Articles Posted in Hospitals

mckinseylogo-300x169Heaps of ignominy are not in short order for parties that played sketchy roles in fostering the nation’s deadly opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis. The stain has spread now to one of corporate America’s most-favored advisors — the giant McKinsey consulting group.

The firm has issued a rare public mea culpa for its work with Purdue Pharmaceuticals, a family-run drug maker that has gained notoriety, even among Big Pharma companies, for how it hyped its powerful painkiller OxyContin. The relentless push to sell that drug, officials have asserted, provided a ghastly template for peddling opioids, triggering abuse, addiction, debilitation, and death for hundreds of thousands of Americans in recent times.

Purdue was a McKinsey client, and the consultants now are re-examining their advice to the drug maker on how to fire up OxyContin sales and whether these suggestions fell short of the firm’s own standards. The New York Times, to its credit, dug into records to detail the consultants’ unacceptable conduct, reporting:

bentcostcurvekff-300x147The nation has gotten some long-desired, important health care economic news: The country  has “bent the cost curve,” seeing 2020 as the first year in at least six decades in which America’s health care spending went down. But this may not be a good thing.

As Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), reported of his organization’s economic data:

Year-to-date spending on health services is down about 2% from last year. Health spending for the calendar year may end up lower than it was in 2019.  Adding spending for drugs, which are less affected by Covid-19 and have not fallen, total health spending is still down by about 0.5% from last year. At its low point in April when the pandemic first really hit, spending on health services had fallen an eye popping 32% on an annualized basis. This is the first time expenditures for patient care have fallen year-over-year since data became available in the 1960s. The largest drop-offs were in outpatient care as people put off elective services or [visits to] doctors’ offices and outpatient clinics shut down. Telehealth visits increased dramatically but did not make up all of the difference.”

dopeweighing-300x200Drug policy and treatment in this country is shifting in notable ways, even as the nation wrangles with a resurgent crisis in opioid abuse and overdose deaths and awaits a political transition that will determine a new response to drug harms.

As an indicator of the changing views on illicit substances, consider that the U.S. House has just approved “sweeping legislation that would decriminalize marijuana and expunge nonviolent marijuana-related convictions,” the New York Times reported. The newspaper said this of the bill, which for now also faces certain failure:

“The 228-164 vote to approve the measure was bipartisan, and it was the first time either chamber of Congress had ever endorsed the legalization of cannabis. The bill would remove the drug from the Controlled Substances Act and authorize a 5% tax on marijuana that would fund community and small business grant programs to help those most impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. The legislation is, for now, almost certainly doomed in the Republican-led Senate, where that party’s leaders have derided it as a superficial distraction from the work of passing coronavirus relief, as lawmakers inched toward bipartisan compromise after spending months locked in an impasse.

covidhospitalsnov-259x300As the winter of 2020-21 descends, the coronavirus pandemic is raging, unchecked, from coast-to-coast while the folks in control of the federal government sulk and seem to have checked out from their governing roles.

The numbers likely are understated.  But roughly 265,000 Americans have been killed by the Covid-19 virus and more than 13 million of us have been infected with it. Records are falling left and right, as reported cases skyrocket daily — from thousands, to tens of thousands, and now to more than 200,000 per day. The number of new cases in November alone jumped past 4 million, compared with the October record of 1.9 million.

A significant goal of public health battles with the coronavirus — to prevent the U.S. health system from getting overwhelmed with cases, slashing at all medical services and not just Covid-19 treatment — is under major threat. That’s because the nation is busting records on coronavirus hospitalizations, sitting at 90,000 patients and heading toward the fearsome number of 100,000.

bruinlogo-150x150The University of California has offered to pay $73 million to settle with 5,000 women their class-action lawsuit asserting a staff gynecologist sexually abused them during medical procedures. This is yet another big case involving claims of years of widespread and sordid professional misconduct that somehow went undetected at a major institution, which has acknowledged it reacted poorly when confronted with a problematic clinician.

The proposed settlement still requires the sign-off of a federal judge, and it may not go through if more plaintiffs decide against joining this deal, as lawyers in Los Angeles have said they will not.

