Category Archives: Health

Make Big Pharma Pay for the Opioid Crisis

Big Pharma is the culprit for the opioid crisis we have today.  This is about crime in the suites.   Big Pharma is the biggest legal drug pusher. The 2017 ranking of just the top 10 U.S. biotech and pharmaceutical companies equals $321 billion, based on revenue, according to a current Financial Times equity screener database. Drug overdoses, primarily from opioids are now the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50.  In 2016, drug overdoses killed more people than guns or car accidents.

Government grants (mostly from the National Science Foundation) to university laboratories do the basic science to explore the causes of disease, which is essential before a cure can be investigated.  Big Pharma then cherry picks the most promising prospects into their corporate labs to find a formula that will work to treat the disease.  After they make progress through clinical trials, they apply to the FDA for approval. Then the highly sophisticated advertising begins. Mostly beautiful, young and fashionably dressed pharma reps are the drug pushers.  They  seduce doctors and their staff in their offices with free lunches and free samples (like street pushers do to hook addicts) and whisk doctors to exotic, tropical locations for “seminars.”

The “Mad Men” phenomenon of present-day drug advertising is also seductive.  The actors in the ads are mostly white and middle to upper class.  They live in beautiful, big homes. The long list of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are recited generally while we watch the actors play tennis, pet their dogs, play with their grandchildren, run through fields of daisies or swim in crystal clear water in slow motion.   Middle-to-upper class Americans with generous company-sponsored health insurance pay very little for a wide variety of drugs.  “Other” people, unable to pay for legal medicines, turn to the streets to alleviate the painful symptoms of diseases they suffer with. And where do their “prescribers” end up?  Mass incarceration of mostly people of color is the answer to that question.

Some members of Congress are now pushing for government funding of opioid treatment centers.  NO!  Make Big Pharma pay!  People who were damaged by legal drugs used to seek trial lawyers to bring product liability lawsuits for damages but the enormous political power of corporate lobbyists now diminishes the ability of citizens to do that.  Furthermore, individual lawsuits take years to work their way through the courts before cases take on class action status.  I experienced this during the 1970s in the now infamous case of the damages done to hundreds of thousands of women who, like me, fell for the pharma advertising that claimed the Dalkon Shield IUD contraceptive was 100% safe and effective. Users experienced a variety of pelvic diseases, perforated uteruses, hemorrhaging, hysterectomy, infertility, and even death. After more than ten years of suffering and mounting lawsuits, this case of egregious corporate crime was exposed.  A large trust fund was eventually set up in 1999, almost 20 years after the damages took place.

Big Tobacco used deceptive advertising back in the day for getting people hooked on smoking. Some of the ads used actors dressed in a doctor’s white coat claiming that menthol cigarettes actually “soothed” the throat!  After decades, Big Tobacco finally made multiple million dollar payouts to many state health departments to help with healthcare needs.

Big Pharma must pay for its sins and take responsibility for this epidemic.  They must set up treatment centers and pay for rehabilitation of the unknowing patients who got hooked (or who had generous supplies of them in their medicine cabinets where teens could get easy access to them).  The medical need for pain relief after major surgeries is essential.  But were doctors ever instructed by Pharma to tell their patients that they must be weaned off the opioids slowly?  Or did they keep writing endless prescriptions once their patients get hooked because the risks were trivialized by Big Pharma?

By Karen hicks/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Advertisements

6 critical ways Trump slashing Obamacare subsidies could impact you

President Trump’s promised rollback of Obamacare has officially begun. But what does it all mean? And will it affect you?

The federal government will cut billions of dollars in health-care subsidies to low-income households that were introduced under Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the White House announced last week.

These $7 billion in “cost-sharing subsidies” are the payments the government makes to health insurance companies to offset the discounts on co-payments that low-income consumers have received under Obamacare. The subsidies repay health insurers for the higher cost of the “silver plan” through HealthCare.gov — the individual insurance marketplace operated by the federal government and set up under Barack Obama.

The cuts in subsidies may actually hit the middle class the most

Insurers already put insurance premiums up 20% this year in anticipation of the President’s decision to end these subsidies. However, in several states, including Indiana, insurance companies spread their rate increases, so middle-class people on individual plans will likely see a double-digit increase in their premiums next year.

“People who don’t qualify for premium subsidies for cost-sharing reductions, but are also in the individual market because they don’t have employer-sponsored coverage — early retirees who aren’t yet eligible for Medicare or higher-earning freelancers — will be negatively affected by higher premium costs,” Susan Nash, partner at Winston & Strawn LLP in Chicago, Ill.

More from CBS Marketwatch

Posted by Libergirl

 

 

 

Children’s Health Insurance Program is set to go bust

If you’re waiting and wondering what the future holds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the answer most likely depends on where you live.

