Articles Posted in Health Care Reform

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:

Patients, politicians, and regulators may find it tough to believe, so they need sharp periodic reminders: While there are many terrific, dedicated doctors working today, there also are some truly terrible ones. And dealing with the harms of medical malpractice by the incompetent and abusive can require courage and vigilance.

  • Perhaps a new, streamed Hollywood serial — starring the likes of Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, AnnaSophia Robb, and Joshua Jackson — can underscore for the public how grisly the results can be until a rare criminal prosecution derails the likes of Christopher Duntsch, a Dallas surgeon so grim he is nicknamed “Dr. Death?”

scotusbldg-300x193It’s three strikes now from the U.S. Supreme Court: Have Republicans finally gotten themselves thrown out of their game to strip tens of millions of Americans of their health insurance?

The conservative-packed high court, in a 7-2 vote, rejected the latest and third GOP attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans in Congress also have failed to kill in more than five dozen votes over more than a decade.

The case decided by the justices — supported by the Trump Administration and brought by attorneys general in Republican-controlled states like Texas and opposed by their counterparts in Democratic-controlled states — proved to be the legal equivalent of a belly flop.

brooks-lasureandbecerra-300x240Chiquita Brooks-LaSure has won U.S. Senate confirmation and will become the first black woman to lead the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS.

The longtime government official, who was an adviser to President Obama and has served in multiple other top federal roles (shown right, with her boss, Health and Human Services head Xavier Becerra), jumps into a role with gigantic challenges. These include:

  • The administration by her agency of federal health insurance programs, including for children and those covered under the Affordable Care Act. The Biden Administration and Democrats, as part of coronavirus pandemic rescue efforts, bolstered Obamacare and opened enrollment in it, with subsidies, to millions of Americans slammed by the coronavirus pandemic. But those efforts, which have boosted ACA enrollment, also will need renewed legislative support — which may occur right as the midterm elections are under way. CMS also may be a key part of some Democrats’ plans to improve health care coverage in this country by lowering the qualifying age for Medicare for 60-something Americans who often must pay staggering premiums and who lose jobs and employer-related coverage at scary rates. This is an idea that Republicans reject.

disabledkidsfla-300x233When doctors, hospitals, and insurers bellyache about malpractice claims with little evidence on their prevalence or outcomes, patients and politicians should push back: And they can cite the nightmares people in grievous circumstance have suffered when their constitutional right to seek justice in civil lawsuits gets stripped away.

The Miami Herald and ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative website, have conducted a joint, deep dive into Florida’s decades-old legislative experiment, purportedly to assist families struggling with infants’ birth-related and catastrophic disabilities. The state’s neurological injury compensation initiative also was promoted as a way to stem a problem seen mostly in anecdote and not evidence — obstetricians and other specialists supposedly fleeing Florida, reputedly due to spiking malpractice insurance costs.

The media investigators, in a multipart series , have found that eliminating medical malpractice lawsuits for this slice of patients has benefited not the patients but instead, doctors, hospitals, and insurers.

bauchner-150x150dredlivingston-150x150While the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared racism a serious threat to the nation’s health, establishment medicine finds itself mired in an angry scandal over doctors’ inability to recognize the term, much less its existence, or its considerable harms.

An uproar at a leading medical journal might seem a tempest in an ivy-covered tower. But patients will want to track even a little the professional furor falling on the leaders of the respected Journal of the American Medical Association.

Its website recently featured a podcast, for which doctors could get continuing professional education credit, in which host Ed Livingston (photo above left), JAMA’s deputy editor for clinical content and “a white editor and physician, questioned whether racism even exists in medicine,” Usha McFarling, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist reported for Stat, the medical-science news site.

agedwalk-179x300As the coronavirus pandemic’s most catastrophic effects recede in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, notably due to vaccinations and other public health measures, residents and their loved ones still face costly, confounding issues in safeguarding the aged, sick, and injured. The Biden Administration wants to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to help.

But will the plans founder due to Republican resistance? And will even a huge jolt of funding be enough to deal with a graying nation’s growing problems with long-term care?

Our own homes provide a cornerstone of Democratic proposals to deal better with nightmares with the cost, safety, and availability of long-term care. Instead of sinking yet more public money — via Medicare and Medicaid — into institutions, can the federal government, instead, improve funding so seniors, the ill, and injured can stay home and get treatment there? As the Washington Post reported:

arpacaextension-300x191The Biden Administration has further expanded a special sign-up season for health insurance plans offered on Obamacare exchanges, giving consumers until Aug. 15 to enroll in coverage that also may be much cheaper.

The newly confirmed Health and Human Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement:

“Every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care — especially as we fight back against the Covid-19 pandemic. Through this special enrollment period, the Biden Administration is giving the American people the chance they need to find an affordable health care plan that works for them.”

The Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus pandemic relief law, called the American Rescue Plan, tackles one of the leading concerns expressed by American voters in repeated recent political campaigns: our health and health care. Foes have denounced it as wasteful and unfocused. But it arguably offers common sense federal responses to the worst public health catastrophe in a century.

The Biden measure gives a huge boost to battling the coronavirus itself, providing almost $60 billion for “vaccine and treatment development, manufacturing, distribution, and tracking, as well as Covid-19 testing and contact tracing,” according to media reports.

The Biden package, as the president promised, also expands health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, albeit for at least two years. As the New York Times reported:

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