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Category: Health Policy

988 and 911: Justice System Involvement in Mental Health Crises

BY BEN WHEATLEY

A woman was walking in the crosswalk of a busy intersection as the rain started to come down. She looked cold, but more than that, she looked off. She had no shoes on her feet and her countenance was in disarray. It seemed to me that she was in the midst of a mental health crisis. 

The woman approached where I was standing and I suggested that she go into the Starbucks on the corner to look for her shoes. At least in there, it would be warm. She didn’t go inside, but instead went to the entrance and sat down on the ground. 

Someone must have called 911 because a policeman and an ambulance with an emergency medical technician showed up. The EMT brought a stretcher down from the ambulance as the policeman watched over the situation. The woman got on the stretcher and the EMT placed a blanket over her. As this played out, the policeman stood in the background, allowing the EMT to take primary responsibility for the interaction. Since the woman seemed to pose little risk to herself or others, the response seemed to be the appropriate one. 

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MedPAC Got It Wrong (pt 2)

By GEORGE HALVORSON

This is the second part of former Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson’s critique of Medpac’s new analysis of Medicare Advantage.Part 1 is here. The final part will be published on THCB later this week. Eventually I’ll be doing a summary article about all the back and forth about what Medicare Advantage really costs!-Matthew Holt

We clearly do have significant levels of quality data about the MA plans because we have extensive levels of quality programs and recognitions that exist in MA . Those programs get better every year — and MedPac should be reporting and even celebrating each year how many additional plans are achieving high scores in those areas as part of their report.

MedPac should be describing and celebrating progress that is being made in that five-star space and the members of the Commission don’t seem to know that information exists.

In fact, they sink lower than that pure denial in their report this year. They actually say in this year’s report that they have deep concerns about the quality of care for MA and they say clearly that they have no useful data to use for thinking about how MA is doing relative to quality issues.

Saying that there is no quality data about the plans is another MedPac falsehood (MPF) and, as they so often are, that particular falsehood is disproved quickly and easily by their own documents. In the final section of this year’s report where they were asked by Congress to do a report on the quality of care in the Special Needs Plans. The MedPac writers achieve that explicit goal in large part by using the easily available HEDIS quality data for those patients and for the other patients in the plans and by comparing both sets of numbers to relevant populations.

So this year’s report has that set of NCQA quality data for the MA plans included in it. MedPac is using it now even though they say no data exists and that means that’s another falsehood to say it doesn’t exist.

We know what the quality data of the five-star program is and we know what the HEDIS Scores are for the MA plans, and we also know how much MA costs us in every county because the bids give us that information.

We know that the plans bid below the average county fee-for-service Medicare costs in every county and we know what the total costs are by person for each county.

We need to know what the real costs are and we need to look at how we get the very best use of the Medicare dollar. MedPac should make it a priority to figure out how to get the best use of the Medicare dollar using both bids, capitation, and various kinds of ACO-related payment processes. ACOs all create better care than traditional fee-for-service Medicare, and the people who are critical of ACOs for not saving enough money should rethink their priorities. They should be happy with any use of the Medicare dollar that gives more for the member and patient

If an ACO that has team care and patient centered data flows just breaks even on costs relative to fee-for-service Medicare, that should be celebrated and supported as being a much better use of the Medicare dollar.

We should make patients our top priority. ACOs make patients their priority. MA Plans clearly set up benefits and care practices around the patient’s the top priority. Only fee-for-service Medicare completely lets the patient down by being rigid on benefits, rigid on service, and making costs a higher priority than people’s lives and doing that badly and inefficiently. We should be working through MedPac each year to see which approach to buying care actually gives us the very best use of our Medicare dollar.

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MedPAC Got It Wrong (pt 1)

By GEORGE HALVORSON

This is the first part of former Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson’s critique of Medpac’s new analysis of Medicare Advantage. The rest will be published on THCB later this week. Eventually I’ll be doing a summary article about all the back and forth about what Medicare Advantage really costs!-Matthew Holt

MedPac just did their annual report on Medicare Advantage (MA) and they were extremely wrong on several key points.