James Heaps, 67, a one-time gynecologist who is at the center of the scandal at UCLA, also still faces criminal charges for his actions during his 1983-2019 career at the university, in its student health center and at its medical center. The Los Angeles Times reported that the doctor was first arrested  in June 2019 for sexually touching two patients in 2017. But then:

With the pandemic  tearing through the United States and overwhelming U.S. health care system,  we pause from the grim news to tally  some of the nation’s blessings in this time.

We can be thankful for the courage, fortitude, dedication, and skill of an army of health workers of all kinds. They have put themselves and their loved ones at formidable risk and strain to treat patients under unprecedented duress. They have dealt with fear and uncertainty, giving little quarter, and approaching their own breaking points. Some health workers have themselves fallen ill, with some dying. Their sacrifices cannot be forgotten, and we need to give sustained and extra support to health workers as the pandemic enters its next perilous phase.

docofficegoogle-300x188A federal criminal case concluded with felony convictions for a Virginia gynecologist. But the questions are only now beginning as to how a doctor could have caused so many women so much harm for so long without other clinicians, hospitals, administrators, insurers, and regulators stepping in to stop him.

As the Washington Post reported, jurors took 2½ days to convict Dr. Javaid Perwaiz on 52 counts in what prosecutors alleged was his years of defrauding insurance companies by performing life-altering hysterectomies and other unneeded surgeries on women patients. He is scheduled to be sentenced in March, facing a maximum sentence of 465 years imprisonment.

His conduct, condemned and proven by prosecutors in a trial that ran for weeks, included “performing diagnostic procedures with broken equipment and scaring patients into surgery by falsely claiming they had cancer,” the newspaper reported, adding:

calvtexascspancapture-300x151Although it’s risky to read too much into justices’ comments about cases argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, legal analysts found strong suggestions in such remarks to assert that the latest GOP challenge to the Affordable Care Act may have exceeded the legal validity of its extreme contentions.

This could mean that Republicans — state attorneys general as well as the Trump Administration — may find failure in California v. Texas. This is political partisans’ legal push to get the high court to strike down Obamacare, focusing on the individual mandate that imposed financial penalties to ensure that Americans obtain health insurance.

The mandate originally was portrayed by supporters as integral to Obamacare, ensuring its insurance markets did not get swamped with only the poorest and sickest Americans and dooming federal efforts to provide affordable health coverage to poorer and middle-class Americans. The high court, in an earlier and important case, upheld the ACA, arguing its use of the mandate was a legitimate exercise of government taxing powers.

docnotes-300x154Millions of Americans may be finding that their doctors routinely refer to them with terms like SOB and BS. But patients will be better off with this knowledge, once they learn how to translate medical abbreviations.

The Associated Press reported that hospitals and health care systems nationwide quietly are complying with deadlines, and, under a 2016 federal law, are opening up convenient, fast access to patients to not only view and access their electronic health records but also physicians’ notes about their care. As the AP wrote:

“If you already use a patient portal such as MyChart to email your doctor or schedule an appointment, you may soon see new options allowing you to view your doctor’s notes and see your test results as soon as they are available. You may get an email explaining where to look, how to share access with a caregiver and how to keep other eyes off your information. Many people won’t notice a change. About 15% of health care systems already are letting patients read doctor notes online without charge. That means about 53 million patients already have access to their doctor’s notes.”

benfrankbuck-200x300The expected surge in coronavirus cases is slamming hospitals across the country, and they and the entire U.S. health care system will need major public support in difficult days ahead. Still, important markers also have gone down, so pillars of the medical establishment eventually may have to account for billions of taxpayer dollars they have been all but gifted already and why they charge sky-high prices for their medical services.

Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times deserves credit for his reporting about the public largesse that already has benefited parties in the health care system. As he wrote:

“The Trump administration has pumped billions of dollars into the health care industry during the Covid-19 crisis, padding bottom lines at some of the country’s most profitable businesses even as millions of Americans have been left struggling with mounting medical bills. And although taxpayer money has poured into drug makers, hospital systems and medical distributors, administration officials have put few requirements on the businesses that took public assistance. Pharmaceutical companies could charge more for vaccines and treatments developed with public money. Medical distributors that received government assistance to air-lift supplies from China this spring were able to sell the material at undiscounted prices. And hospitals sustained with bailout money will be free to raise prices on patients for years to come.”

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