Articles Posted in Insurance

azar-235x300Members of Congress have scattered back to their districts for Thanksgiving, giving the nation a bit of a break from the health policy turkey shoot that has besieged the nation’s capital. The health- and medical-related actions have piled up so fast and furious that it can be daunting.

But let’s not overlook:

  • The hot mess that’s supposed to be a GOP wish list of tax changes has, instead, turned into yet another attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, this time by eliminating the “individual mandate” that requires Americans to show through their tax returns that they have health insurance coverage. Tax policies invariably are complicated. Let’s simplify this one: Partisans want to slash the ACA, so they can take money from it — $300 billion or so — to help “pay for” $1 trillion or more in tax cuts for giant corporations and the wealthy. This legislative legerdemain will mean 13 milllion Americans will lose health coverage and insurance premiums for millions will rise 10 percent, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office.

urine-sample-cup-263x300With opioid drugs now the leading cause of death for Americans 50 and younger and killing more than 64,000 people last year, was it inevitable that some shady characters are profiteering off the miseries of those struggling to get off potent painkillers?

And is it predictable that key politicians keep talking big but still haven’t backed up their boasts with the money and means to attack a public health crisis that is claiming more lives than cars or guns and at a faster pace than HIV-AIDS did at the peak of that epidemic?

Americans have plenty cause to be — forgive the vulgar word play — pissed off at the doctors and labs that are raking in profits on urine testing for drugs. This business has exploded but with little or no oversight. As reporters Fred Schulte and Elizabeth Lucas have written:

traumatower2-300x205In the torrent of the relentless 24/7 news cycle, let’s not allow a new normal to prevail. We can’t forget that just days ago, a madman opened fire on a church in a small town south of San Antonio, Texas, killing at least 26 and wounding 20 or so. It was the worst mass shooting in the Lone Star State’s history, and it added to a horrific and growing toll for recent such gun-related outbreaks.

These incidents not only devastate the communities in which they occur. They also put giant strains of doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, and hospitals. All respond in ways that deserve a major salute, as well as empathy, compassion, and shared grief for the victims, their families, and those who seek to save and protect lives in chaotic situations.

The killing in Sutherland, Texas, posed its own unique stresses, with medical experts heaping praise on EMTs and first-responders for their heroic work at the scene, and then speeding those in need to care at hospitals at least 35 miles away.

northam-300x228Millions of Americans may qualify for federal help in paying for the health insurance, but they must sign up for coverages on exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, by Dec. 15. Doing so, starting with a visit to healthcare.gov, has become a surprisingly popular and perhaps a strongly political act.

That’s at least one way to look at it after voters, led by Virginians, sent a big electoral rebuke to President Trump and congressional Republicans over their failed congressional assault and continuing efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, especially its increasingly popular expansion of Medicaid. Its programs benefit the poor, young, old, chronically and mentally ill—and growing numbers of working poor and middle-class Americans, too.

The punditry has flowed since Tuesday’s elections in Virginia, New Jersey, Maine, and elsewhere. Virginia voters not only trashed Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate who was supported by Trump, and elected Ralph Northam, a Democrat, a pediatrician, and a veteran who was the state’s lieutenant governor (see photo), they also churned the membership of the state legislature. Control of the House is up to recounts in a few tight races.

epipen-300x119Big Pharma’s rapacious profit-seeking can seem to hit no bounds, even if it afflicts millions: Just consider what federal and state regulators are mulling about the makers of a popular anti-allergy therapy and those who supply a critical diabetes medication.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has replied to Bloomberg News Service that, so far, in 2017, it has recorded 228 reports of EpiPen or EpiPen Jr. failures, and the failure of EpiPens to deploy correctly has been cited in seven deaths through mid-September.

The agency said it is monitoring closely these “adverse event complaints.” These are unconfirmed reports that do not necessarily tie a product to a harm. But they might constitute sufficient grounds to investigate further and to potentially order product recalls, though, so far, the FDA says it believes patients can keep using EpiPens on the market without worry.

trumpdrugs-300x177As the Republican-controlled Congress rams through a national budget and a package of changes to the tax system, President Trump and his partisans are staying true to course. They’re determined to slash taxes for the rich, even if they only half-heartedly tackle one of the biggest public health crises in decades, and if they inflict great harms on the health of the poor, sick, young, and old.

In answer to long and increasing criticism, Trump finally declared the opioid drug abuse epidemic a “public health emergency” (with zero new dollars in spending)  but not a “national emergency,” which would have opened the door for millions in new spending.  He scored points with some commentators with his discussion of how alcoholism destroyed his older brother Fred’s life, and, how his brother’s advice and example had kept him from any temptations of substance abuse. (He also reminded critics of ineffectual “Just say no” anti-drug campaigns.)

But for all his pronouncements, the president’s actions fell short of what many anti-drug experts and advocates had hoped would be White House leadership against opioids abuse and overdose deaths, a scourge that has claimed almost 60,000 lives since 2016.

eyedropWhether it happens in the drip, drip, drip of costly eye drops or it occurs in the flash of a pricey imaging scan, patients get gouged by modern medicine’s wasteful practices. The inefficiencies can be traced to many and different causes. But Americans need to keep asking whether they can allow or tolerate profit-seeking enterprises to keep getting bigger and ever more expensive.

It’s good to see that two online news organizations, Vox and Pro Publica, are digging into soaring costs for medical goods and services.

Vox is aiming to crowd-source some of its investigation, and it has tantalized its audience with a motivating source of outrage—a story detailing a sky-high bill for a 30-minute imaging scan for Elodie Fowler, an ailing 3-year-old girl. The site says her parents got socked with a $25,000 tab for her test. That sum was far higher than they expected, even after they researched and shopped around to find their most affordable option, given their insurance and various providers operating the service.

trumphealtheo-300x205President Trump has made good on his promise to try to blow up the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. His latest, twin executive actions seek to gut the national health insurance program that Republicans have reviled but could not unwind with seven years of congressional action.

If the American health care system was rocky before, and if it breaks, Trump and the GOP now own it, analysts insist. That’s because the president, effectively, has officially given the nation Trumpcare, though it, too, has an uncertain path ahead.

Although partisans had vowed that their ACA repeal and replacement would result in better, more affordable, and more accessible health coverage for Americans, Trumpcare goes nowhere close to any of those goals, experts say.

lindsey-300x200
As the 40th President of the United States used to mutter, well, there they go again.

The Republicans in the 115th Congress apparently will make another go at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, what may be their 70-something such try. It may come in the form of legislation advanced by GOP Senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

The so-called Graham-Cassidy bill, which analysts say would slash tens of millions of Americans from health coverage, cut tens of billions of dollars in federal aid for health care, and convert the ACA into state-controlled block grant funding, must overcome major obstacles to advance.

Heroin-Fentanyl-vials-NHSPFL-1600x900-300x169A Missouri  Senator has accused Insys Therapeutics, a major drug maker, of conducting a sneaky campaign to get more pain-wracked cancer patients to use its synthetic and super powerful opioid drug, thus helping to fuel the wildfire spread of increasingly lethal and debilitating prescription pain killers.

Sen. Claire McCaskill and investigators from a Senate committee, as well as federal prosecutors, have painted a harsh picture of how Insys created a special unit to boost sales and use of Subsys, its spray form of the potent painkiller fentanyl.

Through an elaborate ruse—which included carefully crafted scripts and bogus phone numbers—Insys workers contacted prescription benefit management (PBM) firms, making them believe they were patients seeking a required pre-approval for their doctors to prescribe them Subsys.

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