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Readers and Tweeters Diagnose Greed and Power Ache Inside US Well being Care System

Letters to the Editor is a periodic characteristic. We welcome all feedback and can publish a variety. We edit for size and readability and require full names.

U.S. Well being Care Is Dangerous to One’s Well being

Thanks for publishing this analysis (“Tons of of Hospitals Sue Sufferers or Threaten Their Credit score, a KHN Investigation Finds. Does Yours?” Dec. 21). I’m a psychotherapist and have written about this downside in my weblog. The mercenary American well being care system is hypocritical within the irritating monetary calls for and threats it imposes on so many sufferers. Stress on account of well being care-related chapter, or the specter of chapter, is dangerous to 1’s well being. A well being care system that’s alleged to deal with sickness and restore well being can, in truth, trigger severe sickness and/or exacerbate present medical issues. The upper ranges of stress and the specter of chapter that every one too regularly comply with wanted medical care will be dangerous to people with cardiovascular points similar to hypertension and coronary heart arrhythmia, and may set off panic assaults in those that endure from anxiousness issues. There could also be digestive points related to greater ranges of stress, and the affected person’s sleep could also be adversely affected. The person might have to chop again on necessities similar to meals and medicines due to unpaid medical payments, aggressive calls from assortment businesses, and the specter of chapter.

All of this within the identify of “well being care” delivered by professions and organizations that proclaim the significance of beneficence, justice, and malfeasance inside their respective codes of ethics. Healing stress? Therapeutic chapter? The hypocrisy is palpable.

American historical past is replete with examples of discrimination in opposition to sure teams, together with racial discrimination, the disenfranchisement of girls, little one labor, and others. Finally, political measures had been enacted to right these injustices. It’s solely a matter of time till the American well being care system, together with the pharmaceutical trade, is pressured to reform itself for the sake of the boys, ladies, and youngsters in want of important well being care. It’s not a query of if, however when.

— Fred Medinger, Parkton, Maryland

I discover this infuriating! Particularly the nonprofit organizations. Tons of of US Hospitals Sue Sufferers or Threaten Their Credit score, a KHN Investigation Finds | Kaiser Well being Information https://t.co/87TTYPVE0P

— Jan Oldenburg ☮️ (@janoldenburg) December 21, 2022

— Jan Oldenburg, Richmond, Virginia

Thanks for the article about hospitals suing sufferers. I simply switched well being plans in New York state. Causes: My earlier insurer raised my premium over 90% final 12 months, paid little or no of my claims (leaving Medicare to pay many of the claims), and despatched me to collections. This, regardless that I labored two full-time jobs for many of my 46 years of educating. How do insurance coverage corporations and hospitals get away with this unethical and outrageous habits?

— George Deshaies, Buffalo, New York

Nice story by @KHNews@NoamLevey, which discovered that a minimum of 297 hospitals in MN, 56%, sue sufferers for unpaid medical payments. 90, or 17%, can deny sufferers nonemergency medical care if they’ve past-due payments.Mayo is a kind of hospitals. See🧵https://t.co/p5dHdbZKou

— Molly Work (@mollycastlework) December 21, 2022

— Molly Work, Rochester, Minnesota

Sad New 12 months of Deductibles and Copays

Listened to a dialog between Noam N. Levey and NPR’s Ari Shapiro, concerning Levey’s article on Germany’s lack of medical debt (“What Germany’s Coal Miners Can Train America About Medical Debt,” Dec. 14). Levey handed alongside the tidbit that Inexpensive Care Act plans bought by state exchanges would pay a most out-of-pocket quantity of $9,000 a 12 months. Doubtless Mr. Levey is aware of the precise particulars of the ACA a minimum of in addition to I, however I had properly over $20,000 in out-of-pocket bills for my very own care final 12 months (along with annual premiums of over $15,000). The deductible/copay side of medical insurance is rigged in opposition to of us who really use their insurance coverage. The in-network and out-of-network supplier scheme is likewise designed to learn suppliers versus sufferers.

