Tag Archives: healthcare

Republicans, Make Up Your Damn Minds, Already

[UPDATE]:

HA HA HA HA HA:

Sen. Rand Paul’s letter to Harry Reid about blocking Surgeon General nominee Dr. Murthy over gun control:

RandPaul

Full text at the link. My trolls who keep trying to blame Democrats for the stuff Republicans are doing can go fuck themselves.

—————————————————————————-

Proving yet again that there is literally nothing President Obama can do to please Republicans, Sen. Lamar Alexander is not happy with President Obama’s pick for “Ebola Czar.” (Keep in mind, the hissy fits/impeachment threats conservatives had over Obama’s so-called “Czars” in the first place make their current call for an Ebola Czar especially hypocritical):

“I had in mind a cabinet-level official with the skills of a four-star general or admiral who had a broad public health background and would be accountable to Congress. That kind of action would give Americans confidence about our government’s response to Ebola.”

Hmm … someone like, maybe, the Surgeon General we don’t have because the Republicans are too scared of the gun lobby to approve Dr. Vivek H. Murthy?

Honestly, I truly believe that President Obama could personally develop a cure for Ebola, cancer, and stupidity all in one tasty, affordable treat — but the GOP would complain that it’s gluten-free.

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Filed under healthcare, Republican Party, Sen. Lamar Alexander

Who You Gonna Call, America?

Healthcare professionals nearly universally agree that implementing a travel ban for Ebola-affected countries in West Africa is not just a bad idea, it’s a bad idea that will backfire.

Republicans, the same people who have weird notions about the earth’s climate, have bizarre ideas about how the female body works, believe in fringe conspiracy theories like Agenda 21, and other jaw-droppingly stupid things, disagree.

So, who are you going to listen to, America? When it comes to public health and public safety, are you going to listen to the healthcare experts, or are you going to listen to the crazy people who think there are aborted fetuses in your can of Coca-Cola?

I despair for this country sometimes. I really do.

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Filed under healthcare

Flubola

Interesting piece in The New Yorker about our relatively sanguine response to the flu, which kills thousands, vs ebola, which has sickened three people:

[…] As we know, the flu can be deadly—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average annual death toll from influenza between 1976 and 2007 was more than twenty-three thousand. And unlike Ebola and EV-D68, for which there are no vaccines or real treatments, flu can almost always be prevented, or at least mitigated, if you get a flu shot. Stoking public concern about the flu could actually do some good, by encouraging people to get vaccinated. Instead, the media cover EV-D68 and Ebola as if they’re massive threats to our well-being even though they likely aren’t, and even though the average person can do little to prevent them anyway.

[…]

At work here is the curiously divergent and inconsistent way most of us think about risk. As a myriad of studies have shown, we tend to underestimate the risk of common perils and overestimate the risk of novel events. We fret about dying in a terrorist attack or a plane crash, but don’t spend much time worrying about dying in a car accident. We pay more attention to the danger of Ebola than to the far more relevant danger of flu, or of obesity or heart disease. It’s as if, in certain circumstances, the more frequently something kills, the less anxiety-producing we find it. We know that more than thirty thousand people are going to die on our roads this year, and we’ve accommodated ourselves to this number because it’s about the same every year. Control, too, matters: most of us think that whether we’re killed in a car accident or die of heart disease is under our control (as, to some degree, it is). As a result, we fear such outcomes less than those that can strike us out of the blue.

These attitudes toward risk are irrational, but they’re also understandable. The real problem is that irrational fears often shape public behavior and public policy. They lead us to over-invest in theatre (such as airport screenings for Ebola) and to neglect simple solutions (such as getting a flu shot). If Americans learned that we were facing the outbreak of a new disease that was going to do what the flu will do in the next few months, the press would be banging the drums about vaccination. Instead, it’s yesterday’s news.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the response spectrum, comes this disturbing news:

The Dallas hospital that treated Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan didn’t have appropriate protective gear and reportedly left him in a room with other patients for “several hours” before ultimately putting him in isolation, exposing at least 76 people.

Yesterday, Centers for Disease Control Director Thomas Frieden acknowledged that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital workers weren’t provided full-body biohazard suits until three days after Duncan was admitted (they now reportedly have 12).

According to National Nurses United—speaking on behalf of the Dallas nurses—the hospital had no protocols in place to handle the virus. Nurses involved in treating Duncan say he was left in a public area and a nurse supervisor “faced resistance from other hospital authorities,” when she requested he be placed in isolation.

