walmartlogo-300x117Walmart has offered to pay $3.1 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits filed against the deep-pocketed retailing giant, accusing it of complicity through its nationwide pharmacy operations in the lethal opioid abuse and overdose crisis.

The Bentonville, Ark., -based company insists it committed no wrong and the states, counties, cities, Indian tribes, and others who sued Walmart said it did not have as large a part as other pharmacy chains in inundating the country with powerful, prescribed painkillers.

Still, Walmart joins CVS and Walgreens in settling rather than confronting those who have found sustained success in seeking justice in the civil system, various news organizations have reported.

savings-150x150Just how much do you love the company for which you work? Is it enough to want to fork over hundreds or even thousands of dollars that you could spend to benefit the health of you and your loved ones?

Before the hectic holidays engulf us all, your personal finances can benefit if you check your 2022 health care spending, especially taking account of sums you may have set aside in special accounts offered through your employer.

These are known as Health Care Flexible Spending Accounts, aka FSAs. As the federal government defines and explains them to its own employees:

ciggy-166x300Consumers, politicians, and federal regulators should not make the mistake of thinking that Big Tobacco somehow will go, as the poet put it, quietly into that good night.

The fortunes are still too big to be made in peddling products that persist as some of the greatest preventable threats to Americans’ health, industry players keep reminding us all — most recently by suing to block California voters upholding a ban of flavored tobacco and by taking a last-minute investors’ reprieve to reorganize a pioneering vaping company that was on the brink of bankruptcy.

The Golden State had not even finished tallying its midterm 2022 votes when RJ Reynolds marched into federal court to challenge the newly and overwhelmingly approved referendum to allow a two-year-old state law to take effect barring within weeks the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products. As the New York Times reported:

ACEP-300x98Almost three dozen leading groups representing a range of doctors, specialists, and other health workers have called on the Biden Administration to deal urgently with the long-running but increasing and dangerous practice of hospitals allowing their emergency care facilities to be overwhelmed because they also are parking patients waiting for rooms and treatment.

This “boarding” crisis, already at breaking points for many exhausted ER staffs, will worsen and imperil patients even more if the nation gets hit — as growing indicators suggest is occurring — with a “tripledemic,” a choking load of coronavirus, flu, and other respiratory infections serious enough to require hospitalization.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (38,000 members), has been joined by the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, American Academy of Emergency Medicine (8,000 members) and groups representing family doctors, allergists, anesthesiologists, radiologists, osteopaths, psychiatrists, and many others in a recent letter to the administration, reporting:

voting-150x150Voters from coast to coast made decisions last week not just about which candidates to favor but also about an array of health-related concerns from abortion to health insurance expansion to legalized ways to get high.

Women’s reproductive rights: a big deal

A major motivator in the 2022 midterm elections was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to abolish the constitutional right to abortion and leave it to the states to decide women’s reproductive health rights.

charitycarehospitalskff-300x209Already sick, injured, and debilitated by age and other circumstance, U.S. patient-consumers get battered with misleading information from shady firms about insurance coverage under the Medicare program and with too little word from hospitals about too spare charitable care that could help the beleaguered with bankrupting medical bills.

Democratic investigators for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee have ripped outfits hustling private Medicare plans to seniors, saying that companies have, among other sketchy practices uncovered, “posed as the Internal Revenue Service and other government agencies, misled customers about the size of their networks, and preyed on vulnerable people with dementia and cognitive impairment,” the New York Times reported.

The investigators said they have cataloged dubious behaviors by vendors in 14 states of Medicare Advantage programs. The newspaper earlier has reported those health plans have become a highly lucrative line of business for insurers. They overstate how sick their patients are to put a bigger bite on taxpayers’ financial support of health coverage for those 65 and older, with Advantage plans enrolling a huge chunk of seniors now.

pulseoximeter-150x150Until the coronavirus pandemic struck, few regular folks knew about pulse oximeters, much less had one on hand for urgent use. The devices, which fit over a finger, are supposed to give fast readings on the levels of oxygen in patients’ blood — a key measure of their respiratory wellness.

But the devices, whether in relatively inexpensive consumer versions or in medical-grade units used in doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals, are far from perfect. They suffer major inaccuracies when used by those with darker skin.

Federal regulators have known about this flaw for years. But at a time when patients, families, doctors, and hospitals relied on the devices routinely to make critical treatment decisions affecting those struggling with likely coronavirus infections, an information chasm opened. Doctors urged people to pop by drug stores and other retailers to pick up the devices, saying that they could be helpful in letting them know when their oxygen levels were dipping in concerning enough fashion that they should seek emergency treatment.

walgreenslogo-150x150cvslogo-150x150While critics keep throwing up a false narrative about “ambulance chasing,” self-enriching lawyers, their labors and the civil legal system have proven yet again their effectiveness in wringing financial justice for those harmed by health care giants.

The nation’s largest pharmacy chains have tentatively agreed to pay $10 billion in settlements for dispensing an avalanche of addictive, debilitating, and deadly prescription painkillers.

CVS and Walgreens, which had been among the staunchest holdouts in battling opioid litigation, both defended their business practices and denied any wrongdoing. They blamed doctors for excessive prescribing of powerful opioid drugs, which, federal officials say, fueled an abuse and overdose crisis that is worsening and killed more than 100,000 Americans last year.

The liquor cabinets, beer coolers and wine cellars in our homes harbor one of the most pernicious substances  in U.S. households, a leading (but often overlooked) cause of preventable death and debilitation: Yes, alcohol itself. Federal officials estimate that 1 in 8 deaths of Americans ages 20 to 64 results from injuries or illnesses tied to excessive drinking.

And if you look only at the prime ages of 20 to 49, the booze toll is tied to 1 in 5 U.S. deaths, according to a study newly published on the medical JAMA Network.

The study’s authors, researchers with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said their startling data likely underestimate of alcohol’s huge economic and health harms on U.S. lives, the New York Times reported, noting:

celticsmarcussmart-240x300College and pro athletes create feel-good moments in almost rote fashion these days with well-intentioned sojourns to local hospitals to see sick kids. These brief visits are an image-enhancing dream for publicists, teams, and the folks who drop big money on sports in hopes that fans’ adoration of jocks translates into major profits.

For at least one pro basketball player, though, the power of celebrity provides a quiet, powerful, and poignant way to support pediatric cancer patients in ways that he appreciates in a visceral fashion borne of painful personal experience. The Athletic, the New York Times owned sports-focused site, has posted a moving portrait of Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart and his commitment to comforting kids, reporting this:

Marcus Smart has spent far too much of his life sitting beside a hospital bed. He endured years watching his brother Todd battle leukemia when Marcus was in elementary school in Texas. He held his mother, Camellia, as she faced bone marrow cancer a few years ago. He is all too familiar with the last place most people want to be. And yet, he keeps going back. When he arrived in Boston as a rookie in 2014, he began making hospital visits quietly — no cameras, no media, no tweets. Smart wanted to spend time with kids who needed a friend and a distraction. Doctors and nurses would introduce him to those who had chemotherapy treatments that morning. They would explain to him how rough the past few days had been for their patients, hoping he could make their day a little easier. ‘Then I get there and everything that the doctor just told me goes out the window,’ Smart said as a smile finally began to peek through. ‘The kid has the biggest smile on her face. They’re getting up, they’re talking, they’re getting out of bed and that right there is what it’s all about for me.’”

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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