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AmProgressBIRcosts-300x245When patients battle with the desperate extremes of a disease like a fast-spreading cancer, it isn’t just the radiation and chemo therapies that sap their spirits, there’s a  demoralizing runner-up concern: The constant battling with doctors, hospitals, and insurers over medical bills.

Medical billing and insurance-related costs are so over the top that they pile up a half-trillion-dollars a year in burdensome administrative costs — half of which is excessive and wasteful, according to new research from the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

The center reviewed past studies of administrative costs in U.S. health care, seeking to address criticisms of their methods and conclusions. Still, the new findings raise points that may stagger patients, policy makers, and politicians, say Emily Gee, a health economist for the group, and Topher Spiro, its vice president for Health Policy and a senior economic fellow.

Bracescamarrest-238x300Federal authorities have busted up what they say is a $1.2 billion Medicare fraud that should give taxpayers and patients pause about long-distance medical consultations and the huge sums of cash washing around the medical device industry.

Two dozen people, some of them doctors, have been charged in a complex ploy to gull seniors into asking about back, shoulder, wrist, and knee braces that were promoted as free on TV and radio ads nationwide. When the older adults called to inquire about the devices, they were transferred to telemarketing centers in the Philippines and Latin America.

In the far-away boiler rooms, trained operators extracted important personal information from callers, then connected them for “telemedicine” consultations with cooperating doctors. The MDs asked cursory questions before then prescribing the devices, whether needed or not. The orders were filled by select companies, which then would send out the braces and charge them to Medicare.

Candida-aurisWhen big hospitals are locked in bare-knuckle battles against debilitating and deadly bacterial and fungal infections sweeping their institutions, don’t patients have the right to know about these situations that might affect their lives and care? According to some hospital insiders, no.

The New York Times reported that a “culture of secrecy” prevails in hospitals as they combat “super bugs,” bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics and now fungi that have evolved immunities to antifungals.

The newspaper found the institutional opposition to making public outbreaks of hospital-borne infection as it followed up its own scary page one story about the global spread of Candida auris, a drug-resistant fungus that preys on patients who already are hospitalized and may have compromised immune systems.

kidshot-300x292As outbreaks of preventable infectious diseases rise to concerning levels, doctors, regulators, and lawmakers may need to toughen important laws requiring youngsters to be inoculated, protecting better our collective health and closing off legal loopholes for sketchy vaccination exemptions.

It would be ideal if more than a century of lifesaving experience and decades of rigorous scientific research were sufficient to persuade parents to get their children vaccinated against an array of harmful and dangerous infections. But grownups’ hesitancy or rejection of shots, out of unfounded personal belief or due to medical disinformation, has set in and spread. This has undercut local, national, and global campaigns to rid humanity of contagions like measles. Public information campaigns and evidence-based persuasion hasn’t worked as well as experts might hope, leading officials to pass vaccination laws.

But those protective measures have been eroded by the exploitation by a few, so far, of well-intentioned exemptions, reporters for the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News reported.

casho-300x168Although 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:

aspirinlowdose-300x225After persuading as many as 7 in 10 American adults to take a daily low dose of a common painkiller to protect against heart disease and cancer, experts now say it is time for more nuanced advice on who should and who shouldn’t take the daily baby aspirin regimen.

Recent studies have shown that the believed protective benefits of low-dose aspirin need to be balanced against the risks of bleeding caused by the drug, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have declared.

Here is who should NOT go on low-dose daily aspirin:

Doctors and hospitals finally are owning up to and treating mental and physical damages inflicted on some of the sickest and most vulnerable individuals in their care—the 5 million or so patients who get helped in intensive care units, published research shows.

Although ICU patients may get dramatic emergency care that saves them from deadly infections, major disease, and significant accident or injury, experts only recently have begun to recognize and assist them with a condition associated with their stays: post-intensive care syndrome (PICS). A readable new study in the medical journal JAMA says that ICU patients may suffer a “constellation of symptoms” with PICS that hinders their recovery to their pre-hospitalization well-being, including: “muscle weakness, cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

cdcshots-300x230As doctors and public health officials coast-to-coast battle infectious outbreaks — of measlesmumps,  meningitis, whooping coughinfluenza, as well as typhus, hepatitis, and TB — the nation is also struggling with the right response for yet another contagion: the viral spread of medical misinformation on social media.

Medical nonsense isn’t new, and savvy patient-consumers long have needed to do a little work to protect themselves from what can be its real and significant harms. But a season of rapidly spreading and 100% preventable infectious diseases has forced modern medicine to confront generational dilemmas with health disinformation that is “shared” widely online and especially via social media.

For the rising generation that now parents youngsters who need and should be vaccinated, social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, as well as information searches via Google have become as ordinary and accepted as once were daily newspapers and the 6 o’clock TV news. But cyber world’s ubiquity also has allowed counter factual, unfounded, nonscientific, and extreme notions to proliferate, as users of all kinds “create content” online. This has fueled the dangerous normalizing and further rise of the anti-vaccination or anti-vaxxer movement.

EHRsKHN-300x230Tempting though it may be to dismiss doctors’ howls about electronic health records—maybe they’re Luddites or they’re just another group of high-paid workers beefing about their job tools—the persistent and significant nightmare of the complicated computer systems has been this: Do they harm patient care?

The answer now may be: Yes, billions of taxpayer and private dollars spent on EHRs may be reducing patient safety.

That’s the finding of the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service, based on its extensive investigation in partnership with Fortune Magazine. The two media operations reported that:

carter-300x300The rich and powerful may seem to run amok as the nation lurches through its latest gilded age. But sometimes:

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