CHIP is a popular, bipartisan program that provides a safety net for nearly 9 million kids in low- and mid-income families. It’s the latest pawn in the Congressional wrangling over health care. Both the Senate and House are debating bills to reauthorize CHIP funding, and both are considering these bills after the Sept. 30 deadline for reauthorization has passed.

“CHIP has always had bipartisan support since it started 20 years ago,” said Jesse Cross-Call, senior policy analyst at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). “So it has really been a surprise that it’s taking this long to get it funded. Congress has never blown past the deadline before, so we’re in uncharted territory.”

Missing the deadline means an estimated 11 states will run out of federal CHIP money by the end of this year, and 32 states are expected to run out of money by March 2018, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

More from CBS News

Posted by Libergirl

Guns and Profit – Why We’ll Do Absolutely Nothing New After This Las Vegas Shooting

Wake up, America.

We are not the land of the brave or the home of the free.

We are the land of the gun and the home of the free market.

Stephen Paddock’s killing spree last night in Las Vegas will not change anything – except the bottom line for numerous gun manufacturers.

Ca-ching, people!

Scores of American companies are going to clean up over this!

That’s what happens every time we get a high profile mass shooting.

Not new gun regulation. Not additional services for the mentally ill. Not stricter guidelines against fake news on social media.

More from Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

Senator McCain: “I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal”

Image: Quartz

 

Once again, senator John McCain is thwarting the Republican party’s effort to repeal Obamacare. A new proposal was advanced this week by senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. While the bill hasn’t yet been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), preliminary studies estimate that it would cause 21 million Americans to lose insurance, and would cut funding (paywall) for 34 states. The bill would also allow insurers to hike premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, despite its sponsors’ repeated claims that it wouldn’t.

via Senator McCain: “I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal” — Quartz

Posted by Libergirl

The stark difference between Republicans and Democrats on health care couldn’t be clearer

Attendees hold signs while waiting for a health-care bill news conference to begin on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 13. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

“When they go low, we go high,” Michelle Obama told the Democratic National Convention in her electrifying address last year. That phrase summarizes the stark contrast between Republicans and Democrats on the fundamental question of affordable health care. Republicans want you to have all the health care you choose to afford, even if you can’t afford much. Democrats understand that affordable health care should be a fundamental right.

Having failed to pass four different bills to repeal and replace Obamacare, Republicans are back at it again. Backers of the new bill — labeled Graham-Cassidy after Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — claim to have 48 or 49 votes for this effort. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has asked the Congressional Budget Office to make the bill’s assessment a priority. The 141-page bill was only made public on Sept. 13, but Republicans are pushing for a vote by the end of the month.

The millions of Americans who were appalled by previous Republican efforts to gut affordable health care should be alarmed once more. Graham-Cassidy employs classic conservative packaging to dress up what it is peddling. It turns health care over to the states, allowing Republicans to posture about getting “closer to the people.” Its cuts are phased in, delaying the effects until 2020 and the most destructive effects until 2027 and thereafter.

But it is the same old poison in a new bottle. The block grants to the states terminate the health-care law’s subsidies for moderate- and low-income families and make deep cuts in Medicaid — not only reversing the Medicaid expansion but also cutting into the core program itself. Because the block grants don’t keep up with projected inflation, they grow more inadequate over time. The bill leaves states free to let insurance companies charge higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions or to not require core benefits required under current law such as maternity care or prescription drugs. The cuts in the core Medicaid program will impact millions of seniors, people with disabilities and mothers with children. The CBO scoring is not in, but as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities summarizes, while the CBO estimated that the last repeal-without-replace approach would deprive 32 million people of health insurance, Graham-Cassidy would likely strip an even higher number of coverage in its second decade.

Graham-Cassidy tells us much about the Republican majority. GOP legislators don’t mind that millions go without health insurance. They assume low-wage and moderate-income families should have less health-care protection than the wealthy. You get what you can afford, and you won’t be able to afford much because you’ll have to pay the rip-offs of the private insurance companies and the obscene drug prices of the drug lobby.

While Republicans were going low once more, Democrats were going high. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced his Medicare-for-all bill last week. For Sanders, health care is a right, not a privilege. “We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need,” he wrote. “This is not what the United States should be about.”

His bill would provide universal coverage for all, expanding Medicare benefits to include eye and tooth care. It would eliminate the private-insurance-company and drug-company rip-offs. Businesses would be free of the burden of providing health care; workers would not have to fight against constant increases in co-pays and cutbacks in coverage. Sanders would phase his coverage in over four years. To pay for it, he proposes a range of progressive taxes. The wealthy would end up paying more for health care; the vast majority about the same or less — with greater security and more benefits. Sanders is also savvy enough to realize this won’t happen overnight. With Medicare for all as the clear and aspirational goal, he supports steps that would move toward that end.