The MedPac staff has a long tradition of being critical of MA, and they also, unfortunately, have a long tradition of being inaccurate, misleading, and consistently negative on some key points for no explicable or easily understood reason.

They achieved a new low this year by spending more than 20 pages of the report warning us all in detail about the upcoming cash flow distortions and coding abuses that they say are coming from a risk adjustment model and system that actually no longer exists in 2022 as a functioning system for our Medicare program — and they are also continued their distortion about Medicare overpayment of the plans by running an artificial cost number that functions only to deceive and not to inform and by using what is essentially a fake news number several times in the report.

Coding and Risk Adjustment

CMS has now officially canceled and retired the CMS Hierarchical Conditions Categories Risk Adjustment Model that has been used for almost two decades to calculate risk for plans. It is dead and completely gone for 2022 — and MedPac explained bitterly for more than 20 pages why it was a damaging approach and they somehow did not mention that it was now gone.

CMS has some very good thinking people who brilliantly took that whole set of coding linked issues off the table by making the system that was being potentially abused simply disappear.

MedPac wrote more than 20 pages in this year’s official report about MA complaining about that exact process and system and they didn’t mention that it was gone or explain why it was important to not have that data flow create the risk level information that we will now be using to get diagnostic information into the system.

The new approach for determining patient risk levels is fraud proof. There is no way to put wrong data into the information flow that they are now going to use to see and determine which patients are diabetic and which have heart disease or who has drug abuse issues for the risk discernment processes.

The impact on low income Medicare patients & union members

MedPac also had a major content deficit in their report and managed to leave the most important aspects of the work being done now by the plans to help offset some of the damage done to too many Americans who have been damaged by social determinants of health issues for far too long in their lives. MedPac also completely failed to report and discuss the important reality of the fact that we have now reached the point where two-thirds of our lowest income Medicare beneficiaries are all voluntarily in the MA plans.

They also left out of their report the fact that a significant number of union trust funds and a significant number of employer retirement programs that had made significant promises of retirement health care benefits to their retirees over the past decades are actually having those commitments kept, met, and even enhanced with the relatively new employer-sponsored MA plans that work directly with employer settings.

Five million people who might have had their retirement health care programs bankrupt, underfunded, or at serious risk have found a very strong safety net in the MA program — and MedPac does not think that development was important to understand and probably celebrate.

Anyone looking at the future politics and funding of the MA program will find both that overwhelming support for MA from our lowest income people and from our most well-connected employer retirement funds to be good and important to understand.

MedPac missed every bit of that agenda and set of accomplishments in this year’s report.

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Matthew’s health care tidbits: #Does Medicare Advantage Save the Taxpayer Money?

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For my health care tidbits this week, the controversy about Medicare Advantage is getting louder and louder. There’s no question that it results in lower out of pocket payments for its members than traditional FFS Medicare. Medicare Advantage members use fewer services, and their care appears to be better “managed” –then again FFS Medicare’s “members” are barely managed at all. 

But the big question is, Does Medicare Advantage save the government money? Critics (notably ex CMS veterans Berwick & Gilfillan) claim that risk adjustment games played by the private plans who run Medicare Advantage have cost up to $200bn over 10 years. Medpac (the independent body that advises Congress) estimates that “Medicare spends 4 percent more for MA enrollees than it would have spent if those enrollees remained in FFS Medicare” and go on to say “In aggregate, for the entire duration of their Medicare participation, private plans have never produced savings for Medicare”. However data from the Medicare Trustees and other research from ACHP & the trade group Better Medicare Alliance suggests that Medpac’s analysis is incorrect and that Medicare Advantage saves the government about 9% per enrollee.

THCB ran a long piece (pt 1pt 2) about Medicare Advantage from former Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson earlier this year, and a related one from current Permanente Federation CEO Richard Isaacs. But it’s much more nuanced than that. J Michael McWilliams has long piece on Health Affairs Forefront trying to capture the various strands of the argument. His conclusion? “The substantial subsidies MA receives are largely responsible for the extra benefits and have more than offset savings from any efficiencies, posing a net cost to Medicare and complicating assessments of MA’s added value.”