I’ve had medical insurance for about 40 years, since I graduated from faculty. All the time a plan paid for on my own, by no means by an employer. I’ve had my first 12 months of utilizing a lot of heath care providers (colon most cancers surgical procedure and chemo follow-up), and the payments are fairly astronomical. Nonetheless awaiting the ultimate negotiations between Stanford Hospital and Blue Protect of California for the $97,000 invoice for providers for the surgical procedure and keep within the hospital. Although my surgical procedure was in September, the 2 had not resolved the invoice by year-end. Now all my copays and deductibles have reset, and I’ll be again on the beginning gate, dollar-wise.

We want well being care fee reform.

— George McCann, Half Moon Bay, California

Tx @NoamLevey for this necessary comparative piece on how Germany’s non-public healthcare system doesn’t create #medicaldebt. We have to do higher. @RIPMedicalDebt https://t.co/PoAduYljXq

— Allison Sesso (@AllisonSesso) December 14, 2022

— Allison Sesso, president and CEO of RIP Medical Debt, Lengthy Island Metropolis, New York

Grasping to the Bone?

In orthopedics, surgical procedure is the place the cash is (“Extra Orthopedic Physicians Promote Out to Non-public Fairness Corporations, Elevating Alarms About Prices and High quality,” Jan. 6). Simply as a non-public equity-controlled ophthalmology group tried to influence me to have pointless cataract surgical procedure (three different eye medical doctors agreed it wasn’t crucial), too many orthopedic sufferers can anticipate to be pushed to pointless surgical procedures.

— Gloria Kohut, Grand Rapids, Michigan

As #non-public #fairness companies purchase #doctor practices, the difficulty of non-competes and #restrictive covenants change into much more related in #healthcare @AAOS1 @AmerMedicalAssn @JHU_HBHI @linakhanFTC @KHNews https://t.co/fTfilK4WEX

— Amit Jain, MD, MBA (@AmitJainSpine) January 8, 2023

— Dr. Amit Jain, Baltimore

The Painful Reality of the Opioid Epidemic

In a current article, Aneri Pattani and Rae Ellen Bichell mentioned disparities within the distribution of settlement funds from lawsuits in opposition to main pharmaceutical corporations, particularly in rural areas (“In Rural America, Lethal Prices of Opioids Outweigh the {Dollars} Tagged to Deal with Them,” Dec. 12).

We advise that the benefit of lots of the lawsuits that led to those massive settlements stays unproven. Whereas Purdue Pharma clearly overstated the protection of prescription opioids in treating continual ache, judges in two high-profile instances dominated in favor of the pharmaceutical corporations stating that prosecutors falsely inflated the hazard of opioids and famous that opioids used per FDA tips are protected and efficient, remaining a significant means to deal with continual ache. Additionally, many instances involving Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, and others had been settled primarily based on expediency, quite than benefit. This will have been because of the reasoning that persevering with their protection in opposition to prosecutors getting access to limitless public funds would result in chapter.

The first explanation for America’s overdose disaster shouldn’t be physicians’ “overprescribing” opioids. Dr. Thomas Frieden, former head of the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, famous that the rise in prescription opioids paralleled the rise in opioid deaths as much as 2010, main the CDC to create tips in 2016 limiting opioid use to deal with continual ache. Nevertheless, cause-and-effect relationships between the respectable use of prescription opioids and opioid deaths stay unclear. For instance, the Nationwide Institute on Drug Abuse famous in 2015 that since 2000, misuse of pharmaceuticals preceded using heroin usually. However respectable prescriptions by physicians to sufferers with continual ache constituted solely 20% of the instances resulting in heroin habit. Pharmaceuticals utilized by heroin addicts had been from relations or associates in 80% of the instances resulting in heroin use.

Since a minimum of 2010, the quantity of prescription opioids dropped by over 60% — but overdose deaths have skyrocketed to over 100,000 instances in 2021. The opioid overdose demise disaster is now pushed primarily by illegally imported fentanyl and partly by a misguided crackdown of the Drug Enforcement Administration in opposition to physicians who legitimately prescribe opioids to continual ache sufferers, forcing them to hunt out road medication.

Statistics from Michigan point out that just about 40% of main care clinics will now not see new sufferers for ache administration. The CDC, in its 2022 up to date tips, tried to make clear misunderstandings, together with inappropriate fast tapering and individualizing care. Nevertheless, the general public well being disaster of undertreated ache stays. Some states have handed intractable ache legal guidelines to revive entry to opioids to continual ache sufferers with a respectable want, indicating the shortfalls of the CDC tips to deal with ache.

