- Medical debt, one of the disgraces of the world’s most expensive health care in the planet’s wealthiest nations, has spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic. A consumer finance firm recently found that its 22 million members carry $45 billion in bills owed to providers and in collections. With the coronavirus also staggering the economy, bankrupting medical debt is only likely to skyrocket as the nation’s 30 million jobless exhaust their finances and lose health insurance from their work.
- Health insurance offers one of the few widely available means for ordinary folks to try to protect themselves and their loved ones from seeing their finances destroyed by illness or injury. But new U.S. Census data, describing a time before the pandemic, shows that “the first three years of President Trump’s tenure were a period of contracting health insurance coverage,” the Washington Post reported. “The decreases reversed gains that began near the end of the Great Recession and accelerated during early years of expanded access to health plans and Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act — the sprawling law that was a signature domestic achievement of President Barack Obama and has been derided by Republicans, including Trump, ever since.” Just under 30 million Americans were uninsured — 1 in 10 of us, with the numbers rising by several million over the last several years of the Trump term.
As the November elections draw near, let’s not lose sight of the flurry of developments in response to the politicization of the pandemic and the assaults by the Trump administration on medical science. Among them:
- Vaccine makers disclosed secret details about their plans to test the safety and effectiveness of a coronavirus inoculation on tens of thousands of Americans.
- Leading medical experts stepped to the fore again to insist that clinical trials of the prospective shot would not be meddled with by politicians, and the vaccine would be unlikely to become available to the public before Nov. 3.
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities now account for around 62,000 coronavirus deaths, 42% of the country’s total. So how is it possible that, months into the pandemic, owners and operators keep failing to fix well-known infection-control basics, like mixing healthy and infected residents and allowing poorly paid staffers to work at multiple facilities, carrying the disease from each to each?
On a side note, is it any comfort to frightened nursing home residents and outraged loved ones that Seema Verma, the nation’s chief regulator of long-term facilities, has obsessed, with taxpayer money, of course, on her image and public relations — spending on girls’ night bashes and face time with well-heeled patrons in her own party?
The independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service deserves credit for piecing together various information sources to raise significant questions about not only nursing homes and long term care facilities but also hospitals and the care giving institutions’ infection-control procedures — notably whether, with all medical science knows now about Covid-19, facilities appropriately separate and isolate individuals with coronavirus diagnoses from others uninfected.
It could be a good thing that the product’s makers — Oxford University and AstraZeneca — followed medical-scientific protocols and paused their Phase III clinical trial due to a participant’s unexplained illness.
Officially, the company offered spare information about the occurrence, especially because it affects the private medical information of a single individual.
- What would happen to a military leader who was briefed and admitted to knowing of severe threats but downplayed them, resulting over a few months to the United States seeing its Indo-Pacific and European Commands wiped out — combined losses of roughly 180,000 in U.S. forces?
- How would the governor of Maryland be treated if he was told of a public works problem but belittled it and in less than a year the cities of Columbia, Bethesda, and Annapolis and all the people in them were destroyed?
The Trump Administration — yet again — has sowed confusion, frustration, and anger over the federal response to the Covid-19 pandemic, creating potentially harmful credibility issues for a prospective coronavirus vaccine, the scientific concept of “herd immunity,” a possible blood-based treatment for the illness, as well as testing, contact tracing, and quarantines for the disease.
The White House follies would be considered bad farce, save for the reality that the U.S. death toll races toward 200,000 and infections have skyrocketed past 6 million. The U.S. has 22 percent of the world’s Covid death toll, but only 4 percent of the world’s population.
With schools reopening, infections, hospitalizations, and deaths among children are on the rise.
Three facilities, indeed, got expensive rebukes from state inspectors, but dozens more were hit with milder fines that also suggest widespread issues in the institutions, notably with the crucial concern of infection control.
In contrast to the Washington Post’s previous coverage of the sizable fines for Collingswood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center ($275,000) and Potomac Valley Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center ($120,000), and Kensington Healthcare Center ($294,000), the Baltimore Sun said it, too, had obtained Maryland records indicating:
Health care persists as one of the top concerns for voters as they consider candidates this fall — not just for the presidency but up and down the ballot.
But beyond the crafted speeches over four nights for each party and looming past the repeated talking points of the candidates and their hand-picked supporters, voters will confront issues of huge gravity — some well known and others maybe less so.
What the White House wants, it apparently will get — even if that hangs out to dry the prized nonpartisan reputations of the Federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The political meddling and leadership errors at two of the nation’s premier health agencies, critics say, will have disconcerting effects on the nation’s well-being, notably on science- and evidence-based efforts to combat the toll of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Those numbers keep soaring and changing almost as fast as they can be typed: 180,000-plus Americans have been killed by novel coronavirus, which also has infected more than 5.9 million of us in a little more than half a year.
Maryland officials have wrapped up pandemic-prompted inspections of 226 nursing homes with a pricey rebuke to long-term care facilities that have failed still to safeguard the elderly, sick, and injured from Covid-19, putting them at “immediate jeopardy,” instead.
Three facilities were slapped with six-figure fines after state inspectors faulted them in June and July for improperly isolating potentially contagious residents, including new admissions: Collingswood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center ($275,000) and Potomac Valley Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center ($120,000), and Kensington Healthcare Center ($294,000).
Inspectors also asserted that a patient died at Potomac Valley after a nurse failed to provide basic life support, and the Washington Post reported, based on state data, that “at least 78 residents from the three facilities have died since the spring of Covid-19 … and more than 270 have been infected with the virus.”