Meanwhile CMS has just changed the most controversial aspect of risk adjustment (which is the most controversial part of Medicare Advantage) by banning the plans from doing it, and only allowing providers to be involved.

Whether any of this is going to change CMS regulations or wider government policy regarding MA payments is less certain. CMS is currently dealing with its replacement for the even more controversial Direct Contracting (now called ACO REACH). But Medicare Advantage is the most profitable part of private health insurance and has many knock on effects for care services and technology. So I’ll be watching this space and you should too!

Contemplating Health Data Rights as Civil Rights

BY ERIC PERAKSLIS ON BEHALF OF THE LIGHT COLLECTIVE

Recently, despite decades of experience in cybersecurity, privacy, and data science, I got sent back to school.  

As a member of the Council of the Wise at the Light Collective, a patient advocacy group with a focus on healthcare technology and privacy, I attended a town hall event entitled “No Aggregation Without Representation,” which featured four eminently qualified leaders of the BIPOC and data advocacy communities: Dr Maya Rockeymore Cummings, Tiah Tomlin-Harris, Jillian Simmons, JD and Valencia Robinson. I was unprepared for the ownership and authority of these four leaders – and unprepared, too, for how they were able to transform professional truisms I’ve often relayed myself into something far more personal, meaningful, urgent, and authentic.

The commercial practice of aggregating health and consumer data crosses the borders of healthcare, retail, marketing, communications, transportation, and others. The risks and consequences (including abuse) related to the exploitation and monetization of personal health data are enormous, complex, and largely or entirely borne by the individuals whose data is being collected – whether they know it or not. 

What’s more, none of the current patchworks of 3-letter federal regulatory bodies (FDA, FTC, HHS, FCC) have the remit or resources to encompass the totality of it. Armed with pre-Internet privacy laws from the 1970s or with insurance portability laws from the mid-1990s that have been stretched to cover health and consumer privacy protections, a constellation of advocacy organizations, ethicists, and academics identify problems and offer opinions. All the while, though, data flows like oil to fuel a surveillance economy in which consumers and patients are exploited and harmed. For vulnerable communities including BIPOC and persons with frailties, disabilities, or mental illness, these harms are not only real, but – in light of sad history – they are also unsurprising.

The Deep Roots of Systemic Harm

During the town hall, the panelists describe an ongoing lack of trust that has grown steadily from events such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiments that began in the early 1930s and continued up until the early 1970s, the case of tissues taken without consent or compensation from Henrietta Lacks in the 1950s and used in thousands of experiments, and the continued stigma surrounding diseases such as HIV that are no less potent today than they were in the 1980s. As I listened to the panelists, these events were no longer historical to me, but instead were current events unfolding before my eyes and deeply affecting communities who are well aware that they are being harmed and exploited so that others may profit.  

But just what are those harms, and who feels their effects?  Those who pontificate about the virtues and value of data without boundaries often argue that the benefit to the many outweigh the risks to the few, but it is not “just a few” when we are talking about significant numbers of individuals within minority and underserved communities.  In the last few weeks alone, we have read stories about how data from persons seeking help due to suicidal ideation was captured and monetized by a crisis text line, seen credible evidence of how middleware ad tracking software can track users regardless of stated privacy policies on some health sites, and witnessed another class-action lawsuit against Meta (Facebook’s parent company) for the misuse of personal biometric data. 

Patient populations need rights.  So what?

I once had a mentor who advised me to ask myself, “so what?” at least three times before deciding whether an idea could stick. Let’s play that game using the wisdom shared by these four amazing leaders… 

Dr. Rockeymore Cummings spoke about how she had shared parts of her health journey story online to provide support to others on similar journeys. But the ultimate outcome of this sharing was that her insurance company asserted that because she had advocated for preventative options, the procedures she had undergone were elective, and therefore denied coverage for them.  Where is the internet warning label that advises consumers that the thoughts and experiences they share online may be scraped, scrutinized, and interpreted by their health insurance companies?  Interestingly, when the human genome was first mapped, scientists and ethicists helped ensure the passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) because they foresaw the potential for abuse when information about individuals’ genetic makeups became available. But over the decades that the internet has been proliferating, no comparable nondiscrimination protections have emerged to cover the myriad other kinds of personal data available online. To surveillance capitalists, this situation is a feature, not a bug.  

Patient populations’ data are owned by companies.  So what?  

Today we live in a world where any given patient population’s collective health data is owned by companies.  And what we share is increasingly part of our permanent public record.  So what?  What if I did say something like that once, and I changed my mind? Or what if I signed up for a service that required some of my data but then decided I was no longer interested, or worse, was worried about things I learned as I became more familiar with the service?  Jillian Simons pointed out that not a single state has passed comprehensive “right to be forgotten” privacy protections, which would grant people the right to have their personal data removed from specific and aggregated datasets. Beyond the obvious assurances, this approach affords to patients and consumers, it’s also an extremely effective way to ensure accountable stewardship of data, even in large, aggregated datasets. The right to be forgotten imposes a duty on the dataset owner/aggregator to know where that individual‘s data resides and where it has been shared; otherwise, their data cannot be found to be erased if they so desire.  As they would say in my hometown of Boston, “wicked smaht.” 

 So what?

If experiencing denial of care or preserving personal autonomy about participating in health websites are not sufficiently compelling issues, let’s get to the tougher stuff. As our preprint article (recently covered by Wired magazine) shows, health sites are using – sometimes without even realizing it – middleware that contains ad trackers. Ad tracking may not seem like something that’s obviously harmful, but such trackers can aggregate strikingly personal information from seemingly benign data. For instance, if you’ve used a ride-sharing app, your physical location might be shared across multiple platforms. Use that ride-sharing platform to visit Planned Parenthood, and various inferences could be drawn. Data from multiple browser windows left open on your phone can be aggregated to know your online purchases, the stores you frequent, the banking tools you use, the restaurants you visit – or when you’re at home waiting for a pizza.  At this point, the question of “so what” should be thoroughly answered. Does all of this still sound benign?  

Real World Data: Meet the Real-World Hazards

Pharma and digital health companies often tout the benefits of real-world data to improve population health.  These data hold power to create huge advancements in our understanding of disease.  We need real world data.  Yet without proper protections and stewardship, these data hold hazards, and are left unprotected.  All of these data and more are being grabbed by stalker were that is proliferating in epidemic proportions, and vulnerable people are most affected. One study in the European Institute for Gender Equality found that 7 out of 10 women in Europe that had experienced cyberstalking were also victims of intimate partner violence.  According to this report, the digital control exercised by a stalker can be immense: reading anything the surveilled person types, including user names and passwords for services such as banking applications, online shops and social networks; knowing where that person is by tracking their movements in real time with GPS; eavesdropping on or even recording phone calls, or even record them; reading text messages (regardless of whether encryption is used); monitoring social network activity; viewing photos and videos; and even being able to switch on the camera. 

Another survey showed that 85% of domestic violence workers reported having cared for victims whose attacker located them by GPS. Further, the statistics on the adverse effects of internet crime on racial and ethnic minorities show that BIPOC communities face identity theft more often, that the social media accounts of BIPOC communities are attacked more often, and that elderly persons are targeted more often than those under 65. Put simply: the more vulnerable are more vulnerable.

So why do we say “no aggregation without representation?”  It’s not an abstract ethical question about privacy or even autonomy. It is the right to be safe. The right to feel secure.  That makes it no less than a civil right

This concept of collective rights, representation, and stewardship of real-world health data is only getting started.   Those of us in healthcare who hold power, privilege, and influence have a responsibility to listen and act.  So what comes next?  

This incredible group will be meeting again at the National Health Policy Conference in Washington DC April 4th and 5th.  I hope you join them.  Thank you, Dr. Maya, Ms. Tomlin-Harris, Ms. Simmons and Ms. Robinson.  I promise I won’t forget what I’ve learned.