It looks like the very last people who should be in a panic about ebola are the ones in full freak-out mode, while the front-line folks who should be the most engaged are saying, “meh, whatevs.” Seriously? You had one job, Texas. If this is how they deal with ebola, I’d hate to think how they handle something like influenza. I have to wonder why a CDC team wasn’t immediately deployed to that Dallas hospital and basically took it over the moment Duncan was admitted. I’m sure there are a myriad of reasons, including budget limitations and administrative limitations.

But you know, remember when Texas was all “we wanna secede,” and “that Tenth Amendment rawks” and “hey self-deport, you diseased illegal immigrants” and stuff? Yeah, that’s some world-class irony right there. Again: you had one job, Texas.

I was going to get my flu shot last weekend but, believe it or not, I was too sick to go. Some kind of sinus infection-y thing going around. As far as I know, I’ve already contracted the flu. But I’m better now and am getting a flu shot this weekend.

Get your flu shots, especially if you live in Texas. At the very least, it will keep you out of the hospitals that are apparently operated by incompetents who don’t know how to implement known common-sense protocols to contain a rare infectious disease.

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Filed under healthcare

Two Americas, Addict/New Mom Edition

Two Americas. In one America, we arrest new mothers whose newborns test positive for drugs and charge them with assault (even though in this case, the drug our new mother used is not covered under the law through which she was charged. Weird, that.)

In another America, affluent moms hire “sobriety coaches” to help them stay clean and sober:

Once consigned to Hollywood entourages to keep celebrities on the straight and narrow (and out of rehab), sobriety coaches, also known as sober companions and recovery therapists, are being hired by well-heeled mothers from the Upper East Side to the beachfront homes of Boca Raton, Fla.

Blame the rigors of being an urban mother. “Raising kids is stressful to begin with,” said Mary Karr, the best-selling writer who lives in Greenwich Village, who related her grueling recovery in her 2009 memoir “Lit: A Memoir.” “The new supermoms have to be thin and rich and successful, so there’s all this extra stress,” she said. “It’s loathsome.”

“Addiction is a disease of isolation,” added Ms. Karr, 59, who has a 28-year-old son (she starts “Lit” with an open letter to him). “I would have loved to have someone come over and help me not get drunk.”

It’s not just the extra glasses of pinot or rosé. Cosmopolitan mothers these days are also reaching for Adderall (the multitasker’s best friend), Percocet (the antidote to the taxing trifecta of marriage, children and career) and Ambien (that bedtime staple), not to mention a cocktail of other drugs that high-strung mothers also have at their disposal.

And by the time these mothers realize they need help, they don’t exactly have the time or wherewithal to check into rehab or attend 12-step meetings. In addition, they want more privacy, the better to avoid the judgment and stigma that mothers with addiction face.

It is worth noting that the story of Mallory Loyola appeared in the news section of TV station WBIR. Mary Karr’s story appeared in the “Fashion & Style” section of the Sunday New York Times.

In one America an addicted mom is arrested and charged with assault, held on $2,000 bond, with her picture plastered all over the news. In another America well-heeled moms who “don’t have time” for rehab and 12-step meetings and need to avoid the stigma of drug addiction to preserve their social status hire “sobriety coaches” to hold their hands and tell them it’s okay to be stressed-out about having to be thin and beautiful. Such an impossible standard, who can blame them for reaching for the Percocet now and then? Poor things.

I honestly do not want to hear from another one of these Special Snowflakes who melt under the stress of their privileged lives. If Mallory Loyola has to have her face plastered across the news and now has a criminal record and is charged with assault, then so should Tamara Mellon, Mary Karr, “Jeanne” the anonymous Fortune 500 marketing exec, and all the rest. Alternately, if Jeanne et. al. get the compassion, understanding and personal attention that comes from hiring a coach, then why shouldn’t Mallory Loyola?

Says “Jeanne The Fortune 500 marketing exec”:

“I was my daughter’s age when my dad came out as an alcoholic,” said Jeanne, a marketing executive, who spent her youth going to Alateen, an offshoot of A.A. meetings for teenage family members. “I never thought that would be me,” she said. Rehab was not a viable option. “What working mom can be away for 30 to 60 days?” she added. “And how would I explain it?”

So she hired Natasha Silver Bell, 38, a sobriety coach on the Upper East Side, who is a divorced mother and former addict. Jeanne has been seeing Ms. Silver Bell once a week for the last four months, paying roughly $2o0 for an hour sit-down session, which also grants calling or texting privileges. “I liked that I could do it without disrupting my schedule,” Jeanne said.