Four years ago, Sanders introduced a similar bill without a co-sponsor. This week, 16 Democratic senators joined him, including presidential hopefuls such as Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and others. A majority of the House Democratic Caucus has endorsed a similar bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.).

Democratic congressional leaders are wary. Moderate and conservative Democrats are uneasy in the face of Republican salvos about the “government takeover of health care.” Polling shows that Medicare for all has significant popularity, but that can wilt under attack. But even Hillary Clinton, who said Medicare for all would “never” happen during the campaign, now agrees, as she wrote in her recent book “What Happened,”that Sanders was right about the popularity of universal programs: “Democrats should redouble our efforts to develop bold, creative ideas that offer broad-based benefits for the whole country.”

The Sanders bill is closer to the beginning than the end of the push for making health care a universal right in this country. With Democrats a minority in both chambers, it isn’t near passage. Unlike the Republican bills, it will go through public hearings and extensive amendments. Passage will require fighting off the powerful insurance and drug lobbies.

More and more Americans understand that health care should be a basic right, not a commodity that you purchase if you can afford it. We understand that the grip of private insurance companies and oligopolistic drug companies is a far remove from a competitive marketplace. And now the contrast is as clear as day. Republicans want to strip millions of health insurance, including seniors in the last days of life, the disabled and women with infants. Democrats want everyone to have the right to affordable health care. There is a choice.

By Katrina vanden Heuvel/WashingtonPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Bernie Sanders: Why We Need Medicare for All

This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Or do we maintain a system that is enormously expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic, and is designed to maximize profits for big insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and medical equipment suppliers?

We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need. This is not what the United States should be about.

All over this country, I have heard from Americans who have shared heartbreaking stories about our dysfunctional system. Doctors have told me about patients who died because they put off their medical visits until it was too late. These were people who had no insurance or could not afford out-of-pocket costs imposed by their insurance plans.

I have heard from older people who have been forced to split their pills in half because they couldn’t pay the outrageously high price of prescription drugs. Oncologists have told me about cancer patients who have been unable to acquire lifesaving treatments because they could not afford them. This should not be happening in the world’s wealthiest country.

Americans should not hesitate about going to the doctor because they do not have enough money. They should not worry that a hospital stay will bankrupt them or leave them deeply in debt. They should be able to go to the doctor they want, not just one in a particular network. They should not have to spend huge amounts of time filling out complicated forms and arguing with insurance companies as to whether or not they have the coverage they expected.

Even though 28 million Americans remain uninsured and even more are underinsured, we spend far more per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation. In 2015, the United States spent almost $10,000 per person for health care; the Canadians, Germans, French and British spent less than half of that, while guaranteeing health care to everyone. Further, these countries have higher life expectancy rates and lower infant mortality rates than we do.

The reason that our health care system is so outrageously expensive is that it is not designed to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way, but to provide huge profits to the medical-industrial complex. Layers of bureaucracy associated with the administration of hundreds of individual and complicated insurance plans is stunningly wasteful, costing us hundreds of billions of dollars a year. As the only major country not to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, we spend tens of billions more than we should.

The solution to this crisis is not hard to understand. A half-century ago, the United States established Medicare. Guaranteeing comprehensive health benefits to Americans over 65 has proved to be enormously successful, cost-effective and popular. Now is the time to expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans.

This is not a radical idea. I live 50 miles south of the Canadian border. For decades, every man, woman and child in Canada has been guaranteed health care through a single-payer, publicly funded health care program. This system has not only improved the lives of the Canadian people but has also saved families and businesses an immense amount of money.

On Wednesday I will introduce the Medicare for All Act in the Senate with 15 co-sponsors and support from dozens of grass-roots organizations. Under this legislation, every family in America would receive comprehensive coverage, and middle-class families would save thousands of dollars a year by eliminating their private insurance costs as we move to a publicly funded program.

The transition to the Medicare for All program would take place over four years. In the first year, benefits to older people would be expanded to include dental care, vision coverage and hearing aids, and the eligibility age for Medicare would be lowered to 55. All children under the age of 18 would also be covered. In the second year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 45 and in the third year to 35. By the fourth year, every man, woman and child in the country would be covered by Medicare for All.

Needless to say, there will be huge opposition to this legislation from the powerful special interests that profit from the current wasteful system. The insurance companies, the drug companies and Wall Street will undoubtedly devote a lot of money to lobbying, campaign contributions and television ads to defeat this proposal. But they are on the wrong side of history.

Guaranteeing health care as a right is important to the American people not just from a moral and financial perspective; it also happens to be what the majority of the American people want. According to an April poll by The Economist/YouGov, 60 percent of the American people want to “expand Medicare to provide health insurance to every American,” including 75 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of independents and 46 percent of Republicans.

Now is the time for Congress to stand with the American people and take on the special interests that dominate health care in the United States. Now is the time to extend Medicare to everyone.

By BERNIE SANDERS/NYTimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist