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Category: Health Policy

Getting Sick and Going Broke – CVS, Credit Cards, and Crippling Medical Debt

BY MIKE MAGEE

The Medical-Industrial Complex is swarming with grifters. This is to be expected when you build a purposefully complex system designed to advance profitability for small and large players alike. The $4T operation payrolling 1 in 5 American workers is, in large part, a hidden economy, one built by professional tricksters, designed by Fortune 100 firms with mountains of lobbyists, but reinforced as well by friendly doctors and hospitals engaged in petty and small scale swindling who justify their predatory actions as entrepreneurial, innovative, and purposeful means of necessary financial survival.

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American health care leaders are not blameless today

By MATTHEW HOLT

It is a very sad day for America. Roughly 30% of our country is part of a quasi-religious cult. In general these people reject science and the enlightenment. This week the Jan 6th committee has shown they are prepared to use and support any tools or tactics–up to and including the overthrow of the government, in order to get what they want. 

The overturning of Roe vs Wade is the most visible artifact of a 40-year campaign. The campaign was funded by business leaders like the Koch brothers who want to revoke all environmental, labor and rational restrictions on their activities. Using dark money and the passion of religious zealots who want to control women’s bodies and discriminate against anybody who doesn’t believe what they believe, they have turned this nation back to the 18th century, using the Supreme Court as their vehicle.

The biggest of those dominos has now fallen and women’s right to control their own bodies has been taken away in most states. We can assume a nationwide ban (such as happened in Poland) will be coming here soon, maybe as soon as 2025 if the Republicans win the 2024 elections. And note that the rolling coup described by the witnesses at the Jan 6 hearings show that the Republicans are already blatantly taking over the supposedly neutral election process.

But the American health-care system is not blameless. Abortion and other reproductive health services are clearly part of health care. Yet uniquely in this country the provision of the services has not been from mainstream health care institutions. The leaders of our health care organizations, in particular our major hospital systems, have completely avoided delivering these services. They have been more than happy to allow Planned Parenthood and other specialist organizations to provide reproductive care, and have just looked the other way in the debate. 

Worse, many of our religiously affiliated institutions,  particularly those with a Catholic heritage which represent an enormous amount of hospitals in this country, have banned not only abortion but many other forms of reproductive health care such as female sterilization. The Hyde Amendment, ironically named after a religious bigot who was an appalling adulterer and hypocrite to boot, bans Federal funding for abortions. That means that private Medicaid plans which now cover most births in this country have never offered a full suite of reproductive health care.

Even in recent weeks when the fate of Roe became clear I have heard nothing from major leaders of hospital systems or health plans about this. Some of the newer provider organizations focusing on women, such as Maven and Tia, have been outspoken, as have many non health care-related employers. But the general silence from all major health care organizations in America on this topic has been deafening.

Today there is plenty of shame and blame to go around.

An Upside Down Future for Healthcare

BY KIM BELLARD

I find myself thinking about the future a lot, in part because I’ve somehow accumulated so much past, and in part because thinking about the present usually depresses me.  I’m not so sure the future is going to be better, but I still have hopes that it can be better.  

Two articles recently provided some good insights into how to think about the future: Kevin Kelly’s How to Future and an except from Jane McGonigal’s new book Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything―Even Things That Seem Impossible Today that was published in Fast Company.

I’ll briefly summarize each and then try to apply them to healthcare.

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Global Warming and Disease

BY MIKE MAGEE

A study eight years ago, published in Nature, was titled “Study revives bird origin for 1918 flu pandemic.” The study, which analyzed more than 80,000 gene sequences from flu viruses from humans., birds, horses, pigs, and bats, concluded the 1918 pandemic disaster “probably sprang from North American domestic and wild birds, not from the mixing of human and swine viruses.”

The search for origin in pandemics is not simply an esoteric academic exercise. It is practical, pragmatic, and hopefully preventive. The origin of our very own pandemic, now in its third year and claiming more than 1 million American lives, remains up in the air. Whether occurring “naturally” from an animal reservoir, or the progeny of an experimental lab engaged in U.S. funded “gain-of-function” research, we may never know. What we do know is that viruses move at the speed of light, or more accurately, at the speed of birds.

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What’s Up, Docs

BY KIM BELLARD

Here’s how I’ll know when we’re serious about reforming the U.S. healthcare system: we’ll no longer have both M.D.s and D.O.s.

Now, I’m not saying that this change alone will bring about a new and better healthcare system; I’m just saying that until such change, our healthcare system will remain too rooted in the past, not focused enough on the science, and – most importantly – not really about patients’ best interests.

Let me make it clear from the outset that I have no dog in this hunt.  I’ve had physicians who have been M.D.s and others who have been D.O.s, and I have no indication that there have been any differences in the care due to those training differences. That’s sort of the point: if there are no meaningful differences, why have both?  