And yet, we expect the Mallory Loyolas of the country to make time for it, explain it, etc., nor do we afford them the anonymity and privacy that Jeanne so cherishes.

Forgive me if this injustice rubs me the wrong way.

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Filed under healthcare, Tennessee

Your State Under Republican Rule

Hey, Gov. Bill Haslam: you might want to rethink that whole “we can’t afford the virtually free Medicaid expansion” deal the Feds are offering:

Crews were called to the Advance Auto Parts on Nolensville Pike after the robbery occurred around 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to a release from the Metro Nashville Police Department.

With a black mask concealing his face and a semiautomatic pistol in hand, he demanded money from a cash register. He allegedly repeatedly told the clerk “my girl’s got cancer, I need this money,” police said.

After the cashier complied, police said, the suspect fled on foot near the Full Gospel Mission Church.

I swear to God, Republicans have no clue how to run a government. On the other hand, I guess they’re wishing/hoping that cashier had been armed so he could “stand his ground” and shoot and kill the guy. Problem solved!

Republicans don’t care about people, plain and simple. They don’t care about black people, poor people, sick people, or anyone who’s either not a fetus or or a person of the “corporate” person.

Looks like it’s time for me to amend my “Top Signs Your Healthcare System Is Broken” list and add #6: when people rob you at gunpoint to pay for their girl’s cancer treatment.

I’m sick to death of Republicans driving people to desperation because they’ve never had to wonder where their next meal is coming from and assume everyone who does is just lazy. Fucking fuckers.

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Filed under healthcare, Nashville, Republican Party, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

Those Who Do Not Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It

This is what happens when you restrict women’s access to abortion services:

As policies restricting access to abortion roll out in Texas and elsewhere, the use of miso is quickly becoming a part of this country’s story. It has already made its way into the black market here in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, where abortion restrictions are tightening, and it is likely to continue its trajectory if anti-abortion legislation does not ease up and clinics continue to be closed.

The Texas law which sparked Wendy Davis’ famous filibuster has already shuttered 12 of the state’s 40 abortion clinics, and counting. It was predicted that the law would keep 23,000 Texas women — one third of those who seek them — from getting abortions. Meanwhile,

Many of these women can be found in the Rio Grande Valley, where the admitting privileges provision forced both of the county’s abortion clinics to shut down. Now, the closest clinic for the region’s one-million-plus residents is 150 miles away. For many poor, uninsured South Texas women, that distance is beyond feasible. Few have access to a set of wheels for the long haul, and others lack the right paperwork to cross immigration checkpoints on highways that run through the state.

Meanwhile, the flea market is close to most people living in the Valley, and the massive Alamo pulga looks like just the kind of place to pick up miso. According to several of my local sources, the drug is sold here and it’s not difficult to get—you just need to know who to approach and what to ask for.

God, stop me if you’ve heard this story before. Like we don’t already know that women will do anything to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Like we don’t have a gruesome history of coat hangers, knitting needles, women throwing themselves down stairs, etc. etc. etc. Jesus, but pro-lifers are stupid. Closing a Planned Parenthood clinic doesn’t stop abortion. It stops safe, legal, clean, compassionate abortion care. It makes women criminals for doing what the Supreme Court has said is legal.

Meanwhile, forcing women to seek out black market medication for a perfectly legal procedure puts vulnerable, poor women at risk:

One woman I interviewed at a Mexican restaurant in Brownsville told me her good friend nearly died after taking pills that her husband bought in Mexico. Instead of ingesting four of the 12 pills every three hours, as is recommended by the World Health Organization, she took two pills under her tongue, then four pills vaginally, then two more under her tongue, then four more vaginally. She began to bleed profusely, doubled over in pain. But because she was undocumented, she was afraid to seek medical help at a nearby hospital or clinic. Instead, she crossed the border to Mexico with her five children—all the while hemorrhaging—in search of medical assistance. She has since recovered but is still in Mexico with her children because she can’t cross the border back into the United States.

Women will always find a way. Always. It doesn’t matter what the law says, desperate people will go to any lengths to get what they need. This is something we women know deep in our bones, because pregnancy is something that affects our bodies and our lives, while for men it’s a mere abstract concept. Men don’t get it, they will never get it because it’s not the same issue for them.

The fetus-fetish crowd are true monsters.

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Filed under abortion, healthcare, women's rights

Is This A New Healthcare Scam Or What?

As you may recall, I recently went for my annual mammogram, which was quite an adventure. But now, dear friends, the adventure continues!