— Richard A. Lawhern, Fort Mill, South Carolina, and Dr. Keith Shulman, Skokie, Illinois

Necessary reporting from @aneripattani and @raelnb in @KHNews: Nationwide settlements are being paid out by #opioids producers, however #rural communities are sometimes getting much less funds to deal with the #OpioidCrisis than their city and suburban counterparts. https://t.co/qeoXtqKfpo

— Joanne Conroy (@JoanneConroyMD) December 15, 2022

— Dr. Joanne Conroy, Lebanon, New Hampshire

We’re combating to carry accountable the businesses that helped create and gas the opioid disaster so we can assist individuals battling opioid use dysfunction throughout North Carolina and the nation get sources for therapy and restoration. We want this cash now to avoid wasting lives.

To that finish, I wished to flag one concern in regards to the article on rural counties and opioid funding. It seems to be as if the comparability and the maps about North Carolina funding by county and overdose deaths might not correlate. The reporting appears to mirror overdose deaths on a per capita foundation, however funding is indicated by complete {dollars} acquired.

This spreadsheet is perhaps useful. It ranks every North Carolina county by the quantity of funds they are going to obtain from the distributor and Johnson & Johnson settlements (as posted on www.ncopioidsettlement.org) per capita, utilizing 2019 inhabitants figures. In per capita rankings, rural and/or much less populous counties are usually receiving extra funding per capita than bigger counties. For instance, the ten counties receiving essentially the most per capita funding are all rural and/or much less populous counties (Wilkes, Cherokee, Burke, Columbus, Graham, Yancey, Mitchell, Clay, Swain, and Surry). Wake County, our most populous county, is ranked eightieth.

It’s additionally necessary to notice that the formulation was developed by specialists for counsel to native governments within the nationwide opioid litigation, who symbolize and have duties of loyalty to each massive city and small rural native governments. It takes under consideration opioid use dysfunction within the county (the variety of individuals with opioid use dysfunction divided by the whole variety of individuals nationwide with opioid use dysfunction), overdose deaths as a proportion of the nation’s opioid overdose deaths, and the variety of opioids within the county. Click on right here for extra info.

Certainly, one of many particular masters appointed by U.S. District Choose Dan Polster within the nationwide opioid litigation discovered that the nationwide allocation mannequin “displays a severe effort on the a part of the litigating entities that devised it to distribute the category’s restoration in accordance with the driving power on the coronary heart of the lawsuit — the devastation attributable to this horrific epidemic.” (See Web page 5 of this report of Particular Grasp Yanni.)

You’re completely proper that rural counties had been typically the earliest and hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, and it’s vital that they obtain funds to assist get residents the therapy and restoration sources they want. We’re hopeful that these funds, whose allocation was decided in partnership by native authorities counsel, will assist ship these sources.

— Nazneen Ahmed, North Carolina Legal professional Normal’s Workplace, Raleigh, North Carolina

This text is a good instance of equality ≠ fairness concerning opioid settlement funds disbursement. Actually considerate article by @aneripattani & @raelnb https://t.co/vRbksffwqP

— Kate Roberts, LCSW (@KateandOlive_) December 14, 2022

— Kate Roberts, Durham, North Carolina

A Holistic Strategy to Strengthening the Nursing Workforce Pipeline

As we face the nation’s worst nursing scarcity in a long time, some areas are adopting inventive options to fill within the gaps (“Rural Colorado Tries to Fill Well being Employee Gaps With Apprenticeships,” Nov. 29). To really clear up the basis of this disaster, we should look earlier within the workforce pipeline.

All the nation presently sits in a dire state of affairs in the case of having an sufficient variety of nurses — particularly rural communities. With the tripledemic of covid-19, influenza, and RSV tearing by hospitals, it’s by no means been extra evident how important nurses are to the functioning of our well being care system. A current McKinsey report discovered that we have to double the variety of nurses coming into the workforce yearly for the subsequent three years to fulfill anticipated demand. With out help from policymakers and well being care leaders, we can not meet that.