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Republican Health Policies Disproportionally Harm White Citizens in Their States

BY MIKE MAGEE

As Ive said before, I believe Dr. Ladapo is an anti-science quack who doesnt belong anywhere near our states Surgeon General office, let alone running it. But now that hes been confirmed, its my sincere hope that he and Governor DeSantis choose to focus on saving lives and preventing unnecessary illness instead of continuing their absurd promotion of conspiracy theories and opposition to proven public health measures — but Im not going to hold my breath.”

If you identified these as the words of the former governor, and now Congressman Charlie Crisp, currently running to retake the office he once held, you’d be wrong. These are the words of another state Democrat who is running a distant 2nd in the Democratic primary battle set for this summer.

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Hey, Old Guys!

BY KIM BELLARD

OK, how many of you had on your women-in-power bingo cards that, in 2022, Sheryl Sandberg would be out at Facebook but Queen Elizabeth II would still be Queen?  It’s the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, marking seventy years on the throne.  She’s getting a lot of love for that tenure, but it makes me think, geez, some people just don’t know when to step away.

Perhaps what sparked my cynicism about the Queen was an op-ed by Yuval Levin, Why Are We Still Governed by Baby Boomers and the Remarkably Old?  Dr. Levin is, of course, referring to the U.S., and he’s spot-on about our governance problem.  But I think the problem goes further: we have too many old people running our companies and major institutions as well.  

Whether it is, say, healthcare, education, or the military, we’re so busy protecting the past that we’re not really getting ready for the future.

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British Doctor Suspended for falsely claiming she was “promised” a laptop. WTF!

BY SAURABH JHA

If forced to choose Britain’s two biggest contributions to civilizations, I’d pick the Magna Carta and the vaguely instructional “fuck off.” If permitted a third, I’d choose “managerialism.” Brits are good at telling others what to do. Managerialism is how the Brits once ruled India. Buoyed by the colonial experience, British managers felt they could rule doctors. 

The new Viceroy, the manager-in-chief, is the General Medical Council (GMC). The GMC is a physician watchdog, funded by doctors, which works for the public good and is answerable to…well, I’ll get to that later. Their relevance rose exponentially when the psychopathic Dr. Harold Shipman, a charming, clinically adept, general practitioner, killed over two hundred patients. Never again, said the managers. They promised to keep the public safe from dodgy doctors with aspirations of Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd.

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Defanging HIPAA: How Your De-identified Data Was Re-identified For Profit.

BY MIKE MAGEE, M.D.

Arthur Sackler continues to demonstrate just how wealthy one can become by advantaging patients and their diseases.

He’s been dead since 1987, but his ghost continues to access your personal health data, pushes medical consumption and over-utilization, and expands profits exponentially for data abusers well beyond his wildest dreams. Back in 1954, he and his friend and secret business partner, Bill Frohlich, were the first to realize that individual health data could be a goldmine. That relationship would still be a secret had it not been exposed in a messy family inheritance feud unleashed by his third wife after Sackler’s death.

That company, IMS Health, was taken public and listed on the NYSE on April 4, 2014, transferring $1.3 billion in stock. I’ll come back to that in a moment. But in the early years, the pair realized that the data they were collecting would multiply in value if it could be correlated with a second data set. That dataset was the AMA’s Physician Masterfile which tracked the identity and location of all physicians in America from the time they entered medical school. 

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Virtual Care Regulatory Round-Up: Telehealth & Digital Care ‘State-of-Play’ by Nathaniel Lacktman

BY JESS DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Just as HHS extends the Covid-19 public health emergency waivers until July, we kick-off a brand-new monthly interview series about the state-of-play for all things telehealth and digital care policy and reimbursement. Called the WTF Health Virtual Care Regulatory Round-up, we’re partnering with our friends at Wheel to feature health policy experts, lobbyists, health plan folks, and other virtual care experts and insiders who can keep us updated on the changing regulations and what they will mean to those health tech co’s whose businesses rely on virtual care.

Attorney-to-the-stars-of-telehealth, Nathaniel Lacktman, who chairs the Telemedicine & Digital Health Industry Team at Foley & Lardner and is a Board member of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), kicks the series off for us with an update on those public health waivers and how he is coaching health tech businesses in preparing for the inevitable transition of care that will come when they come to an end.

What will happen to patients who live across state lines from their virtual care providers? What business decisions need to be made to avoid abandoning patients and maintaining continuity of care? Nate’s not bullish on a federal national license, but there are some cases where cross-state patient-provider relationships can continue to exist – they just might not work for everyone’s business model.

And, on the subject of telehealth business models, Nate gives us his take on where he thinks reimbursement will be headed, how policy around virtual prescribing will be impacted post-pandemic (particularly around controlled substances), and whether or not Medicare’s originating site requirement will be put back in place. We also get Nate’s perspective on which virtual care business models seem to be working best among health tech startups and what legal risk those more ‘reckless’ players might be creating for the rest of the field without even realizing it. Great education on virtual care and what’s happening in the space RIGHT NOW. Watch!

Special thanks to our series sponsor, Wheel – the health tech company powering the virtual care industry. Wheel provides companies with everything they need to launch and scale virtual care services — including the regulatory infrastructure to deliver high quality and compliant care. Learn more at wheel.com.

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