We’ve got really good insurance from BlueCross/BlueShield, so my annual exams of this type have always been covered 100%. But this time, for the first time ever, the hospital’s billing office called me prior to my appointment to “pre-check me in,” and also to let me know the cost would be “around $150.” I let them know my insurance has always paid for this in full and asked if they were sure about the charge? The woman on the phone sounded unconcerned, like this is something they routinely tell people without checking what their insurance plans call for, just a heads’ up of what they might need to expect. Or not, as the case may be.

I found that totally weird. If I hadn’t been doing this every year for a while and knew I was never charged, I might be a little freaked out. I’d especially be panicked if $150 was a make-or-break amount of money for my monthly budget, which it easily can be for a lot of folks. Especially the kinds of people not accustomed to shelling out large amounts of money on regular health services like mammograms. For example, people new to the healthcare market, thanks to Obamacare. Just sayin’.

As it happens, I get my mammogram and there’s no charge, as usual. The office said they’d file with insurance, as usual.

So imagine my surprise when about 4 days later I get a bill from the hospital! Again: this has never happened before! I assumed it was a bill I could ignore because BlueCross/BlueShield typically takes months to process claims. But the bill showed a discounted amount of around $143, and I’d had that phone call saying I should expect to pay around $150 … so I was a little confused. Again: if I hadn’t done this before and known not to be worried, I’d be in a panic.

So I called the hospital’s billing office and asked WTF is this thing I got in the mail. And get this: she says, “Oh, we just send that out in case you want to pay it. You don’t have to, but if you want to.”

Whaaaa…???

I asked her to clarify what she meant. “You mean, pay it and then have you pay me back when the insurance company pays?” Yes. That is what she meant. If I wanted to. But I didn’t have to.

People, I ask you: who the fuck would want to do that?

Now might be a good time to remind everyone that this service was performed at the for-profit HCA (now TriStar) hospital in Nashville, Centennial. And I just have to wonder again if this isn’t some kind of scam they’re running trying to get money out of people who are new to dealing with hospital billing departments and insurance, now that ObamaCare has brought thousands of newbies into the system.

It just seems a little sleazy to me. I absolutely would not be surprised to learn that staff at Centennial are given a bonus for every “early payment” they coerce out of patients.

Meanwhile, BlueCross/BlueShield has started sending me a stupid newsletter it calls “Healthy Options,” filled with recipes and coupons for Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats, Minute Maid Light Lemonade and other crap made out of toxic waste I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot fork. I don’t know when my health insurance company got into bed with ConAgra, ADM and the rest of our Big Food Overlords but I find this an ominous sign and I’m pretty sure it can’t be good for anyone. I just really don’t want to be marketed to by these people. Seems like there might be something better to do with that money.

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Filed under HCA, health insurance, healthcare, Nashville

Best Healthcare In The World, V. Eleventybillion

Have you seen this video making the rounds?

When it comes to wait times for healthcare, I would just like to point out that not only is it correct that until Obamacare, millions of Americans died or sickened because they couldn’t get insurance and access the best healthcare system in the world, but also even ordinary, well-insured people such as myself have to deal with wait times. For example, today I called my doctor and was told her next appointment was at the end of May, over two months away. However, if I want to see her daughter, who is not a doctor but a nurse practitioner, I can get an appointment in April. That’s still a few weeks but it’s not a few months.

Let me remind everyone what happened last time I had to go to the doctor (and yes, I’m starting to think she’s avoiding me, foisting me off on her non-doctor daughter.)

Our system is not wonderful. Anyone who uses it knows that. My insurance company is now sending me quarterly marketing materials that look like warmed-over Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire magazine articles, reminding me to eat my vegetables and to exercise and get enough sleep. They even include recipes, as if the internet hasn’t been invented and I can’t find a damn recipe on my own.

This is what BlueCross BlueShield is spending its money on. But I don’t need that. I already know that stuff. I’d really prefer they stop with the patronizing PR/marketing bullshit. Let me be clear: the absolute last thing I want is a “relationship” with my insurance company. What I really want is for them to just basically do their jobs and otherwise leave me the fuck alone. That shouldn’t be too hard.

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Obamacare Boosts Wages, Tennessee Proves

What’s that you say? It’s true, according to Dean Baker:

This is the “job loss” that has gotten opponents of the ACA so excited. But there is another aspect of this picture that should get other people excited. Back in intro economics we teach students about supply and demand. Other things equal, we expect a reduced supply – in this case of workers – to lead to a higher price or wage. In other words, a reduction in labor supply associated with the ACA might lead to some increase in wages.