As a well being care government myself, I’ve seen firsthand how impactful apprenticeships will be as a result of they assist maintain the well being care workforce pipeline. From highschool college students to working adults, these “earn whilst you be taught” apprenticeships enable college students to make a dwelling whereas working towards their diploma, and my system’s apprenticeship program has even diminished our turnover by as much as 50%. It offers a framework to help a competency-based training rooted in real-life abilities and hands-on coaching for key nursing help roles, all whereas staff members earn an earnings.

Training is essential to growing competent, practice-ready nurses. Not simply by apprenticeships however early on in college students’ academic journey, too. In keeping with the most recent information from the nation’s report card, college students in most states and most demographic teams skilled the steepest declines in math and studying ever recorded. As we proceed to see the devastating influence the pandemic had on younger learners, it’s essential we make investments extra in remediation and help, so college students graduate from secondary faculty with a deep understanding of those core competencies and are able to pursue nursing. A current survey of almost 4,000 potential nursing college students from ATI Nursing Training discovered {that a} lack of educational preparedness was the highest purpose for delaying or forgoing nursing faculty.

With out intervention now, our nursing workforce scarcity will solely worsen sooner or later. We want our leaders to face these challenges head-on and spend money on a holistic strategy to strengthen our nursing pipeline. There’s no time to waste.

— Natalie Jones, government director of workforce growth at WellStar Well being System, Atlanta

1 answer to the staffing disaster: Apprenticeship applications put college students straight into long-term care professions. Rural areas profit essentially the most since they’ve extra residents who’re 65 or older & fewer direct care staff to assist individuals w/ disabilities. https://t.co/vnbHAJYWvY

— OK Well being Motion (@ok_action) November 30, 2022

— Oklahoma Well being Motion Community, Oklahoma Metropolis

Planning Main Surgical procedure? Plan Forward

I learn Judith Graham’s good article “Weighing Dangers of a Main Surgical procedure: 7 Questions Older Individuals Ought to Ask Their Surgeon” (Jan. 3) on CNN. Thought I ought to add some private expertise. At age 78, my mom had again surgical procedure in 2016. When she was getting prepped, she was given a number of paperwork to signal. As soon as signed, she was instantly taken to surgical procedure. There was not sufficient time to learn any of them. In hindsight, we’re sure the paperwork had been principally for launch of legal responsibility if one thing goes flawed. After surgical procedure, she had “drop foot” — complete lack of use of her left foot. By no means heard of it. She was informed she would regain use in about six months. By no means occurred. She had to make use of a walker and nonetheless had quite a few falls by which her head had hit the bottom a number of occasions. She slowly slid into long-term “confusion” that was attributed to her falls and handed away at age 84.

My story is about my stomach aorta aneurysm surgical procedure in 2022 at age 62. I didn’t have an in a single day restoration — tube taken out of my throat, catheter eliminated, and was instantly transferred to a room. An IV pump of saline was left on and my arm swelled up — I assumed my arm was going to burst. 5 days later, I used to be discharged. Every little thing appeared rushed. The one postsurgical “directions” I acquired had been to maintain the incision clear and to not play golf, and I don’t even play golf. I recuperated at dwelling, and after 5 months I nonetheless have stomach ache that I’ll at all times have.

Each of our surgical procedures had been performed on a Friday. I’m sure our experiences had been on account of hospital employees wanting to go away early on Friday, and weekend staffers are principally the “B” staff. So, my recommendation is to recommend to the aged to not have surgical procedure scheduled on a Friday except there’s absolute urgency in selecting the date.

— Paul Lyon, Chesapeake, Virginia

Actuality bites, doesn’t it.https://t.co/sHe0EV1DQG

— suzette sommer (@suzette_sommer) December 28, 2022

— Suzette Sommer, Seattle

I’m writing to specific my issues over the numerous misinformation within the article about what older Individuals ought to ask their surgeon earlier than main surgical procedure.

Most stomach aortic aneurysms are handled with endovascular strategies. These minimally invasive procedures nonetheless require common anesthesia (with a respiration tube), however most sufferers have the tube eliminated earlier than leaving the working room, and lots of sufferers go away the hospital the subsequent day with minimal practical limitations on account of surgical procedure being carried out by half-inch incisions in every groin.

The “greatest case” surgical state of affairs described in your article describes open stomach aortic aneurysm restore, which is advisable for fewer than 20% of sufferers requiring aortic aneurysm repairs.