Eric D. Perakslis, PhD (@eperakslis) is a Rubenstein Fellow at Duke University.

Celebrating the 12th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act in a Pandemic: Where Would We Be Without It?

BY ROSEMARIE DAY

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law twelve years ago today, Joe Biden called it “a big f-ing deal.”  Little did he, or anyone else at that time, realize how big of a deal it was. Just ten years later, America was engulfed in a global pandemic, the magnitude of which hadn’t been seen in a century. Two years after that, the numbers are chilling: over 79 million people were infected, at least 878,613 were hospitalized, and 971,968 have died.

As bad as these numbers are, things would have been much worse if the ACA hadn’t come to pass. The ACA created an essential safety net that protected us from even more devastation. Covering over 20 million more people, it is the single largest health care program created since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Thanks to the ACA:

  • The estimated 9.6 million people who lost their jobs during the pandemic didn’t have to worry as much about finding health care coverage if they got sick from Covid (or anything else) – they could shop for subsidized insurance on the public exchanges or apply for Medicaid. This helped millions of people to stay covered, which saved thousands of lives. In fact, the overall rate of uninsured people has not increased significantly during the pandemic, thanks to the safety net of these public health care programs.
  • The 79 million people who got Covid didn’t have to worry about whether their infection’s aftermath would result in acquiring a pre-existing condition that would prohibit them from buying health insurance in the future (if they couldn’t get coverage through their jobs).
  • Those who were burnt out from the pandemic and joined the Great Resignation did not have to worry that they would be locked out of health insurance coverage while they took a break or looked for a new job. According to the Harvard Business Review, resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees (those between 30 and 45 years old), a stage of life when health insurance is critical, given the formation of families and the emerging health issues that come with age. 

The ACA’s remarkable safety net framework made it far easier for policy makers to deploy federal funds during this unprecedented emergency. The American Rescue Plan Act , a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021, included provisions that built on the ACA, including more generous premium tax credit subsidies. Its predecessor, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) of 2020 enhanced Medicaid funding and required states to provide continuous Medicaid coverage.

  • For working- and middle-class people, the health insurance exchanges (both state and federal) provided one-stop shopping with enhanced federal subsidies which made health insurance more accessible for people who lost their employer-sponsored insurance. Many Americans who needed health insurance turned to the ACA marketplaces to find a plan. Amid the recent surge in resignations, the Biden administration announced that sign ups hit an all-time high of 14.5 million when open enrollment ended in January 2022.
  • For lower income people, the Medicaid program was there, stronger than ever, thanks to 38 states opting into the ACA’s expansion of the program. An increased federal matching contribution helped states to finance Medicaid enrollment during the worst of the economic downturn and prevented Medicaid disenrollments.
  • Additional benefits from these measures included reducing health disparities, ensuring mental health coverage, and helping new moms with more robust coverage.

Despite the ACA’s strong foundation and the many good things worth celebrating on its twelfth anniversary, there are difficulties ahead. The expanded premium subsidies and enhanced Medicaid funding are only temporary – both are set to expire this year. With that will come a loss of insurance coverage as people struggle to afford what’s on offer. On top of this, the public health emergency will be unwinding which will bring continuous Medicaid coverage to an end. And there are still too many uninsured people in this country (27.4 million). Retaining the expanded ACA benefits and finding other ways to build upon the ACA’s foundation are critical issues for the mid-term elections this fall.  

A recent study shows that support for the ACA and universal health care has increased during the pandemic. We shouldn’t “let a good crisis go to waste.” We need to make our voices heard and commit to building the future. We’ve had to expend far too much energy over the past decade defending the ACA and protecting it from repeal. The pain we’ve endured during this pandemic should not be for naught. Now is the time to assume an expansive posture of building toward universal health care. Retaining the expanded ACA benefits is an important incremental step. As difficult as the pandemic has been, it is providing a once-in-a-century opportunity to address America’s unfinished business in health care. The ACA is an excellent foundation. Let’s build on that so that we have a lasting cause for celebration.

