Articles Posted in Health Care Reform

fdanulogo-300x126Critics are slamming the federal Food and Drug Administration for dropping the ball in informing the U.S. officials who run the Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ health programs about crucial regulatory decisions, leading the federal government apparently to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for patients to get a defective heart device and potentially to pay billions of dollars for a prescription medication targeted at Alzheimer’s but with questionable evidence of its effectiveness.

FDA officials insist that they acted in patients’ best interests when they posted on an agency website, along with thousands of other public communications, a warning letter issued to the maker of the HeartWare Ventricular Assist Device, or HVAD. That missive told the device maker HeartWare — and later its acquiring company Medtronic — that the FDA found serious problems with the HVAD tied to patient injuries and deaths.

The FDA eventually would amass “thousands of reports of suspicious deaths and injuries and more than a dozen high-risk safety alerts from the manufacturer,” ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative new site found. “One horrifying device failure after another” led HVAD’s maker to halt the manufacture of the supposed life-sustaining heart pump. The firm has agreed to a long-term plan to deal with the calamity of patients who now cannot have the defective device removed.

hospitalbedhospice-300x200Profit-raking private investors, aka hedge funders, have taken aim at operations intended to help the elderly, desperately ill, and grievously injured experience a dignified death. The rapacious takeover of the hospice industry nationwide ought to be setting off political and regulatory alarms in a rapidly graying nation.

As is typically the case when MBA-driven interests buy up different kinds of enterprises, they not only don’t exhibit much concern about the whys or wherefores of a business. They focus, instead, on how they can build volume, while cutting services, staff, and costs, the Huffington Post reported, describing what private equity firms have targeted for hospices. As the online news site found:

“Today, private equity firms are acquiring American hospices at an astonishing rate. From 2012 to 2019, the number of hospices owned by private equity companies tripled. The pace of acquisitions seems to have only gotten faster during the Covid-19 pandemic. Industry brokers who have never before put together a deal involving private equity say they now field calls from private equity buyers multiple times a week. Tempted by a wave of retiring baby boomers, the-sky’s-the-limit Medicare payments, the mom-and-pop nature of the industry and a lack of regulation that is pretty startling even by U.S. standards, private equity now accounts for three out of every five new hospice acquisitions.”

femalemd-300x209They excel through four years of rigorous undergraduate study, then battle their way through four more years of tough, tough medical school. They cram to pass their medical boards and  grind through exhausting internships. They also pursue years more of exacting, sleep-deprived training in residencies and fellowships.

But, wait a minute: Women doctors earn over a professional lifetime an estimated $2 million less on average than their men counterparts? They experience gender pay gaps of 25% to as much as 50% over the course of a 40-year career?

Yes, those are the disconcerting findings of published research that analyzed data from surveys of 80,000 doctors between 2014 and 2019, the New York Times reported:

bidenbbb-300x199Leave it to lawmakers on Capitol Hill to wait until the year’s end to take up a major package pushed by congressional Democrats and the Biden Administration and that could potentially improve Americans’ health — big time.

The machinations by which the proponents hope to pass the “Build Back Better” program have, sadly and significantly, prevented too many people from knowing until this legislative endgame the exact content and effects of this initiative.

This occurred because Congress is so riven, including within the Democratic Party, that ambitious plans and money for them went in and out of the law like children in a hot house on a summer vacation. Media reports have zeroed in on the politics surrounding the measure and its possible financing — and less so on what it contains.

harrisnhscfunding-300x155For anyone who believes that health care, in the wealthiest nation in the world, is a right and not a privilege, the Biden Administration provided some cause for optimism. It came in the form of an announcement by Vice President Kamala Harris that the nation will invest $1.5 billion to help reduce the shortage of doctors and nurses in underserved communities.

Working with sums provided by the spring’s American Recovery Act, the White House said it will boost financial support for medical workers participating in the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps.

They provide services to more than 23.6 million patients in this country, the White House said.

stjude-300x157If corporatists are correct and big, wealthy enterprises legally get rights akin to what real folks have, can it also be true that institutions, like people, sometimes just lose their way?

This argument may be evidenced by the tight-fistedness — eased under adverse publicity — of a legendary children’s charitable hospital and the profit-hungry financial schemes of a major Catholic hospital chain.

Credit is due to:

kaiser21healthinsurancesurvey-300x204Most Americans get their health insurance through their jobs, and that coverage continues to increase in cost with the average annual premiums in 2021 exceeding $22,200 for families and $7,700 for individuals — a 4% rise from 2020.

The price increases affecting 155 million non-elderly people with employer-provided coverage, as detailed in the annual Kaiser Family Foundation surve, may seem modest, year over year, especially given that conventional wisdom saw all health care costs hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

But the foundation notes that overall health coverage costs, borne by employers and their workers, have not spiked due to the coronavirus, though they have risen relentlessly over a decade (see figure, above).

califf-150x150Robert Califf, a cardiologist and President Biden’s “new” nominee to head the federal Food and Drug Administration, is a familiar face around the agency and Washington, D.C.

Califf served as the FDA commissioner before — winning U.S. Senate confirmation and holding the important post for the last year of the Obama presidency.

He is 70 and has long history in academic medical research and running clinical trials, including consulting for Big Pharma and giving his foes queasiness about his ability to run the nation’s top overseer of prescription medications and medical devices, as well as food quality and safety.

leadpipes-300x178Although the chattering classes may have beat the term infrastructure into a hoary cliché, regular folks may see major benefits over time to their health and well-being from the Biden Administration’s finally passed, bipartisan $1 trillion bill that invests desperately needed money into the nation’s roads, highways, bridges, and more.

The law will send a giant funding surge into improving water quality and eliminating dangerous and antiquated lead pipes. This toxic threat, as evidenced in the mess in Flint, already has resulted in a $600-million-plus settlement — mostly to be paid by the state of Michigan — for residents of the lead-polluted town.

The infrastructure measure will help officials deal with polluting, nerve-wracking, time-sucking transportation logjams, financing repairs and upgrades to public transit, rail, ports, and airports from coast to coast.

boseaids-e1634953901247-150x150Millions of Americans soon may be able to buy much cheaper devices to help them with their mild to moderate hearing loss and avoid costly hearing aids prescribed by specialists.

It took far too long for this big step to occur, and consumers won’t see its full benefits for a bit still.

But the Food and Drug Administration, by issuing a new, draft hearing device regulation, took a major step in helping ordinary folks, as Congress intended with bipartisan legislation passed in 2017.

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