We have an opportunity to test this proposition since Tennessee effectively did Obamacare in reverse, eliminating health insurance subsidies for low and moderate income adults without children in 2005. If the resulting change in labor supply has an impact on the market, then we would expect to see a drop in wages in Tennessee relative to other states.

That is in fact what we see. The figure below shows the median real wage for workers with high school degrees or less (the workers most likely to be affected) in Tennessee since 2000 compared to the workers without high school degrees elsewhere in the South.

btp-2014-02-20

Interesting idea. Also ironic that Tennessee kicked its low and moderate income folks in the teeth 9 years ago and saw a decline in wages as a result. It stands to reason that lifting up these folks will see a rise in wages. It’s sorta what people like Krugman have been saying since forever, but don’t expect the Republican’ts to start listening.

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Filed under healthcare, Obamacare, Tennessee, wages

Most Expensive Healthcare In The World

[UPDATE]:

I was glad to see this story discussed on today’s “Morning Joe.” Interestingly, their healthcare “specialist” was a doctor who had until recently practiced at California Pacific Medical Center — the facility called out in the Times piece for gross upcharges. Her rationalization? It’s expensive to operate a hospital in California because of earthquake retrofitting!

Blaming earthquake retrofitting for an $18 aspirin? Um, no.

————————————-

This is how folks like the Frist family got rich:

A day spent as an inpatient at an American hospital costs on average more than $4,000, five times the charge in many other developed countries, according to the International Federation of Health Plans, a global network of health insurance industries. The most expensive hospitals charge more than $12,500 a day. And at many of them, including California Pacific Medical Center, emergency rooms are profit centers. That is why one of the simplest and oldest medical procedures — closing a wound with a needle and thread — typically leads to bills of at least $1,500 and often much more.

Just three stitches cost $2,229.11? Sealing a wound with skin glue, for $1,696? This is a national disgrace. In all of the haranguing about healthcare, little attention has been paid to the actual cost of simple procedures like this. When Republicans go on TV and tell everyone that we do have universal healthcare — at emergency rooms — and you see hospitals turning their ERs into “profit centers,” you’ve gotta wonder what the hell is going on. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times: where there’s shit there’s always flies.

This is a fascinating story, one which shouldn’t be relegated to the inner depths of the health section of the newspaper, but should be on the front page and topic one on every cable news show. The fact that we’ve barely discussed why everything costs so damn much in American hospitals is very telling. By all means, let’s continue to “debate” phantoms like death panels and socialized medicine while the real issues go ignored.

Even as the cost of Obamacare plummets, much to the GOP’s dismay, our for-profit hospitals continue to fleece the American people with stuff like $2,000 stitches, while the rest of the developed world gets their bumps and scrapes taken care of without breaking the bank. Hell, maybe we all need to take basic First Aid classes and just do this shit ourselves at home.

This is something we can change, easily. All we need is the political will. There is no reason for us to pay more for this stuff except the greed of the healthcare sector:

The main reason for high hospital costs in the United States, economists say, is fiscal, not medical: Hospitals are the most powerful players in a health care system that has little or no price regulation in the private market.

Rising costs of drugs, medical equipment and other services, and fees from layers of middlemen, play a significant role in escalating hospital bills, of course. But just as important is that mergers and consolidation have resulted in a couple of hospital chains — like Partners in Boston, or Banner in Phoenix — dominating many parts of the country, allowing them to command high prices from insurers and employers.

Sutter Health, California Pacific Medical Center’s parent company, operates more than two dozen community hospitals in Northern California, almost all in middle-class or high-income neighborhoods. Its clout has helped California Pacific Medical Center, the state’s largest private nonprofit hospital, also earn the highest net income in California. Prices for many of the procedures at the San Francisco hospital are among the top 20 percent in the country, according to a New York Times analysis of data released by the federal government.

“Sutter is a leader — a pioneer — in figuring out how to amass market power to raise prices and decrease competition,” said Glenn Melnick, a professor of health economics at the University of Southern California. “How do hospitals set prices? They set prices to maximize revenue, and they raise prices as much as they can — all the research supports that.”

Couple this with the vast amounts of cash pouring in to steal our elections and it’s easy to see why this country has been torn apart over a Libertarian, market-based, modest regulating of the healthcare markets.

Anyway, follow the link and give the article a read. It may raise your blood pressure, but if it leads to action, that’s a good thing.

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