Articles Posted in Primary Care

fdamattholman-150x150The ink was barely dry on statements from the head of the federal Food and Drug Administration about a planned external, independent review of the agency’s tobacco oversight division when one of its top regulators created a personnel stink of his own.

Matt Holman, chief of the office of science in FDA’s much-criticized Center for Tobacco Products, ended his 20-year government career.

He quit — to go to work for Philip Morris International, the global tobacco conglomerate and maker of Marlboros.

logoteva-300x115Big Pharma has run into a rare rough summer — and that could be positive news for all the rest of us regular folks. Just how? Consider:

debtnprkhnnursinghomesuits-247x300When seniors need full-time institutional care, or when the injured or debilitated require similar 24/7 attention, loved ones — and even friends — must take care to read and re-read any documents that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities shove before them to sign during the stressful admissions process.

That’s because the owners and operators of the facilities soon may create a financial nightmare for the unwitting document signers, fueling what is the huge shame of the U.S. health care system: medical debt.

Most regular folks might think that the financial obligations incurred in long-term care facilities rightly belong to the adult residents. They’re 21 and older, and unlike minor kids carted into urgent, or emergency rooms for treatment, the residents typically have, until their situations suddenly shift, been responsible, including legally, for their lives and personal business.

charity2-150x150Play this one out in your mind: a guy you know at church — he’ll be the first to let you know he makes $200,000 a year — tells you about how he gave to charity a junker car worth not more than $4,600 (2% of his income). Now what’s your reaction if you learn this guy got thousands of dollars in tax breaks for that giving?

Is this savvy business conduct? Or does it make you sputter even while sitting in the pews on Sunday?

Now multiply the sums involved, exponentially, and it should be cause for questions anew about the nation’s hospitals and their charitable care. As the Wall Street Journal reported of its dive into the institutions’ required federal disclosures:

cdcoverdosedeaths-300x175The opioid drug abuse and overdose crisis is not only smashing fatality records, it also is slamming poorer people and communities of color and taking a savage toll on younger black Americans.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has analyzed data from Washington, D.C., and 25 states, finding in its study published online, as the New York Times reported:

“Overall, overdose deaths jumped 30% from 2019 to 2020 … Deaths among black people rose 44%, about twice the increase in deaths among white people (22%) or Hispanic people (21%). Deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives increased 39%. Measured as a portion of the population, in 2020, deaths among black people were higher than in any other racial or ethnic group — 39 per 100,000, compared with 31 for white people, 36 for American Indian and Alaska Native people and 21 for Hispanic people. ‘The disproportionate increase in overdose death rates among blacks and American Indian and Alaska Native people may partly be due to health inequities, like unequal access to substance use treatment and treatment biases,’ said Dr. Debra Houry, acting principal deputy director of the CDC.”

charges-150x150Consumers should brace themselves for increasing costs of yet another key component of most families’ budgets: the price of health insurance premiums. Even if Congress can’t get its act together to extend coronavirus pandemic-related subsidies for millions of Americans covered under Obamacare, insurers in individual marketplaces across 13 states and Washington, D.C., are looking to raise rates an average of 10% next year.

Those are the annual findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which scrutinized preliminary rate submissions for Affordable Care Act policies sold on public marketplaces in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Washington state, the AP reported.

The foundation offered a key footnote to its early warning about spikes in the cost of health coverage, which for several years now had remained low:

DawnOConnellASPR-150x150califf-150x150While most regular folks wouldn’t give a hill of beans about the organization of bureaucracies in Washington, D.C., frustrated taxpayers should be taking note of seismic rumblings about restructurings that are shaking some of the biggest, most powerful, and influential federal health agencies.

Biden Administration officials, in one of their notable moves, have announced that responses to pandemics and other public health crises will be led now by a separate, independent division within the sprawling Health and Human Services agency.

While officials hastened to say that the 1,000-person Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, or ASPR, will work hand-in-glove with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC clearly is taking its lumps for the shambolic course it took, starting in the previous administration, in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

monkeypoxNIAID-300x259The worldwide struggle to contain a fast-spreading outbreak of monkeypox took on new urgency, with the World Health Organization declaring a global emergency and U.S. experts discussing whether the  viral infection is becoming yet another significant sexually transmitted disease that this country is ill-prepared to quell.

The WHO declaration, by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, divided experts, some of whom were critical about the already pokey response to monkeypox or by others who said it was misguided.

Dr. Tedros conceded that the committee that advises him on global health emergencies had met twice, declining once to issue its alarm about the current monkeypox spread and then deadlocking on the issue. The WHO director used his authority to issue the emergency declaration, citing data showing that more than 16,500 cases have been reported in 75 countries.

ahaessential8-300x267 Get some sleep!

That’s not just a late-night nudge for the kids from their parents.  It is strong new advice patients will hear from their cardiologists and other doctors, as the American Heart Association has added sleep to its list of important ways for folks to avoid cardiovascular conditions, stay healthier, and live longer, the Washington Post reported.

The association has focused on behavioral and other factors for a time now to battle the leading cause of death in this country: heart disease. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that almost 700,000 Americans died of heart disease in 2020. The ailment costs the country $230 billion annually. The heart association experts added sleep to the “Life’s Essential 8” list of safeguards, reporting this in an article published in a medical journal:

suicidehotlineFederal officials have launched a new 988 number for callers with suicidal thoughts or other mental health emergencies, hoping that the public adopts this three-digit alternative and finds it as familiar and useful as 911 has become for medical and other urgent help needs.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which those in distress could reach by calling 800-273-TALK (8255) or texting HOME to 741741, will keep operating for a time.

But mental health advocates say they hope 988 soon will become embedded in the public consciousness as the line to call 24/7 to tap into resources — many of them which will rely more on individual states — for what have become big needs. Hannah Wesolowski, chief advocacy officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nationwide grass-roots group, told the Washington Post this about the new hotline:

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