Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

By | December 7, 2019

Happy Friday! Hope everyone had a lovely, restful Thanksgiving. And here’s your periodic (and I’m sure very appreciated and not at all tiresome) reminder not to be one of the nearly 40% of Americans who plan to skip their flu shot.

Now on to our jam-packed week of news! Here’s what you might have missed.

There seems to be some conflicting narrative around what exactly a new health care spending analysis means, but one thing is clear: We are now spending $ 11,172 per person and that is … uh … a lot, to say the least. Spending on health care grew at a slower pace than the economy overall. But the spending didn’t increase because people were going to the doctor more. Instead, price hikes made up for the slower usage growth found by the HHS analysis.

If you want a good plain-English breakdown of what this means, check out this Axios summary of it all; they do a better job than I could. (No one told me there’d be math!) Or listen to KHN’s “What The Health” podcast by our fabulously knowledgeable Julie Rovner.

The New York Times: Health Spending Grew Modestly, New Analysis Finds

Axios: Health care spending grew at a faster rate in 2018

KHN: ‘What The Health?’: We Spend HOW MUCH On Health Care?

Speaking of outrageous hospital prices, in a move that shocked no one, hospitals officially filed a suit against the Trump administration rule that would compel them to share secretly negotiated prices for procedures.

The New York Times: Hospitals Sue Trump to Keep Negotiated Prices Secret

There has been an absolute flood of news out of the Trump administration this week, so buckle up.

Nearly 700,000 Americans are slated to lose their food stamp benefits under a new rule that tightens the work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as SNAP). The move will purportedly save the government $ 5.5 billion over five years. The Agriculture Department defended the decision to crack down on waivers that extend the time a beneficiary can receive aid as, essentially, if not now (when the economy is good), then when? 

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Critics were quick to point out the economic and moral pitfalls of this kind of decision, among them being: Most beneficiaries work, and many of the ones who don’t usually have a reason beyond wanting the $ 1.83 per meal they receive under SNAP; it’s been shown that SNAP spending helps cushion the economy during a recession; and the people being cut off are among the most vulnerable in our society.

The Associated Press: 668,000 will lose food stamp benefits under new work rules

As part of the administration’s goal to eradicate the HIV epidemic, HHS announced that uninsured Americans can now get free HIV-prevention drugs. While PrEP has been shown to be wildly successful, many people who are at high risk of contracting the virus aren’t taking the drug for one reason or another.

(I wonder if this is all a bit awkward, considering that HHS and PrEP’s maker are locked in a bitter patent battle.)

The New York Times: 200,000 Uninsured Americans to Get Free H.I.V.-Prevention Drugs

Attorney General William Barr made waves when he suggested that communities upset over police brutality might lose protections from the cops they’re protesting. The remarks — which seemed to encourage abandonment as a form of retribution for those seeking criminal justice reform — were quickly condemned as dangerous.

The New York Times: Barr Says Communities That Protest the Police Risk Losing Protection

A new investigation from Reuters found that the FDA ignored warning bells about the dangers of talc as early as the 1970s. The agency for decades deferred to the industry over outside experts’ advice.

Reuters: FDA bowed to industry for decades as alarms were sounded over talc

And a disturbing video obtained by ProPublica contradicts the Border Patrol’s account of the death of a sick 16-year-old who was being held in U.S. custody. The video shows the boy staggering to the toilet and collapsing on the floor, where he remained in the same position for the next four-and-a-half hours. According to ProPublica, “The video shows the only way CBP officials could have missed Carlos’ crisis is that they weren’t looking.” Border Patrol also said it was agents who found his body — but in reality a cellmate alerted them to his death.

ProPublica: Inside the Cell Where a Sick 16-Year-Old Boy Died in Border Patrol Care

Meanwhile, new documents reveal how a powerhouse consulting firm proposed money-saving methods for the detention centers that included proposed cuts in spending on food for migrants, as well as on medical care and supervision of detainees.

