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census2019uninsuredrises-300x277The Grand Old Party may have just won the dictionary definition of a Pyrrhic Victory. That’s because Republicans’ decade-long assault on the Affordable Care Act his finally showing predictable results, with the share of Americans lacking health insurance increasing for the first time in 10 years.

The rate and number of people without health insurance increased from 7.9%, or 25.6 million, in 2017 to 8.5%, or 27.5 million, in 2018, officials reported.

The nation’s children got a kick in the face, too, with almost half a million more youngsters uninsured in 2018 versus 2017 — a decline attributable mostly to a reduction in the number of kids covered by safety net programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program aka CHIP.

ecigshhssept2019-265x300After standing to one side while vaping hooked a generation of young Americans on nicotine, the Trump Administration has now abruptly decided to try to vaporize youthful vaping by banning candy-like flavorings favored by e-cigarette users.

The president and Alex Azar, the chief of the Health and Human Services agency, announced the latest e-cigarette and vaping crackdown. It still must be defined in regulations, practices, and the financial support for the federal Food and Drug Administration to enforce it. FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless and First Lady Melania Trump also participated in the Oval Office session.

The White House announcement came as public officials add daily to the toll of a sudden outbreak of reported deaths (at least a half dozen) and serious respiratory harms (hundreds of cases in three dozen or so states) blamed on vaping. Investigations continue as to the cause of the e-cigarette-related fatalities and injuries.

https://www.protectpatientsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/69/2019/09/google2.0.0-300x200.jpgConsumers, regulators, politicians, and journalists need to keep pressing big corporations to better protect the public’s health because such campaigning can work.

It has led to steps that may cut down on reckless promotion of expensive, burgeoning, and dubious treatments involving purported stem cells. It may make vehicles safer, so children and pets don’t die or suffer heat injury when mistakenly left in rear seats.

More tough work still needs to be done, however, with a new version of the persistently problematic off-road vehicle, and, indeed, with the federal agency that oversees road safety.

brandjj-300x106Big Pharma has hit at least two pain points of potential significance as government officials and trial lawyers work to hold drug makers accountable for at least some of the carnage caused by prescription painkillers.

There’s still a far way to go before companies see a full legal reckoning in the civil justice system for opioid overdose deaths that have killed an estimated 400,000 Americans since 2007, as well the drugs causing tens of thousands of cases of suffering and addiction.

brandpurdue-300x170But Oklahoma officials have struck hard at pharmaceutical interests by winning a $572-million nuisance ruling from a state judge against Johnson and Johnson, a legendary and once-respected health care brand.

fda3smokewarns-300x166The U.S. government will try to tackle two of the toughest health care challenges around with new pushes involving graphic imagery and smoking prevention and the encouragement for doctors to screen their adult patients to better detect, avert, and treat drug abuse.

Both initiatives have their soft spots.

But officials say they must act in as many ways as they can. That’s because 480,000 people in the United States die each year from illnesses related to tobacco use, the American Cancer Society reports, adding, “This means each year smoking causes about 1 out of 5 deaths in the US.” Drug abuse and overdoses, meantime, killed more than 68,000 Americans in 2018 alone, exceeding the nation’s peak annual deaths from car crashes, AIDS or guns, the New York Times reported, based on data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It probably should not have come as such a shock. But consumers are learning the hard way — notably through lawsuits in the civil justice system — that substances they slather on their skin don’t just stay there. They can move deeper into the body, causing bad things to happen.

Judges and juries have accepted the argument that this occurs with baby powder, with asbestos-tainted talc contributing over long periods of frequent application to claimants’ genital cancers. Plaintiffs have won sizable judgments, asserting their cancers were tied to extensive, sustained exposure to the chemical used in the weed killing product Roundup.

axiosinsurancecost-300x170With the 2020 presidential campaign obsessing early about health insurance rather than costly health care overall, voters may wish to reframe their thinking about coverage and candidates’ views on making it affordable. Their chief query may need to be this: Just how much of the vig should the bagman take?

That may be a blunt a way to put it, but is the vernacular of the criminal “protection” racket all that out of place here? Michael Hiltzik, a financial columnist for the Los Angeles Times, makes pretty much the same argument, that the bagman’s share ought to be zero.  Why not get rid of health insurers, he asks in a bit of evidence-based hyperbole? He finds the companies don’t fulfill much of a public mission, save, as a former insurance executive describes it, to make themselves money and to persuade all of us that they are essential. Indeed, as Hiltzik sees it, insurers are not just a rip-off but a failure in their own terms:

“Let’s start by examining what the insurers say are their positive contributions to healthcare. They claim to promote ‘consumer choice,’ simplify ‘the health care experience for individuals and families,’ address ‘the burden of chronic disease,’ and harness ‘data and technology to drive quality, efficiency, and consumer satisfaction.’ (These claims all come from the website of the industry’s lobbying organization, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). They’ve achieved none of these goals. The increasingly prevalent mode of health coverage in the group and individual markets is the narrow network, which shrinks the roster of doctors and hospitals available to enrollees without heavy surcharges. The hoops that customers and providers often must jump through to get claims paid impose costly complexity on the system, not simplicity. Programs to manage chronic diseases remain rare, and the real threat to patients with those conditions was lack of access to insurance (until the Affordable Care Act made such exclusion illegal). Private insurers don’t do nearly as well as Medicare in holding down costs, in part because the more they pay hospitals and doctors, the more they can charge in premiums and the more money flows to their bottom lines. They haven’t shown notable skill in managing chronic diseases or bringing pro-consumer innovations to the table.”

nprsuicide-300x224The nation’s rising suicide crisis torments seniors, too, with just under one out of five such deaths in 2017 occurring with individuals 65 and older. Men 65-plus, experts say, face the highest suicide risk, while seniors 85 and older, men and women, rank No. 2 in groups most likely to die by taking their own lives.

As the nation grays — 10,000 baby boomers a day turn 65, in a trend that will persist until 2029 — the already high concern about suicide, especially among seniors, is rising,  National Public Radio reported.

NPR, noting that suicide already is the 10th leading cause of death among all Americans, said that experts see loneliness, bereavement, grief, and depression as key factors in cases in which older individuals kill themselves. They find themselves isolated, overwhelmed, and with unending sadness when spouses and friends die. Their children, grandchildren, and other family members often live far away. They also struggle with their lives due to age’s increasing debilitation. As NPR reported:

monsees-300x286Juul, the nation’s dominant maker and seller of vaping devices, may want to deny it looks, acts, or models itself after Big Tobacco. A U.S. House subcommittee, however, has caught the San Francisco-based company in one of the prime profit-boosting practices of its health-killing precursor: targeting young users.

Though it insists it neither wants nor has it sought older teens as its customers, Juul spent tens of thousands of dollars and campaigned in recent months with what was purported to be a health education curriculum to reach out to show itself in most favorable fashion to young people in schools, summer camps, and youth programs, House investigators assert.

They told U.S. representatives on the economic and consumer policy subcommittee that they reviewed 55,000 documents to determine that “Juul operated a division that persuaded schools to allow the company to present its programming to students and paid the schools in several instances at least $10,000 to gain access to students during classes, summer school and weekend programs. The effort ended last fall and involved about a half dozen schools and youth program,” the Washington Post reported.

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:

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