Articles Posted in Primary Care

blocks-kid-with-thomas-eakins-300x177Moms, dads, grandparents and many others will fork over a lot of money for pricey toys this holiday season. But the doctors who care for children have timely shopping advice: Don’t throw away hard-earned dollars on fancy electronics. Instead, look for simple, tried-and-true toys.

Items like dolls, cars, blocks, crayons, and easy games may be more beneficial to youngsters than blinking, whirring, flashing, e-gizmos, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, a group representing more than 60,000 doctors who care for kids.

The group said in a detailed policy guidance that youngsters need to learn to be social and to stretch their imaginations. Toys that are basic, sturdy, and safe help them do this more so than expensive, complex products.

admitting-300x210Federal regulators have warned nursing homes nationwide to improve the quality and safety of their patient care or face consequences that operators may hasten to heed. That’s because new penalties and rewards will hit them in a place that counts — their pocketbooks.

Two-thirds of the nation’s nursing homes will see a year’s worth of their Medicare funding reduced, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service (KHN) reported, “based on how often their residents ended up back in hospitals within 30 days of leaving.”

KHN said that:

actelion-300x110Patients now have more than half a billion reasons to wonder whether advocacy groups that purport to speak up for the special needs of folks with diseases and conditions like theirs really do so. Or has Big Pharma corrupted these organizations with cash?

The New York Times reported Actelion Pharmaceuticals, now owned by Johnson & Johnson, agreed to pay a $360 million settlement in an investigation by federal prosecutors of the firm’s allegedly funneling kickbacks through a charity that claimed to assist patients with the cost of drug co-payments. This case involved financial exchanges connected with pricey medications to treat a rare lung disease.

But the newspaper said it was just the latest of several such matters involving Big Pharma and patient advocacy and charity groups in which prosecutors sought to ferret out “contributions” designed to help makers plump up prices for already expensive products:

Although Good Samaritans deserve a great holiday cheer for their part in paying for some of it, medical debt persists as a giant shame of the American health care system. Doctors, hospitals, insurers, Big Pharma, and other providers and suppliers need to step up to shrink the financial burdens of medical care that crush far too many patients and their loved ones.

Judith Jones and Carolyn Kenyon, two retired friends in Ithaca, N.Y., raised $12,500 that they donated to a charitable group. It buys bundled, past-due medical bills and forgives them to help those in need. That became a powerful gift, as RIP Medical Debt leveraged it, buying for a penny on the dollar or so, a portfolio of obligations exceeding $1.5 million.

cjrbriefingbook-300x188Facts matter, and, when amassed in a smart way, they can paint a powerful and accurate picture of reality, as is made clear with findings presented in the annual “Briefing Book” on medical malpractice from the Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School.

As the Kentucky Supreme Court recently affirmed when it slapped down an attempt in the Bluegrass state to “reform” medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and insurers too readily embrace and spread counter-factual notions about patients who seek in the civil justice system remedies for harms they have suffered while seeking medical services.

It’s our fundamental, guaranteed right to pursue such claims, the justices affirmed — and the CJ&D experts have put together research to show that medical malpractice cases don’t happen often but are valuable in protecting the quality and safety of all patients’ care.

allchildrens-300x220When big hospitals aim to get even more giant, they do so at risk of the quality of care they offer to their patients — and they can do much damage to their brand and hard-to-repair reputations. That may be a reality that elite Johns Hopkins may be discovering.

The Tampa Bay Times deserves credit for its detailed take-down of the “internationally renowned,” Baltimore-based medical institution for the deaths and harms suffered by child heart patients at All Children’s hospital in Florida. Johns Hopkins took it over, and, according to the newspaper, within a half dozen years made a debacle of its well-regarded pediatric heart surgery program, which worsened until youngsters were dying at a “stunning rate.”

As the newspaper reported, based on a year’s investigation of the All Children’s program:

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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb

If the federal Food and Drug Administration expected any public goodwill for putting forward long-term proposals to change a fundamental way that medical devices win agency clearance, forget about it.

Instead, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and lawmakers should be reeling still from a salvo of news organization investigations into unacceptable ways that patients in this country and around the planet suffer pain, injury, and other harms from products that go in or on the body. Under industry pressure and spurred by pro-business lawmakers, the FDA, the investigations show, has exercised a weak, poor, and unacceptable oversight of medical devices, including:

HCGopen19-300x200Political partisans are whipping ahead with their Grinch-like views about public support of any kind for health care for less affluent Americans — and now the nation’s children are bearing the brunt of mean-spirited policies.

Georgetown University reported that for the first time in almost a decade, the number of children lacking health coverage increased, with roughly a quarter of a million more youngsters uninsured this year versus last.

Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families, which has issued authoritative data on kids’ and health insurance, told NPR the increase of uninsured children is unacceptable, adding, “The nation is going backwards on insuring kids and it is likely to get worse.”

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NY Atty Gen Barbara Underwood

Profit-hungry hospitals have dived to some real lows in billing and mistreating patients. Seven New York facilities have gotten slapped down by the state attorney general for breaking the law by charging more than 200 women anywhere from $46 to $2,892 for collecting evidence that the patients may have been raped.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, whose office conducted a year-long investigation of the abuses of state laws aimed at protecting victims of sexual violence, said in a statement, quoted by the New York Times: “Survivors of sexual assault have already gone through unfathomable trauma. To then subject them to illegal bills and collection calls is unconscionable.”

Hospitals keep getting bigger, but how about better for their patients, too? The data suggest that the prices they charge are rising in part due to industry consolidation, but consumers also need to be extra skeptical of national, direct-to-patient appeals about the advantages of various institutions.

Credit is due to the New York Times for scrutinzing the frenzy of hospital mergers and consolidations that now exert huge sway over patients’ choices, care, and costs:

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