Rosemarie Day is the Founder & CEO of Day Health Strategies and author of Marching Toward Coverage:  How Women Can Lead the Fight for Universal Healthcare (Beacon Press, 2020).  Follow her on Twitter:  @Rosemarie_Day1

ARPHA-H Needs to Think Bigger

BY KIM BELLARD

Everyone loves DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that is credited with such hits as the internet and GPS, but is also responsible for things like the Boston Dynamics back-flipping robots and even Siri.  DARPA’s mission is to make “pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security,” but, as the previous examples illustrate, we can’t always tell how those breakthrough technologies are going to get used.  

Healthcare is, at long last, getting its own DARPA, with ARPA-H (Advanced Research Project Agency for Health).  It’s been discussed for years, but just last week was finally funded; a billion dollars over three years.  But I fear it is already off on the wrong foot, even ignoring the fact that President Biden had requested $6.5b.  

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Hospital Systems: A Framework for Maximizing Social Benefit

By JEFF GOLDSMITH and IAN MORRISON

Hospital consolidation has risen to the top of the health policy stack. David Dranove and Lawton Burns argued in their recent Big Med:  Megaproviders and the High Cost of Health Care in America (Univ of Chicago Press, 2021) that hospital consolidation has produced neither cost savings from “economies of scale” nor measurable quality improvements expected from better care co-ordination. As a consequence, the Biden administration has targeted the health care industry for enhanced and more vigilant anti-trust enforcement.

However, as we discussed in a 2021 posting in Health Affairs, these large, complex health enterprises played a vital role in the societal response to the once-in-a-century COVID crisis. Multi-hospital health systems were one of the only pieces of societal infrastructure that actually exceeded expectations in the COVID crisis. These systems demonstrated that they are capable of producing, rapidly and on demand, demonstrable social benefit.

Exemplary health system performance during COVID begs an important question: how do we maximize the social benefits of these complex enterprises once the stubborn foe of COVID has been vanquished? How do we think conceptually about how systems produce those benefits and how should they fully achieve their potential for the society as a whole?

Origins of Hospital Consolidation

In 1980, the US hospital industry (excluding federal, psych and rehab facilities) was a $77 billion business comprised of roughly 5,900 community hospitals. It was already significantly consolidated at that time; roughly a third of hospitals were owned or managed by health systems, perhaps a half of those by investor-owned chains. Forty years later, there were 700 fewer facilities generating about $1.2 trillion in revenues (roughly a fourfold growth in real dollar revenues since 1980), and more than 70% of hospitals were part of systems. 

It is important to acknowledge here that hundreds more hospitals, many in rural health shortage areas or in inner cities, would have closed had they not been rescued by larger systems. Given that a large fraction of the hospitals that remain independent are tiny critical access facilities that are marginal candidates for mergers with larger enterprises, the bulk of hospital consolidation is likely behind us. Future consolidation is likely not to be of individual hospitals, but of smaller systems that are not certain they can remain independent. 

Today’s multi-billion dollar health systems like Intermountain Healthcare, Geisinger, Penn Medicine and Sentara are far more than merely roll-ups of formerly independent hospitals. They also employ directly or indirectly more than 40% of the nation’s practicing physicians, according to the AMA Physician Practice Benchmark Survey. They have also deployed 179 provider-sponsored health plans enrolling more than 13 million people (Milliman Torch Insight, personal communication 23 Sept, 2021). They operate extensive ambulatory facilities ranging from emergency and urgent care to surgical facilities to rehabilitation and physical therapy, in addition to psychiatric and long-term care facilities and programs.

Health Systems Didn’t Just “Happen”; Federal Health Policy Actively Catalyzed their Formation

Though many in the health policy world attribute hospital consolidation and integration to empire-building and positioning relative to health insurers, federal health policy played a catalytic role in fostering hospital consolidation and integration of physician practices and health insurance. In the fifty years since the HMO Act of 1973, hospitals and other providers have been actively encouraged by federal health policy to assume economic responsibility for the total cost of care, something they cannot do as isolated single hospitals.

