- Medical debt, one of the disgraces of the world’s most expensive health care in the planet’s wealthiest nations, has spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic. A consumer finance firm recently found that its 22 million members carry $45 billion in bills owed to providers and in collections. With the coronavirus also staggering the economy, bankrupting medical debt is only likely to skyrocket as the nation’s 30 million jobless exhaust their finances and lose health insurance from their work.
- Health insurance offers one of the few widely available means for ordinary folks to try to protect themselves and their loved ones from seeing their finances destroyed by illness or injury. But new U.S. Census data, describing a time before the pandemic, shows that “the first three years of President Trump’s tenure were a period of contracting health insurance coverage,” the Washington Post reported. “The decreases reversed gains that began near the end of the Great Recession and accelerated during early years of expanded access to health plans and Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act — the sprawling law that was a signature domestic achievement of President Barack Obama and has been derided by Republicans, including Trump, ever since.” Just under 30 million Americans were uninsured — 1 in 10 of us, with the numbers rising by several million over the last several years of the Trump term.
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities now account for around 62,000 coronavirus deaths, 42% of the country’s total. So how is it possible that, months into the pandemic, owners and operators keep failing to fix well-known infection-control basics, like mixing healthy and infected residents and allowing poorly paid staffers to work at multiple facilities, carrying the disease from each to each?
On a side note, is it any comfort to frightened nursing home residents and outraged loved ones that Seema Verma, the nation’s chief regulator of long-term facilities, has obsessed, with taxpayer money, of course, on her image and public relations — spending on girls’ night bashes and face time with well-heeled patrons in her own party?
The independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service deserves credit for piecing together various information sources to raise significant questions about not only nursing homes and long term care facilities but also hospitals and the care giving institutions’ infection-control procedures — notably whether, with all medical science knows now about Covid-19, facilities appropriately separate and isolate individuals with coronavirus diagnoses from others uninfected.
The Covid-19 pandemic has complicated the already difficult efforts to combat substance abuse: New reports affirm how opioid abuse and drug overdoses are soaring, and vaping, while showing favorable declines for the first time in years, also may be creating a hard-core group of nicotine-addicted young people.
With powerful painkillers, the Wall Street Journal reported:
“Counties in states spanning the country, from Washington to Arizona and Florida, are reporting rising drug fatalities this year … This follows a likely record number of deadly overdoses in the U.S. last year, with more than 72,000 people killed, according to federal projections.”
It could be a good thing that the product’s makers — Oxford University and AstraZeneca — followed medical-scientific protocols and paused their Phase III clinical trial due to a participant’s unexplained illness.
Officially, the company offered spare information about the occurrence, especially because it affects the private medical information of a single individual.
Although many fans will be sad that football won’t dominate their lives as it usually does in the months after Labor Day, the pandemic-related constriction, postponement, and cancellation of so many prep and collegiate sports may have an upside: It likely will add to declines in the need for urgent care for dangerous and damaging head injuries.
Public awareness has soared about the risks of such trauma, with preventive measures leading to a sharp dip in the emergency department visits for sports- and recreation-related injuries to children and adolescents, federal researchers have found.
Their study for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was based on data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System–All Injury Program from 2001 to 2018. Early in that time period, young people’s ED trips peaked at “411 per 100,000 youths aged 17 years or younger in 2012 before declining by 32% to 299 per 100,000 by 2018,” journalist Bridget M. Kuehn wrote in an online article for the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Trump Administration — yet again — has sowed confusion, frustration, and anger over the federal response to the Covid-19 pandemic, creating potentially harmful credibility issues for a prospective coronavirus vaccine, the scientific concept of “herd immunity,” a possible blood-based treatment for the illness, as well as testing, contact tracing, and quarantines for the disease.
The White House follies would be considered bad farce, save for the reality that the U.S. death toll races toward 200,000 and infections have skyrocketed past 6 million. The U.S. has 22 percent of the world’s Covid death toll, but only 4 percent of the world’s population.
With schools reopening, infections, hospitalizations, and deaths among children are on the rise.
What the White House wants, it apparently will get — even if that hangs out to dry the prized nonpartisan reputations of the Federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The political meddling and leadership errors at two of the nation’s premier health agencies, critics say, will have disconcerting effects on the nation’s well-being, notably on science- and evidence-based efforts to combat the toll of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Those numbers keep soaring and changing almost as fast as they can be typed: 180,000-plus Americans have been killed by novel coronavirus, which also has infected more than 5.9 million of us in a little more than half a year.
Voters keep sending Republicans — in statehouses, Congress, and the White House — a clear message: Americans want affordable, accessible health insurance, most notably as offered under the GOP-loathed Affordable Care Act, and especially for the poor and working poor via Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid.
This issue, if anything, may be rising in importance to the U.S. electorate as the Covid-19 pandemic rages without check and millions of Americans wrestle with pervasive joblessness that wiped out many people’s health insurance coverage.
Just weeks after voters in red Oklahoma backed a state constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid and narrowly defied the opposition of powerful GOP politicians who have dominated their state, residents of the “Show Me” state of Missouri showed up in force to approve Missouri’s expansion of the program coverage, by a 53% to 47% margin.
It isn’t just the testing for the novel coronavirus that has already anxious Americans upset these days. Controversies also are swirling around existing and developing ways for experts to screen older patients for cognitive decline, namely dementia and its most familiar form, Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60%-80% of dementia cases, is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States overall and the fifth leading cause of death for those age 65 and older, researchers say. Medical scientists have engaged in furious efforts for a while now to determine the condition’s causes and to create treatments for it — a response that is sorely lacking now.
But the New York Times reported that experts believe they are nearing a better way to screen and diagnose the illness using the blood rather than current “expensive methods like PET scans of the brain and spinal taps for cerebrospinal fluid.” As reporter Pam Belluck wrote:
It may be surprising that the questions went unasked before. The outcomes may be less than shocking. But patients, in a new and nationally representative survey, have told hospitals to bug off with their relentless grubbing for donations from the people they care for.
Doctors and ethicists long have been wary of the huge energy that big hospitals and major academic medical centers sink in to soliciting donations and how institutions’ policies and practices for fundraising may sully public perceptions that medicine is about money and not science or compassionate care, the New York Times reported.
And while medical philanthropy has become an important and central concern of many hospitals and academic centers, driving big and booming “advancement” operations and wrapping doctors into dollar-raising moves, researchers had not delved until now into patients’ thinking.