Articles Posted in Accessibility of Healthcare

oighhslogo-150x150Buh-bye? Arrivederci? Sayonara? Can it be that the coronavirus pandemic puts an end to one of the disgraceful ways that Big Pharma and medical device makers push their wares on all-too malleable doctors — with big-money speaker programs?

The inspector general’s office of the giant federal Health and Human Services (HHS) agency has warned drug- and medical device-makers that these pandemic-paused marketing shams should not resume. The $2 billion that industry players have forked out for the in-person gab fests in the last three years looks sketchy at best to federal watchdogs and prosecutors, the HHS inspector general warned in a rarely issued “special fraud alert.” It reported this:

“The Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Department of Justice (DOJ) have investigated and resolved numerous fraud cases involving allegations that remuneration offered and paid in connection with speaker programs violated the anti-kickback statute. The Federal government has pursued civil and criminal cases against companies and individual [health care providers] involving speaker programs … Our enforcement experience demonstrates that some companies expend significant resources on speaker programs and that some [health care providers] receive substantial remuneration from companies. This Special Fraud Alert highlights some of the inherent fraud and abuse risks associated with the offer, payment, solicitation, or receipt of remuneration related to company-sponsored speaker programs.”

With the pandemic  tearing through the United States and overwhelming U.S. health care system,  we pause from the grim news to tally  some of the nation’s blessings in this time.

We can be thankful for the courage, fortitude, dedication, and skill of an army of health workers of all kinds. They have put themselves and their loved ones at formidable risk and strain to treat patients under unprecedented duress. They have dealt with fear and uncertainty, giving little quarter, and approaching their own breaking points. Some health workers have themselves fallen ill, with some dying. Their sacrifices cannot be forgotten, and we need to give sustained and extra support to health workers as the pandemic enters its next perilous phase.

coronacasednov13cnbc-300x135Although company-reported data on the potency of a prospective coronavirus vaccine provided rare glimmers of hope, the rampaging coronavirus pandemic triggered clangorous coast-to-coast health alarms: Infections are skyrocketing. So, too, are hospitalizations. And, yes, deaths are spiking, as well. Records are falling each day.

Covid-19 is raging unchecked among the American people, with a season of travel and festivities with friends and families bearing down on the country.

Will travelers heading across the country or around the block to Thanksgiving feasts or December religious celebrations also ensure that public health forecasters’ glum models turn into lethal reality?  Will the 1,000 daily deaths occurring now double to 2,000 by mid-January and will the U.S. coronavirus death toll hit 440,000 by March?

calvtexascspancapture-300x151Although it’s risky to read too much into justices’ comments about cases argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, legal analysts found strong suggestions in such remarks to assert that the latest GOP challenge to the Affordable Care Act may have exceeded the legal validity of its extreme contentions.

This could mean that Republicans — state attorneys general as well as the Trump Administration — may find failure in California v. Texas. This is political partisans’ legal push to get the high court to strike down Obamacare, focusing on the individual mandate that imposed financial penalties to ensure that Americans obtain health insurance.

The mandate originally was portrayed by supporters as integral to Obamacare, ensuring its insurance markets did not get swamped with only the poorest and sickest Americans and dooming federal efforts to provide affordable health coverage to poorer and middle-class Americans. The high court, in an earlier and important case, upheld the ACA, arguing its use of the mandate was a legitimate exercise of government taxing powers.

docnotes-300x154Millions of Americans may be finding that their doctors routinely refer to them with terms like SOB and BS. But patients will be better off with this knowledge, once they learn how to translate medical abbreviations.

The Associated Press reported that hospitals and health care systems nationwide quietly are complying with deadlines, and, under a 2016 federal law, are opening up convenient, fast access to patients to not only view and access their electronic health records but also physicians’ notes about their care. As the AP wrote:

“If you already use a patient portal such as MyChart to email your doctor or schedule an appointment, you may soon see new options allowing you to view your doctor’s notes and see your test results as soon as they are available. You may get an email explaining where to look, how to share access with a caregiver and how to keep other eyes off your information. Many people won’t notice a change. About 15% of health care systems already are letting patients read doctor notes online without charge. That means about 53 million patients already have access to their doctor’s notes.”

magicshrooms-150x150Voters in the nation’s capital joined with peers across the country to nudge forward a further reconsideration of mind-affecting substances popularized in the Sixties but made illicit thereafter.

Support ran strong for a District of Columbia ballot initiative directing local law enforcement to make among its lowest priorities the prosecution of those who use or sell certain hallucinogenic plants and fungi — aka magic mushrooms and psilocybin, the Washington Post reported.

Those substances also appeared to be headed to legalization in an Oregon vote, which also would “decriminalize the possession of all illegal drugs,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

covimask-300x159While Americans have been riveted for days about incremental shifts in election results, other confounding numbers raced ever higher and into worrisome places. Just consider these numbers: 128,000, 9.6 million plus, and 235,000 and more.

“Covid, covid, covid. By the way, on Nov. 4 you won’t hear about it anymore,” President Trump asserted during his closing re-election campaign rallies.

If only. The nation’s coronavirus pandemic is unchecked and showing signs of worsening, bigly, with records shattering on consecutive days for infections diagnosed: 100,000 on Nov. 4, 120,000 on Nov. 5, and 128,000 on Nov. 6.

colorscreen-300x168An important federal advisory group has joined with medical specialists in recommending a change in the age at which patients should start screening for colorectal cancer, to age 45 and not the current 50 years old.

Earlier detection of bowel issues could save lives, the U.S. Protective Services Task Force (USPSTF) has decided, with the influential medical group issuing a draft screening guidance and posting it online for public and expert comment.

Clinicians have reported for a while now that they are seeing more cases of colorectal cancers in younger patients, and their treatment might have better outcomes if it could be started earlier, too. As the New York Times reported:

benfrankbuck-200x300The expected surge in coronavirus cases is slamming hospitals across the country, and they and the entire U.S. health care system will need major public support in difficult days ahead. Still, important markers also have gone down, so pillars of the medical establishment eventually may have to account for billions of taxpayer dollars they have been all but gifted already and why they charge sky-high prices for their medical services.

Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times deserves credit for his reporting about the public largesse that already has benefited parties in the health care system. As he wrote:

“The Trump administration has pumped billions of dollars into the health care industry during the Covid-19 crisis, padding bottom lines at some of the country’s most profitable businesses even as millions of Americans have been left struggling with mounting medical bills. And although taxpayer money has poured into drug makers, hospital systems and medical distributors, administration officials have put few requirements on the businesses that took public assistance. Pharmaceutical companies could charge more for vaccines and treatments developed with public money. Medical distributors that received government assistance to air-lift supplies from China this spring were able to sell the material at undiscounted prices. And hospitals sustained with bailout money will be free to raise prices on patients for years to come.”

votebanner-300x150As coronavirus infections rage unchecked from coast-to-coast, Americans may need to redouble the attention they pay to their health and safeguarding it.

To deal in optimal ways with what threatens to be a tough November, we all may wish to:

Vote as safely as possible.

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