In essence, you’re threatening everybody who is available in for a tuneup with an engine rebuild.

Belly aortic aneurysms are nonetheless undertreated within the U.S., with many sufferers not receiving screening advisable by Medicare since 2006. Your article misrepresents the “greatest case” state of affairs and will dissuade sufferers from receiving lifesaving care.

— Dr. David Nabi, Newport Seashore, California

I learn, with curiosity, Judith Graham’s article about older Individuals getting ready for main surgical procedure. However you failed to say the life-altering results of anesthesia. My unbiased 82-year-old mom had a minor fall in July and broke her hip. After present process anesthesia, she is required to have 24/7 care as her short-term reminiscence has been without end altered. Was there a alternative to not have hip surgical procedure? I didn’t hear one. Did anybody clarify the problems that would (and infrequently do) happen with an aged mind on account of anesthesia? No. And now we’re coping with this consequence. And what occurs if you don’t have cash (like most individuals within the U.S.) for twenty-four/7 care? I hope you’ll take into account writing about this.

— Nancy Simpson, Scottsdale, Arizona

Should not extra individuals marvel why MA plans are worthwhile whereas our personal gov’t MC is dropping cash. Solely 5% of MA plans are audited yearly. But they’re getting 8.5% improve in fee & docs (the oldsters taking good care of the pts) are getting reduce. https://t.co/UiFiiQ9wre by way of @khnews

— Madelaine Feldman (@MattieRheumMD) December 15, 2022

— Dr. Madelaine Feldman, New Orleans

The Excessive Bar of Medicare Benefit Transparency

Sadly, KHN’s article “How Medicare Benefit Plans Dodged Auditors and Overcharged Taxpayers by Thousands and thousands” (Dec. 13) supplied a deceptive, incomplete depiction of Medicare Benefit fee.

This story focuses largely on audits that, in some instances, are greater than a decade outdated. Whereas KHN’s focus is on alleged “overpayment,” the identical audits present that many plans had been underpaid by as a lot as $773 per affected person.

Newer analysis demonstrates Medicare Benefit’s affordability and accountable stewardship of Medicare {dollars}. For instance, an October 2021 Milliman report concludes “the federal authorities pays much less and will get extra for its greenback in MA than in FFS,” whereas the Division of Well being and Human Companies’ fiscal 12 months 2021 report exhibits that the web improper fee fee in Medicare Benefit was roughly half that of fee-for-service Medicare.

KHN’s article is true about one factor: Solely a small fraction of Medicare Benefit plans are audited annually — denying policymakers and the general public a fuller understanding of this system’s distinctive worth to seniors and the well being care system. That’s the reason Higher Medicare Alliance has referred to as for regulators to conduct Threat Adjustment Information Validation (RADV) audits of each Medicare Benefit plan yearly.

There are alternatives, as outlined in our current coverage suggestions, to additional strengthen and enhance Medicare Benefit’s excessive bar of transparency and accountability, however that effort shouldn’t be properly served by this deceptive article.

— Mary Beth Donahue, president and CEO of the Higher Medicare Alliance, Chevy Chase, Maryland

Focusing on Gun Violence

I’m curious why KHN uncared for to truly get into all of the “meat and potatoes” concerning its report on Colorado’s pink flag legislation (“Colorado Considers Altering Its Pink Flag Regulation After Mass Capturing at Nightclub,” Dec. 23). Particularly, it didn’t report that the suspect on this case used a “ghost gun” to execute the crime in Colorado Springs, and extra importantly what influence any pink flag legislation goes to have on an individual who manufactures their very own unlawful firearm. Lastly, why is it the nationwide dialog concerning the unlawful use and possession of firearms curiously avoids any in-depth, substantive dialog of entry to firearms by mentally sick individuals? Fairly frankly, that is the underlying explanation for unlawful firearms use and nobody needs to step as much as the plate and deal with the difficulty at any in-depth stage. It’s categorically embarrassing for American journalism.

— Steve Smith, Carbondale, Colorado

KHN (Kaiser Well being Information) is a nationwide newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about well being points. Along with Coverage Evaluation and Polling, KHN is likely one of the three main working applications at KFF (Kaiser Household Basis). KFF is an endowed nonprofit group offering info on well being points to the nation.


This story will be republished totally free (particulars).


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