Articles Posted in Accessibility of Healthcare

armstrong-240x300Neil Armstrong served as a naval aviator, test pilot, federal administrator, and a university professor. He earned his place in history as space pioneer — the first astronaut to walk on the moon. The American hero, who spoke the legendary phrase about “one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind,” also now offers a textbook case about nightmares in health care. Can others avoid these by learning about what happened to him?

As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Armstrong’s Apollo 11 flight, an anonymous tipster has disclosed information to two news organizations that his death was due to botched care. His family, which included a lawyer who represented their interests, reached a $6 million settlement with the community hospital involved.

Armstrong was known for keeping out of the media and public glare. His family kept that tradition in keeping private how he died in 2012, why, and the tense negotiations that resulted in the sizable payment to them by the hospital. Full information about his case may never be fully disclosed. But it already provides a possible series of check points for patients to protect themselves and their loved ones in dealing with doctors and hospitals:

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Would a major league baseball team start a pitcher who played only once in the season for the deciding game of the World Series? Would passengers want to be aboard a jet whose pilot flew just once a year? Would any high-end sports car owner let a mechanic under the vehicle’s hood if she fixed that model one time every 365 days?

If rigorous tasks benefit from regular, quality practice — and they do — then why do hospitals allow low-volume surgeons to undertake procedures they rarely perform? That’s a tough question posed by new research from the Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization seeking to improve the quality and safety of American health care.

Leapfrog, working with medical experts, identified eight high-risk surgeries and sought to estimate from rigorous published research the correlation between how often surgeons perform these and their procedures optimal outcomes.

insurerscam-300x188What happens when a whistle blower provides detailed information about a burly Texan  — with convictions for felony theft and felony injury of a child  — and a burgeoning scam to rip off health insurers for $25 million? Pretty much nothing. For years.

If that sounds outlandish, investigative reporter Marshall Allen has a doozy of a tale to tell about a crook in suburban Fort Worth, Texas named David Williams. His long-running defrauding of some of the nation’s biggest health insurers matters to us all because, as Allen reported for the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site ProPublica:

“There are a host of reasons health care costs are out-of-control and routinely top American’s list of financial worries, from unnecessary treatment and high prices to waste and fraud. Most people assume their insurance companies are tightly controlling their health care dollars. Insurers themselves boast of this on their websites. In 2017, private insurance spending hit $1.2 trillion, according to the federal government, yet no one tracks how much is lost to fraud. Some investigators and health care experts estimate that fraud eats up 10% of all health care spending, and they know schemes abound. Williams’ case highlights an unsettling reality about the nation’s health insurance system: It is surprisingly easy for fraudsters to gain entry, and it is shockingly difficult to convince insurance companies to stop them. Williams’ spree also lays bare the financial incentives that drive the system: Rising health care costs boost insurers’ profits. Policing criminals eats away at them. Ultimately, losses are passed on to their clients through higher premiums and out-of-pocket fees or reduced coverage.”

uti-240x300For kids, women, and seniors, the three letters U, T, and I long described an uncomfortable, inconvenient, and embarrassing condition. The time, though, may have past for the swift and easy relief that diagnoses of  urinary tract infections once might have brought. Instead, doctors are expressing concern that the bugs that cause all-too-common UTIs are becoming different and antibiotic resistant.

As the New York Times reported, the shifts already are meaning “more hospitalizations, graver illnesses and prolonged discomfort from the excruciating burning sensation that the infection brings.” The newspaper added:

“The New York City Department of Health has become so concerned about drug-resistant UTIs … that it introduced a new mobile phone app this month that gives doctors and nurses access to a list of strains of urinary tract infections and which drugs they are resistant to. The department’s research found that a third of uncomplicated urinary tract infections caused by E. coli — the most common type now — were resistant to Bactrim, one of the most widely used drugs, and at least one fifth of them were resistant to five other common treatments.”

Lawmakers and regulators must significantly improve the oversight of the burgeoning business of hospice care, a federal watchdog says. Its report came with two notable numbers: from 2012 through 2016, health inspectors cited 87% of the end-of-life care facilities for deficiencies, with 20% of them having lapses serious enough to endanger patients.

In one case cited by the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a hospice patient had a deep, poorly treated pressure wound on the tailbone, apparent pain that caused grimacing and — in a crisis requiring a trip to the emergency room — a “maggot infestation’’ where a feeding tube entered his abdomen, the Washington Post reported.

doctired-300x169Will the medical educators finally get that it makes no sense to force residents to toil like field animals? Yet another study, this latest from Harvard experts, finds that keeping residency training hours at more humane levels does not significantly affect quality of patient care, including inpatient mortality.

Let’s be clear: The grueling preparation for MDs is only relatively better than before, capping their training time to 80 hours a week.

Medical educators, hospitals, and doctors themselves have criticized that limit since it was imposed after long study and much argument in the profession by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the group that accredits MD training programs.

drugcostsunreasonablekff2019-300x172It takes more than a lot of huffing and puffing to blow down the ever-rising high costs of prescription drugs, the Trump administration has found. Two defeats happened last week:  officials were forced to pull a plan to curb profit-making by drug industry middlemen, and a federal judge axed on First Amendment grounds a plan to muscle Big Pharma into including price information in its ubiquitous product ads.

These were key pillars of the president’s multi-part plan to address increasing drug costs, one of Americans’ most pressing concerns with their health care, and Trump had put considerable of his political capital behind them as he rolls toward the 2020 election campaign.

As the New York Times reported:

saslowstory-295x300Twenty Democrats who are campaigning for president  took to network television for four hours and two nights last week to put health care as a central issue of their campaigns.

The format of this initial candidate “debate,” including hand-raised answers to complex issues, failed to allow the presidential aspirants to delve much into the details of their proposals. But tons of news coverage followed on — and likely will keep doing so up until Americans enter the voting booth — about Medicare, the government health coverage for seniors, and how it might be expanded to benefit tens of millions more. Those interested may wish to check out this podcast primer on the issue.

These future-looking discussions also already have tended to eclipse a key part of the existing Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration initiative that remains a subject of hot dispute a decade after its passage: The expansion of Medicaid, the federal program to assist the poor and working poor with health coverage.

reuterslogo-300x169The blame and shame for the opioid-drug overdose crisis that kills tens of thousands Americans annually has moved to yet another set of individuals and institutions now — judges and courts that handled Big Pharma lawsuits and may have been too quick to seal from the public information that would have warned of painkillers’ addictive and lethal characteristics.

Makers’ false claims about opioids and their problematic practices in promoting, selling, and distributing the drugs were hidden, too, in the “pervasive and deadly secrecy that shrouds product-liability cases in U.S. courts, enabled by judges who routinely allow the makers of those products to keep information pertinent to public health and safety under wraps,” Reuters reported.

The news agency dug deep into the judicial practices, finding:

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