- Can President Trump keep up his barrage of counter-factual assertions and political reverses on federal help for those needing health insurance, a key part of the Affordable Care Act? After resurrecting in federal courts the decade-long debacle of Republican efforts to kill Obamacare—including its protections for preexisting conditions—Trump flipped yet again. He heard an earful from party leaders that they have no way to cover tens of millions who would lose their health insurance if the ACA gets tossed out by courts, and he apparently awoke to the reality that the GOP can’t eliminate the law when Democrats control the House. So, the president then insisted that the GOP, after failing to do so for years, would present a better alternative and enact it, repealing Obamacare, too—at some time after the 2020 elections. If Republicans win back the House, keep control of the Senate, and he is reelected.
- Even as the president asserted the GOP’s superiority in health care policy, the Los Angeles Times and the Philadelphia Inquire reported that a key element of Trumpcare is bringing back consumer nightmares. Patients initially might like the short-term health insurance plans the administration has pushed as an ACA alternative. Officials have relaxed rules on them so they can last longer than the few months permitted under Obamacare. The plans may carry lower monthly premiums. But they come with skimpy benefits. Which consumers are rediscovering. They’re getting sick and hoping to rely on short-term policies, only to find they owe doctors and hospitals thousands of dollars—but their insurance won’t help them with a penny.
Americans have real reason to fear a health care catastrophe: If loved ones suffer major injury or illness, who will feed, bathe, and care for them 24/7 after they get out of the hospital and recuperate at home? Who will take time off from work to set up and take them to unending and long medical appointments? Who will wait for and get all the pills and devices they need?
The nation has been locked in a decade-long battle over health insurance that helps cover medical costs, but caregiving, a crucial part of the social safety net, gets short shrift, writes Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics and health research and policy expert at Indiana University School of Medicine. As Carroll noted in a timely and personal column for the New York Times “Upshot” feature:
Americans spend so much time debating so many aspects of health care, including insurance and access. Almost none of that covers the actual impossibility and hardship faced by the many millions of friends and family members who are caregivers. It’s hugely disrupting and expensive. There’s no system for it. It’s a gaping hole.
Although lawsuits can result in needed financial support and welcome recognition of harms suffered by patients seeking medical services, the civil justice system has its limits. They showed in cases in the news in which disputing parties agreed to more than $1 billion in resolutions that left issues unanswered.
What to make of the:
- $270-million that Purdue Pharmaceutical will pay to end its part of a fight with Oklahoma over the opioids crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans
Uncle Sam has paid what critics have called long overdue attention to women’s breasts and how surgeons and diagnosticians treat them.
In an angry and emotional public hearing, women ripped the federal Food and Drug Administration for lax oversight of implants that surgeons use to augment and reconstruct breasts, even as the agency proposed its first changes in 15 years to guidelines about mammograms for patients with dense breast tissue.
The FDA has been under fire for decades over breast implants, mostly banned in 1992 but allowed anew in 2005. Experts long have debated whether materials in the implants, notably silicone and not necessarily saline fillings, may be injurious to women’s health. New concerns have developed over surface texturing on the devices, which are supposed to help in the surgery but may affect tissues around and near the breast, leading to spikes in reported cases of rare cancers.
Although research has shown that asbestos can cause cancer and other harmful illnesses and the federal government has sought to limit and even ban its use, yet another sizable judgment in a tainted talc case and the discovery of the substance in a popular cosmetics line shows how America’s oversight and regulation of risky materials can be too slow and ineffective.
As the New York Times reported, a jury in the San Francisco area has joined similar deliberative panels in accepting claims that longtime use of Johnson & Johnson baby power causes cancers. The state jury decided that J&J must pay plaintiff Teresa Leavitt a total of $29 million because the company knew its talc was tainted with asbestos but failed to warn her and others. Leavitt, who used the product for three decades, was diagnosed in 2017 with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of internal organs that is associated with asbestos.
The newspaper said the jury told J&J to pay her “$22 million for her pain and suffering, $5 million to compensate her family members, nearly $1.3 million for her medical costs and $1.2 million for her lost wages.”
Those who are senior enough to remember the allures of sweet drinks like Tang, Hawaiian Punch, and Kool-Aid also may need to be sage enough to share a deep, evidence-based distrust and disapproval for the nefarious actions of Big Sugar and Big Tobacco. Those suspicions may need to be renewed in regulators’ crackdowns on vaping, its flavorings, and flavored tobacco cigarettes.
Yes, the federal Food and Drug Administration now has formally detailed its plan to curb the soaring youthful purchases and uses of e-cigarettes for vaping, telling merchants that they soon will be required to keep these goods, including flavored liquids that the devices catalyze, in separate walled off areas of stores and away from those age 18 and younger. This will affect not only big retailers like Walgreens and Wal-Marts but also gas stations and convenience stores.
Online vendors soon will be required to have mechanisms, so proof of age becomes part of cyber buys of e-cigarettes and their associated products.
For Americans of a certain age, the power of celebrity and sad news — the early death of acting heart-throb Luke Perry and the announced Stage 4 cancer diagnosis of game show host Alex Trebek — may offer important health warnings about two leading causes of death: strokes and cancer.
Strokes kill 140,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The agency says, “Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke. Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.”
The condition mostly affects those 65 and older, but strokes can occur in younger people, with the New York Times reporting that “seven in one million Americans under age 50 die annually from strokes caused by a blocked blood vessel, and nine per million die from a brain hemorrhage, the two main types of strokes.”
The Trump Administration has lost yet another top health official: So, what happens now with key policies pushed by Scott Gottlieb, the departing federal Food and Drug Administration commissioner, to battle teen nicotine abuse, cut skyrocketing drug costs, and attack the opioid crisis?
Administration officials insist Gottlieb wasn’t ousted, and the physician and onetime Big Pharma insider said he resigned from his post after a year on the job because he wanted to spend more time with his family (they hadn’t moved from Connecticut to join him in the nation’s capital).
Though Gottlieb received mixed or favorable media coverage as he leaves, his effect on the nation’s health is as cloudy as many high school vaping spots.
The federal Food and Drug Administration finally has pushed back at surgeons and hospitals for experimenting on patients, spending $3 billion a year for surgical robots. The devices should not be used for mastectomies and other cancer-related procedures without caution, regulators warn.
The FDA acted after studies have shown that minimally invasive procedures for early-stage cervical cancer, many robot-aided, were more likely than standard, large-incision surgeries to result in recurrences of the disease and deaths.
Regulators also may have been prodded by their poor history in halting harms to women with so-called keyhole procedures, particularly the nightmares the FDA was slow to react to involving minimally invasive hysterectomies and a tissue-grinding tool called a morcellator.
Punked, dunked, and owned — if you’re young enough, that’s how you say your team has crushed a competitor. The lingo might well describe, too, the situation for now between e-cigarette maker Juul and Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the federal Food and Drug Administration.
He has talked tougher and tougher with Juul as part of the FDA’s crackdown on vaping and e-cigarettes, a craze among the young that is eroding decades of efforts by health advocates to reduce Americans exposure to and abuse of nicotine and cancer-causing cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Gottlieb has told Juul officials he may summon them to his offices in the nation’s capital for more scoldings, this after the agency has chased and chastised vendors across the country, including Walgreen’s and Circle K stores, about keeping vaping products, e-cigarettes, and tobacco out of minors’ hands.