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celticsmarcussmart-240x300College and pro athletes create feel-good moments in almost rote fashion these days with well-intentioned sojourns to local hospitals to see sick kids. These brief visits are an image-enhancing dream for publicists, teams, and the folks who drop big money on sports in hopes that fans’ adoration of jocks translates into major profits.

For at least one pro basketball player, though, the power of celebrity provides a quiet, powerful, and poignant way to support pediatric cancer patients in ways that he appreciates in a visceral fashion borne of painful personal experience. The Athletic, the New York Times owned sports-focused site, has posted a moving portrait of Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart and his commitment to comforting kids, reporting this:

Marcus Smart has spent far too much of his life sitting beside a hospital bed. He endured years watching his brother Todd battle leukemia when Marcus was in elementary school in Texas. He held his mother, Camellia, as she faced bone marrow cancer a few years ago. He is all too familiar with the last place most people want to be. And yet, he keeps going back. When he arrived in Boston as a rookie in 2014, he began making hospital visits quietly — no cameras, no media, no tweets. Smart wanted to spend time with kids who needed a friend and a distraction. Doctors and nurses would introduce him to those who had chemotherapy treatments that morning. They would explain to him how rough the past few days had been for their patients, hoping he could make their day a little easier. ‘Then I get there and everything that the doctor just told me goes out the window,’ Smart said as a smile finally began to peek through. ‘The kid has the biggest smile on her face. They’re getting up, they’re talking, they’re getting out of bed and that right there is what it’s all about for me.’”

dctrafficmap-150x150Officials in the District of Columbia must match commitment to candor if they hope to achieve a long-promised goal of reducing the terrible toll on area roads.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser pledged in 2015 to reduce traffic fatalities in the district to zero by 2024 — a goal she has conceded her administration has “fallen short” on and will struggle to meet. As the mayor noted in her updating of her “Vision Zero” safety initiative, the Washington Post reported quoting Bowser:

“Our original target of achieving zero deaths by 2024 was ambitious and has not been without its challenges.”

cvsad-150x150Well, hear, hear! A much delayed, but important health care reform has gotten off to a rocking start. Consumers with moderate hearing loss now can buy hearing aids with greater convenience and less cost  — over the counter and without prescriptions.

New devices, new makers, and new retailers have raced in to tap a big need and potentially lucrative market, due to regulatory changes finally put in effect by the federal Food and Drug Administration, as the Wall Street Journal reported:

“Retail chains such as Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and Best Buy carry [hearing aids now], and they are also available on Amazon.”

makenadrug-300x67Federal regulators have hit a highly public reckoning for their policies to provide speedy approvals for prescription drugs, benefiting Big Pharma’s profits but not necessarily patients — notably women in serious need of help with a shame of the U.S. health care system: the nation’s dismal state with injuries and deaths to expectant moms and infants.

The federal Food and Drug Administration 11 years ago gave Covis Pharma an expedited review and approval to market its prescription drug Makena, which the maker promoted as a rare medication to prevent preterm births.

In exchange, the company was supposed to conduct broader, rigorous, and more detailed studies to prove definitively that Makena prevents moms from delivering before 37 weeks, which is a serious problem that affected 1 in 10 births in 2020 alone, the New York Times reported. The newspaper also noted that preterm births are a greater problem for black women:

booster-150x150As many as 4 in 20 patients infected with the coronavirus report they have not fully recovered after months and 1 in 20 of those with the disease say they have not recovered at all. The viral illness, which has claimed more than 1 million lives and has infected more than 97 million of us, still kills just under 400 people daily on average.

Meantime, the southeast and south central parts of the United States — including the District of Columbia — are reporting the nation’s highest rates of influenza cases, as this infection is showing an early season surge. Just a reminder that in pre-pandemic times, flu sickened as many as 41 million Americans annually, leading to as many as 700,000-plus hospitalizations, and up to 50,000-plus deaths.

