Articles Posted in Accessibility of Healthcare

hospitalpricebystaterand-300x185Big businesses, which beat on their employees to be more cost-conscious, efficient, and productive, may need to take a page out of their own books if they hope to better control the soaring health care costs that they’re also shoving off onto their workers.

That’s a key takeaway from new research by the independent, nonprofit RAND Corporation into prices paid in 25 states to 70 hospital systems by job-provided health insurers in 2017. They provide coverage for most Americans, more than 180 million of us, and RAND found that private employer-sponsored health plans paid hospitals on average twice or even three times as much as Uncle Sam did through the Medicare program for the same services at the same hospitals.

Hospitals bellyache about tight-fisted Medicare prices that Uncle Sam can negotiate due to big dollars and huge number of patients covered under its senior health care plan. Although hospitals call the government-negotiated prices too low and an unfair benchmark, they provide realistic insights into hospitals’ bottom-line charges in what is one of the biggest areas of Americans’ health care costs. As RAND researcher Christopher Whaley told Modern Healthcare, an industry-covering news organization:

CDCmaternalmortality-300x147Hundreds of mothers die of preventable pregnancy-related complications up to a year after delivering their babies, with black and native women experiencing notably high maternal morality risks.

The needless deaths of around 700 women nationwide each year due to cardiovascular conditions, infections, hemorrhages and other complications related to their pregnancies underscores the importance of improving maternal care, especially in increasing its access and quality, the federal Centers for Disease Control reported in a new study.

The Washington Post quoted Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, commenting on the agency data:

Spending’s askew when billions go for unproven surgical robots while lack of affordable care leads thousands of poor, black, and brown patients to need diabetic amputations

amputations-300x171If U.S. health care leaders look ahead to 2020 and wonder why their sector of the economy will be one of the key concerns of presidential candidates and voters, they can only blame themselves for allowing the public to conclude that the industry’s big money and big profit drives have gone haywire.

feresstayskal-267x300Members of Congress have taken steps aimed at allowing service members to pursue actions in the civil justice system when they suffer harms while seeking medical services, a fundamental civil right now denied to military personnel.

Members of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee heard powerful testimony from a Green Beret, an airman, and a judge advocate general about the  need for a bill introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D.-Calif.) — a measure that has won bipartisan backing — to correct problems caused by a 69-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case involving the Federal Tort Claims Act. That act governs who can bring a claim for negligence at a military or other government health care facility.

Active duty military personnel cannot bring a medical negligence claim for care at a military facility. This is called the “Feres doctrine,” after the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135 (1950). Under the Feres doctrine, members of the United States armed forces are barred from making a claim against the United States for personal injury or death arising “incident to service.” Military medical treatment received by a service member, while on active duty, has been held by the courts to be “incident to service,” and, thus not actionable, even if that treatment was for a purely elective procedure, and even if the procedure was performed negligently.

asstdcareunaffordable-300x188As the nation rapidly grays and income disparities widen by the day, a sizable number of Americans — a group that built the nation to greatness and has been its economic bedrock — is headed to yet another ugly indignity: More than half of middle-income seniors won’t be able to afford their medical expenses and the cost of assisted housing they will need at age 75 and older.

New research published in the journal “Health Affairs” has projected what already soaring medical and housing costs will mean to those whose incomes fall between $25,001 to $74,298 per year and are ages 75 to 84. These middle-income elders will increase in number from 7.9 million now to 14.4 million by 2029 and soon will be 43% or the biggest share of American seniors.

But the picture for them and their finances, housing, and medical expenses may be glum. Projections show they will lack the money, even if experts calculate in their home equity, to afford assisted living they may need in their late years.

calesthenicsjpnse-300x169Even as American corporations twist themselves into pretzel shapes to persuade shareholders of their devotion to maximizing profits, why are they throwing an estimated $8 billion annually at workplace wellness programs that, according to a growing body of evidence, don’t work?

