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covidshotlines1-300x170As the nation recoils from the deadly insurrectionist attack on Congress and the United States Capitol, a direct line also must be drawn to the huge health harms that President Trump and his administration incited with a flood of falsehoods, relentless attacks on science and expertise, and the reckless politicization of public health.

This administration will leave office with the nation hurtling toward 400,000 coronavirus deaths and 22 million infections. The disease is unchecked. New cases and hospitalizations are breaking records by the instant. The situation is likely to worsen significantly before it improves, experts warn.

The best efforts to battle Covid-19 also — due to a shambolic and too often counter-factual federal response — must combat the misinformation, mistrust, and animus sown during a needlessly destructive presidential term.

dcemptystreets-300x200Auto insurance companies and agents may have sent customers cards, fridge magnets, or calendars as part of their holiday cheer. But tens of millions of motorists may wish to demand more — both much more, and less.

Consumer advocates say the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed driving and claims for wrecks enough still that auto insurers — who are raking in big profits — need in the new year to fork over more refunds or premium reductions, the New York Times reported.

The newspaper reported that advocacy organizations like the Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Economic Justice, have investigated and “found that car crashes remained ‘well below’ 2019 levels”:

compare-202x300A lot of people in health care across the country are firing up their computers to dig into long-sought, confidential information from hospitals about their prices and deals they cut on them with an array of parties.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, the Trump Administration successfully battled with hospitals to get them to disclose previously secret pricing data, in the hopes that disclosing this key information will benefit the U.S. health care system, notably in curbing costs. Here’s why, as the newspaper reported:

“T]hose who pay for health-care premiums and medical bills — employers, workers and patients — were long in the dark about wide price differences among hospitals for the same service in the same city, according to research and efforts by large employer groups to compare prices. Hospital prices are under intense scrutiny as the sector consolidates and research points to price increases after mergers, but without the quality gains that hospitals often cite as rationale for the combinations.

artjanlett5-300x164In yet another instance of disregarding fact-based advice, the Trump Administration, after hearing public comments and assembling a panel of diet and nutrition experts, has rejected their  recommendations on how the federal government should update its counsel to Americans about optimizing their eating.

The federal advisories, refreshed every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will stay mostly the same, with the administration turning away experts who told the government that it should urge the public to reduce consumption of sugar and alcohol. USDA did tweak its guidelines for babies and toddlers.

But the agency decisions were a disappointing turn in a periodic process that affects real people’s lives, experts said, with the New York Times reporting:

walmartlogo-300x117The stain of the nation’s opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis has spread now to Bentonville, Ark., as federal prosecutors have sued Walmart, accusing the nation’s largest retailer of improperly allowing its pharmacists to fill millions of suspicious prescriptions for potent painkillers.

The pharmacists themselves complained to their corporate bosses that they were delivering opioids in far too great quantities to too few customers in out-of-the-way places, prosecutors contend. The warnings were ignored.

Instead, Walmart operated too lax a system both to monitor its outlets’ dispensing of drugs and to provide legally required warning information to federal watchdogs about potentially problematic sales, the New York Times reported, quoting Jeffrey Bossert Clark, acting assistant attorney general of the U.S. Justice Department’s civil division:

philipesformes-150x150chriscollins-150x150Leave it to the extreme actions of the current White House occupant to disprove Shakespeare and the adage  that the quality of mercy cannot be strained. Some of the dozens of President Trump’s latest acts of clemency, with more likely to be granted, are sending bad messages of who gets ahead in a rapacious U.S. health care system.

Their elected representatives are supposed to be among the chief guardians of Americans’ health interests, which is why President Trump’s excusing of the wrongdoing of a trio of onetime GOP congressman has infuriated many.

Two of the pardoned House members (Duncan Hunter of San Diego and Steve Stockman of Texas) were caught with their mitts in their donations or campaign funds, one spending sizable sums on family vacations, theater tickets, and an extramarital affair.

covidshot-126x300Even as medical scientists have detected a new, potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus that also may pose greater risks to children, the high hopes for a faultless roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines are getting tempered with unhappy doses of reality.

Roughly 1 million Americans have been vaccinated already, most with a product from Pfizer and some with a vaccine from Moderna.

That is good news to start. It may, however, also start to raise concerns about the plans to inoculate more than 300 million Americans, many with a two-shot vaccine. That’s because Trump Administration officials had forecast with great confidence in recent days that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated before 2020’s end.

A key component of the American legal system, in the criminal and civil systems, is the opportunity afforded to those most harmed to see those implicated in awful situations take responsibility for their conduct. It can be a key moment for the aggrieved to find closure and a measure of justice.

countylahospicegrafic-300x139With coronavirus infections and deaths rising anew in worrisome fashion from coast to coast, matters could not get worse with the nation’s long-term care, right? Guess again. Profit-mongering and “audacious, widespread fraud” apparently has run amok in hospice care in the Golden State.

Because California, alas, too often serves as a trend-setting locale, patients, their loved ones, clinicians, regulators, and politicians may wish to take heed of an investigation published by the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper reported that too many older, sick, and injured patients have been gulled into signing up for unneeded and undelivered services meant for folks at the end of their lives:

“[M]any [hospice patients] are unwitting recruits [of] unscrupulous providers who bill Medicare for hospice services and equipment for ‘terminally ill’ patients who aren’t dying. Intense competition for new patients — who generate $154 to $1,432 a day each in Medicare payments — has spawned a cottage industry of illegal practices, including kickbacks to crooked doctors and recruiters who zero in on prospective patients at retirement homes and other venues … The exponential boom in providers has transformed end-of-life care that was once the realm of charities and religious groups into a multibillion-dollar business dominated by profit-driven operators. Nowhere has that growth been more explosive, and its harmful side effects more evident, than in Los Angeles County. The county’s hospices have multiplied sixfold in the last decade and now account for more than half of the state’s roughly 1,200 Medicare-certified providers, according to a Times analysis of federal health care data.”

mckinseylogo-300x169Heaps of ignominy are not in short order for parties that played sketchy roles in fostering the nation’s deadly opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis. The stain has spread now to one of corporate America’s most-favored advisors — the giant McKinsey consulting group.

The firm has issued a rare public mea culpa for its work with Purdue Pharmaceuticals, a family-run drug maker that has gained notoriety, even among Big Pharma companies, for how it hyped its powerful painkiller OxyContin. The relentless push to sell that drug, officials have asserted, provided a ghastly template for peddling opioids, triggering abuse, addiction, debilitation, and death for hundreds of thousands of Americans in recent times.

Purdue was a McKinsey client, and the consultants now are re-examining their advice to the drug maker on how to fire up OxyContin sales and whether these suggestions fell short of the firm’s own standards. The New York Times, to its credit, dug into records to detail the consultants’ unacceptable conduct, reporting:

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