After years now of coping with the catastrophic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, and especially with the sustained harms of long covid, and with evidence growing that this year’s flu season will be tough and break with a recent period of mild caseloads, why aren’t more folks using common sense and getting safe, effective vaccinations to increase their protection against these debilitating and lethal diseases?

colonoscopynatinstitute-300x292Colorectal cancer remains  the third most commonly diagnosed form of cancer  in this country. It kills tens of thousands of Americans annually. Although detection of the illness is declining overall, and especially among older adults, specialists have expressed growing concern about its rising rates in younger patients. This has prompted experts to push for more screenings to discover this cancer earlier.

But a new, decade-long European study involving 80,000 participants has given experts in the field at least a pause and may be forcing a more nuanced consideration of colonoscopies — long considered a pricey, inconvenient, intrusive, but “gold standard” test in the battle against colorectal cancer.

The study offered a brusque reminder, especially to regular folks, that testing and early detection of serious illnesses do not automatically result in optimal outcomes that improve or extend lives. As Stat, the science and medical news site reported:

coinstack-150x150The Biden Administration has tackled the “family glitch” in Obamacare, issuing new eligibility rules that will open up more affordable health insurance for many more poor, working poor, and middle-class Americans who otherwise might struggle to pay for coverage, even as provided by their employers.

This change in health care regulation is taking effect, even as tens of millions of people roll into an important period to protect their well-being — the annual “open enrollment” months for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, by many employers, as well as for those eligible for Medicare.

The Treasury Department’s new regulations on the “family glitch” affects as many as 5 million people, more than half of them children, according to the nonpartisan, independent Commonwealth Fund. Here is how the Associated Press described what federal regulators are doing to make health coverage more affordable to many more people under the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare:

desertsmaternitycaremod-300x209The national disgrace of expectant moms and infants suffering excessive, preventable injuries and death can’t be blamed on mysterious causes. Indeed, a leading advocacy group has put out yet another of its damning research studies, reporting on the disturbing increase in what it terms “maternity care deserts.”

The March of Dimes says it has analyzed data county by county to discover that too many areas of this country have “no hospitals providing obstetric care, no birth centers, no obstetrician/gynecologist, and no certified nurse midwives.”

The nonprofit organization classified an unacceptable number of counties “as having low access to maternity care services,” meaning they have “one or fewer hospitals offering OB service and fewer than 60 OB providers per 10,000 births, and the proportion of women without health insurance was 10 percent or greater.”

nwsl-logo-150x150tua-150x150While fans may wax poetic about how sports show humanity at its finest, the grim and even sleazy aspects of U.S. games also have been on full display in recent days.

The poohbahs of two of the nation’s most popular pastimes have acted poorly and spoken loudly as to how, maybe they don’t really give a whit about players’ health and well-being, permitting perversity and demeaning behaviors to flourish in women’s soccer and brutality and an almost willful medical blindness to rise anew in pro football for head trauma.

What are parents supposed to tell their kids about such sports “role models?”

medadvantagesuitsnyt-300x239The nation’s biggest health insurers are gaming a giant program to provide health coverage to seniors, exploiting the privatization of Medicare Advantage plans to rake in profits with schemes that have drawn fire from federal prosecutors.

The sustained, costly campaign by insurers to maximize their profits not only leaves older, vulnerable patients at risk of reduced care, it also imperils the overall health of the entire Medicare system, the New York Times  found in its investigation, reporting this [see chart above, courtesy the newspaper]:

“Medicare Advantage, a private-sector alternative to traditional Medicare, was designed by Congress two decades ago to encourage health insurers to find innovative ways to provide better care at lower cost. If trends hold, by next year, more than half of Medicare recipients will be in a private plan. But a New York Times review of dozens of fraud lawsuits, inspector general audits and investigations by watchdogs shows how major health insurers exploited the program to inflate their profits by billions of dollars. The government pays Medicare Advantage insurers a set amount for each person who enrolls, with higher rates for sicker patients. And the insurers, among the largest and most prosperous American companies, have developed elaborate systems to make their patients appear as sick as possible, often without providing additional treatment, according to the lawsuits. As a result, a program devised to help lower health care spending has instead become substantially more costly than the traditional government program it was meant to improve.

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