

knees-300x81With a graying nation projected to see millions of patients undergoing knee replacements each year at an annual cost to taxpayers running in the billions of dollars, it may be past time to ask if surgeons and hospitals promote and perform these popular procedures to excess.

Liz Szabo, in a story written for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service (KHN) and published in the Washington Post, reported that knee surgeries have their “risks and limitations,” and “doctors are increasingly concerned that the procedure is overused and that its benefits have been oversold.”

As she wrote:

hospital-unit-300x150As the new year gets under way, regulators and lawmakers need to look hard at a nightmare in New Jersey involving a free-standing surgical center and to a nationwide harms occurring in psychiatric hospitals to ensure that these and other institutions improve the safety and quality of their patient care.

USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, in separate stories, reported about shoddy practices and lax oversight that contributed to significant problems in the medical facilities.

The Journal investigated hospitals for the mentally ill and found that, “More than 100 psychiatric hospitals have remained fully accredited by a major hospital watchdog despite serious safety violations that include lapses linked to the death, abuse or sexual assault of patients.”

When doctors, hospitals, insurers, and their captive lawmakers howl about how unfair malpractice lawsuits allegedly can be for modern medicine, patients who have suffered harms while seeking medical services should require loved ones, friends, and members of their community to view Bleed Out.

This new HBO documentary details the decade-long quest by comedian Steve Burrows and his family for justice for his mother, Judie. She was an energetic, retired teacher when she fell from her bike and needed emergency hip surgery. Before she had recovered, she fell again and needed a second operation. But this time, something went wrong: She lost more than half her blood, fell into a coma, and suffered irreversible brain damage that meant that she would spend the rest of her life in institutional care in rural Wisconsin.

juulcig-300x159When the reviews of 2018 get written, here’s hoping that health experts castigate the federal Food and Drug Administration and Scott Gottlieb, its chief, for a major blunder that continues to harm the well-being of the nation’s teenagers and young adults.

That’s because Gottlieb and his agency held a regulatory door wide open as the maker of the e-cigarette device Juul stormed through, campaigning to hook teen-agers and collegians on vaping. That’s the practice of using e-cigarettes to catalyze commercially prepared solutions to get a high, typically from nicotine, a powerfully addictive substance that carries a range of risks, especially for the young.

Big Tobacco loves Juul so much that, as a holiday gift, Altria, a major player in the industry, has cut a $12.8 billion deal with the e-cigarette maker that includes a $2 billion bonus to be split by the company’s 1,500 employees.

dumbrella-300x256They look like nursing homes, but they’re not. And for the health and safety of our elderly loved ones, we must know the difference.

These so-called assisted living facilities, operating with much less regulation and oversight than nursing homes, are raising concerns about the safety and quality of their dealings with a growing number of elderly Americans. That’s because they’re full not only of older residents but also difficult — and costly to care for — seniors with dementia.

Jordan Rau, of the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service, deserves credit for diving deep into rising complaints and documented harms to residents of facilities “originally designed for people who were largely independent but required help bathing, eating or other daily tasks.” These places, “unlike nursing homes … generally do not provide skilled medical care or therapy, and stays are not paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.”

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