Articles Posted in BANKRUPTCY

creditagencylogos-300x227Patients battered by sky-high health care costs are getting a bit of promising news:

kffmarch22medicaldebt-300x149Medical debt, one of the most shameful aspects of the U.S. health care system, has only become more so in recent times, drowning patients in an ever-rising flood of red ink now climbing past $195 billion.

The money owed by millions of Americans to doctors, hospitals, labs, Big Pharma and others in healthcare and big systemic problems have raised alarms for experts at the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The independent, health-focused nonprofits and the federal consumer agency say that soaring indebtedness — increased by the cost of coronavirus pandemic care — keeps patients from getting medical treatments and prescription drugs they badly need and that could maintain or improve their health.

blamehearingoxytscott-300x197Three members of a plutocratic clan finally got a direct, bitter earful from those who suffered grievous harms from the opioid crisis which was fostered, critics say, by their family business — Purdue Pharmaceutical and its powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin.

As part of prospective $10 billion settlement of thousands of lawsuits by states, counties, cities, Indian tribes, and individuals against Purdue, members of the Sackler family have, at long last, expressed “regret” about the opioids crisis, for which they also emphatically deny any responsibility.

But they also agreed that a federal bankruptcy judge would conduct an unusual hearing at which claimants could confront the family. The Sacklers listened at the session to the speakers, as agreed upon, without comment. The family members, as the Associated Press reported, were:

oxycontin-150x150A plutocratic clan has upped its ante by $1.5 billion in an apparently successful bet that using bankruptcy courts, mediation, and offering to settle giant claims in the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis will be cheaper and less risky than battling on with thousands of plaintiffs seeking billions of dollars more.

Members of the Sackler family, thus, may elude still the harshest possible reckoning that they have fought tooth and nail to avoid — losing maximum amounts of the fortune they amassed through their company, Purdue Pharmaceutical, and its potent, path-blazing painkiller OxyContin, and getting held personally liable in the civil system in a public health nightmare that has claimed 500,000 lives in a decade.

(Family members would not be free of potential criminal charges, though experts have long said these would be difficult to press.)

jJlogo-300x139States, counties, and cities within weeks could start to receive desperately needed money to battle the deadly opioid abuse and overdose crisis as part of a newly finalized, $26 billion settlement with the largest distributors of prescription medications and a onetime maker of powerful painkillers.

Janssen, one of the distributors, and the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson will pay $5 billion a year for nine years as part of the deal struck in the summer and approved by plaintiffs in the case, according to the New York Times. The other three distributors — McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen —will pay a combined $21 billion over 18 years.

Under the settlement, 85% of these payouts will cover addiction treatment and prevention efforts aimed at quelling the opioid crisis. It has claimed an estimated 500,000 American lives over a decade. It worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, killing an estimated 100,000 Americans last year and setting disconcerting new fatality records, especially with the rise of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Those drugs, which criminals are lacing into their wares, including marijuana, are extremely potent at even tiny doses.

blindfoldjustice-150x150Big Pharma is blazing a legal trail that wealthy corporations are racing to follow. The corporatists are using a new approach to crush patients and other consumers who seek justice in the civil system with claims that drug makers and other big businesses harmed them with defective and dangerous products or demonstrable misbehavior.

The U.S. Constitution recognizes the fundamental right of claimants to have their cases heard in trial courts. But drug makers and other corporations hope to upend accepted norms, by shoving large-scale liability cases into federal bankruptcy courts that legal scholars say were never intended to hear such matters. As Bruce Markell, a Northwestern Pritzker School of Law professor and retired bankruptcy judge, told the Wall Street Journal of this rapacious corporate tactic:

“This is an attack on the American tort system.”

debt-300x200Soaring medical costs crush the finances of far too many patients, as the public was reminded by the release of an annual report on the high toll of cancer-care spending and a surprising congressional reverse aimed at reining in runaway prescription drug prices — or at least attempting to.

Leading organizations dealing with cancer treatment — including the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries — found that patients in 2019 (the most recent year data were available) “shouldered a whopping $21.09 billion in costs,” the Washington Post reported.

Patients and their loved ones get hit with major costs in the first year of disease diagnosis, as well as the highest expenses at the ill individuals’ end of life, the report found.

debtmedicalnytjuly2021-300x250A scandal of the U.S. health system may be far worse than imagined, with the medical debt sold to collection agencies alone amounting to a staggering $140 billion.

The $140 billion estimate came from researchers who published in a medical journal and found that such unpaid sums had increased significantly from an $84 billion calculation in a similar 2016 study, the New York Times reported (see excellent chart, courtesy of the newspaper).

The newspaper noted the debt estimate is an ugly number hanging over the finances of tens of millions of patients who are too often poor and uninsured — debtors who could benefit significantly, if politicians in their states had expanded Medicaid coverage for them as allowed under the Affordable Care Act:

aidpoor-300x200Cash is king. That truism may hold for thrifty savers and businesses and individuals buffeted by economic uncertainty. But this realistic view also may be turned on its head for poorer, uninsured patients trying to cope with bankrupting medical bills.

That’s because hospitals — a leading driver of health care costs — gouge with their premium prices those who pay with cash, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The newspaper, working with previously secret pricing data that institutions across the country must disclose now, has given consumers yet another eye-popping view of the elasticity of hospital charges and how they punish the poor:

billsmedical1-300x200Federal regulators have taken a welcome initial step to bar insurers and health care providers from holding patients hostage in their all-too-common fee fights, with draft rules out now to crush “surprise” medical bills.

The politically riven, do-nothing Congress shocked critics by ending 2020 with an actual new law, included in legislation dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, that gave patients new protection from nightmares created when insurers and big corporation sought to reduce their health care costs with so-called narrow networks of pre-approved health care providers.

This scheme allowed insurers and companies to negotiate with doctors, labs, hospitals, and others for preferential prices, and, effectively, guarantees of patient business, in exchange. Patients began howling when their long-time caregivers were excluded from insurer networks, which also often also excluded big-name practitioners as well as well-known academic medical centers and big hospitals.

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