The zeal for wellness programs — which aim to get workers to exercise, lose weight, avoid smoking, drink in moderation, and stress less — is just one more flashing red indicator of political risks as companies grow more desperate to restrain skyrocketing health care costs.

Due to their post-World War II decisions to compete for workers in a fast rebuilding U.S. economy, companies long have been the go-to source for Americans’ health insurance: In exchange for a quarter of trillion dollars in federal tax subsidies, employers provide more than half of nonelderly U.S. workers — 152 million of us — workplace health coverage.

mouse-300x169James Heathers is a Ph.D. with expertise in scientific methods and data. He works in a behavioral science lab at Northeastern University in Boston. He’s young, adaptive, and savvy enough to participate in social media, especially Twitter. There, he saw a problem and a challenge with the way medical scientific findings get presented to sizable audiences online.

As someone accustomed to dealing with academic and scientific rigor, he paused and thought he could title his planned effort, “handling the translational gap during the science media transition.” But this Aussie has a sense of humor—and he wanted impact. He thought a straight-laced approach would be as “popular as cabbage sandwiches.”

So, instead, he focused in on a broad number of reputable studies that he thinks get misrepresented and grab unjustified popular attention. This research involves the extrapolation of early results in animal tests, making them sound — incorrectly — as if they instantly have meaning for people. He created a Twitter account that is garnering lots of attention, including tens of thousands of unexpected followers.

eldersuicide-300x173With 3 out of 4 Americans insisting they would prefer to age in place at home, senior care institutions already face stiff headwinds. But an investigation by two media organizations paints a glum picture of a little discussed aspect of elder life: the “lethal planning” some older residents make in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and adult care facilities — to end their own lives.

The exact suicide toll among the 2.2 million elderly Americans who live in long-term care settings is poorly tracked and difficult to quantify, reported the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News (KHN) service and PBS NewsHour (see the broadcast report by clicking here). But the two news organizations found:

[An] analysis of new data from the University of Michigan suggests that hundreds of suicides by older adults each year — nearly one per day — are related to long-term care. Thousands more people may be at risk in those settings, where up to a third of residents report suicidal thoughts, research shows. Each suicide results from a unique blend of factors, of course. But the fact that frail older Americans are managing to kill themselves in what are supposed to be safe, supervised havens raises questions about whether these facilities pay enough attention to risk factors like mental health, physical decline and disconnectedness — and events such as losing a spouse or leaving one’s home. More controversial is whether older adults in those settings should be able to take their lives through what some fiercely defend as ‘rational suicide.’

AmProgressBIRcosts-300x245When patients battle with the desperate extremes of a disease like a fast-spreading cancer, it isn’t just the radiation and chemo therapies that sap their spirits, there’s a  demoralizing runner-up concern: The constant battling with doctors, hospitals, and insurers over medical bills.

Medical billing and insurance-related costs are so over the top that they pile up a half-trillion-dollars a year in burdensome administrative costs — half of which is excessive and wasteful, according to new research from the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

The center reviewed past studies of administrative costs in U.S. health care, seeking to address criticisms of their methods and conclusions. Still, the new findings raise points that may stagger patients, policy makers, and politicians, say Emily Gee, a health economist for the group, and Topher Spiro, its vice president for Health Policy and a senior economic fellow.

Candida-aurisWhen big hospitals are locked in bare-knuckle battles against debilitating and deadly bacterial and fungal infections sweeping their institutions, don’t patients have the right to know about these situations that might affect their lives and care? According to some hospital insiders, no.

The New York Times reported that a “culture of secrecy” prevails in hospitals as they combat “super bugs,” bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics and now fungi that have evolved immunities to antifungals.

The newspaper found the institutional opposition to making public outbreaks of hospital-borne infection as it followed up its own scary page one story about the global spread of Candida auris, a drug-resistant fungus that preys on patients who already are hospitalized and may have compromised immune systems.

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