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The (sort of, partial) Father mRNA Vaccines Who Now Spreads Vaccine Misinformation (Part 2)

By DAVID WARMFLASH, MD

This is part 2 of David Warmlash’s takedown of Robert W. Malone’s appearance (transcript) on the Rogan podcast. Part 1 is here

Menstruation and Fertility

Much more than the line about reproductive damage in the Wisconsin News clip that we used to open the story, Malone used the Rogan interview to dive more deeply into the topic, starting with:

 …there’s a huge number of dysmenorrhea and menometrorrhagia…

By that, he meant excessive menstrual cramping and very heavy, often irregular, bleeding, which he followed up with:

…they DENY it…

Judging by other parts of the interview, ‘they’ means government health agencies, big pharma, mainstream media. Thus, it was quite an accusation, given that, months prior to Malone’s talk with Rogan, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had announced a program to study COVID-19 vaccination effects in pregnant and postpartum women and then announced, very publicly, that it had awarded $1.67 million to five institutions (Boston University, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Oregon Health and Science University [OHSU]) to study vaccines and the menstrual cycle.

Rather than bringing up any of that NIH-funded research, however, Malone jumped into a description of haredi rabbis asking him to ‘testify’ at a rabbinical ‘court’ in Brooklyn:

..it turns out that the rabbis in the Hasidic jew community carefully monitor–we don’t need to go into how–the menstrual cycle of the fertile women in their congregations, closely monitor it because there is strict guidance about cleanliness and intercourse and they had a major problem because they these you know these are all 60 plus up to 80 long beards right here that had exquisite understanding about the menstrual cycle in all the women in their congregations and they all knew that these menstrual cycles were being disrupted all the time…

What a load of mishigas.

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The (sort of, partial) Father mRNA Vaccines Who Now Spreads Vaccine Misinformation (Part 1)

By DAVID WARMFLASH, MD

Robert W. Malone, MD MS, is a physician-scientist who will live in infamy, thanks to the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast boosting his visibility this past December regarding his criticism of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly the mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech). Subsequently, Malone was banned from Twitter, which further boosted his celebrity status. Describing himself as the inventor of mRNA vaccine technology, he has been reaching a growing number of people with a narrative that makes COVID-19 vaccination sound scary. We cannot embed clips from the Rogan interview, which lasted about three hours, because it is accessed only on Spotify. But we can pull quotes from the interview transcript and we can see how Malone addresses non-scientists in shorter appearances, like the following clip from Wisconsin Morning news aimed at parents:

…Before you inject your child – a decision that is irreversible – I wanted to let you know the scientific facts about this genetic vaccine, which is based on the mRNA vaccine technology I created…

There are three issues parents need to understand:

The first is that a viral gene will be injected into your childrens cells. This gene forces your childs body to make toxic spike proteins. These proteins often cause permanent damage in childrens critical organs, including

Their brain and nervous system

Their heart and blood vessels, including blood clots

Their reproductive system

And this vaccine can trigger fundamental changes to their immune system

The most alarming point about this is that once these damages have occurred, they are irreparable

You cant fix the lesions within their brain

You cant repair heart tissue scarring

You cant repair a genetically reset immune system, and

This vaccine can cause reproductive damage that could affect future generations of your family….

Along with the alarmist theme, there are some phrases in the excerpt that people with little knowledge of biology could take the wrong way. The ‘toxic’ spike protein terminology warrants unpacking later, because Malone’s more farfetched ideas rest upon his disagreement with experts who have worked on that very spike protein. This is a protein that SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) makes and uses to enter body cells, and is the basis of most of the COVID-19 vaccines that are approved throughout the world. In the case of the genetic vaccines (the mRNA vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna and the viral vector vaccines of Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca), the vaccines do not actually contain spike protein. Instead, they contain a recipe for cells of a vaccinated person (not all the person’s cells, but just a small sampling) to make spike protein —in very small amounts and for a very limited time— and display it on the outer part of their cell membranes. This allows the immune system to use that vaccine-generated spike protein for target practice, so you can build immunity against the virus without the virus infecting you.

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