Articles Posted in Primary Care

cashrain-300x225Politicians almost by reflex decry the skyrocketing cost of U.S. health care by blaming much of it on waste, fraud, abuse. They, alas, really may be on to something, newly published research shows.

Health care experts, including a medical leader of health insurer Humana, “combed through 54 studies and reports published since 2012 that estimated the waste or savings from changes in practice and policy,” leading them to some jaw-dropping calculations about how well spent is the $3.5 trillion or so that Americans drop on health care, the New York Times reported.

Answer: Really badly. The researchers, in their published work, estimated that 20%-25% of American health care spending is wasteful. That turns into giant sums, fast, as the newspaper reported, including:

Risperdal-300x150When regular citizens get together in the civil justice system to deliberate difficult claims about complex matters, they may not get everything just right to the satisfaction of the disputing parties. But jurors’ wisdom and findings should not be taken lightly, especially by Big Pharma.

That’s why Johnson & Johnson — and other drug makers — may want to heed the message in a just-announced $8-billion verdict in a Philadelphia courtroom in a case involving a young Baltimore patient and Risperdal, a prescription antipsychotic medication.

It’s true that the whopping award to Nicholas Murray, now 26, likely will be reduced, probably substantially for J&J, a company that has built its brand on being “family friendly.”

eatingseniors-300x131To the myriad struggles that residents of nursing homes endure, from poor health to inattentive staff, add this new one:  “crappy conditions” in kitchens and other areas where their food gets prepared and served.

Marjie Lundstrom, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, conducted a five-month, nationwide investigation for the consumer web site Fair Warning, with the results also shared by NBC News. The dirty dig found this about nursing home food prep:

“Flies buzzing the under cooked hamburgers. Cockroaches scurrying for cover behind the oven. A moldy ice machine. Mystery debris, clinging to the crevices of a meat slicer. Hundreds of mouse droppings, trailing across the hood of the stove. These incidents are not logged in any restaurant inspector’s notebook. They are among the thousands of food safety violations discovered in the last three years in America’s nursing homes, where fragile residents can least tolerate such lapses. While allegations of elder abuse and neglect dominate the horror stories in long-term care settings — bedsores, falls, medication errors, sexual assaults — food handling remains a consistent and often overlooked hazard …”

carteslasummon-300x225Technology advocates may be ignoring due cautions as they put software ahead of safety in the push to make the vehicles of today and tomorrow more self-driving (aka autonomous).

Car and truck owners, safety advocates warn, should proceed with care before relying on automatic emergency braking systems, especially as they purport to safeguard pedestrians. Restraint also may be the watchword for a new feature that allows a luxe electric car to be “summoned” to its driver, shifting out of a parked position and navigating short distances on its own.

The American Automobile Association reported that it sought to get ahead of the curve by subjecting the new automatic emergency braking systems to track tests in mid-sized sedans of their safety applications under “real world” conditions. The outcomes were worrisome, AAA found:

Tens of millions of Americans may have been startled in recent days by the much-publicized pulling from the shelves of widely used drugs like ranitidine (aka Zantac), an over-the-counter heartburn remedy, and select lots of the prescription blood-pressure medications losartan, valsartan and irbesartan.

The actions occurred after cancer-causing chemicals known as nitrosamines — N-Nitroso-N-methyl-4-aminobutyric acid, or NMBA, and N-Nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA— were detected in them.

broillondonwikipedia-300x225The elite of public health organizations are up in arms about a new report from a group of international researchers who looked at red meat and its health benefits and harms, and more or less shrugged. The new take goes like this, reported the New York Times:

“If there are health benefits from eating less beef and pork, they are small, the researchers concluded. Indeed, the advantages are so faint that they can be discerned only when looking at large populations, the scientists said, and are not sufficient to tell individuals to change their meat-eating habits.”

That view, of course, contradicts what public health and nutrition experts have recommended for years, and so blue-chip health outfits like the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health condemned the researchers for supporting what now may be akin to a health heresy.

careforsuicide-300x154Dogged medical detective work combined with public advocacy to dispel the shame that surrounds suicide — these may be productive ways to attack the public health nightmare of increasing numbers of Americans taking their own lives.

This is a crisis that can’t be hidden or allowed to keep going up, with some experts estimating that roughly 47,000 Americans commit suicide annually. That’s about 129 lives lost each day. Suicide, hitting a record-setting pace, also is a significant problem for the U.S. military.

If you are in crisis or know someone who may be, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741741. Both work 24/7. More resources are available at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.

costemployerinsurance2019-300x169Millions of Americans may sigh at Bertha, Barney, or Betty, or whatever they’ve nicknamed the beat-up family vehicle parked out front: “Wouldn’t it be great, if only we could afford a nicer, newer model?”

A big obstacle to that wish, however, may be the increasingly costly and unaffordable health insurance they get at their workplace. New research finds that the annual premium for family coverage  — forked over mostly by companies but also by workers — now averages $20,576, according to an annual survey by the nonprofit, independent Kaiser Family Foundation.

Drew Altman, chief executive of the group, commented to the Wall Street Journal about the spiking burden of workplace coverage: “It’s a milestone. It’s the cost of buying an economy car, just buying it every year.”

There seems to be a never-ending outbreak of a certain kind of pathology in the United States. Big Pharma has it and spreads it around, a lot. So, too, do public health figures. Let’s call this scourge what it is — unmitigated gall.

The problem with this nasty condition is that it afflicts the rest of us. Just consider how stomach-churning these shenanigans can be:

Penalties for bogus prescribing of ‘little red pills’ on elderly dementia patients

bernie-225x300Critics have attacked Sen. Bernie Sanders for his proposal to wipe out $81 billion in medical debt, including by changing rules around debt collection and bankruptcy. He also called for “replacing the giant credit reporting agencies with a ‘public credit registry’ that would ignore medical debt when calculating credit scores,” reported the New York Times.

Well, there he goes again, with interesting but hard to execute ideas, critics replied to Sanders’ medical debt idea, dissecting it to pieces.

But dig into some of the news articles and important realities flare up. Even his critics concede that medical debt has become a nightmare for too many Americans, contributing in unacceptable fashion to family stress and anxiety and, more importantly, adding to the nightmare of medical bankruptcy.

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