Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

insurersPP-300x296Patients who expect their health insurer will work in their interests to contain costs by medical providers might just as well hope for assistance from leprechauns, unicorns, or the tooth fairy.

Marshall Allen, a reporter for the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site ProPublica, has just penned a strong myth-busting piece, cross-posted on the National Public Radio site, about health insurers, writing:

The United States spends more per person on health care than any other country does. A lot more. As a country, by many measures, we are not getting our money’s worth. Tens of millions remain uninsured. And millions are in financial peril: About 1 in 5 is currently being pursued by a collection agency over medical debt. Health care costs repeatedly top the list of consumers’ financial concerns. Experts frequently blame this on the high prices charged by doctors and hospitals. But less scrutinized is the role insurance companies — the middlemen between patients and those providers — play in boosting our health care tab. Widely perceived as fierce guardians of health care dollars, insurers, in many cases, aren’t. In fact, they often agree to pay high prices, then, one way or another, pass those high prices on to patients — all while raking in healthy profits.

suicide-300x154Moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, and coaches all may need to increase even more the attention and concern they devote to teen-agers, especially young women, as hospitals and emergency rooms report dramatic increases in their treatment of youthful suicides.

Multiple news organizations reported that, as the New York Times noted, “the proportion of emergency room and hospital encounters for …  suicide-related diagnoses almost tripled, from 0.66 percent in 2008 to 1.82 percent in 2015. And the rate of increase was highest among adolescent girls.”

NPR reported: “Children ages 5 to 17 visited children’s hospitals for suicidal thoughts or attempts about twice as often in 2015 as in 2008.”

nags-300x166If you can get your favorite sports fans peeled away from the latest broadcast pro event  ─ whether it’s the basketball playoffs, hockey championship series, golf tourneys, or the heating up baseball season ─  a conversation of sorts could be sparked by dropping numbers on them. See what kind of rise you can get by telling them their data-driven obsession with improving their own athletic performance may be built on shoddy calculation.

In the “Moneyball,” statistics’ crazy world of contemporary sports and athletic fandom, that statement could be heretical. But the numbers-driven folks at the web site “528” deserve credit for digging into a popular but dubious approach employed by researchers in sports medical science: Magnitude-based inference, aka MBI. Their article’s worth a read, especially for wonks and the numerically inclined. For those who are less so, here’s a taste of what’s at stake, as 528 reported:

At first blush, the studies look reasonable enough. Low-intensity stretching seems to reduce muscle soreness. Beta-alanine supplements may boost performance in water polo players. Isokinetic strength training could improve swing kinematics in golfers. Foam rollers can reduce muscle soreness after exercise. The problem: All of these studies shared a statistical analysis method unique to sports science. And that method is severely flawed.

medicare-300x109Callous institutional inertia can allow dangerous doctors to keep harming patients. But media digging deserves credit for raising needed alarms when professional caregivers and others fail to step up to protect individuals as disparate as taxpayers, seniors, coeds, and heart transplant recipients.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and MedPage Today performed a public service, reporting that they found more than 200 doctors nationwide who surrendered a license, had one revoked, or were excluded from state-paid health care rolls in the previous five years  but somehow remained on the federal Medicare rolls in 2015.

This meant the problem doctors could keep bad practices afloat, in part because Uncle Sam ─ that’s taxpayers like you and me ─ paid these hundreds of MDs $25.8 million to care for seniors, among the nation’s most vulnerable patients.

affordability-300x291As the nation churns toward the midterm elections, the Trump Administration has sent stark messages to voters about how they may wish to respond to Republicans’ unceasing attacks on health care and health insurance for the middle class and the poor.

The failed campaign to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and the follow on steps, administratively and as part of the $1.5 trillion tax bill that benefited rich corporations and the wealthiest Americans, likely will hit Virginia and Maryland residents hard if they’re seeking health coverage under the ACA.

The two states are among the first to report insurers’ requested rate increases for 2019 — and the increases will be significant, reported Modern Health Care, a trade industry publication, which said:

smoky-300x225It may not come as much more than a duh factor to  nonsmokers with roomies with a heavy cigarette habit, but medical scientists are expressing growing concern about risks posed by “third hand” smoke, residual films left on all manner of environments and surfaces by burning tobacco, close and far.

Multiple media outlets reported on the growing evidence on this potential harm, notably as detailed in a study published in the journal Science Advances. The research, conducted almost by chance, “shows how tobacco smoke from outdoor air can seep into a nonsmoking classroom and coat its surfaces, and how those hazardous chemicals often become airborne again and circulate throughout buildings via central air-conditioning systems,” the Washington Post said.

The newspaper reported that indoor and outdoor air experts at Drexel University in Philadelphia had teamed up and happened to sample surfaces from an empty classroom near their testing lab. They were intrigued to find chemical traces they could not explain, and which they first thought might be tied to coffee spills. But sleuthing led them to determine the residues were from nicotine and tobacco smoke, which only could have been carried into the space by air conditioning or supposed fresh air breezes.

Did you hear it? Was that a giant sigh of relief by Big Pharma executives around the globe? Or was it the air deflating from any Americans who still had high expectations that President Trump, as he had promised for more than a year, really would offer a quick, powerful, and effective public policy prescription to slash skyrocketing drug prices?

The stock market made a big bet that Big Pharma would do just fine, sending drug manufacturer stocks higher.

maternalmorbidity-300x193Here is a  sobering public health angle on Mother’s Day.

Experts on international health and development, including the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent and columnist Nick Kristof, long have argued that a key way to major improvements in distant lands rests in boosting the lot of women and girls. It’s an issue that clearly also needs attention closer to home.

National Public Radio and Pro Publica, a Pulitzer-winning investigative site, deserve yet more credit for their continuing dig into a shame of contemporary American health care — why U.S. mothers die in childbirth at a far higher rate than in all other developed countries. Their latest disturbing reporting focuses on some unacceptable numbers:

hitrun-300x248As traffic snarls grow and public transit headaches multiply, commuters in the nation’s capital and elsewhere may be deciding to be healthier and to hoof it or pedal their way to work. But other folks aren’t making alternative means of transportation safer or better for pedestrians or bike riders.

Hit-and-run crash deaths are soaring across the country with walkers and bicyclists victimized in almost 70 percent of the street wrecks, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported. The foundation said its study has shown that:  “More than one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads … These resulted in 2,049 deaths in 2016 – the highest number on record and a 60 percent increase since 2009.”

Motorists clearly need to take greater caution and exercise more patience in sharing streets  with those on foot and bikes, foundation officials noted, adding that the need to do so has skyrocketed as more Americans choose for health and other reasons to get around in time-tried ways that also can improve individual wellness.

deductibles-300x199More than 18 million U.S. adults and 6 million children have asthma, a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows airways and causes recurring wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.

How and why Big Pharma jacked up prices for one of the common treatments for this disease tells a key story of not only the difficulty in controlling skyrocketing drug costs but also drug makers’ willingness and capacities to exploit an affliction that costs the country more than $56 billion annually and hits hard at the young, poor, minorities, and the under- or un-insured.

Good Rx, a website led by three technology entrepreneurs who say they want to help Americans with soaring drug costs, deserves credit for reporting on its blog the story of asthma inhalers, and how Big Pharma has kept pushing ever higher the price for them.

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