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ProPublica: How McKinsey Helped the Trump Administration Detain and Deport Immigrants

Over on the presidential campaign trail, “Medicare for All” continues to trip up the candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whose fate seems to have become tied to the proposal, which wasn’t even hers to start with. Politico takes us all the way back to a town hall in 2017 hosted by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to figure out how we got to where we are today.

Politico: The most consequential moment of the 2020 primary

The Washington Post: How a fight over health care entangled Elizabeth Warren — and reshaped the Democratic presidential race

Meanwhile, some Dems in the race are touting a “public option” as a moderate alternative to Medicare for All, but don’t let that fool you. That kind of shift could still send an earthquake through the health care landscape.

The New York Times: Why the Less Disruptive Health Care Option Could Be Plenty Disruptive

Gains made by the anti-abortion movement in recent years are often attributed to a well-executed ground game by the right. But there have also been crucial missteps on the other side of the abortion wars. Critics say that the national abortion rights movement lost touch with the ways access was steadily eroding in Republican strongholds, and that leaders grew overconfident during Barack Obama’s presidency. As the director of a clinic in Atlanta told The New York Times: “We were screaming at the top of our lungs, everything is not fine, please pay attention.”

The New York Times: How a Divided Left Is Losing the Battle on Abortion

There’s been a ton of buzz around the first major gun case the Supreme Court took up in nearly a decade. But will it all be for naught? Arguments in the case, which centers around a NYC handgun ordinance, focused on the fact that the city got rid of the contested limits in July.

Reuters: U.S. Supreme Court justices debate whether to dismiss major gun case

I have to say I did not expect to read the phrase “we are feared as a tiger with claws, teeth and balls” when I kicked off my workweek, but here we are. As seems to be the case every time we get unsealed documents dealing with the Sackler family, the newest ones reveal how deeply involved Richard Sackler was in the aggressive push to market OxyContin.

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Stat: Purdue’s Richard Sackler proposed plan to play down OxyContin risks, and wanted drug maker feared ‘like a tiger,’ files show

So often opioid news focuses on the big players and court cases these days. But in this article, people who were high school kids at the time the epidemic was really starting to brew talk about how their lives have been irrevocably changed by the crisis.

The New York Times: The Class of 2000 ‘Could Have Been Anything.’ Until Opioids Hit.

Despite the fact that it seems warnings are everywhere about the dangers of vaping, a new survey reveals that nearly 1 in 3 teens have used a tobacco product recently. What’s more, many students said they did not consider intermittent smoking of any product to be harmful.

The New York Times: Nearly a Third of Teens Use One or More Tobacco Products

In the miscellaneous file for the week:

•  In Rhode Island, 11 patients over a two-and-a-half-year span died because of a misplaced breathing tube (something that’s never supposed to happen in emergency medicine). The state is the only one in New England to allow responders other than the most highly trained paramedics to place the tubes. But advocates say that, if they tighten those rules, it will cost even more lives, because fewer patients will have access to the equipment.

ProPublica: EMS Crews Brought Patients to the Hospital With Misplaced Breathing Tubes. None of Them Survived.

• Every once in a while we’re hit with a story that reminds us that relying on technology — especially when it comes to health care — is a dangerous game despite the benefits it brings. This time it was a glitch with diabetes monitors.

Stat: A glitch in diabetes monitors serves as a cautionary tale for health tech

• Patients who are desperate for a miracle are being given tips by stem cell clinics on how to raise enough money to afford unproven, and sometimes dangerous, treatments. There’s always GoFundMe, the clinics say when met with the patients’ financial barriers.

The Washington Post: Clinic pitches unproven treatments to desperate patients, with tips on raising the cash

That’s it from me! Have a great weekend.

Related Topics

Cost and Quality Courts Elections Health Care Costs Health Industry Insurance Public Health States The Health Law Uninsured

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